Shelves and Books

The blog was a little late today, because my husband and I had some shopping to do:

Shelves, barn doors, and more shelves (and my dog Skeet)

That’s the lumber for all the stuff I’ll be building (or rebuilding) for the rental house. Custom U-shaped shelves for the pantry, re-cutting and staining the shelves and bench for the mudroom, and the open shelves to go in the kitchen. When the fire happened, the pantry was finished, and the rest of those were stained and waiting to be installed.

After the fire, when our plan turned to selling the place, we decided to deck out the upstairs with a sweet new bathroom, and a 14′ walk-through closet. The latter will need custom closet organizers, since one of the walls is a 5′ high knee wall. It’s also getting a barn door, since the opening on one end is an odd size. There will be a second barn door in the dining room at the bottom of the steps. We could buy them for $300-400 each… or build them for less than $100, and get them custom sized to boot. I found this great online tutorial, and they don’t look that difficult. So my work is cut out for me for the next couple months! Oh wait, it’s not cut. I have to do that too. It will be fun. 😀

On another note, I promised last week I’d share some books that helped me learn about adrenal fatigue (I slept well last night for once, thank goodness, or that shopping trip and carry-in would have been rough).

I started out thinking maybe it was just the onset of menopause, so I found Female Brain Gone Insane by Mia Lundin. While I wasn’t having the dramatic mood issues many of her patients were in the anecdotes, a lot of the other things these ladies were dealing with sounded familiar. I had never heard of adrenal fatigue until I reached the last section in this book, and it was a major light bulb moment–these were the symptoms I was dealing with! I also got started on vitamins and supplements due to what I read here.

The next book I picked up was Is it Me or My Adrenals by Marcelle Pick. This went into a lot more depth, since it was focused solely on that subject. This was also the one that promoted diet as the main fix for adrenal fatigue–a time-consuming, labor-intensive meal plan that eliminated all processed foods and sugars. I tried one week of the recipes, and didn’t even make them all–who has the time and energy for that, on top of a full-time job? Not me.

I’m Too Young for This! by Suzanne Sommers focused more on menopause and perimenopause, but had some good info in it. I reviewed it here.

Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by Dr. James Wilson is probably one of the first books to come out on this subject, and goes into it in even more detail than Is it Me or My Adrenals. Wilson is one of the pioneers in research for it, and I loved that this book went over the history of the condition. Adrenal fatigue has been recognized since the late 19th/early 20th centuries, and was commonly treated then. This came in handy when I was writing Time’s Best Friend, when I needed a reason Florie’s mother couldn’t step in and help her all the time. I figured, why not get some use out of my own experience? 🙂

Author Fawne Hanson offered me a copy of her book, The Adrenal Fatigue Solution, in exchange for an honest review, after seeing me mention the above on my blog a while back. The book was good and contained a lot of good information, and I reviewed it here. The book isn’t available anywhere I could find except her website. Her website also has a lot of good information.

What I’ve Been Reading: Smith’s Monthly #39 by Dean Wesley Smith, featuring the novel Ace High. This is the novel he wrote in five days while on a trip to Las Vegas. It’s amazing what we can do if we prepare properly, have the right mindset, and are used to just sitting down and writing, which is his process. And Ace High was really good, one of his Cold Poker Game mysteries about retired detectives solving really twisted crimes–proof that as a reader, I can’t tell how fast a book was written, whether or not it was revised (he doesn’t), and whether or not it was outlined (he doesn’t).

ROW80Logo175

What I’ve Been Writing: Unfortunately, again, not much. I think this scene just isn’t interesting me enough (which means it won’t interest readers, either). I need to just wrap it up quickly and move on, and trim it in the process. It’s not like my book isn’t already long. 😀 So that’s my ROW80 plans for this week: Trim and finish that scene, and begin the next, which should be fun.

What about you–as a reader, can you tell if a book was written fast or slow, or with or without an outline? Have you ever built shelves, and if so, do you have any suggestions for me? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Why we’re tired, and what can we do about it?

In last week’s post, I discussed Adrenal Fatigue, which is a big contributor to my not getting as much writing done as I’d like. Hmm… that sounds an awful lot like an excuse, but that’s part of the parcel, too–when we’re tired, it’s hard to be motivated and make good choices. Physical and mental fatigue leads to decision fatigue–do I watch another episode of Fixer Upper, or do I write? Too often when I’m tired, it’s the former.

First, I should probably back up and expand a little on what Adrenal Fatigue is not. Oh, and just a reminder, I’m not a health professional, and this is not health advice, just me sharing my experience.

Adrenal Fatigue is not Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The main symptom of both is fatigue, but CFS is a different condition altogether. It’s much more severe, and has other symptoms. The cause is not understood, and it’s not curable. Adrenal fatigue is primarily caused by stress, illness or injury, exposure to toxins, other hormonal imbalance, or (probably in most cases) a combination of these. It can be treated, which I’ll discuss below.

Adrenal Fatigue is also not Addison’s Disease (what one commenter noted as adrenal insufficiency). They’re similar, because both are a condition of low cortisol. But Addison’s is much more severe, where the body makes almost no cortisol or other adrenal hormones. It can be a life-threatening condition requiring medication for the rest of one’s life. Addison’s typically is the result of damage to the adrenal glands due to injury, infection, or disease.

