Cleaning…Everything

Time Away from Writing to Make the Final Push on Cottage West

At the beginning of August, when I took a break in writing and dove into working on Cottage West, I had a vision of what needed to happen. There are a few details left, but we already have four, count them, FOUR reservations coming up in October and November. We are on our way, for sure!

Time Away from Writing for Travel

The beginning of this month saw me travel round-trip over 1,000 miles to Franklin, Tennessee. The TRIBE conference was the excuse, but the time away was a catalyst. I realized that I need time away by myself. It was a powerful lesson and when I returned, I was determined to finish the last parts of Cottage West and return to writing.

I guess you could say that I was cleaning my mind – resetting it even – determined to focus on what was important and let the rest go.

Time Away…To Clean My House

This little creature here. She’s awfully cute, isn’t she?

She’s also a lunatic that thinks all plastic bags, pooled on the floor curtains, and baskets full of clothes are the perfect place to pee.

Cats are freaking gross. Another reason I prefer dogs.

BUT, we took her on, so we need to put our best foot forward. And in the middle of my husband telling me for the umpteenth time that he didn’t know what to do about the peeing and me telling him I was NOT going to live with an animal doing such awful things – the possible answer came.

Clean the house, top to bottom, spray all of the areas or potential areas with the stain/odor product that helps keep cats from smelling and then re-applying their pee to areas they aren’t supposed to. I told my husband and daughter – “We can change OUR ways, keep this house neat as a pin, and I think that will stop the peeing.”

The thing is, it really needs to be them. I’m already pretty much there, but my husband and the kids? I clean up a lot after them. Stupid stuff, like the wrappers or keys and shoes left wherever. Empty cans of beer, dishes, empty chip bags, you name it. Clutter too.

I’m tired of cleaning it all up. After all, except for our nearly 4-year-old foster daughter, they are old enough to clean up after themselves and should be more responsible. So I pointed that out, and have continued to do so over the past few days. “Hang up the bathmat. Please put your clothes in the laundry. Your shoes were left in the living room.” And on and on and on. I figure either the house will stay spectacularly clean or they will get tired of all of the cleaning and putting away and we will end up with one less furbaby living in our house.

I also, after years of hinting at it, got assent from my husband to begin tearing up the carpet in the upstairs. I absolutely despise wall to wall carpet. It’s never clean, no matter how good a vacuum you have or how often you use it. I learned just how gross carpets are when we re-did the floors in our Belton house, replacing it with laminate flooring over 14 years ago. It still looks great, whereas the 6-year-old carpet in this house looks horrible.

With my husband’s blessing, I’ll be pulling up the carpet beginning with the library and office, doing one room a time at his request, and then moving on to the rest of the upstairs over time.

Finally, a New Writing Schedule

The other day, I sat down with my journal and asked myself what my perfect day looked like. I chose a Monday for my perfect day and it went something like this:

  • 6:30 – Dave wakes me up and I join him and the girls in the library for coffee
  • 6:45 – Yoga, a nice stretching out before I exercise
  • 7:15 – Begin walking on the treadmill. Now that I’m not cleaning houses, I’ll need the full 10k steps. As I walk, I check email, go over my “to-do’s” for the day and wave goodbye to my family as they all leave together for work, school, and daycare.
  • 8:30 – I’m done exercising and it is time to take a shower with the new shower extension Dave has added to the main level bathtub.
  • 8:45 – time for some meditation and journaling
  • 9:15 – I sit and write. My goal is 1,000 words per day, but I can often do more than that.
  • 11:15 – Time for lunch. A small plate of meat, cheese and fruit fills me up and I read a little while eating before I return to writing.
  • 12:15 – I write a little more, but more importantly, I dash off some notes on what tomorrow’s work will be.
  • 1:15 – time to market. Just an hour, that’s all. Perhaps I’ll focus on one of my books that is underperforming and draft a new ad. Perhaps I’ll blog.
  • 2:30 – time to tidy up. Work on my desk or clean a little bit around the house. Set out meat to thaw for dinner. Perhaps I get in another brisk walk on the treadmill or work in the garden.
  • 4:00 – Time for the family to return home. I’m glad to see them and I have had a wonderfully productive day!

