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Trish Milburn

Writer Fuel and Maintenance

Maintaining a writing career is a bit like taking the world’s longest road trip. Like the car needs periodic infusions of fuel (and occasional maintenance) or it ends up empty on the side of the road. Sometimes that fuel takes the form of online or in-person craft classes to brush up on the basics or expand one’s range. Other times it’s an order of research books to help bring three-dimensional life and realism to our stories. Attendance at conferences adds business and craft knowledge to our writer toolkit.

Gretchen, Sally, Iron Tanya and Lara

All of those things are awesome ways to refill the well (or the car’s gas tank). But other times you simply need to be around other writers. There is an almost indefinable energy we soak up when we’re around each other. No one else truly understands the writer’s life, the writer’s hopes and fears, struggles with self-doubt and frustrations with industry changes.

When I lived in Nashville, I got my regular infusions of being-around-other-writers energy through monthly RWA chapter meetings, lunch with writer friends, etc. Now I live two hours away from the nearest RWA chapter. I have a couple of writer friends locally and our periodic lunches are great. Still, I miss my dearest writer friends. So it was with great excitement that I’d been looking forward to a visit to the area by fellow Bad Girl Tanya Michaels and her mom. I planned to hang out with them for a bit, maybe have a writing session or two with Tanya.

Fellow Bad Girlz Tanya Michaels and Sally Kilpatrick hard at work.

Imagine my tremendous surprise when I arrived at the condo last Thursday to find that it had all been a ruse — but the very best kind. Tanya was indeed there, but her mom wasn’t. Instead, it gradually clicked in my head that staring back at me from the other side of the doorway was also another Bad Girl, Sally Kilpatrick, and two of my dear friends from Nashville, Gretchen and Lara. They had all driven several hours to surprise me with a month-early birthday weekend. I’m not going to lie; when it dawned on me, I started crying. Oh, and did I mention that they worked my fangirling into the mix as well? It was a superheroes theme weekend. When they opened the door, they were dressed as the Avengers. 🙂

Dan Stevens in Beauty & the Beast (copyright The Walt Disney Co., 2017).

Thus began four days of refilling my writer energy tanks. We talked books, writing, and so much more. (perhaps including fangirl crushes on Dan Stevens, especially after we went to see Beauty & the Beast). We sat on the balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and wrote. We took walks on the beach, collected shells and laughed until our sides hurt and tears were streaming. It was exactly what I needed, and I love them all the more for making it happen. Now I hopefully can forge ahead and write the last 15,000 words of the book I’m working on for Harlequin and dig into some other writing projects with renewed energy. Right after I get a good night’s sleep.


My Process (aka Whatever Works)

I always find it fascinating to read about the writing process for other writers. Some have certain hours during which they write. Others have a page or word count goal that they must reach each day before they allow themselves to quit. Some write at a desk, others on a laptop while curled up in bed. As I read these tales of productivity, I can find something in just about every one that I use as well. You see, my process has evolved over the years into what I like to call Whatever Works That Day.

As the years have passed, I’ve found my attention span shrinking. So I tend to skip around a bit as the day goes along. I’ll illustrate how I’ve been organizing my days this week, for instance. I have three upcoming deadlines: a final proof on my October Harlequin book is due back this Friday; a partial on another Harlequin book is due Monday; and a bunch of short stories I’m judging for a contest are due back a week from Friday but I have to FedEx them back, thus they need to be sent back by next Wednesday. To keep myself from zoning out doing one thing for two long, I’ve had my laptop set up on my breakfast counter where I stand and proof a few pages at a time. Then I’ll go to the dining room table and judge a couple of short stories. Then I plop down on the sofa and write on the partial longhand while watching TV. This crazy method serves several purposes:

  1. I don’t get bored or zone out working on any one thing for too long at a time.
  2. I’m making progress toward all three deadlines.
  3. I’m getting a little bit of exercise by moving from one work station to another, standing at one of them, instead of sitting in one spot for too long.
  4. There’s a bit of reward built into the writing portion. I’ve mentioned this works for me before, how I write X amount and then I get to watch a segment of a TV show that would naturally fall between commercials; then I have to write X amount again.

