Today we had a cat adventure

And it wasn’t even my cat!

The condo is typically pretty quiet, with only the rare sound leaking from any unit to our own. The exception is the hallway — the doors are pretty thin so anything that happens in the hall is fair game for everyone to listen to. Mostly it’s just doors opening and closing or the occasional conversation.

But today, as Sarah and I were hanging out and messing around in BOTW, we heard a kitty crying.

That’s not too unusual. There’s at least a couple of other cats on the floor besides Kiba and Tadashi, and sometimes we get sounds. There’s a couple of dogs, too, who only bark if you knock on their doors. We’ve heard this particular kitty before, but figured he or she was doing what Kiba does — singing the song of the cats at whatever hour strikes their fancy.

But they kept crying…and it sounded kind of closer than usual.

Also, Tadashi was staring at the door and his body language was unusual. I know all his tells for “there’s someone in the hall” and “I don’t like this sound” and this was neither.

So I got up and opened the door.

And this guy ran right to me, meowing plaintively.

A hairless cat with bright green eyes is lunging towards the camera with an interested expression

Now, rescuing cats who need help is not new to me. My first cat, the cat who chose me and who I love forever and ever came out of the woods when I was 4 and sniffed my toes and thus chose me as his human for life. I’ve rescued other stray cats before when they came running for help (instead of being feral and backing away). And I worked for several years at an animal shelter helping strays find forever homes. I’ve seen lots of fearful kitty behavior and lots of reasonable wariness around a new human.

This cat? Pah. This cat came right up to me, wanted pets, and started to purr.

He (fully intact, very obviously male) was alone in the hallway, clearly having escaped from his unit, and needed help. So I did what I hope anybody would do in that situation. First, I knocked on every door on the floor to see if he belonged anywhere, but no one answered. Then I called the office downstairs to let them know so they could reach out to people directly.

And then we took little hairless buddy in, set him up in our spare bathroom with water and a litter box and toys, and I proceeded to bond with him over the course of a few hours.

I also learned more about hairless cats than I ever expected. I learned they can have really significant allergies and sensitivities to foods, so we opted only to give him about a teaspoon of tuna (the good kind with no preservatives) and water to start. I learned that they do look *really* weird, but actually petting them is pretty nice. They’re warm and smooth and kind of fuzzy, but not like petting someone who’s just gotten a buzz cut. I always thought it would feel gross, but it just felt nice.

I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor of the bathroom with him. He’s young, probably 6-10 months old at the most, so he was very playful and not always careful with those intact claws. But when he bit a little too hard and I said “no” he let go at once. I also almost taught him to fetch with one of our unused catnip toys. Like Tadashi at that age, he vacillated quickly between wanting cuddles and wanting to pounce on something — sometimes at the same time. But he was alert and friendly and he purred as loud as the loudest cats I’ve ever known.

Surprising nobody, I kind of loved him right away. I’m like that with animals and most especially any animal that comes to me for help. Little hairless buddy asked me to take care of him, so I Florence Nightingaled my way into caring about him at once. Enough to have been perfectly happy keeping him, honestly. Even though I never want another cat as young as Tadashi again. He’d be worth it.

But, thankfully, it turned out his real home was next door. So he was only my hairless buddy for maybe 3 hours before I brought him home (with a few of his toys as well).

In case anybody’s worried, we did all the right things not knowing his medical history — we washed every time we pet him, we kept any soft materials in bags to be laundered before they go back into circulation, we didn’t let Tadashi and Kiba near any water he drank, etc. I’ve also raised FLV cats and know the risks. The worst he seemed to have was either a buildup in his ears or maybe mites — thus the precautions with the blanket. Generally he was a happy, healthy, well-socialized, curious, playful cat.

And unlike Kiba, had clearly never known anything but humans being kind and friendly and loving. Little hairless buddy didn’t have any fear behaviors at all, just reasonable “I’m in a new place” uncertainty. Which tells me everything I could ever need to know about my neighbors (not that I didn’t know they were cool to start with).

I’m happy he went home even if I’m sad I don’t get to learn more about him or pet him. I don’t even know his name. We don’t talk much to those neighbors and they’re kind of on opposite schedules from us, but if I get the chance I would absolutely kitty-sit him if needed. He’s back home where he’s happy and loved and cared for and that’s what matters — but I still miss him a little bit.

