Another Adventure

I have always been a traveller, a wanderer, if only by reading. But I’ve had many real life travels, too, and today I’m heading off to another adventure. Luckily, there’s the Kindle now so I don’t have to pack actual books, which I love but I love having clothing options more. Our destination today is Seattle for a week.

We’ve rented an Airbnb condo five minutes from where my son and grandkids and super DiL live. Since our boys (and grandchildren) live quite a distance, we don’t often get to do typical grandparent activities like watching a soccer or T-ball game. This week we get to do both. I think this is my fifth or sixth time in Seattle.

When I was young and fearless, I hitchhiked to New York City, to Key West and Colorado. Those were magical trips. My eyes were opened wide to a very big world outside of my little town of Taylor, Michigan. It’s impossible to capture those moments again because I’m older now. I’ve tried anyway. New York City has changed since 1972 and Key West is far different than the tourist-free paradise it was in 1974. The Rocky Mountains are probably the same, which is weirdly comforting.

I doubt I’d hop on the back of the motorcycle of a and take a winding road high up the mountain side, in fact I’m certain I would not. That guy on the motorcycle cured me of hitchhiking forever later that night. Either him or the drunk who crashed his truck on the freeway in the rain with me and my friend in it. It’s fun to be young and carefree, but bad shit happens and travel is safer and more comfortable with a plane ticket and my trusty Kindle.

I’ll take some photos and store some memories of family and always wonderful Seattle. I’ll take writing break and refill the creative well. Most important, I’ll get my granny time in and see you next week.

Home Not Home

A few days ago I returned to Michigan from Florida. This photo is of my writing room, the place I missed the most. My husband took a six week leave of absence to spend time with me in our Florida home. I called this time our “practice retirement” although he doesn’t like when I say that. I’m not sure what his problem is with my characterization of our time in Florida. He’s a mystery to me, one I was unable to solve in six short weeks.

I have been retired four blissful years. Al was supposed to retire a few years ago, when we bought a sweet little condo in St Pete, but decided not to at the last minute. Thus I spent two winters alone in St Pete, falling more and more in love with it. Al assures me he is ready to retire (for real this time) by the end of the year. One of the things we are trying to figure out as we go forward is where to live. Michigan, where we both grew up and have lived our entire lives? Where our dearest friends and much of our families live? Or Florida, where we love taking walks on the beach? I feel less anxious in Florida. Michigan winters are misery for me, with the bad weather and worse driving conditions.

After six weeks, I know what I want: to live in Florida in a larger place. One with a writing room. Al is not so sure. And that is the heart of our biggest problem as a married couple. We can’t agree on this. The plan I see rolling out so perfectly appears not to suit him. We don’t have easy agreement. This bothers him less than it does me. He seems willing to take every day as it comes. He throws out suggestions that strike terror into my heart, like the one from last night. Why not sell the Florida place and keep our Michigan home?

We’ve been married 34 years but have not spent any significant time together in at least a decade, maybe more. Al has been working every day, including weekends, and I’ve been writing books. We are each happy in our own way. Yet we both yearn for something more. I want to travel more, to see my grandchildren (and their parents!) more. I want to spend lots more time with the man I married. If we could just agree on where to spend this time.

In Florida, I missed working on my novel and he missed having a sense of purpose. He wants to find something rewarding to do with the rest of his life. I understand that, because I derive great satisfaction from writing. Still, I assured Al I was ready to stop writing novels when he retired if our new life, whatever it turns out to be, makes it difficult. I will always write. But maybe not novels. I enjoy handwriting my morning pages with my favorite pen and notebook. I still love blogging after 17 years right here. I did those things in Florida. What I found was it wasn’t enough. In six short weeks, I learned giving up writing novels will not be so easy. I missed writing my book.

One of the methods I employ when writing a novel is to not worry about what happens next. In my first draft, I don’t plot or outline. Every day, when I am in the rhythm of writing, I know what I need to write that day. By the time I’m done for the day, I have an idea of what comes next. This is how I write books; it’s much more difficult to apply this to living a life. There are no rewrites in life. No revisions. No delete key.

Maybe that’s why Al dislikes my idea of “practice retirement” ~ these past six weeks brought up more questions than answers. The future is hard to plan. Maybe it’s like writing a book. You just take it one day at a time and edit as needed.