On days like yesterday, when I had to run some errands, I deliberately did some of my proofing before I ran the errands so that the errand trip served as a break from work and not just a way to delay starting on it. Sometimes I’ll do this with exercise — I’ll work for an hour or so, then stop and take a 30-minute to hour-long walk, then come back and work some more.

The view from one of my favorite writing spots.

Sometimes I use a change of scenery to jump-start my writing. I find being near water relaxing and peaceful, so I’ll either take a notepad and pen down to the local park and sit at a picnic table or pack my beach chair and umbrella over to the beach and alternate writing with staring at the waves.

I remember when I was first starting out and attending conferences, soaking up all the words of wisdom of writers who’d been at this writing game a lot longer, that I’d hear all these “right ways” to be productive. Now, about 20 years in, I realize that there is no “right” way. It truly is whatever works on any given day to get words on the page. And it’s okay if it differs from one day to the next. In this one instance, it’s not the journey that matters but the destination.

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Reflecting and Looking Forward

My husband and I just passed the one year mark since we sold our house, packed up and moved to the Florida coast. It was the culmination of close to two years of work to downsize and simplify. I admit I envisioned calm, serene, simple days ahead during which I’d take leisurely walks on the beach and write flowing prose. Well, 2016 had other things in store.

new-years-eve-1941665_1920My father-in-law got really ill and my husband had to spend three and a half months in Kentucky with him while he was hospitalized and then as he recovered. No matter where you stand, no one can deny that 2016 was a year of upheaval and too much ugliness. We also lost a lot of iconic figures from my youth. It was so bad that people began to dread seeing a person’s name trending on Twitter or Facebook, afraid they’d also been claimed by 2016. I mean, it was truly a sucky year for celebrity deaths. George Michael was one half of the duo Wham, whose album Make it Big was the first cassette I ever bought with my own money. I grew up with the original Star Wars series, so Carrie Fisher’s death was traumatic. And the cast of my all-time favorite show, Firefly, will never be able to all be together again since we lost Ron Glass, who played the wonderful Shepherd Book. On top of all this, I began suffering from a particularly nasty case of burnout. Where once I could write 15 pages a day with little problem and turned in my books early, I struggled to get two books finished and turned in on their due dates. I wasn’t late, but it felt like it to me. Cutting it that close causes me stress.


At the National Naval Air Museum on Pensacola Naval Air Station, home to the Blue Angels.

But the year wasn’t all bad. I did go for walks on the beach, bought myself a beach chair and umbrella and would sometimes take them to the beach to work. Though I still really miss my friends in Nashville, I got into a pretty regular schedule of long lunches with the two other writers I know in this area, Lenora Worth and Sherry Lewis. My husband and I have done a little exploring, visiting the National Naval Air Museum in Pensacola and the lovely Eden Gardens State Park in Santa Rosa Beach. I met some really cool actors at DragonCon, including a personal favorite, Arthur Darvill from Doctor Who and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. I attended my first writing conference in two years in September. And contrary to my natural tendency to want to please people, I got up the courage to renegotiate the delivery dates on the final two books on the current contract so I didn’t have a mental meltdown. The relief I felt after doing so was tremendous. I felt like I had time to take some deep breaths, not work over the holidays and take some time to refill my empty well of inspiration.

The fishing pier and beach a couple of miles from our apartment. A lovely place to go walking.

The fishing pier and beach a couple of miles from our apartment. A lovely place to go walking.

