02 May

To-do lists

I looked at my to-do list and with the exception of one ridiculous item — finish writing this damn book — it is very close to being completed. Most of the items on it are either things that I am waiting on someone else to do or things that are optional. For example, wash all the windows. Well, that’s a nice idea, because clean windows look good. But if I don’t get around to washing all the windows and someone doesn’t buy the house because the windows weren’t clean, they probably weren’t someone who needed a thirty-year old house anyway.

Yesterday’s chores included buying six bags of mulch and spreading it on my front garden; organizing books and items in the garage and taking a load of books to the library donation spot; going to Lowe’s and buying lightbulbs for the overhead kitchen lights, then dragging out the big ladder to change the two that were burned out; scrubbing my bathtub to within an inch of its life (it’s still doesn’t look spotless, but it never will); and much playing and splashing with the dogs.

The last part was fun. It was a beautiful first day of May and the water was perfect. B, I think, finally really likes swimming as long as I’m close to him. He’s like a toddler in the water, running around all excited on the edge, then super-cautious about how he puts his paws in, then always checking back to make sure he hasn’t gotten too far away from safety. And Z, of course, loves the pool and playing with her basketball.

2016-04-26 13.06.13

It definitely gave me pangs about giving it up. I had the gloomy thought of “I will never find another house that I love as much as this one.” French doors to the patio, high ceilings, my window seat, my kitchen cabinets… and then I thought, yes, this is true, I will never again have to be responsible for yard work or worry about termites. Leaks I will have to worry about — apparently, water is the big problem for RVs and getting a leak is both eventually inevitable and the problem that you have to watch out for. Yes, I’ve been doing lots of reading about RVs.

Today’s goals: finish the damn book. But that brings me back to my original thoughts on writing — that goal never moves, because I’ve made it too overwhelming. I need to make it a series of smaller goals. So today’s goal: finish the scene I’m in, write the next one, figure out what happens in the one after that. And, at least temporarily, let go of worrying about the house and the RV and the future and all the things that are driving me away from the story, and concentrate on Grace.

Ironically, I thought my trip to Sarasota on Friday would be really great plotting time to finalize the order of these last scenes and maybe get some real words imagined but I spent most of it daydreaming about Fen. She’s having such great adventures in my head. I seriously am so looking forward to getting back to writing about her. First, though, Grace. And even before that, a Monday morning, a dog walk, some healthy breakfast, and so on. The fingers are warmed up and ready to go!

28 Apr

Overthinking

At some point, I’m going to sit back and think about what I’ve learned from Grace. I’m not sure yet what it is. Not to have too many characters? Not to let side characters steal the show? To stick to an outline instead of abandoning it? To put more time into planning? Except I put a ton of time into planning with Grace. I thought I knew exactly where I was going, I just could never figure out how to get there.

I think probably the most important thing for me is that I really need to stop overthinking. I never considered plot or structure or character arcs with Ghosts and it’s entertaining nonetheless. And A Lonely Magic was a seven-week whirlwind where I never knew what was coming next and I adore it. Somehow the “write like mad without too much thinking” is my best strategy, I just need to figure out how to do it successfully without letting myself get turned around too much.

So yes, still working on Grace, finally starting to see a little forward movement instead of spinning my wheels. I don’t even know what revision I would call this now, maybe seven? And, of course, this is all before my usual multiple revision rounds that are edit rounds, not rewrites. Ah, well. I persevere! (It’s a character strength. :))

I’m persevering on the house, too. It’s not yet 10AM and I’ve checked off another item on the to-do list, namely clean and paint the trim on the patio. While I was at it, I wandered around to the front and touched up some of the trim out there and discovered — ridiculously belatedly — that the trim around the new windows by the door (sidelights, they’re called) was light blue. Seriously, what planet have I been on for the past month? I was berating myself for my lack of observational skills while I painted the blue white, to go with the rest of the trim, but then I realized, or maybe remembered, that I actually have excellent observational skills, as long as what I’m observing is people. Trim color does not interest me, not even when it’s on my own house, which is why I shouldn’t be a homeowner anymore. People do.

That said, when I was sitting on the patio, semi-admiring my work and mostly comforting a stressed-out dog who really wanted to be in my lap, I also did some good observing of the way the sunlight passes through my backyard neighbor’s bamboo. It’s seriously beautiful. Something about the way the light gets broken and the bamboo sways makes it alive. The light that is, not the bamboo, which is, of course, obviously alive. It’s magical. I tried to take a picture, but I’m a lousy photographer. I couldn’t capture it at all. Well, or maybe my iPhone was not the best camera for the job.

