I know, I know. You haven’t properly heard from me in ages.
You promised us a third book, you say.
Believe me when I tell you that my original plan last fall was to have a complete draft of book 3 (Cokie’s story) done by summer 2017. I wanted that so much. But as last winter approached, I realized something about my home that had been quietly gnawing at me for years, dragging me down.
I realized that the townhouse I had lived in for the past 10 years, while deceptively beautiful, was really only a place I enjoyed part of the year, cozy during winter’s bad weather, perfect for shutting yourself away from the world. And that was the problem, shutting myself away from the world. There was no space to be outdoors in a way that made me feel connected to nature—my back deck was tightly sandwiched between my neighbors’ decks, had no privacy to speak of, and overlooked pavement and a sad parking lot in a neighborhood where the houses were all crammed together, yet deceptively pretty in their brand new, cookie cutter fashion. It was fake lifestyle perfection, optimized to make a builder a lot of money (who needs trees and privacy–cram those condos together, baby!), but soul-killing for people like me that need a little more nature. Every time I looked out my back window, I looked right into my neighbor’s house, when I’d rather have seen something green. As close as all the houses were, very few neighbors actually spoke.* Worse, some constantly acted out, either dumping trash in the street or the parking lot, and I was one of the two people who’d go around and clean it up. (Sometime, remind me to tell you about the neighbor who urinated on the wall of the community parking lot after trashing it. Yeahhhhh.) The place started to feel like an upscale prison, and I was an inmate losing my mind. It was making me depressed. It made me feel like someone had cut off my arms, like I didn’t have a place to go when it was nice out except inside my head. It was time to leave. It was time to find a place where I could spread my wings.
But wait! Buy a new house during the most heated and costly real estate market in the history of Seattle & the Eastside? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!
As you can see, I was desperate. We forged ahead in late December, and I tossed all plans of writing a third book onto the back burner. If I didn’t get out of my old house by summer, I’d lose it. By mid-January, we had only been looking for a few weeks, but a miracle happened: we found a cute little older house in a great neighborhood, only minutes from several of our friends, affordably priced….and…wait a minute…what is this? The house is being partially gutted as we speak for water damage?
The house had been previously under agreement, and two days before the sale was supposed to close, someone kicked in the door and stole the dishwasher and made an unholy mess. The previous buyer backed out.
That’s when we said: THIS IS A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY. LET’S MAKE AN OFFER AND SEE IF WE CAN SCORE THIS CUTE (about to be partially gutted) HOUSE.
SOLD! We were under agreement within an hour, with no competition, no bidding war. Water damage will do that for you, I guess.
What followed was the most intense, most stressful time of my entire life. Yes, we had an awesome realtor and without him, we wouldn’t have gotten lucky and saved money buying this new house, at a time when other houses in this neighborhood were easily going for $60-100K more, but there were so many intricacies involved, between rush financing (if we didn’t close soon, the home would have been sold at auction), a weird extra bank deal where they took another big chunk of our funds hostage on top of the down payment, to ensure the repairs got made (this seriously cramped our cash flow when we could have spent the money making more repairs), insurance claim paperwork shenanigans, and moody repair contractors who kept trying to shake me down for insurance money that hadn’t arrived yet. Sometimes I would end up having to sign, scan, and send papers late at night after teaching a night class that ran until 11. I would easily spend hours dealing with this home purchase every day, on top of my 3 jobs, trying to keep it all on track. It could have easily gone off the rails. We also spent every spare moment on weekends doing repairs ourselves. One day, the stress got to me pretty hard, and I had serious chest pains, and couldn’t breathe. The hubs asked me if I needed to go to the emergency room. I said, “Just wrap me in blankets and put me in front of the TV.” And he did. Soon, the chest pains wore off, and I was able to breathe again. Mindless television will do that for you.
So you can see, yeah, I was in way over my head.
Eventually, with some patience, all of our financial stressors were settled, and all the the big home repairs that actually made the house livable were done (we now have working bathrooms and a working kitchen!) and we proceeded cautiously toward the finish line—moving in.
And so we did.
And it was so worth it. I’m going to skip telling you the part where selling my old home was also horribly stressful. I’m just going to go straight to the part where I am now, happy as can be in my new house.
It’s cute here. And sweet. It’s smaller, but I want to live more simply. I’m getting rid of anything that doesn’t support my basic needs, my imagination, and my art. The house needs tons more work, but we’re going to make it ours. There’s a little yard that brings me so much joy, even though it’s somewhat weedy, and at times overgrown, but it’s quiet and private. I see some gorgeous little birds here, and rabbits. From my kitchen table, I can see them all while I’m eating, reading, or writing. Sometimes, a rabbit will sit outside my office window, and just stare straight at me, whispering secrets. I’m going back to my roots, my childhood days where I spent summer afternoons under trees reading books. It even kind of reminds me of my fave old childhood haunt, Cape Cod. Plus, I’m minutes from the lake, and several of my girl-besties.
It’s magical. And it’s mine.
And I *will* get back on writing book 3 very soon. It just can’t wait any longer. I’ll blog about various aspects of the story as I go, so you’ll be in the loop. Maybe I’ll shoot to have a draft done by late fall. And so many more arty, pretty things.
Wish me luck?
*I even wrote a story where I processed the passive-aggressive social isolation of my fake-pretty neighborhood to get it off my chest. It’s called, “The Joy of Being Alive,” and that story went on to be a finalist for the So To Speak Fiction Contest. Turning my pain into something useful, you know, because that is how I roll.