Before moving, January was one of my two least favorite months. In Tennessee, it is often gray and cold. I hate being cold and the gray weather was depressing. Today (it’s Jan. 11 as I write this), here in Florida it was sunny, in the 70s and I had the windows open. This difference helped me to make plans for the year ahead. Yes, there are goals related to writing, but I made the decision to not push myself so much and to do some fun things I’d been putting off. Thus, I signed up for a beginning sewing class (with the idea of eventually being good enough to make my own cosplay outfits) and I’m getting back into genealogy, including doing one of the Ancestry DNA tests to learn more about my family history. I’ve already signed up for the Novelists, Inc., conference this fall, and I’ll be attending the Romance Writers of America conference in Orlando this summer. And Disney fan that I am, I plan to have some Disney parks time in there too since the conference is being held on property. I’ll be back at DragonCon, letting my geek girl flag fly with my geek girl peeps. I set a goal on Goodreads to read 50 books this year, and I plan to meet that goal.

goal-976853_1920And if I don’t finish everything on my to-do list each day? Well, I’m going to try not to stress about that. One of my main goals is to alleviate all the stress that is under my control. I think I’ll be happier and healthier. I’m going walking every day and listening to books and writing-related podcasts. Basically, I want to craft my days so that I lead a happy, well-rounded life.

Do you plan for the year ahead? If so, did you approach anything differently this year?

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Music to My Ears

If you were to peruse my playlist, you might find yourself scratching your head. I have a rather eclectic taste in music, and what I listen to depends a lot on my mood. I don’t typically listen to music when I write like some writers do. I’m a “write in the quiet” kind of person. I’m too easily distracted by the lyrics and want to sing along instead of concentrating on my story.

I have come to a point in my life where I now hear songs in the grocery store, sometimes in Muzak form, that were popular when I was a teenager. I’ve darn near danced to After the Fire’s “Der Kommissar” while shopping for produce.

With my bestie, author MJ Fredrick.

When I first started to develop my own musical tastes, I gravitated toward pop. I used to listen to America’s Top 40 countdown with Casey Kasem each week. I can remember having a tape recorder sitting next to the radio so I could record my favorite songs. I’d hate it when they cut them short, talked over them or someone came into my room and said something, thus ruining the recording. My first true favorite band was Duran Duran. I still own a Duran Duran T-shirt, though not from that era. I bought it to wear to an ’80s-themed birthday party. The first cassette I bought with my own money was Wham!’s Make it Big.

As I moved into high school, it was all about rock and the hair bands. I started going to concerts of my choosing (Poison, Warrant, KISS) rather than the third-tier country I’d been dragged to in my youth with my parents. (NOTE: As an adult I lived in Nashville for 21 years, literally 12 miles from the Grand Ole Opry, and I still don’t like country music, except for the occasional song and Johnny Cash.) I watched Headbangers’ Ball on Friday nights because we lived in the boonies and didn’t have MTV.

My love of rock and metal has survived into my current mid 40s. I still routinely turn up the radio loud in my car and rock out while everyone around me is listening to country or, shudder, talk radio. I listen to bands like Shinedown, Ghost and Metallica. But the part of me that loves TV and movies also discovers a lot of music that way, some of it rock and some of it indie. One of my newest additions is “Way Down We Go” by Kaleo, which is in the trailer for Logan, the upcoming Wolverine movie. Another is Ruelle’s “War of Hearts”, which is used in this scene from Shadowhunters (Warning: Spoilers!)

I’m a huge fan of movie soundtracks, traditional Chinese music (such as that on the House of Flying Daggers soundtrack), and Celtic music, both traditional and Celtic rock from bands such as Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, Seven Nations, Enter the Haggis and others. I also love Scottish pipes and drums from bands such as Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Okay, your turn. What is your favorite genre of music? Favorite singers or bands? Do you have eclectic tastes, too? What genre is your least favorite or like nails on a chalkboard to you? What are the latest songs you’ve added to your playlist.

Note: You can click on any of the hyperlinks in this post to hear samples of the music mentioned.


Witnessing History

hillary_clinton_official_secretary_of_state_portrait_cropI’m going to start out by saying that while this may at first appear to be a political post, that’s not it’s main intent. But as I was contemplating a topic for today’s blog, I kept coming back to the fact that today is, regardless of the results of the U.S. elections, a historic day. It’s the first Election Day in U.S. history that has had a woman as the nominee of one of the two major parties. Whether or not Hillary Clinton wins, that fact is something that will go down in history books. If she does win, the United States will have the first female president in our nation’s 240-year history.