Even I don’t know how many cats I’ve fallen in love with over the years, but it is probably literally dozens if not hundreds. Cats, like most people, I find easy to love.

What surprised me most about the whole adventure was how Kiba and Tadashi took it. Since the cat lives on our floor and we’ve heard him before, they know his sounds and scents. Once he was in our bathroom, they were curious about the door, nervous, Tadashi doing his “there is someone in my space and I am not liking it” slink, but neither was aggressive or territorial about it. But, then, Kiba was in a foster situation before he came home with us and knows about cats coming and going in close proximity. And Tadashi is just…once he decides you’re okay, he likes everyone. If we’d had to keep little hairless buddy for longer, I think they would have taken to him just fine in time.

Afterwards, Kiba and Tadashi came for their usual nightly pets and snuggles and, for them, it’s like nothing ever happened. And the bathroom is back to normal, too, with just a little extra laundry to do.

But I had a day with a new friend and got a good picture of him, and that’s enough for me.

I also got this picture of Tadashi tonight when he couldn’t decide if he wanted pets or play and kind of fell asleep in the middle because he’s a goof like that.

I love my little hairless buddy a little, but I love my actual boys so, so very much.

Tadashi, a fluffy black and white tuxedo cat, lying on his back facing up with his tummy exposed. His paws are loose to the sides and his eyes are half-open like he just woke up from a nap. He's lying on a knitted afghan looking very, very cute and photogenic.


Art! (And Friends)

So, I think I’ve written previously about my total and complete lack of art skill. It’s not just that I can’t draw, or paint, or otherwise produce visual art. I’m also not great at envisioning it. I can imagine a scenario in a story, or characters, or abstract symbols. But creating something visually interesting and artistically coherent is just not my strength. At all.

But I love art. I love to have color around me, and images of things that make me feel. I have collected figures and pieces from every place I’ve ever traveled or lived, and I love being able to look at them or pick them up and remember what the air tasted like, or how the birds sounded, or what I learned while there. And I love art that is unconventional, art that means something to me but others would find stupid. It’s like an in-joke with myself.

The house used to be filled with art, a picture or a hanging or a carved statue every 3 feet. We kept all of it, because it all had meaning, but moving to a smaller place meant rethinking how we deal with it. Also, while you absolutely can just line the wall with paintings, it’s much more effective visually when you cluster them together in a collection.

So, on Saturday, after 6ish hours of meetings for CONvergence, a couple of friends came over to help us do just that.

Here is the result:

Can I just say? MY FRIENDS ARE AMAZING. For so many reasons. But in this case…I mean, just look at it! It’s beautiful!

I keep walking into the room and just STARING.

I love everything about it. I love the shape, I love the balance, the colors, the way not all the frames have to be black to look like they belong. I love having all the disparate pieces that add up to who I am (and who Sarah is — it’s hers too!) put together like this. And this is just one collage of the three we did!

Moving left to right, we start off with a picture of Princess Mononoke. Beautiful art we bought at CONvergence two years ago from the artist, along with the picture of Nausicaa at the other end. Next in is the newly framed picture of our art print from Beth Kinderman’s album, which arrived just in time to take its rightful place amidst the beauty. Below that is my signed picture (that I bought, did not get in person, SIGH) by the voice cast from the 2012 TMNT. I like everybody, but, let’s be honest, IT IS ALL ABOUT ROB PAULSEN VOICING DONATELLO.


Starting above Beth’s art are a matched pair bought at the same 2017 CONvergence from a different artist; they happen to be characters in a series she puts out, but they also pretty much stand in for Sarah and I (I’m the tiger and she is the hawk). Next to them is the framed Morpho butterfly which was a gift from a friend after I saw them in person when we were in Ecuador in 2009 and proceeded to have a series of life-changing realizations about myself.

Then we have the two big ones, the centerpiece of everything. These we also bought in Ecuador from the artist. They represent the sun god and the moon goddess and they are. Just. Perfect.

(Even if the matting in the frames is giving way — we intend to get that fixed eventually.)

Those two used to hang over our fireplace in the house, so I’ve pretty much been staring at them nonstop for a decade, and I have yet to get tired of them, of the colors, of the symbols. They’re made with banana leaves and recycled paper, if I remember correctly, and the texture is really neat up close, too. Even after all this time, they still speak to me.


