Ready to move in any direction

A white desktop with pink pens and the corners of pink notebooks. Test: A little time in the middle. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt


Because I’m literally in the middle, feeling like a millipede, waiting for a shoe, any shoe, to drop, so I will know what to do next.

I can’t even plan. I have a general outline of what needs doing between now and some kind of stability: get whatever still needs fixing done on the house between now and the closing date, assuming the house inspections and the mortgage applications don’t run into snags we can’t resolve, which would toss us back to a Step a few before the current one, like Groundhog Day. Until we got it right.

I know we have to finish some kind of packing job to take whatever possessions we decide we want to retain with us.

The parameters are not mine to set

I’m on someone else’s time schedule.

We are waiting to find out, now that they finally have all our paperwork and deposit, whether the CCRC we’ve applied to will take us. We don’t have huge worries there – they were very nice when we visited, and are perfectly pleasant when I email, but I have been disabled for a long time now, and it shows. It shouldn’t keep me from moving into an Independent Living apartment, but I still haven’t heard. So I wait for that shoe.

Can’t seem to get hold of the handyman – that’s a surprise. He’s probably on vacation with his family – or something – but I’ve left a couple of messages over several days requesting a callback, and nothing yet. His work was excellent, and he was recommended by our agent (who doesn’t know him personally, nor his work), and we will need another couple of full days of his ministrations. I said on the voicemail that we’re not in a huge hurry. Maybe that was a mistake.

We can’t use him until the building inspector for the municipality comes on Friday…

…Oops. The above made me check my phone – two missed calls from Chris. Phew. We had a short talk; he’ll make time. One more down – except that this was nothing more than a ‘stay in touch’ call, requested by the husband. Nothing has actually happened.

Being in standby mode

That’s typical: I am to be available to do what needs to be done that I’m better at – as necessary.

Being in standby or sleep mode is very taxing.

I can’t start projects because it is likely I’ll get interrupted. I take an inordinately long time to get projects going, and much of that time involves figuring out where I was since last time I was able to put any effort into it. There’s really no point to doing anything new right now, and all my writing projects (ie, PC NETHERWORLD) are too involved to pick up for a short time before the next interruption. It’s just not worth the pain.

I have to be really, really careful with energy expenditure right now. The uncertainty cost me the ability to get to sleep two nights ago, and I didn’t get to sleep until 5am (that’s when dawn and birds are starting up), and then caught almost enough sleep by staying in that bed until almost noon. Which I’m still paying for, two days later, with a lot of time in which I can barely stare at the computer screen.

Ah, the computer

My entertainment and communication device, my MacBook, has been having storage problems. SOMETHING in my usual work/play setup was chewing up space on the internal drive, and the thing announced every couple of days that I was running out of space. I never found out what would happen if I actually ran out of space, and I still have absolutely no idea what is taking most of my space when that occurs, but I discovered an easy fix: restart the computer.

Which worked reasonably well for a while, except that I noticed I was fighting a losing battle: every time I did the restart, the amount of storage freed up was a bit smaller.

Well, we finally reached 2GB. Yup. GIGA bytes. More storage space than the whole world when I was growing up. Probably more storage than it took to get men to the moon.

So I thought I’d reinstall my system software, Yosemite, and clean things up a bit. Only Apple informed me 2GB wasn’t enough to reinstall anything.

So then I thought, well, let’s upgrade to the latest system, High Sierra (closest I’m getting to mountain climbing is Apple systems lately), and start clean. Well, that needed a lot MORE space.

So, trusting to the Time Machine backups (remind me not to trust anything any more), I went ahead and erased the internal disk, downloaded HS, and installed it.

You’d think there’d be a few more warnings about knowing what the heck ‘backups’ really means before you do anything.

Yup. I have a nice clean new system – and I can’t find anything over a week old. Not my emails. Not my bookmarks. Not my applications such as Word and Excel. And Scrivener – which I absolutely need to function every day. And Pixelmator. And Dramatica Story Expert, my ace in the hole.

Gone. All gone.

Where? Dunno. Probably retrievable, though I was planning on upgrading both Pixelmator and Scrivener. But not necessarily RIGHT NOW.

I have a vague memory of doing a specific backup of all the applications I use, a while back – but I’ve never tested whether they’ll come back when I want them (they’re in a separate folder, if they exist, on the backup drive I am NOT connecting to my computer until I know what I’m doing.

I can probably get it back, more better and up to date

But not exactly the kind of project you do when you’re going to be interrupted on a random schedule not your own.

Meanwhile, I set up a browser, Mail, and communication with the exterior world (with no history – I have no idea how to get the 976 MB of mail messages on my computer back into sync). I suspect I need to use the Rebuild command – and I’m not doing that until I’m sure I won’t use the NEW mail messages.