There is something remarkable about being a witness to truly historic moments. Eight years ago we witnessed it when Barack Obama became the first African-American president, indeed the first president we’ve ever had that wasn’t a white male.

obama_swearing_inAmerican history is filled with these moments, good and bad, that command the entirety of newspapers’ front pages. Moments like the beginning and end of the Civil War, the end of slavery, the moon landing, the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, the bombing at Pearl Harbor and 9/11. These are the moments during which people remember where they were, even decades later.

I was born a year after the moon landing and I have no memory of the Vietnam War or its end. The first historic event I really remember is the release of the U.S. hostages from Iran in January 1981, when I was 10 years old. The next big event imprinted on my memory was the Challenger explosion in January 1986, when I was 15. It happened on a day when we were out of school because of snow and it was devastating because of the loss of life, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, and the uncertainty it caused as to whether our shuttle program would ever fly again.

pearlharborattackhonolulustarOf course, we all prefer to bear witness to the positive important moments, and that got me to thinking — what truly historic moments would I like to see in my lifetime? I’d love to see some things like world peace, but realistically I don’t know that it’s even possible. But for things that I believe are feasible, among my top choices would be a cure for cancers (one cure does not fit all) and a cure for Alzheimer’s/dementia. I’d also like to see us halt global climate change by making aggressive adjustments to our energy systems. I don’t want to see us go past the point of no return in destroying the planet. And culturally, I’d like to see an end to racism and misogyny.

And if chocolate cake could become non-fattening, that would be awesome. 🙂

So I’d like to hear your hopeful choices for historic moments you’d like to see in your lifetime. Ready…set…go!


Quick Meals for Writers

The header of this post is the theme for the next several blog posts, and when I first saw it I was like, “But my husband does the cooking!” When I thought about it, however, I knew what I wanted to blog about. I’ve been eating more healthfully lately and counting my calories. So I thought I’d share my easy recipe for grilled chicken salad complete with calorie counts. This salad is filling, which can’t always be said of salads, and full of flavor. And it takes only enough time to make it to give me a quick break from sitting at my computer. I can eat it while continuing to work or while I take a short break from work. After I finish eating, it’s back to the computer I go — especially when I have a week like this one stuffed with deadlines that are mere days away.

p1110150But you may be saying it takes time to cut up and grill chicken. Enter the pre-cooked, grilled chicken strips or chunks/cubes in your grocery store’s frozen food section. Tonight I happened to have a tad spicier fajita chicken strips for use in my salad. Having these on hand drastically cuts down on the amount of time assembling this salad takes. I put two tablespoons of Italian dressing in a skillet (the only dressing I use), dial it to slightly about medium heat, and let it cook, flipping occasionally, while I assemble the rest of the ingredients. When I’m done with all the other ingredients, the chicken is ready to go on top. Here’s what I use:

4 leaves of romaine lettuce = 13 calories
4 ounces grilled chicken = 146 calories
2 tablespoons Italian dressing = 60 calories
10 green/Spanish/Manzanilla olives = 50 calories
1/4 cup chick peas/Garbanzo beans = 55 calories
About 1/4 of a chopped, peeled cucumber = 10 calories
A sprinkling of shredded Cheddar cheese = 50 calories
6 cherub tomatoes = 18 calories
TOTAL = 402 calories

p1110152Sometimes I add guacamole, which is an additional 25 calories per tablespoon. You can obviously add or take away whatever ingredients you want; just make sure to watch the calories as some things might have more than you’re expecting.

Happy and healthy eating! Now I’ve got to get back to work. Book due in six days!


In Love with Stories

One of my all-time favorite shows is Doctor Who. It’s filled with very quotable moments, but one of my favorites comes from the episode “The Big Bang.” The Doctor says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” Some writers say they are character-focused; others say the plot comes first. I struggle with answering that question because the characters and plot seem to arrive in my head close to the same time, hand in hand. The characters aren’t the story; the plot isn’t the story. Together, they are the story.