Adrenal Fatigue is diagnosed by testing the levels of free cortisol in the body over a period of 24 hours. Testing over time is important, because the amount of cortisol in our bodies fluctuates throughout the day, typically rising in the morning, spiking, then tapering off throughout the rest of the day.

I noted in last week’s post, most traditional doctors won’t diagnose adrenal fatigue. It’s no longer taught in medical school, and I imagine much of that is because there is so much other information that must be taught. Also, the treatments for it do not include any highly-profitable offerings from big pharma, so none of these companies push for it to be taught, as they do for other conditions. And finally, there’s no insurance code to classify it under. As a result, many doctors believe it doesn’t exist.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t. Until recent decades, many doctors considered PMS to be “all in our heads.” People with CFS or Fibromyalgia were often dismissed as hypochondriacs. But today these conditions are all widely recognized.

For me, the proof was in the numbers. I’d invite anyone who thinks adrenal fatigue isn’t real to take a look at my cortisol chart:

The black lines show the high and low of what’s considered normal range. The red line is my cortisol. The photo is hard to see, but my cortisol is hovering right around the low end of the range – below it on waking, in fact. A physiological reason why I’m soooooo not a morning person! Only at night does my cortisol go toward the high range–which could explain my insomnia, another symptom of adrenal fatigue. I don’t think it takes a medical degree to look at this graph and conclude that it’s not right.

So what to do about adrenal fatigue? The first thing is to reduce stress wherever possible. I’m fortunate in that my job isn’t stressful, nor is anything in my home life. That’s not to say I don’t have stress, but I now try to be conscious about when I’m bringing it on to myself, like pushing too hard with my writing late at night. Now I try to be kind to myself and not push when it’s just not happening. Unfortunately, this results in less output, but that’s a tradeoff I have to make.

Vitamins and supplements are important, too. For me, these include a good multivitamin, additional B, C, and D vitamins, a probiotic, fish oil, and a couple of different adrenal support supplements. I also take magnesium at night. If I miss a day on any of them, no big deal, but if I run out of something and miss more than a couple days, I notice my energy levels being even lower than they are now. Fish oil is a big help for the brain fog, and I definitely notice if I run out of it.

There are also a few things to avoid. Certain medications will certainly contribute to fatigue–that’s pretty much a no-brainer. Sometimes, substitutes can be found, sometimes it’s just something we have to deal with. In my case, the medication I take for migraines does have an effect. I’ve tried a number of alternatives, but they all either didn’t work, or had such bad side-effects I’d rather have the headaches. Alcohol also doesn’t play nicely with adrenal fatigue. While I haven’t given that up entirely, I never have more than one beer in an evening, because it’s just not worth how wiped out I feel later and the next day. I only partake once or twice a week at most.

Some of the books I read also recommended cutting out, or drastically reducing caffeine. While I haven’t cut that out completely–not going to happen, with my headaches–I only use a little in the morning, and never past mid-afternoon.

The books generally recommend exercise, which I can certainly agree with to a point, the point being that I’m too tired to do any major exercise. But I try to at least get a walk in daily–preferably outside with my dogs, or on the treadmill with a good book if it’s too cold/crappy outside. And the exercise does help.

A quick Amazon search will result in several books claiming to have the cure for adrenal fatigue. Most of these focus on diet, and they’re all similar–an extremely restrictive elimination diet that removes all processed foods, sugars, and often gluten and dairy. The intent is to remove sources of inflammation, similar to the Whole 30 diet. I haven’t tried this yet, as the prep and cooking is extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming. Have these authors forgotten that hello? I’m tired! Also, I work a full-time job. It might be doable with Once A Month Meals, but even then, the cooking day would be exhausting.

And once again, this is getting really long (sigh). I wanted to share some of the books I’ve read and my thoughts on them, but that will have to wait until next week. At least I’m not running out of blog ideas. 😀

What I’ve Been Reading: Desiree, by Maria McKenzie. This historical romance set in the deep South prior to the Civil War was an unusual one in that the heroine is a slave, and the hero her owner. Desiree herself  is unusual too in that she takes after her white father, with fair hair, light skin, and blue eyes–enough that she can “pass” for white if in a place where no one knows her. The hero inherits her along with his uncle’s plantation, and is instantly smitten with her. But it takes her a while to trust in and fall for him, and reading of her slow progression from distrust to true caring is a wonderful journey. The characters and their romance are believable and well-drawn, as well as the characters’ flaws and their struggles against society. I’ve read and enjoyed most of McKenzie’s other books, and this one is highly recommended!

ROW80Logo175

What I’ve Been Writing: In short, not much. I wrote two days this week, for a total of less than 1,000 words. Sigh. I guess it’s better than nothing. So this week, I want to finish that scene, and begin the next.

What about you–any thoughts on what I wrote above about adrenal fatigue? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing-related or not? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Are You Tired of Being Tired?

If so, you’re not alone. And it’s a pretty common state for me too, since I have Adrenal Fatigue. Also one reason why I’m just now getting around to posting this.

The rental house with new siding, done in December

The other reason is that my husband and I stopped over at the rental house. After learning last week that our renovation and enhancements are going over budget, we looked over the contractor’s list of tasks to see what we could take on ourselves. For my husband, that includes refinishing the hardwood floors… again. For me, that includes rebuilding the custom U-shaped shelves for the pantry, and building the mudroom and kitchen shelves, part of which were done before the fire. I’ll also be building some simple closet organizers for the new second floor master suite closet. I needed measurements for these, because the pantry had to be completely re-walled (that was in the part of the house where the fire was), and the master closet is new.

