Workarounds

For the most part, I’m fairly disciplined with respect to my writing. It’s my day job; I show up at the same time five mornings a week and I write. I got into the habit when my kids were young and I’ve kept it up. If I’m on deadline, that writing often spills into the afternoons. If I’m not on deadline and providing I’ve already written a decent number of pages, then I’ll sometimes switch gears in the afternoon and do an editing job or research, respond to emails, or deal with any current business issues.

Not deviating and staying consistent with my routine keeps me productive and on track, and that makes me happy. Lately, however, my routine has been torpedoed.

If I’m being completely honest, things began going south in January, when we moved. At first it was the upheaval of relocating to a different town: unpacking, getting my office set up, all of that. Then I realized I was missing my morning gym workout, something I routinely did (and had done for decades) before sitting down to write. Cycling or running was out of the question; the weather wasn’t conducive. Since we’re not living in the community we intend to settle in permanently, I needed an affordable short-term workout location. It took me another week of checking out nearby facilities before I figured out which one would work best for me.

I was poised to sign a short-term contract – and excited about finally getting back into a regular routine – when my father fell and ended up in hospital. He lives half way across the country, by himself, with no family nearby. Someone had to be there for him and I was it. My one week there turned into two, and I returned home with the full responsibility of his affairs, both medical and personal.

He’s still in hospital, still working towards some kind of recovery, and facing an uncertain future. That’s his reality and it’s not a pleasant one. My reality, aside from the personal heartbreak of witnessing his decline (and that’s no small thing), is that there’s a two-hour time difference between the west coast and Manitoba. That means when my phone starts ringing at 8 am, it’s already 10 o’clock there and the middle of the morning. Calls to doctors or social workers don’t happen on my timetable; they happen on theirs. Water pipes don’t freeze at a time that’s convenient; they freeze when they freeze (which is usually overnight, only to be discovered first thing in the morning).

My priorities have shifted in an unexpected and unwelcome way.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a great blog post this week about priorities. https://kriswrites.com/2019/02/27/business-musings-priorities/

The timing of her post was serendipitous for me. She talks about how there are times when we all have to give up something on our priorities list. She stresses the importance of acceptance in the face of doing that.

My mornings are not always my own right now, and no amount of wishing or discipline will change that. I don’t like it but I’m learning to accept it. Afternoons, never my freshest time, are quieter. So, I’m writing then. Wish me luck.

I Have Never Been Great at Goodbyes

A long, long time ago, we bought a house . . . and we turned it into a home.

This old house has sheltered us through all the seasons, bearing witness to laughter and tears, to joys and sorrows, to deaths and births, to weddings and anniversaries. It is the only home our children knew growing up. It provided sanctuary for them and their many friends from pre-school through university . . . and sanctuary too to five dogs, one cat, a lizard, a turtle and too many fish to count.

I wrote twenty-five books here, hundreds and hundreds of articles, countless school notes and at least 1600 shopping lists. My babies came home to this house. They took their first steps and spoke the first of many, many words (much to the chagrin of many, many teachers). They had chicken pox and sleep overs, their first jobs, their first loves, their first cars (and with the latter came my first gray hairs).

This house birthed me too – as a mother, as a writer, and as a gardener. And today, though the garden is deep in winter slumber, I see roses blooming and kiwis hanging low. I smell sweet peas climbing up the side of the greenhouse, see the heron swooping in to steal fish in the pond, hear the laughter of the kids as they whisper secrets to their besties, and the laughter of my love as we sip our wine and watch the sun set on warm summer nights.

The sun is setting on our time here. In a few days we will turn out the lights and shut the door for the last time. We will put Team Sheltie in the car, climb behind the wheel and we will drive away. We’re moving to a smaller community several hours from here, a place we’ve visited often, a place we love. We haven’t found a home there yet, at least not a permanent one, but hopefully we will soon.

We aren’t being pushed to leave by anything other than an inner knowing that it’s the right thing to do. It took us a couple of years to come to this, after many discussions and a great deal of thought. Our neighborhood has changed, we have changed and, with the kids grown and gone, our family dynamic has changed. It’s simply time. That said, it is much, much harder than I ever thought it would be.

There’s a saying that pops up on social media occasionally: Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. It’s good advice, sound and solid. But the fact is I am absolute shit at goodbyes. Never have aced them. And, yes, I know we’ll take our memories with us – people offer that up as if it’s some sort of consolation – but it’s no consolation at all and it doesn’t touch even a corner of my sadness.

This isn’t just the closing of a chapter, it’s the closing of a book. The story of our time in this house is over. And the new book, the new story, that important first chapter, hasn’t yet been written.

Right now, my heart is full to nearly breaking. Smiles are out of the question. My fountain of tears, as Mr. Petrol Head calls it, is perpetually running. But as teary as I am, there is one thing that makes it this process a little easier.

New owners are poised – eager even – to move in.

We’re leaving them a welcome letter, telling them a little about the history of the house and garden, their new neighbors (they will have wonderful neighbors!) and a few of the quirks that old houses inevitably have. It will be fun for them to discover what life here has to offer. Knowing that lightens my sadness.

It reminds me a little of sharing a book. You can only read a book for the first time once. No matter how much you love it, you can’t go back and experience that freshness, that joy of discovery, again. But you can pay it forward and share the book with another reader, taking solace in the fact that they’ll love it too. That the story will live again through them.

I know we can’t go back. Time goes forward and so do we. How fitting that we’re leaving the past behind at the start of a new year.

A long, long time ago, we bought a house . . . and we turned it into a home.  And though we’re saying goodbye and leaving this old place behind, it will be filled with love and laughter and life long after we’re gone. It will stay a home. And for that I’m grateful.

And now . . .

. . .  please excuse me if I get a little emotional. In a couple of weeks, our daughter, our first born, will be marrying her beau, her beloved, her partner in bulldog parenthood. It is my fervent wish that she be as happy with him as I’ve been with her father. Of all the successes in the world, I believe a happy home (however you define it: marriage with or without kids (dogs, cats, guppies, lizards), or a happy home you make on your own) is the only measure of success that matters. Having grown up without that solid foundation, it was really important for me to be able to give that to my kids.

It occurs to me as I write this just how quickly the time has gone. I started my writing journey soon after my daughter’s birth. Her growing up has, in many ways, mimicked the changes in my writing career: from picture books when she was very young to middle grade readers as she got older and then young adult fiction as she moved into her teen years. Now she’s entering another phase of her life, and while I’m still writing I suspect there will be future changes coming for me too.

Right now, however, I’m not thinking about me or my writing career or anything remotely concerned with business. I’m thinking of her . . . of this important milestone in her life . . . of the new family she is on the brink of creating . . . and how our family will come together to celebrate and honor it.

So with that in mind, this blog will be on hiatus for the next two or three weeks as I focus on family . . . and on love. And really, is there any better way to spend the last few weeks of summer?

See you in September!