Embracing Travel – It’s Long Overdue

Collecting Obligations

Over a year ago, when my mom was planning on taking my tween daughter to Europe for a month, I said a little sadly, “I want to go to Europe.”

She smiled at me and said, “Well, then perhaps you need to stop collecting obligations that keep you here.”

I will admit, I smarted a bit at that. After all, I hadn’t exactly wanted to take on caring for my ill father. But when I had gotten the call, I had gone to Panama, retrieved him, and, until mid-February 2019, cared for him daily in my home. I had also been the one to push for us to become foster parents – and now soon to be adoptive parents, of a wonderful little girl.

Little Miss and me hamming it up for the camera

It’s not so easy to travel when you have folks depending on you on a daily basis. So eventually I had to admit that she was right, I had been collecting obligations that keep me here.

And for several years, when finances were tight, I would insist that the folks doing the traveling were my husband and tween – after all, I was needed here, and so here I have stayed as they went off to San Francisco without me. I wanted to go, badly, but it was a pain to find someone to care for our pets and keep things going on the home front. Plenty of good reasons, it seemed, to stay right where I was.

Buying a ticket to the TRIBE conference in Franklin, Tennessee was an impetuous decision, but one that I didn’t regret, even as the introvert in me tried to talk myself out of going several times.

I had committed to going to a conference in 2019 and by damn, I was going to do it.

In fact, I had hoped to go instead to Las Vegas in November 2019 for the 20Booksto50k writer’s conference, but even after reserving my room at the special rate in November 2018, I had missed the opening day of sales for the conference tickets. It sold out in 30 minutes. They opened up a second tier and that sold out in less than an hour. I missed both of them.

“That’s okay,” I told myself, “I get to go to Franklin, Tennessee and I’m going to have a great time there.”

And I did. It was fantastic!

This morning I saw an email in my inbox from the 20Booksto50k folks telling me that they had opened up an additional 50 seats. I hit the Buy button so fast my computer could barely keep up. And just like that, I had the ticket, the reservation for a room at Sam’s Town, and I then found a round-trip ticket for under $150 that would take me there a day early first thing on Monday morning and return me on Friday, the day after the conference ended.

Five days…in Las Vegas…at a writer’s conference.

I feel like dancing. I really do.

And while I was spending a little dough, I went ahead and spent a few more on updated business cards. They were long overdue. And I had a ton of fun designing them…

The front of the card
The back of the card

It is, after all, quintessentially me. I’m weird, annoying even, but invariable an author and general malcontent. These cards suit me the best of all of the different business cards I have ever ordered over the years. Just $56 and change for 500 cards. Thanks, Vistaprint!

So what’s different now? I think that, honestly, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that you can love and love and LOVE someone, and they might see it or they might not. They might acknowledge it, or they might tell you to go straight to hell. In the end, at some point, it is best to take care of yourself and stop trading your here and now in order to please others.

I also finally accepted that my life, and my family’s life, was suffering with my dad in our home. That he wasn’t going to get better and that his personality had become toxic. After he broke his arm, and kept falling, it was time for the nursing home. Afterwards, the air was cleaner somehow (and no, not just because he didn’t want to bathe very often and smelled like old shrimp), and we were free to relax once again in our home.

I realized too that, I can have kids and still travel. Sometimes they will come with me and other times they won’t. And not just that, but [gasp] I can even travel places by myself. [double gasp] It’s a thing that happens. Who knew?!

I’ll be honest, I could NOT go to London without my husband. I’m pretty sure there would be an uprising if I did. But the kids? Darlin’, those kiddos can stay home!

And so here I am, edging ever closer to 50 years on this Earth (if you count from conception, it has already been a half century), and realizing it is now or never. I need to stop putting these things off, stop telling myself “Next year I’ll travel.”

So I guess you could say I’m doing my best to remove ME as the obstacle to future travel. There is no reason for me to put it off, and every reason to embrace it, kids and responsibilities and all.

