Sunday, June 10, 2018

The #escapevelocity trip.

My Facebook friends may recognize the hashtag in the title of this post. Over the past several months, I've occasionally posted a status update having to do with my plans for retiring from the day job. (It's 544 days 'til I'm eligible, for those of you following along at home, although it's more likely I'll stick it out for 752 more days.) Hence, #escapevelocity.

Of course, I'll be moving to Colorado. But where? The state is so big and so breathtaking that I knew I'd have to simply put my boots on the ground, so to speak, in a number of places and see which one felt like home. So a couple of weeks ago, I set off on a clandestine trip to spend a few days in a several cities to see where I felt most comfortable. 

The candidates: Longmont, north of Denver; and Buena Vista and Salida, two towns in the "banana belt" of Colorado, which means they're up in the mountains but thanks to a geographical quirk, they don't get a lot of snow. (I know, I know, I'm a wuss. But it's been decades since I lived anywhere that got a lot of snow in the winter, and while I'm sure I could adjust again, why not make it easy?) I briefly visited all three locales last year -- I had lunch with a friend in Longmont and drove through Buena Vista, and while I stayed overnight in Salida, I didn't like the place I'd rented and thought the town deserved another chance.

Also last year, I drove through the tiny village of Twin Lakes, about which more later.

Longmont is a small city of about 93,000 people. It has all the common comforts you typically find in an urban area -- public transit, restaurants, movie theaters, Target, a lovely little yarn shop -- but it's nowhere near as crowded as, say, DC. Plus the city has a state-designated Creative District. It even has its own symphony orchestra. I stayed at the Thompson House Inn and loved it. I could totally see myself settling in Longmont.

Copyright 2018 Lynne Cantwell
Salida has maybe 6,000 people. This time, I stayed at the Palace Hotel, a boutique hotel in the historic district, which was fun. My suite was lovely and a fellow in a chef's toque delivered my continental breakfast every morning. Salida also has a state-designated Creative District. And it sits on the Arkansas River, which is well-known in whitewater rafting and kayaking, plus it's picturesque. 

However, the town is lacking in a lot of things that would make day-to-day life easier.

Buena Vista is about a half-hour north of Salida. It's even smaller -- maybe 3,000 -- and it also sits on the Arkansas River. Tourism is this little town's bread and butter; it's pretty much the gateway to the Browns Canyon National Monument, which is all about whitewater. You can't beat the scenery: besides the river, you have a bunch of hot springs nearby, and the snowcapped Collegiate Peaks (which include Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, and Mt. Princeton) to the west. And the people were friendly and welcoming. But I'm not a rafting person. And alas, if a town of 6,000 didn't have enough amenities for me, you can imagine how I would feel about having to drive an hour and a half from Buena Vista to get to Target. (Walmart is much closer -- there's one in Salida -- but to be honest, being in a Walmart makes my teeth itch.)

So it didn't take long to exhaust the stuff in Buena Vista that I'd come to see. As a free afternoon stretched before me, a little voice in my head said, "Let's drive up to Twin Lakes." So I got in the rental car and headed north.

Twin Lakes is a bend in the road on the eastern downslope from Independence Pass. It has maybe 200 people. And it is not in the banana belt -- it averages 116 inches of snow every winter. But it's got the lakes and the mountains. When I drove through last year, I thought to myself, "This is pretty."

This year, I got out of the car, toured the tiny historical area, walked a little way up a trail, surveyed the landscape, and...well. That's the place. Totally impractical, hell and gone from everything, and my spiritual home.
And this is a bad picture.
Copyright 2018 Lynne Cantwell

There are a bunch of reasons why I wouldn't want to settle there permanently. For one thing, the county won't let you put just a tiny house on a piece of property, let alone live in it full time. So I'm good with just visiting for now. And anyway, I've got 752 days to sort it all out.

***
All this talk of whitewater rafting got me thinking, though. While I was on vacation, I sketched out an idea for a new series. River spirits figure heavily. I'll let you know if anything comes of it.

***
I was hoping I'd be able to tell you this week that Mom's House was available in paperback, but I've been slacking since I came home and only got around to uploading the manuscript to CreateSpace today. I'm sure I'll have more news next week.

***
These moments of bloggy boots on the ground have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Gone walkabout.


As I promised last week, I have gone away. Check this space again next Sunday.

In the meantime, you could be reading your very own copy of Mom's House. Just sayin'.

Regardless, I hope you have a great week!

***
These moments of bloggish rest have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mom's House has been released - almost.

I guess I should have picked a release date for the memoir sooner. Mom's House: A Memoir is now available for pre-order. If you sign up now, it will be delivered to your Kindle bright and early on the morning of Thursday, June 7th.

The cover. Copyright Lynne Cantwell, 2018.
I haven't talked much about the subject matter, other than to say it's a memoir. Basically, the story covers the period from early 1998, when my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, through her death in 2008, and the final resolution of her estate and the family home early this year. The main characters, if you will, are Mom, my brother Larry, and me; and the story is about our relationships, which are as messy as most other families and which include verbal and emotional abuse.

The house is the MacGuffin: the thing that drives the plot. Mom lived there until she died; afterward, I had to take drastic action to get my brother to buy out my interest in the place.

I see Amazon isn't providing a "look inside" during the preorder period, so here's a snippet. This one is about the kitchen, which could be considered the hearth -- however quirky -- of our home.