Below the moon goddess is a set of three which goes back to 2008 in one of the apartments. All three were found online somewhere (probably a long-dead Deviantart site) and meant to represent the three of us then living together — Sarah, me, and another friend. It was our promise that we would be a home and a refuge for one another, no matter what life threw our way. The friend lived with us for a long time, even in the house for a while, and now lives just across the river from our condo. But for 11 years, we have still be home base for him and for others.

The condo really couldn’t be home if it wasn’t home for more than just Sarah and I.

Left of those is my signed picture of Leonard Nimoy as Spock. It was in one of the last batches he ever signed before he passed away, and I was lucky enough to buy it from his website just in time. That was when he was also offering to be a surrogate father or grandfather for people as well, and I got in on that, too. He also sent a free gift when he sent the picture, which I have perma-loaned to my biggest Trekkie friend so she has something of him in her house as well. I miss him in the world and his wisdom and wonderful humor, but I’m so glad to have this piece of a person who helped define me as a nerd when I was sneakily watching TV long after my parents had gone to bed.

Above is my big TMNT print, also bought at CONvergence in 2017 but not by me. That was a gift from a friend who saw it and thought I would love it. I pretty much broke down and cried when he gave it to me. I didn’t even SEE IT when I was looking for art, and it just…I…IT TURTLES OKAY!!!

Above the turtles are a pair of wolves Sarah bought for herself, also from the artist at CONvergence, but back in 2013. She says they don’t have specific meaning to her other than the fact that she also strongly identifies with wolves, but I look at them and I see her reflected too.

(Which is not to say that the rest of the art is “mine.” It’s VERY MUCH MUTUALLY SHARED. But some things, like the butterfly or Leonard Nimoy, speak more to me. These wolves speak more to her. Mostly, though, it’s both of us.)

And lastly is Nausicaa, so we have Miyazaki on either side.

It makes me SO HAPPY to have this. To see these things brought together intentionally and beautifully, a space made for all of it. And doubly, triply so because I could never have fashioned this layout on my own. I needed my friends for that.

But I never could have fashioned myself alone, either, so it all works out.

There’s more art to hang, but this will be the centerpiece of it all, and very rightly so. After all, this is who lives here, feelings and experience and knowledge of self all wrapped in one.

And also nerdity and fandom.

Because, well. What else would you expect, really?


I’m From Minnesota

So, I’m still pretty wiped out after the concert this past weekend. Due to personal stresses, I ended up not singing in it at all — instead, I opted to fill in as stage manager, logistics master, and general get-shit-done-person behind the scenes. I always do a certain amount of that before concerts; now I just did them during as well. It wasn’t as mentally or emotionally satisfying as actually singing, but it also wasn’t as mentally or emotionally exhausting. However, it was AT LEAST as physically exhausting, so there we are.

Rather than ramble with half the energy to do an entry justice, however, I offer you this song. I came across it a little while ago and it makes me happy. Partially because it is SO TRUE. Every Minnesotan, born and/or raised, that I have made listen to this song agrees as to its accuracy. I’m a transplant, but I’ve been here almost two decades, and I can confirm that this is very much the Minnesotan experience.

Also, it makes me laugh.

The TCWC concert was all about home, and what home means to people. Home has been on my mind, too, as I move in and unpack and turn this condo into home. Home is also the people around me, like Sarah in the next room or a person who is some mix of dear friend, brother, and platonic life confidant sitting on the floor of my den. Home is not just brick walls and windows, but the society surrounding it, the people and culture, the rhythm of the land and streets and skies.

One home has recently changed, another never will. And the third is Minnesota, in all its weird and wonderful glory.



Well, the hiatus is over and we are finally home.

Shifting from a house to a condo has been an interesting process, with no few adjustments that came easier than expected. Honestly, it’s a relief not to have to think about picking up branches, pulling weeds, planting gardens. At this moment, I really only miss one particular space, and I’ve been too busy to think about it much. That space, of course, is my quiet, sacred space. It will end up being shared with the bedroom, and when I pull it together enough to set it up, it’ll probably be fine.