Check it out on Airbnb!Click here: Cottage West

Cottage West is Live on Airbnb

This is a huge deal. For those, not in the know, my husband and I have been renovating a house at the west end of our property. Little by little, through savings and small loans and lots of work – we just added Cottage West onto Airbnb.

There are two reasons why this is excellent for us:

  1. More income means more ability to travel
  2. We all need multiple streams of income

#2 is a biggie. I listen to this great author, futurist, and podcaster – Joanna Penn. She has her finger on the pulse of the future of the writing world. I honestly get more out of her general info at the beginning of the podcast than I do from her guests most episodes. She has given out some fantastic advice to newbies like me that has resulted in book sales (as well as audiobook sales).

Joanna advocates for everyone to have multiple streams of income. After all, if you work full-time for a company, and they go belly up, what do you have to fall back on? It’s the same for authors. If Amazon suddenly changes their book-selling terms (like they did with page reads on Kindle Unlimited a few years back), your income can change, even dry up, literally overnight!

For the past two years I had been listening to her and my simple monkey brain kept thinking, “Well, she means multiple streams of income in the writing biz.”

No.

No, she doesn’t.

And yesterday, as I cleaned a client’s house and contemplated how my first listing of Cottage West was now up (I have three separate listings, one for each room and one for a whole house rental) and live, I now had yet another stream of income in place.

When you look at it that way, my family currently has five streams of income:

  • My writing income
  • My housecleaning business income
  • My husband’s full time income as an IT tech
  • Our Cottage West Airbnb
  • Foster care income (by the way, did you know that Missouri is second to last in the country for foster care reimbursement rates? So no, it’s not much money)

I was so delighted to realize that I had, in fact, secured a new income stream that I sent a tweet off to Joanna Penn…

I love that she writes back. She must get hundreds of tweets a day, but she takes the time to respond back nonetheless.

The Elephant in the Room

And now for the bad news. Because life is complicated, twisty, turny and all that.

I haven’t been writing.

Not at all.

For over two months.

This really needs to change.

As I worked on the Airbnb, my own house, or at a client cleaning – several times in the past couple of weeks I could hear a friend’s words echoing in my mind.

Are you writing anything? The world needs your words.

Right.

Best get on that.

Hey! If you have read this far, comment below. The spammers are coming for me and I desperately require human contact. Tell me I’m pretty! Hell, tell me I’m a pain in the patoot, whatever, just talk to me. Please?

10,000 Steps or Bust

The life of a writer (who also cleans houses and renovates houses to turn into Airbnb’s) is not as easy as folks might think. That said, after evaluating my average daily steps through the Pacer program on my iPhone, I knew I had to up my game.

I typically walk anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 steps a day. I wanted to see that number increase to at least 10,000 steps every single day. My left hip really bothers me when I don’t stretch it out with yoga and exercise, and sitting for long periods of time is pretty much agonizing.

I’ve lost ten pounds since May and folks have started to notice. That’s wonderful, but I could do with another 40 less pounds. It will do wonders for my pre-diabetes and overall health.

I had given away my treadmill. It was a large, overly noisy affair, and even with the treadmill desk my husband had built for me, I disliked using it. But I knew I needed to walk more, and kept wondering if there wasn’t something else out there on the market that could just fit under my desk and hopefully not make a bunch of noise.

And that’s when I found it. An under desk treadmill with plenty of positive reviews. It gives you the option of unfolding it if you want to run. If you leave it folded, you are limited to walking 1-4 miles per hour. And honestly? That works for me. I only run when I’m being chased, and that hasn’t happened for years and years now. Walking a nice, laid back pace was just what I needed.

So I bought this and it came in yesterday and I’m walking away on it while typing this post. A steady 2.5 mph allows me to easily type, think, and exercise all at the same time. What’s not to love?

Here is a link to the standing desk attachment I bought a few months ago. This allows me to change from a sitting to standing position at any time.

And here is the link to the treadmill. I bought it in blue. It’s super pretty and super-quiet. It just whispers along as I walk. Perfect for keeping me on track with my writing and my health at the same time!

Enjoy!

p.s. If you enjoyed this post, leave a comment. I love hearing from readers!