This is an awesome plan. However, I still have to clean houses for income, homeschool my teen until she is accepted into the charter school of our choice, and we don’t have a shower extension on the bathtub downstairs yet!

So the next thing I asked myself was: How does my day look when it isn’t perfect, but I still want to get writing done?

And here is what I came up with…

  • 6:15 – (15 minutes earlier than my perfect schedule) My husband wakes me up and I join him and the girls in the library. After I finish my coffee it is time to stretch and do yoga
  • 6:45 – Walk on the treadmill while I check email and look at what I need to write today
  • 8:00 – Write 500 words, I know I can do it!
  • 8:30 – 11:30 Check in with Em on what she needs to study before I go off to a cleaning. Hey, it’s great money!
  • 11:30 – A quick lunch and a short reading break
  • 12:00 – Write another 500 words, Champ!
  • 1:00 – Another cleaning, but hey, it’s a hell of a lot better than working in an office with a bunch of bitchy, petty co-workers. And better pay, too.
  • 3:30 – Get a little bit of marketing in. Just 30 minutes or so.
  • 4:00 – Dave and Little Miss return home, we cook dinner or go out.
  • 6:00 – Plan for next day’s writing and blog
  • 7:00 – Journal, decompress, take a bath, and hang out with the kids. Watch some tv.

In other words? It might be a little more compressed, but I can still get 1,000 words written a day if I apply myself and keep focus.

In the end, my schedule fluctuates, so I will have a mix of “perfect” day and the “almost perfect” days each week. More importantly, writing 5,000 words per week (I’ll take weekends off due to family obligations), at 50 weeks per year (two weeks set aside for “all hell breaks loose”), means 250,000 words a year. Since most of my fiction hovers at around 100k in words, that’s 2 1/2 books worth of writing per year, folks.

I even went as far as to look at each book project, figure out how many words (this is a average goal, really) I needed to write in each one, count the weeks out (including editing time), and put in some publishing dates for my next few book projects.

Letting Things Go

The other thing I am doing is letting some stuff go. That way I’m not freaking out trying to keep all of the plates spinning and not able to get everything I need to do, done. The monthly newsletter, for example, along with the short story of the month.

My reason for doing them in the first place was the idea of building a platform. Draw readers to you with monthly short stories to go with the ones they have just read. Let them know when books are coming out, and give them cleaning and organizing tips.

And that works if all I am doing is writing. But I’m not. I’m juggling housecleaning biz, homeschool, Airbnb, family obligations and book writing projects. So that means reducing my output in platform-building so that I can focus on creating more content that will bring me income and push me closer to the goal of simply writing for a living.

I’ll still put out newsletters, but not necessarily on a monthly basis. I’ll still write short stories that will be free for my newsletter subscribers, but not necessarily each time I send out a newsletter.

Eventually, I’ll outsource my cleaning biz and the cleanings on the Airbnb’s as well.

In summary? I’m cleaning my house, my mind, my attitude and more. I’m making plans and I hope they will be what I need to move forward.

If not, then I’ll adjust. Life ebbs, flows, and redirects. We can only try to anticipate and flow with what comes next.

p.s. Save me from the spammers, leave a message!

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!

Transitions

Emily at Apple Camp on The Plaza this summer

“I think I might want to go to school this year.”

It took me by surprise.

A few minutes later and my mind was reeling. I had been in the middle of homeschool planning, a host of nonfiction history books for middle schoolers were already in the mail, my membership with our homeschool co-op had been paid for just that morning, and I had a list of documentaries I wanted to focus on for monthly viewing.

I had hit that high that I get as the ideas of what to teach and what to cover start to energize me and I begin to look forward to what we will learn in the school year to come.

The feeling pretty quickly fades. I’m good at some aspects of teaching, but I suck at others. And while it might seem strange, the subjects that I am good at (English, Writing, Spelling), I think I’m pretty terrible at teaching – and the subjects I suck at (Math, History), I’m actually pretty good at teaching.

Experimenting with her latest concoction in the Art Room

Yet still.

I sat for a moment feeling bereft and Em saw it and asked if I was okay with it. “We can homeschool, if you really want to.” She said it with a worried look on her face.

