The Beauty of Shitty First Drafts

1st draft

When I began writing the manuscript for my novel, I didn’t know how to go about it. I had a concept and knew what the opening scene would be, but that was all. So I tried to take a common-sense approach.

You obviously need characters for any story, so I created a list of names and their relationship to the main character. You also need a plot, so I roughed out an outline that consisted of chapter numbers and the general theme of each chapter. This step took awhile because if this outline was going to be my roadmap, I actually had to think the story through.

Writing the opening prologue was a piece of cake because, big surprise, the main character has MS, and the prologue is a dramatization of the day MS first introduced itself to me. But then the process came to a screeching halt. Like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming tractor trailer, I stared back and forth between the computer screen, the keyboard, and the outline. I didn’t know how or where to tell the story that was in my head. Fortunately, I remembered something K told me about a piece of advice she attributed to an article she read about the novelist Ann Lamott.

To paraphrase Lamott, the key to writing a story is to complete a shitty first draft (our words), one where you don’t worry about the words, how it flows, if it is free of spelling or grammatical errors, or anything like that. Just get the words down first, and worry about that other stuff later.

That little nugget freed me from my insecurity and saved time, the end result of which was a complete manuscript that exceeded 140,000 words. What I found intriguing and ironic about the process is that many chapters I assumed would be the most difficult to write were often very easy, and those I assumed would just flow were the most difficult.

The most important thing was to write without a conscience. I followed Lamott’s advice to a T, and would recommend that anyone who gets stuck on a project to do the same. Just be prepared for what you’ll see when that shitty first draft is done

What I saw was god-awful: spelling and grammar mistakes galore, sentences, and sometimes complete paragraphs, that didn’t make any sense. Going back and editing this swill was painstaking, frustrating, laborious, and I wound up doing it more times than I care to remember before sharing it with my editor. It was a humbling experience.

What didn’t change, however, was the core of the story, and when you have that, you have everything. Anybody can make the words sing, but there is no music unless you create the notes. In my case, the core didn’t change much from the first writing to what was probably the twentieth. I lost count after a while.

Why so many re-writes? First of all, it took forever to catch everything that needed fixing. After every re-edit, I re-read the manuscript and always found stuff I missed the previous time. Once I got to the point where I thought it was good enough to share with my editor, it came back with a lot of red ink and recommended changes. Each time I completed the edits I agreed with, it would come back again with more suggestions. On and on it went like that until we were both happy with the manuscript.

The most difficult challenge was to pare the text down to less than 100,000 words, because my editor believed any author’s inaugural work should be 100,000 words or less. Who was I to argue? And I must admit, there was a lot of fluff. The final product was much cleaner and tighter than what I started with.

Ultimately, the manuscript was done, and I compared the process to what I thought being pregnant must feel like. In the beginning, you are excited, thrilled and enthusiastic beyond belief,  but nine months later,  you’re uncomfortable, sick and tired of lugging the weight around, and just want it to be over and done.

I whole-heartedly embrace the shitty first draft philosophy. It’s a practice I have since followed with everything I write, including this blog. I encourage anyone to stop being critical and get the idea out first because if you self edit while writing or stop in mid-stream to look at what you’ve written, you can lose your train of thought, not to mention getting frustrated as hell.

Better to save your frustration for later after everything is done. That way, you at least have a complete text to mold and shape.

 

 

 

 

Shit Happens

happens

A short post today as I got off to a late start this week and won’t have much time over the weekend to write.

I was talking with a friend yesterday and learned of an event that just occurred in their life that could have long term implications, most of which aren’t great, and it got me to thinking.

We get inundated by the marketing apparatus in this world that portray images of health, wealth, fun and carefree, easy lifestyles. Depictions of hardships, struggles and sadness are in the minority. After all, that stuff is a downer and doesn’t sell. It’s easy to get sucked into the delusion that we are either doing something wrong if our realities don’t match up with what these ads show us, or give us the impression that what they show us is attainable if we only tried harder.

If it were all that easy.

The truth is life isn’t that simple, and shit does happen. Some of us either need bigger shovels or use the one we have more than others, which isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair, and everyone needs hip boots. These issues can become potholes on life’s super freeway, and it’s how we deal with these events that define us.

Take me, for instance. I’m an optimist by nature, a glass-half-full kind of guy. I think  I have had it infinitely easier than most in my life. For instance, I have never had to deal with the loss of a child, a life-threatening illness, or had to struggle financially. I’ve always been well fed, had a roof over my house, a loving family and support system, had an excellent education and a successful career.

