On this, the Last Day of My Billing Cycle

The week before Memorial Day I housesat for my friends Kudra & Porter on the Atlantic Coast. I looked forward to it as a chance for a “writing retreat”. For the short task of feeding their cats and occasionally scooping out the cat box, I had a house all to myself where I could write whenever I wanted and work on my own schedule.

Although some progress in my latest book was made, I had to learn to go with the flow little bit more than I anticipated.

First of the weather going out there was horrible, like I can’t see two car lengths in front of me for 3 of the 4 hours trip. But I made it, only to find a three car accident two stop lights away from their house. Add on another 30 minute delay and I got to my friends’ house about an hour later than I planned, ok dinner was late for the kitties but I was there.. I went to get in and my method of entry to the house was locked. Panic set in.I texted my friends who were in a very different time zone than me for alternatives and thankfully they responded quickly and with an easy solution. I was in!

I fed the cats, played with them, and settled in while the storm that had been on my heels for most of the trip raged on outside.*

*Please note that I neglected to connect my phone to their WiFi.

And now back to the first night. After a few hours there the power went off for a minute, everything came back on immediately except for the master bedroom suite. A few moments later the fire alarm in there began to chirp the song of a low battery. I think it’s important that I explain that in my house the fire alarms are all connected, so if one goes off-they all go off. I wondered if this alarm’s song had something to do with the power outage because the alarm was going off in their bedroom every twenty minutes or so. I was scared to mess with the alarm over an incident that happened at my house where I tried to replace the batteries of my alarm only to discover the connecting wires had corroded, leaving live exposed wires on my office ceiling for my husband to fix after he got home from work. With the power being temperamental and fearing the fuse box was outside in the storm I let it chirp.

A few moments later I began my bi-monthly Kawfee Talk with Octana and Red via Skype, my beeping soundtrack and voice was all the could get from my end. After the call the storm had stopped and I located the fuse box, that thankfully was inside. The master bedroom switch was clearly labeled and clearly switched off so I tried to reset only to have it flip back to off immediately.  I called my husband and together we attempted to fix the power, via FaceTime. After the reset did not work again Honey told me to leave it alone something was wrong with the ground.

We chatted a little and said good night. With the alarm still chirping I decided to write into the early hours of the morning to make myself pass out so I would not hear the chirping. My plan worked, until 6 am when my body was used to responding to an alarm clock. The chirping had increased to every two minutes so I found a step stool and thought electricity be damned I am unplugging that thing. In my 3 and half hours of sleep brain I couldn’t figure out why it was not coming off the wall, but I did find a hidden reset button and the chirping stopped. I crawled back into bed and tried to go back to sleep, I failed.

Eventually I noticed a break in the weather and I was able to sneak down to the beach and put my toes into the water, something that being four hours inland I miss. the weather predicated said it was going to be yucky the whole time I was there, so I jumped at the chance to be near the ocean, even if it was only for a few minutes.

IMG_5641.JPG

I felt rejuvenated, the last day’s complications faded away. I even Instagramed a live shot of the ocean. I stayed there for while, enjoying my self-dictated timeframe and went home when the clouds got darker.

IMG_5640.JPG

Later that day I wrote, watched Netflix on my laptop, listened to Podcasts, and drank copious amounts of tea. Later that night I Face-Timed my husband and crawled into bed, only to be woken up by the song of the fire alarm. I pressed the button I had found the day before and went back to my bedroom where the alarm in there had sympathetically joined in the chorus. I found the button on that one and then made more tea and tried to write.

On a trip back from the kettle I walked back to a scene that caught me as something special.

IMG_5671.JPG

I was walking back to a table that Porter had been making on the first night I met him, over five years ago. He was a close friend of our neighbor who I wasn’t expecting to meet that night. Porter was taking a break from the construction of the table he was trying to complete before Christmas Dinner so he could accommodate his in-laws who were in town. He left after a beer but a few months later I met his wife Kudra and we became friends. It had been a hard year for all of us, the life paths we had set out to have did not come to fruition as planned. A little while later they would move across the country and a few months later we would end up in the same state only a few hours away from them.

I could have never anticipated five years ago would be working on my third book, on the table he was building, thousands of miles from where our meeting began, while they were in another country with their family over their daughter’s first birthday.

That is not how you think your five year plan will go, and yay for that.

So speaking of plans when I returned home I got an alert from my wireless plan explaining that I had used 70% of my data and they would change my plan (probably forever) if I went over and charge extra. The billing cycle ended three weeks later, today. So the last few weeks I have been present, not messing on my phone in dull moments out, walking without headphones, listening to birds and cicadas, and engaging with a new group of friends we just met. And yesterday while writing in a coffee shop I wrote 3300 words, about my daily output from my “writing retreat”.