But otherwise? Dropping from ~2,000 square feet of space to 1,272 hasn’t felt like a great loss, really. Sarah and I never really needed to be spread out that much. We’re enjoying the open layout that lets us snark back and forth from kitchen to couch without having to bellow. Being downtown is hugely fun; already we’ve walked more than we ever did in the suburbs. Groceries, going out to eat, visiting people — it’s all an easy stroll instead of needing to drive (at least when it isn’t freezing!). We’re part of the world now, not just sitting in our individual cookie cutter house.

The condo is 12 floors up, which means we have a beautiful view. We face northeast, both the direction and the neighborhood, so we can see the place where the Mississippi curves from north-south to east-west when it hits downtown. Funnily enough, the view is also a perfect metaphor. We’re across the street from the top of the nearest building, so my windows are directly across from their big air conditioning thing. But I literally just need to look past the obvious in the foreground to a beautiful background. Every single person who has come over wanders out to our balcony, and they just stay there. They go out to “take a peek” and vanish for 5-10 minutes. It’s pretty fun to watch.

Once we started moving stuff into the condo, we immediately felt that we had come home. It was surprising to me how quickly we adjusted. Parking in the underground garage and riding an elevator became normal, even comfortable. It was going back to the house to clean it out that seemed strange. We walked the house on the last day and wondered why we ever thought we wanted or needed so much space, so much yard, so far away from the heart of the city. Really, I think a lot of it comes down to lifelong assumptions and expectations. The American Dream is still kind of the standard in the communities in which we were raised, and that means a house and yard kept immaculate at all times. That’s how you progress, right? You go to college, get married, buy a house and a dog or maybe have some kids, and you live in a good neighborhood where you can drive into the city sometimes for special occasions.

You don’t have to deconstruct that scenario very far to see the many implicit economic, social, and racial biases. (Also ecological impact of individual homesteads instead of more efficient communal living.) And we weren’t as knowledgeable about these things ten years ago, but we are now. And once you see the system, once you see the barriers raised to those who don’t have the same levels of privilege, well, I think you probably only have two options. You apologize for being part of the system, or you opt out of it. And Sarah and I have white privliege acting for us, but we’ve been on the wrong side of the privilege power dynamic, and we are always happier defying it.

But we didn’t just move to make a political statement. It’s just *better* for us here. The yard was a huge stressor for both of us, as well as various aspects of home maintenance. Being 12 stories up in the air with no yard to mow, no trees to trim, it lets us focus on other things. Having a built-in assumption of walking means more regular exercise as well as more time in the urban community. And there’s such a different experience looking out the window and just seeing the house across the street from looking out to see half of the city, the mighty Mississippi, and a humongous sky.

(It’s taken me 2 hours to write even this far, because I keep getting distracted staring out my own window. I think I could look at that river view for the rest of my days and never tire of it.)

The thing the house gave us wasn’t status or security like it gives to others. That’s not what we wanted. It did give us space to host our friends and family, but we just have to be a little creative and we can recreate that space just as well. This condo has places we can reserve to host parties bigger and more comfortably than we could at the house. (It also has an indoor pool, which I fully expect to make use of during some of those parties.) What the house gave us was a home base for the people who fill up our lives. And that is something that isn’t tied to an address in suburbia; it lives with all of us everywhere we live.

Which isn’t to say that we are sorry for the years we spent in that house. In our almost 9 years there, we loved that house. But it wasn’t the right fit anymore, and that’s neither bad nor anyone’s failing — things change, we change, the world changes, and priorities change. Add it all up, and the time had come for us to move.

Of course, living here will be far easier than *moving* here. Until Saturday, the room I am currently sitting in was wall-to-wall boxes. Storage won’t be a problem once we get it all organized, but in the meantime it’s a DISASTER. But we make some progress every day, and with everything we set into place, we’re more sure that this is where we belong.

It’s not that different to me from settling into Minnesota after being from New York. It’s a change, for sure. But the adjustment fits against my edges — not identically, but equally easily. Louise Fitzhugh wrote, “There are as many ways to live in this world as there are people.” (I think. It’s hard to be sure when my copy of Harriet the Spy is in a box somewhere. It’s close to that, anyway.) And, for me, there are right ways and wrong ways. This condo, this is the right way. The house was the right way too, for a long time. But now it would be wrong. The suburbs would be wrong.

Frankly? Anything that doesn’t give me this view of the Mississippi would be wrong.

