Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Steadfast - Guest Blogger, Melody Carlson

It's Wednesday! Which means I have a guest blogger. It's an absolute treat to welcome the very prolific author, Melody Carlson. 

Melody and I met more than twenty years ago at a writing conference. We were both just setting off on our writing careers. She's a valued friend. And it is a special pleasure to have her here.

Make sure to read through this entire blog so you can find out about Melody's giveaway.

By the way, our winner from last week is - Brenda.


I'll make sure Ann Shorey gets your email address.

 About Melody. 

Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to political
activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write!

In the past few years, she has published over 200 books for children, teens, and adults--with total sales of over six million copies. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards. Melody is the recipient of a Romance Writers of America Lifetime
Achievement Award.

She and her husband have two grown sons and live in Sisters, Oregon with their lovely Labrador retriever, Audrey. They enjoy skiing, hiking and
biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.

How We Survived a Year of Downsizing...Just Barely

About a year ago, my husband and I made the decision to downsize. Sounded simple enough. Sell the home we’d been in nearly twenty years, get into something smaller, enjoy more freedom and less maintenance.

Easy-peasy, right? Ha! Twelve months later we’re still worn out, beat up, and I can’t even find the butter dish.

Although I had writing deadlines, I wasn't too concerned about this downsize. Staging our home, preparing for open houses, random showings (to people with no intention of purchasing) proved a challenge, but I could handle it.

In the middle of winter, we got the crazy buyer who wanted to purchase our house "with everything included" (my underwear drawer too?). Although her offer was far less than our asking price, we attempted to "negotiate". And she insisted on visiting our home for hours at a time (although we weren't allowed to see her face!). To our  relief, she changed her mind.

In early spring we lowered our price and got a serious buyer, but she wanted us to check on building permits. We'd never heard of anyone doing this before, but our nearly forty year old house  was solid and well built. Why wouldn't it be permitted? Because the offer was contingent on  this, and because our realtor encouraged us, we naively went to the county and inquired.

Talk about opening a can of worms—the county “opened a file” on us. And that’s where the real nightmare began.

Because we live in rural Oregon and because the county's old records were sketchy at best, we were forced to jump through a bunch of ridiculous (and expensive) hoops that made us both question the county's sensibilities as well as our own sanity. But there is no turning back--the county's "file was opened" on us, and they threatened "legal action" if it didn't get closed.

During this “permitting” period, which stretched on and on, I drew blueprints of all five buildings on our property, all while trying to maintain my writing schedule. My husband was forced to dig around foundations, open up walls, hire engineers, electricians, plumbers, etc.. All to prove that our home was sound and solid (something we already knew). And we even unearthed proof of county permits (records that the county had lost!).

The whole thing felt like pure craziness and the stress levels got higher and higher.

Just about the time I started wishing for a forest fire to end the madness (our home was in fire country) my husband lugged all the required letters, reports, photographs and blueprints to the
county—along with his checkbook to pay for permits. But when the clerk told him the total, he nearly had a heart attack. He came home and told me the amount, and I felt physically ill.

It was so upsetting that I did what any writer would do—I wrote a long letter to the head of the building division. I explicitly told him everything we’d been through, how much money we’d already spent (jumping through their endless list of hoops) and how shocked we were to discover the cost of permits. I also told him that I planned to write our story for the local newspapers—a cautionary tale to homeowners who might naively step into the building division and inquire on permits for
older homes like we’d done.

The head of the division emailed me back that same day. We exchanged several interesting emails and he finally invited us to return to the county for permits. My poor husband went back—hoping for a miracle—and was informed that the county had accidentally added an extra zero to our permit fees (a zero that equaled thousands of dollars!). But the best news was that the county had decided to waive most of our permits—and they closed our file that very week. We would’ve celebrated—except that we were too drained. Did I mention the gray hair and stress-weight gains?

But we were hugely relieved to close the sale on our house and move into our ‘new’ home in town. Never mind that temperatures were in triple digits or some moving “volunteers” didn’t show, we were just glad to be on our way. And even though this “fixer” house wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the one we’d sold, we were happy to get into it.

The plan was to rent from the sellers for a couple of weeks until closing. We used that time to hold a massive and exhausting garage sale (a half-size meant half our stuff had to go). And then we continued unpacking, organizing, and preparing for some major remodeling (stacks of hardwood flooring, appliances, etc. were crammed into the living

But at least we were downsized. Right?


Just one business day before we were to close the sale, our loan guy called to inform us we had no financing. Never mind that we’d been approved and locked-in, or that we’d paid for the appraisal, which passed. Our loan guy admitted that he’d overlooked something—his financial group didn’t grant “corporate” loans.

