Writing Workshop

I took my first writing class yesterday.  It was called Writing for Self Discovery.  I felt so shy.  I was nervous to read my stuff out loud.  I was reminded about a book I had read earlier–Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art.  In it, he talks about the difference between an amateur and a professional.   An amateur gives in to fear.  A pro pushes through the fear.

I have to turn professional.  I have to keep putting one word in front of another, day after day, year after year.  I’m almost sixty-seven.  I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid.  But fear of writing badly stopped me.

Of course, my early writing will be bad.  My early paintings were downright embarrassing.  I still shudder when I recall the barn Lynn commissioned me to paint for her parents.  But I kept painting.  And the muscles got stronger.

I will keep writing and expect to eventually get better.

The writing teacher, Maureen, writes poetry.  I don’t  “get” poetry.  I think I’m too literal for poetry.  If I were a poet I’d have to make all the lines rhyme.

Every morning I force myself to write three pages, as recommended by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way.  Some days I can barely think of anything to write.  So I just start rhyming.  Don’t do it.  It becomes a sickness.  I have a friend, Herb, who used to read signs backwards.  He warned me NEVER to start doing that or I wouldn’t be able to stop.  I texted him about my rhyming sickness.

Here is what he texted back to me.

“I thguoht id ekat eht emit ot ekam siht egassem emyhr.  I deen ot ees a esrun ot kaerb em fo siht esruc.”

Three pages, with a fountain pen.  When I begin to write about all the things I’m grateful for the writing flows and I can go on for even four or more pages.

Blah blah blahing away.  I never go back to reread my morning pages.  I started this practice in June.  At that time we were still living in our Palm Harbor home.  Then the summer of condo happened.  Now we live in a high rise.  I can walk to the library.  And to my writing classes.

I haven’t felt like sewing at all since the move.  I will keep my wool for a year.  If I haven’t begun making purses again by next September, the bins get taken out of the closet.  We need all the storage space we can find.Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 2.08.51 PM.png

Somewhat related blog posts:

The Artist’s Way

Adventures with wool continue.

I manifested a condominium​!

The dust has​ finally settled.

This summer has been a whirlwind.  We made an offer on The Perch (formerly know as Cloud Condo) on Memorial Day weekend.  It’s now Labor Day weekend and our lives have taken a marvelous 180-degree turn.

We still have some artwork to hang, a small chest of drawers to paint and then we need to hire someone to roll over these blindingly white walls.  But once that’s all done we will be totally MOVED!

From my seat, I can see The Central Avenue Trolley making it’s way South.  It will be my carriage to writing classes.  Because I no longer have a car.

We sold Gracie the Mini-Van.  We relocated to Saint Petersburg in large part to take advantage of the many places within walking distance.

A short list:  The Dali Museum.  The Holocaust Museum.  James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.  The new Imagine Museum.  We visited there yesterday. It’s all art glass.  Our neighbor works at Imagine and gave us a private tour.  Fascinating.  If you visit St. Pete, do yourselves the favor of–visit the Imagine Museum.

Not within walking distance, but on my bucket list, Deadly Rival Roller Derby!  I’ve only gone to Roller Derby one time.  It was a crazy blast.  Fans crowd the rink, screaming and cheering.  Look at the website.  There is a “Bruises Gallery.”  I’d post photos, but it’s not for the faint of heart.  Jim isn’t too eager to go to Roller Derby, but Brookie will.  She’s always up for a weird time.

In other news, I recently visited Bainbridge Island Washington.  Neice Katie is divorcing, moving from the marital home to a cute guest cottage on a friends property.  My sister, Marilyn and BIL Rob flew from Colorado to help her.  Since I’m so good at moving, having just done it myself, I offered my assistance.

 

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Katie with Marilyn and Rob.

 

 

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This place will soon have a fresh coat of paint.