I was functional enough to approve the changes the attorney wanted to know about (the sale and moving part of the world didn’t stop just because I screwed up the computer) via phone and email, so we are past attorney review. Phew!

But I’m sitting here daily at minimum capacity, playing nonograms.

Until a shoe drops – and I have to leap into action.

Minor disaster today

I’ve mentioned we’re living in someone else’s house, with someone else’s pale carpeting, white wood, and very light walls. And a new oak flooring laminate in the kitchen and dining room which shows every little fragment of coffee bean that leapt out of the grinder (I don’t drink coffee).

I go to the pantry to load up the bottom of the refrigerator door with more Diet Coke cans (two of those a day are my caffeine drug of choice – more, and I can’t sleep; less, and I can’t function). To notice that the Coke box is sopping wet on the bottom. No, it wasn’t the Coke (I drink the stuff regularly enough so it doesn’t get old). It was the Diet Pepsi we’ve had problems with before (to be fair, the cans in our basement the husband is bringing up so we drink them before we leave are literally ancient, and way past their sell-by date, way past) because they will randomly leak.

I thought soda cans couldn’t DO that, leak. Well, if something is old enough, it is allowed to leak (advance warning for human bodies, as well). And there was a small puddle on the BRAND NEW kitchen flooring we paid a mint for and was just installed less than two months ago and is probably the reason we have a buyer.

Stop. Panic never helps anything.

Clean up the spill. Make sure the floor is dry, and liquid isn’t allowed to pool on the NEW FLOOR. There was no damage. Phew. I put the whole box of Diet Pepsi in the SINK. Then I mentioned it casually when the spouse came in. He’s been working his little tail off pruning bushes that aren’t really ours any more. And the tree he like to keep pruned so we can see out the window. I said, helpfully, “Maybe the new owners will prefer to have that tree screen the neighbors from view.” Deer-in-headlights look from spouse – he hadn’t considered the possibility. Anyhoo.

Keep a jaundiced eye on the rest of the Pepsi in the basement. It has done this before. We are so frugal, but the stuff tastes old, if that makes any sense. Even in a sealed can and a cool basement, it deteriorates with time. You heard that from me.

This is my life for now

And it matters nothing that it is the worst possible life for someone chronically ill and with no energy and no flexibility whatsoever.

We are living as if our lives depended on no one knowing we’re here.

We can stop some of that now, since, in principle and if nothing goes really wrong, no more home viewers will come a’trampling through our home on short notice.

We were very lucky, as we had less than three weeks total of that, although there was a decent amount of traffic (which mysteriously died off completely before and after the 4th of July holiday). Husband thinks it has been just too darned hot for people to be willing to go look at houses. As if that were going to get better in SUMMER in NJ.

Technically, we’re under contract. They don’t have a mortgage approval yet. The house inspector could find aliens living in the attic.

I’m resting as much as I can while waiting for the next ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED thing than ONLY I CAN DO.

Oh, yeah. My assistant will be gone for the next two weeks.

The staging ladies will be coming back for their wares soon – they only lent them for the Open House and a month later – and I won’t be sad to see their delicate (and fake) plants going. We could rent them – but only if we fear the buyer will evaporate and we will have to resume hawking our home to uncaring strangers.

The spouse bought a small kitchen table – which I assembled! – so the wrought-iron ‘bistro table’ could go back outside where it can’t possibly scratch the NEW KITCHEN FLOORING. And promptly cut a slash in the brand new seat cushion (thank God it wasn’t my fault – I’d never hear the end of it), and the darn chairs are very uncomfortable anyway, so no desire to move them to California for meanwhile.

I can’t complain

Just because of my limitations, which make ANY change in routine difficult and fraught, the problems/opportunities/events are all first-world problems of people lucky enough to be able to sell a house and move. Soon, this will all be in the rear-view mirror, a source of amusing anecdotes for a small while (after which I promise never to bring them up again), and I will be slowly and carefully reconstructing my life better someplace where people make my dinner and it has veggies every night.

I fervently hope so, as I’d like to get back to writing NETHERWORLD.

But I realized that not being able to do or think anything was a reaction, not an indication that I’m losing my marbles. I’m overtired, and will be for the foreseeable future, and that’s just going to be the way it is. I have to conserve spoons, because I can’t been in spoon-deficit when the next Call to Action comes along.

Doing my best here. Everything is going along far better than I had any hope I could manage. It will happen. It is even possible it will happen efficiently (as in, getting us into a place without having to find an apartment to rent in between – that’s really amazing).

Pray. Send good wishes. Think, ‘there but for the grace of God…,’ and don’t wonder why I’m erratic. I can’t believe we’re really doing this, but it appears we are.

Thanks to Stencil – I was able to figure out my password and get back to using their ten free images a month wonderful plan.