I hope that I will keep some of the habits I have had to adopt the last few weeks at least in a social setting and who knows it might help me make my book deadline!

Just Finish It

Lately I have found myself not making the progress I want on a few projects.

I’ve been writing, querying the last book, trying to stay on top of the yard to avoid the dreaded HOA letter, and (I think this is what solidified my feeling of non-progression) reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

First of all I loved the book, but it is longer than my usual nighttime reading choices and the description I got for what it was about was a little misleading (what I thought it was about didn’t happen until almost sixty percent into the book-I was confused). I read this book off of a Kindle so I couldn’t refer to the back cover and I really only had percentage points and how many minutes left of the chapter to go on. I also blame myself and my household’s new interest in a tv show called Midsomer Murders and its near two hour episodes for keeping me up and away from my reading.

Anyway, so here I was writing the first third of my Work in Progress and not progressing as much as I anticipated. I was reading a thick ole book that I wondered if (with the confusion in story line) I had picked up mistakenly. And then battling the ever growing lawn and fixing the patio which had been torn up since January that we loving referred to as the “pit of despair” while we decided what we wanted to do with the space.

So I prioritized. First, it was not going to get any cooler so once we (Honey rocks) removed the roots from the misplaced tree on the patio I started putting the patio back together. One paver at a time because it was a hard jigsaw puzzle that I needed a rubber mallet and an evening board to complete. Sometimes I could only put in a few a day with the heat and burning stones under my ass.

IMG_5672.JPG IMG_5688.JPG IMG_5689.JPG

Until one day when I was too close to the end to let things like heat indexes, unexpected new roots, and an emergency trip to the store for more pavers get in my way.51802819526__263E4D49-AEE0-4288-AB5B-43B7C0ACAD9B.JPG

 

And I finished. I won’t lie, I did a happy dance. It’s been a long time since I had completed a physical task that wasn’t going to change in a week. A clean house gets dirty, food gets eaten, and the yard-whew- changes daily =) But the patio is going to relatively stay there and it’s done. Task checked off the list. Now we can have friends over again.

The book I’m writing, well…I’ve met my word count some days, not every day. Being only a third of the way through and scenes taking longer than I planned has been distressing, not to mention the story can be hard to write. It’s women’s fiction about a band and heartbreak. The subject matter is tough, it has made me had to dive into some old scars on getting my heart broken and use what I know about marriage to make up this fictional situation. It is uncomfortable diving into that combination of feelings.

Originally I had a plan to NaNoWriMo this thing, just get out and over with and pick up the pieces later. So far I have been unable to write the story everyday. The closest I came was when I headed out to the Atlantic Coast  and spent three days alone while I housesat for some friends. At the end of my visit I only had 8,000 more words, an outline, and sleep deprivation from low battery fire alarms I was scared to mess with (story for another time).

You may be asking, why do I keep on writing it if it’s hard? Because it is hard. It won’t get easier by letting it knock around in my brain for a year, it will become that “pit of despair” we had on our back patio for a few months… always nagging, always reminding me there was something I needed to do. Now I look at that patio with the table and umbrella on top and see there is a place I want to have breakfast with my husband or maybe a glass of wine in the evening with friends.

That’s the feeling I get when I finish a first draft. The possibilities seem endless for what you can do with it, what to add to it, and now truly ponder if you want your friends around it 😉

I won’t meet my self-imposed deadline, but that’s ok I am going to keep on chipping away at it until it’s done. And who know it might be like when I read The Name of the Wind, when I got to the 83% mark I just kept on going until I finished. But from now on while I am writing the first draft I will just stick to the shorter 200-350 page novel. When your on long term project sometimes you need something/anything to just finish.

 

 

The Books & Booze Room

Happy Friday All!

I told you how after Porter and Kudra’s visit I renamed the library “The Books and Booze Room”, because somehow in a fortuitous miscalculation in size and our lack of desire to have a formal living room, we ended up putting the two together.  I mentioned this name change  to one of our local friends Poppy last weekend and she said that sounded like a great idea for a real business.  I have to admit if there was a bar that was made up of comfy couches and chairs that you could just curl up with a book and sip on your spirit of choice without the bar atmosphere, I might be inclined to check it out.