“No, baby,” I told her and smiled, my heart expanding in my chest. “Just give me a few minutes to adjust, and I’ll be okay. I love you and if this is what makes you happy then we should absolutely do it.”

I got up from bed where I had been browsing Netflix, sat down at my desk, and dug in. I didn’t just want to send her to public school, I wanted to send her somewhere where she could continue to blossom, a charter school, that focused on areas she was interested in.

Hogwarts Camp this summer

It took about an hour for me to find some decent contenders…

  • Crossroads Middle School
  • Citizen of the World
  • Kipp Preparatory Academy

As I whittled it down to just two (Citizen of the World unfortunately only goes up to 6th grade this year), I began to get excited. My sadness vanished as I imagined her going to either Kipp or Crossroads, especially Crossroads, and meeting new friends, and even walking back to my husband’s work each day after school since she will only be a couple of blocks away.

I imagined what my days would be like, especially once the Airbnb income replaces the need for me to clean houses, and I found myself smiling at the thought of the three other members of my family departing the house at the same time in the morning and returning together in the afternoon. How nice that would be to have hours to write, handle housework, and manage the Airbnb properties.

It was one thing I didn’t have to put off – the writing – in order to be present and available for Em during the weekdays. I wouldn’t have to try to balance enough schooling with sneaking in some writing time.

When I became pregnant with Em, I was in the middle of my first semester at UMKC. The first, and only, semester.

I have zero regrets over dropping out of college to have her, and stay with her, these past 12, almost 13 years. She is an amazing girl who is loved by so many, and, even in the throes of adolescence, is full of confidence, kindness, and is well-grounded.

I look at our little family and know that having an intact household, with a mom and a dad who love her, having all the wonderful things we have in our lives, and in this past year a younger sister, has all helped make her into the wonderful person that she is.

Goofy kid!

The sadness of her wanting to go to school was momentary, fleeting, and it turned into happiness at the thought that she was able to verbalize the request and that I was able to hear it not as a rebuke or vote of no confidence, but as a reminder that she is growing and is capable of going out into the bigger world.

The applications are in, and now we wait for one of the schools to contact us. Until then we are doing “homeschool lite.” I hope it is Crossroads. It would be perfect – location-wise, curriculum, and even the athletics department. Above all, I want her to be happy. When I told her that, she laughed.

“Mama, you don’t want me to be ‘just happy’ – because if that were true, I’d never have to clean my room.”

Em with her latest baby, a kitten we named Spice (we have what we believe is her older sister, Sugar, aged 2 years as well)

Okay, kid. You got me there. I want you mostly happy. With a clean room to go along with it!

Me, after Little Miss added a hat that is a little bit on the small side!

Everything is On Hold…and that’s A-OK!

Do you ever get to the point where you just stop and think, “Why am I doing it this way? It’s making everything way harder!”

That realization struck me in two different moments this week.

Example #1: Nope, We Don’t Need an Extra Loan

As we have edged closer and closer to finishing the project of turning a 900 square foot bungalow into a welcoming and safe Airbnb for guests, we have had unexpected expenses.

Life is like that, after all. Just when you think you had covered all the bases, something rears its ugly head to divert you from your straight line. In this case, it was a 100+ year old cottonwood tree, the last cottonwood on our property and the biggest. It is at least 80 feet tall and sits in back of Cottage West.

One day, I was working at Cottage West shortly after a spate of rainy days and noticed that it seemed…dark…and overly green in the back of the house. It turned out that a HUGE limb and broken off and landed on the roof. We were suddenly faced with the fact that we needed that giant cottonwood out of there, and it was going to cost a pretty penny.

I was so used to paying off our credit cards each month in full and mega-paying towards other debts so that we didn’t have to pay finance charges, that it never even occurred to me that perhaps, I could just pay less on the credit cards (oh no, a little bit of interest instead of 0% interest!) and afford it.

Example #2: Stop Writing, Focus on Finishing Cottage West

The second lesson hit yesterday as I sat down in front of my computer and stared at the screen. After all, my short story for August was almost done. I had already written 7,000+ words. I knew where it was going, I just needed to finish it.