This would be a lot shorter if I were capable of self-editing right now. Ignore typos. Just for now.


18 thoughts on “Ready to move in any direction

  1. Widdershins

    Sounds like you’ve got a handle on how and what you need to do to get through this … I’m betting that once you get settled in the new place you won’t know yourself. 🙂


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I have to count on that. Otherwise, all I’m getting is food (not bad) and facilities. All of which isn’t a bad idea, and my spouse won’t have to take care of me without easily available help, and then not at all – if necessary.

      But I can’t wait to get back to NETHERWORLD, and it had better still be in my head.

      Right now daughter and husband headed off to Troy (four hour drive) with my van and her car filled to the brim. It may have been her last trip here. She took so much stuff! Some of which will be donated to her friends – a snowblower and yard tools and lots and lots of tools. She will use what she can, and give the rest to friends who are buying homes.

      We couldn’t let go of a lot of it, including our bikes, because it wasn’t time. And now, all of a sudden, it’s time. Best part: a thorough purge of old foodstuffs. We’re very frugal and careful, but don’t always keep using something because of whatever; now the stuff that can’t be kept or donated is gone.

      What is impressive is how much stuff we still have! She took a whole bunch of power strips and extension cords – and we still have enough for a small hardware store. Lots of science fair projects…

      I even potted her the last two plants; all of my plants mysteriously developed mildew and other stuff while I was on the trip. Maybe they knew I couldn’t take them into California. Some I’d had longer than my kids – but am not in a place where I could have rescued them just to give them away. Sigh. My whole life is weird.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          That’s exactly it: all the ties are unbinding, some are getting broken, while others just let go: my plants, the chinchilla, the house, people in my singing group, and even the fact that I can no longer go out and weed like I used to love…

          Everything is setting me free. I didn’t expect that.


  2. Janna G. Noelle

    It sounds like you’re doing a lot even though everything is kind of in limbo. That’s unfortunate about your computer. I hope you’re able to get the rest of your files recovered. Honestly, I have no concept of how the Mac operating system works; it makes zero sense to me and I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to troubleshoot it. I do have an iPad (the only Apple product I own) that is nearing the limits of its space capacity (too much music and too many ebooks) and I am constantly irritated by the fact that certain apps require so much more space than the size of the app itself to install or update.

    Anyway, hang in there and dream of California. I’ve got my fingers cross for you that you get the positive result you’re hoping for, and soon.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks for your good wishes – California just let us know that we passed the health approval (a biggie), and they’re waiting to check out financials. They’re apologizing to us for not being ready, so that indicates there’s not a problem of them being ready for us TOO early.

      The upgraded system takes 80 GIGA bytes, which wouldn’t be such a problem except that I only have a 128GB internal drive (thought I had double that).

      I wouldn’t change my Mac for anything, because it helps my brain, but even I get in over my head sometimes. If I’d had more energy, I would have headed straight for the Apple store in the mall from the beginning, and let them do it. They’re supposed to be nice, and competent and efficient, according to my daughter. But she’s dealt with only iPhone problems there, and the thought of sitting there while they fixed things was too much for my tired brain. So I winged it, and bunged the job.

      It’s actually better this way – simple – just for now. I may be reaching the limits of this MacBook, but I can also possibly learn to bring in my backed up programs like Word and Excel only when I’m using them, and let them live on the external drive the rest of the time.

      Or it may be time for a change – except that I have a hard time with change, and I have this book I want to finish writing as soon as we move.

      Meanwhile, the key to the new organization and packing just dropped into the slot: think of what I NEED to operate there, in a small space in a one-BR apartment, and have only that in the drawers right now. Everything else will be either optional, or a discard. Ta da!

      Thinking about things a bit before just jumping in is a luxury I haven’t had for ages!


  3. joey

    I think you’re doing well 🙂 I will hold you in my thoughts, but I think it’s all good 🙂

    When the military moves you, it’s the cliched hurry up and wait scenario. Anyone outside the military cannot grasp it and to them, it makes you sound crazy. Moving without the military was much more my speed. I may write about that.

    I am aware that soda disappears. I’ve seen bottles with lower contents at the discount shops like Family Dollar. Taste old, too. Only once 😉 Once you know, you can’t unknow.
    Glad you saved the floor.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Damaging the new floor, after we’re being so careful, would have been the last straw. My blue linoleum (a nice dark blue) never showed dirt, never came unglued, and only lost its shine after many years.

      After living with all this pale stuff, I may be choosing my new permanent colors to match my old ones – I was happy with stain-proof flooring.

      Thanks for your prayers – the ARE appreciated. I can’t imagine that after a couple of military moves you have much sentimental stuff left. Not beyond what you carry with you. Unless you can ship that stuff to grandma’s each time. Glad you survived all that.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I was hoping not to drive cross-country – our cars are old. But it looks as if we’ll have to – too much stuff, like computer stuff, that should stay with us and be available immediately when we get there.

