State of Mind

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My favorite way to avoid reality is reading. I’ve been doing more of it than ever since Covid came into our lives. Some days, most days, it’s the only thing I do. I should be writing my novel, but I’m…not. Ten pages a month is not a cheery output for me. My head is too cluttered right now and I wonder if it’s my age (66) or the move from the northern part of the country to the southern. During Covid. Which makes a difference.

I miss my friends. It’s hard to make new ones during a pandemic with your head stuck in a book. We had a lot to do when we first got here. Despite the crazy rising costs of houses, our plan was always to move to a house and we are stubbornly sticking to it. Also we are keeping our little St. Pete condo as an investment property because housing costs are not going down any time soon but the stock market just might crash. Another reason to buy a house. We finally got the okay for a pre-approved mortgage, our final piece of business, and called a realtor here in St. Pete. He says he has lots to show us in our $ range with our specific wants/needs.

Then this morning Al showed me a place on the Florida map north of us with newer, nicer houses for half the cost of those we’ve seen in St Pete. (Just to give you an idea, in St. Pete, a condo in a new development with the type of floor plan we want is a million dollars.) We had planned to move about an hour south if we didn’t find something affordable in St. Pete. This is an hour north. On a golf course. Not as close to the beaches, but still on the Gulf side of the state. I said okay, we can go an hour north or an hour south.

There are several reasons to go south instead of north. We have many Michigan friends who winter an hour south of us. We even have a few friends who live year round thereabouts. Then there are our boys. They have more family dotted south of us all the way to Naples, so when they come visit it is convenient. One positive thing about moving north is that it’s cooler in summer. The heat in St Pete did not please Al, and he has yet to golf. He only started walking a few weeks ago. Also, the golf courses seem plentiful in those northern ‘burbs.

My head knows I’ll get the house I want north of here and a happy husband. My heart says “stay put or go south.” Logic says Al is usually right about big moves and we’ll be content to live out our days a bit north, where there are nights when it actually freezes in winter. Freezing temps, or even a slight chance of them, make the news as it doesn’t happen every year. Most days I keep my mind occupied with Regency, England in 1815. I wouldn’t want to live then, but if it’s just in my head, I can pretend they have toilets and running water.

What’s a Scene Sequence?

RIP Bosco

I finally found time to write my scene today…it’s been growing in my mind and I’ve been scribbling notes, but the move has really interrupted normal time here. I’d say it was fine, but I miss my words and my blogging friends, so really, it’s not exactly fine. But eventually it will be. I had to plan this morning’s writing sprint around so many other moving type things, but mostly packing. We still didn’t get our A/C fixed (next week!) so I need to consider the weather. Lucky for me, it’s been more like fall than summer. But we are due for another meltingly hot week coming later. I’m 66, I can’t pack and sweat at the same time.

Ironic I know. We are moving to Florida in August and I’m complaining about Michigan heat. Al and I have talked about if this is some kind of sign. But we do have a little home in Florida, so it’s somewhere to go, even if we decide not to stay there. I think we’ll stay. That’s the plan. Our way of working is to have a plan but be flexible. So while our little condo is in St. Pete, our stuff (for me, books; for Al, tools, for both of us, a few pieces of treasured furniture) is mostly in storage here in Michigan. Because the little St Pete condo has all we need, but not all we want. We will be looking for a new place once we get down there…well, maybe we’ll take a long road trip first, from Florida to Seattle. I have not seen my grandkids in almost two years!

Next weekend, we are going to see Ben, who lives with his parents and dog Sunny in northern Michigan, right at the tip of the lower peninsula. It’s about four and a half hours from here, so we see Ben more than our Seattle grandchildren. We are planning to see them all every summer once we relocate to our new (yet to be found) perfect home. Next weekend, we will miss Bosco, who was my first granddog and came before any grandchildren or other granddogs, passed on to dog heaven a few days ago. I’m glad Ben has Sunny. This is a first dog death in the family. It’s hard. Dogs are so loyal and cuddly. We will miss you, Bosco.