This coming weekend is the TCWC spring concert and it’s theme, appropriately enough, is “home.” All the songs are about finding home, or losing it, or creating it, or not knowing where it is. And while the choir community has long been a home to me, this time when I sing those songs, I’m going to be thinking about my place halfway into the sky, with the river to the north and west, the sunset streaking across the balcony, and the room that was mostly boxes and is slowly growing itself into a den.

I have very much come home, once more.

(However, even if I have found my hallelujah, I sure can’t find anything else! Time to unpack more boxes!)



I didn’t mean to slip into blog silence territory last week, but things with the house and condo are moving so fast, something had to give. And it’s got to give this week, too. And probably next week.

I’m just giving myself permission to go dormant on the blog while I figure out everything else. But I’ll be back, probably with tales of moving adventures and Many Feelings about leaving the house behind.

Until then, I need to work on everything that gets me to that lovely point of post-moving reflection.

See you around!


House update, and also query update

Well, life sure moves fast. At this time last week, I was figuring out how to finalize preparing the house for showings. Today, the showings are done. We got 2 unbelievably strong offers in the first 3 hours of showings, and now we’re working through all the paperwork and approvals to get the house sold. On the plus side, that means a minimum of people wandering through our house! On the minus side, it’s a lot of extra worry to try to get everything in order, from bracing for the invasive inspection (which we hopefully pass) to negotiating all the little stuff like closing costs and move-in dates.

At the same time, we’re starting the process of packing and purging, trying to cut down on the “stuff” we have and keeping only that which we want or need or use. Sarah and I are both habitual packrats, so we keep a LOT of stuff. We also have a habit of forgetting what we have, sticking it in a cupboard or box and losing track of it. The move to a condo forces us to downsize, and also to have more awareness around what we really own and how much space it takes up. Some things, like books, we will keep 95% of the time. Things like VHS tapes? Yeah 100% of those are going away unless there’s a really, really good reason to preserve one or two. But overall, it’s helping us get organized and it’s helping us reduce our stuff.

Not that that process is any fun.

Somewhat accidentally, this week also corresponds to me sending my 50th query on the current novel. 50 was the goal — I promised myself I would send the novel out 50 times before I gave up on trying to publish it. Thus far, I’ve got no bites from agents who want to represent it. However, many (if not most) agents have a 4-8 week turnaround on responses, so there are certainly no shortage of agents out there who may yet look at my query and jump on it. But, on the other hand, this may be the end of the process for now.

I actually did get one R&R, a revise and resubmit, and when I can breathe and think creatively at the same time again I will probably make the changes requested and see if that still appeals to them. I’m not 100% convinced that such changes make for a better story, just a different one, but, on the other hand, publishing isn’t about ME AND MY ART AND THE PURITY OF MY WORDINESS. It’s a business. Publishing is about selling books and making money. And if I want to publish a book the traditional way, then I need to be willing to set my story aside and make the changes that will sell. I don’t necessarily have to feel them in my soul; I just need to be flexible enough to make them real.

So, what now?

Well, it is spring, the time of new beginnings, new growth, new life.

I start over.

The current novel is not the first I’ve written — it was the 21st. It won’t be the last, either; I’ve written 2 since then and am working on the third. It wasn’t even the first original novel I’ve written, and it won’t be the last. I have ideas for a dozen new original novels. That’s the nice thing about writing so much — no one story, one novel, one work is the be-all-end-all of who I am and what I do. I do love this novel. I love it and I want it to be in the world.

“But wait!” you say. “Couldn’t you just self-publish it?”

Yes, but not really.

Is it technically possible for me to format the novel, get some kind of artwork, put it into a downloadable format, and sell it on Amazon or Kindle or whatever? Of course it is.

Is it a good idea for me, personally, to do so? No. No it is not.

Self-publishing works well for certain people and certain genres. Romance, for example, does better with self-publishing because of the voracious appetite for new books that readers of romance possess. But even then, the successful authors who actually make money through self-publishing do a hell of a lot more than just formatting the book and making it available for a dollar. They do self-promotion through social media, reading groups, conventions, message boards, podcasts, etc. They put in a huge amount of effort to get their books in front of audiences. They work with other authors to cross-advertise for one another. They network until they have thousands of followers who will loyally retweet and reblog and share their efforts to get their books read.

