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Various Fits

The last week and a half has been completely crazy but I have finally cobbled together enough time to write an update. We are now in week 36 of our 9-week kitchen remodel, and yes it’s still incredibly stressful, but the end is at last in sight. This might be the last week, or we might spill over one more.

Of course, the kitchen is not the only project going. We have a long-term, three-stage upgrade plan for our whole house, and this is only part of stage one (although it was the biggest part). The rest of stage one includes installing solar panels (already scheduled for later this week), two mini-split air conditioning units, resurfacing and painting the remaining great room walls, and acquiring assorted living and dining room furniture.

Our living room couches have to be replaced ahead of plan because I am old now: I was plagued with sciatica for almost all of 2021, and eventually traced the cause to our couches and our seven-year-old mattress. (I miss the thirty-year-old body that could keep a mattress for fifteen years without pain, but alas.) Abstaining from the couches (easy to do since our entire living room was off-limits while the kitchen was under construction) and putting a firm latex foam topper on our bed cleared up my sciatica in just a few days, and it hasn’t bothered me once in the nine months since.

I’m a bit anxious about picking out furniture because I have to take my best guess at what will not trigger my sciatica; unfortunately there’s no way to test that in a showroom visit, so we just have to hope I’m right, as Mexico does not believe in purchase returns. A recliner with a reasonably firm seat seems like the safest option. I’m very aware of the ‘old person’ vibe of recliners, but given that the alternative is constant pain, I’ve decided I’m willing to lean in to being old. (Jak does not have sciatica but likes the idea of a recliner, so we’ll have a matched pair.)

So if we’re lucky (and need I point out that we have been anything but lucky so far this year?), our kitchen and living/dining great room will be complete by the end of 2022, save for a couple of purchases (like a dishwasher) that we’ve chosen to deprioritize.

Then we get a much-needed break from construction while we save up the money for stage two.

All of this — researching, planning, testing, purchasing, negotiating, managing — has eaten my time lately, so it’s now been two weeks since I last wrote on my novel. I was flailing some even before then — got up to 32k words, then ripped about 1500 of them back out and tried again, differently, still uncertain if I was taking the best path.

This novel (titles usually come last, so for now I call it ‘the Noemi book’, after the main character) is structured at its most basic level like an adventure story or hero’s journey: she experiences a crisis, leaves home, has adventures, learns and changes, comes home again. For character reasons, it makes sense that Noemi is very alone for the first part of her (literal, physical) journey, and it turns out that the lack of other significant characters for her to interact with is making this section very difficult for me. (At least I hope that’s the main reason, because that means it will get easier soon.)

As an experienced short-fiction author I’m rock-solid on most of the major aspects of fiction writing: characters, dialogue, and prose style and quality have always been my strengths. Plotting a novel-length work is new, but I’m pretty confident I’ve got it handled, at least for this book. What’s giving me fits is figuring out — specifically in a novel-length work, in the unaccented spaces between the major plot beats — which parts to show in detail, which to gloss over, and which to leave out entirely. There are so many considerations, some of them conflicting, and hovering over every choice is the specter of maximum total word count for a saleable debut novel. <whimper>

I’ve at least thought about the Noemi book every day for the last two weeks, though, and some of those thoughts will work their way in when I pick it back up … I hope at the start of next week.

I’ve also been plagued for the last several weeks by extreme allergic fits, source unknown. It only happens when I’m lying down — usually overnight, but occasionally during an afternoon nap. My first guess was that we had dust mites in our pillows, so I washed them all in scalding water. This did not solve the problem, and after further testing I’m now almost completely certain that the pillows are not the issue.

It’s possible that something blooming just outside the window next to the bed is the culprit, although going out and sticking my face in various flowers had no discernible effect. I cannot yet manage to sleep with that window shut because menopause seems to have left me with a permanently overheated torso, and I need the cool outside air in order to offset the heat retention of the bed.

However, in less than two weeks we should have air conditioning in the bedroom and the solar electricity to run it, so … maybe I can test the flower theory. For now mainlining loratadine, while not removing the symptoms altogether, at least makes them bearable enough that I can get some sleep.

Published inRemodelWriting


  1. David Gates David Gates

    Thanks for this entry. Looks more positive. I am happy to hear about your novel. I am part of a poetry group where I normally submit two poems a month. The group then shares feedback. Last month I skipped due to a recent trip Vera and I took to Sainte-Anne-des Monts in the Gaspé Peninsula. I am registered in a creative writing workshop but have already missed the first meeting because of a very bad flu that I think I caught in a hotel swimming pool on the last day of our trip. My mind id like mush due to heavy doses of flu remedies. What to write and how to write becomes like a great white blank sky with a mind like mine is now.

    My big hope for the moment is to overcome this malady and others maladies of old age that cobble my activity. My idea of life and the reality seem to be drawing apart. This leads me to either suffering or a dreamy state of another existence. Which is better: I don’t know.

    • Karawynn Karawynn

      I’m sorry you’ve gotten sick, David. In the grand scheme I’m really just getting started on this aging thing and already it’s hard — Jak and I have frequent conversations about how shitty our memories and executive functions are compared to a decade or more ago.

      On the other hand, I do believe I possess a great deal of wisdom now that I definitely did not have in my twenties or even thirties. I am still learning, even if my recall is no longer near-perfect. And I hope that wisdom is making my writing — and the insights I tuck into it — more valuable.

      Perhaps the same is true for you?

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