I did take a picture of Zelda, though, to commemorate the occasion.

Zelda, taking a nap on her dog bed

Zelda, taking a nap on her dog bed

What occasion, you ask? Well, we’ve owned that dog bed for years, and she never, ever uses it. It’s where Bartleby curled up the day he wandered into my backyard, but neither of them spend time there. I decided to throw it away, since it’s got a hole in it (presumably put there by the now-unhappy mouse that was living behind the now-gone granite countertops that had been sitting on the patio since my kitchen remodel.) I intended to drag it out to the curb for the trash guys, but got distracted by the bamboo, and what do I see when I turn around?

Zelda.

Perhaps expressing her opinion of all this chaos.

When I started this blog post I had something specific I was going to write about and it wasn’t Grace and it wasn’t Zelda and I have no idea what it was. Maybe fear? I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately, good fear and bad fear, and optimism and faith. Fear is an emotion that people want to dismiss quickly, one way or another. Either it’s, “oh, you’ll be fine, you’ve got nothing to be afraid of” or it’s, “then don’t do the thing that scares you.” I feel like neither of those is the right answer.

I think some fear keeps me alert but also lets me know that I’m doing something exciting. A little good fear — not anxiety, but fear — keeps me present and focused. On the other hand, anxiety is the bad fear. Anxiety is when the fear starts spiraling into worry and becomes irrational. I’m trying very hard to stay present in my life and not let the anxiety take over. It’s trying, some days more than others. But as long as I can see that, I think I can beat it.

That’s the optimism and faith speaking. Or maybe the character strength of hope? I’m often truly scared about the future that I’m heading toward. What if I get sick? What if the dogs get sick? How will I deal with X, Y, Z? But whenever I get too focused on those what-ifs, I take a step back, and look at the day I’m in. What can I do to make today better? And what can I do today to make my tomorrows better? The answers to those questions are so much easier than the answers to the what-ifs. Right now, the answer is “stop writing a blog post and write Grace instead!” So off I go.

What can you do to make your today better?

27 Apr

Mindfulness exercise

I totally stumbled across this article — I was reading another one about dogs not liking hugs, which turned out to be sort of silly and obvious and this one was a link on the side — but I like it so much that I need to save it, and what better place than my blog?

Basically, it suggests an incredibly simple mindfulness exercise: for fifteen seconds, notice your breathing, in and out. And then ask yourself, which of my character strengths am I going to bring to my next action?

The character strengths are categorized into Wisdom, Courage, Temperance, Transcendence, Humanity, and Justice and then broken down within those sections into deeper levels. Some of them will be easy for me to remember to use: perseverance, creativity, curiosity. I recognize and appreciate those strengths in myself. (From the Wisdom and Courage sections.) But appreciation of beauty and excellence; gratitude; and hope (Transcendence) are just as useful and necessary in my life.

And then the others — love, honesty, bravery, zest, judgement, love of learning, humility, perspective, kindness, humor, spirituality, forgiveness, prudence, self-regulation, fairness, leadership, teamwork, social intelligence (in no particular order) — well, I won’t remember to use them as often, but I hope having written this post will encourage me to turn to the idea of approaching life from a position of mindful inner strength when I need them. It’s fifteen seconds that could change my day.

In other news… my list of things to do seems to keep getting longer instead of shorter, but I think the items on it may be getting both easier and more nit-picky. A new one that I added today is that my painters missed an area in the front room. I’m not sure how I missed it on the run-through and part of me wants to just ignore it. But now that I’ve spotted it, I see it every time I walk through the room. So finding a little can of the same color paint and touching it up is now on my list. And re-grouting my bathtub looks so good that now I want to re-grout the other bathtub. I painted the interior of the French doors that lead to the patio and the inside of the laundry room door — they both look so nice that I’m considering painting the exterior doors. That kind of stuff. Maybe they’re delaying tactics? Or distractions to keep me from obsessing about the thing that I really need to do, aka finish writing Grace.

Speaking of which… yeah, I should be doing that right now. But I’ll breathe for fifteen seconds first and then bring a character strength with me. Or maybe two. It seems like a time for both perseverance and creativity!