But as I read the words on the screen and tried to type, my mind filled with the following…

I wonder how long each of the tasks we listed in our “to do” list will take?

I need to find some seating for the nook in the attic.

Should I add paneling to the sides of the attic stairwell going up?

And so on.

Finally, I stood up and accepted reality. This too can wait. It can wait for one month until Cottage West is finished and up and available on Airbnb.

It can wait.

We are in the home stretch. The colors of the walls in the different rooms make me smile. I feel a fierce joy run through me. Pride, a sense of accomplishment, and the realization that, together with my husband, I am making my dream of restoring a sad and neglected house to one of functionality and joy is almost here.

Five years. Hard work. Scrimping. Saving. Dealing with unscrupulous contractors. Mistakes. Learning curves. And a hell of a lot of sweat.

Cottage West is coming soon and I have a “to do” list today that consists of:

  • Go by Dirty Don’s and find some deals for Cottage West and our house
  • Floors Direct – purchase hexagon tile and grout for bathroom
  • Clean and then paint clawfoot bathtub
  • Clean and paint molding in house (I won’t get it all done today, but I’ll make significant progress
  • )
  • Work on decorating the old windows in order to hang them in the west exposure windows (so folks don’t have to look at the decrepit house next door)
  • Find a pedestal sink on FB Marketplace
  • Find vintage metal chairs to spray paint and put on back and front porches

The writing is on hold, and that’s a-okay. Because by the time I’m done, I’m going to have a masterpiece that will be earning us money like nobody’s business. Stay tuned!

p.s. Here is my master “to do” list, along with the estimated hours to complete. Because I’m THAT kind of planner!

To Do’sEst. time to complete (in hours)
Finish painting ceilings in all areas of the house2
Install Beadboard (walls and ceiling) back porch3
Paint back porch2
Install flooring in bathroom6
Clean and paint tub and feet3
Put tub and fixtures in2
Have Robert finish plumbing in bathroom0
Paint cabinets and doors6
Install bead board inside of backs of built-ins and
paint interior
3
Refinish floors24
Hang/install lights8
Install washer and dryer1
Paint molding20
Install molding throughout house6
Install kitchen cabinets & appliances8
Install wall box in living room for burglar alarm3
Furnish & decorate8
Add molding to exterior door in back2
Add vinyl lattice to front deck1
Paint sections of front porch roof white1
Install new door knob sets on bedrooms,
bathroom, and sunroom doors
8
Add keyless entry to front door2
Add cabinets, “built- in” bookshelves, and bead
board rest of attic (walls and ceiling)
10
Install beadboard in stairwell to attic?3
Remove door alarm from door that leads to
back porch
0.5
Total Hours:132.5

Bad Facebook! No Money for You!

Short and sweet – Facebook is acting like an angry parent and I’m absolutely boondoggled.

Yesterday, while reading Help! My Facebook Ads Suck!, the author advised that I NOT post an image of my book cover, but instead post an image that is evocative of the book yet eye-catching.

This month’s marketing assignment is to sell more copies of Hired Gun using Facebook ads and so I’ve been mucking along doing okay, but not great using the book’s cover as my ad image.

So I decided to take the book’s advice and see if I couldn’t pull in more sales with a couple of different ads.

The first one looks like this:

That one, with all the cleavage and the dollar slot? That was approved.

Here’s #2…

This one was denied. I appealed and they stated, “This ad isn’t running because it can’t promote adult products or services that highlight sexual pleasure.”

Um, seriously? Because, if you look at the photo. SHE HAS CLOTHES ON!!!!!

“Dear Prude, remove stick from ass and approve ad.”

Oh wait, that might get me banned. Okay, I’ll just re-submit the ad and use this picture…

Learning to Accept “Not Right Now”

There are so many things I want to do. Places I want to visit, experiences I want to have. There are books I want to write, a life I hope to have.

But there is also that big ole reality check. Reality check says, “Sure, you can go to Europe, once you have the money.”

Aw crap, just sunk another $20k into house renovations so that Cottage West will be another step closer to finished.

I’ve been learning to accept “not right now” for a long time. All my life, really.

But it is that delicate balance between “not right now” and “not ever.”

