A Writer’s Biography, Volume II, Part 7: Letting the past go

I’ve moved four times in just over 20 years. It’s not gotten easier with time. You want to know what it has taught me? Owning stuff is overrated. Even if it is something you have created or treasured.

Yes, I did wind up owning that amount of books. I wound up donating about four boxes worth to Goodwill or the local library. Recently, I’ve had to become very choosy about how many books are in my collection.

It’s a funny situation.

In the summer of 2020, I wound up being the last adult at my house for a couple months. My wife, Laura, had managed to find a great job opportunity in southern Iowa. It was going to be a brave new world for me, who had spent most of my life living in Eastern Iowa, and my wife and two kids, who had lived there for all of their lives.

My wife had actually moved the fall before to our new hometown, installing herself in an efficiency apartment near her work while returning to our home on the weekends and holidays. I’m not sure I really hinted at it that much on this blog at the time, but Summer 2019 – Summer 2020 was one of the weirdest times in my life and my family’s life. I was trying to keep things together – not often perfectly – while working a job that I knew I was going to be leaving at the end of the year. Laura felt like she was missing out on our daughter’s senior year, but she was being too unfair – she had always been part of our kids’ activities and lives, and this was something she was doing for all of us. And, of course, we had COVID happen in the middle of everything and both disrupt my daughter’s senior year, delay my son’s post-high school training, and stop my lame duck year at my school district dead in its tracks.

The biggest change, and the biggest challenge for us, was the house that we had spent the last 12-13 years in. The kids had spent the vast majority of their remembered childhoods in that home. It was the largest home I’ve ever lived in. And we had to clear it out and move whatever we were going to move halfway across the state within a few months.

What we were dealing with after 12-13 years of living in one house with two growing kids. This was our basement circa Spring 2020.

As you can see, there was a lot of stuff to deal with. It included kid junk from several eras of childhood, both my kids’ and my own. It included nick-knacks on top of nick-knacks obtained on a whim for long-forgotten reasons. There was stuff stored behind other stuff and underneath still more stuff that had been long forgotten about by both myself and my wife. There was at least one big pile of newspapers filled with my ramblings about long-forgotten council meetings or interviews with fifth-string candidates in the Iowa Caucuses. Some of it was just short of trash, decorations for holidays that had been made snacks of by the occasional mouse.

All of those things we spent a lifetime collecting and keeping for “when we needed it.” Until the day came when we didn’t need it anymore.

I remembered a specific time when I was faced with a pile of those old newspapers, reminders of a career past when I did my best to let people know about their community even though not everyone read those stories. For a while, they defined who I was.

I sent that entire pile out to the trash hauler. I will tell you that getting rid of that was a massive relief.

There were many nick-knacks that I had kept over the years, items that long lost their meaning. Those went into the hauler, or over to Goodwill. There were so many clothes that I kept just to keep them and they were so far in the back of the closet that they never saw the light of day. I think I remember filling about five or six large black garbage sacks full of clothes and shoes to Goodwill. They got a lot of plus-sized clothes from me, that is for sure.

One thing that I realized:

If you don’t see it and you can’t reach it easily, it’s almost like you don’t own it.

Jason Liegois

There’s very few things that I absolutely had to keep. There are the fiction writings that I’ve generated, off and on, ever since I turned 14. Those are stored in file folders or, nowadays, on external hard drives or flash drives. There are the photos of my family, both hard copies and electronic ones, that we’ve either got up on the walls or stored someplace safe. There are the books that I kept after getting rid of… maybe eight of those boxes of books over the past four years and four of them in that last year alone. If I want a book now, it has to be either high on my list or I go the Amazon Kindle route.

If there is one thing that the move solidified for me, it’s that material things are not the best investment for me. I want to invest in my health and the health of others. I want to spend what excess resources I have on great experiences for me, my wife, and our kids. I want to help them if they need it down the line.

It’s funny, but I’ve been reading (in slow starts and stops) a one-volume copy of The Lord of the Rings. I know a lot of people connect with the humans (naturally) and the elves in that story, but it’s the hobbits that might have made the most connection to me. I can see myself as a version of them, working at a simple job, in a simple hobbit hole in the ground, and spending my time meeting with friends and family over a fire (or maybe watching soccer, lol).

As I get older, I start wanting to simplify things more and more. Leaving some of the things a younger man bought was one of them.

Author’s Note: I debated whether to make this part of the Volume II (my life as a young adult) or the Volume III (my life since I rededicated myself to writing, also known as the present time). By a narrow margin, I decided on titling it in the Volume II section since the things I was getting rid of came from my younger self.

Writing Journal 7.26.2020: Moving my base of operations took a toll on my writing these past two weeks

So, after letting you know what was going on almost a year ago, the move’s finally happened.