It is a metric fuck-ton of work. And you know what? I’m probably not cut out for most of it.

I have been a Marketing Analyst. I know about SEO. I know what it takes to get people to click on your site, and to get them to stay there. I know how social media networks disseminate information to one another. I know that you might need to get 10,000 “likes” before you get even 1 sale. And so the amount of work needed for me, from my laptop, to do all that is disproportionate to the amount of interest and patience I have in doing it. There’s a reason I am no longer a Marketing Analyst, and a reason I was never an “influencer” on social media.

So, yes. Technically I could self-publish it, but I’d be doing myself and my book a disservice. I am not cut out to be the single mouthpiece shouting into the void to get readers. I can support the professionals in it, can maintain my Twitter presence and my blog, can show up where I am told to go, but I can’t generate that much content, that much presence, that much effort on my own. It would take spoons not just from writing, but from living.

Therefore, no. It’s traditional publishing for me, or maybe nothing at all.

It’s sad to put the novel in a drawer, if that’s what happens, but it’s not the end of the world. I gave it a good shot. I didn’t give up or get disheartened, and I made it all the way to 50+ rejections (and one R&R so far). I learned what it feels like when those rejection emails come, and I got used to filing them and forgetting about them. I got my query letter read, but the novel wasn’t the right fit. So I’ve learned a lot about the search for an agent, even though it will probably end in failure.

But that failure will serve the next novel, and the next. And the ones after that.

Because I’m not giving up. I’m already an author. I’m an author because I have written novels. I’m a writer because I think about writing ALL THE TIME. I’m not published, but publishing status doesn’t make me any less an author or writer. It just means I’m still not getting paid.

And who knows? Maybe in 3 weeks someone will email and say “Hey, finally got to your submission and hells yeah I want to rep you!” Maybe the next novel will be the right fit that this one wasn’t for the market or the agents or the random swing of what is currently popular. Maybe the novel 2 or 3 from now will sell and my agent will say, “Hey, do you have anything about dragons I could work with?” and I’ll be able to pull it out of a drawer. Maybe something I can’t even imagine will happen.

So I’m not sorry for having gone through this process even though it has been unsuccessful. I’m not in the slightest sorry for writing the novel, even though nobody bought it. Writing is a journey, and I’ve learned from everything I’ve ever written, every short story, every novel, sometimes even these blog posts. If the answer is that I need to learn a little more, or find slightly different timing, I’m okay with that.

It’s not like the ideas will dry up in my head any time soon. In fact, I’ve got about 30 more ideas to write than I will have time in the next year or two. And since I get a new and usable idea about once a month (and many, many not-usable ones every day), that deficit will continue to grow. Which is how a life based on producing art should be, in my opinion. The day that I run out of things to write is the day I quit breathing.

Except not, because at this rate, I’ll still die with 30+ unwritten stories on my list.

It’s like trying to put the thread in a sewing machine when it’s already running. And in this, I am just fine with always being a few steps behind. This isn’t a race I can ever win. It’s not a race I ever WANT to win.

And if this particular sprint to publish is over, then I guess I need to go find the next one.

(Possibly after figuring out the whole house-selling, condo-buying, stuff-purging, moving thing.)

(But, with my luck, not.)


Take these lies and make them true

Okay, so I’m more than a little swamped trying to deal with the house thing. As I ranted at length on Twitter, turning your house into a space that will sell to someone else means basically depersonalizing it to the extreme. Not only does it have to be scrubbed floor to ceiling, literally — I actually washed freaking walls this week — but it means the house has to take on what I call MAXIMUM CONFORMITY. No nerd pictures, few personal items. No clutter, even when that clutter is a representation of self.

Do we remember me talking about Defiance? About being myself no matter the cost?


But there’s also about 15 things I need to get done, like putting paint on my ceiling where it got spots from, you know, life. So I’m going to go do some of that.

I leave you with this, because why not?


Home, home on the range of expectations and feelings

I know I missed yesterday. Sorry. My brain is just ALLLLLLL over the place these days, particularly with choir and CVG heating up and now this house-condo thing. I’m DREAMING about condos now. It’s pretty weird.

