Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Only the Faithful

Only the faithful readers of my blog will reap the rewards of hanging in there with me while I move to my new house. Keep checking back. I will be blogging when I can squeeze in a few moments to write amid the mayhem. Right now my brain is full of measurements, electrical specifications, lawn maintenance instructions, irrigation system timer programming technicalities, address change notices, smurfs, stove specifications, and phone numbers for roofer, gutter repairperson, carpenter, plumber, landscaper, appliance installer, and on and on. (Sheesh, how did the smurfs get in there?) I feel like the housekeeper for Versailles, giving orders and arranging work for all these people. I always thought I needed a staff of five or six people to run my life and household. Secretary, gardener, housekeeper, bookkeeper, nanny. But I am honestly burning out on making these "arrangements" and answering questions. It gives me a new perspective on having a "staff." The problem with having a staff is that you have to keep them on the right track, which apparently requires constant attention. I'll keep my sights set on the housewarming party, to occur when it's all done. (Someone please get that smurf out of my head.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Daughter the Graduate

Yesterday my 24-year-old daughter called me to tell me she had completed her last final exam in college. This evening Ron and I will attend her graduation ceremony. Not the huge stadium circus event, but the small department convocation. When Yael called to announce that she had finished, she said "Mom, now all I need is a new car and a boob job and my life will be complete." Ron thinks the boob job was thrown in there because she figured we'd go for helping with the car instead. I remember when she was quite happy with vanilla ice cream and a Winnie-the-Pooh video. When did it start costing thousands of dollars to make our princess's dreams come true? Actually, this girl has worked hard, really hard, to get where she is today. She has always had a job to help with the money. She has struggled with choosing a major, so she has been in school longer than many of her friends, which was frustrating. But now she is the proud owner of a Bachelor's in Journalism, with a minor in Women's Studies. I'm so proud. And I bet she publishes a book before she starts a family, which is probably what I should have done. But I wouldn't trade this magnificent young woman I have raised for all the pages in print in the world. Today I celebrate the achievement of my lovely, brilliant, talented daughter!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Last Minute Escrow Moments

We had a date at the Title Company to sign our papers last Thursday. We thought, “OK, this is it, finally it’s done.” But no. Come to find out that signing is not the last thing. After we signed, the papers had to be sent out to the lending institutions for the mortgages to be blessed or some such. OK. Papers went out overnight. Friday? Would Friday be the big day? But no. Apparently the lending institutions needed another day to do whatever it is they do. Dance on the papers? Take the papers for a medical exam? Put them in the oven at 200 degrees to look for any invisible writing? Cindy the Realtor assured us we would close on Monday. Then, oops, the buyers for our house discovered that their loan approval expired on Thursday. Not to worry. They worked out an extension. It’s going to be OK. Now Monday rolls around. The sale of our house is complete. It closed. But the purchase did not go through. Our lending institution, out of the blue, decided that the deck, which (according to the pest report) is rotten, needs to be replaced before we can complete the sale! Hold on. Did anyone think to mention this to my loan agent? My realtor? Me? I don’t think so. Ron told Cindy to tell them we intend to replace that deck the minute we have the key to the house. Then, like in The Threepenny Opera, we got our Nth hour reprieve. The lender agreed to make the loan if all buyers and sellers sign an Addendum stating that the sale of the house is “As-Is.” Go figure. Supposedly, the house will finally, finally close tomorrow morning. Ron thought he would have the key last Thursday. He is showing patience and fortitude above and beyond. In his sleep he mutters, “just give me the key.” Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in at this petty pace from day to day – that’s Willie Shakespeare. Macbeth. Although I don’t remember the sale or purchase of a house in the plot of Macbeth.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Finally Same-Sex Marriages

Yay, yay, double triple yay. Yesterday the California State Legislature ruled it unconstitutional for same-sex couples to be denied the right to marry. I’m hearing Sam Cooke in my head, “long time comin’ but change gonna come.” Joyous congratulations to all those near and dear to me (and anyone else desiring congrats) who have waited and hoped that they would be allowed to marry in their lifetime. I’ll be celebrating tonight with my friends Eris and Leslie, married in an un-legal ceremony a long time ago, now able to make it legal. We’ll be wining and dining them and getting a huge vicarious hit of their happiness at this turn of events.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

