Monthly Archives: April 2010

Remembering Mom

Two years ago today, my mother passed away after a long illness. I try not to reflect on the sadness and grief, and focus more on my fond memories of her. It is particularly hard to deal with the loss because she died so close to Mother’s Day. I still have the Mother’s Day card I never got to send. The only thing that makes her passing a blessing is knowing that she is no longer in pain, and in my heart of hearts, I know she’s in a better place.

My Mom was never a woman who openly showed affection. Her hugs were more of a perfunctory nature. In no way does this minimize her love for me or my siblings. It is merely a behavior she inherited from my grandfather. Even as a child, I can never remember anyone in my family outwardly showing affection. What underscores this realization even more is the fact that my wife’s family is the exact opposite; they can’t hug enough. Every telephone conversation that my wife has with her mother, father, brother, and grandmother, ends with a sincere, “I love you.”

I’m not totally clear on the factors that distinguish whether or not a family openly shows affection or not, however, love is expressed in many ways. My Mom rarely offered a hearty hug, but if I mentioned in one of our frequent telephone conversations that I suffered from a slight headache, the very next morning, at the crack of dawn, she would call me and ask, “How’s your headache?” And no one in history worried more about the welfare of her children than my Mom did. My siblings and I had to carefully filter our conversations with her. If we revealed too much and even hinted that our lives were not perfectly packaged, she wouldn’t sleep a wink until our issues were resolved.

I never doubted her love, nor did I feel neglected that I never got a bear hug from my Mom. What I will cherish most is the last conversation we had, three days before she died. When the conversation ended, my Mom said, “I love you.” And I knew in my heart that this was a final goodbye. The hugs were rare and the affectionate words few. But in the end, hearing my Mom offer an unsolicited, “I love you”, will comfort me forever. I love you, Mom.

Josephine Montinarelli – September 11, 1925 to April 27, 2008.

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Back in the Saddle

Since retiring from my day job on April 1st, I haven’t written a single word in Resuscitation, the sequel to They Never Die Quietly. No excuses, but to be fair, I did spend two weeks in NY visiting family and searching for a home. And of course, as you might imagine, writing during this time was nearly impossible. So why haven’t I kicked the creative juices into high gear since returning from NY?

Basically, I’ve been caught up with other, less important tasks. I roll out of bed early and am generally at the gym by 7:15ish. After my 35 minute workout, I return home with the best intentions, but time just piddles away. It seems that making the bed, washing dishes, going to the bank, picking up groceries, maintaining my car, preparing dinner, and an assortment of other menial duties, have a higher priority than completing my next novel. Bear in mind that I am under contract to complete this novel no later than November 30th. So, I have every reason to make it Number 1 on my list of things to do.

What I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been retired is that you need a plan for each day. If you take things as they come, one day leads to the next and to the next, and at the end of the week you’ve done squat. So here’s my plan: come hell or high water, each and every day, I have set a goal for myself to write a minimum of 1,000 words. Now I realize that on some days the creative juices might not be flowing and you can’t force the creative process lest you write absolute crap. So, on good days I may write 1,500 words, and on not-so-good days, I might only write 500 words. But somehow, someway, I’m going to find a way to average 1,000 words a day. Beginning today.

That said, it’s 12:10 pm and I’m about 1,000 words short of my 1,000 word goal. Stay tuned for more.

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Home Sweet Home

After spending two weeks in Rochester, N.Y. (my hometown), searching for a home and bonding with my family, I’m back in San Diego and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. First off, I didn’t find a suitable home. Second, I’m no longer sure I want to move back east. Third, when I shared this new awakening with my spouse, well, it kind of pulled the rug out from under her. 

I really thought I’d done all my homework; crunched numbers; crossed the “T’s” and dotted the “I’s”. As it worked out, however, moving to Rochester and buying a home is much more expensive than I figured. Property taxes are three times what they are in San Diego. Granted, homes in San Diego are three times more expensive. But that doesn’t minimize the fact that the average taxes on a $150,000 home are between six and seven thousand dollars a year. And the monthly utility bills average around $250. When you add to this equation the fact that Rochester is a sweatbox in the summer and a frozen tundra in the winter, well, need I say more? 

