Tag: tindominium

tindominium

Help! My Bedroom is Falling Off (more Tales from a Tindominium)

 I was writing in my “she shed,” what I call my writing sanctuary, and what I’ve recently learned my neighbors call the Taj Mahal because of my plastic $99.00 Maria Theresa chandelier from Home Depot, when I first heard the words.   “Your bedroom is falling off.” The neighborhood plumber, who is also a surfer and a grandfather (because everyone in this neighborhood defies convention), was talking to the neighborhood jack-of-all-trades and my husband. My fingers froze hovering over my keyboard, my novel halted, while four small words screamed in my mind. I told you so. All summer long while attending meetings of the 500 Club (happy hour) on my neighbor’s porch across the street, I would gaze at our little tindominium where we had moved two years ago after opting to downsize big time. A sign my husband found now hangs over our couch and defines our life. “Less house. More home.” “Our bedroom is crooked,” I would say, but no one seemed particularly concerned. I was referring to the push-out part of the 1995 Seville trailer that is our home on outer Cape Cod six months of the year where our bedroom is located. Specifically, the push-out is where the head and most of the queen size bed sit.“Maybe you should go on a diet. The bedroom is sinking lower on your side of the bed,” I said to my husband more than once. He and others would chuckle and then the conversation returned to oystering, shark sighting, and surfing. The daily staples on Cape Cod during the summer. Now, in the depth of December, when our six-month stay in tropical St. John in the Virgin Islands had been delayed due to Hurricane Irma, our bedroom was going to fall off. I hadn’t planned on either.What we had signed up for was an adventure. Selling our ten room home by the ocean with gardens and porches and decks had taken fortitude, but once we committed to letting go so we could go, we were exhilarated. We would travel. I would write. He would play on his boat. But our bedroom wouldn’t fall off. I fought the impulse to declare our decision to say, “F*** It, let’s just go for it,” a colossal mistake. I tend to run to the edge of the cliff during crises and have learned to rein myself in. During the two years we have been on this crazy adventure, we’ve traveled to Italy, Ireland, and France. We’ve moved four times on St. John. I’ve published books. We’ve met wonderful new friends who have already enriched our lives.Like the guys I could hear from the writing sanctuary. “We can jack it up,” Jack-of-all-Trades says. He not talk a lot, but has brilliant moments, and always looks for a way to fix a problem. Plumber-Surfer concurs and a plan is born. Our bedroom will not fall off. It will be stronger and get a new coat of paint, an ignored item on the honey-do list until now. The adventure will continue. One of the biggest rewards for daring to downsize is having new people in your life who bring far more joy than the “stuff” we left behind. Back to writing. .. But please, tell me about your own writing distractions.                                                 

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From Paradise to Eden (another tale of a tindominium)