There’s a big mental shift that I’m working on making that has to do with space and ownership and identity. The American Dream (™) is really about the 2 cars, 2.5 kids, dog, picket fence, perfect yard with the hand-painted shutters thing, and it’s not just an ideal state; it’s kind of the default assumption of success and adulthood. Living in your apartment in your 30s? Oh, you must not be grown up yet or fully ready for the responsibility? Prefer to live in a high rise in an urban center? Oh, you’ve chosen your career over a family environment.

The judgement isn’t from people close to me, but it’s certainly there in society. This idea that “a man is king of his own castle” and therefore no man is complete without a domain that can be measured in acres and a flawless green lawn. In my case, I’m no man, but I feel a similar pull. There’s something deeply embedded in the sinews of my chest that says “Claim territory! Own a piece of land! Four walls shared with none!” And it’s hard to ignore.

I have absolutely no idea how much of this is some kind of innate instinct left over from our days in the caves and how much has been programmed into me by the society in which I live. Given the sheer numbers of people who live very happily in apartments and such all over the world, I’m kinda thinking it’s the latter.

I get caught up thinking about the tree out front of the house. It’s a river birch with 3 forks, which is just so very appropriate for me spiritually. It’s MY tree. How will I feel when it’s no longer my tree, when it is someone else’s tree? When someone else might cut it down? How will I feel when there is no tree which is MINE?

But then I stop and I wonder — why do I need a MY tree at all? Why can’t I make friends with any tree I pass? I’ve certainly had trees that weren’t mine in the past, trees at summer camp, at college, at homestays abroad, that I loved and leaned on and let go. Why do I need MY tree and MY yard and MY little patch of earth?

And what I’ve learned about myself is that I think it’s a security thing. I think the idea of “this is my land and I own it and no one else can tell me what to do on it” eventually translates to “here I can be safe and nothing can threaten me that I don’t control and I could live off the land if I had to” — which is a total lie because one third of an acre can’t support any human being, let alone two, and half our yard is rocks. But it’s a feeling, almost primal, this sense that the boundaries of the territory mean security and safety, and to give those up and live in the sky with neighbors a wall away is to invite danger.

When, really, the opposite is kind of the truth.

Sure, there won’t be land to grow our own food, but we don’t do much of that anyway (and Sarah will grow tomatoes and kale on any balcony for me because she is the BEST). Sure, I’m sharing a wall with others, but I’m not sharing my LIFE with them. The wall is cement and not going anywhere. And the truth is that home invasions are a much greater risk in a detached property, no matter how nice the neighborhood, than they ever will be in a secure building with finite tenants.

And, yes, a condo means a Homeowners’ Association, which means HOA dues and the HOA being allowed to decide things like what color the front door is or if we’re having all the windows washed today. But they can’t decide to take my home away from me. They can’t decide to tell me what kind of furniture I can have or prevent me if I want to put my bedroom in the middle of the kitchen. The building is shared, the amenities are shared, the decisions about upkeep are shared, but the space within is still mine. It’s just not the whole castle anymore — simply one room in the keep.

It’s still a loss in some ways. I’m going to miss MY trees. I’m going to miss the family of ravens that hangs out, and the murder of crows that regularly fills up every tree on the block. I’m going to miss the generations of mixed gray and red squirrels that have lived in our backyard — we’re up to the 5th, I think — and their antics. I’m going to miss having certain dedicated spaces which I never had to share. I’m going to miss having space to spread out when I really need it.

But there are other things to gain. A condo means a pool and a workout room. It means a green space maintained by others. It means a view of the river, and that heals my heart just by itself.

And what I have to keep telling myself is that the space really isn’t any more or less mine in the first place — it was always mine and Sarah’s. And if she let me take this corner for my space, or gave me that area to meditate, it was always shared and agreed upon. And that won’t change. We’re probably going to steal a tiny bit of money off of our down payment to buy a wall bed (the kind of bed frame where you can fold the whole mattress up into a cupboard and get back all your floor space) not for guests, but for ourselves. Because then the bedroom can still double as that space of mine — I just need to fold up the bed and it’s big and open once more. It won’t be as simple as just going downstairs, but it also means I’ll sleep surrounded by the things that make me really feel safe.

