Friday, September 30, 2005

Settling In

Everyone—thank you for your suggestions and support—I find it all helpful!

Well, today arranged for DSL service and newspaper delivery. Discovered the refrigerator not only dispenses cold water and ice cubes but crushed ice as well. Now okay, those aren’t necessities—any one of them. And I’ve never had a refrigerator before that did. Probably wouldn’t have bought one because of the cost. came with the house and I find myself enjoying that little luxury.

I’ve also unpacked little things that are positive triggers for me. By that, I mean little things that make me smile and remind me of happy times in my life. Or they remind me of times I felt really strong and competent. I’m making a point of wearing clothes that do the same for me as I deal with the quirks and minutiae of moving that can be frustrating otherwise.

When I coach people, I tell them to make lists of things they are good at. Because every change begins with believing we are capable of making changes. I could not have made this move if I had been telling myself I MUST do so. It worked because I could remind myself that I was sure I had the wisdom and strength and skills necessary—if I wanted to.

And I’m making those lists of things I want and need for the house—now or in the future. It’s a wish list that will get filled as I can. I’m asking myself what I WANT. Not—What is a house supposed to have? I’m asking myself what would make me HAPPY? What would make this a house I love to be in, that feels welcoming to ME, and encourages me to write? These are the questions that matter. One of the great things about getting older is that we realize what other people think we should want or have or do matters far less than who we are and what is right for us. Better to wait a bit to find just the right sofa or just the right dishes or just the right pots and pans than to settle because I feel like I have to find something FAST. I will admit, however, that getting a bed IS a high priority!

The best thing is that every morning I get up smiling because I love this house. I walk through it amazed that no one snatched it up before I did. I walk through it amazed that I found something so perfect for what I need. And I remind myself that soon I can begin holding classes and making a difference in the lives of those I teach.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Saga Continues...

Got a few more necessities—including ordering a washer and dryer. The washer is now installed. The dryer was DOA so they will have to bring a different one tomorrow.

Those of you who were on my private email lists for the “Pink Refrigerator” journey will laugh to know that the first thing I bought here was a coffee maker. It symbolized as much here as it did then.

Slowly, I’m unpacking boxes that got delivered. Hanging up clothes, putting up small touches (a carved fan, a green marble vase, a waterfall photo, etc.). More and more this feels like MY home. I even soaked in the garden tub last night. (For those who don’t know—and I didn’t before house hunting here—a garden tub is shorter but much deeper than an ordinary tub and has Jacuzzi style jets in it. What a luxury! And what a contrast to the house where I lived for over 10 years that didn’t have a bathtub at all—only a shower stall.

I’m whittling away at the pile of things that must be done—trying to sort out priorities. Next, I think, will be the bed. It will cost more than I want to pay, but...a bed makes such a big difference in how we sleep and feel.

And sofas. I need those. Bookcases, coffee tables, etc. those will come later. Oh, and a kitchen set. I’ll need to get dishes and pots and pans, too. Thing is, I left most stuff in the house when the divorce came through. And it wouldn’t have made sense to ship them—it would cost more than buying new. But it does mean a heft cost now. So...I’m looking at priorities. What do I need/want to do first?

The other thing about taking a little time is that I’ll be sure it’s what I want, not just what I have to get because I need something quickly. So it’s all priorities. Making sure I can pay bills in full when they come in. Looking at a budget that makes sense for now. (Hey, this kind of fiscal caution is why I could get this house!)

Which reminds me—got to go call and arrange trash services and get my DSL connection set up so that it doesn’t take forever to download or upload things on my computer?

Eventually, of course, I also need to figure out little things like TV—cable or satellite? Lawn service or buy a mower (leaning toward lawn service, but depends on the cost). Register my car and switch over driver’s license. Little things like that. But those aren’t quite as urgent.

Oh, I must mention that today it’s cooler! By a good 20 to 25 degrees. It’s lovely to be able to have windows open and a nice breeze running through the house.’s all working out. I will no doubt continue to have moments of panic but....I also know, deep down, that it will be all right. Everything WILL work out. I DO know what I’m doing. And as those of you know who read my email about my cross country journey, that’s quite a change from how I felt not all that long ago....