Having said that, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Not even close. MS is the most obvious because I write about it, and is near the top of my shit happens list, but it is not at the top of that list.  There have been a host of other situations and scenarios that I have had to deal with, and continue to deal with, that are not fun. Some of these events have put a tremendous emotional strain on my family. Their fallout remains, and probably always will.

I would have easily traded getting MS instead of having to endure certain events in my life, but we never get to make those choices.

Nobody escapes this world unscathed. Just because an individual or a family has appeared to be blessed with good luck and have never had to struggle, don’t buy it. All it means is they hide it better than others. Not everyone wants to talk about their personal travails, preferring to instead to share the good in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Do any of you truly know anyone whose lives have been constant sunshine?

Experience has taught me that life is like being on a life raft in a vast ocean. Sometimes the seas are calm, or you have a fun ride on a wave that is pushing your forward into a good situation. Sometimes you are caught in an storm with relentless giant swales that come crashing down upon you, threatening to submerge you and everyone on board. All you can do is hang on for dear life, try not to drown, and hope the storm passes soon. With practice, maybe you learn how to navigate the swells better.

You also hope that the rogue waves, the monsters that come out of nowhere, catch you completely off guard and are the most dangerous and toughest to negotiate, rarely occur.

If you know someone who is going through a tough time, reach out to them. The simplest thing, like letting them know you are thinking about them and rooting for them can make all the difference in the world.

 

 

 

Mortality

mortality

My aunt suffered a stroke a little over a week ago, a bad one.  I didn’t get a chance to speak with her before Christmas. Strike that. I had every chance in the world, but did not make it a priority. I was busy, and rationalized (in hindsight, of course) that I’d call when things settled down after my trip to Florida. So I felt compelled to actually see her to say goodbye, tell her how much I love her, and thank her for being a wonderful Aunt.

I wasn’t looking forward to the trip because my cousin warned me about her condition. I knew she would be conscious and uncommunicative, but it was worse than that. I have no idea if she knew who was there or what was being said. She looked at me, but it was more like she looked through me, staring blankly into space. I just happened to be in her line of sight.

She showed the obvious signs of a stroke, kept picking at her blankets, the institutional garment she wore, mumbled constantly and looked much older than her 90 years. A  vibrant, engaging, funny and lovely woman was sadly reduced to this. Part of me felt like a voyeur, and all of me felt guilty for being there because I am sure she would not want people to see her in that condition.

Unless it is by our own hands, we never get to choose how we exit this life. Our final scene can often be so undignified, and that is was bothered me the most about seeing her that way. It would have been better if she was unconscious. She would have looked like she was resting comfortably, at peace, and more like the woman I knew and loved.

I drove away from that visit thinking about aging and our mortality. You’d have thought these musings would have occurred when my parents passed away within five months of one another in 2015, but that wasn’t the case.

Both had lived good, long and healthy lives. Dad was 96 and Mom 92. They were both mentally sharp as tacks through the end and both passed quickly. Dad had a massive stroke and was placed in hospice care. We kept a constant vigil around his bed for three full days. On the fourth day everyone who had taken turns watching over him spent the night at their houses, which is when he slipped away. I am sure it was because he never wanted people to fuss over him, so he waited until every was gone.

Mom had a cerebral hemorrhage and died within hours. She was living in an assisted living facility at the time, and K and her Mom had just spent the afternoon with her. She notified friends she was having dinner with that she felt funny and was seeing double, and they had someone escort her to the nurse when it happened. I’m told she slumped in her chair in front of the nurse, completely unconscious.

The assisted living facility called while I was out having dinner with Nidan. It didn’t sound ominous, but then a call from the ER doctor at the hospital she was taken to came, and that changed everything. We ended dinner immediately and I drove Nidan home, then rushed to the hospital, not really knowing what to expect. When I saw her in the emergency room, I instantly knew she was gone, even though she was still breathing. It was a shock and broke my heart, but after a spasm of heavy sobbing, I made some calls.

Unlike Dad,  she didn’t want to be alone when she slipped to the other side. It took a little over ninety minutes for K, Nidan, my brother and his wife, and a few others to gather in her room, and shortly after we were all there it looked like she might not be breathing. She wasn’t.