 

 

 

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That’s me, unpacking the stuff Katie’s kids helped me wrap that morning.  They identified all the items they see mom using regularly.  My sister and I had a tricky time figuring out where to house everything in Katie’s new tiny kitchen.  Her nest is going to be darling.  Sort of a doll-house.

 

My flight from Tampa to Seattle was delayed for three hours due to lack of visibility at Seattle airport.  Forest fire smoke.  The wait was good because I read my book club novel–Lincoln in the Bardo.  Strange book.  Writer George Saunders imagination is massive. The novel is creepily creative and in parts hilarious.

While at airport gates I usually find myself glancing around and figuring out who I hope is seated next to me.  I noticed an obese woman in a wheelchair.  She had all sorts of flotsam and jetsom hanging from her seat, a bright green frog travel pillow draped around her neck and a small white “service” dog on her lap.  The dog’s vest read, “I am an emotional support dog.”

 

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Pixie is sharing the neck pillow. She is laying atop a wee teeny dog bed.

 

I thought, “Not her, please.”  Well, guess who my seatmates were?

Shirley.  And her small white dog, Pixie.  And her curly headed adult son.

I was on the aisle, Shirley and Pixie in the window seat.  Son boarded late, hauling along his guitar which he stowed in First Class.  It was decided he wanted the window seat.  There was a grand commotion as they shifted places.  Then, as Shirley stood bent over double, Son fished through her carry on and pulled out the following:

A small white blanket.  A tiny green plastic bowl.  A beige sit-upon that looked rather like bubble wrap. A black blindfold. A spoon.  That was used to feed Pixie Thai food Son had brought on board.  (I have an aversion to stinky food being brought onto airplanes.  I suppose I could write a letter.  Right after I write to the commissioner of baseball and demand games be reduced to five innings.  We recently went to a Ray’s game.  Four innings too long.  But I digress.)

Once Shirley, Son, and Pixie were finally settled she turned to me and said, “May I please have some water for the dog?  I forgot to buy a bottle.”  I filled the small green bowl from my $4.99 bottle of Smartie Pants water and Pixie drank happily.

Did I mention Shirley was big?  Really big. She spilled over into my seat whereupon I wedged myself into the far corner, and attempted to read.  But every time Shirley made a move her very large shadow cast my book into darkness.  Ultimately she wrapped her neck in the green frog, put on the blindfold and, using both armrests, went happily to sleep.

As we landed Shirley fished a tiny comb out of her Vera Bradley purse and proceeded to groom Pixie.

Once in a lifetime, right?

Not so much.  Guess who was across the aisle from me on my flight home?  Shirley, Pixie, and Son!

Once again there was a bustle of activity as Shirley got organized.  She piled Son’s lap with a mound of detritus from her carry on.  Then had to juggle Pixie as she attempted to put her bubble wrap pillow in her seat.

I offered to hold Pixie.  As I was attempting to take a selfie with the dog, the man seated in my window seat went NUTS.

 

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Failed selfie.  

 

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Crazy guy.

 

 

He ranted, “I know the rules!  I did the work!  You can’t hold that animal. No one can touch a service dog but the owner.”  The commotion brought a flight attendant running.  The flight attendant was unable to calm Mr. Chucklehead down.  So he called the purser.

Meanwhile, I stood with Pixie balanced in my arms and tried to sort through, “What now?”  Shirley quickly relieved me of the 2-pound burden.

Then, at Chuck’s feet, I noticed a black blanket.  The blanket moved.  Underneath was a full-size white poodle. The dog’s fur was groomed into the Mohawk atop its head.  I assumed it was also wearing a service dog vest, but the owner kept hiding the poor animal beneath the blanket.

At one point I made eye contact with the dog.  Chucklehead reached down to cover the animal’s eyes, turning it’s face away from me.  Clearly, no one is to interact with his service dog. He spent the entire flight watching home movies of the animal on his telephone.  Odd.