London Calling

I’m going to London! I’m going to London!

I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl.

The Airbnb is booked.

The airline tickets are purchased.

I only have to wait 171 days to get on that plane.

The one and only time I have left the United States was to go to Panama in late 2016 and it was not a happy trip. I was there to bring my ill father back to the United States and it was filled with nursing duties, along with desperate trips to the U.S. Embassy and Immigration to deal with my dad’s expired visa.

This trip will be FANTASTIC.

As I was cleaning a client’s house on Friday, I decided to listen to back episodes of the Self Publishing Show and when the host said that they were going forward with a one-day writer’s conference in London on March 9th and only charging 30 pounds per ticket, I knew I had to go.

I bought a ticket to the conference and began scouting Airbnb’s as well as plane tickets. At first, I was focused on bringing the whole family, hang the expense – me, my husband, and our two daughters, one of which is still our foster daughter (although we hope to adopt her soon).

Friends, and my husband, all talked me out of it. The hubs wanted a romantic getaway for two, and my friends asked me, “Think about how long that flight is. She’ll be four and bored out of her mind.”

Good point.

And then I thought of the other trip I want to take in 2020 – a two-week affair that includes swinging by family in Seattle as well as San Francisco in our Airstream. I’m sure we could find other fun places to stop at along the way.

If just my hubby and I go in March, then we would have more than enough funds to do the two-week trip in the fall 2020, with both the girls, right before school started.

The conference is for one day, and we will be there for a full week. Plenty of time to get a ton of sightseeing in, along with a delight of foods to feast upon.

London is calling…and I have answered with a “Hell, yes!”

All Hail the Ticking Clock

I thought I was done with biological clocks when menopause set in. It had been loud, insistent, and overwhelming at times. At the age of 46, almost 47, the biological ticking clock had silenced, and in a lot of ways, I didn’t miss it at all.

But in its place came another clock.

Retrieving my dad from Panama when he fell ill, and bringing home to live with us for two plus years before transferring him to a nursing home, was a huge change for all of us.

It was also an enormous wake-up call for me.

I had always considered my dad to be quite intelligent, so I was dumbfounded by his lack of planning. He had no savings to speak of, was dependent on his only source of income, a meager amount from the Social Security Administration, and he was incapable of caring for himself any longer.

It struck me, hard, especially as I realized that my own health was at risk. I was edging closer and closer to Type 2 diabetes, and I could see firsthand what ignoring those risks had done to him. I needed to lose weight, get my blood sugar under control, and above all, get a plan in place for years and decades left in front of me.

My biological clock had been replaced with the “you’re going to get old and die” clock. And this bitch was a loud metronome, ticking down the moments of my life like the hand of doom had been set firmly on my shoulder. I began to ask myself, sometimes daily, what vision I had for the future. What would my life be like in five years? In ten? In twenty?

We had little or no savings, no real retirement plan, and at some point, my body will fail me – so cleaning houses would not always be something I could do, even if I did want to do it for years and years, which I really don’t. It has been a wonderful opportunity to make good money and dictate my own schedule. Frankly, I could double my income quite easily if I wanted, but instead, I’ve kept my client list low and turned away work so that I could instead have time to homeschool my daughter and write my books.

My dreams of making solid money writing books were constantly being interrupted and delayed by the housecleaning business, but the savings weren’t growing as fast as I would like.

Coincidentally, a few years back, a neighbor started running an Airbnb out of part of his large old house. I was fascinated by the idea, and Cottage West (which we had purchased in 2014) was the perfect place for us to create a short term rental.

The plan has taken many twists and turns, but I’m excited because the last month of hard, HARD work has taken us most of the last leg of the journey. This morning, after waking up still hazy from a bit too much wine (I rarely drink, so it really hits me hard when I do), there in one of the newly appointed bedrooms of Cottage West, I realized a couple of things.

