may the Fourth be with you …

ONLY THREE MORE DAYS … and the celebration begins. It’s a big deal in my little may the Fourth be with youcorner of the world. I believe we’ll be celebrating the 240th birthday of our United States. (sorry … I love the Star Wars take on the saying … please forgive me.)

Salinas will have a fireworks display, safely confined to the Salinas Sports Complex (aka Salinas Rodeo Grounds) — one of the few towns to do so, since many counties have pretty much outlawed any type of fireworks. California remains a tinderbox and people can’t seem to play safely, which has caused unnecessary and devastating fires. Information for the celebration:
When: July Fourth. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the fireworks show will start at 9 p.m.
Where: Salinas Sports Complex
Cost: Free
Parking: $5

July 4th Flag

Click on image for full view

Monterey and Pacific Grove will have celebrations, too — along with probably a few others I’m not aware of. Pacific Grove will have a BBQ. My writers group, Central Coast Writers, will be participating in the annual Fourth of July Parade (and their famous BBQ/party following) in Monterey. I joined CCW in the Monterey parade last year … and plan on it again this year, though … though I’ll not sure how physically fit I’ll be, I’m determined to make it the whole length (less than a mile)! It will be fun. Many organizations walk in this parade … I can’t begin to list them all, but I do know (a little birdie told me) that the Pacific Repertory Theatre will be there — with the cast from Mary Poppins!

God Bless America

Please click on image for full view

Then there’s the lovely BBQ afterwards, with music, entertainment and lots of food to choose from (or bring your own picnic lunch). Grab a spot on the lawn at Colton Hall and join in on the celebration. This link has all the info about a pancake breakfast, the parade, the BBQ —and an evening concert— all wrapped up into one page.

I’ll try to take photos at the staging point (the only time I’ll see all —well, most, I guess— the different groups walking in the parade), along the parade route and at Colton Hall to share in the coming weeks.

So, until next time … may the Fourth be with you. Have a blessed Friday and extended holiday weekend. Stay safe.

Precious Memories …

MY FATHER STRUGGLED with memory issues for quite some time — oh, it’s just normal aging process, everyone would say. He’d misplace keys, important papers, gardening tools, etc on his five-acre patch of heaven on earth …  I’m sure my mom started keeping a closer eye on him, but never let on that his forgetfulness was getting worse. Still insisting it was “normal”, we could only wonder since we lived so far from each other. Finances got a little strange — then unmanageable … Dad wasn’t able to juggle all the different financial things on his plate and they eventually lost their beautiful built-from-the-ground-up home to the bank. Finally, they moved up north to be closer to me — I was so grateful … and relieved to have them close by. It wasn’t long before both my husband and I realised there was a serious problem and started suggesting doctors to evaluate his declining memory. It took a lot of arm twisting, as Mom still didn’t want to believe that her still physically-strong husband could possibly become mentally weak.

Finally, the diagnosis my husband and I knew was coming was pronounced. Though still in the early stages, it was definitely Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s is an insidious disease, striking twice. First, bit by bit, taking recent memories away, then memories of adulthood, of childhood … until it has taken every precious memory. Forgetting friends, family, close loved ones. Forgetting how to brush teeth, to use the toilet, to shower. The basics we all take for granted. Gone. Then it strikes a second time, finally taking the shell-of-a-person once known — permanently, in death.

After my dad was diagnosed, we introduced my parents to the local branch of the Alzheimer’s Association and signed my parents up for the support group — an awesome tool for caregivers. Then, we schemed amongst ourselves how to convince my dad into accepting a “babysitter” so my mom — the primary caregiver — could get some respite from the energy- sucking 24/7 care.

It was difficult. We thought about many things, amongst them, a gardener, but my dad wouldn’t stand for that. His green thumb precluded any assistance there. None of the ideas panned out. So, I helped out, taking dad on drives and walks in the surrounding country side. He loved it … and my mom got the break she needed. Plus, I began a long journey of getting re-acquainted — acquainted with another side of my daddy … a side I really never got to know that well whilst growing up since he spent so much time traveling on business … or on camping trips bonding with my brothers.