Long Distance Love

My son and his family are visiting from Seattle. It’s been so lovely to have them here with me, but I miss them fierce when they’re gone. I live about an hour from where I grew up. One of my brothers still lives in Taylor, our hometown, and the other lives in a neighboring town. My mom lives close to them. None of us strayed far from home.

My dad’s an adventurer. He traveled all the time for his job as a construction electrician. He’s seen the country and loves the sun. He’s retired now and lives in Florida. He and mom are still married. I admit it’s strange, but it works for them. They visit back and forth, but as they get older, it has become more difficult for Dad to drive up here for the summer or for Mom to fly down there in winter.

She was just there, as my dad has had a health scare, and needed surgery. She hated every minute of it but she’s his wife and she wanted to take care of him. They love each other, they really do. They just prefer different climates. I want to move to Florida full time as soon as Al retires, so I understand how Dad feels. My only thing is I am not going to move there without my husband. It comes down to this: I love him more than I hate the cold.

This visit my son told me that grad school was just an excuse to go to California. He got the advanced degree, married in Malibu and moved to Seattle for work. There, they started their family and formed a tight bond with several other couples who are married with kids. I see my grandchildren less than I’d like. The plan is to move to Florida and spend extended periods of time visiting Seattle and Traverse City.

And they’re good about visiting us. Especially in Florida. We’re in St Pete, only two hours from Disney World. Florida, for many of us, is “God’s Waiting Room” but for our grandchildren, Disney World is a little bit of heaven, too.

Good Tidings

I read, signed, and sent my contract for Lily White in Detroit to my publisher yesterday. Yay! Now I must knuckle down and do some work on the ending as I promised my editor I would. Maybe I didn’t mention that before…she loved my story, yes, but the ending fell a little flat for her.

But why? I already knew. It was an epilogue and a clumsy one. My critic partner Tom had already suggested I cut it, but I didn’t, because I had an idea for my character and her arc and I didn’t want to give it up. I still don’t. I have ideas of how to layer those last actions Lily takes to personal freedom into the story a little earlier.

Think I’ll put it in the chapter I was afraid to write, so didn’t. I should have been braver but sometimes a writer just needs her editor to give her a little nudge. It’s a pretty fair bet that if you are afraid to write something, you must do so. Immediately.

Meanwhile, I have a few weeks to make the shift from my St. Pete set next book to editing Lily White, because it’s my publisher’s annual holiday shutdown.

In other news I am still reading Christmas novels. Just finished Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah. I’d read a few of her books before, The Nightingale, Firefly Lane. So when I got a BookBub deal for her older Christmas novel, I took it. And loved it. It might be my favorite Christmas novel this year.

This has been a different kind of holiday, but I’ve really enjoyed it so far, and I hope you have too. I went to Florida, helped Al paint and furnish a guest room, saw my son Mike and his family for five luscious days. They all four fit in the new guest room just fine! Came back to Michigan and maybe eight or so inches of snow, but there will be much more up north when Al and I go see our other son and his family later this week. They live in the snow belt and routinely get way more snow than we do here.

Counting blessings here, my grandchildren are the best. I don’t see them as often as I’d like, so every minute we have together counts. It was so fun to play with Owen and hold little baby Julia in my arms as she napped. I’ve done that with each of them as babies, feed them, they fall asleep in my arms, and instead of putting them down for a nap, I just hold them and drink them in. Babies to hold, books to write, books to read…Christmas doesn’t get any better than this.

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Imperfect

Just returned from an ambitious trip I hoped would help me define my 60s, show me how to take a big step forward in personal development, and shower me with love. It did all that and more, but not without a bump or two. I live in Detroit and the trip would involve three airplanes, one B & B in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, two guest rooms (one in each of my sons’ homes) and a hotel room in L.A. I’d be changing planes four times. Lots of hustle bustle but I was undaunted, excited.

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Then a funny thing happened on the way to my meticulously planned adventure. The plane hadn’t even lifted off the ground in Detroit when I stood to switch seats with someone and turned my leg but not my body, resulting in a painful pop of my knee. Then it buckled. I sat in my new seat, only a little worried. My knee didn’t hurt, not exactly, until a little later when I got up to use the little phone booth the airlines call a restroom. I couldn’t put any weight on the knee without pain and that annoying inexplicable thing where it collapsed, ceasing to hold me up as it has all these years.

