Inside the Wall: An Intriguing Discovery

About a month ago, my family and I embarked upon an epic journey into the unknown. We took a blind leap of faith, having no idea the pitfalls that lay before us and the true cost of our endeavor. Yep, we decided to renovate a bathroom. (Those of you who have lived through home renovations know what I’m talking about.) I was hesitant about the remodel because the bathroom in question shares a wall with my writing space, and I’m easily distracted by loud noises. Our contractor told us the remodel would take two weeks, which didn’t sound so bad… We gave the green light.

Oh, how naive and gullible I was! I would be laughing if I wasn’t crying. There was no way we could have known about that giant pipe running through the wall that was demolished or that our insulation wasn’t up to code. We couldn’t have foreseen that the floor leveler would leak into our downstairs bathroom, fill the pipes and harden. (I wish I was making this up, but I’m not.)

Anyway, the project, while several weeks behind schedule, is slowly moving forward despite the setbacks, and I’m not here only to complain. I’m sure the bathroom will be nice when it’s done and I’ve gotten used to writing at my kitchen table with my dog barking at every person who enters and leaves. The purpose of this post is to reveal a silver lining to this ongoing project. Anyone who has read my books knows that I love mysteries, and now I have my own personal one to solve.

When the workers tore down the bathroom wall to gain space into a neighboring closet, they discovered a yellowing newspaper clipping shoved into the wall, dated May 1964. Our house was built back in 1931 and has tons of history, but apparently the last time this bathroom was remodeled was 1964 (not too surprising, as that’s exactly what it looked like!) I don’t know if it’s normal behavior to place a dated relic into the floor or wall when doing renovations, but I’d never heard of anyone doing this before. The discovery felt so intriguing and mysterious, like someone from the past offering a clue to whoever could find it. I could just imagine a long-ago owner thinking to him or herself, I bet fifty years from now someone is going to tear down this wall. Let’s leave them something.

Actual newspaper clipping found in our wall

The article was ripped but still readable: Suddenly its’ a Snap to get to Fly to all South America (For fun or profit). The discovery of a message in the wall reminds me of so many books I’ve read, particularly historical fiction, where relics and clues are found hidden inside the bones of an old house, ultimately solving a decades-old mystery.

So what does this one mean? What were the people who used to live in our house trying to tell me? A casual attempt to let a future owner know the date of the remodel seems unlikely. Maybe the previous owners were eager to flee to South America. But why? Were they involved in a drug deal gone wrong? Or implicated in a murder? Is it some sort of secret code where I take the first letter of each word and read it backwards? Maybe Jimmy Hoffa is buried under out house and the previous owner is offering an escape route. My psychological thriller writer’s brain is going nuts with sordid possibilities. Don’t worry. I’ll get to the bottom of it…

Now that our bathroom walls are (seemingly, indefinitely) open, I can’t help feeling like I should leave my own message for a future owner. I think it would be funny to creep out someone thirty or forty years from now by leaving a note scrawled in red marker that says, “Help Me!” I’d be referring to the bathroom renovation, of course, but they wouldn’t know that. (Hee, hee.) Alternatively, maybe a warning to rethink their remodeling project before they get in too deep. Something like, “It’s not worth it. Close the walls back up.”

In the end, I hope the renovation is worth it. Maybe I’ll post an “after” photo when it’s all over.

Have you ever discovered something tantalizing and mysterious inside your walls? Tell me about it!

Writing in the Time of COVID-19

Change of Planspills on gray background

A week ago right now, I’d finished a full day of revisions on one of manuscripts and was attending my son’s first school volleyball game. Two days later, school had been canceled for the next three weeks, possibly longer, the aisles of my local grocery store had been cleared out in a rush of panic buying, and my kids were fighting over my computer. What a difference a week can make.

I realize I’m not the only one whose life has been set into a tailspin. This virus is affecting everyone, nobody more so than the people who are infected. Of course, my family and I are doing our part to “flatten the curve.” We’re staying inside, except to take long walks or play sports in the backyard. We’ve stopped getting together with friends. We’re working and schooling from home. Sadly, my husband and I had to our cancel our trip to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in New York City in May. That will have to wait.

The first two days with all four of us home felt long at times. I found it difficult to focus with a steady stream of interruptions and loud noises emanating from around the house. (I’m one of those people who can only write in complete silence.) But we’re slowly getting into a new routine. I’m claiming the morning hours as my writing time. My husband has set up his home office downstairs in the living room. My kids use their tablets to check emails from their teachers and use my computer in the afternoon.

Silver Linings

I have to admit, there have been a few silver linings to the quarantine. It’s nice to eat

landscape photo of pathway between green leaf trees

lunch with my family every day. I usually eat alone during the week, in between revising or writing chapters. My tri-weekly trips to the gym have been replaced with long, hikes in nature or around our neighborhood with my husband, kids, and dog. Thankfully, the weather has been sunny and spring-like. Another bonus–and I’ve heard other writers mention this too–the pages read of my YA mystery series on Kindle Unlimited are WAY up. I agree there’s no better way to pass the time than reading a book! Finally, is it just me, or are people being nicer to each other? I’ve noticed this at the grocery store and while out on walks and also online. People are smiling, saying hi, asking how I’m doing, and simply checking in. The sense of community has never felt stronger.

I hope everyone who reads this is staying safe and healthy. By all accounts, the worst may still be ahead of us, but we are all in this together. We will get through it, and I’ll be back to my silent days of writing in no time. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the gift of time with my family.

How are these difficult times affecting your writing or reading?