It has been a while. Only a few months until my 20th website anniversary, which is when I’m leaving the weekly blogging commitment…so I’m tapering. The earliest iteration of this website was mostly just a blog. I wrote every day for many years and yes you can read it all here. I’m not disappearing…but I didn’t have any books out yet in 2002. Blogging was my bliss. Now I’m a multi-published novelist with e-publisher The Wild Rose Press. I’ve just turned in the second book in my second series for them. I’ve written a few stand-alones too. I even have a couple of free books and stories here on the website. My earliest novels were Kindle novels and I think they’re all 99 cents.
It’s difficult to dedicate yourself to too many things, and so not a lot of blog posts while I moved from Michigan to Florida and finished my 12th book. I’m about 75 pages into the third book in Jane in St Pete series–and wondering if it will be a trilogy. It feels like something new is hovering. Hoping to get Jane 3 out closer to Jane 2–Covid kind of upended life for me (and the rest of the world).
The most difficult thing moving has been finding new doctors and explaining things to them like the Hines Shakes. I was born Cynthia (Cindy) Hines. Sorry, the Hines Shakes are not milkshakes, but a condition medically referred to as “essential tremors.” It can interfere with writing. In our family some folk can’t write their name without meds.
I use medication, but I don’t want to become a prescription medication addict, so I check in with the doctors. I think I have finally got a plan with a good doctor and a therapist as well as a neurologist and other specialists for other conditions besides these shakes. One priority besides being able to type my novels is having the energy to run a household again. We have been in condos for almost a decade. Now we have a big yard, several garden areas, a lanai (that’s what they call a screened in porch in Michigan) with a built-in hot tub. The house is our largest, too. Not by much, but at 67, it’s a bold move. My husband has more energy than me. As our financial manager, he’s been riding this crazy stock market wave with a cool head and well as fixing up this place, which was a bit more of a mess than we thought.
He does all the difficult jobs like landscaping and keeping the hot tub spotless, plus he’s been working on the master bath walk in shower. He had to pull up tiles, clean up rot and re-whatever it is you do to make them new. We have chosen a painter, who starts on the inside end of June. After rainy/hurricane season he’ll do the outside. The hurricane shutter guy is coming in a few days. We do have hurricane shutters but after having to buy a water system, replace a dishwasher plus those floor tiles and more, we don’t quite trust them.
I’m doing my same old cooking and cleaning and laundry and shopping. Al finally got a grill so I try to have him cook dinner on that a few times a week. I still make the salad. And I’m writing!! Just not blogging so much.
Look what popped up as we got our gardens ready to grow! We had no idea what most of the gardens would look like aside from the palms. Ed, who takes care of our lawn, also trims the palms. We have seven of them. They’re beautiful. It’s starting to rain a bit here in SWF (Southwest Florida) and rainy season soon will be about an hour shower or storm daily. That’s beautiful too. With wind, the palms stream water through the rain. So otherworldly. Well, if your world for 66 years was Michigan.
A snag occurred in Jane Book 3 last week when our calendar overflowed with invitations from friends. The Michigan people are going home, so we had get togethers to say a final goodbye (until next year) and the new neighbors are inviting us for get to know you cocktails. Someone had a party every day last week. At first I thought, oh that’s fine, I’m done writing by 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Well, ha, writers need to be in shape to write. Maybe just older writers? Party drinks and fancy snacks will sneak up on you. Over the week, instead of writing, I filling the gas tank with naps and reading to get myself ready to be social. The just-started story was reduced to scribbled plot notes.
Today I was determined to get back to work but it took me an hour just to turn on my new computer and find the Word program. I tried to do a blog post first but Windows didn’t recognize my Word Press sign in. So here I am on the Mac. But I have to stay with the story on Office/Word. I HAVE TO. I would like to maybe take an online class. Or two. http://www.wethegeek.com had some good info. I’d like a personal class like I got with my genius at the Apple Store. Not sure Miscrosoft has that. In an ideal world I’d like one tutorial for switching from MAC to WINDOWS when blogging and one for writing novels. Also email would be good too. Had no luck finding my email on Windows.