 For the past month, I’ve been transitioning from living in Paradise to Eden. I know that’s doesn’t evoke a lot of sympathy, but it’s not all palm trees and ocean breezes. Living in a tiny cottage in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands half of the year and in a small tindominium on Outer Cape Cod the other six months does have its challenges, especially for this writer who needs a modicum of space and calm. People have remarked to me, “Oh, I watch Tiny House on HGTV. I’d love to do that.”But is tiny house living all it’s cracked up to be? Here’s the reveal: the good, the bad and the ugly about transitioning from the Caribbean cottage to the Outer Cape Cod tindo.            A confession. After six months of tropical temperatures, azure blue waters, and Tradewinds caressing my body, I actually looked forward to a few chilly New England days when I would slip into jeans and a sweater and warm my feet in my Ugg slippers. I imagined being perched on the comfy couch on gray rainy days with a real hardcover book on my lap.  St. John had begun to change from pleasantly warm to bloody hot and, not to sound ungrateful, I was done with it, at least until November.             Shortly after our return in May, we had three consecutive days of ninety-degree temperatures, followed by a never ending forecast of days filled with endless rain with temperatures in the fifties. My dream come true, to an extreme.            Sure, I got to curl up with books and to write prolifically in the dank darkness of the tindo, but when would I be able to plant my garden? Within days, the intimate coziness of our small living quarters began to feel confining. The clutter that comes with being stuck indoors for days on end mounted and spread like an amoeba throughout our tiny tindo. I realized tiny house living presupposes (at least for me) that a lot of time is spent living outdoors.             But there was the soothing rain on the roof, the birds from the Audubon sanctuary next door visiting our feeders not realizing there’s a boundary between the properties, and the pine trees whispering that we should just enjoy the respite from the heat and “be in the moment.”            We planted our garden during misty breaks from the downpours. The plants seemed happy and so were we. The cool quiet of our tiny gardens was a perfect place to germinate ideas for the stories I would later put to words.              A drive to the beach late each afternoon to watch the seals surfing in the Atlantic Ocean from inside our car while the rain pelted down reminded me that this was the same Atlantic Ocean I had soaked in daily while in St. John. The same ocean, but not the same. One smoky gray, swirling in random angry configurations, smashing against the white sand leaving a foamy froth along the edge. The other an illusive shade between green and blue, warm and smooth as silk, often as still as a mirror, but occasionally moody and agitated.            Internalizing the vastness of the ocean and the openness of the garden helped me understand that it’s not the size of the space I live in that matters, but rather the space inside of me. I can live anywhere as long as I remember to bring the outdoors in.   

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Finding Space and Place in a Caribbean Cottage

  In earlier posts, I’ve shared what it was like to come to the decision to downsize from a ten-room house by the ocean to a mobile home, which isn’t mobile, in outer Cape Cod. Part of that decision was motivated by a thirty-year desire to spend winters in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where we had vacationed for decades. We’re just about to return to the “tindominium” on the Cape after our second winter here in St. John.            We are not living in a luxurious villa in St. John. We live in a sweet one-room cottage with a separate kitchen and a “bedroom area” next to our “living space.” There is a covered porch that runs the length of the cottage and overlooks Hurricane Hole. And there is a community pool for our tiny community of five.             Our winter cottage is in Coral Bay, where the bumper sticker, “We’re all here, because we’re not all there,” was inspired. We live among artists, writers, musicians, activists, and environmentalists, some of whom are supposed to be retired but you’d never know it. I’ve met real characters here that defy imagination and beg to be placed on a page. They don’t have to plead with me.            The transition to smaller quarters has been easier than we imagined, but we were really only living in three rooms in our former home in the end. The other seven were occupied by “stuff” now long gone, or at least most of it. Living in a warmer climate in the winter and on Cape Cod in the summer allows us to do most of our living outdoors. Our porch is where we perch most often when we are home. I write there, but also often take my laptop to a quiet shady spot on a beach where the fresh salt air seems to enhance my word count. There is a rooster who frequently visits me when I am writing. Sometimes he will sit on a branch and take a nap, occasionally opening one eye. Whether he is checking to see if I am still writing or that I’m keeping an eye out for him while he has his siesta, I don’t know, but it seems to be working for us.            How has life changed? We find that downsizing the size of our living quarters has made our lives huge. We have met many new wonderful friends with whom we share food, music, and island festivities. We don’t worry if we should be “working on the house” because we rent the cottage, which hasn’t diminished our affection for it as our little island home.             There have been some challenges. We have one car and one bathroom, but we’ve adjusted. Our kitchen is tiny but that didn’t stop us from cooking a kick-ass Bolognese and berry clafouti for friends the other night. Steve works part-time a few days a week at the local recycle center where he gets to meet lots of island folk and tinker with items they bring in to donate.  We’ve created individual space for each other even in a tiny cottage.             The sunrise each morning seems as if it were meant just for us. But soon we will be fluttering those wings we rediscovered and will return to our tindominium on the Cape with adventures planned in Provence, Dublin, and Virginia.                Writers often talk about “place” and how important it is to a story. I’m finding that it is the space I have cracked open within myself that is opening me to places I only dreamed about and letting me write my own story.     