I really did mean this post to be about scene sequences, but you see how life is happening at warp speed just now. At first, I had the idea for a scene: Jane spying on four guys playing poker. One of them, she is sure, is the murderer. But then I thought, oh I need to set that scene up a couple different ways first. Sort of lay the foundation. Build the tension slow. Which is why I have three scenes, not one. And they are called a “scene sequence” because they all relate to Jane trying to catch a killer. The first thing I had to do was watch a YouTube video on poker as I knew nothing about it. Then, long overdue, I had to research Florida shrubbery. And after about five hours, I had my new scenes.

I read them over. They’re rough. They need work. But that’s what revision is for.

Contained Chaos Ensues

We sold our home in three days; lucky for me I didn’t have to keep the place pristine for very long. The buyers are a lovely couple who have agreed to let us stay until mid-August, so I think maybe amid the chaos I may continue to try to write my novel. Or at least fit in one more scene before we split town. It works to my benefit to keep my writing tools close to hand until the very end. People who are 66 years old, or at least some of them, accumulate a lot of stuff, which they, or okay I, nonchalantly decide I don’t want most of anyway. Ha!

The two or three boxes of books has turned into six and those are just the ones going into storage until we find our next good home, which will be big enough to hold these things that just won’t fit into our little St. Pete getaway. So into a storage unit most of it goes. Into the car we shall pack our usual assortment of clothing, minus winter coats and boots and sweaters. Those we will leave for the Estate Sale ladies to deal with, as they have ensured me they are very happy to do. They even sell unopened food. These Estate Sale gals have made the moving process much easier. Whatever we don’t want, they’ll sell. Whatever they can’t sell, they’ll donate. And then they’ll clean the house for the new owners. We’ll already be gone.

That I have the luck to be able to write a few more times in between the sorting and boxing owes much to these ladies. Meanwhile this big scene in Jane.2 has been growing, shooting out pretty flowers inside. I know I need to write it now. Or soon. For sure before we leave this place for good. Yes I’ll miss my writing room, but I’ll miss my family and friends more! As for missing a room, I do mostly write on a chair with my laptop, which I can do almost anywhere. This “ardent coral” room is for all the else, some of it practical like a printer and paper clips, most of it inspirational, like my books. I knew I was going to keep the complete collections of my favorite authors of fiction: Anne Tyler, Alice Hoffman, Erica Jong, Louise Erdrich, Barbara Kingsolver, Sara Lewis and Margaret Atwood.

Turns out, I forgot my favorite non-fiction writer: Anne LaBastille. And my lone male short story writer: Raymond Carver. He comes along with Alice Munro and Carol Shields. Then there are the poets and the Zen philosophers. But I ruthlessly cut myself off with one box there. Oh and I had to add Laurie Colwin, who died way too young. She wrote fiction and two cookbooks. Her stories were a big deal to me back in the day. I want to revisit her.

Except for the writing books, those I’m using as research for this book (here’s a hint: Frida Kahlo) will wedge into the loaded southbound vehicle with Al and I and our electronics. The few other favorite “How to Write” books, several of them by script doctor/screenwriter Linda Seger, I will store for use on the next book.

We are taking this a step at a time and I may be nuts to think I can actually write a book while relocating twice. Well, maybe only once. We are thinking we will stay in our little jewel in St Pete six months or maybe a year. Al is my guiding star with this as he knows all about the economics of the housing market these days. I couldn’t do this without him, but then I don’t think I would have ever been able to write a book without him. All you need is love. And books.

Starting Over

In writing and in life, I am ready for what’s next. Our Michigan house is shiny clean and ready to be sold. Since leaving Florida, we have been non-stop cleaning, inside and out. We have hired a realtor and an estate sale team because…we are not taking much. I am taking about 100 of my thousand or so books, some art, family photos, and my granny’s hope chest. Also everything to do with the WIP. I have what may well be my last writers’ meeting (in Michigan) tomorrow. I have ideas for the book, so I have a fresh writing pad and of course all my electronics go wherever I do.

We have our Florida condo, and it’s small, but we love almost everything about it. So we have a place to land once we sell this place. We’re hoping for a final summer in Michigan, and I’m hoping most of it will be in Traverse City. I’d also like to visit Seattle before we head down to Florida, because hugs are officially okay again. I did see my grandson Ben and yes I hugged him! But we have not seen our Seattle family except on FaceTime in 19 months! Our community here in Michigan had the first summer gazebo party this week, maybe 20 people, no masks, and I hugged with abandon! I caught up with a neighbor here who has a place right where we want to be in Florida!!! I knew that, but I forgot.