My parents made it very clear that they wanted to remain in their home “until the end”  and we agreed to work with their wishes by finding a “housekeeper” (alternate caregiver) to help Mom around the house, when dad began to decline. What I didn’t realise at the time, was that my mom was hiding something from us. Things were getting worse and he started to wander a little bit. Not far thankfully, but it did concern us. It was then we registered him with the county, in case he wandered off and couldn’t find his way home. This was long before the Silver Alert system was in place.

Soon, they needed to move from their protected cul de sac rental due to the owner selling the property, so we started searching for something in a relatively small, protected community. We found a cute little trailer park not far from me — I could be there in five minutes if need be. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Something else my mom kept from the entire family — though we should have seen the signs — was her failing health. Apparently, she quietly suffered a series of mini strokes and told no one. Looking back, I kick myself … all the signs were all there screaming at us to see. To do something. Slurred speech, forgetfulness, lack of strength (grip) …

We received a call from the park’s manager — both had been taken to the emergency room. My mom had collapsed and my dad was completely distraught. Mom was cleaning up the floor where a new dishwasher would reside when a massive stroke struck. She never regained consciousness, and lingered for five days before succumbing to her injuries.

Dad kept asking where she was … and not realising — or thinking — how it would effect him, I told him she’d passed away from her stroke. The love of his life (over fifty years) was gone. He crumbled in tears. I allowed him to grieve, staying close, just in case. Later, he asked again where she was and, without thinking, I told him again. Immediately, I knew I made a mistake. The anguish cut deep, like the fresh wound that it was. For him, it was the first time he was hearing it — again. This went on for days … with me trying to figure out how I could lessen the pain with the telling, trying different tactics with the same anguishing results. Finally, I simply fabricated a story that seemed to satisfy him till his next inquiry.

There are many stories I could tell about his decline, but I’d rather focus on his strengths. In all the time I spent with him in those last few years, I was amazed. His love for life, his patience, sense of humour and the twinkle in his eyes … his devotion to God … even in his “broken” state, what I saw in him was a wonderful living example of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control … I never saw him as that person with Alzheimer’s. What did I see?  Something beautiful. Watching him, interacting with him … always made me think, that’s what I want to be when I grow up. My brothers distanced themselves from him because they didn’t want to lose the memories of who he’d been to them when he was “whole”. When they did visit, he didn’t know them … they were complete strangers. I felt sorry that they were not able to stay connected. But I had the advantage of being able to see him daily. It made a difference. Definitely.

Yes, he had self-control issues (that is part of the menace called Alzheimers), but it usually was because his fierce protection skills came into play a few times when he saw injustices happening around him. Or when his caregivers at the nursing home became impatient and tried rushing him or using the wrong words (we did switch facilities after than and his anger disappeared). Yes, he forgot my name … and even what my relationship was to him, but not down deep — he told me once that he knew there was some sort of important connection. He just didn’t know what it was. That I was special to him for some reason. It made my heart burst with love. He was a blessing to me in those last years. And it was a blessing that Alzheimer’s did not get to take him all the way down the path to death. His heart gave out whilst he was still able to communicate with people. He died peacefully in his sleep.

What I haven’t mentioned is, after my mom died, in addition to taking on my dad’s day-to-day care, I became more involved with the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Walk to End Alzheimers to raise awareness of the disease and to help raise funds for research to find a cure.  I walked in the events, both in Salinas and Monterey every year — still try to do both, but my schedule sometimes gets in the way.  I’ve walked as an individual and in a group as the captain, but I’ve tried to walk every year, without fail … and financial support both chapters.

I’m walking again this year — but only at the Aptos location. For my dad. And for everyone out there struggling with or helping someone with this crippling, devastating disease.  I’d like to ask you to help, either by joining me in the walk or by donating to the Alzheimer’s Association. Help finance the cure. Spread awareness of the disease to others. If you are local and want to join in, I will only be walking in the Aptos Walk to End Alzheimers event this year. I will support both Monterey and Santa Cruz chapters. I’m a team captain for Monterey County Walkers … for both the Monterey and Santa Cruz walks, so if you want to walk with me, click on the Aptos link — please! Later today, I will be setting up the page for the Monterey walk for those that wish to donate directly to that one — or want to walk as a group (without me, unfortunately). Here’s the hyperlink for the Monterey group on this page — thanks for checking back!