A thing about getting older is learning new stuff takes longer. Also Al is only willing to help me with this up to a point. He got my garden growing, moved furniture, painted living room, keeps the spa ready, and so much else. Even some golf. 🙂 My plan for now is to just use Word and get on with my story. And blog on the Mac. For now. Until school starts.
Our grandchildren, all three of them, came to visit! We have two sons and our younger has one child (a boy) and our oldest has a boy and a girl. The cousins don’t live anywhere close to the same state so it’s a thrill for them to see each other. The boys instantly click like best friends no matter how much time has gone by (Covid!) since they saw each other last, maybe because they are only about a year apart. “Our” little girl is the youngest and she is very sweet. Her favorite color is pink and she asks me to read to her and sit by her as she paints pictures and likes to keep her hands clean. She’s brave, too, and follows the boys in their adventures. They all put on wetsuits and snorkels and swam with manatees the other day.
It was a lovely time. If we all had lived in Michigan, Al and I never would have moved to Florida. As it is, we’ll visit them and they’ll visit us. As it is, I have found my place in the world. Just lucky it clicked for Al too. And the kids come here to Florida where most of their grandparents are snowbirds. We all like to travel. Everyone is excited for the new house…they have seen pictures. They missed seeing the real thing by less than a month. Still waiting on the deal to close. I’ll say more then.
I have been so happy. As I’ve said before, it’s always felt like home when I’m in Florida. I thought of it longingly all my years in Michigan. But my children were born and raised in the north and for that matter so was I, thus I didn’t dwell on what I couldn’t have. Palm trees! Sunsets! Flowers full of vibrant color and large as dinner plates! Then, as I got older, it started to seem that maybe after all I would have that dream of my heart. But I could never entirely believe it. It seemed like too much. Yet…the kids had moved far away. Al was cautiously game. We found ourselves making a plan and taking steps. Slowwww steps.
I think I can stop asking him if he’s really sure he wants to live here…because we already are. We found our place in the world. Yes, we had to wait until Al retired…but it is never too late to do what your heart has always longed for.
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.
We are living the story. Freedom from work! Work we sometimes despised. We put in the time, collected our checks, waited until the day retirement arrived so we could focus on work we really loved. For me that’s writing, although it pays way below the cost of living, and dream vacations to Greece cost so much.
We can move to where the weather suits us. If we can afford a house. That’s what all the saving was for when we worked those soul crushing jobs. Al and I did better at saving than most, but when we thought about it, we realized we’d have a hard time buying a home in this crazy market unless we paid cash. Because we’re retired. No income. Well, very little income. This adds all sorts of complications.
We could dip into our savings, but higher income means higher tax bracket. Thus more taxes. Taking money out of 401K also means paying even more taxes as 401Ks (unless they are Roth) are not taxed until you take them out of the market. We thought that was great when we were saving.
Social Security is giving seniors a COLA raise for the first time in forever, but Medicare is raising costs equal to that and they take it right out of your check. If you’re not collecting SS yet, you still have to write Medicare a check.
Last week consisted of crunching numbers with our banker, who is lovely and kind. It was soooo boring. She and Al loved talking finance strategies, me not so much. Now we just have to figure out what we want to do. Which taxes to pay when or if there’s a way people who are not rich can avoid them. (There isn’t.) I learned a lot about money and what it can and cannot do for you in retirement, but I still don’t understand how it is legal for billionaires to have billions of ways to avoid paying taxes. While we in the middle have exactly zero legal means unless we spend zero.
Money is a strange thing. Now this crypto-currency is weirder yet, although I do like the IDEA of minting a trillion dollar coin to pay off our country’s debt. Or is it debt ceiling? Or are we just calling off that whole thing? Sure I’ve learned a lot, but I have way more to figure out. Lucky for me, Al’s hobby is finance. And he’s really good at it.