I’m actually looking forward to building these, because some of the rebuild will actually simplify them from what was there before. They’ll also be good practice for our new house–we are planning to finish out the lower level ourselves. Also I like building stuff. Once I do them, I’ll detail them out here. I know for me personally, it was surprising what I can build once I believed I could. I’ll write more about that sometime, too.

One of the things that gets between me and building stuff, writing, or heck… anything, is fatigue. And before I go further, I have to give the standard disclaimer: I’m not a healthcare professional, nor do I write about one, and this is not medical advice. I’m just sharing my own experience, and encourage you to consult your own healthcare provider, do your own research, etc.

Some days the fatigue is worse than others. Those days tend to be ones where I slept even less well than I normally do (yeah, insomnia is a symptom of adrenal fatigue, go figure). My migraines also figure into this, as does the weather: dropping barometric pressure and rain=bad, sun=good. And it’s much worse in winter, with cold, short days. I’m always happy for daylight savings time to begin.

So what the heck is adrenal fatigue? Well, you might have adrenal fatigue if:

  • You are tired all the time and all other reasonable explanations have been ruled out.
  • You are or have been under a lot of stress.
  • Caffeine and other stimulants are of minimal help, but are still necessary to get through the day (or at least get it started, in my case).
  • Alcohol makes you really, really tired.
  • You’re totally wiped out at the end of the day, yet you can’t sleep.
  • You have an illness that you just can’t kick. You get sick easily, and when you do, it takes forever to get over (because adrenal hormones are instrumental in immune system function and recovery).
  • You are often cranky, depressed, and/or easily frustrated.
  • You have frequent digestive issues.
  • You are a lady of a “certain age”
  • You have brain fog…

Of course, most of those are symptomatic of many other things too, especially menopause. So yeah, ladies of a certain age (like me) are particularly susceptible to adrenal fatigue. But anyone can get it, including men. However, the biggest indicator of adrenal fatigue is our cortisol levels.

Cortisol gets a bad rap for being the stress hormone, and indeed, that’s how earlier-stage adrenal fatigue often starts out. When we’re constantly stressed out or in a state of high alert, cortisol levels go up–basically, the body’s fight-or-flight response. Normally, it’s not a matter of life-and-death in modern society, but our bodies don’t know the difference between running from a tiger, and trying to meet a deadline when the boss throws more changes at you every few minutes. The problem happens when cortisol levels go up… and stay up. This takes your body’s energy away from functions like higher-level brain function and digestion, causing problems in those areas. This ultimately results in a tired-but-wired state.

Eventually, the adrenals can’t keep up with the constant demand, and cortisol production slows. This results in one being tired all the time. Because you see, it’s cortisol that gives us energy. When the adrenals are injured to the point that no cortisol is produced, this is a very different condition than adrenal fatigue called Addison’s Disease, and it’s life-threatening. Adrenal fatigue isn’t life-threatening, it’s just being low-energy.

The job I’ve had for the past ten years isn’t particularly stressful, nor do I have problems around the home adding to stress. But in the past, I have tended to push myself with the writing, and that can add up when combined with all the other responsibilities we all have around the home, the need to do-all-the-things. Illness and injury can trigger it too, as well as working or living in an environment where one is exposed to a lot of toxins in the air/water/etc. And finally, being menopausal or perimenopausal adds to the stresses on the adrenal glands, as when the production of sex hormones slows, the adrenals try to pick up the slack. I had a bad bout of flu in 2014, which is when the fatigue really kicked in, and I’m also at that “certain age.” So in my case, a number of factors contributed.

Before I go on, let me say that I hope this doesn’t sound complainy, because it’s not. Every time I catch myself thinking like that, I remember that I’m not fighting cancer, as some of my friends are. Adrenal fatigue is really not a big deal; I’m just tired. It does affect my life, but only minimally compared to what an injury or illness would. I’m sharing this because adrenal fatigue afflicts many, many people who may have never heard of it, because it hasn’t received much (if any) emphasis in medical education for decades. Because of that, and the fact that so many other conditions share its symptoms, and there’s no formal insurance code for it, most traditional doctors don’t diagnose it. It’s much more likely to be identified by a practitioner of functional medicine or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

This is getting long, so I’ll pick up next week with more info on how adrenal fatigue is identified, how it can be treated, and some references you can check out to learn more–because again, I’m not a healthcare professional.

What I’ve been Reading: This week, I finished Smith’s Monthly #38 by Dean Wesley Smith, including the novel The Deep Sunset. This novel was in the Ghost of a Chance series, about ghost agents who use their powers to help people and sometimes, save the world. I don’t know if it’s because my reading of it was kind of broken up, but this one seemed more convoluted than any in this series so far, and I found it a little hard to follow. It also included a larger cast of characters, some of whom I “knew” from another series, but many of whom were new, so a lot of people to follow too. But it was still entertaining enough to finish. This is a fun series and I do recommend it, but not to start with this book, even though they don’t need to be read in any order.

ROW80Logo175

What I’ve been Writing: I finished the read-through of my WIP on Sunday, and got back into writing on Monday. Even better, I wrote for four days out of the week, and finished a scene for a total of about 2100 words. So, win! This week, I want to write another scene, or better yet, two.