House Clothes

Today we sign the papers to sell our home in the woods and to buy our home in the small town suburbs. Granted, small town suburbs are way different from big, bigger, and biggest city suburbs. But I still feel obligated to consider what I am wearing in case someone comes to the door. Where I live now, no one comes to the door unless they were invited three weeks ago or they have perhaps been wandering lost in the woods for several days and are desperate for a hot shower, a real meal, and a telephone. (Before they learned to drive, my teenaged children used to say they would need an emergency survival kit to sneak out at night.) The upshot of my forest location is that I wear whatever strikes my mood in which to sit at home and write (what I do for a living). I can wear my really comfy sweaters with all the holes in them, my house socks (my son Akili asked me if I killed Grover-the-muppet for his pelt), my pink Hawaiian flower mini-dress that looked terrific on me when I was 20 lbs. thinner, my black flannel vest that pilled up with white puffballs years ago, or I can even walk around in my yard in my nightie. My new house is far too elegant for me to wear these clothes. I will have to wear my grandmother’s pearls to work at my desk. In fact, I think I will have to buy an entirely new wardrobe to match my new home, including sweaters without holes. I might have to start wearing heels, even to vacuum the carpets. And nylons. I need a frilly 1950s apron to cook in my stylish new kitchen. I better straighten my hair and have it turned in a pageboy. When will I find time to write between cleaning my oven and washing my ceilings? Oh Betty Friedan, Oh Gloria Steinem, help me; what have I gotten myself into?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day Humor

My daughter is also a writer and also a blogger. I don’t read her blog because I don’t want to inhibit her in writing for the 20-something crowd. Think about it. When you were 20-something, would you have wanted your mother to read your letters? Alrighty then. But on Mother’s Day she specifically told me the blog was dedicated to me and sent me to read it. OK, really sweet pic of me and my daughter when she was a toddler. And lovely nice I love you words. Then she proceeds to relate several of the most embarrassing moments in my career as a klutz, including the time, apparently related to her by her father, when I got my foot tangled in my handbag strap and fell out of the car, then smacked my eye on the car door trying to straighten myself out. I wound up with a black eye on that one. My daughter loves to point out how uncoordinated I am, but she always overlooks her father’s foibles. Like the time he set his napkin on fire from a candle burning on the buffet table at a wedding reception. That stunt resulted in a slew of people doing a hat dance on the napkin to put out the flames. But does she write about Dad’s mishaps on the blog? Nope. I have to be the brunt of her humor. I guess it’s part of a long tradition of comediennes using their mothers as their best material. Oh well. As long as she keeps sending all that love my way while she’s laughing at me, I’ll survive. (And I confess I’m proud of her imaginative sense of humor, which keeps her readers laughing.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Appliance Rodeo

When our house was inspected for the buyers, the inspector discovered that our hot water heater had a dangerous gas leak that could not be repaired. Rather than blow ourselves up, we had the hot water heater replaced. The same week, the inspector at the house we’re buying informed us that the hot water heater is shot and needs to be replaced. So we are going to buy another hot water heater (we should have bought stock in Roto-Rooter). Ron is overjoyed about this development because he wants an excuse to buy an on-demand tankless hot water heater. I know nothing about these beasts. I asked Ron how many gallons the tank can hold and he peered at me over his glasses and said, “Amy, it’s a tankless hot water heater.”

The stove in the new house is a built-in electric located below windows. I can’t cook on an electric. I have to cook over fire. Turns out that there is no way to vent a gas stove in that spot because of the windows. So we have to buy a special stove with a downdraft vent. This type of stove costs twice what I had budgeted for a new stove. Oh well, I thought, we’ll be OK since the sellers of our new house offered to leave their refrigerator for us. Not. We did not specify in the contract that we wanted it because I had planned to buy a new fridge. At the last minute their son decided he wants it. But wait, my refrigerator money is going into the downdraft stove.

Our buyer wants our dryer. So we also have to buy a new dryer.

Looks like all new appliances. But my washer goes with me. You don’t separate a woman from her Fisher Paykel washer.

At this point, I’m considering giving up home-ownership altogether and simply renting a cottage on Maui. Aloha. Have a great Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reality of the Biz

This month I am working with several extremely talented and dedicated artists to produce the audio book of The Call to Shakabaz. They keep telling me I can do this or that using the profits from the book sales. I finally found myself sending them an email about the realities of independent publishing. And I decided to put the gist of the email into a blog entry. Here it is.
I love to dream big, I believe that I must vision success to manifest success. But the reality of indie publishing is that one does it for love, not money. I have spent at least $40,000 to date producing, publishing, and marketing my book. Marketing has been the greatest expense. That figure does not include my time. I have sold about 1,200 books (gave away a lot). Only 7% of books printed in the U.S. sell more than 1,000 copies in their lifetime, so I’m very proud of that figure. To date I have received about $7,000 in income from books sold and If I were to sell all the books I have left from the first printing (as opposed to giving any of them away) I would make about $5,000 (once I subtract the cost of printing the books). And I would have to pay to ship most of them because Baker & Taylor (primary distributor) does not pay for shipping. Profit? There is none.

I have learned so much in my first effort at publication that next time around (and there will be a next time in 2009, I promise you), I will be able to produce and market a book at a much lower cost. I started Woza and published The Call to Shakabaz with insurance money left to me when Mom passed. My efforts are a tribute to her and the faith she always had in my talent. But every penny I spend on Woza now is hard-earned. The truth is that it is all a labor of love. I doubt I will ever make money as a publisher or author. The question will probably always be “how much can I afford to sink into this project?” The answer will always be “my heart and soul.”