Now, on to exercise.  I’ve been taking the elevator down four flights and hiking back up the stairs.  I’m working my way up to get in shape for a November visit to Galena, Illinois.  Friend Jane lives atop a steep hill.  We walk everywhere.  If I survive the hill I will have to mount a perpendicular driveway followed by a long set of stairs.  Sandy, the showoff, climbs mountains, rides her bike, teaches Pilates and maintains she’s going to leave me in the street to die rather than lug me along.

So, off I go!

 

 

 

 

Got it done!

In an earlier blog post, I referenced a commission I had to create an evening purse repurposing an elegant evening jacket, yards of vintage silk and lace, along with some random faux pearl baubles.  These bits and pieces had once belonged to friend Sheryl’s mother-in-law

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I did what I always do, took on the work with not a clue how I would manage to make it.  The final result surprised even me!

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The front of the bag.

 

The back.
I used the little pasty looking fripperies where the handle attaches to the bag.

I learned a lot from this enterprise.  It boosts my confidence to take on more complex designs.  For now, my Brother sewing machine is put away.  We are working hard to get this home on the market early next week.

It’s hard to believe how quickly this move came up!  Was it really only three weeks ago Jim and I took our misty St. Petersburg bike ride?  Our new home will be about 800 square feet smaller than our current home.

We’ve been purging like crazy.  Fortunately St. Petersburg acquaintances are holding monthly garage sales to raise money to fund a dog rescue.  Several times a week we load up our mini-van, Gracie, and make the forty-five-minute drive to Jean and Art’s.  They are delighted by the donations, while we are thrilled to have a place to send everything.

 

I actually got rid of all my mountains of art supplies.  Canvases, gone!  Bags filled with Golden brand acrylics, gone!  Drawers filled with scrapbooking supplies, history.  Paintbrushes, boxes and boxes of brushes are a thing of my past.  My cow painting is my official swan song.

I did, however, keep my sewing stuff, button collection, jewelry making supplies and my Prismacolor pencils.  Time to reinvent me.  Perhaps I’ll write the children’s books I’ve long dreamed of creating.  Life is a wonderful adventure.

I manifested a condominium​!

Our friends, Doug and Charki, live in St Petersburg.  Charki is a firm believer in the power of positive thinking.  She suggested I picture our new home firmly in my mind and simply walk toward it as if it already exists.

So that’s what I’ve been doing.  What she DIDN’T tell me is how fast the thinking could make things magically appear!

Two weeks ago they invited us to come ride bikes around the city.  Charki had learned there might be a unit coming on the market that could be in our price range.   Why not hop on bikes and check the area out?

It was a misty day, but still fine for bike riding.  My goodness, the sedentary lifestyle I’ve adopted has taken its toll!   I was sore for days following our six-mile ride.

First stop, Whispering Waters, the building Charki had mentioned.  Only three stories tall but with nice screened porches and in a good location.

Then we proceeded into the heart of the city.  Charki wanted to check out Saturday Morning Market and buy gifts for friends.  The market happens weekly, October through May.  It’s a combination of farmers market, food vendors, and crafters.  She found two pretty necklaces.

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Beside the market, I noticed a tall building I’d identified on realtor.com.  There was an available unit on the 9th floor. I said, “Hey, how about if I go in the lobby and see what’s what with the apartment?”

So we peddled over, locked up the bikes and entered the lobby.

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I approached the young man behind the desk, Jordan, and asked him about the unit for sale.  He offered to have a realtor there in fifteen minutes. “No, thanks,” I said,”we are already working with someone.”

He said, “How about if I call the owners and ask if Juan, our maintenance man, can show it to you right now.”

And he did!  Sadly the view was of a roof loaded with air-conditioners.  Not pretty.

On the car ride home I called our darling realtor, Judy, and she said, “I’ll meet you there tomorrow.  There are several other units for sale.”

Back we went on Sunday.  Up up up to the 29th floor where I proceeded to fall in love.

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You can see that roof full of air conditioners on the right-hand side of this picture.