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Moving In

Well, I’m in my new home. Discovered something I hadn’t noticed during the walkthrough but with luck a handyman can fix it cheaply. Realized also that the blasted smoke detector was chirping loudly and so high up I had no way to reach it. Went to the store and got a step ladder plus other assorted things I needed plus groceries.

Now all of this was made much more interesting by the fact that I’ve never used an automatic garage door opener. Suffice it to say there was much driving around the block, running in the front door and hitting the button inside the garage to open and close the door before I figured out how it all worked! You’d have been laughing if you saw me—I, of course, was far closer to cussing the darned thing out.

The most interesting discovery was one I made as I was about to make tea to go with my dinner. I had no water. I’d called. Faxed in the application. Been assured I’d have water. I didn’t. It was much too late and I was much too tired to try to find a hotel so I stayed and cussed some more. Called again this morning (blessedly the phone was hooked up without problems!) and got a promise I’d get water today—which I did by 10 am.

Meanwhile, the post office has delivered my 9 boxes of books. (What can I say? I’m a writer—we live by books! And this doesn’t count the boxes of books still in storage in NJ...)

I’m waiting for UPS delivery and the gas company to come through and check things out prior to switching service to my name.

I swear there were moments I wondered if I was crazy getting a house. Especially since I still have to arrange garbage service and decide if I’m going to mow the lawn myself (and buy a mower) or have someone cut it for me. Not to mention buy furniture and a washer/dryer. Sleeping on an air mattress is not going to cut it for long!

And then I look around my house and know it’s mine. I look around and know it’s perfect for holding writing classes. Or classes for woman who want advice on how to manage financially or how to present themselves effectively. Here, in this house, I can make a difference in people’s lives. So whatever the momentary glitches might be, it doesn’t matter. Because with this house, I can make a difference.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Heat Wave

Made it to Austin and decided to check out washers and dryers and beds before I checked into a hotel. And discovered Austin is in the middle of a heat wave--hitting 107 today. Record setting heat. And no fun, even in an air conditioned car. By the time I got to my hotel, I was feeling the effects of the heat. What did people do before air conditioning?

There are still evacuees from the hurricanes here. And on the road I saw a convoy of trucks from California headed to help out in the devastated areas. All of which made me feel foolish for complaining about a little heat.

Didn't end up ordering anything. Overload and sticker shock. I'll sleep on it, close on the house, then decide what I want to do. Meanwhile, discovered I'd made one assumption and my real estate agent another about something. So we're scrambling to sort it all out. A reminder to me to always make absolutely sure communication is clear.

It's strange. When I was on the road, all I had time to think about was getting here. Now there's time for last minute panic to set in. Not that I really have second thoughts about this move, but today was one of those days, with the heat and all, that makes one wonder about moves like this. Still, I'll get a good night's sleep and tomorrow I'll be ready to move into my new home. Once again, I remind myself that things don't have to go perfectly to be a success. We can make choices, adapt to circumstances, and cope with the unexpected.

And that reminds me that I have gone from a time in my life when any tiny setback made me feel as if everything would go wrong, to understanding that sometimes crap happens and yet things can still work out. I've come to expect things to go well--and that's part of the emotional journey I've made over the past couple of years.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Empty Spaces

Today's stretch of road had lots of empty spaces. By that I mean that stops were few and far between. Maybe no farther apart than yesterday, but it felt that way. Or maybe I'm just getting tired. Still, 430 miles today. And the closer I get to Austin, the more I feel like I'm coming home. Now I'm driving stretches I drove a year and a half ago. Staying at the same hotel tonight I stayed back then, too.

Driving along, I couldn't help feeling that this landscape helped shape the people who settled here. They had to have a quiet determination to do whatever had to be done in order to survive--and their descendants carry on the tradition. There had to be a sense of self-reliance. There had to be a determination to defend oneself and one's family--given how disputed this land was back then. I find myself thinking how all of this has perhaps shaped our current president's actions and attitudes.

Not that Texas is unique in this. Every place shapes the people who live there. That's why writers are so often fascinated by travel. We want to go places and see how people live--only that way can we truly understand how they think and feel and act and react. And we writers are forever curious about people. We want to understand. And in understanding we feel a great sense of connection with people who, on the surface at least, might appear to be very different than we are.