Two flight attendants were at my side, helping me to my seat, arranging for a wheelchair at the gate. They could not have been kinder. They even wanted to phone a medic to meet the plane but I said no. My son was in Seattle and he’d be getting off work right about the time I arrived at my B & B. I just wanted to get there and stretch out my leg and see what Mike thought I should do. My husband had already weighed in via text saying I should go to the ER. Mike thought so too and sent a Uber car to take me there. It arrived in five minutes!

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Oh, my B & B was beautiful. I didn’t want to leave it for an emergency room visit but I did because it was the right thing to do and I anyway I was still hobbling. I texted Laura, my friend holding the Desire Map workshop I was scheduled to attend that night. I told her what had happened and that according to the ER nurse, I’d be getting pictures snapped of my knee at the time of the event. I said I’d see her the next day. My plan had been to walk from my B & B to hers, which is why I didn’t stay with my family, but that wasn’t going to happened as I had been issued a leg brace and crutches and complicated instructions for icing and elevating my sad little knee. They offered me painkillers but it really didn’t hurt, and I’m a baby about pain. This wasn’t physical pain, just annoying, intrusive, exhausting.

My son picked me up from the ER and we had dinner downtown. This was May Day and Seattle has a long history of protests of all sorts on that day: a workers free-for-all. I’d heard about it from my cab driver, my Uber guy, and the B & B host. From what I gathered there were three things: immigration (they want to make it easier for people to live and work legally here) Baltimore (showing solidarity for our African Amercian men) and one more thing I can’t remember. I do remember the surging crowds of protestors and the police in riot gear as my son drove through the Capitol Hill and downtown neighborhoods. Everywhere we turned, it seemed, we were cut off by barricades or police on motorcycles who seemed determined to block every street with a restaurant.

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We did finally eat and got caught up with each others’ lives. A gift of the knee injury: dinner alone with my son. Something so rare I don’t remember the last time it happened, but probably a decade. It was quite splendid despite the crutches and the leg that had to be propped on a chair. Back at the B & ┬áB, Laura had left a text saying she would pick me up early the next day for the full nine hour Desire Map session. I was ready.

The workshop changed me from the inside out. I’ll write more about that another time but for now I’ll just say WOW. I got what I came for, and way more. I retreated to my lovely B & B and was picked up the next day by Mike for a day of Owen, my grandson. He is a joy! Mostly what we did was sit him on the floor and watch him play, giggle, scoot around in a semi-crawl and perform other antics for our viewing pleasure. It was a gorgeous day–Seattle is so green just now, its flowers large as plates, lush and vibrant. It was the kind of day that begged for a walk, but my condition had us settle for an hour on the deck with the sun shining down on u through those impossibly green fully leafed out trees. Then we went out to dinner and Owen really liked the guacamole.

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The next morning, Mike took me to the airport, where I was catching a flight to LA, meeting Al for a hotel rendezvous. I checked my bag curbside, they wheeled a chair out to me, whisked me through security, upgraded my ticket to accommodate the leg brace, pretty much pampered the heck out of me. Also the same in LA, where the wheelchair attendant crossed six lanes of traffic to get me to my waiting husband. I was now an expert at tipping airline personnel. They are golden.

Al and I had cocktails at our hotel pool, located on the roof in direct eye line of incoming planes. The palm tree background made it all seem like a wondrous moving postcard. We had a romantic dinner where I basked in the sure knowledge that I was not alone anymore. Many people had fetched me ice and cool drinks and pillows as I navigated my trip thus far, but nobody beats the guy you’ve been married to half your life for true comfort. I was never so glad to see him.

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The next day we were on the road to Ventura and our NEW grandson, just a month old. I’d had, at one point, a grand plan to walk that baby until I wore out the floors, but instead I settled for lots of lap time. Ben is an angel. He has Tim’s blue eyes and I suspect he’ll get Alicia’s dimples. He’s smiling already and very alert. He knew me instantly. Babies are incredible that way. Ben had been my primary reason for coming west. Trick knee and all, I was very glad to meet him in person for the very first time.

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Even the red eye to Detroit reserved an entire row for me to stretch out my knee. I see an orthopedic surgeon later this week, which I arranged from Seattle, but really, the knee, the brace, the crutches, the constant need for ice packs…none of that made much of an impact on my trip. Well, except everyone was extra nice to me. That was pretty cool.

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