It’s been a while since I blogged — indeed, since I wrote anything. When I was at the beach house in November, I couldn’t manage to get online, and after that, I simply found myself in a kind of funk/period of contemplation. Day by day, I lived with a low-level depression that was, I only later realized, the onset of a rip-roaring sinus infection that felled me right after Thanksgiving.
In the weeks since I blogged, I spent time watching my house as painters managed to prep it for painting. Since we were dodging periods of rain that still persist, it’s not yet done, though it is well on its way to being completed. Right now, plastic still drapes most windows.
The house is painted the coral color I love, and the white trim is almost done. The porch ceiling is a pale blue that marks Southern architecture (supposedly a good trick for keeping wasps and the like from building nests). The front doors — yes, I have two adjacent front doors — are painted a beautiful dark green (with a lot of black, the green that you often see in New Orleans). The porch will be the same color. The brick porch surround has been painted a deep clay color, with white trim. The front steps will be the same dark green as the doors and porch.
I’d originally planned to paint the house with relatives and friends, but it’s a good thing that didn’t work out. I saw a friend’s law office being painted, liked what I saw daily, and ended up hiring the two guys responsible. As they worked, we found things that hadn’t been done (or done properly) earlier in prior jobs.
One problem dates back to Hurricane Rita. My asbestos slate roof was lifted up and set back down; I had some leaks as a result. A new roof was another result — with architectural shingles rather than more expensive replacement shingles. The roof was replaced by January 2006, and only in November 2013 did I find out that the roofers had failed to put flashing everywhere. Fortunately, I didn’t have any resulting rot. Add a day of labor and more money for flashing material.
A second problem emerged as they began to prep the Hardie siding that I had put on the spring following Hurricane Ike. That contractor’s workers had failed to nail it enough. Nor had they caulked properly. Since the contractor had run way over time and budget when he worked on that job, I somehow was not really surprised at this evidence of shoddy work. Once more, I ended up paying for this work to be done properly. Again, fortunately, nothing major had gone wrong as a result.
So when my house is finally painted and looking spiffy, I’ll be a happy camper. Maybe by the New Year, with fingers crossed.
As that’s gone on in spurts, my kitchen project has also stalled. A bit more painting (a new cabinet) needs to be done, but again, it’s too rainy and damp to take it outside, paint it, and put it back in. Further, I am guilty of laziness — I must sit on the floor and use a scraper tool to get the vinyl tiles off before I can have new flooring put in there. But the kitchen is at least in much better shape.
My plans for renovation continue: My house is on piers, and I want my dogs to be able to enjoy the back yard. Two sides are already fenced by neighbors, so I only have to put in one side, plus connect to the house on both sides, and put a gate. But because the house is on piers, it’s necessary to enclose the open areas, preventing the dogs from going under and getting out. I’ve decided on latticework between the piers.
The renovations took only part of my attention. Because they are beyond my control (at least in large part) because of the weather, I simply shrugged off the frustration that kept trying to insinuate itself into my life.
Instead, I worked on jewelry because my friend Myra and I were selling our wares at a local holiday fair. I made earrings. I wrapped bails for pendants. I made a few items from precious metal clay. I tried to fuse glass with my tiny kiln (a learning experience). The one-day fair came and went. We survived. We made enough sales to cover our table cost and to take home money.
One more project in that time I’ve been off the blog: getting my memoir manuscript out, writing a proposal, going to a conference, and pitching to three agents. My first attempt at doing this — probably not my last. But it was a mixed experience. No one fell over offering me amazing book deals. Nope. But I didn’t get bad responses, either. I got lots of good suggestions and feedback.
And for three weeks, I conducted a library discussion group about Jean Lafitte, using Lyle Saxon’s Lafitte the Pirate and wrote the final report on that.
But write other than that report? Nope. And I need to do that. I have a huge writing project due in January. I spend time thinking about it. I’ll be ready in a week, I think, to hit it full on.
After all that focus on writing — the manuscript I’ve worked on (on and off) for years — I found myself depleted. I’d sit at the computer at first, start to type, and then quit. After a while, I simply stopped trying.