Stories-lI’ve loved stories and the stories behind the stories for as long as I can remember. I think most people are like this. It’s why Humans of New York posts are so popular. Why posts on social media about people overcoming adversity, finding long-lost relatives, experiencing joyful reunions and other heartwarming stories get tons of likes and shares. Especially in a world that can have so much negativity and sadness, we consciously or possibly unconsciously seek out these stories that lift our spirits and renew our faith in humanity, give us hope. It’s one of the reasons I love watching the Olympics — the inspirational stories behind he athletes. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorites from this year’s Games.

Yusra Mardini — Swimming, Refugee Team — I can only imagine what Mardini has gone through to get to the Olympics. She fled Syria with her sister and had to swim 3 1/2 hours guiding a overloaded dinghy through the Aegean Sea to arrive safely on the island of Lesbos in Greece.

David Rudisha — Track & Field, Kenya — His back-to-back gold medals in the 800m are impressive, but I loved the story of how he started the Maasai Olympics, an event that allows Maasai warriors to compete against each other in athletic events as an alternative to lion hunting in an effort to protect the lion population in Kenya.

Rafaela Silva — Judo, Brazil — After growing up in Rio’s City of God favela (slum) and enduring racism following her appearance at the London Olympics, Silva captured the host country’s first gold medal.

pool-545487_1920Simone Manuel — Swimming, USA — Became the first U.S. woman to win a medal in swimming. This is particularly significant since she is African-American and our country has a shameful history of not letting African-Americans swim in public pools, seeing them as tainted if they so much as touched the water.

Zahra Nemati — Archery, Iran — Nemati was originally a taekwondo athlete, but she was hit by a car at 18 and paralyzed from the waist down. Now wheelchair-bound, she retrained in archery and is so good that she qualified for both the Paralympics and the Olympics. She was chosen as Iran’s flag-bearer in the opening ceremonies, leading out a predominantly male team.

Romance, Olympics style — I’ve heard of two marriage proposals at this year’s Olympics. One came right after Chinese diver He Zi received her silver medal in the 3m springboard competition. Her boyfriend, fellow Chinese diver Qin Kai, dropped to one knee and proposed. Aww! The first proposal of this year’s Olympics has gotten less coverage. Brazilian rugby player Isadora Cerullo was surprised by her girlfriend Marjorie Enya when she proposed at the conclusion of Brazil’s final match of the Games. More aww! Hey, I write romance, so I’m a sucker for a great proposal scene.

There are so many more inspiring stories — all of the members of the Refugee Team, Simone Biles’ hard beginning as a child of drug-addicted parents, the presence of more female athletes from countries that are known for oppressing women, Ibtihaj Muhammad — the first female athlete from the USA to wear a hijab, who went on to win a bronze medal with the U.S. women’s fencing team, and so many more.

Are you an Olympics fan? What are your favorite inspiring stories coming out of these Olympics? What are some of your favorite sources for real-life story inspiration?


The Importance of Movement

I couldn’t tell you the number of articles and blog posts I’ve read that talk about how writing is a sedentary profession. And it is, just like any of the millions of office jobs held by people around the world. We know that having such a job, we have to be conscious of things like weight gain and circulatory problems that come from sitting too long at a time. But having such a job, where we sit in a chair and look at a computer screen for hours a day, also has other repercussions that hamper our very ability to move.

physiotherapy-567021_1280A few years ago, all those years of sitting at a computer began to catch up to me. My range of motion suffered, and there was a persistent ache in my bones. Was I just getting older and everyone had to deal with this? Maybe to some extent, but I also started going to both a chiropractor and a massage therapist every few months. It helped and I liked them both. So when I moved to a different state, I had to begin the process of finding both types of professionals again. Luckily, I think I’ve been able to do so. I’ve only been to the massage therapist once since moving here, but it was nice to have that feeling of relaxation afterward.