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

No Longer a Dream

It’s no longer a dream and it’s not a back yard full of mud. Far from it. It’s official. Ron and I have completed the deal and we are moving to the beautiful Villa de Gracia. Both our house sale and our house purchase will close on May 15. We move on June 16. Please excuse any lapses in blogging as the madness, chaos, and hard work of moving unfolds. I have to say that I have not enjoyed this process and I hope to avoid going through it again for a very long time. The reality of packing this house is overwhelming. I am exhausted just thinking about it. I won’t be having fun until I am unpacking in the new home. So don’t ask if I’m having fun yet until June 17. Meanwhile, send any tips on where to get good boxes free. We need, um, probably about 800. I need a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be writing.”

Sunday, May 4, 2008

House Search Dream

Ron’s Dream: We are living in a new house. He is walking through the house. It’s looking good. It’s night. He opens the back door and discovers that the entire back yard is a swamp of nothing but mud and shit. For some reason he must cross the yard to get something or somewhere. He is wading up to his knees in swamp shit. That’s our yard. He wonders if he will get a foot infection from walking through the swamp.

Transparent dream for someone buying a new house. When Ron told me this dream, it put me over the edge. I could not breathe for laughing. I could see it as a metaphor for the past five months, looking at houses too small, too dark, no yard whatsoever, big yard full of poison oak, no bathtub, bathtub in the garage, toilet on the roof, refrigerator in the tool shed, fence in the living room, chickens in the fireplace, geese in the washer. Oh yes, we can make this work, we can make do with this. We’ll just scrape the cottage cheese texturing off the ceiling. This pantry would be perfect as a library. We’ll steam the wallpaper off the toilet. We’ll remodel, knock out a wall or two, build an upstairs. They ripped out all the trees to improve the view? No problem. We’ll replant trees. This was once a methamphetamine lab? No big deal, we’ll repaint. The swimming pool is shot? Okey-dokey, we’ll make it into a skate park. Two acres of dead grape vines? Fine, we’ll start a vine cemetery. We’re imaginative, we’re flexible. Swamp full of shit in the back yard? We’ll start a salamander farm, put in a hot tub, plant bamboo, hang up a wind chime. Have a margarita, grab a floatie, and have a soak in our new mud bath. Will I ever go home again? Yes. Home is where the heart is and even though I say my heart is at the Ranch, I know that my heart is with Ron. Wherever he lives is home for me.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Roof and Peanuts

We are two signatures shy of an agreement on the purchase of a beautiful home. Closing the deal depends on whether or not the roof is sound, and if it needs work, who pays for it. Last week I called my roofer, a really good guy, terrific roofer, tall and lanky, he reminds me of Goofy the Disney character. The roofer knows everything about roofs and does excellent work. So he took a look at the roof on this lovely Spanish-style home we hope to buy. After his look, he told me that ¾ of the roof is shot and needs replaced to the tune of $10,000. So we went to the seller and asked for $10,000 off the sale price. The seller said, wait a minute, that roof is fine, and they proceeded to produce their evidence. Meanwhile, their realtor called our roofer and gave him what-for, calling him a deal-breaker (is that like a combination home-wrecker and ball-breaker?). She demanded proof that the roof is leaking. The roofer replied that he thought we said it was leaking. No one recalls accusing the roof of leaking. Libel, I tell ya! Then I got a faxed memo from the roofer apologizing profusely for destroying the house deal. He sounded miserable, like he might go jump off a roof. Not to worry. I paid him to go out again today and look at the roof more thoroughly on the assumption that there are no reported leaks. I await his report tomorrow. In the middle of the roof drama (roofer calling, realtors calling, faxes, emails, aargh, can’t get any work done), I get a phone call from a guy named Jerry who got my name out of some local directory that listed grant writers. Jerry is looking for a grant writer to help him start a hot roasted peanut stand business in which he intends to hire blind and deaf people to sell peanuts on street corners. When I told Ron about this, he said I should have shouted at Jerry, “ARE YOU NUTS?!” Poor Jerry thinks he’s going to be doing these blind and deaf people a favor setting them up with a job. Maybe he means people who are both blind and deaf. In that case, how does he expect them to make change? Perhaps I should have suggested he include in his business plan people with no legs who push themselves around on square scooter boards. Ironically, his call interrupted me while I was writing a grant to train and place mentally ill disabled individuals in mainstream jobs and I was busy researching the Supported Employment Model, that is built on the belief that, given adequate extra support, severely disabled people (i.e., mentally ill in this case) can make a significant contribution in the workplace, earn a competitive wage, and develop a career path. Bad timing, Jerry. I told him to call the Workforce Investment Board and went to make myself a peanut butter sandwich.