 

On a clear day, looking left you can see all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.  At least that’s what we’ve been told.  We’ve never been there on a clear day.  Florida in summer means rain rain rain.  Looking right is the Tampa Bay.  Below is a pool, putting green, weight room (I don’t intend to ever go there…shudder) and several other big rooms for giving large parties, if you so desire.

We sat in one of those rooms and stunned our realtor by making an offer.  It was accepted.  We close on July 12th.

There are things here I will miss a lot, in particular, several close friends we’ve been lucky enough to make.  I’ve already arranged a standing date to drive out here and share lunch with them once a month. And I’ll continue to come to the ‘burbs for book club.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned there are classes in creative writing just a fifteen-minute walk from our front door.  The library is a ten-minute stroll.  Perhaps I’ll eventually peddle my purses at the Saturday Morning Market!

The Power of Positive thinking worked again!  YAY!  Now, back to cleaning closets and purging our stuff

 

 

 

 

Dreaming. Moving. Winning.

6 a.m. I just woke from a house-hunting dream. I was trying to sway my two kids to fall in love with small town living.
In the dream, I attempted to convince my kiddos to adore a little old 1930’s bungalow. It was crooked and bent and altogether perfect. They wanted straight and even and, in my mind, vanilla.

I woke before I hammered my two squareish pegs, into round holes. (which in itself is odd–neither kid is a square peg.)

My dad used to use a terrific expression. “They’re all yours until you buy one.” I like the inherent hope in those words. The world is our oyster. It’s all ours--even after we buy one. We can let this one go and move on to the next.

Here is my wee small hours “AH HA” moment. We may or may not move again. In my mind, we will. St. Petersburg. A condo.

But (remember, everything after the but is the truth) living here, in our not what we thought we wanted house, is smashing.

I hosted Bunco–aka Drunko–two nights ago. November and all twelve ladies were seated outside by the cement pond. Rolling dice, gabbing, chomping Chex Mix. Perfect weather, lots of laughs. I worked hard at manifesting wins. (It worked. I prevailed! Fifty-five big ones.)

St. Pete may be in our future. Or not. Either way, it’s all good.

Now time to crawl back into the feathers. Maybe I’ll find out if my kids will move to that bungalow with me.  Come to think of it, I had that already.  A 1926 Sears home in the village of Barrington.  I loved that house.  And the next one and the one after that.  Change is fun.

Somewhat related blog posts:

Moving. You can’t always get what you want. But we got what we needed.

Our Impulsive Move to Florida

 

 

Moving. You can’t always get what you want. But we got what we needed.

On my May 11 post, I spoke about Our Impulsive Move to Florida

This month we celebrate our fourth year as Floridians. When our tiny 1870’s home sold in a day, I looked at Jim and asked, “What the hell do we do now?”  Our buyer wanted to close in two short months. We had no clue where we would live.  Jim replied, “We start packing.”

What made our Grove Avenue experience so excellent were the wonderful neighbors.  They became dear close friends over our eight years there.  We, neighbor/friends, shared wine on front porches, dinner’s in our kitchens, afternoons chatting about everything and nothing.  And we helped one another.  If a living room ceiling needed painting, a group of us showed up rollers in hand.  Are you rearranging the furniture?  We’ll lift the sofa. Do you need a ride to the airport or someone to let the dog out?  Not a problem.

Those friends were puzzled by our impetuous decision, and possibly a little unhappy.  We had a great time on Grove Avenue.  It was sad to break up the team.  But as we prepared to move, the team showed up.  Our buddies spent hours up to their knees in newsprint paper, wrapping our belongings and piling our lives into brown cardboard boxes destined for Florida.

Over the five previous winters, while visiting Florida, Jim and I had explored different cities and towns.  We had fallen in love with Dunedin–pronounced Done Eden– a town that reminded us of our Village of Barrington.  Dunedin regularly has public activities in the center of town.  Art shows, Farmer’s Markets, Vintage furniture sales.  There lots of fun restaurants, antique stores, and interesting shops.  It is on the Gulf of Mexico and oozes old Florida charm.