What about you–had you heard of adrenal fatigue? Are you interested in learning more? Feel free to ask questions! Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Rental House Redux

This past week, my husband, brother, and I stopped over to check on the rental house–the first time the three of us had been there together since the place caught on fire.

The contractor’s work seems to be moving along well–they have drywall up everywhere, and of course, rough-in plumbing and electric. It was encouraging to see. And better yet? Not one whiff of smoke.

One thing I can tell my writer friends is that there is nothing like the smell of burnt house. I went over there the day after the fire and, holy cow, the smoke smell was overpowering! As a writer, I’m supposed to be able to describe sensory details, but the pervasiveness of the smoke smell in that house almost defies description. It was so thick I could almost see the carbon molecules in the air I was breathing. And all I could think of was how fast I wanted to get out of there.

A couple months ago, I read a novel in which a character entered a recently-burned building. I could tell this author had not had that experience, as she barely even mentioned the smoke, much less how cloying and sickening it is (especially when there are emotions attached to it, as there should have been in the story). (Otherwise, the book was very good.) It wouldn’t have taken much, aside from how strong a smell it is. It mostly smells like a bonfire, but has an underlying, sickening chemical smell. It’s close enough that for the next few months, whenever one of my neighbors had a fire in their backyard, I was taken back to the rental house. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be for someone who’d lost their home to a fire.

One of our friends had, in an apartment fire around twenty years ago. We took her inside the house a couple days after the fire, and she said it smelled exactly like the burnt apartment building. And yes, she had to get out quickly.

Now, I don’t mind being there once again. There is a new furnace in the rental house, so when we went inside it was comfortable (though we kept our coats on, because the contractors had the heat turned down–thank you!). They are getting ready to finish the drywall next.

Some of the fixtures going into the upstairs bathroom

We had a progress meeting with them this Friday. While progress is good, that’s where the good news ended: we are going to be over-budget, unless we take on some of the work. As in, the estimates for all the work done so far plus what’s still to come exceeded the insurance estimate by about $15,000. Apparently, the savings found in drywall and OSB roofing were not enough to offset the new bathroom, and siding the detached garage so it would match the house (insurance wouldn’t cover the garage, as it was not affected by the fire). So  I spent all day yesterday poring over their 42-page detailed estimate, and pulling out line items we could cover. Most of this was purchasing materials, as they put an “overhead and profit” markup on everything. Others were things like installing towel bars and TP holders – they charge over $13 to do one. I don’t have a problem with that as it’s simply paying for their time, but they’re willing to let us do that and save some $$, so we definitely will. My husband may wind up refinishing the hardwood floors again, too, as that would save over $6,000.

What I’ve been Reading: This week, it’s been mostly my own WIP. But I’ve also continued to binge on a blog I found a couple weeks ago. Over this past year, I’ve discovered blogs outside of the writing community, mostly focused on 1) DIY, 2) Homesteading (I’m not interested in doing so, but I find it fascinating), 3) home building (surprise) and 4) Financial Independence. This week’s blog binges have fallen into category 4. One is www.1500days.com, in which the author describes his march to financial independence, with a goal of reaching it within 1500 days of when he started the blog in 2013 (spoiler: he succeeded). He has a really funny, engaging writing voice, plus there are sometimes plastic dinosaurs and fart jokes (check out the dinos drinking beer  at the top of the screenshot). I’ve become fascinated with FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early), and will probably blog about it more in the future.

ROW80Logo175

What I’ve been Writing: Still not much–actually, nothing besides this blog post. I probably spent too much time reading 1500days.com and not enough reading my WIP, as I did not complete reading it yet. I’m close, though, so this week’s goal is to finish what I have, and begin writing the next scene.

What about you–have you ever been inside a burnt building? What have you been reading lately? What are some of your favorite blogs? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

A Tale of Two Houses, Part 2

Last week, I blogged about part of my seemingly-uneventful, but actually eventful 2017. Much of what went on was house-related, although not about the new house we hope to begin building this year. Rather, much of our focus was on the rental house we bought in March.

Buying another rental property in this area, when we’re planning to move within the next two years, was not part of our plan. But when my husband’s cousin’s widow posted on Facebook that she wanted to sell her house, my husband was intrigued. His cousin had passed away in 2011, and she was engaged, and ready to move on. He asked how much she wanted for her house, and the figure she named was too good to pass up.

We took a look through the house, a little Cape Cod built in 1945. Luckily it had a mostly-unfinished basement, so it was easy to see electrical, plumbing, and HVAC, all of which had been recently updated. The foundation, basement, floor joists, and so on were really solid and in great shape. The roof was also fairly new, and she’d had the place painted a couple years before. It needed work, but it was all cosmetic–paint, new flooring, new kitchen and bath. We’ve done that sort of work before, so no problem.

The only problem was we didn’t want to take out a loan, and we’d spent most of our ready cash on our land in Tennessee. That turned out not to be too much of a problem, since my brother was looking for a good investment opportunity. So we partnered with him, the deal being that he paid for the house, and we paid for the rehab, with my husband doing most of the work. Our cousins’ new house wasn’t quite done, so we rented the place back to her for a couple months.