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COMING HOME (Tales of a Tindominium #5)

Home: 1. Residence; 2. family group; 3. Birthplace; 4. Native habitat; 5. Place of origin; 6. Headquarters; 7. Safe place.            After almost six months in paradise, we left St. John, returning to Massachusetts. But this time we weren’t heading to Scituate, where we had lived for thirty-three years. This time, we were off to live “over the bridge,” on outer Cape Cod, where until now, we had only vacationed.            We arrived at our tindominium in Wellfleet on Friday, the 13th of May, our 39th anniversary. Steve and I had been married once before, a million years ago, each to high school sweethearts, which didn’t turn out so sweet. We intentionally chose to be married on a Friday the 13th, sticking our nose up at any suggestion of bad luck. Almost four decades later, we had come full circle.            The term tindominium came from a writer friend. When I was asked the previous fall at a writing committee dinner where I would be living when not in St. John, I had hesitated. How do you tell people that you are going to live in a trailer? By choice? Even my avant-garde writing colleagues would question my sanity, for sure. I began to describe where and what my new home was, searching for words, when Barbara Ross got it. “Oh, you mean you’re moving into a tindominium,” she said, with delight, sharing she had family who were doing the same. I relaxed, realizing I should always trust my writing tribe to understand writers don’t always do things the way normal people do.            Pulling into the driveway, seeing the tindominium for the first time in a long time, I had an  “Oh shit, what have we done?” moment. Nothing had changed since the first day I set my eyes on my new home, a 1995 Sportsman trailer with wheels that had been flat forever. The tindo hadn’t been on the road in decades. But it had been the vacation home for a family that had been kind and affectionate to it. It just had some wear and tear, and it was dated.            The blue couch and chair with huge gaudy flowers on it felt as if they were from a television set for All in the Family. The bedspread on the queen-size bed matched. The carpet was shag, the linoleum dirty beige, and the “woodwork” dark with gold trim.            The stove was so tiny, the double sinks so miniature, I was sure I was in a Barbie kitchen, grateful at least that it wasn’t pink. There was no dishwasher, no washer and dryer. And all of the work we hoped would be completed before we arrived had never happened. I wasn’t surprised.            But the toilet flushed and there was water running from the faucets. We had electricity and a refrigerator that worked. The stove lit.            Neighbors came by to say hello and offer a hand. Our builder promised us we’d have our improvements in no time.            I knew we had made a commitment to a radical change in lifestyle, but this day, more than any, made me wonder, were we nuts? If I closed my eyes, would I be back in a house with modern appliances and a view of the ocean? I couldn’t help but speculating what my Irish lace mother would think of her daughter living in a trailer park, even if it was next to an Audubon sanctuary. Should we have just stayed in St. John in our little cottage?            No. We knew what we had done and what we were going to do. Giving up living space physically meant we were opening our hearts to chance and choice. We were creating room for the adventures we wanted to share and this was just the beginning.            We celebrated our anniversary with a marvelous dinner at Petit Boulangerie Bistro and then sipped brandy before turning in at our new Home. 

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The Adventure Begins- Tales of a Tindomium #4