I was and still am grateful that my parents fears of a painful, lingering demise where they were an emotional and financial burden to their kids never materialized. I should be so lucky.

I grieved for the loss of my parents loss but was not devastated. After all, who wouldn’t sign up for the life they had and the way their lives ended?  But I was so busy with making funeral preparations for Dad, helping Mom move then watching after her in the interim, then handling her sudden and unexpected death, that the idea of aging and dying never occurred to me.

I think the reason it has now is because my Dad came from a large family of nine. I was really close to most of his brothers and sisters, having hung out at their houses as a kid in addition to summer vacations at the beach. Those times were so fun, carefree and innocent, and the memories are wonderful.

When my Aunt passes, which should be fairly soon considering she is on morphine and was placed at a hospice level of care, only one Aunt will remain. She is the baby of the family at 88, and is not in the greatest of health either. The end of the line is very near in terms of my Dad’s siblings. Once that occurs, the book will close on a significant chapter of my life, and my childhood will officially die with it.

I thought I felt that way in 2015, but the truth is I felt more like an orphan when my parents passed. It was weird knowing that the people who nurtured me, taught me, loved me unconditionally and shepherded me into successful adulthood were gone. The void was unimaginable, and the loss hurt. But I didn’t think about the stuff I am thinking about now, and think that’s because when my Aunts pass, the last remaining vestiges of those carefree years will be gone. I will become the adult for the generations to come, and one day, the roles will be reversed. I will be the one saying sayonara, and my nieces and nephews will be mourning me. Perhaps some of them will feel what I am feeling now.

I’m not fearful or morose, but have become introspective. How will my end of life scenario unfold, not only in terms of the how but the when? I’m turning 60 in a couple of months, which is not ancient by any means. But I have been on the downhill side of life expectancy for a while now, and have no idea how or if MS will hasten that fateful day or prolong the process. I certainly hope not because, perhaps not so ironically, I have the same fear my parents had about becoming an emotional and financial burden on my surviving family.

Mom and Dad were blessed with longevity, independence, and good physical/mental health. Is it too much ask that this not skip a generation? And while I’m at it, can the end be quick and painless, as it was for them? Hopefully the genes I’ve inherited will help make that happen.

I hope this hasn’t been too morbid, but don’t all of us think of these things at one time or another? I certainly plan on being around a while, and would love to able to celebrate my 100th birthday. I’m looking forward to my retirement years, playing with grandchildren and spoiling them rotten. I’m looking forward to an empty nest that I can enjoy with my lovely bride of thirty one years, and hope we can both thrive during the sunsets of our lives. We’ve earned that.

For now, however, another somber funeral is probably days away. The family will close ranks and all the cousins I grew up and hung out with as a kid will assemble with their families. Afterwards, we’ll laugh and rehash good memories, lament for the umpteenth time that it’s a shame we only get together for these types of occasions, and vow to change that. Who knows? Maybe this time it will actually happen.

Then we will return to our respective lives, and time will march on. The musings I’ve shared will also fade, but perhaps not completely vanish, and I don’t think that would be a bad thing. Maybe it will help me appreciate life more than being afflicted with MS has, and help me embrace every remaining day I have without sweating the small stuff I am still prone to do on occasion.

After all, I’m not a spring chicken anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Hunt – Part 8

alien

Superman has tagged me for something different today, which is a good thing because I didn’t have a clue concerning a subject to write about. Instead, my mission is to  add to a story originally started by Teresa, the Haunted Wordsmith; it’s like a kind of blogging relay race apparently. This is the story so far……

Teresa’s Part:

Anne and Gladys waved as the men left for their hunt. When they were out of sight, they both laughed knowing full well that none would have the heart to really shoot anything. They liked a boy’s day out as much as they liked a girl’s day in.

“So,” Fred said as they passed the gate into his family’s hunting grounds. “What do you think the girls are up to today?”

Alec laughed. “Talking about us, what else?”

Sam nodded. “Yep.”

As they walked through the fields into the tree line, the dogs’ ears’ picked up. Boy whimpered and cowered close to Fred’s legs. Toby’s fur stood on edge as he stared into the woods and growled.

“Easy there,” Alec said, trying to calm him.

Sam kneeled and unzipped his gun as quietly as possible. Suddenly, both dogs were on alert as a …

Morpethroad wrote:

small, bespectacled man stepped through the bushes. The dogs were going berserk by now straining at their leashes. It was clear the dogs sensed a danger the men did not see.