          One thing at a time, though: today’s and tomorrow’s is to process the 10-12 boxes in my office, and pack them properly for shipping. Plus it gets things out of the basement, so husband has more space down there to operate – he has an awful lot to process of his own, and many papers to go through.

          I’m waiting for a clearer vision of how I’m going to live the next ten years to guide me in paring down – but not foolishly. This is MY stuff I’m talking about, not the kids’. My notebooks have a lot of my life interspersed with book notes. I do that still – the journaling covers everything going on (so I clean that out when I do the Patreon backstage posts) – because if I had to keep switching from book to life, I probably would break the flow and not record half of what I do. But ‘sort it out later’ is seductive. It’s later now.


      1. joey

        I wasn’t done!
        Did you really have linoleum? Real linoleum? Because lemme tell you, I am the only person I know who actually wants linoleum. Really, really. In my kitchen is terrible gorgeous, porcelain tile. It’s equally gorgeous and terrible. Truly. I cannot wait til I get linoleum. Mmhm.

        When I lived on post, my walls were ALL white, and the floors were blonde. It was a mother’s worst nightmare for cleaning. I’m pretty sure it fed the OCD monster.


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Boy, do I hear you! Even cleanable, the light stuff always seems to look dirty.

          Linoleum SQUARES – and you couldn’t tell. Dark and speckled is what a kitchen floor should be!

          Because I’m not spending my time bit of daily energy on cleaning floors.

          Where we’re going will have housekeeping every other week – you can bet I’ll use that well.

          And far less kitchen cleaning because of far less cooking, especially dinners (him, not me). He cleans… He doesn’t see so well. He doesn’t care so much. And I deliberately leave my glasses off when I go to the kitchen: unless I’m willing to do it, I have no right to complain. I have a pair of reading glasses just for reading the microscopic print on the Atkins dinners to see how long I have to microwave them. I HAD a pair. They’re somewhere.

          When you’re older and less mobile, you have to make choices. My mother would have been appalled.


  4. marianallen

    Keeping my fingers crossed for an efficient and reasonably quick move for you. So proud of how well you take care of yourself under pressure. It’s easy to push too hard.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      If I’d been able to maintain a tidy household, and kept from saving things ‘we might need again,’ this would be easier. But that isn’t the case when you stay in one place as long as we have, even if the lady of the house is not ill.

      We have an interesting 6-7 weeks ahead of us. My husband has just delivered to my office seven boxes marked ‘Alicia’s office,’ two small and 3 large boxes marked ‘Writing,’ and all the twenty or so spiral-bound notebooks carefully marked from 2009 to 2015 (when I went digital for my notes); the earlier notebooks (back to 2000?) are probably in one of the boxes.

      I now have to sort this for the rest of my life, and minimize the amount of stuff we take with us, because we will have limited storage space.

      This is MY task: to reduce my footprint to only that I want to keep.

      I may end up digitizing a few pages of the notebooks, but illness has made my memory external to my brain, and there are an awful lot of memories to be processed. If I were famous, I would just donate it all to Princeton. Or Seattle U., my alma mater.

      I’ll be deciding in the next couple of days. Paper is HEAVY.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

    Thanks, Claire – and I owe you some time, too. I don’t have a choice. I’ve deteriorated a little every year. I can’t go out and weed – it hurts too much the next day, and I can’t take the heat and humidity in the NJ summer, and it seems like the days I might go out, something else HAS to be done.

    I don’t want my husband to have to an even bigger share of the work every year – it wears him down, too. We’re going while I can still help, to a place I might get better, and where I will function MUCH better (and finish Book 2 and 3). There is no point in me waiting longer to dejunk stuff I don’t need – maybe people can use the things we’ve been donating. I certainly won’t use my skis and other things again. And if by the miracle I’m waiting for, they find the cure for ME/CFS, and I can still benefit, I can buy anything I need.

    It won’t be much. I’m living with my messed-up computer setup and the contents of a half-suitcase worth of clothes and toiletries. Not much thinking required to get dressed, and less than a load of laundry. It’s good.

    The longer you wait, the more likely it is that your kids will have to do it, and that it will be done in a crisis. If I can make it to California, I think the crisis will happen further into the future, and we’ll already be in the right place. God gives us life and brains (sort of). Ignoring the handwriting on the wall is our folly. And if I never have to go up stairs again, it will be a good thing!


  6. clairechase51

    I can’t believe you are doing this either, but you are!!! Bravo, bravísimo!!! Incredible with your limitations…..I’m so impressed!! We will do the same at some point and the longer we wait, the harder it will be. I’m so proud of you!! I will pray for you. Stay on course….one thing at a time. Hugs!



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