A year and a half ago, someone called my cross-country journey a journey of emotional as well as physical miles. This journey back to Texas feels as much an emotional journey as that one was--just compressed into a much shorter period of time. In a way, this feels like the final leg of the journey that began in New Jersey that year and a half ago. I'd never been to Texas before that trip and yet....I still feel as if I'm coming home.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

450 miles

As the title says, I went 450 miles today. Started by looking up an oil change place. Drove to Chevron Oil place in north Tucson. They were quick and great--even told me I didn't need a new air filter after all. Then I was on my way, taking it easy again--65 mph when the speed limit was 75mph. Took longer breaks, too, whenever I stopped, to give the engine a chance to cool down a bit and drove the last hundred miles after dark when it was cooler.

Found myself thinking how different it feels going west to east than it did going east to west a year and a half ago. This time I know where I'm going, this time I'm going to settle down. This time I'm more sure of myself. But both times I loved driving, singing along to the radio.

I'm tired though. Drove farther than I'd like but necessary if I'm going to make it to Austin in time. Tomorrow will be another 450 miles--which will put me within an hour or two of Austin. Good thing I allowed an extra day--mapquest's estimate of 26 hours was absurdly optimistic!

There was a moment yesterday when I panicked. What if my car broke down? What if I got stranded in the desert? All the kinds of worries that tend to hit at 3 in the morning. And the thing is, as long as I felt that panic, I couldn't think of any solutions. Fortunately, it was shortlived and as soon as I let it go, I realized I could get the oil changed and alter my driving pattern a bit and it worked. I'm 450 miles closer to where I need to be.

And that's the thing--panic is never helpful. It gets in the way of thinking of solutions. So anything that reduces the panic is a step forward.

Upshot is that instead of being a day of being worried, today became another affirmation of what I can accomplish.

What works for you to reduce panic? What lets you feel in control? Make a list. Seriously. Make a list you can keep handy. So that you don't have to think about it--it's automatic. These are the steps you will take so that you can always figure out how to let go of panic and figure out solutions to any challenge you face.


Friday, September 23, 2005


We make choices all the time. Some work out better than others. I realized today that taking the southern route at this time of year may have been a mistake--even if it is the shortest route. It's over 100 degrees the entire way. I've been driving at less than the speed limit, trying to be careful not to strain the engine on my car because it's loaded down so much. In fact, in the morning, I may try to find a place to get the oil changed before I drive any further.

So...on the negative side, it might have been wiser to take a more northern route. On the plus side, even now I have choices to make this still work out.

I haven't gotten as far as I planned today, but that's why I built extra time into the trip. So that I could do what I needed to do and still make it to Austin on time.

Now...for journey notes...

I loved driving with mountains on either side. The majesty of it struck me profoundly. Especialy the flat topped mesas. A part of me wanted so much to be on the top of one, on a vision quest. But I kept driving knowing that I have other paths to walk instead.

I detoured to try to find Arizona tourist information offices and never did find any. But that's okay. I had just hoped for hotel discount coupons but it's not important. I did my sightseeing when I came the other way, east to west, a year and a half ago.

I also want to mention writing. I did promise I would talk about writing in this blog. But it's also because I was listening to Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones on tape. I'd listened to the first half of the set driving from Tucson to San Diego a year and a half ago. Now I listened to the other half. And it reminded me how tied together writing and life are--each impacts the other. There is something wonderfully liberating about being able to write. And life feeds what and how we write.

A couple of my email loops are beginning a BIAW this weekend (Book In A Week--see my website for more information). For those of you who are, I will be cheering you on. I think this is the first one I've hosted where I won't be able to write along with all of you. Remember to recall the joy you felt playing make believe as a child. Free yourself of all worries about "shoulds" and just let the words flow. You can edit later--this is a chance to discover the deepest, truest words inside of you. To find the voice that is yours alone. And don't forget, at the end of the week, to look back and see how and what and when and where you wrote the best.

I believe in fostering joy when we write--just as I believe that no matter what we want to do in life, we are most likely to succeed if we build joy into the process, if we celebrate who we are and what we can do and what our greatest strengths might be.

Well, I'm tired. And I need to be up early if I'm going to get the oil changed in my car before I go any further. So...I'd better look online and make sure I know how to find a place where I can.