Instead, I turned, as always, to books, to reading. And to hibernating, to sleeping. To visiting with friends. To making jewelry.
Maybe I needed that outward activity, rather than any more inward time. Of course, I also needed antibiotics and steroids.
Now, though, I find myself ready to write again. Words have started popping up in my head, flowing again after weeks of not. In the last couple of days I kept using the Notes app on my iPhone to write down things as I thought of them. This was especially true on Friday, as I traveled west to Nevada.
Here I am at Lake Tahoe, at the Ridge Resort where I have a timeshare (an amazing good deal — but that’s another blog). I’ve not been here since 2011, when I came in September. I flew in to Reno on Friday, took a shuttle here, and have been very quiet.
Not that my life in Lake Charles and in Texas is loud — but it’s involved. Here, I find, I am simply quiet. The television? Haven’t turned it on yet. I cook light meals in the kitchen in my two-bedroom suite. I ate chili in the deli yesterday for lunch. I had an omelet at the deli just now for brunch. I read. A lot. I sleep.
And I visit the spa. Yesterday, I had a foot and hand massage. Today I had my eyebrows done, something I’d been meaning to do for two months. Tomorrow I’ve got a facial scheduled. I’m also thinking of maybe a massage. . . .
Until Tuesday, when friends from the Bay Area come up for a few days. My solitude will end then. It’ll be fun.
Yesterday I realized that I wanted to write again. Today I started. And I’m ready to haul out the memoir and work on that manuscript, beginning another revision, this time with the input of the agents I talked to. And next week I’ll start on the project I’ve got to finish in January.
I’m not going to ski. On the other hand, I probably will ride the ski lift because I want to see the beautiful scenery. The Ridge is right near Heavenly. Isn’t that a great place name?
Somehow, in the last two days, I’ve unwound– when I didn’t even realize that I was wound up. I’ve recovered a sense of balance.
In the last month, I’ve come to see, I was reeling from over-scheduling myself, from setting a series of projects too close together, even simultaneously. Perhaps that’s a natural consequence for me, someone who spent 3 decades (if not more) of constant juggling. I don’t have to do so much all at once. I can spread things out more than I did. Duh. . . I’m retired.
I’m not really sure what triggered the lightbulb moment, but when it happened, I felt the moment of release, of “oh, that’s what I did.” And realized that this has been another step along the way to creating and shaping my life. That I don’t have to pile everything on at once. I can spread it out.
The depression, mild as it was? Probably due to the stealth sinus infection, in part. And the sense of being overwhelmed by projects. Only in part was it grief — November was my mother’s birthday month, and I thought about her often, but not with despair at all. Simply with the sense of missing someone.
No, I can’t blame it on grief. Maybe, too, it’s just a part of my having to manage the ongoing cyclical depression issues I’ve had most of my life. I now recognize the symptoms, and must say they’re milder than ever –thanks to medication, certainly, but also to a much less stressed life. Winter has always been hardest for me, and this year isn’t any different than most years in that respect.
Despite all of this, I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my sister, niece (and her boyfriend) and our friend Charles. I actively look forward to Christmas with the same bunch — at the beach house, our new Christmas tradition. For years I didn’t enjoy Christmas — it was simply another day, something to be endured. Not anymore.
Lots of friends have been posting on Facebook for November (and into December) what they’re thankful for. For me, gratitude is something I chart almost weekly. In the last few weeks, though, I’ve truly been thankful for what I’ve got — even for what (and whom) I’ve had and lost. My life is so much richer for having had friends and family I love, and those who are gone are still with me.
My circle of friends and family is most valuable in my life. I cherish them. My career was wonderful and fulfilling; my retirement is turning out to be the same. I thought I’d miss teaching far more than I have; my memories are, for the most part, warm and wonderful. I now focus on creating in a different way. I focus on love of family, of friends. I’ve been neglectful of some friends, and hope to mend that neglect.
It’s been a time of reflection, of recognition, and of learning about myself yet again.
Words are back.