Life’s Wake-Up Calls

For the past few months, I've been so focused on my own stuff that I realize I've been missing the bigger picture. Time to reevaluate.

As some of you may have heard, we've been moving—downsizing—and I've been angsting over a variety of things:

1. Downsizing.

How do you get rid of a thing that someone else has saved for you and that goes back generations when it's something that doesn't fit your life anymore, maybe it never fit your life, but the guilt of letting it go is numbing?

Case in point: the secretary desk that belonged to my grandma Esther. She loved that desk, used it daily and thought I would love it. I did, for a while. Then I put it in my daughter's room. She used it, and her sisters used it, all through high school. It had a glass display case above a desk top that folded down to reveal cubbies and drawers. They loved it.

Now, with no place to put it in the new house, I thought one of the girls would want it. Not! However, with the brilliance of the Millennials, one of my daughters suggested I take a picture of the secretary and post it up to a private account on Instagram. That way I could see it whenever I wanted, remember Gram whenever I looked at it, and free myself of the tangible object. We snapped a photo, then she helped me place it up on Craig's List. It sold right away, and I had an anxiety attack! BUT, lo and behold, the young woman who bought it was so excited to get it I forgot all about feeling guilty. It turned out that her grandmother had a desk exactly like it. After her grandmother died, her estate went into foreclosure and everything had to be sold at auction. I now look at the picture I have and am delighted to know that Gram's secretary is somewhere being cherished.

2. My identity.

I grew up in Evergreen. After a few years at CU in Boulder, I moved to Frisco (CO) and became a ski bum for a while, married, had kids, and moved back to Evergreen. We lived in the Country Club neighborhood of Denver for a few years while my kids were in high school, but we always had our house in the hills. Now, for the first time in nearly 60 years, I live in Denver. But I'm a mountain girl, I tell you. Except I now own a home and live in the DTC area. I can see my mountains (notice how possessive I am), but I no longer reside in a house tucked back into the woods. Who am I?

3. My career.

While I was at Bouchercon in Toronto, I met with my editor. To my dismay, he told me that international thrillers across the board just aren't selling very well right now. Even the superstars writing espionage and geopolitical thrillers have seen a drop in their numbers, though you're still hitting the list if you're one of the big boys. My editor told me he wants the next Raisa book, just not now. He wants a "different kind of thriller, perhaps a standalone" for my next book. That means if I want to continue writing for Crooked Lane, I need a new premise.

F*^k! I have a few more Raisa Jordan books to write, and I was deep into plotting Book #3.

On that note, I headed to Maine after Bouchercon to visit a friend who had been diagnosed with uterine cancer. She had undergone chemo, the tumors had disappeared and her blood counts were good. I had planned to visit in July after ThrillerFest, but I ended up with pneumonia then and figured that someone on chemo didn't need to be exposed to me. The fact she was doing so much better had me really looking forward to seeing her. I called her the night before I was scheduled to arrive and she said, "Oh, I'm so glad you're coming. I didn't tell you before because I was afraid you wouldn't come, but the cancer is back with a vengeance. They started me on hospice care last week."

F*^k! I'm not ready to lose a friend. And the world's not ready to lose a New York Times bestselling romance writer, who—despite the ravages of cancer—lamented, "I'm not ready to die. I still have two more books in me." It turns out she'd been stringing her fans along with the promise of something to come in her series, only to run out of time.

Sort of puts it all in perspective.


Chris Goff on Blogger
Chris Goff
A member of RMFW since 1988, Chris Goff is an award-winning author of six novels based on environmental themes and two international thrillers. Her most recent book, RED SKY, (Crooked Lane Books, June 2017) is set in Ukraine and Asia, where Agent Raisa Jordan tests the boundaries of diplomacy as she races to prevent the start of a new Cold War. Catherine Coulter had this to say: "Breathtaking suspense, do not miss Red Sky." Goff's series debut, DARK WATERS, was dubbed “a sure bet for fans of international thrillers" by Booklist, and nominated for the 2016 Colorado Book Award and Anthony Award for Best Crime Fiction Audiobook. For more about Chris, visit her webpage and blog.