Wishing all of you wisdom in the choices you make, but even more faith in yourselves--that the decisions/choices you make will be good enough and that if something does go wrong, you will be able to figure out what to do. I wish you joy in your lives and the ability to laugh every day--no matter what the challenges you might be facing. Joy/laughter gives us strength to go on, to cope with life, to find ways to reach out and help others. And I say that as someone who, for much of my life, didn't know how to find that joy. Joy and laughter are choices that take a leap of faith--faith that we deserve to be happy, that it's okay to celebrate life even when there is something to grieve as well. And we do--each and every one of us.

More tomorrow...


On the Road

Left later than I wanted, drove longer than I wanted. One curiousity--I apparently drove through a 4.0 earthquake and didn't even notice! Did notice the rush hour traffic on the north side of LA. Got lost trying to find the hotel where I planned to stay for the night so it was close to 9pm when I finally got to my room.

I'm glad to be on my way. That's imortant to me. And all things considered, it could have been worse. I may not have needed to drive quite so far today, but I'd rather go farther than necessary than find myself not getting to Austin in time.

It's funny. I had dinner with a friend on Monday and found myself telling her how, at one point in my life, I was paralyzed at the thought of driving somewhere I hadn't been before. Those of you who know about my cross country trek a year and a half ago, will be laughing at the thought! But I was--paralyzed, terrified, feeling as if it was something I couldn't do. I've come a long way since those days. And that's the thing. If there is one message I would like to share with others, it is that we can continuously grow and change and create the lives we want to have. We can become the person we want to be. We can do it at any age, too. Every time we face down a fear, we become braver. Each time we overcome a fear, we prove to ourselves that we are more capable than we thought we are. Even when our attempts don't work out perfectly, we gain information and the next time will have a better chance to succeed.

I'm glad I didn't notice the earthquake. I'm glad I wasn't scared by the rush hour traffic around LA--though I'll admit I wish I'd been able to miss it. Going 5 mph for an hour isn't my idea of fun. And even though I got lost looking for my hotel, I was able to figure out what to do and eventually get there.

My point is that things don't have to be perfect to be a success. Today was a success--despite all the glitches that occurred. I am a day and more than 400 miles closer to my destination.

Happy traveling, everyone!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Advice on Moving

It's very strange, packing up my things and getting ready to move out of this lovely little apartment that has been home for the past year or so. And yet, it feels very right to be making this move.

Funny, I don't think about it until other people comment on how unusual it is for a woman my age to be making a move like this so quickly.

At any rate, I thought I would share some of the lessons I'm discovering as I get ready to move:

1) Organization. Totebags are great for packing things that need to go in the car. No wasted space, they conform to whatever shape I need them to be, and I can organize them. Each essential category--car, health, new home, etc.--can have its own totebag. Of course, as a writer, I have lots of totebags from all the writers conferences I attend. But truly it helps. When I get a call that the insurance agent needs certain information to write the policy on my new home, I know exactly where to find what I need. And when I get there, I will know how to find what I need quickly.

2) Books. The postal system has a great rate for media/book mail. Mind you, you must be careful to follow the regulations but if you do, it's a great rate.

3) Change of address. You can do a change of address online and even ask the post office at the other end to hold mail until after your move in date.

4) Arranging services. Sometimes it's faster and easier to call rather than try to do it online, even though we're all accustomed to doing things online these days.

5) Allow time to laugh as you pack. It's a great way to reduce stress.

6) Make lists. Lists are helping me remember the million and one things I have to do every day to get it all done in time! They also reduce stress because I'm not up half the night worrying that I will forget things.

7) If you go househunting, make sure you know what you can afford BEFORE you begin to look. Otherwise, you may find yourself looking at a home you love but can't really afford OR not looking at one you can.

8) Finances. Banks these days will lend people mortgages for fairly generous amounts. More than might be wise for YOU. Know yourself and what level of cash reserves you need to feel comfortable/safe. You do not have to buy as much house as a mortgage broker would allow. Take into account ALL expenses--mortgage payment, property taxes, homeowner's insurance (& PMI if you put down less than 20%), utilities (including water and sewer, phone and cable).

9) Get prequalified for a mortgage (and boost your credit score if you can). Also, know whether in your area houses typically go for more, less, or at asking price.

10) Know that your credit score affects everything from interest rates on mortgages to insurance rates to getting a job.