25 Apr

Inspiration strikes

I’ve had a stuck day. Like my head is elsewhere and my body is moving around without it, no imagination, no ability to put a coherent word next to another coherent word. I suspect this might have something to do with the ibuprofen PM I took before going to bed last night. Well, not before going to bed — before going to sleep, after an hour or so of lying awake.

I’ve been eating more sugar than I should — fresh peaches, bananas, and these yummy gluten-free cookies. End result: joint inflammation. I would still totally eat more of those cookies if I hadn’t finished the box yesterday. But interestingly, I found it very easy to resist the peaches. Why is the unhealthy food so much more tempting? Anyway, sugar leads to joint pain, which led to an over-the-counter sleeping aid, which led to a very groggy day.

My progress on the current chapter I’m working on, in sum total, consists of: “Noah settled into Tassamara as seamlessly as if he’d lived there forever.

Next line should be… something? Anything? It’s an area that I’ve had trouble with before, narrative something-or-other. Basically making time pass. The next interesting thing to happen is when Akira and Zane get back from their honeymoon, so basically I want to skip ahead to that, but you know, it requires something more than… huh.

I could just skip ahead.

I could leave a note to myself in the file, along the lines of (Write Something Here) and write the part that’s more interesting. And maybe when I come back I’ll know more about what happens in that time period or else I’ll have a better idea of how to skip ahead.

*sigh

This idea is ridiculously obvious, but I have spent four hours sitting in front of this damn computer waiting for inspiration to strike and getting nowhere. I really need to remember somehow that inspiration strikes more readily when the fingers are moving. But now I need to go write Akira and Zane getting home from their honeymoon, and that makes me feel surprisingly cheerful, given how much of a miserable grind this day has felt like.

Writing Akira is always fun, though. One of my closest friends told me that I am more like Sylvie than I am like Akira, which might be one of those times when someone else sees you better than you see yourself, but writing Akira is easy because she just does and says and feels whatever I would do/say/feel in the same situation. I enjoy writing characters that I don’t have much in common with, but when the going gets hard, it’s nice to write someone who flows by instinct. Fingers crossed that she will do so for me now, because I’d really, really like to get some words written today!

21 Apr

Appreciating misery

I am miserably allergic. The combination of paint and dust and spring pollen and an extremely careless dairy intake* has knocked me flat. I want nothing more than to crawl under the sheets and go back to sleep. Well, apparently I want to whine to my blog more, because that’s what I’m choosing to do, but mostly I want to sleep.

But the blog inspiration was because I was realizing how lucky I am. My reaction to feeling so allergic was the automatic stress of a decade ago: I can’t be sick, I have too much to do! And it is true that my to-do list is about eighteen items long at the moment, ranging from the enormous — finish writing this damn book — to the marginally less enormous — clean the porch, touch up the trim paint, call a plumber about the dripping faucet — to the reasonably minor — install a bathroom light, spread some mulch around the plants out front.

And then I remembered that with the exception of the book, no one else on the planet cares when I do all the other stuff on my to-do list. I could crawl under my covers and have a completely unproductive day and it would not matter to anyone. When I put it that way, it sounds kind of bleak, but I didn’t feel bleak about it when it occurred to me. Instead, I just felt really fortunate. How lucky I am to be able to be sick with impunity. Sure, it sort of sucks to feel so lousy, but it’s so nice that I can be sick and decide to go back to bed and have that not be a disaster. It almost makes me not want to go back to bed, just so I can appreciate how fortunate I am.

I also woke up this morning to an incredibly painful jaw. I think I was grinding my teeth in my sleep. This is not fortunate, but I know exactly what it was from. I’ve been waiting for some of the houses in my neighborhood to sell and for the sales to close and have known, comfortably, that despite all my preparation, I wouldn’t be putting my house on the market until that happened. Well, it’s happening. Two houses sold this week and one closed. One of the houses that sold had only been on the market for about two weeks. That’s… well, exciting. Good news, right? Also terrifying in its own way. If I wanted, I could finish up the “must be done” items to put the house on the market this weekend. Well, not the book — but the house-related must-be-dones. I keep telling myself that there’s no rush, to take my time, to relax, but I think selling a house is just not ever going to be a relaxing sort of proposition.

Yesterday, I bought wood stain and black spray paint and touched up the cabinets in my bathroom and the solar lights that line my walkway (respectively). That’s the kind of job that normally I would think I should do but never get around to. Two hours of work, maximum, and both the cabinets and the walkway look so much better. It makes me wish I’d done the cabinets about five years ago. I could have been living with them looking nice all this time. Ah, well. Lesson learned, maybe.