Walk to End Azheimers

Please join me in Aptos or Donate in the fight against Alzheimers Disease.

Bless you!

Have a beautiful weekend, folks!

Struggling …


 

I AM STRUGGLING WITH ALL that has happened in these last few months—both personally and in the community at large.

I’m still recovering—a painfully slow process, for sure—from my surgery last month. I’m just shy of four weeks post-op and I’m still drained of energy and my artistic (writerly and painterly) mojo, leaving me frustrated. Very frustrated.

The events of the last six months (I actually did a little research)—all around the world—leave me speechless and deeply moved. I am not one to foist my political or religious feelings on anyone. I’d rather set my examples through my day-to-day actions. Though right now, because I’m semi-confined and physically hampered with headaches and fuzzier-than-usual memory, my actions seem to be stymied. Stifled.

I struggle with what to say. On Facebook. Here, in this blog. Even when I’m chatting to someone in person. I’m not one to put my head in the sand and ignore all that is happening around me, but I’m also not one to shout out to the world what we should be doing. I’ve never been a good debater. I require way too much time to contemplate issues.

In this world seemingly filled with of pessimists, I am an optimist. A “glass-half-full” kinda girl. I’d rather seek out the good than point out all the bad that is happening. There’s plenty of both, but the bad seems to be getting all the headlines in the media.

I think this blog started out as one to explore mankind’s intentions and how fast it is leading us down the wrong path. Instead, I think I’m simply going to say that I feel it’s more like the story of Alice and her falling down the rabbit hole. There will always be experiences (that’s what we call life, right?)—dare I say adventures?—that, depending on our decision-making skills, will either lead us to victory or defeat. Each adventure will have its ups and downs, but in the end … where will you be? What choices will you make and where will it ultimately take you? Will you be one of the Red Queen’s minions or will you be an Alice—ever-ready to face a challenge?

What about me, you ask. Well, I put my trust entirely in God’s hands (that’s not to say I take it back on a regular basis, but I do try to give it back …). As crazy as the media makes this world out to be, I know there’s plenty of good left, if only we are willing to open our eyes to it … and be part of it. I put my trust in His hands for my healing, for my understanding (and patience) of all the political craziness, mistrust and mayhem—I know I will make it through to the other side—however long it takes.

I am reminded of a verse: Galatians 5:22-23 “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (tolerance/patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.If each of us used those things in our daily lives, life would get better. I know—”Polyanna syndrome—rolls eyes …” Mmm. No, I don’t think so … but maybe. More likely it’s a little Utopian or Arcadian, but remember—I’m a glass half-full kinda girl and I can always hope … and pray.

… and on that note, I’d like to add, may your day and weekend be blessed. I’ll be busy with my book signing, so it will be blessed, indeed!

Is It Too Soon?

HA! I AM DYING TO GET BACK TO “NORMAL”—whatever that is. I guess normal for me is being able to run as many errands as I need, mess around artistically, walk in the woods with my camera and work on my writerly endeavors anytime, for any length of time (forget about the housework … but I do love tinkering in the garden—sniggle)—without the encumbrances of all-consuming fatigue.

I don’t know if it’s too soon, but I am going to charge ahead—with a ten pound lifting restriction (grrr) in place—to do a book signing next Saturday. I’m excited to at least try to get back to normal. It will be a long five-hours of chatting and book signing (plus the long drive to and from Scotts Valley) if I’m not ready. I can always take breaks if it gets to be too much.

…and, hey! I can always recover the next day (wink, wink … fingers crossed).

So, if you’re in the neighborhood, this is the place to be. It’s also a good way to help out underprivileged kids that cannot afford to buy backpacks and supplies for school. The event is a fundraiser, sponsored by Lynda and Kidz—and with that purpose in mind, bring a gently used backpack if you can … or donate $25 towards a backpack. Enter the raffle. Money raised goes to purchasing backpacks and supplies for kids.

Not only is there an opportunity to help out kids in need, but you can rub shoulders with two great writers—Joyce Oroz (Josephine Stuart Mysteries) and I will be there. And there will be crafts of all sorts for sale … plus you’ll even get acoustical guitar entertainment! A win-win-win proposition, I’d say!