And of course there is the other issue of moving expenses. Schlepping your furniture across the country is no easy task—not to mention the cost. We could sell all of our furniture, ship a few boxes of essential items, and buy everything new when we get there, but again, the cost would be significant. 

Another issue—perhaps the most significant one—is the uncertainty of my income. I retired on April 1st from my “day job”, and am now writing full-time. But there is no way to predict how much money I will generate as a writer. The early sales numbers for my novel are pretty good, and should yield a handsome first-quarter royalty check. But there is no guarantee that this trend will continue. For an established novelist, with a loyal following, life is a little easier. But for a first-timer, there are lots of variables. 

I thought that retirement would make my life easier and reduce the stress. But all things considered, I still feel like I’m in a pressure cooker. Maybe this is the way life is supposed to be; one challenge after another. Maybe that’s what builds character. Maybe the merry-go-round never stops. Maybe life would be better on Mars.

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Down But Not Out

Well, I’ve been in New York (not New York, New York; Rochester, New York), for 11 days and have looked at 36 homes. I have absolutely run my real estate agent ragged. I’ve seen ranches, colonials, cape cods, and contemporaries. I’ve looked at townhouses and condos. And I searched every community from east to west, north to south. There were a few houses that came close. But the moment I realized I was trying to convince myself that this was the house for me, I knew that it wasn’t. Then it happened. 

The very last house I looked at—weary, worn out, and totally discouraged—blew my undies off. The moment I walked in—no, the moment I pulled into the driveway—I knew that it was the “ONE”. When I entered the home and looked from left to right, I got a weird feeling; a desperate feeling. I wanted to tell my agent that I didn’t even need to see the rest of the house. All I wanted was to hightail it to the nearest Starbucks and write an offer. But of course I did, in fact, look at the home. With a fine-tooth comb, I might add. 

The place was perfect; exactly what I was looking for. I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like about this place. So, my agent and I trekked over to Starbucks and started filling out the paperwork to submit an offer. Halfway through, the listing agent called and let us know that someone else was also submitting an offer, and that he would present both offers to the owner first thing in the morning. Great, I thought. A bidding war. All I kept thinking was that someone wanted to steal my house and I wasn’t going to let that happen. So, I told my agent to submit an offer $3,500 over the asking price. My wife and I were already pre-approved for the mortgage, our down payment was healthy, and we were flexible on occupancy. I felt fairly confidant that we bought a house. 

I went to bed at midnight, managed to sleep until 3:00 AM, then tossed and turned with thoughts of where I would put my TV; how I would arrange our bedroom; what kind of furniture I’d buy for the backyard deck. I thought about a Christmas Eve bash in the lovely finished basement, complete with wet bar. Thought about who I’d invite. I could envision my furniture in this home; cupboards neatly organized with dishes and wine glasses and cooking stuff. Hell, I could even see myself sitting next to the fireplace sipping a vintage Port. This was my house. 

My agent called at 9:00 AM to let me know that the listing agent was presenting the two offers at 9:30 AM. We talked a bit and I asked her what she thought. I knew she’d been to this party before because she’d been a real estate agent for 23 years. She told me exactly what I expected: that my offer was fair but no one could predict what the other buyer might do. 

For nearly two agonizing hours I paced the floor. It was as if I were waiting for the results of a biopsy that had the potential to change my life. It was utter agony. At 11:15, my cell phone summoned me. As soon as I heard the timbre of my agent’s voice, I knew what she was going to say. “It’s not good news, Daniel. The other party submitted an offer nearly $10,000 over the asking price.” Evidently, somebody loved the home more than I did. Needless to say, my heart sank. 

So, I licked my wounds for a few hours, but came to realize that all was well. God’s plan was different than mine and He knows better. So I’ll just wait patiently until He taps me on the shoulder, points to a home, and says, “That’s the One, Daniel.”

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I Lied

Okay, we’ve been down this road before and I’ve vehemently proclaimed that I would make every effort to update my blog regularly. But, I haven’t been a good boy. I could play the 1,001 excuses game like I’ve done before, but that would only bore you to tears. I do, however, have a valid excuse. May I explain?