I typically get deep tissue massage because it really helps release the tightness in my shoulders that comes from typing. Another thing that I didn’t expect when I first started going to a massage therapist was how much the sides of my hip joints hurt when she worked on those areas. She said that’s also common with people who sit a lot. Besides just simple relaxation, massage has a lot of benefits, helping to alleviate anxiety (which I admittedly have some issues with), digestive issues (ditto), headaches (ditto), TMJ (beginning to have issue with this), fibromyalgia and circulation.

massage-1237913_1280When we first moved to Florida, my main concern with finding a good chiropractor is that I tend to have a rib in my back that sometimes pops out. Yeah, that’s all kinds of fun. It did so while we were loading our moving truck — really bad timing. But since finding my new chiropractor, he’s been working on an issue that I’d never had fixed before. I didn’t have full range of motion in my neck, hadn’t for years. My neck didn’t want to adjust one direction, and my previous chiropractor didn’t want to force it. And I agreed because I was having horrible images of my neck breaking if he did. The new chiropractor showed me my X-rays of my head and spine in my neck leaning forward on its own and how that was causing calcification on the lower vertebrae in the front of my neck to hold my head up (the human head weighs between 10 and 11 pounds, not unlike carrying a bowling bowl around on top of your spine). He said this was more common in the past 20 years when we’re always looking down at devices (phones, tablets, etc.) and at computer screens. This was going to cause more issues as I got older if not corrected. He did say that most chiropractors are no longer even taught how to adjust the C1 vertebra (the one out of place, at the top of the spine where it connects to the skull), but he said that if that C1 is out of place it has a cascade effect on the rest of the spine.

wellness-589770_1920I was admittedly nervous when he showed me just how much he was going to have to turn my head and how, and when he said that at least initially it wasn’t going to be pleasant and I might not like him very much. It took several visits before he was even able to begin to adjust it (or I was remotely comfortable with him trying). But the first time it moved noticeably, so much pressure alleviated and the headaches I’d been having every day disappeared. I’m not going to lie and say that those adjustments are a piece of cake now. They’re over quickly, but they’re still unpleasant, but I have more range of motion than I’ve had in years and I’m thrilled not to have constant headaches. I was also given neck exercises to do at home to help keep things stretched out and moving. But a word of caution — make sure if you ever go this route or have it checked out, go to a chiropractor with experience in this area. There are even chiropractors who specialize in C1 adjustments or at least are upper cervical specialists. Do your research.

Whatever methods you find for relieving tension and pain (I’d love to know everyone’s suggestions), I hope you’re able to do so and thus be able to continue writing the stories you love to write and that readers love to read.


Binge, Baby, Binge

When not writing or editing, one of my favorite things to do is watch the creative efforts of TV writers. Like, I really, seriously love TV. When we lowered our cable package last year, losing networks such as BBC America and SyFy, two of my faves, it was a sacrifice on my part. I told myself I could get the seasons of the shows I watched on those networks later on from Netflix. Then when we sold our house, I thought maybe we’d move somewhere with a great cable company (LOLOLOL! Yes, I know, I can hear all of your laughter now) and I could get those networks back. But when we saw how much the cable was going to be and knowing what a pain in the behind the last company was, we made the decision to not get cable at all. Horrors!

Copyright STARZ

Copyright STARZ

Instead, we signed up for streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sling (just during the time period for The Walking Dead since that’s the only way you can get it live without cable). I later added the Starz add-on to Amazon to watch Outlander and HBO Now to get Game of Thrones. And you know what? I don’t miss cable! Why I am now seriously in love with streaming:

  1. No cable bill and I don’t have to deal with price hikes and the madness that is trying to talk to a live person at the cable company!
  2. If I want to cancel one of the streaming services, it’s easy. No endlessly being transferred from one person to another in hopes that I’ll give up and just keep the cable and the accompanying bill.
  3. Black Sails, copyright STARZ

    Binge watching! Anyone who really knows me know that I’m a big binge watcher when I find something I really like. Most recently it was Black Sails. I watched all three seasons in less than a week. Loved it! Pirates! Sailing ships! History! Hot men! What’s not to love?