“Not right now” is planting the iris and waiting for the plants to emerge, to multiply, and eventually spill from their borders.

“Not right now” is planting that stick and waiting for it to turn into a tree.

“Not right now” is putting on a new roof, and windows because then it won’t leak. It’s not earning money, but it isn’t costing me additionally in damages through weather and raccoon infestations.

I wanted this year to be the year I broke out and started writing full-time. I wanted it to be “the end to cleaning houses is in sight” year.

I wanted this year to be the “I wrote three books in one year!”

The reality is that in the next few weeks, I’m going to be so busy painting, hanging cabinets, re-installing molding, hanging curtains, refinishing an old door, and countless other things, that writing two more books this year is not going to happen.

Instead, I’m going to focus on:

  • My health – getting this damned A1C down to a normal level, stretching, yoga, meditation, and regular cardio exercise in order to lose weight
  • Short stories – I have nine of them I need to write – six to finish out the rest of the year and three more for next year’s monthly newsletters
  • Cottage West – I need it up and running and earning us money. Who knows? If it succeeds fantastically, it might make the difference between me having to clean houses and just running the Airbnb properties!
  • Yard/Home – I’ve got a couple of art projects (Van Gogh bathroom ceiling and decorative windows) and also a section of the yard I hope to develop into a orderly (and expansive) herb garden next year. I’ve also begun studying landscaping, but I’ll really dive in next year with more and more perennial varieties I haven’t ever seen before.
  • Family – It’s summer, and it is time to go to the water parks, the pools, and more. Maybe we will go on hikes, explore more of Cliff Drive, and just get out and about more. I want to spend time with my daughters
  • Marketing – Continue to learn how to market my books effectively and in a financially savvy way.

That’s a heck of a list, folks. I’m going to continue to plan, plot, and tease those future books out of my brain and onto paper, but this will not be the “I wrote three books this year” year.

Maybe next year.

The Death of Toast (and other sad tales)

Last September, I had health insurance and finally was able to schedule an appointment with a new doctor – a full physical. She looked at my A1C numbers and said, “You are dangerously pre-diabetic. You need to lose weight, change your diet, start taking Metformin – if you don’t you are looking at full-blown Type 2 diabetes.”

I started on the smallest dose of Metformin, 500 mg, made some effort to go towards a keto diet and marched back in three months later, sure that my A1C would be back down into the acceptable range.

It wasn’t.

It remained at the same number – 6.2

We doubled my dose of Metformin, which has played hell on my bowels, and then my dad was moved to a nursing home and I, well, I fell off the keto bandwagon hard. Hell, I had missed eating carbs, and my homemade ice cream. I had hated having to hide the junk food so Dad couldn’t find it.

But with a doubled dose of Metformin, surely that would bring my A1C levels down, right? At least, that is what I reasoned. My hopes were dashed today as my doc shook her head.

“Your A1C level is 6.1”

No more toast for me. Worse, no more rice. No more sweets. Not at all. I mentioned that I made my own ice cream and used half sugar, half xylitol in it. “I’ll make it with all xylitol from now on.”

She shook her head. “You need to eradicate all sugar from your diet. That includes the artificial sweeteners,” she said. “You need to get your body to NOT be used to sweets.”

Cue the gif of Snoopy wailing here.

No more ice cream?

No more toast?

No more homemade bread?

I read somewhere recently, perhaps in The Obesity Code by Jason Fung, that you can look at consuming sugar like a big jar. When you are born, the jar is empty. Every time you eat sugar, it adds up in the jar, and once it is full, that’s it, no more sugar! Any time you do consume it, it’s spilling over and causing havoc.

And that is what my sugar is doing. Spilling over.

I had asked the doc if at the level I’m at now, 6.2 or 6.1, if that number is causing damage to my organs. She thought about it for a moment and nodded, “Yes, it is.”

So the friggin’ sugar jar is full. If I don’t want to continue to damage my body, if I don’t want to end up with vascular dementia from a crapload of mini-strokes like my dad, or fatty liver disease (another side effect of diabetes and I’ve had some higher than normal numbers here as well), then I need to do something drastic.

  • Lose weight
  • Eliminate sugar and carbs
  • Exercise

And I need to do it now.