Just think of it, there would a wide selection of books and you could reserve a chair with an adequate amount of reading light around it.  The place would be quiet, but not as invasively quite as a library.  Waiters/Waitresses would come by and quietly ask if you needed a refill on your bourbon as you read Elmore Leonard’s Fire in the Hole or get you another glass of Pinot Noir while you read My Life in France by Julia Child.  There would specialty drinks created to best suit the book you pick. There of course would be food offered, little nibbles to pad your chosen intoxicant.  Maybe there would be a room set up to the side (with sound proofing) that local writers or guest speakers could come and chat with others.  Oh, if only…

But until I find some investors 😉 here is our version of The Books and Booze Room, which as you can see currently has two kitties napping off a catnip hangover.

Book and Booze Room 1

 

Books and Booze Room 2

The Books and Booze 3

 

Guest Room Revisited

Last weekend we had our friends Kudra and Porter stay over. We actually knew them back in San Diego, they had moved to North Carolina four months before we did.  In fact when they moved we had no idea that we were going to be living in the same state again so soon.  I would have taken better notes of Kudra’s moving methods if I had known.

And while we are in the same state, we are in different regions so we actually had not seen them since San Diego.  We had an excellent time with them last weekend; taking them to some of our favorite restaurants, one good brewery, one okay one, and lots of talks.  I didn’t get in the walk I wanted to take with Kudra (former Walking Buddy) but hopefully we will see them again soon (next time at their place!).  I found it telling that they gravitated to the front room downstairs, that we refer to as the library (though now I’m calling it the Books & Booze Room, since we ended up putting the bar in there too).  Most people like to be in the back room next to the kitchen that has the TV and stereo.  I liked getting to spend time with friends in the B&B room, no distractions from conversation except the occasional pouncing kitty.  Hitch made incredible strides in bravery the weekend by actually coming downstairs and visiting with “strangers” in the house.  In the past he just hides until they fall asleep and then sneaks into our room.  Hopefully his bravery will continue for future guests and visitors.   I swear if I didn’t have so much photographic evidence of him, our friends would think we’re making him up.

Of course this visit was a wonderful excuse to fix up the guest room, a project that had been bugging me for some time.   When Firefly stayed here last summer the room wasn’t actually ready for her, but she came three days after we moved in so there wasn’t much we could do before hand.  A few weeks back, in a random 48-hour period of warm days I finally painted over the dull, mute blue walls and dark blue molding with a light gray and white.   Then I said good-bye to our old mattress, that had been retired into the guest room,  so we got a new one that didn’t require a chiropractic appointment after use.  With a sale and membership enrollment we got a pretty good deal on it, as a bonus the delivery guys took away the old mattress for free. Which is good because the large pick up service here sucks and I didn’t want to be the neighbors with a bright pink mattress on the lawn for a week. We got a night stand and some mirrors for the wall  but all the rest we already had. 

I had painted the artwork above the bed last Spring when I discovered the show “House of Cards” and had to find something to do while I watched.

GuestRoom1

I am not a knickknack person, so when I have to decorate new spaces it is usually a challenge.  I don’t want to go out and get something just to fill an empty spot, I want it to be pretty or mean something; so I had to get creative to fill some of the blank spots in the bookcase.

GuestRoom2I got some California flowers for our California friends and knitted them each a scarf (that’s what the dark things are on the bottom shelf).  It was kind of like a belated Christmas gift, though as a joke I did consider telling them the scarves were there because the heater in their room was broken.  I got the yellow lantern and the white frame from Ikea when we got the night stand, all the other knickknacks were repurposed from other rooms.

GuestRoom4I put in magazines that I knew Kudra might want to browse through (they are settling into a new house as well).  But honestly I wanted to read them too, I just gave them first dibs.

GuestRoom3Since there was still room on the bookshelf and I was out of vases, I put a selection of books from our library that they might enjoy.  They garden but like us they have had to adapt to the new climate.  Then I put a light-hearted book by a Southern writer and a semi-haunting book by a known author that takes place in a North Carolina amusement park.  There was a theme I swear!

And then since I always seem to forget something when we travel I put out a basket with things they might need.

GuestRoom5

 

I think they enjoyed the trip and hopefully they will become frequent visitors.

 

 

 

In My Dreams George R.R. Martin is Kind-Of a Jerk

I have been having very vivid dreams the last few weeks, it might be because I am not sleeping well or maybe my brain is just trying to tell me something but last week after painting my room I had a very strange one.