  4. Being able to go back and watch things I missed — either seasons I simply hadn’t seen yet (like I just finished last season’s The Last Ship; hmm, ships and hot men, I’m sensing a pattern) or shows I’ve not seen at all but can now totally binge (Grimm, Merlin and Call the Midwife are on my list).
  5. No commercials! I don’t even have to fast forward through ones on a DVR.

Copyright TNT

Are you a binge watcher? If so, what is the last thing you binged? And help me with my to-watch list — what should I add?


Life’s a Beach!

A little more than a month ago, my husband and I sold our house in Tennessee, loaded up the moving truck and headed south. It was the culmination of a long and sometimes extremely stressful journey, but the end result was worth it. I’d long wanted to live near the beach, even though I have no plans to actually go in or on the water itself. I like being water-adjacent. 🙂 It’s peaceful, relaxing, warmer! We raced out of Nashville right after we signed the papers selling our house, in between two snowstorms.

12509811_10206517770957637_4184724349923614176_nOur journey to a simpler, less-stressful life actually goes back about four years. That’s when my husband retired early after being severely burned out by his corporate job. To me, it was worth losing his salary to see him put himself on a road to being physically and mentally healthier. The difference in him between then and now is huge. He’s happier and that makes me happier.

About a year later, I lost my mom. It was heartbreaking, and I had to get through the first year of the grieving process before I was finally ready to make some big changes in my life. That’s when we started what I like to call The Great Culling — selling belongings on eBay and Craigslist, having yard sales, hauling stuff off to the Goodwill or giving it to friends. We had way too much stuff for two people. And our house was too big, too expensive to maintain. While most people don’t think of Tennessee as a cold state, I was still miserable from about November through at least March. There was occasional snow and ice and single-digit temps. None of that made me happy. Quite the opposite. And dreary, cloudy days usually accompanied the cold weather.

I’d wanted to live at the beach, or at least nearby, for a long time. So we made that our goal. Last year we went through some very stressful renovations to the house to help it sell, two different contractors, and having the first two buyers back out. I fell and broke my wrist, had surgery and rehab and all the lovely medical bills that come with that. When we finally signed the papers selling our house to the third buyers, I almost couldn’t believe what I’d dubbed the Year of Suck was over.

12654256_10206619294575664_8371068781974053244_nWe didn’t know if we would buy or rent, so we booked a vacation condo for a bit more than a month. We leave here tomorrow for our apartment. We’re going to try apartment living again for a year to see if we like it. We haven’t lived in an apartment in more than 15 years, but the idea of not having to do yard work or be responsible for maintenance and having way less space to clean is attractive at this point. Will we feel the same in a year? We’ll see. I like the flexibility it gives us, too. If we wanted to up and move somewhere else in a year, we could without having to worry about selling a house.

We’re also cutting the cable cord and going with streaming. This relieves the frustration of having to deal with cable companies, their random price hikes and mysterious hidden fees. We’re trying to get fitter and healthier. We’ve been walking almost every day since we arrived in Florida. It’s not a trial when you’re staring at the sparkling water of the Gulf of Mexico. Our new apartment complex has an exercise room, so we’ll be making use of that as well. And eating better. I’ve lost count of how many shrimp I’ve eaten since we arrived here. 🙂

The hubby, though retired at an early age from a “day job,” stays busy with the financial stuff to make sure we can continue to live this less-stressful life and still pay our bills. He’s also the main cook and deals with all the time-suck activities such as figuring out our health care insurance, things that would take away from my writing and editing time and probably make me pull my hair out.

It’s taken a while for us to get here, but I’m looking forward to seeing what our new life has in store and exploring the area. If all of my besties would just move here, too, it would be perfect. 🙂 Making big changes are often scary, mainly because we get in a set pattern and place and it’s hard to heave ourselves out of it. Change is hard. But I believe sometimes in life, making the big change is exactly what’s needed.


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