And we were off to the races, or at least to Logan Airport at 3:00 a.m. on that December morning after what felt more like a nap than the catch-up sleep we were both craving. But we had sold our house the evening before and were flying to St. John to spend an entire winter in a lovely home we had rented. Let the adventures begin.            Although my suitcase with my summer clothes was missing and I was still wearing the clothes I had been in since the day before, I felt grateful for all that we had enjoyed until now and for what I knew would be our future. We didn’t have our favorite aisle seats on the plane and weren’t even near one another, but I felt a unity with Steve as we soldiered toward a new life.            I plopped into my middle seat, expecting that I would fall asleep before takeoff. I was about to apologize to the two women who flanked me. One appeared to be about my age, the other a speck younger. They deserved to be warned I would soon be serenading them with my infamous snoring. I noticed the younger woman in the window seat was vigorously marking up what I recognized were not just legal pleadings, but family law pleadings. I immediately felt sorry for her, guessing we were both trying to escape from the same stressful profession.            “Oh, are you another family law attorney trying to go on vacation?” I said, without thinking.            “No, but if you are, I’d love to ask you a few questions.”    I stifled a groan, knowing I had walked right into a situation I might likely have avoided if I weren’t exhausted and without my filter functioning.            “Shoot,” I said, and started a conversation beginning with questions about a custody battle my British flight mate’s boyfriend was engaged in and moved on to multiple topics so naturally, it was as if we’d known each forever. By the end of the flight I knew I had made my first new friend. A great start to a new life.            I also received my first text message from an island realtor just as we landed. “Showing the house this afternoon at 3:00.” Although we had a year-long lease, our landlady had reserved the right to list her home after the first of the year, any sale subject to our lease. It was a week before Christmas. In my sweaty day-old outfit, I could feel the stress that had been the inspiration for making radical changes to our lives returning to my body.            When the landlady arrived for a stay in her unfinished unit below us in January, we already had the full flavor about what our existence would be like in a house on the market. Her offhand remarks that she wished she had never rented to us, that her realtor had told her it was a huge mistake, and she’d even considered giving us money to leave, confirmed what we already knew. The house, although lovely, was filled with negativity. After thirty years working in the field of conflict resolution as a lawyer and mediator, I knew the best way to deal with conflict is to avoid it.            I took to the Internet, reviving old contacts I had made while initially searching for St. John housing. December is the beginning of high season and I doubted I would find anything in January, but ever the optimist, I reached out. I received an email from a woman telling me she had a unit available, asking would we like to see it that afternoon. Would we ever.            We took the money Landlady One was willing to throw at us and gladly gave it to Landlady Two for a darling studio in Coral Bay on the other, “wilder” side of St. John overlooking Hurricane Hole. Steve’s slogan was, “Just part of the adventure.” Our living room, dubbed a “living porch” because it was room with no screens and hurricane shutters perched high where we shared it with the birds. We were intoxicated with fresh air and the sounds of the Tradewinds blowing through the lush green treetops.            There were a few accommodations we had to make in order to adjust to our tiny quarters. Just six weeks before, we’d left our ten-room home. Now, we had a queen size bed, a large flat screen television, a desk for me to write on, and a corner with the kitchen appliances, counter, cabinets, and sink, all in one room. In the morning when Steve would first wake up, he liked to ask me, “Is our kitchen in our bedroom or our bedroom in our kitchen?”          It didn’t matter because we made living small fun. On the evenings when we wanted to watch the primary returns, we would cook dinner, just as we had in our over-sized gourmet kitchen for thirty-three years, and serve it on trays, eating on our bed. We had been campers, we reminded ourselves, and this was living high.          When the tiny freestanding cottage below us in the same complex became available two months later, we jumped at the chance to grab it. With a twenty foot long covered porch facing a more expansive view of Hurricane Hole surrounded by greens which provided total privacy, we were living with the bananaquits, who frequent the coconut feeder Steve made and watch hawks and frigate birds soar above. Our efficient, tiny U-shaped kitchen is no longer in our bedroom, although our sofa and living area are at the foot of our rattan bed, which is covered with a mosquito net.         Our living space may be small, but our lives are large, filled with new friends, including my friend from the flight down and her charming boyfriend, a former restaurant owner and chef who cooked us an unforgettable meal at his home.        The mysteries I have set on St. John have been well received by its residents, who are constantly providing me with information and new material. Writing about paradise in paradise is sublime.        May came before we knew it and it was time to go meet the tindominium in Wellfleet where there was no shortage of adventures and writing material waiting to greet us.  

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