Meanwhile, today I think I will be taking it easy. Some words on Grace, so I don’t break my current chain and maybe a couple of the phone calls I need to make, but otherwise, I think I’ll be wallowing in the freedom to be miserably allergic. Happily miserable allergic, if that’s not a total oxymoron!

*The dairy intake was both really stupid and sort of totally worth it. I was in my car, passing a Starbucks, thought how nice a coffee would be, and then got inspired in the drive-through lane to try their carmelized honey frappucino. It was perfect. Absolutely deliciously sweet and cold and everything I wanted. And I was probably a third of the way through when I thought, duh, the reason this tastes so good is because it’s real milk, you idiot! So yummy, though. If you handed me one right now, I would absolutely drink it even knowing the price.

18 Apr

Steps on a path

The painters are here. For the past seven years, there’ve been two patches of different purple paint on my bedroom wall. By the end of today or maybe the end of tomorrow, the walls will instead be a subtle grey neutral shade. I actually think the color is really appealing and I hope it’s going to look good with all my floors because the whole house will be that color, bedrooms, bathrooms, living room, kitchen, all of it.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s strange to be making the house so nice so that I can (eventually) hand the keys over to someone else. The last few days I’ve basically been cleaning everything that I can, taking down the pictures on the wall, stacking up the books in boxes in the garage or piles in my closet.

I should take a picture of my closet because the piles… well, I started putting just a few books in there. The ones that might be essential, the ones that maybe I couldn’t get rid of.

Some cookbooks. The Zuni Cafe cookbook that taught me so much, the Smitten Kitchen cookbook that my aunt gave me, the Perfect Recipe cookbook that I use every Thanksgiving.

And then the books that had just a little too much meaning. Not the ones that had so much too much meaning that there was no way I was getting rid of them — that tiny collection made it into my mom’s cedar chest. When I am 80 years old and living in an assisted living facility, I’ll be using a magnifying glass to read the copy of Winnie the Pooh that my parents gave me for my fourth birthday or the copy of The White Dragon that was an unexpected gift in sixth grade.

But the others.

The Hunger Games trilogy, because when the third book came out, it was delivered, of course, on the day of release. R came home from school to find me reading it. Every twenty minutes for the next two hours he came into my room and said, “Aren’t you done yet?” until finally, exasperated, I said, “Do you need me to go to Barnes & Noble and buy another copy so that you can start reading it now?” He said yes. He said Yes! My dyslexic boy, who I was told might never learn to read, would certainly never enjoy reading, couldn’t wait two hours longer to get his hands on Mockingjay. Do I need to keep the whole trilogy for that? Probably not. But the sight of the books spurs the memory and the memory brings me joy.

Some Dianna Wynne Jones books. I’ve owned them since I was young. They were some of the first books I bought for myself. I’ve carted them from place to place for decades, keeping them even when letting go of so many others. The complete works of Lois McMaster Bujold. Comfort food when I’m sick. The Mystic and Rider series by Sharon Shinn, I couldn’t say how many times I’ve reread them. A couple books by Ellen Emerson White that are, on the surface, light entertainment, but on a deeper level, are stories of psychological survival in the face of trauma.

These are not books that are going to fit in an RV.

So maybe I stick them in a box and let them live in my brother’s basement for a while, waiting for the day that I decide to give myself a new home base. Or maybe I give them to friends, trying to find them new homes with people who might love them. Or maybe I donate them to the library, letting chance and fate decide whether some stranger will discover something that delights them or whether they wind up in a landfill. Maybe, maybe…

It was just about a month ago that I decided to embark on this adventure. I remind myself regularly, almost daily, that I can change my mind. This is my decision, my choice. If it’s too hard, I don’t have to do it. But underneath all the fear and all the angst about things, objects, stuff, a drumbeat of excitement steadily thumps away. I have no idea what the future is going to bring me, but letting go of the past is the first step on the path to finding out. Someday, sooner rather than later, I’m going to eat a lobster in Maine, go grocery shopping in South Dakota, admire the Grand Canyon with my own eyes, watch the sun rise over a beach while I walk the dogs before settling down to write… and suddenly those piles of books don’t seem so big after all.

On the other hand, I do need to be able to afford gas to do all those things, which probably means I should go back to writing the words that might someday earn me my lunch money. Onward!