21 thoughts on “Life’s Wake-Up Calls

  1. Oh my, what a powerful post. A few thoughts: On downsizing: I know exactly what you mean. I gaze at a chipped cream pitcher that I don’t even use, and the memories flood back. Can’t part with it….and about a thousand things like it. On identity: Sense of place is important in real life as well as fiction. Those mountains… On career: My agent told me the same thing a few months ago when I completed my 2-year project of a thriller. But then your friend’s terrible diagnosis puts it in perspective. I got back to the Bay Area where everyone says I’m lucky to have been away last week. The fires and the general anxiety were horrible. Perspective is everything.Write on!

  2. Your post hits some had truths, Chris. I’m having trouble finding anyone in the family to take my Norwegian great-grandparents’ pictures–big,framed with curved glass. Wouldn’t they be sad to know no one cares about them anymore?

  3. Chris, I’m sending you hugs regarding your friend. Regarding your mountains, I felt the same way when I left Bow Mar for the mountains! I’d never lived in the mountains, and I loved the view of the mountains from the Littleton area. I loved walking along the Platte River, and all the great shopping and friends just a short drive away. At first, the mountains symbolized social exile to me. Now, I invite the deer over for morning coffee, and the serenity and quiet allow me to have a sound studio in my home. “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building the new.” You’re handling it with grace, my friend. Hugs.

  4. Chris, I still cling to the notes I took when you spoke to our writer’s group in Steambook Springs. Your identity oozed. I could almost see all the “stuff” you loved to have around you. You will or you won’t like living downsized in Denver. It’s a vibrant city with a lot of writers. I wish you the best in your new digs.

    • I think I may like it, at least for a time, if I can ever get settled in. That’s my goal for the next couple of weeks–unpack the rest of the boxes. PS – I had so much fun speaking in Steamboat. I’m glad that you find the notes helpful.

  5. Chris, thank you for a heartfelt post. We’ve been trying to downsize some as we prepare for new carpeting later this week. I read an article recently that truly helps with that process. Truth is, you’re very lucky to have found someone who delighted in your family heirloom. This article suggested that we prepare for no one wanting the bits and pieces that have been in our family for generations. It’s a hard thing. This may sound silly to some, but it works for my husband and me. As we prepare our gems for Craigslist or Goodwill, speak to them: “Thanks for all the years you’ve given beauty and service to this family. Now it’s time to go on and bless another family.” It’s amazing what a difference that little ritual makes.

    I hope you’ll learn to love the unique things about your new home. Wishing you great neighbors, little parks, or greenbelts, streams or a secret garden in your own yard that become new special places, as well as conveniences that make life easier than before. But don’t worry, you’ll always be a mountain girl!

    • I like the affirmation — I’ll always be a mountain girl. Even more, I love the idea of thanking the family heirlooms for the years of service, then letting them go. I let you know how it goes.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Isn’t that the fear of all writers? That we’ll die before we get all our stories out (or at least the ones we REALLY want to tell?) Just so sad. 🙁

    On the getting rid of things, I’m having fun with that. And I just read “The life changing magic of tidying up,” by Marie Kondo, and it was surprisingly really good. I even shared it with a friend who’s moving and he was able to get rid of a ton of stuff. 🙂

    • So interesting. My daughter, Mardee, gave me that book for Christmas last year. It has helped a lot. I think being the only child of an only child doesn’t help. While my husband split all the “stuff” from his parents with his brothers, I go everything. Makes me lucky, spoiled and mega-cluttered.

  7. I appreciate everyone’s sentiments about my friend. I feel fortunate to have had the chance to see her and visit before she passes. In the week I was there, things went from sad and awful to sad and unbearable. Her decline was so quick–from being able to visit to an in-home hospital bed. The day I arrived, we talked late into the night. The second day we took the golf cart down to the lake, sat in the Adirondack chairs and she smoked a few cigarettes. She still had her sense of humor. She told me, “Why not? They aren’t going to kill me know. And thank God I’m not dying of lung cancer. My family would have never let me live that down.”

  8. Beautiful post Chris. I could feel your angst and hold you close in heart as you transition through so many changes. Keep writing your way through it. I, as well as countless others, enjoy your words. 🙂

  9. Brought tears to my eyes… but even first world problems that don’t involve dying are still worthy of concern. Hope you will go on to meet the market’s demands… other books will stew and become better with time as the time catches up with them again. I’d imagine books set in the Middle East would have tons of interest!

    So sorry about your friend.

    • Thanks, Karen. We’ll see. Maybe by the time I finish the third Raisa book the winds will have changed and international espionage-type thrillers will be back in vogue.

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