The man walking towards them was squinting as he approached as he had the sun in his eyes.

“Good afternoon,” he said as he drew near, “your dogs won’t bite will they? I do have a fear of them.”

Sam stood with his gun in his hands unsure of what he was seeing and hearing. The place they were in was a piece of rugged bushland, no one lived there because it was the family’s hunting grounds and it was considered unsafe to even camp on the land for any reason at all.

Fred was trying his best to hold onto his dog, and Alec held firm on Toby’s collar. Once the small man came within a few feet of the hunting party, they could see…

Pensitivity101 continues:

he was holding something in a plastic bag.

Fred lost his grip and Boy lunged at the man who dropped the bag on the ground and threw his arms up to protect his face.

Fred was afraid they would have to shoot the dog but Boy wasn’t interested in the man at all, just the bag, which he snatched up and obediently brought back to his master.

The little man was shaking with fear as Sam reached out his hand to help him up.

“You realise you’re trespassing don’t you?” he said.

The man straightened his glasses and collected himself.

“I’m sorry about that, but we’d received a repor….”

“We? Who is we? And what are you doing here? You could have been shot!”

Fred had taken the bag out of Boy’s mouth and stared at the contents in disbelief.

“Guys? I think you need to look at this.”

Sadje’s contribution:

Sam and Alec stepped forward to take a look at what was in the bag. Fred’s hand, clutching the bag, was trembling. The bag contained a severed hand, the digits were shaped like a claw. But it was like no human hand they had ever seen. It was like it belonged to someone very big and skinny.

“Whe…, Ahm….Where did you find this?” Alec uttered the question through vocal cords which were refusing to cooperate. Sam and Fred were looking askance at the stranger. The whole situation had taken on a nightmarish quality.

The man, again made an attempt to introduce himself. “I am Bennett, from The Agency of Alien Detection, TAAD. We received the alien activity signals from this area and a party has been investigating the situation. This is part of the remains we were able to recover. Do you have any information regarding this?”

The three men stared at him with gapping mouth and glazed looks. Who in their right mind would believe this man. But the evidence was in their hands.

Sam took the bag from Fred and was going to examine it closely when…

Cheryl added:

…when the bag’s contents started moving. The claw-like severed hand was scratching at the plastic bag. Sam dropped it like a hot potato! The boys started to freak out and started to whimper. The spectacled man even stepped back. “Oh my,” Bennett stuttered, “I thought it was, uh, uh, dead!”

Sam kept his gun at the ready. There was no way this “thing” was going to hurt the boys. Bennett fumbled nervously in his pocket to retrieve what looked like a cell phone, but was actually a communicator to the rest of the landing crew. His face seemed to change shape a bit and he started to adjust his hair. Sam looked at the little man with more than just curiosity. Who was this guy, really?

This was Fandango’s contribution

“Do not touch that bag!” Bennett, who was no longer a small, bespectacled, unimposing man, shouted. He had suddenly grown taller. His skin took on a shiny, reddish tone and his hands took on the same claw-like shape of the severed hand in the bag. The three men stepped back and even the two dogs stopped barking and cowered.

“What are you?” Alec asked. “you definitely are not human.”

“No,” Bennett admitted, “I am not. My companion and I were sent here from our home planet to explore your planet. Our mission was peaceful. Our intent was merely to collect air and mineral samples. We intended no harm. But then we encountered a hostile group of creatures who jumped my companion. I’m ashamed to say that I ran for cover, while these creatures devoured my companion. All that was left of him was the hand that I put in the bag. But he is apparently beginning the regeneration process.”

“Creatures? What kind of creatures?” Sam asked.

“Similar to those,” Bennett said, pointing to the two dogs, “but larger and much more viscous.”

“Wolves,” Fred said.

Sam raised his rifle and aimed it at the alien. “Sam, what are you doing?” Alec shouted.

Suddenly…

Now over to me:

There was a noise overhead and both Alec and Sam turned sharply to try and identify it’s source; necks craning upwards they searched the sky but there was nothing other than a dense cloud bank.

“Looks like there’s a storm coming” said Alec “Perhaps it was thunder we heard”

He turned to look at Sam who had resumed his position; stock still with his gun aimed at Bennett’s head

“That wasn’t thunder, was it Mr Bennett?” Sam said quietly

“Sam! Please put down your gun, there’s no need for threats, Mr Bennett has explained that he has no beef with us, he’s just doing some research”

Alec was surprised at his friend’s behaviour especially as Boy and Toby were no longer agitated but laying peacefully at their feet. In his experience dogs were far better attuned to sense danger than any human.