14 Apr

Gloomy Thursday

It’s a grey, gloomy day, perfect for wandering around an office, aimlessly chatting to coworkers and attending unproductive meetings in which everyone wishes it was Friday and no one gets any real work done. It’s been fifteen years since I worked in a real office and most of the time I don’t miss it, but today I could use the co-worker vibe and also the sense that hey, I made it to the office, surely that’s enough productivity for the day? Not that office days were often like that. If I was in a cubicle, I probably wouldn’t even have a chance to notice/appreciate/be depressed by the weather, because my head would be down and I’d be typing away.

But I’m not having a lot of luck focusing today. I’ve really been trying to get back into Grace. I’m so close to the end. I don’t understand why I can’t just polish it off. Seriously, word count wise, it should be a matter of days. Instead I spin my wheels, going back over and over the same scenes, trying to push my way through but instead meandering. I’m not going to put the house on the market until after I finish Grace so really, all my house efforts are pointless. Well, not pointless — just in the wrong order. If I keep this up, I’ll be living in an empty house, pacing through echoing rooms while I try to find a happy ending — even a Happy For Now ending! — for Noah and Grace. Eh, my house is probably too small for the rooms to echo much. But the pacing works.

I’ve been reading about the Snowflake method. I may try it for my next book. I’m yearning to start the next book. I’m not sure which one it will be, whether I’m going to write the next Tassamara book or Fen’s sequel, but I so want to start putting my energy into something new and inspiring, something fun and… oh. Ha. Instant writing revelation. The parts I need to write on Grace now — they’re not fun. They hurt. Noah has to confront what he’s been avoiding for so many years and so does Grace. And it’s cathartic, but hard. And that’s why I’m avoiding it so much. Ugh. All right, I need to just take the plunge and stare at those files for a while and see if I can get my fingers moving. I may have to start posting daily writing updates again for a while, trying to keep myself honest and get myself moving. But for today, staring at the file and refusing to let myself be distracted by bathrooms that need to be cleaned, laundry that needs to be done, old journals that need to be paged through, etc. etc. etc. is probably the place to start. Wish me luck!

11 Apr

Jasmine, maybe

The tree outside my bedroom window is in full bloom. I have no idea what it is, but it has deep green leaves and little white blooms and I imagine that it’s jasmine, even though I’ve never heard of a jasmine tree. But it smells incredible and I’ve never been able to find a description of another white flowering tree that seems to match.

2016-04-11 08.50.29

I ate outside this morning, watching the bees start to buzz around the tree, admiring the bright flowers on the (evil) bougainvillea, listening to the birds, and thought, “Am I crazy? How can I let this go?” But it only took me a second to remind myself that the tree doesn’t bloom year-round, that the patio needs pressure-watching to get rid of the mold, that the pool should really be re-surfaced sometime soon, even though my new (expensive) variable-speed pool pump is doing an awesome job, and that I’m guaranteed the occasional beautiful morning in a life on the road, even if many of them wind-up being views of concrete pads and other RVs. It was reassuring.

In other news, my neighborhood is having a community garage sale on April 23rd. Ha. Or argh. I’m not sure which, really. Maybe both. Since the garage is still mostly set up for a sale, I might finish sorting the rest of the house and put stuff out for that sale. It should be a lot easier: no ads, no signs, and a semi-guaranteed customer base. But it will still be well before the time I intend to put the house on the market, so I don’t want to get rid of everything — I don’t want to be living in an empty house for months while I wait for it to sell. Can you imagine how depressing that would be? Ugh. But there’s plenty of kitchen stuff that I didn’t manage to get out and I might see if I can brave the emotional cost of the china again. And the chaos of the house is slowly but surely settling into something I can live with. Two rooms are neat and orderly, three more are only semi-chaotic, and the remaining two — my bedroom and the kitchen — are still in complete disarray, but with potential to be straightened up and acceptable sometime soon.

In yoga today, L, the yoga instructor, read a beautiful piece about non-attachment to objects. So fitting. I tried to find it online so I could post it, but she told me to google “yamas” and there’s so much info out there that I cannot find the right poem. Or prayer. Maybe it was both. Either way, it was perfectly timed.

But speaking of timing, somehow it has gotten late. Today is the start of a new writing chain, so I’d best get moving!