I officially transferred the flag, so to speak, to the new home in South Central Iowa about three days ago. It’s all still a new experience to me. I like the new home, even though getting to the master bedroom is a bit of a climb. I do appreciate that it’s smaller and more easily maintainable than the place I lived in for 13 years.

This year is easily going to be the biggest “transition” year of my life for some time. I have one child living and working on his own and the other is preparing to head to college soon (what that will look like is soon to be determined). I am several weeks away from starting a new teaching assignment, though what that will look like is still up in the air, being new to the district and with the current pandemic.

Naturally, with emptying out the old place and cleaning it, and filling the new place and cleaning it, it took a toll on my writing time, especially this past week in the midst of the move. As always, I’ll post the weekly total (in this case, the two-week total) at the end.

Getting your writing environment right is a discussion within itself. I realize now after the fact that I had nailed down my old writing space where I’d spent many a night writing what turned out to be the majority of my written work. Now I am in the process of creating something that will meet my needs. How well I do that and how fast of a process it will take is, again, something yet to be determined.

The good news is that the move has been quite inspirational for me as far as blogging goes. For anyone that just started following this blog, I needed to give a bit of explanation. For as much as my memory can fade or be filled with other items, I never thought that I would be one of those ones who would ever be interested in doing a memoir. To be honest, my own life doesn’t really have the kind of excitement that would attract many readers.

Over the course of this blog, however, I ended up creating a Writer’s Biography of tales, essentially talking about things in my life that had to do with my life and evolution as a writer. In looking back at that collection of stories, however, it appears I have not written a new one in nearly a year. As of right now, this move seems to have inspired no less than three new posts, one for each of the volumes in the collection. (Volume I stories cover topics that had to do with or began during my childhood; Volume II stories cover topics of when I was a young adult, and Volume III stories are about what has happened roughly since I began rededicating myself to writing.)

So, you’ll see that, and likely another link to a video review of the next section of Lord of the Rings that I’ve read. I’m hoping to get all of it down by the time school starts up again.

Also, apparently, I passed the 300-post mark sometime during the past few weeks. Three years and 300 posts, both good numbers.

Anyway, here’s my joke of writing stats for the past two weeks. Enjoy and stay safe.

Week of July 12:
+6,859 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 60 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.

Week of July 19:
+153 words written.
Days writing: 1 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 0 of 7 days.

Life Changes IRL: An update

Well, I think part of the reason that I decided to take something of a writing pause is that things have been going on in real life (IRL) that have been a bit of a distraction. The biggest one of those distractions has been where my family will be living in the near future.

Normally, I don’t talk about my personal life here on the blog, but this is big news for me, and represents something of a crossroads for my family. So, I think I need to share it here.

My wife Laura has been busy with a lot of things over the past couple of years – running her own business, a close run for local political office, and, as always, volunteering in our community. However, one of her personal ambitions has been to be in city management. She worked in solid waste management for several years (long story) and had always wanted to move up the municipal ladder.

This month, we got the news that a city in south central Iowa has offered to make her their city manager. She’s going to start next month. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her, and it’s just the latest of many great accomplishments my wife has made in her life.

What it means is that there is now a countdown to my time in Muscatine. I’ve lived here for more than 30 years, and I will be moving away within a year, after our second and last kid graduates from high school here. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to handle it.

One of the strange things is that I won’t be a couple dozen blocks from the Mississippi River, one of the biggest natural features in my life. I’ve lived next to this river for 40 years (10 of those in Clinton) and I’m not sure how that will affect my head space. Somehow big bodies of water keep me centered, keep me at peace. I think that’s one of the reasons why I started Project C, this poetry collection. Many of the poems and writings I’ve put together as part of that collection have to do with life on the river. Some part of me thinks that I’ll feel like a refugee in the middle of Iowa. But, it’s a lovely town, and the people there want my wife to work for them. I can drive on over to rivers and lakes if I want to. It’s not like I stop at the Mississippi every day… but it was nice to know it was there.

Of course, I’ll miss my wife for the year that she’ll split time between there and here. But I’m used to that – we carried on a long-distance relationship during my and her years in college before getting married. We managed that without Skype, without Facebook, without even email or cheap long distance calling. I probably kept up my writing skills with the letters I sent her during those years. A year will go like a breeze.

As I go into a new adventure, I’m not forgetting my writing by any means. I’ll be away from the fellow writers I met at Writers on the Avenue here in Muscatine and the Midwest Writing Center in the Quad Cities, but I’m hopeful I can find other fellow writers in the area, especially being closer to the Des Moines area.

It’s a new and exciting adventure, and I usually do my best writing when I’m feeling good about things. All I know is that wherever I live with my wife, that’s going to be home to me. And I’ll keep writing, landbound or not.