  1. That ticking clock might have been loud, but more than anything, it has been effective. I’ve lost ten pounds in the past two months.
  2. My vision of a home revitalized from a decrepit house with raccoons as nightly guests has become instead, a beautiful, welcoming home for future guests.
  3. Just because I can’t do it all myself, doesn’t lessen the fact that I had the vision in the first place, and that’s a powerful thing.
  4. This is just the beginning. We have finish work to do to make the house ready for guests, and that will take a couple of weeks at most, but then I want to focus on several more areas (see below). My dream is far from complete, but it is well thought out.
  5. I’ve achieved a decent balance – I set aside all writing priorities in August, and honestly, I’ll probably do the same for September. I need to get the income flowing in. Once I have a decent rhythm in place, I want to sink back into my writing, dig my toes into it, and return to creating. The Airbnb income will give me that freedom. And if I handle it right, it might just give me the freedom to also stop cleaning houses and just focus on managing the Airbnb’s and writing!

The ticking clock in my head requires, nay, demands that I acknowledge my mortality. At the age of 49 years, the chance that I have already lived more than half of my years is a distinct possibility. Now I must focus on what the quality of the next half of my life will be like. It has felt like a race up until now, but I am hoping that as Cottage West begins to function smoothly as an Airbnb (and bring in good money) that I will be able to slow down a little.

I talked to my husband and said, “I see what we need to do so clearly, but I don’t want this to be a punishing race like the last three months have been (first building the front fence and then putting every minute we could spare into Cottage West). How about we discuss objectives for each month so that we have a project, one that moves us forward, but it isn’t an all-consuming ‘git er done’ kind of thing?”

He agreed, and so we continue, in approximately this order:

  1. Finish the main level of Cottage West and place it on Airbnb, VRBO, et cetera.
  2. Have contractor run PEX lines up to attic for a half bath (toilet and sink).
  3. Get Airstream into refurbisher and get it ready to Airbnb
  4. Re-do front entry pathway, side path, fire pit circle, and pathway to Airstream all in brick and mortar.
  5. Open Airstream up for rent on Airbnb and VRBO, et cetera.
  6. Finish out the attic in Cottage West to turn into a 3rd bedroom and half bath for guests. Rent it out on Airbnb, VRBO, et cetera.
  7. Clear out Cottage West basement and seal it so it is dry and not musty. Run electrical, plumbing and create a one bedroom, one bath, living/kitchen layout. Once a path to the back has been laid, open it up as a separate Airbnb.
  8. Begin work on Cottage East to create a four bedroom, 3 1/2 bath Airbnb on the main/upstairs levels that will have two full ensuites along with two bedrooms that share a bathroom. Also work on creating a basement ensuite with a separate entrance.

This is a long-term plan and we won’t be done with everything until around mid-2022. And these plans aren’t all about making money. It is also about creating our future. We are putting into place a legacy for our daughter Em (and our foster daughter if we are able to adopt her). I know too that if we have regular income coming in, where only basic management is needed, that I can finally relax, stop worrying about the ticking clock and our cash flow and instead focus on writing.

Heck, eventually, I hope to hand over the management of the Airbnb’s to someone else so that I can fully focus on writing and life here at home. A business that, with little effort or time from us, will run itself.

The other day I asked myself what it would be like if all I had to do was write – no more homeschool, no more cleaning houses (except, possibly, the ones I own).

I imagined waking up each morning and practicing yoga, meditating, and then filling my day with bouts of writing interspersed with house and home and regular exercise. It felt kind of perfect, to be honest. A future hard-won, but well worth living.

Also, when we are older, do we really want to live in this big old house and deal with stairs every day? Or would it be better to live on one level, in Cottage West, and even have a possible live-in help situation where someone with nursing experience could live in the basement apartment?

I refuse to ignore the future and I hope to plan for it as best as I possibly can. I don’t want to be a burden to my daughter, or blithely go about with no concern about where I will end up. That is a recipe for disaster – one that my father has to live with each day.

The future I dream of includes writing and publishing many more books. Of that I am sure.

Here’s hoping that once we have Cottage West in action, the ticking clock will quiet down a little. I’m ready for a little more peace and quiet!