Similarly, Sarah is giving up her dedicated space, kind of her version of a man-cave with her comfy but ugly chair and her Nintendo. But the Nintendo can go out in the open and the chair can live in the den with my office and ALL THE BOOKS and that’s okay, too. Because she needed a place she could isolate herself when there were too many people, but she’ll still have that. And she’ll also be able to hide in it when I’m actually working, or writing, and not be 3 floors away. She might actually use it more often because of that.

And we’re also gaining more of an open layout than we have. We’ll be able to cook dinner while watching hockey, or lounge on the couch while others are playing games at the table. Right now the split between our kitchen/dining room and our living room is a constant source of wanting one thing in the other place. This will fix that.

But maybe the biggest thing we’re going to gain is time and freedom. We won’t have to think about shoveling and snowblowing a driveway. We won’t have to remember to plant flowers so our yard is appropriate, or mow the lawn when it’s long, or check the siding for storm damage, or watch the trees to see if they need to be trimmed. The stuff that makes homeowners’ insurance so expensive is the stuff we really don’t like about having a house in the first place. I won’t have to wonder if our basement is going to flood, or if the ice on the sidewalk is too thick to break up. I won’t have to plan time for breaking up fallen branches to put them on the curb.

Bad stuff can and does still happen in a condo — the neighbor leaves a bathtub running and it floods the unit below — but the building deals with it collectively, which takes the onus off the owner. And bad stuff can happen anywhere; it actually feels better to me to be in a place where the community as a whole is responsible for it rather than just Sarah and I.

The downsizing of stuff, eliminating furniture we don’t want or need in smaller space, is hard in a different way. I’m a HUGELY sentimental person. If you give me something, no matter how stupid it is, I kind of assign all the meaning YOU have in my life to the plastic cheap thing that was just meant to be a joke. It makes it hard for me to let go of things, because it feels like betraying the person who gave it to me. But I’m going to have to.

In another way, this is a relief. Stuff is a weight, a worry, too. Sarah and I both do better when we live by the rule of “you can’t bring it home if you don’t know where it’s going to fit.” We’re not hoarders, but we’re generally only semi-tidy and we like our level of lived-in clutter. Our space will never be in any magazine, good or bad, but you can tell from any angle exactly who lives here when you look around. Paring that down, first to sell the house, then to fit into the condo, is a stretch for us both. But I think it’s healthy.

No, we’re not watching that show on Netflix. But the concept applies.

In the end, the things we truly treasure aren’t going anywhere. Gifts from beloved friends and family will still be displayed just as prominently — if maybe more strategically. The bookshelf my great grandfather hand-made for my grandmother because he was so proud of her interest in reading will be with me until I die or it falls to pieces. We’ll lose some excess end tables and shelves and sweaters and books (maybe) and little fuzzy silly things and knickknacks, but we’re not going to lose anything important.

And we’re not losing anything important when we leave this house behind, either. I won’t have MY tree, but there will be trees on the property or down the street or in a friend’s yard that I love, too. I won’t have MY yard, but I also don’t spend any time in my yard, so I’m not going to lose much even if I miss it on a conceptual level. I won’t have yards of open air between my walls and the next person, but I’m not sure those yards of open air ever made me feel safer.

There will be a loss. There will be grief. I will absolutely, certainly, without a doubt cry when we drive away from the house for the last time. But I also know myself. I know how I adapt. I know that my heart can ache for a loss and just as quickly rejoice at something newly gained. And I know it won’t be long before I’m looking out at that river from my window and feel nothing but wonder and security and peace in my new home.

It isn’t living the American Dream (™), but I’ve never intentionally aspired to it. What I’ve aspired to is finding a home where Sarah and I felt safe, could live with relative comfort and ease, and involved minimal stress for us both. The house we love, for all its good points, doesn’t necessarily answer that need. So that means we have to make the leap and try something new. It will have its own drawbacks and uncomfortable surprises, but at least I won’t have to dodge wasps while trying to help Sarah weed a rock garden.

George Bernard Shaw wrote something I have almost always found to be true: “You have learnt something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.”

Of the somethings I stand to lose, none of them are myself, and I am interested to learn which ones I never really needed in the first place. This house has been my home, has given others a home at times, and I’m going to miss it. But home doesn’t lie in the bricks and walls. It lies in the heart.

And my heart is very much ready to build a home high in the sky, overlooking the river.

(And the pool isn’t a bad addition, either.)