The First of the Month

The air was too cold. The pillows were too fluffy. Really Rebecca? I just spent forty days sleeping in a different bed each night – each with a different pillow. Some with no pillow. And now here I was in a huge house overlooking the Western North Carolina mountains, sleeping in the Master Bedroom which has a bathroom bigger than most apartments I’ve lived in – and I’m complaining? Did I mention that my room has views of the mountains? And that it has not one, but two doors out onto the deck (one from the bathroom, no less)? Oh – and what about the Jacuzzi tub?

Writing – with a view

I climbed out of the bed that seemed big enough for three people, and wandered out into the living room in search of a throw pillow that would suffice. As I settled back into bed, I realized it was September first. I reflected back on the different beds I’d been in on the first day of each of the past few months.

On May 1st I was at my parent’s house. Four days earlier, I had returned to New York from a three week trip to Italy. In eight more days I would leave for Spain. Why come home in between? Because one of my favorite cousins was getting married. And I had the honor of doing one of the readings during the ceremony. (Which I SO MUCH prefer to actually being in the wedding.)

On June 1 I went to sleep in Mansilla de las Mulas, Spain. It was my twenty-second day walking the Camino to Santiago. It had been nearly 100 degrees that day. I had walked 26.4 km (almost 16 miles). There were no beds left in the town when I arrived around 5 pm, so Vincent – who’d walked all morning with me and also had no place to rest his head – offered to join me on a walk to the next town – 5.7 km (3.5 miles) away. The short version of the story is this: a woman in charge of a hostel found us in the street and told us it was too hot to continue walking. We found ourselves the recipients of two spare mattresses she had, which she laid out in a hallway lined with windows overlooking a courtyard below. While all the others in the hostel (who had arrived in town hours before us) shared rooms with that housed a dozen people each, Vincent and I had a space to ourselves – quiet and with a great view. Having had long discussions with young Vincent all morning on fate and everything-happening-for-a-reason, the irony of our situation was not lost on us.

On July 1, I was in a hotel room – all to myself – in Southwestern Virginia. I had just spent the previous six hours driving five high school students from Staten Island toward our destination: A Habitat for Humanity trip in Eastern Tennessee. By the time we got in and had dinner, I had a mere hour to enjoy my room before I had to go to bed – I needed my sleep in order to be ready to get on the road the next morning by 7AM. This trip, I later learned, was to remind me why I’d never want to teach in a high school.

August first found me in Asheville, NC – my new home. Once again I found myself appreciating a room to myself. And a bathroom that was pretty much mine as well. Not to mention that all this was being offered to me rent-free by folks I had met five months earlier on couchsurfing.org. Whose life is this? Who tells people she just met a few hours earlier that her next mission is to move to Asheville and start an organizing business only to have them say, “We’d love to help you with that – you can live with us while you get yourself settled in here. Oh – and they’ll always be food on the table.” What? Really? Is this my life?

So here I was, on September first, up on a mountain in Franklin, NC with four fellow writers. We rent a home every year and come just to write. Well, it used to be every year. At our February gathering on Kiawah Island, Lois decreed we should do this twice a year. So here I am.

View from the deck

Normally, I’m low man on the totem pole when it comes to rooms. I’m the youngest. I can sleep anywhere – and have. But this time, the ladies thought we should pick rooms “out of a hat.” When I opened up my little paper and read the word “Master,” I thought, no way.  There was no way I was going to end up with the Master Bedroom. I was ready to trade it with someone who really needed it. But Pat (the oldest of our crew) declared that her room on the lower level would be good for her – she needed the exercise of walking up the stairs. Lynne took her pick of the lower level “toy room” in good stride. Stacey traded for the lower level room with the desk in it. The Master Bedroom was mine.

Lois also decreed that we should stay for two weeks if we could. I can’t, so my suite will be given to someone else on Saturday. That made me feel a little better about being the youngest and being in the best room.

As I settled back into my bed that night, I had to laugh at myself. If it’s true you get what you put out to the universe, I must be putting out some really good stuff. Hopefully, I can continue to pay it forward.

The next morning, as I tossed towels over each of the three A/C vents in my room (I’m spending the week with three post-menopausal women and wouldn’t dream of asking them to adjust the A/C), I thought “Would I rather be back on the Camino on a top bunk in a room with 11 other people?” Well, I’d give anything to be back on the Camino honestly. But am happy to not be sharing rooms anymore.  Been there, done that.

So the next day, I filled myJacuzzi tub and dropped in some bubble bath. I sank down into the warm water and turned on the jets, determined to enjoy every minute of this life I’ve been given.

When The Timing Is Right…

I would often beat myself up over my fear of starting an organizing business.  But over the last couple of years, I’ve come to believe that when the timing is right, things will happen.  One of the things about “the right timing” is that you can’t really predict when that will be.  Which I think makes it more exciting when the time does finally arrive.

A few members of my writing group were attending a course at a local adult education center on writing memoir.  These were women who had traditionally focused on other writing forms – fiction and poetry mostly – so they were excited to discover the talents they had in this other arena.  Each time they came to writers group, they would rave about the instructor and the assignments they had been given.

Their excitement did two things for me: it caused me to reminisce about my own first memoir writing experience at the John C. Campbell Folk School and it also stirred in me some curiosity about this adult education program.

A few months earlier I had come back from a conference for those of us with a business idea that are “stuck.”  While there, someone helped me to come up with a fabulous title for an organizing class I could teach at an adult education center.  We were encouraged to teach at places like this because you can test out your ideas on a group of people and build your confidence in your knowledge of your subject matter.

So when my fellow writers raved about their memoir course and other courses they had taken at this place, I went on the web site to see what it would take to teach there.  I was thrilled to see that you didn’t have to submit a course proposal – you could just call them with your idea.  I wasn’t a fan of blindly submitting an idea – get me talking, though, and people love me.  So I called and left a message saying I had an idea for a course.

When I was called back the next day, the woman asked me about my idea.  Then, she asked my experience.  Here’s the thing: I’d only ever been paid to help someone organize once.  But “experience” does not always mean “paid.”  So I told her honestly about my background.  Then she asked about my teaching experience.  On this, I was golden.  I’d taught in adult ed programs before, and I was teaching a college course at that very moment.

She loved my idea, but then said, “The committee that decides on courses for the spring meets tomorrow.  There’s a form you’d have to fill out.   If I e-mail it to you tonight, can you get it back to me by tomorrow morning?”  Ah, a deadline.  “No problem,” I said.

I titled my class, “You Can’t Take It With You….And Your Kids Don’t Want It Either.”  My description started with, “You may have an empty nest, but does your house still look like the entire flock lives there?  Is every closet filled, but you’re not sure with what?”  I had a grand time filling out the form, and I sent it off.

The woman called me back the next day and said, “When I read about your course, everyone on the committee was either laughing or sighing because they all know they need to take it.”  I was in!

When the course calendar arrived a couple months later, I saw my words in print.  Oh how exciting!

There was only one problem: I had a course to teach in a few weeks, and had yet to plan out what I would tell these folks.