11) Know what you want and need in a house and keep looking until you find it.

Well, back to packing. Back to saying good-bye to a place that I've loved and get ready to move to a place I love even more.

If any of you are getting ready to make a change, good luck! May you discover just the right place for YOU.


Friday, September 16, 2005


I love the Bay area just south of San Francisco. I love the people, I love the weather, and I love the spirit of new ideas. This has been a wonderful place to begin to renew my spirit and discover who I am when I am no longer defining myself primarily as a wife and mother, the way I did for so long. Now, though, it's time for a change.

When I took my cross country trip, I spent a week or so in Austin, Texas and I liked it. I wasn't ready to stay there then, but I liked it. So when I flew to Texas last week to see if I still liked it as much, I was optimistic about maybe moving there. I got more than I bargained for.

I arrived just as evacuees of Hurricane Katrina were arriving. Every where I went, every person in Austin, it seemed, was doing something to help. There was a sense of quiet determination to simply do whatever needed to be done. There was an understanding that this could be a long term thing. They were still going to do whatever needed to be done.

I know that's not unique. People all over this country are helping. And yet, at the same time, it was a powerfully moving experience to watch an entire city in action like this. Once more, it affirmed for me that these were people I wanted to know.

When a disaster like Katrina occurs, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. It's scary to think our lives can be turned upside down and we might be powerless to stop it from happening. It is precisely at times like this that we need to be reminded of the power that each of us has within ourselves to make a difference, even in the midst of disaster. It is profoundly important to see that when we work together, as all the people of Austin were, our individual power doesn't simply get added together, but rather it is multiplied.

As I said, I know Austin isn't unique. And that's a good thing. I'd like to believe that people every where in this country would respond with the same willingness to do whatever is needed. It's just that this is the experience I was surrounded by. And it made my decision to move to Austin even easier.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Changes in Life

A year and a half ago, a year after my divorce after 50, I put my things in storage, packed up my car, and started a road trip to discover where I wanted to live. I'd started out in NJ and drove across country, taking 2 1/2 months for my trip. I not only visited cities I thought I might want to live in, but I also visited places I'd read about and always wanted to see--like the Alamo and the Grand Canyon and Native American cliff dwellings.

I ended up, of course, in the one place I had ruled out because of cost--the Bay area just south of San Francisco. (I should explain that I'm a writer and that gives me a certain flexibility most people don't have.) I was stopping in Palo Alto only to meet up with my daughter, a recent graduate of Stanford University, who was going to be in town to see her friends. But...

A little voice kept nudging me to look at apartments because I knew I would love spending time here. I looked on Craigslist and sure enough, found listings for studios I could afford. A studio apartment? Me? Surely I'd go nuts in such a small place! But that same little voice nudged me to call one particular listing. And it was love at first sight. A converted top story of a house. A landlady whose daughter had read my books. A hummingbird on site as she showed me around. Built in bookshelves (a necessity for a writer!) and storage space for my sewing in the window ledge. I took it. All in the space of one morning.

I've never regretted that choice. It's been a blessing to be here. And I've had the chance to meet wonderful people and teach some classes in public speaking and creative writing for kids through a great place called the Communication Academy in Cupertino. But...

I've been restless, too, wanting a house. A place to set down roots. And so I've been looking for some time--driving up to Oregon, looking online at places I've been and places I might want to go. This past week, I flew to Austin, Texas, not even totally sure I wanted to move there. By Friday, I'd had an offer accepted on a house and by the end of the month, we close.

I'm posting all of this because I know how scary some of the changes in my own life have been and I wanted others, especially other women my age, to know that there are stll wonderful opportunities ahead of us! We can still make changes and go after our dreams. We can create the lives we want to have.

We cannot always choose what happens TO us, but we always have the power to choose how we deal with what happens. It's nice to know it can work out and I wanted to share that.

In my next post, I'll be writing a little about what I saw in Austin, especially regarding evacuees of Hurricane Katrina. I'd like to share what I saw that showed so clearly the power of the human spirit.

Long term, I plan to write about both life and writing. As I said, I'm a writer--31 published novels. I'll be sharing some of the things I've discovered about the writing process as well as the tools I've found that can help us not only survive difficult times in our lives but actually triumph over them.

Until then, wishing you good changes in your lives!

April Kihlstrom