Moving sucks but we did it

Two years ago, in September, I discovered that baby number 7 was on the way. We were living in an 800 square-foot apartment. I looked at my husband and said, “That’s it. We have to get a house, now.”

We were packed to the gills in that tiny place, bunk beds with roll away beds beneath them, and a crib jammed in somehow. My husband had finally landed a decent job, and a house was tentatively within our grasp.

The baby was born in 2020, meaning that the year wasn’t a total loss. I knew that I couldn’t pack and move until the baby was a year old, because I wouldn’t be physically strong enough until then. So we decided to wait for our tax return and start the house hunt in March of 2021.

Between that and the Covid stimulus checks, which we saved, we had enough for the various fees and down payments that houses require. A home loan secured, we ventured forth into the housing market.

And oh, what a crazy place it is. In Tucson, Arizona, housing is in such high demand, people pay 25 to 30k over asking price, no matter what garbage condition the house might be in. And they’re paying in cash. Little fish like us are squeezed out of the running by the big, fat fish coming in from CA, New York, and other states. We placed offers on three houses, only to find out that there were ten other offers on the same house. We rode the emotional roller coaster of Yay! We made an offer! to Ultimate Bummer, we were outbid.

We really didn’t want to get a flipper house, but house flipping is very big out here in Tucson. Two such listings were passed to us by our realtor: nice sized double-wides that were “undergoing renovations”. Translation: being flipped as fast as possible.

Just when it seemed that we would never get a house, our realtor called and asked if my husband wanted to see one of the flipped double-wides. It wasn’t on the market yet, and they were still working on it, but they would entertain an offer. It was in our price range. It was in a good area, not too far from my husband’s work. It was a nice rectangle of a trailer house, almost exactly double the space of our apartment. We took a chance and made an offer. It was accepted.

Now we had dozens of inspections, disclaimers, contracts, and agreements to sign, and sign, and sign. Thank goodness they do it digitally now, because it was almost a nightly occurrence.

Long story short, we got the house. We probably shouldn’t have gotten it, and we still feel like we cheated, kind of. It still has some issues that the inspections missed, but home warranties are wonderful things.

When it came time to move, my parents chipped in to hire movers. Last time we moved, it was just my husband and me, and it took us four days. This time, the movers had the truck loaded in four hours, and unloaded at the house in thirty minutes. Those guys were beasts. I just watched in awe. I worked like mad disassembling furniture, then tried to keep up with them, and I just about died of exhaustion.

Anyway, we’re now settled in a much bigger, nicer space. My kids have a yard to play in. After years of dodgy apartment playgrounds, words can’t describe what a relief this is. If they leave a toy outside overnight, it won’t be stolen or destroyed by morning. Rabbits and quail use our yard as a highway, to our constant amusement. It’s like we left prison and moved to the zoo.

Hopefully blogging will be a more regular occurrence, now that my laptop is unpacked again. And drawing! We haven’t found a new routine, so creative things are still a bit hit and miss.

Learning to WordPress

I came to WordPress.com after my WordPress.org blog died in flames and malware smoke on my own server. I thought I pretty much knew how to use WordPress as a whole, and I’ve let the blog coast for several years. Life was busy and I didn’t have time to fool around with blog stuff.

Anyway, this past week, I actually bothered to grab the WordPress app on my phone so I could update my blog on the fly. As I was clicking on stuff, I happened to look at my stats. They pretty much tabulate the rise and fall of social media, where most of my hits came from.

Stats for my sad little blog over its lifetime

As you can see, I moved to wordpress.com in 2015. I update about once a week, or every two weeks, whenever I have something to share. After 2017, you begin to see the social media sites throttling outside traffic. I used to get comments on my blog posts. I forgot what that’s like. Actual people used to visit my blog and say things and for heavens sake, sometimes disagree with me.

My art used to bring in a ton of search results from Google. Google doesn’t like people to use the image search anymore, so that dried up. So now my poor blog sits here with a vast archive and no visitors. People say blogging is dead? Only because social media and the algorithms killed it.

Being the type to never say die, I was poking around in my shiny new app, and discovered the Reader button. It lets you follow blogs, and search for new ones. I started doing that. Lo and behold, I found a whole secret ecosystem of WordPress blogs. They’re interconnected. They share traffic. Some of them get comments.

The trick is the tagging system. WordPress doesn’t make this easy for you. They give you a general idea on their Help section, but they don’t give you a list of categories, except a handful of very broad ones to start. This blog would fall under “art” and “writing” and “creativity”. But thousands of blogs get posted to those categories every day. You’re supposed to use tags to describe your content in a more granular way. My artwork might also be “painting” “illustration” “fanart” “science fiction” “fantasy” and you see the trouble. WordPress’s ecosystem isn’t that big. There’s no way to target the exact readers I want unless I hunt them on social media. And social media hates blogs. Unless it’s Tumblr.

And if you have books to sell? Pff, you’re on your own, buster. Nobody wants to read a story unless it’s a fanfic and it’s free oh and it has the correct ship.

Please don’t make me explain what a ship is.

The point is, I’m going to start experimenting with bringing the ol’ blog in line with Teh Modern Internets. I’m going to repost some of my more popular posts with updated tags and categories. I’m going to try to figure out how to get my artwork onto the search engines. (Better descriptive text? I have to figure this out.) If you see smoke and ashes flying from this blog’s direction, don’t be alarmed. That’s just me, relearning how to blog.

Anybody else out there trying to cope with Teh Modern Internets? If you have tips for me, let me know. I’m woefully behind.