Hopefully we’ll see you there next week. Have a wonderful day and a blessed week!

Book Signing: Local Author

Saturday, June 18 at  Bruno’s BBQ Scotts Valley CA  11:30-4:30

Lynda's Kidz Backpack Project

Moving Along

WOW … THE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND dust has finally settled and I’ve had an opportunity to have a little chat with my neurosurgeon (post-op visit). Everything is looking good on the health-front … progressing nicely, albeit way too slow for me—but the doc is happy and that makes me happy and he doesn’t want to see me for a whole month. That’s a good thing … right? (insert Cheshire grin)

So, now I can get back to business … well sorta. I am healing slowly but surely and am trying to not rush back into “business as usual” since that usually means I’ve done too much. So, bit by bit. Slowly. I’m revamping my schedule to accommodate. Usually I use my Tuesdays and Thursdays to work on all things writing—instead of saving those days for art. I am, after all spending time at Open Ground Studios on those days for a reason. And, I’ve been looking at cover art from other authors’ books and an idea struck me. I’ve been tinkering with the idea of doing my own, but had absolutely no clue where to begin or what the subject would be—other than I’d most likely use photography and then attempt to stitch together a cover image. Ha! Not likely with my Photoshop skills (can we say Total Beginner …?)

I’ll not give it away yet, but know that I will be keeping an artsy aspect to my cover. I just hope I’ll be able to achieve what’s in my mind’s eye …

What I will do is to give you a snippet from my upcoming book four in the Secrets Beyond Scymaria series: Mischiefmakers—if I do things right, it will be ready by Fall, 2016 (depends on my healing process). So, this too will be a longer post than usual—sorry. Please remember, I’m still in edit mode, so this little tidbit is not what you’ll see in final print … but fairly close. Also remember that this is my intellectual property. Please do not copy in any form without my permission:

Secrets Beyond Scymaria: Mischiefmaker … somewhere into chapter two.
Grabbing her backpack, she tippy-toed into her mom’s room to find it empty. Shrugging her shoulders, she spun on her heels and flew down the stairs into the kitchen—her mom’s sanctuary. There she was, back to her, busily preparing breakfast.

“Mom,” Amy protested, “it’s only half past! What on earth are you doing up so early?” She slid up behind her mom before she had a chance to turn around and she gave her a hug.

“Oh, I’ve got my reasons,” returning her hug, her mom avoiding answering the question directly. Amy smiled, wondering if she knew something.

“Um, wouldn’t by chance have anything to do with a request from, um…the Guardian, would it?” She knew all of the adults that were aware of their friend preferred referring to Rocky as the Guardian. She had a hard time remembering to use this “formal” name.

“Well, just maybe. With that backpack, I think you might be in for a busy day, so a hearty breakfast would be perfect, don’t you think?” She slid a plate of bacon, eggs and toast onto the table as Amy slipped into her seat. “Oh—and what about a picnic lunch for you to tuck into your backpack?”

Laughing at the thought of carting an entire picnic lunch in her backpack, she teased. “Mom, I won’t have time—or room for that, I’m sure. Not the way you put together a picnic!” Remembering the feasts they’d found in the past in picnic baskets in her “resting place” on the other side, she added, “Besides. Rocky seems to think of that every time we visit, remember?” She giggled quietly at the thought. “But … maybe a few PBnJs and a couple apples would be good. That’d tide us over till we get back, in case he doesn’t. Rocky has asked us to meet him at the portal. I’m assuming he’s got another little lesson for us. That’s okay, isn’t it?” As an afterthought, she added, “You don’t need me for anything today, do you?”

“No, sweetie, I’ll be fine. I’ve got plans of my own for the day.”

Amy could have sworn she saw a twinkle in her eye as she said that before turning back to gather ingredient for her snack. It’s good to see her so genuinely cheerful. Dad’s death hit both of us hard, but mom seems to be hardest hit. “Want any help putting that together?”

“No, you eat your breakfast. I’ll have it done before you know it.” Already busy working on the lunch, back still turned, Amy’s curiosity was peaked. There was something about how she said it that had her wondering.