10 Apr

Garage sale highlights

I’m so glad my writing chain wasn’t very long, because there was no way I was writing yesterday. After several days of prepping for the garage sale and two days of having the garage sale, my brain was fried. The garage sale was… wow, so much crazier than I envisioned. I could not possibly have managed without the help from my dad and stepmother and C on Friday and then my friend E and R on Saturday. (R gave me the nicest birthday surprise ever and showed up in Orlando on Friday night. More on that in a bit.)

On Friday, it was impossible to walk in the garage because there was so much stuff in it. I was still trying to price things and get them out on the driveway with people crowding into the narrow corridors between tables and bins and boxes. People were lining up to ask me questions and my dad and C were selling stuff right and left.

The Legos sold in the first ten minutes, as did some Pokemon toys. Other stuff — honestly, I don’t even know. Things went. Not everything and definitely not some of the stuff that I expected to go. I guess the day of Thomas the Tank Engine is over, because that was still there end of the day Saturday. The Playmobil collectors did not show up in force, because I still have plenty of Playmobil and it was really priced very reasonably, IMO. I could definitely have done much better on eBay. A couple of the paintings or prints sold, and a couple of the frames, but there were lots of others of those left, more than I expected. I had a ton of frames, but I guess I’m the only person who buys too many picture frames, and I wasn’t my own customer! But enough stuff sold that it was definitely worth the effort for me.

Highlights: I had a big bin of Bionicles priced as a whole for $50. I’d intended to put out Ziplock bags next to it and also offer a piecemeal price, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. A small boy carrying a gallon-sized Ziplock bag with a dollar bill and some change at the bottom came up with his dad and his dad asked about the Bionicles. He started the explanation that the boy was interested but only had… but I cut him off and said to the boy, “How about if you give me all the money that’s in your bag and you fill your bag with Bionicles?” His eyes went wide and I added, “And you don’t have to close the bag, you can let it overflow.” He looked at the Bionicles and he looked at his money and he looked back at the Bionicles and he was so torn. His face screwed up in concentration. He stared at the Bionicles. He bit his lip. He thought hard. Then his dad leaned over to him and said, “That’s a very good deal,” and the boy burst out, with a fist pump of joy, “Yes! I will do it!” So, so, so cute.

On day 2, an older guy was interested in something. I truly cannot remember what. But I offered it to him for $2. Maybe it was a lantern that I’d had marked for $10? I honestly can’t remember what it was. He took it, saying “All right, that’s too good a deal to resist.” Then he asked about DVDs. I still had a few left so I pointed them out. He was, however, specifically interested in chick flicks. He told me that his girlfriend required him to show up with a chick flick on Saturday nights. I said, hmm, maybe inside, if you want one without a case. He said, yeah, he didn’t need a case. So I went inside and grabbed a DVD holder and brought it back out. Flipping through it, passing the kid movies, Harry Potter, The Future is Wild, I found My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Offered him that, asked how many he was looking for, kept flipping through, found Pride and Prejudice, the 2005 version. Promised him that this was absolutely a chick flick and that his girlfriend would love it, guaranteed. He was laughing at me, but said, okay, yes, he’d take those two movies, how much. I said, hmm, a quarter each. He said, “You are really terrible at this,” and insisted on paying me $1 each. So sweet. I hope his girlfriend loved the movies.

Later in the day, a dad and his son. I’m going to call the son maybe 12. He was pretty tall, but he still looked young. They browsed, the dad picked out some books including the Rick Riordan series and some DVDs, including Eureka’s first season. Obviously a person with excellent taste! The son was looking at a box of old computer games — Zoo Tycoon, Spore, that sort of thing. Maybe eight or ten games in the box, but old computer games require old computers. And to the best of my knowledge, no one else had even looked at the box. They’d checked out everything, drifting around, talking together, looking almost ready to leave, and the son went back to the games. He looked at them, looked at his dad, and the dad prompted him a little, with an encouraging nod. So the boy said, “How much are the games?”

“All of them?” I asked. He nodded. I tipped my head to the side and said, “What is the number that will make you go home thinking, ‘YES! I got such a deal!?'”

He said, “Um…I don’t know.”

I said, “How about three dollars?”

His eyes went wide and then he frowned a little and looked back at the box and said doubtfully, “Each?”

I said, “No, no, of course not, for the whole box.”