“And you believe him do you?” Sam was absolutely rigid and he spoke from the corner of his mouth through clenched teeth as though in mortal terror or suppressed anger, Alec couldn’t be sure which.

“Yes I believe him Sam now put the gun down for God’s sake before some gets hurt”

Alec was becoming genuinely concerned, they were both hunters but he knew from long experience that Sam was not a violent man. He stepped forward to try to placate his friend and persuade him to drop his weapon.= but just then the sky darkened and………..

Superman’s (Billy Mac) contribution:

They were slammed to the ground by a sudden, swirling and violent thrust of downward pressure. The trees bent outwards in futile surrender as they were pelted by leaves and underbrush. The noise was deafening. The dogs, unable to stand, yelped as they crawled towards the outskirts of the clearing. Sam, having lost his tenuous grip on the shotgun, helplessly watched as it was flung beyond his sight. He found himself being tossed around on the forest floor as he tried to find something to hold onto. He cried out to Alec who was frantically hugging the base of a tree at least 20 feet away.

“Alec! What the ever loving f&*k is going on?!” He shouted. As the words left his mouth he knew that the cacophony around him had drowned him out.

Alec, instead of futilely trying to shout over the deafening noise waved his right arm, his left clinging to the tree base, caught Sam’s attention and frantically pointed upwards, jabbing at the forest ceiling.

Suddenly branches and debris began raining down upon them and both men cowered under the onslaught. Sam forced himself to look up. Squinting and covering his eyes with one hand he could see a large object slowly lowering itself into the clearing, effortlessly forcing aside the trees that dared block its descent.

The heat was overwhelming, Sam could only presume it was exhaust.

But from what?

He scrambled to escape the clearing. Alec, with a sudden burst of brevity let go of the tree and did a military crawl to join his friend. Once he reached Sam they locked arms and watched what they could only presume was Bennett’s ride home finish it’s descent.

My two cents:

Ending its descent before touching down, the craft hovered several feet above the ground. The cacophony of sound, which was deafening as the alien ship forced its way into the clearing, was gone. The woods was eerily silent, as if aware of a malignant presence that it did not want to disturb. The symphony of birds, insects, and the other creatures that inhabited the grounds had vanished. Even the sound of water cascading down the brooks and streams that crisscrossed their route could not be detected. If not for the sound of their heavy breathing, Sam and Alec might have thought they were struck deaf.

The air was calm and still, but somehow felt alive, pulsating with a vibration and energy that was palpable. Sam wiped what he thought was perspiration beading the side of his face, and was alarmed when he saw blood on his hands. Turning to his partner, his eyes widened as he witnessed blood seeping from Alec’s ears and nose. Gently elbowing his friend’s bicep to get his attention, Sam pointed to Alec’s face and then his own. As Alec rubbed the space between his nose and upper lip, Sam heard Alec moan “What the hell?”, but Alec’s lips did not move. Confused, Sam hoped this was a nightmare he would soon wake from when he heard Alec respond “This is no nightmare, Sam. Can you hear my thoughts? I sure as hell can hear yours.”

Sam nodded. He didn’t question their sudden telepathic capabilities, instinctively knowing the alien presence somehow enabled it. Perhaps it was best under the circumstances that they could communicate in this manner, and not draw attention to themselves by making noise with their voices.

“We have to get out of here,” Sam heard Alec think, pointing to Sam’s face. The drops of  blood from Sam’s ears and nose had developed into a trickle. Sam saw Alec grimace when he felt his own eyes suddenly tear, and knew it wasn’t tears emerging from his eyes.

The men resumed their military crawl to get as far away from this place as they could without being detected. Moving backwards in this fashion so they would not lose sight of what was in front of them, the air around them suddenly became heavy. Their bodies became immobile, seemingly tethered to the leaf covered terrain, as if an invisible lead blanket enveloped them.

“Christ!” Alec heard Sam think, and was about to reply when a sound that was similar to the opening of an enormous vault pierced the silence. As a sliver of blinding light emerged from the ship, Sam reflexively turned his eyes away from it, and saw leaves, wooden debris and a several mice, chipmunks and a handful of other small rodents get sucked towards the ship, as if caught in a vortex of gravity.