The Pinellas Trail runs through the heart of town.  The Trail stretches thirty-eight miles from St. Petersburg north to Tarpon Springs, connecting several county parks, coastal areas, and communities and is a popular destination for bikers and walkers.

So we drew a circle around Dunedin and went to work finding a VRBO to stay in while we hunted for a house.  Our belongings were destined for a Uhaul storage unit.  The day we actually climbed into our cars to leave Grove Avenue was bittersweet.  I wept hugging Brookie and Earl, Judy and Chuck, Doug and Charki.

Jim drove my little green car, Maude the Mini-Cooper.  Bronson and I followed in Jim’s silver SUV.  Several days later we arrived at our temporary home on Rowena Drive, Dunedin.  It was raining.

Actually, it was a deluge.  Think Noah and the arc. That’s how it pours during Florida’s long hot, humid, wet summers.

We spent two miserable months in that rabbit warren of a funky old home. The Rowena house must have started out as a tiny one bedroom, one bath.  But over many years it had been added onto willy-nilly, with no thought for flow.  For the first week, I was constantly getting lost.  Where is the kitchen again?

Every day the skies turned black, thunder shook the glass in windows, lighting streaked through the heavens and rain pelted the house in never-ending sheets.  There was no covered outdoor seating area.  We were trapped in a dark, dank, confusing home.  Living without our belongings, not knowing a soul except Cyndee, our realtor.

Plus it quickly became clear we were not going to find a home within walking distance to downtown.  I wanted to be on Scotland or Aberdeen Streets.  But nothing with our desired specifications was available in our price range.  It would have meant buying another little old fixer upper.  Neither of us was up for that again.

As tropical storms splashed down on Rowena, I spent sleepless nights on the computer hunting for a house.  I cried a lot.  I worried incessantly.  I wanted my old life back.  I became more and more convinced moving had been a horrible mistake. I tried to buck up, telling myself, “Alice, if you cut your hair, you can’t wear braids. Move forward.”  But it broke my heart that my beloved braids were no longer an option.

Our search needed to be widened.  Giving up the dream of downtown Dunedin was a painful pill to swallow. Previously, I’d spent too many years tethered to a car.  I had loved the freedom of our village, walking to the library, Cook Street Coffee Shop, Wool Street Restaurant.  We were two blocks from the train to Chicago.  What now?  So many long rainy days were spent in regret.

Jim, my mellow fellow, met my moans and tears with patience, repeating his mantra, “Don’t churn, we’ll get there.”

Ultimately we found a home with everything on our wish list except walks to town.  After our closing, when the house was ours, we drove from the rabbit warren on Rowena to Palm Harbor.  We sat on the back patio, under wide covered roof,  rocking in white wicker chairs left by former owners.  We watched the never-ending rain.  We marveled, “This is our home.  This is where we’ll build our lives.”

I’ve realized God didn’t intend for me to be in downtown Dunedin, he intended for me to be in a suburban neighborhood in East Lake, Palm Harbor.

So here we are, and here we’ve been for four happy years.  We’ve made fabulous new friends.  Across the street, neighbors have invited us to be part of their loving family.  Another fun couple takes us out of our comfort zone by initiating interesting activities.  Jim has numerous golf buddies.  A new friend and I formed a book club. We meet monthly and have interesting conversation fueled by good novels, good food, good wine.  I am a regular member of a Bunko group.  I was honored to be invited since Bunko is a  game of true skill!

We still see Brookie and Earl when they winter here, plus we visit on our trips north.   Charki and Doug retired and bought a home forty-five minutes away in downtown St. Petersburg.  Judy and Chuck visit every winter and we make sure to see them in August when we are in Chicago.

Our impulsive move to Dunedin didn’t pan out as I assumed it would.  And that’s good because our lives are even richer than expected.