Basically, I retired from my “day job” on April 1st. Now wait a minute you might be mumbling. If I retired, wouldn’t I have more time on my hands? Wouldn’t I be able to update every day, without fail or lame excuses? On the surface, it might appear that way. In reality, it just doesn’t work. I have never been so pressed for time. And I’m not quite sure if I fully understand why.

Right now, I’m in Rochester, New York, visiting family. However, a casual visit is not my objective. I’m searching for a home because my wife and I—after careful evaluation and hours of intense conversation—have decided to move back to my hometown. Yes, we’re leaving beautiful San Diego and moving to the second cloudiest city in the country; relocating to a city where it’s not unusual to see the wind chill factor hit 20 below zero; where the lake-effect snow storms drop truckloads of snow and the drifts are ten-feet tall; where the summer humidity can take your breath away. If you’re not questioning my sanity by now, you’re not paying attention.

So, why are we leaving paradise and moving to the “frozen tundra”? In a word: family. Blood is thicker than sunshine. Both my wife and I have many close personal friends in San Diego, and it’s going to be tough to leave them. But our roots are in New York and I always find myself speechless when I’m visiting family and one of my grandkids asks, “Grandpa, why do you live in California?” How do you tell an eight-year-old that you’d rather be lying in the sun 3,000 miles away than sitting with him in front of a warm fire and watching Finding Nemo?

I guess I’ve drifted off topic because I was supposed to be explaining why I haven’t posted in such a long time. Truth is that I’m just a poor time manager. I spend way too many hours focusing on the “B” and “C” priorities in my life, while the “A’s” go unattended. Maybe I just need a swift kick in the butt. Or better yet, maybe I need a personal assistant to help me manage my time. Anyone interested in the job? The pay is crappy and the hours long, but when I’m a bestselling novelist I promise to give you an autographed copy of my latest novel—free of charge.

 

 

 

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Early Morning Thoughts

Today begins the first day of my official retirement from the corporate world. Yesterday, I removed all my personal files from my work computer, cleaned out my e-mail folders, deleted phone numbers from my cell phone, turned in my ID badge, and bid farewell to my workmates. I specify “corporate world” because I’m not going to be sitting around watching soap operas and eating chocolate bonbons. Today, my work really begins. Today, I must make a living as a writer. Well, maybe not today. For a few days, I just need to kick back and unwind; prepare myself for a new adventure. But, in the big picture, I’ve got zero income; no annuity; no Social Security (not yet anyway); no weekly paycheck. Today, I find out whether or not I can make the cut as a writer. 

There is an aspect of retirement that blindsided me. Like most people, I have anticipated retirement from the corporate grind for decades. Every time a colleague retired, I felt a little envious and wished it were I retiring. I thought that yesterday—my last day of work—would make me feel like a kid making his first visit to Disneyland. I thought I would be excited beyond anything I could imagine. No more boring meetings; no more office politics; no more whiney customers; no more early-morning traffic; no more impossible deadlines; and no more alarm clock. But in spite of this fantasy finally becoming a reality, it missed the mark by a country mile. 

What I came to realize yesterday was that leaving the job was easy. Leaving the people was painful. Working for the same company for many years, I built a social network. I cultivated intimate relationships with some people. And with others I socialized on a more casual level. But in either case, all of my colleagues were part of who you I am. It is through these relationships that I have grown as a person. And although some people might not be high on my list, in fact, to be truthful, some were royal pains in the asses, yet they contributed to the culture, and ebb and flow of my daily activities. 

So, I find myself a bit lost as I write these words. In spite of my desire to sleep in this morning and cuddle up with Benjamin, my 16 year-old cat, I awoke at 4:30 and tossed and turned until I couldn’t stand it any longer and rolled out of bed at 5:45. I kissed my wife goodbye and told her to drive safely on her way to work. Then, I fired up my computer and the first thing I did was check to see if I still had access to my work e-mail. Much to my surprise I did. But the inbox was empty; devoid of the usual early-morning onslaught of messages. I feel strange. As empty as my inbox. Alone and disconnected. It feels as if my closest friend just died. Today is going to be a tough day.

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