We'd told  him right from the get-go that because of my writing, we're a corporation. He'd said 'no problem.' Now he was saying 'no loan.' We were moved into a house that we'd promised to purchase - and now we had no financing? Talk about stress!

To make a long story short (and this one might inspire a novel someday) we closed our house sale (on our anniversary in August). the remodel is nearly finished now - and looks good. And I  might go out and buy a butter dish today. but if you think downsizing is easy ... you're either watching HGTV or reading fiction.

If you’ve read this far, you’re eligible to win a signed copy of my latest book, The Christmas Cat. One of the hardest things about this downsize biz was allowing our old neighbors to adopt our Maine Coon cat Harry (the book’s dedicated to him). But we knew he’d be happier in the old neighborhood—and we spared him the stress of relocating.

Garrison Brown inherits his grandmother's six cats and a mission. 
Find good homes for Gram's beloved pets. 
But some of the cats are elderly, and it's almost 
Christmastime, plus Garrison has cat allergies - and, 
oh yeah, there's a secret cash incentive. 

Melody, I can't imagine going through all that you did. I'm praying for lots of stress free days ahead. Enjoy your new home. 

Your book sounds like fun. I'm definitely getting a copy. I need a good for Christmas.

Readers, for an opportunity to win this book all you have to do is leave a comment and your email address. I will announce the winner next Wednesday.

Grace and peace to you from God,



  1. Anonymous12:04 AM

    Thank you for sharing your 'downsizing' story, Melody. Wow, what an adventure! Happy upcoming holidays in your new home! :) ...Joni Post

  2. Wow sounds a nightmare and a good warning. I downsized when I moved to this place would have gotten rid of about half my furniture but did gain a new second hand lounge suite (considering I was down to one chair it was so nice. I may have to move again the end of next year and want to down size some more also. If the book includes an ecopy I would love to be included. ausjenny at gmail dot com

  3. Anonymous12:22 AM

    I felt stressed reading your downsizing story! Glad everything turned out ok. Ollie ogamble26@gmail.com

  4. Oh, my goodness! I'm so glad you are on the other side of that! Your new book sounds like a fun read. I'd live to have a copy. emmies.mama@gmail.com

  5. Oh, my word, Melody! What a mess! I'm glad you're settled now, but I can well imagaine the stress level. ANd Bonnie, you don't need to add me to the drawing, I've already read The Christmas Cat and loved it!! It's a delightful tale (pun intended) and a page-turner.

    And Melody, my book club wants you back again! They had such a great conversation with you, even though Skype didn't want to work its camewras. :o)

  6. Goodness what a mess! I'm glad you're in your new home. But, oh, I could never leave my baby behind.

  7. I read every word of it...what a journey! We've been considering downsizing, and now I'm rethinking. Wow! Praying you enjoy your new home and nothing more hits for a long time. I'd love to be entered to win your book, as I love cats!

  8. YIKES! Even if I wanted to, my Maine Coon would stalk me until he found me, co-dependent perhaps. The other four cats would probably be right behind him then the toy poodle and then the Siberian Husky and then and then.....Roberta Adrian

  9. A cautionary tale indeed! Yikes! And I do believe we'll see this in a novel someday. A heroine who helps others downsize can't downsize herself :-)

  10. Anonymous9:28 AM

    Enjoyed reading your blog!

  11. Wonderful article !! Enjoyed reading it and I would also enjoy reading your book :) Thank you for this giveaway !

  12. Yes, that is a cautionary tale indeed! Makes our down-sizing adventures of this past summer sound quite tame. :-D Not that our story is quite over yet . . .
    I am owned by three cats, and your story looks lovely to me! Thank you for sharing your stories--real and fictional--to encourage the rest of us.

  13. Birdie Etchison3:35 PM

    Melody, so enjoyed your blog post. So glad things finally worked out.

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. This post is just what I needed today. I've been struggling with how draining it is to have an endless list of tasks plus the stress from others. Bonnie and melody thanks for sharing this and reminding me that my trouble are just a ripple in God's ocean.

  15. Naomi,

    I also struggle with the endless list of tasks. It is unrelenting. To some degree I feel I've just got to make peace with it and understand that the list is part of my life, which I'm living. And not let it stress me out.

    And even though in the big scheme of things our troubles may be ripples, God cares about our ripples. So thankful.

  16. Anonymous11:05 AM

    I SO want to read The Christmas Cat...have put it on my wish list.

    patucker54 at aol dot com