That was obviously a right number because his grin was huge. He looked at his dad and his dad nodded. When I went to total him up, I counted the DVDs as $1 and it turned out that R had said .50 for them (which was how I was pricing CDs) which was fine by me, but the dad insisted on paying the $1 price for them, because of the deal on the computer games. And both of them said thank you beautifully. I’m not sure how they wound up at my garage sale — I’m guessing weekend dad, but I could be wrong — but I’m so glad to think those books and DVDs and games are in a home where they will be appreciated.

Speaking of appreciated, on Friday, a woman was interested in some of my great-grandmother’s china, but she wanted–or needed–to haggle. She thought her daughter, into “vintage”, would love the dishes for her quincianara, but she couldn’t spend too much. Now, putting the china out was one of the hardest decisions to make and it mostly wound up being too hard to do. I only put out the serving platters and bowls and some tea cups and saucers, none of which I’ve ever used. My life, even now, does not offer opportunities to use three different sets of formal china, much less tea cups. The rest of it — I just couldn’t let go of it. When the house sells and I have no choice, it will get easier, I hope. Anyway, maybe the woman was just a really good negotiator, but I wound up giving her the cups, the saucers, two platters and two bowls for $14, which was literally all the money she had in her wallet. It was hard. Watching her walk away, I definitely felt pangs. But the idea that a fifteen-year-old girl is going to be thrilled — and her mother promised me that she would be — was comforting and infinitely nicer than dropping the china off in the thrift store box.

Speaking of thrift stores, at about 1PM on Saturday, it was getting hot and I was tired and we hadn’t seen any people at all for a while, I was mentally debating whether I wanted to have another garage sale in a month or so or whether I was ready to be done with the whole thing. It’s a lot of work. And day one, when there was a lot of stuff, was terrific — the money definitely made it worth it. But day two had been very slow, more about getting rid of stuff than making money. There was plenty of stuff left — tons of books, some kitchen things, some knick knacks, Christmas stuff, some toys, frames, art — but not good stuff, not the kind that makes people squeeze into an overcrowded garage.

Finally, I decided. We’d take it to the thrift store. Goodwill has a drop-off spot. We’d load it up into bins and then into the car. It would take a while. There was enough stuff that it could be three or four trips, maybe more with all the books. But my house is a complete and utter chaotic mess and another garage sale would be a lot of work again, for probably not a lot of money since so much had already sold, and I’ve got plenty to do without that. So E and I started piling stuff into bins, carefully and patiently.

A car arrived and a couple women got out. The one asked me about a lantern and I told her she could have it for a dollar. The other started looking into one of the bins that E and I had been packing. I told her that she could have anything in it for free, since we’d been getting ready to go to the thrift store. And then I looked around at all of the stuff that was left and thought, you know, whatever, we’re about to take it all to the thrift store, and offered her almost anything for free.

I made one section of one table not free and put the stuff there that I didn’t want to give away — the Playmobil, a couple prints, some things that E had been interested in, the china that was left, the crate of Bionicles — but apart from that, I waved my arm and said, “Take what you like.” Ironically, three more cars then drove up, and it turned into a whirlwind of people grabbing stuff, but the first two women, they got most of it. When they drove away, their car was stuffed to the ceiling, their laps piled high with clothes and knickknacks and kitchen things. One even stuck the box of lightbulbs that I’d had in the garage (not intending them for sale) and a box of ziplock bags on top of her pile. I let the lightbulbs go but retrieved the bags.

I think the other three cars had fun. A nice young woman picked out a bag of books. An older couple took a pet carrier and were delighted. The third car took some stuff, I’m not sure what. But the first women, they were wildfire, clearing the place out, taking everything they could as quickly as they could, and then having to make choices about what they could fit in their car. If they’d had more room, I bet they would have tried to take everything. Before they left, though, the older woman, walking by me, not looking at me, her eyes straight ahead, said, almost under her breath, so quiet that I could barely hear her, “God bless you.” I got goose bumps. I felt so, so, so blessed. So fortunate, so grateful, so lucky. To have so much that I can give it away and to have given it away to someone who found it a blessing. I’m just… it was a beautiful note on which to end the day.

And along the way, someone slipped a Cybis figurine onto the table of stuff that I was keeping. I don’t know how it wound up there. I kept some of my mom’s Cybis in the box of things that I’m going to store at my brother’s house — a madonna, a unicorn — but I’d run out of room and so let some of it go. Apparently at least one of the people at the garage sale at the end of the day didn’t want me giving that one away for free. The figure is a little girl, holding a doll. It’s named ‘Wendy’. I suspect maybe it meant more to my mom than it meant to me. And under the circumstances, I will be making room for it in my box somehow.