The men felt their bodies become caught in that vortex and become involuntarily drawn towards the ship. Fortunately two large oaks were in their path, and stopped their momentum. They shielded their eyes from the light that was no longer an emerging sliver, but a floodlight of sun-like intensity that enveloped the entire scene.

Bennett, who had transformed into his natural form, approached the ship and appeared to be communicating with something neither Sam or Alec could see. Their blood turned cold when Bennett raised his arm, turned his body and extended a long, bony finger from his claw-like hand and pointed in their direction.

“Oh shit!” both men thought in unison.

 

I pass the baton Susan @ Stories From The Edge of Blindness take it to from here. Susan, I know this may not be in your wheelhouse, but I’d love do see with what you can do with it.

This is what you need to do next:

1. Copy the story as you receive it.
2. Add to the story in some fashion.
3. Either tag another person to contribute to the story or finish the story yourself.
4. Please use FTS as a tag so Teresa can find it or link back to part 1.
5. Have Fun!

Revisiting My 2018 Resolutions

2018 resolutions

One of my last posts of 2017 was a declaration of resolutions for the upcoming new year. Now that 2018 is in the books, I thought it would be interesting to see what those resolutions were (there was only one that I remembered) and how I did. What I discovered was a mixed bag: some complete successes and utter failures. Here are the results:

Get my book published:  The book isn’t published, but it is in the process of being submitted to various publishers. This campaign started later in the year than I anticipated, but at least the word is out and folks are taking a look at it. Hopefully 2019 will be the year.

Break ground on a new house or be in the process of remodeling an existing one: If you follow this blog, you know that ground has been broken and the foundation is in. Unless something catastrophic occurs, we should be moved in by summer. We nailed this one!

Be ten pounds lighter: Um……not even close. I can say that I did get to that point at one time during the year, but got tired of the struggle of dieting and said the hell with it. My motivation now is to not count every single morsel I put in my mouth, and try not to exceed a certain weight. It has worked so far, but, in all honesty, I am not going to get near a scale until after Ground Hog’s Day.

My MS symptoms will remain confined to one limb: Put this one in the success column. I can’t say I had a lot to do with this. Maybe I can thank my neurologist, or chalk it up to sheer luck. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Post every week to this blog: I had reservations about this one, but I managed not only to accomplish this task, but posted more than once a week on a handful of occasions. There were a couple of times where I had writer’s block, and thought this might be the week I falter, but it never happened. Another success!

Finish the manuscript of Novel #2: Not only did I not finish it, I barely wrote anything at all. I did noodle around with it in the beginning of the year, but I was more focused on doing everything I needed to do on the social media front to help support the novel I did write, in addition to posting to this blog. Those are lame excuses, however, because if I want to do something and am motivated to do it, it gets done. I get a big, fat F on this one.

Drink less: I was never a heavy drinker, but listed this because it would help with my weight, and because I didn’t think it was good for my MS. I never consciously thought about it during the year, but did reduce my alcohol consumption. In all candor, I think part of the reason I was able to do this was because of my new MS medicine, which has suppressed the desire for alcohol. After all, why ruin a good buzz? I’m not sure if this is cheating, but I’ll call this one a success.

Use the word “fuck” less: Didn’t happen. Enough said. It’s such a versatile word, and rolls off the tongue so effortlessly. This one was probably doomed from the beginning.

Eat Better: I wasn’t eating all that badly to start. I thought I would eliminate a few fats from my diet, keeping my weight loss goal in mind, but that fell by the wayside when I said to hell with dieting. So I’m not eating “better”, but I’m not eating any worse either, so call this one is a wash.

Get more sleep: That didn’t come close to happening. Old habits are hard to break, I’m afraid. A definite failure.

So out of these ten resolutions, four were achieved in their totality, four were colossal failures, one was partial failure and one was a wash. I guess that’s par for the course.

 

Adieu 2018

2018

Another year had ended

And at this time of year

I find myself reflecting

On events both sad and dear

 

Not a lot transpired

A break from what is looming

Next year will be eventful

The journey may not be soothing

 

But what about this year?