My husband did a fantastic job on the hardwood floors

When they moved out in May, the work began. My husband tiled the screen porch, with tile the seller had left just sitting in boxes. He pulled up the carpet–and found lovely, original hardwood floors beneath it. They did need some patching (from registers that were larger than the ones now in the house), and refinishing. YouTube, Pinterest, and blogs are a great resource, and in about three weeks, he learned how to do it all, and did a fantastic job! He also installed new light fixtures, and a ceiling fan that looked great.

I spent most of my summer weekends there, helping with the flooring–wiping, staining, wiping some more, and applying polyurethane. I also helped paint, and finished out the walk-in pantry by building custom shelves and painting the whole thing. It was originally a coat closet, as it had a single, high shelf and a bar, but the former owner had used it as a pantry, with shelf units sitting on the floor. Much more useful, and an unusual feature in a house this age/size.

Our daughter helped in the kitchen – not in the way she usually does

We put new cabinets in the kitchen, granite countertops, and added a subway tile backsplash. Through it all, we had help from our daughter and several friends (of ours, and hers). My brother worked on a few electrical upgrades, such as adding light switches in the basement, rather than pull chains. He’s an electrical engineer and has done commercial wiring before, so he knows what he’s doing.

We took an afternoon off to move our daughter to Columbus, where she got a job. After we got home and had dinner, my husband and brother met up back at the house. We still needed to figure out what we were doing with the upstairs, which was two small bedrooms, so they went up there to talk about it. It was hot (this was the end of July) so they turned on the whole house fan, then went back downstairs to finish installing light fixtures in the kitchen.

A couple minutes later, my husband smelled smoke. My brother went upstairs to check it out. He made it halfway up before he ran back down. “FIRE!”

The whole back part of the attic was ablaze. My husband says he could’ve beat any Olympic runner getting out of that house!

Kitchen, two days after the photo above

Luckily, the fire department was literally around the corner, and they arrived quickly. My husband came home at 4 AM to get our insurance information. The best thing was, no one was hurt, and the fire didn’t spread to any neighbors’ houses (which were only 15-20 feet away).

The fire was pretty much confined to the second floor, and the ceiling in the kitchen and one bedroom. But the whole place was pretty much trashed from the smoke and water damage. In short, a whole summer up in smoke.

Kitchen, two days after the photo above

Fortunately, we have very good insurance. They quickly determined that the fire was definitely accidental–after all, who’d set a house on fire after doing all that work on it–and leaving $4000 worth of tools inside? It was clearly some bad wiring–and investigators found tons of just that in the upstairs walls, and around the whole house fan, where the fire started–places no one could see with the walls and ceiling intact. They referred us to a restoration contractor, who got to work on it the following week. My husband’s tools were replaced. Insurance paid for three months of lost rent. Even better–these old houses were built to last. The roof wasn’t OSB or even plywood, it was made of 1 x 6’s –and our insurance paid for it to be rebuilt that way, and with plaster walls. We had it rebuilt with OSB, and with drywall, and saved enough money to make the upstairs into a wonderful master suite with a fantastic bathroom. Since there was no one living there, we told them to take their time. We’re expecting it to be done by March–a year after we bought the place.

Since the contractor took over, there hasn’t been much to do other than provide them with details about what we want for the renovation. But it was still discouraging after all the work we’d put into it, especially for my husband. It’s in the contractor’s hands now (and so far, looks great!). But at this point, we just don’t have the heart to rent it, so we’re planning to sell. Hopefully, the second bathroom and the walk-in pantry (that they’re rebuilding just like I’d done) will be big draws to buyers.

The other house

We went back to Tennessee in November, mainly to look at some apartments. We want to sell the ones we own here, and buy one there by the time we move. If we find a good deal, we can do this sooner rather than later. We connected with a great broker, and when she found out we were building, referred us to a couple of builders.

My husband called them to set up appointments in advance of our trip.  The conversation with one was pretty amusing:

DH: I know I’m from Ohio, and I’m 300 miles away. I know about how much this house should cost to build, and I know a lot of you guys are busy doing insurance work in Gatlinburg. So let’s just cut to the chase, and you tell me, how bad are you going to screw me?

(I am not making this up, that’s really what he said!)

The builder’s response: “Can I at least see how cute you are first?”

They both met us out at the property. The other guy was okay, but this one really had some good ideas about the placement of the house, and had even taken the time to come out on his birthday.

We got the other guy’s estimate a couple weeks later. It was still over our budget, but by much less than the three builders we’d talked to earlier in the year.

Then the joker’s bid came back… less than 10% over our budget, and totally workable!

So now all we have to do is sell a couple of apartment buildings for our down payment (of the three we own). We have a broker ready to list them, so now we’re in wait and see mode…

 What I’ve Been Reading

The past couple of weeks on the treadmill (too cold to walk outside, that’s for sure) has been The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas J. Stanley, part of my ongoing effort to read more nonfiction. This is one of the classics of personal finance books, and people rave about it. Honestly, I’m not sure why, as the principles are really simple: most millionaires live a simple life, in modest homes, and driving modest cars. Spending less than they make and investing is how most of them became millionaires. It’s also very outdated–it was published in 1996, and this is very clear in the salaries and home prices quoted, as well as things like the lack of references to smartphones, the Internet, etc. (For example, travel agent is a good job??? How many are still in business with the Internet?) Still, it’s not a bad book, and if one adjusts the monetary amounts and a few details to take technology into account, the principals are still valid.