“Anything I’d be interested in?” She shoveled in a few bites of egg and bacon, savoring the flavors, waiting for a response.

“Hmm? Oh. No, dear. Grace and I are just going to go into town to do a little shopping, that’s all.” She continued to work at the counter, back to Amy.

Ty! What’s your mother doing today? Is she going with my mom into town? I’m getting a little bit suspicious. She chuckled to herself as she threw her question out to Ty. She’s obviously hiding something—why keep her back to me?

Hmm! Ya know, you’re right. It just dawned on me that something might be going on—just a sec …

The next thing she heard was a gale of laughter in her mind. Her fork clattered onto the floor, along with her next bite of egg. What was that for? “Oops. Sorry Mom. I’ll clean it up.” She quickly grabbed a napkin, cleaning up her mess, wiped off the fork and finished her meal, listening to Ty’s explanation.

I just caught my mother packing a lunch for me. She even pulled out my old backpack. Did your mom pack one too? She’s skirting my questions. So transparent, it’s not even funny. So, what’s going on?

Yeah, she’s making it now, while I finish up breakfast—which was all ready for me when I came downstairs. She let a laugh slip, which caught her mom’s attention.

“Honey, what’s so funny?”

“Mom, it’s okay. I know you’re hiding something. Obviously Rock—I mean the Guardian has talked to you about our little trip. Looks like you know more than we do at this point. Wanna share?” Picking up her plate and fork, she brought them over to the sink and did a quick rinse before slipping both into the dishwasher, then gave her mom a lingering hug.

As her mom slipped the sandwiches and apples into her backpack, she replied, “Dear, I really don’t know much. ‘Make a lunch, they’ll be gone for a while’—really, that’s all he told me. And Grace and I are going into town to shop.”

As she passed the information on to Ty, she nodded in agreement with her mom. That’s too easy…too convenient, but oh, well. It’s not that important. We’ll find out when we get there, right? As she grabbed her backpack, she concluded her conversation with her mom, “Okay, mom. I believe you. Have fun with Mrs. Graeagle. We’ll be back later.”

She called out to her mom as she opened the front door, “G’bye, Mom. Love you!” She could hear a faint “Love you, too!” in reply as she shut the door behind her.

Ty saw her come out the door, calling out her usual “good-bye, love you” to her mom as the door closed. I like how she does that, every time—ever since her dad died. He jumped off the porch swing, leaving it to its cockeyed swinging and sauntered down the stairs two steps at a time, waving to Amy as she looked over, smiling. Cheerful. Good. Well, hopefully she slept better than she’s been sleeping lately. She hasn’t said anything about it yet. She looks like she might have had a good night.

Hey, Amy. How’d you sleep last night?

He could hear her groan in his mind. Don’t ask. Talk about anything else, okay?

Ty scuffed at the ground as he met her out on the sidewalk. “Okay. Whatcha got in yer backpack? Looks awful heavy.” Leaning over her, he started to unzipped the pack to take a peek. She swatted at him.

“Keep out, nosey! That’s a surprise. Mom was gonna put the kitchen sink in there if I hadn’t stopped her. C’mon!” Laughing, she dashed off, with her backpack thumping along in beat to the rhythm of her jog as she headed for the park. He could hear a chinking and sloshing sound as she moved away from her, peaking his curiosity.

“Are you sure she didn’t sneak it in? What’s that noise?” When she didn’t respond, continuing to move away from him, he called out, “Fine!” He let her get a bit more distance between them before slinging his backpack into place, and jogged after her, easily overtaking her with his long stride before she reached the park entrance. He grabbed at her backpack to stop her, then playfully yanked one of her pigtails. She twirled around glaring at him. He could see she was ready to rip into him. He smiled and gave her a wink, pointing forward.

You are not taking any precautions anymore, are you? Keep walking, but not into the park, okay? Let’s go to the Main Street Park for now. I’ll explain later.

So, my friends, that’s it for now. My meds are kicking in, so I know better than to attempt any more writing. Hope you enjoy the tidbit. It’s not—by any means—the nail-biter that I am presently working on. Perhaps I’ll reveal part of that the next time I give you a peek into book four.

Until next week, have a wonderful Friday … and a blessed weekend!