When we moved into the house we had the advantage and disadvantage of having every room painted in a neutral color scheme.  It is an advantage because it is move-in ready and it goes with about everything you own.  The disadvantage is with this neutrality you are not really in any big rush to repaint with the colors you would like.  I almost wonder if I would prefer moving into a house with ridiculous colors just so I will feel the urgency to paint and claim it as my own.  Painting is a bonding thing with me.  At our last house I painted every room at least twice and got to know her every last nook and cranny,  I found getting to know her made it a lot easier to care for her.  With our house now I feel like we have quite a ways to go, so I decided a little team building activity was in order.

My study was taupe.  The previous owners were using it as a playroom for their three kids, but I wonder if it was actually one of their bedrooms before they decided to put it on the market.  It’s a funny thing for me to think about, that children played in this room.  Though it is a relatively new house there are some ghosts around (don’t get me started on our bedroom).  When I first saw this room there was a tea table set up, a raceway for toy cars, a doll house, stuffed animals, and as I discovered (painfully) a little action hero sword hidden in the carpet.  After painting it and being really up close to walls I discovered that the room had last been a light/semi-neonish green.  I think we stumbled across this color in modern nurseries when the sex of the child is unknown.

Since we were in such a rush to get settled in while Firefly was here I put my stuff up on the walls and kind of forgot about making it my space.  I thought I could just ignore that the place didn’t feel quite right and focus on the world inside my laptop.  The rain delayed my desire to paint, then the summer heat made the idea of opening windows seem unthinkable, then we got Hitch and my room turned into a temporary sanctuary for him.  I would feed him in here so Bailey couldn’t bully his dinner away from him or if he just needed some quiet time.  For a while it worked, but then Hitch realized the door doesn’t close completely and he got out whenever he wanted, leaving his half eaten kitten food available for Bailey to pig out on.  So then I moved Hitch’s feeding space to guest room, where the door does latch closed.  The room was mine again!  And I hated it.  My mood was off in there, the paintings didn’t seem to fit the space, and I couldn’t arrange my small pictures in a way that I liked.

Some people can handle taupe, I can’t.  I was going through some other things in my mind about identity and who I was going to be here (post for another time) and I came to the conclusion that not everything about me had to change just because I was in a new place.  I happen to like some things about my old self and wanting to paint rooms non-nuetral colors is one of them.  So going with the theme of reclaiming some of the old Melissa, I painted my new room the color that my old office was back in San Diego.  I love that blue (Behr: Observatory), something about it makes me feel so happy.  Like in San Diego I painted three walls blue and kept one taupe to reflect the light.  I might paint the taupe wall white to reflect more, but for now it works.

Blue Room

 

I could even put up the smaller pictures in a way that makes sense to me.

small picturesSo back to the dream (I promise to be brief because I don’t like dream posts either).  I had this dream a few nights after I had painted the room but had not put anything back in it yet.  In my dream I was living with a multi-generational family that was not mine, but we somehow all lived in the same house.  There were around nine of us and I had just painted the room that I was told would be mine and strangely enough it was what my office is now. What a coinkydink! 😉  I was just about to open the door to my new space when George R.R. Martin stepped in front of me (I must have forgotten George was also part of this large family) and said that the room was not mine, that they were going to give it to one of the irresponsible adult daughters that was living with the family.  He told me she had a start up business (which I remember thinking was a bad business venture) and needed the space more than I did, that I did not deserve this room.

Ouch.  You cut me George, you cut me deep.

When I woke up I realized the not too subtle subtext of this dream.  Let me just say I do not know much about George R.R. Martin, I have watched “Game of Thrones” and have his books on my “To Read” List.  I want to read them but I hear they are like crack and I am not sure if I am ready for a new addiction.  All I know about Mr. Martin is he is a hard working, successful writer and I’m sure he is a sweetheart in real life.  I am guessing that in the dream Mr. Martin was my inner mentor telling me to stop dicking around a start writing again.  That in my mind my room is not really an office unless I actually do some work in it.  So I will start writing again before some other writer mentors start haunting me while I sleep.  I don’t want to have to deal with a pissed off Hemingway or an irate Angelou!

 

 

What I’ve Been Up to This Time

As John puts it, “it’s been a bit stale” around here.  Once again, I apologize. Yes I got busy with life again and I was in the middle of things that I couldn’t write about out of some strange superstition I have, but once again I have returned and I’m ready to start saying what’s on my mind and catch you up with everything else one post at a time.