We have all remained sane

Everyone is healthy

I’m not in any pain

 

There wasn’t a lot of grieving

Or gnashing of the teeth

Life’s seas were mostly calm

As was my myelin sheath

 

The one thing I have noticed

As I have become older

Something my parents cautioned

Each new year feels shorter

 

My peer group is shrinking

Dear ones are no longer

Obituaries announce their passing

The price of getting older

 

But enough of being maudlin

An emotion that can hurt

I cherish all my loved ones

And each day above the dirt

 

I hope your year was stellar

May the new year smile upon you

And fulfill your hopes and dreams

Instead of making you feel blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Timing

stocks

Timing is everything in life, or so the saying goes. I’ve often wondered if good timing is a by-product of foresight and astute planning, or of it is all sheer dumb luck. The one thing I do know is that when it comes to real-estate matters, our timing has mostly sucked.

Whenever we have been in the market to buy, it’s typically been a sellers market. When we have been in the market to sell, it’s been a buyers market, either because of high interest rates or a glut of supply.

We thought this chapter of our real estate exploits with the house we are building would be different. After all, K is the general contractor and is in a position to manage costs. We carefully reviewed our assets and financing options, determined that we didn’t need to borrow much and, after we sold our current house, could possibly walk away with no mortgage at all.

We planned the order in which we would utilize the various funds available to us. Not wanting to paying interest on anything until we absolutely had to, we decided to use our assets first before tapping into the various loan options, and figured these would cover us until late winter/early spring. The plan was realistic, well thought out, and all the signs pointed to a smooth and uneventful process, with no speed bumps or u-turns.

But history is a hard thing to overcome, and our wishful thinking was flushed down the toilet when the stock market suffered its worst week since the financial crisis of 2008, and the talking heads announced we were in the process of experiencing the worst December since the Great Depression. All I could do is shake my head, roll my eyes, smile a sad smile, and wonder why I should be surprised.

This development is not a deal-breaker.  After all, what goes up must come down, and visa versa, so I know there will eventually be a rebound. In fact, the market gained over 1,000 points yesterday, the single biggest daily gain in its history. But the recovery is a drop in the bucket compared to was lost these last ten days, and what is unknown is whether this is a one-hit wonder or the beginning of an upward trend to normalcy. What is also unknown is whether the asset we were going to liquidate will regain most of the value it lost.

The financial storm clouds are still there. The government shutdown had a lot to do with this, and will persist long into January as long as our Idiot-In Chief continues to insist on that stupid wall. His sophomoric comments about firing the Fed’s chairman added gasoline to the fire, but that also seems to have died down a bit. Then there are his ongoing legal issues, that are only going to get worse, to consider.

I’m trying to be optimistic and hope that the correction will occur over a matter of weeks instead of months, but have the nagging suspicion the wall issue isn’t going to go away. The political climate in Washington will only get worse when the new House convenes and starts all of their investigations, which is sure to keep the markets in a state of uncertainty, which is never good. And if a smoking gun emerges from either their investigations or the Mueller report, watch out!

So it is back to the drawing board. Unless the plunge of the last two weeks corrects itself in a hurry, we will have to employ the borrowing options first, which will hopefully buy us the time the market needs to recover. Fortunately, K had to foresight to obtain a building loan for more than we thought we would need, and we have a lot of equity in our current house. But the idea was to emerge from this with little or no debt. If the current situation remains by Spring or, God forbid, gets worse, we’ll either have more debt or need to liquidate more assets than we wanted. Both of these scenarios suck beyond imagination, but the foundation is in, and stopping the project in its tracks while this all gets sorted out is not an option.

As this project got started, my biggest fear is we would run out of good weather before we could get under roof, which would delay the process by three to six months. I still don’t want to see this become a reality, but that may be the one thing that provides the necessary time for the markets to settle down. Wouldn’t it be ironic if this not only occurred, but turned out to be a godsend? Perhaps, but it isn’t something I am rooting for.

I’m going to stop driving myself crazy and not look at the numbers every day for the next week or two. Nidan and I are going to Florida for a few days after New Year’s and I’ll wait until our return before taking another peak at them. Hopefully I will be pleasantly surprised. Meanwhile, we can ride this out until the framing starts. Some big bills will start rolling in then, at which point we’ll have to commit to a financing plan of some kind.

What we naively believed was going to be smooth sailing, is turning out to be more of an emotional roller-coaster, but I should have known better. Our previous house-building experience had repeatedly demonstrated that nothing ever turns out the way one plans. So why should this be any different?

On a separate note, I’d like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. I hope your 2019 is filled with brightness and hope, and that any troubles or pain you are currently experiencing last only as long as your New Year resolutions.