I will have a few trips to the thrift store in my future, or maybe to the library. I still have boxes and boxes of books left, no surprise. But I didn’t spend yesterday afternoon running back and forth. Or, for that matter, cleaning my house. Instead, I relaxed and then took R out to an absolutely fabulous dinner at a place called The Ravenous Pig. It was amazing. Best meal I’ve eaten in years, I think. The salmon appetizer (described as “King Salmon, lardo cured, fava bean panisse, plum sauce, grilled ramp”) was insanely delicious. R and I were both practically whimpering as we ate.

I had the pork porterhouse and possibly one of the highlights of a day already filled with highlights was when R, eating the part of my pork that I couldn’t finish, said, “You know, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but although this pork is better than your pork chops, it’s only better by such a tiny, tiny amount that it’s probably not worth the price to me. My steak, though, was the best steak I’d ever tasted. Not meaning to insult your pork chops.” I did not feel insulted. On the contrary, I was very pleased to have my pork chops compared to those of a seriously fantastic restaurant with a professional and very creative chef. The salmon appetizer, though… yeah, it was incredible.

After dinner, R and I stayed up past midnight watching X-Men movies together. There was one neither of us had ever seen and at the end of it, we questioned whether it would have been a better movie in the movie theater or whether the X-Men movie that came after it, which we had both seen, was really just a much better movie. So we watched the next movie to find out — it was a much better movie, and very fun to watch again. I should look up the names, but I feel like I’ve been writing this post forever. But it was so lovely to hang out with him and talk movies and story structure together.

World’s longest blog post! And I should probably have been writing a book or working on smoothing out the chaos of my house, which looks like a tornado spun through it. But there was so much I wanted to remember. My birthday weekend was truly the nicest birthday I’ve had in years. I’m feeling very lucky, very happy, only a little stressed by the chaos of my home (although so grateful the painters aren’t coming tomorrow) and only a little anxious about where my life is going. Life is good.

07 Apr

Garage Sale

My garage. 2016-04-07 11.05.04

I’m getting ready for a garage sale today. So much stuff. So much stuff! It’s a strange process, deciding what you can let go of, what you can’t. Even stranger when you start getting into the question of what your belongings are worth. It’s obvious to me, at this point, that financially, I would do a lot better if I started selling all my stuff on eBay and spent as long as it took to do that. I posted an ad on Craig’s list for the sale last Sunday and the emails just started flying in. It motivated me to start looking stuff up and ugh, it’s so strange to see what stuff sells for.

The ugly Victorian pottery that’s been in my family for over a hundred years? Basically worthless. No surprise, it’s ugly. My great-grandmother’s china that I was comfortably ready to sell, believing it basically worthless? Not quite worthless. The sugar bowl and creamer sold for $20 on eBay. I suspect I’ll be lucky if I can get $10. If I tried to sell it on eBay, I’d have to list it and wait and pack it and ship it… such a hassle, and no guarantee that it’ll sell. Ah, but a new idea just struck me — I’ll try to sell it at the garage sale for reasonable prices and if it doesn’t sell, I can list it on eBay instead of giving it to the thrift shop. Perfect compromise.

Meanwhile, the Legos and Playmobil? Argh! So many people emailing me about buying them and of course they all want the bargains and they all want them now. I really hope that I don’t have people sitting outside my house at 7AM tomorrow, waiting to grab the toys out of other people’s hands. I also sort of wish I’d looked up all the eBay prices before I listed prices online. I thought I was setting fair prices — and I am, I suppose, by standards of garage sales of 30 years ago — but online auctions change the market. People know that they can sell this stuff on eBay so probably they do.

And then the books… wow, I have so many books. They’re piled up in bags under tables in my garage. There’s no room to put them anywhere else, at least not yet. I’m envisioning the Playmobil all disappearing in the first twenty minutes and then me lining the table with books. But my guess is that most of the books won’t sell. If they’re selling for .01 online, I can’t exactly undercut that price (except, of course, that all those penny books come with a $3.99 shipping charge.)

It’ll be interesting to see how it goes, anyway. Ironically, I scheduled the day because a friend wanted to bring some stuff to the sale and I knew he was going away for several weeks. As it happens, he can’t make it tomorrow. It may be a long day running it on my own. And I guess I should get back to pricing! Wish me luck. 🙂

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