Covid turned the lights off, but they’re back on and I’m feeling so much better. Some weird things were going on inside me at the end of the lockdown, like I didn’t want to engage on social media. I’ve never been one for phone calls, and am amazed when friends will say they talk to their mom every day at least once on the phone. Or they call their kids every day. I am always worried that I’ll be interrupting somebody. Especially my sons because when I was their age with kids, work, spouse, and friends, my time was planned down to the minute. I lost a few people who might have become friends because I had to cut conversations short. It was dinner time, I was late for class, or writing. And I thought, you know what, if they don’t understand, we shouldn’t be friends anyway.

I have not been blogging as much as I used to…I believe I’ve said it all before. But this next chapter is new, so maybe I’ll soon have fresh gossip or news or both. Getting together with friends again feels like a warm bath after being caught out in the snow. During Covid, all I did was read and write. And shop on Amazon. I want a few things, for example all my tech is old. I’m trying to wait until the computer industry finds a way to banish the foreign hackers. Not that I’m keeping any state secrets, just moving on, literally.

The Last Time

We’ve been home in Michigan from Florida for a week now and have cleaned and decluttered and put things away. Still deciding on what art to keep…the Frida Kahlo canvas print in the photo above is for sure a keeper and so is the hope chest it’s resting on. Of my books, about 2/3 of my library will be culled. We have already donated a huge load of clothing, jewelry, one framed print and other random things from my massive closet cleaning yesterday. I have been ignoring (and missing!) social media mostly but yesterday I did try to make a Canva twitter post about Jane in St Pete to pin to the top of my page. It turned out okay, but somehow I was not able to add an Amazon link or a link to the full review I quoted. And I see, looking at my email, that I signed up for a year of “premium” Canva, perhaps hoping it would help with that. Think I did it for the free month. I’m not sure it makes a difference, but I’ll try one more Canva post before I cancel the paid premium. I might keep it, if it helps me add those links.

The other thing I’m missing is writing, specifically writing the next Jane book. I stopped at a good place, but I want to devote myself to it, and I just can’t right now. The best I can do is write three pages in my journal every morning and I do love that; it keeps the writer in me just short of starving. And I decided to treat myself to a day of reading posts from my favorite bloggers and writing this post to catch you up on what I’m doing. This helps feed my writing self as well.

Feel I deserve a treat after a solid week of working hard to clean and organize the house after more than four months away. And there’s another reason I’m doing an especially deep clean. We’re seeing a realtor this coming week, and I hope we settle on a date to make this house sale official. We’ve lived here eight years. When we bought it I felt as though I was dreaming. I never thought we’d leave our home of 25+ years. I never thought to have such a lovely home. And brand new, too. But my husband had a plan and he followed through in ways I wasn’t even counting on. Al is very smart about the housing market. All the financial markets, really. Economics in general, he’s a savvy guy.

We’ve been visiting Florida every spring break for twenty years. Somewhere along the line, we agreed we’d like to retire there. Along with the other one thousand baby boomers per day who had the same idea. We didn’t think a whole lot about it until my dad moved and we scooped up his place. We’d stayed there often enough. Also with friends who either had made the move or rented for the winter months. Aside from hotel rooms, we never did the rental in Florida, jumping instead straight into buying. Also, yes, my dad now has a lanai, a laundry room and a garage of his own 🙂 Nice upgrade and only ten minutes from us.

So after the sale, we’ll land in our little Florida place for now, but we’ll be shopping for something with a few more of the amenities I miss when we’re there. Like, a laundry room. I solved that problem by taking my clothes to the cleaner, who do a wash/dry/fold service. Al used our shared laundry room for towels, rugs, sheets, and his stuff. So it was affordable, to hire out just my things, although I do a better job. And I’d rather do it myself. I finally got all the laundry we brought home finished, some to be donated and some just because there was a pile of it!

I skipped the cleaners the last week in Florida because I missed my washer/dryer and wanted to use it! Also love having a dishwasher again. And the outdoor deck. And the fact that this ride home from Florida is the last time we’ll have to do that. It’s as warm as Florida today here in Michigan, but the weather people are calling for rain the rest of the week. That’s okay, because I have the one room I missed the most: my writing room, where I’m sitting typing to you right now. I hope it’s sunny and warm where you are, too.