ROW80Logo175

What I’ve Been Writing

This week, NOTHING! But that was the plan–In an effort to get back into my book, I wanted to go back and read what I have so far. I got about halfway through–that book is long. Too long! I am seeing lots of places I can cut, though it will still end up being a pretty long book (as most of mine are). So this week’s goal is simple: finish reading the book. Any writing will be a bonus.

So, did our rental house saga turn out how you expected? What do you think of it? Have you read (or heard of) The Millionaire Next Door? How are you doing with whatever goals you may have so far, whether writing-related or not? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

A Tale of Two Houses, Part 1

2017 has been a long and busy year. A lot has happened, but not much writing. Probably the biggest event was my daughter’s graduation from college, and subsequent moving out on her own. She has a job she loves in higher education administration, and though we miss having her around (she lives about an hour’s drive away), we couldn’t be happier for her.

I got out of the habit of blogging, and one thing that kept me from getting back to it was feeling like I had to write a long, comprehensive post, and make it good. I realized that yesterday, and it’s kind of silly. Just like housework done incorrectly or incompletely is still better than not done at all, a short blog is better than none. So here goes…

A New House

Our house will be similar to this, only with an attached garage

Some of you might remember that my husband and I are planning a move from Ohio to Tennessee, with building a new house. You might have guessed that I’ve been away because of that. But (sigh), that’s not the case. I’m still in Ohio, and still haven’t started building. And that’s OK.

So to catch up on that, we got a few quotes from builders last spring, around the time I last posted here. Three builders gave us ballpark estimates that were pretty close to our budget, so all looked so far so good. Then they got back to us with detailed estimates. All were 50 -60% higher! We figured out that 1) the economy is good, so there’s plenty of work and 2) many of them are doing insurance rebuilds in Gatlinburg, so they’re extra busy. However, they’re happy to take on another project for the right money. That kind of money is not in our budget. So back to the drawing board there.

We considered downsizing the house by making the garage in the lower level–not really what we wanted. We considered being our own general contractors–we’ve done so on some pretty large remodeling projects, and my parents built two new houses years ago being their own contractors. But they built locally–we’re 300 miles away, so being our own GC would mean having to stay down there during construction. Also not what we wanted.

Our new rental house – isn’t it cute?

An Old House

The new house kind of got put on the back burner when we had an opportunity to buy another house–a rental, here in Ohio. It needed a lot of work, but that was all cosmetic, and the deal was too good to pass up, so we snagged it. (As a side note, we’ve owned rental property for many years, so this is not new to us.) That turned out to be an interesting ride…

Reading

I fell off the wagon keeping track, but I continue to read every day. I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction, too. Most of it is either personal finance or business-related, or is about home building. I finished a novel and a non-fiction book on New Year’s Eve.

For fiction, I read Pure Sacrifice by Jami Gold. I enjoyed her free short story in this paranormal romance series, so I bought book 1 earlier this year. I liked it, and a couple weeks ago I needed something to read and nothing on my Kindle jumped out at me, so I bought book 2. This series (the Mythos Legacy) has all the ingredients to a satisfying paranormal romance, but isn’t the same ol’ same ol’. In book 1, it was the heroine who was the paranormal character (usually, it’s the guy). In this book, it was the guy, but he was a shapeshifting unicorn–pretty different! The worldbuilding was nicely in-depth but not intrusive or info-dumpy, and the characters were engaging. I’ll definitely be picking up the next in the series.

In non-fiction, I read The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines. For those not in the know, they are the hosts of HGTV’s Fixer+Upper, which is probably the most popular reality home show right now. I love their show, and really enjoyed reading about how they got their start in their various businesses to how they wound up with a their own TV show. This book pulled me in right away and kept me interested throughout, and I was sorry to see it end. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys Fixer+Upper!

Writing

While I did make progress on my next Saturn Society time travel novel, writing just wasn’t on my brain for most of the year. I did not complete any projects, and did not have any new releases. I want that to change this year. I figured out what happens next in the novel, and I’m excited to get back to it. Hence, I’m participating in ROW80 to keep accountable.

ROW80Logo175

ROW80, or A Round of Words in 80 Days, is “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” We can set whatever goals we want for the challenge. Mine will be a stretch for the first quarter, which will end in late March: I want to finish the novel. It probably needs 20,000 more words. When I take the time and know where I’m going, I can write 1000 words in about an hour or so. The catch here is that I don’t completely know where I’m going with this book, so that’s going to be a stretch. I used to outline, but that grew to be less helpful as I progressed as a writer, as I believe one should always feel free to deviate from the outline when a better idea comes along for a story–and for me, it always does. Also, I need to get a newsletter out this quarter, as it’s been way too long since I’ve done that, too.

This week’s goal: I haven’t written since early November, so I’m going to do a full cycle-back and read the book from the beginning. It’s around 100,000 words at the moment (yes, I write long books). If I do that, hopefully other good ideas to wrap it up will come in the process.

This post is already getting long (so much for keeping it short) and I have a lot to do today, so I’ll continue with the house sagas next week, and post an update on my goals.