 

 

Our Impulsive Move to Florida

In the summer of 2013, Jim and I moved from the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Illinois to Florida.  We left my dream house….but that was good because other dreams came true.

Prior to marrying in 2005, we decided neither of us wanted to live in the houses we’d occupied previously.  I hated his townhouse.  Sure, it had a great view overlooking a lake.  But every house in the neighborhood looked the same– tan. If you were daydreaming while driving you could easily end up half a mile past his place before realizing your mistake.  I called his neighborhood “Brown Town”.

Moreover, it was in a gated community.  I’d had enough gated community living to last a lifetime.  I wanted a home where friends could come knock on my door anytime they chose to.  Furthermore, nothing was within walking distance.

The home I lived in was south of his, in the darling village of Barrington.  Locals simply call it “The Village.”   Restaurants, boutiques, grocery stores, churches, the train to Chicago were all within blocks.

My house was a 1920s Sears Bungalow.  It had a big front porch. Somewhere along the way, someone had enclosed it with cantilever windows.  No, they weren’t pretty, but I could lock the porch door and spend hot summer nights sleeping on the daybed I created.  It was camping without the icky parts.

The kitchen needed updating, as did a bunch of other stuff.  Yet it was mine!  For the first time in my life I’d been able to make each and every decision regarding my home.

Jim and I compromised, agreeing to sell our houses and buy one we both loved.

Shortly thereafter, while headed back to Brown Town, Jim passed an 1880’s farmhouse two blocks from mine.  It had come on the market, “For Sale by Owner,” that morning.  We made an offer the same afternoon.   A month or so later, before closing, we took our “walk-through”.  The house was nothing like we remembered.  We grimaced, looked at each other and asked, “What were we smoking?”

Charmed by location we overlooked the many dreadful design flaws.  It took us nearly a year to remodel.  I hand-painted and fired ceramic sinks for two bathrooms and painted a tile mural for a back-splash. Everything but one exterior door was scrapped and replaced, including the landscaping.  Our Village home became a little jewel box.  I swore the only way Jim would EVER get me to leave 502 South Grove Avenue was in a pine box. (Believe me, as I was making never-ending remodeling suggestions, that pine box may have entered his mind!)

Grove sink
I painted the sink in the powder room.  Loved those cool light fixtures.
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Unable to find our photos, I lifted these photos from Zillow.  The woman who purchased our home moved on.  We left the Daniel Boone School sign with the house.  I just seemed to fit in on the corner of Russell and Grove.  Isn’t that twisty tree enchanting?  It dropped dreadful, purple, driveway-staining berries.  But I saved it from Jim’s threatened ax.

Prior to our move, we’d been spending a large part of frigid Chicago winters on Floridian Anna Maria Island.  We drove back and forth.  Driving home in early spring of 2013, I turned to Jim and nearly shocked him into swerving off the road when I declared, “You know what? It’s time move to Florida!”

He gave me twenty-four hours to change my mind, then he called a realtor.  We got home on Tuesday, listed on Friday and sold that darling little old lady for cash, a bit over full price, the next day!

Now here we are—Floridians!

There is a positive thinking/manifestation story in all of this.

  1. I always wanted my own crooked old house.  I got it in my Sears Bungalow.
  2. I’d  long dreamed of living in a porch swing house. 502 South Grove had a sweet front porch. We hung a swing.
  3. For years I fantasized about someday having a big screened in patio.  Yup, we’ve got that here! The natives call their pool screens “cages.”  We have a cage.  It’s a dandy, mosquito free space with a large overhang providing much-needed shade in the heat and cover from the summer downpours.
  4.  I’m working on manifesting our next dwelling. Someday, when we no further want to take care of yard and pool, and no longer have Bronson, our wonder dog, we might just relocate to St. Petersburg.  Perhaps a condo within walking distance of the many activities St. Pete has to offer.  For now, though, we love it right here.   Life is very good!  Very good indeed.