So the biggest reason I have been all quiet on the Blogging Front is that we moved again.  It was not the elaborate logistical challenge of moving across country (which was only six months ago) but a more manageable in-town move into Our new house.  When we moved to NC the plan was to rent for a year and start looking for our own house in the fall.  But then Spring came as did the For Sale signs and John an I found ourselves adding Redfin and Zillow apps to our phones and checking them as often as we checked the afternoon weather forecast.  I must admit I dragged my heels on the whole buying a house thing.  I kept on saying not yet, we need to get to know the town more, and really figure out what we wanted out of house.  Since the houses are much different here than in SoCal we weren’t sure where we would “fit”.  Also I did want to stick to the plan and buy in 2014 and I convinced myself that my constant Redfin surfing was just fact gathering and research.  The research led to me the conclusion that we should start officially looking.

I looked up some local realtors through the internet, unfortunately this town does not use Yelp as much as San Diego, so no one had a customer review that they had not hand picked.  I was planning for us to buy the house on the sly without telling any of my family whet we were up to, but after a not so good feeling from a “highly recommended” relator I called my cousin and asked for a recommendation.  She put me in touch with the guy who had help them find their first and second house and sell their first house as well.  My Aunt and Uncle also used him when they bought in South Carolina, I think he can now be considered the official family realtor.  He (unlike many residents) grew up in Charlotte and knows this town like the back of his hand.  He is a riot and can keep you entertained on a long day of looking 18 houses in a row.  The house buying/selling process is very different than what I experience in San Diego, so I was happy to have someone who understood and explain it to me.  He liked me because I was no nonsense about house hunting, I could look at a house and if I didn’t like it leave without seeing the whole thing.  Some of his clients would just keep on looking and bad mouth the house for another 10 to 15 minutes.  I didn’t see how that was worth my time.

Originally it was just me looking at the houses with our Realtor.  John trusted my judgement and through online searches and our Realtor’s insight we had an initial list of around 20 houses.  We discussed what we wanted at lest a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom (there was no way we were going back to one bathroom after knowing life with 2.5) with a good size yard, a garage, in a good area, maybe with a wood burning fireplace, or screened in porch.  The Realtor and I set out at 9am on a Wednesday morning and by 3:45 with a half hour lunch, I had whittled the list down to 3 that I wanted John to see.  It was very House Hunters.

Did they chose House #1- the split level with the hardwood floors and the small pool? House #2-The small cottage without a garage in the great part of town? Or did they chose House #3  the newer construction with all kinds of upgrades but a small backyard? We chose House #3, but we didn’t buy it.

We put in an offer, which even though it was below list price our realtor thought was too much.  It was a very good offer and he expected she would answer within the hour-she didn’t.  Instead she waited a day and change the listing to a “multiple offer situation” and wanted our best offer by the weekend.  Not to mention wanted a really long escrow and the option to rent back and some other things I don’t even want to bring up.  We withdrew our offer, though I doubt she let the other people know.  We didn’t want to deal with this BS when the house had been on the market for over two months without a single offer.

So a few days later we hit the road again looking at potential houses.  It was probably one of the most rainy days we have still ever seen here, but our Realtor was at the helm and got to ten houses in a few hours without incident.  John fell in love with the first place we went, but I had reservations.  The second to the last house we went to that day was the one we ended up buying.  Like I mentioned it was raining like crazy that day. The sky was rumbling and dark, it made you just want to curl up under a blanket with a hot cider and forget the world, but when we went into the house that would be ours, that feeling drifted away.  It felt really good in there.  The walls in the entrance were painted a neutral light beige but it reflected what little bit of light was coming out of the sky without a single light bulb on.  In the rental I had noticed the darkness from the trees being filled in was starting to get to me after week three of no sun, so I thought a place like this might be good for me.  The kitchen a family room were equally lovely and the mater bedroom windows faced the forested area behind the property.  So now I wake up to this view every morning

bedroom view

We went to another house, and while it nice it was not what we had just seen.  So we made an offer and were in escrow by the next day.  I am thankful we moved on buying a house when we did because soon after we closed they started raising the interest rates on home loans.  I really like the house, still getting to know her and I haven’t fully bonded yet, but that takes time.

We moved in as soon as we could because we had my little sister Firefly coming to town a few days after we closed.  Though I couldn’t unpack everything before she got here we were able to set up the guest room and bathroom so she had a comfortable place to sleep off her jet lag.  I’ll talk about her visit in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NH Tip for the Cat Owners

We all know that all too familiar sound or God forbid the feel of cat litter on the floor.  You can get one of those rugs that they have at pet stores or even at Target, but those things can run you $20+ and they usually are not 100% effective.   I found that getting a small roll of grip shelf liner ($4.99 role is enough for two) to put underneath the cat box works just as well and is easily disposal if a real mess occurs.  The little holes keep most of the litter from escaping, the cat usually wipes off the extra litter on it, and you can just lift it up and sweep underneath to clean up.

cat mat