***
The kitchen work area was in an L-shape. The fridge was along what used to be the back wall of the house, with the sink bang up against it. In the crotch of the L was a rectangular counter that ran alongside the sink and extended to the stove. That eighteen inches of counter space between the stove and the front edge of the sink was the sum total of the workspace in the kitchen, excluding the dinette table, because on the other side of the stove was a squat 30-gallon water heater in a counter-height, sheet-metal cabinet. Mom could have used the top of the water heater cabinet for food preparation, but she didn’t – it was a catch-all space for mail and other stuff.

Mom had two floor cabinets and five wall cabinets in her kitchen; the wall cabinets over the stove and fridge were half-height, and the cabinet next to the sink was half-width. There was a single drawer for silverware between the stove and sink. And that was it.

Mom reduced her puny kitchen workspace even further by stacking a bunch of junk on the one working counter: a breadbox that held junk instead of bread (the breadbox that actually held the bread was on a stand-alone wheeled cart, halfway into the family room), a coffee canister, and a pile of salvaged food containers which she used for leftovers. Mom contended that she wouldn’t have had so much junk out if she had more cabinet space; Dad said if she had more space, she’d just fill it with more junk. And so it went, on and on, year after year.

As I got older, I figured out that no matter how the bickering between my parents started, it always ended up being about the kitchen cabinets. I called them on it once as they were getting warmed up: “Why don’t you just cut to the chase and start arguing about the kitchen cabinets now?” I said. “It would save you a lot of time.” They laughed in guilty acknowledgement. And then they argued about the kitchen cabinets.

Dad eventually relented and bought more storage units, which he sort of scattered about the family room: a metal shelving unit, six shelves high; two sheet-metal cabinets with drawers; a huge double-door cabinet with a Formica countertop and two drawers. He had Uncle John come back and build another wall cabinet above the washer and dryer, and hung a doorless three-shelf cabinet next to it. Mom filled them all with stuff: cake mixes, canned goods, cookie sheets, spare sets of dishes we never used, more salvaged food containers. And still she complained that she didn’t have enough space.

Yes, Mom was a packrat. Dad used to threaten to buy another house for us to live in so that Mom could use ours for storing all of her junk. As I got older, I’d sometimes wonder whether I’d open the newspaper one day and read one of those stories about some little old lady that the county had to get after because her place was stacked floor-to-ceiling with so much trash that it was a fire hazard – only this time, the little old lady would turn out to be Mom.

I’d tell her this, and she’d laugh at herself. Then she’d save more stuff. At one point, she had a dresser drawer full of the red plastic handles that used to come on a gallon of milk, back when gallons of milk still came in waxed-cardboard containers. “I’ll use them for a craft project,” she said. What craft project, Mom? She had no idea. They were just too nice to throw away. “Save it!” she would say, making fun of herself. “It’ll be good someday!”

That’s what growing up in the Depression will do to you, I guess. Dad saved stuff, too, but his collection was out in the garage.

***
If that whetted your appetite for the e-book, click here to pre-order. There will also be a paperback edition, released on or about June 7.

And with that, I'm taking a one-week break. See y'all back here Sunday, June 10th.

***
These moments of homey blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The final moving post.

Are y'all as sick of our move as we are?

I bet you're not!

Kitty, Amy and I spent all afternoon at our old apartment, getting rid of all the stuff we didn't take with us and doing the final cleaning. And not a moment too soon.

I don't think I've ever blogged about why we were in such a hurry to move. The building we've just left is currently undergoing renovation. Now I've lived in rental complexes that were under renovation before, but this is the first time I've ever experienced a renovation of apartments while people are living in them. And we're not just talking about swapping out appliances. Our unit was slated for a premium upgrade -- installing a washer-dryer, opening up the kitchen to let in natural light, swapping out the old appliances for stainless steel, swapping out the old bathroom vanity, tearing out and replacing the radiators in each room. The only thing they're not doing in occupied units that they're doing in vacant units is ripping out the wall-to-wall carpet and putting in vinyl plank flooring.

Sounds great, right? Except installing the washer-dryer has involved drilling through concrete to run the water and drain lines and multiple entrances of our unit for installation of everything. This started over the winter and is not yet done. In fact, there was a notice stuck in our door when we got there today that the building management plans is just now ready to do the final wiring and plumbing and put up drywall. Between the workers' access and the county inspections after each step (necessary, but still), we counted four entrances to our unit over the next two weeks. And we still wouldn't have a washer-dryer -- installation is yet another step that won't be done 'til sometime this summer.

And that's only part of the reno, as I said. The kitchen redo involves knocking out a wall and moving the breaker box for the whole apartment, among other things. And it's supposed to take two weeks. While we're living there. (As I observed to the resident manager, couples who choose to renovate their kitchens sometimes get divorced over it.)

This is apart from the leak in the hallway near our apartment from who-knows-where: maybe another unit, maybe the laundry room. The carpet has been wet for months.

So we gave our notice and moved out. Our new place has a washer-dryer, a much bigger kitchen, two bathrooms (we only had one in the old place), a balcony, and vinyl plank flooring.

I admit I didn't want to move. I'd been in the old building for eight years and I loved the location. And the packing/sorting/packing/giving away/unpacking/cleaning is such a huge hassle. But this new place suits us better. And going back over to the old place today emphasized what a good decision we'd made. Old place = depressing. New place = new home.

***
If I don't pick a release date for the memoir, I'll never get it out the door. So let's say Thursday, June 7, is the day I'll unleash Mom's House on the world. More to come next week.

Also, I still need to do a giveaway for the Transcendence books. Look for that to happen in mid- to late June.

***
These moments of bloggy renovation have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.