How was 2017 for you? It was mostly good for me! If you watch TV, do you like Fixer + Upper? (One thing I found interesting is Chip and Jo have not had a TV since they got married–no wonder they have time to do so much!). If you’re a writer, what kind of goals do you have for this year? How are you doing so far, one week in? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Things are Happening

In some ways, not in others. On the new house/moving front, we received the finalized house plans from our designer. And as I typed that, I realized I’d never shown what our house is going to look like, or even described it. So it’s time to do that: I would call it a Craftsman/Chalet, both styles I’ve always liked. Judging from DH’s comments while driving places over the years, I knew he liked the chalet look too (and wasn’t averse to the Craftsman style). So when I first found this house and showed him, I knew from his reactions that my instinct was right: this was the one.

It’s designed for a sloped lot, which is what we have. So just picture that with awesome mountain views behind it, rather than a lake. Our street is bordered with trees, but if it’s visible from the road at all, that lovely dramatic back view is what will be seen. Yet it will be far off the road enough that we will still have privacy.

It’s about 2000 sq. ft., not counting the lower level. That’s going to be in-law/guest suite, since where we’re moving is a place a lot of our friends and family like to go for vacation (a big reason we’re moving there too).

We bought the plans, then had the designer customize them for us. Basically, they’re a combination of the plan linked above, and this alternate version that has a breezeway and attached garage.

(click for larger image)

(click for larger image)

Bedroom 3 is will be my writing office, as well as a secondary living space–I guess “den” would be a good word for that. That’s pretty much what my writing office is now, and for the most part that works. Bedroom 2 will be a guest room (mainly for our daughter), and will also be where I put my sewing machines. Heck, I may even get into more sewing if I don’t  have to do it in a dingy basement! I am pretty sure DH’s favorite place will be the screen room off the master bedroom, where we’ll put the hot tub and a TV over the fireplace.

In related news, we also got an offer on the apartment building we have up for sale to pay for all of this. We’ve considered taking out a construction loan, but were hoping this would sell so we didn’t have to, as we try to avoid debt. A couple of weeks ago, we got an offer very close to the asking price–almost too good to be true! The guy wanted to close in two weeks, so I scrambled to collect the paperwork he’d requested.

When a week went by and we had no news of him getting inspections or anything, we started to wonder. So our Realtor and our title agent checked into things. The buyer is a trust, which turns out to be located in Georgia. His title company is in Maryland, and while they’re legit, it turned out they aren’t even licensed to close in Ohio. And they never received the guy’s earnest money. His agent (located in Ohio) couldn’t get hold of him. His attorney (located in Florida) finally called our Realtor and said they guy was still interested. That was two days before we were supposed to close, and nothing since then. It’s like the guy just evaporated. So the building is still for sale, and we may still wind up going the loan route, at least until it sells.

What I’ve been reading: This book took me a really long time to read–partly because it’s really long, party because it’s a slower, quieter story than my usual fare, and partly because my mind’s been elsewhere. But I finally did finish it, and it was worthwhile. Pride’s Children: Purgatory by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt is a book I’ve been interested in for a while, as I’ve seen it mentioned by the author in blog comments. It intrigued me because the main character has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I wanted to see how this was treated in fiction (answer: very realistically). Yet I was hesitant, as I knew it wasn’t my kind of book–two of the main characters are actors, and I normally don’t care for celebrity characters. It turned out my worries were mostly unfounded, as the male lead was very well-developed, sympathetic, and real. As was the female lead (the writer with CFS), though I expected that. The third main character, an actress, was thoroughly unlikable–more of a villain, really–but there weren’t that many scenes in her point of view. This book is marketed as literary fiction, but I would consider it more to be Upmarket Women’s Fiction. As such, it’s a little pricey, but it’s free in Kindle Unlimited, and goes on sale for $.99 every now and then (which is when I bought it). If you like this kind of book, I’d recommend it!

ROW80Logo175

Writing/Row80 Update: I haven’t been writing at all. My mind has just not been on it. I’m going to try to do a little today and get back in, but no promises. One thing I have been doing is taking a workshop from Dean Wesley Smith on endings, the hardest part of the book IMO. It’s been good so far, and has kept me not totally out of the writing, so that’s something. I have managed to keep up with it and the assignments, too. So that’s my goal for this week as well. Anything I get done on my WIP will be a bonus.

What about you–what have you been up to lately? When you step away from writing (or something else you normally do), is it hard for you to get re-started? If not, any tips for me? Have you read any good books lately? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

 

 

 

It’s Official

Last week, we closed on our property in Tennessee. It’s now ours! Part of me still can’t believe it, especially when we went there the following day and it’s even more beautiful than I remembered (that photo does not even come close to doing it justice). We met with our builder the afternoon we closed. He’s a friend of a friend, and we really liked him. He gave us a tour through his current WIP, a 12,000-foot monstrosity being built for a fraction-of-a-1%er who’s moving there from California. Amazing! And a major testament to our builder’s (and his trades peoples’) work. He wants to start on our house when he’s done with the current project, probably in April or May. Things are moving along!

What I’ve been reading: Not going to name the book today, because I don’t have much good to say about it. I picked it up because it’s based on a computer game I recently got sucked into, and it was free. The only reason I finished it was because it was short (a novella), and there were just enough references from the game to keep it mildly interesting. Otherwise, the poorly-developed characters and lack of depth would have had me putting the book down a couple chapters in. There was also an amateurish feel to the writing. I don’t expect a literary masterpiece–I read mostly genre fiction, and simple, workmanship writing is normally fine with me, but this was lacking something more that I can’t quite put my finger on. Most of the reviews mentioned things like this, so it wasn’t just me. On to better things!

ROW80Logo175

Writing/ROW80 update: As you might guess from my first paragraph, my mind has not been on the writing. Also, we’ve been a bit under the weather here–between our closing, meeting with the builder, and a little walking over the land in Tennessee, we spent most of our weekend there taking it easy at the hotel. Nothing major, just a bad cold/mild flu that took a while to let up. We’re better now, but it’s been slow going. So no, not much has happened on the writing front, other than me working through a couple more sections of The Story Toolkit. I’m not expecting much more this week, as I have to collect all our tax stuff for the accountant, whom I have an appointment with next weekend. But I’ll do my best to spend a little time on The Story Toolkit each day, and see how that works.

What about you–read any stinkers lately? Or how about good books? Have you and your family managed to keep healthy? Seems like everyone I know has had that cold going around here! What else has been going on with you, and how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Crazy, Freaky

By that, I mean the weather. As I write this on January 22, I have my windows open. It’s over 60 degrees here in southwest Ohio. I just got back from taking the dogs for a walk with DH, first time I’ve done so since we got Skeet. Yesterday, my husband went hunting and almost got struck by lightning when a popup thunderstorm came up while he was in a tree stand. Not fun for him.

As nice as the weather is now, it’s just not right. I’m used to cold and often, snow, this time of year! Not that I’m complaining.

What I’ve been reading: Dead Money by Dean Wesley Smith. This is the novel in Smith’s Monthly #22, which is an issue I missed. Studying how he did point-of-view in it was one of the exercises in a workshop I recently finished (“Plotting with Depth” – highly recommend for writers!). I went ahead and read the rest, and it was as entertaining as I know I can count on from him. Even though it’s set in an arena that doesn’t particularly interest me (professional poker), the book still kept my attention throughout. A fast-paced, exciting thriller where someone is systematically killing off the members of a group of old poker buddies, one of whom is the president of the U.S. One need not know anything about poker to enjoy reading!

ROW80Logo175

Writing/ROW80 Update: I figured out a few more things about my stuck story, but still no idea of the end. That’s no big deal for some writers (and I envy them), but for a planner like me, it’s paralyzing. I have no idea what comes next if I don’t know where I’m ultimately headed. Yes, I’m one of those people who looooooooves maps, always have, even back when they were paper.

I also realized that there were some basic things about my story I’d failed to determine as well, like what the main characters needed to learn in this one, and–duh–the basic premise of the story. As in, “the sentence” that tells what it’s all about. So I looked into a plotting aid I read about recently, The Story Toolkit by Susan Bischoff. It’s a set of worksheets of questions to answer about the story, plus a book to explain the details. It’s not vastly different than some other workshops/books I’ve read, but arranged differently enough that it may jar some stuff loose, so I figure why not give it a try. This week, I want to work through as much of that as I can, although I have a lot going on this weekend, so probably won’t get through it all.

What about you–how’s the weather where you are? Is it as crazy as here? Are you someone who likes to know where you’re going, whether you’re writing or driving? Or do you like to discover as you go? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

New Year, Not-so-new Goals

I took some time off blogging last month, mainly because, holidays. With all of the extra stuff on the to-do list, something had to give, and I figured it might as well be the blog, since the writing had already given.

I did get some other things accomplished. For one, I decluttered the basement. After living here for 23 years, that’s no trivial thing. My family is amazed. And while I was decluttering, I found fabric my mom had given me years ago to sew her a couple of things. Which was great in that, if I completed them, I had something to give her for Christmas, not an easy thing to find. Which was not-so-good in that it was another project to add to my to-do list (hence no blog). That really wasn’t a problem as I like to sew; it’s just one of those things I haven’t had time or energy for much in the past few years.

Luckily, my energy held out until after Christmas, and I was able to complete the projects (the last one at 9PM on Christmas Eve). And she loved them, so it was totally worthwhile. The whole family had a good Christmas, so that was even better (and we were all well this year, too!).

DH and I had decided not to get each other anything since, after all, we had a new kitchen and were in the process of buying 28 acres in TN. Except I couldn’t do that, so I bought him a couple things to wear. LOL–he did the same.

Skeet at right while Isis gives DD a kiss

We got an addition to the family, too–a four-legged one. This is Skeet, the neighbors’ dog that we pet-sat for a couple years ago. She’d run away, and DH found her in the pound. The neighbors aren’t really in a good place to keep a dog right now with their jobs (he is out of town all the time, and she is rarely home) so we adopted her. As before, Skeet and Isis get along great, and we knew Skeet’s really sweet and affectionate (and totally destroys dog toys, but only dog toys, so that’s OK).

What I’ve been reading, abbreviated version (since it’s been a while):

ROW80Logo175

ROW80/Writing Update: As mentioned above, not much writing has gone on in the past couple months. I had a great start to NaNoWriMo, but that stopped cold soon after that as I ran out of outline and had no idea where my story was going. Some people write well that way; me, not so much. I needed to step back and regroup, but just as that happened, the holidays came along. So my new goal for this ROW80 is the same as last time’s: finish the WIP. I did figure out a few things while not writing, so that’s a start. This week, I want to at least spend time planning or working things out each day, if not actually writing.

What about you–how were your holidays? How did you do on your goals, if you do that? And what are you up to now? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.