Common Ground

AAAAH … THE RAINY SEASON IS UPON US. Here in California, we can only hope and pray that it continues — to help pull us out of our five-year drought. As I lounge on the couch writing this, I can see out the window … up through the oak trees to see beautiful clouds floating by. Between the trees and the clouds, very little blue sky is visible, but the sun is out — since the very beginning of the day, but it looks like the clouds are going to dominate. There’s no forecast for rain, but I wouldn’t mind if they were wrong. We are so desperate for rain … every little bit helps.

But as delightful — and necessary — as rain is for us right now, historically, people don’t like to get out into it. To drive in it; to walk in it … which causes a problem for vendors at the craft fairs that are Final Set Up at Watsonville Elks Lodgeeverywhere this time of year. And, thankfully for the third year, I’m one of those vendors hawking my wares Settled In At Watsonville Elks Lodge(books and art) many weekends, from late October through mid-December.

Up until last weekend, everything was wonderful — no rain and a bevy of people, chatting with us then buying books and art. This last weekend Author's Corner at Aromas Grange… well, it was mixed. Saturday had very little rain and we did well. After we closed up shop and off n’ on overnight, it rained. On Sunday there were ominous clouds and threats of rain which turned into a couple spritzes here and there. The turnout seemed much lower (I did not keep track of numbers). More time between people stopping to chat. Or perhaps it was just that the “purchasing” crowd was lower … more “lookie-lous” than buyers, flying past our booth.

Of course I like to have sales, but I have so much fun talking with people too — whether they are interested in buying or not. Finding out about their likes and dislikes, what they enjoy reading (many times it’s not fantasy … and that’s okay — I get leads on some good books to investigate), what their family members like to read … or what kind of art they like. I also get feedback on what they think of my story line and art. For an introvert (yeah, really I am. I think I’d classify myself as a “socialised introvert” — though my daughter would disagree, saying I’m an outright extrovert since I’m able to talk with “complete strangers”) I have found my niche with chatting-up small numbers of people, discussing a variety of things. Strangers, yes. But, not really. We have one of two (or both) things in common. Each of us likes to read … or likes some form of art — or we discover something totally unexpected that connects us. A common ground to begin our conversations.

Having Joyce Oroz as my cohort-in-crime Joyce Oroz, Mystery Writer… with her Josephine Stuart Mysteries and my “somewhat-like-CS Lewis’-Narnia” fantasy, the two of us reel-in a very diverse crowd. Some are of the “love-mysteries-but-hate-fantasy” camp … and visa versa, which keeps us on our toes. And, since I’ve fallen in love with Joyce’s mysteries … and I’m the more out-going (and the more vocal) of the two, I find myself “selling” — talking-up — her books as well as mine. Someone even joked that I should be paid for my sales pitches … which I laugh off. Paid? Nope … then it wouldn’t be as much fun.

Having common ground … oh, I could go so many places with that, but I’ll stick to relatively safe ground. The dictionary says: “common ground •a point or argument accepted by both sides in a dispute. •ideas or interests shared by different people.” It’s what brings people together, focusing on shared interests, rather than everything that could build walls between people. For me, that means spending time with like-minded artist, writers, photographers — even though there may be a financial, political or religious (or whatever) chasm between us. We still enjoy sharing ideas, methods — and so much more that can enrich us as individuals and perhaps change how we perceive/create things. I’m always open to learning new things. It’s part of the challenge of being me. Keeping me enlivened, enthusiastic, responsive and open to change.

What is common ground for you? Could you walk up to someone — whether you know them or not — and discover common ground so that you could carry on a friendly, intelligent, non-divisive conversation? Or are your walls built so high that no one could scale them so you could find something exciting to talk about … to enlarge your knowledge base without an agenda? Ooh. Did that ruffle any feathers? It wasn’t meant to do that, but I’m sure there may be a few.

My dear readers, may this Day-After-Thanksgiving Friday — and in the coming week — find you open to new ideas, bursting with creativity and blessed.

What’s Right In the World—Part Two


LAST WEEK I TALKED ABOUT MAKING the right choices, staying positive and avoiding the naysayers that bombard us everywhere we turn, plus I talked about some of the things you can do to help others. This time, I’ll list some easy ways to decide which organisations are the best when you choose to donate your hard-earned cash for less fortunate individuals … and some delightful and simple things you can do.

Whichever charity you choose, make sure you’ve done your research—with organisations like Charity Navigator (rates the different charities). Some of the most popular charities are not necessarily spreading much the wealth received to those in need—administrative fees eat up most of the donations … or the funds are mismanaged in other ways. Look at their financial page to see how they divide the money up—does most of it go to administrative fees or does a good share go to the actual reason they’re in business?

Here are some other things that I’ve found … ways I can help others in my walk through life—and if you choose, in yours:

  • Spending time with friends—or even strangers (like I have on many occasions). Be engaged. Stay off your phone. It says volumes.
  • Take a moment to give of yourself. Whether time or financially, giving—especially during this time of the year—it’s a wonderful thing. You not only help another person, but it should make you feel good. Giving warms the heart and soul. There is always someone out there that is not as well of as you. Always. If you are saying, “no way—I can hardly make ends meet as it is …” then let me ask you this: you are reading this online—you certainly seem to be able to afford your internet connection … which does not come cheap. Do you grab a daily cuppa at Starbucks or your favourite coffee shop? That’s kinda pricey, too. Or watch Netflix, satellite/cable tv … or whatever? Well, hopefully you are getting my point. You’ve got it pretty darn good compared to quite a few out there. Perhaps, when you do your grocery shopping, you could buy a few extra non-parishable groceries to give to a local church (most have a food collection for locals in need) or a local food bank like Second Harvest. Safeway makes it easy during this season—you can donate ten dollars towards groceries that are given to an organisation (sorry—having brain-fade … cannot remember the name).
  • So, maybe you don’t have the spare change to donate to any organisation or an individual. Surely you can find some spare time, or donate some gently worn clothes or toys. What do you do with your spare time? Could you allocate a couple hours a week … or month … to help out somewhere? There are Big Brother/Sister programs like Big Brothers in Blue. In California, there is a program connected with kids in the foster care system called CASA Kids—CASA is the acronym Court Appointed Special Advocates—for those interested in helping kids have a more normal life.

And … by all means, let your kids see what your are doing—don’t make a big deal of it, but let them see what you see as valuable. Giving. Caring. Sharing. Helping others.

All I’m trying to do it to remind you that there is so many opportunities to do good—to counter all the craziness that permeates our society. And this—actually any time, but especially now—is the perfect time to begin.

May your day … and the weeks ahead be joyful, filled with peace and giving.

What’s Right In the World-Part One

SO OFTEN, YOU HEAR ALL THE naysayers and doomsday “promoters” spouting off about what’s wrong in our world today or that the end will surely happen soon. I’m not sure about you but I, for one, am so tired of hearing negatives—especially in the political arena. Whether it’s about the candidates … or about our president-elect, our environment or simply about the people around us. I am tired of it. All of it.

Shutting out all that noise is difficult when it is at everywhere—on the radio, television, plastered across all of the different social media … even as you walk down the street and in coffee shops as you try to sip your beverage of choice in peace. Conversations bleed over into your personal space, into your mind. It seems there is no escaping it.

But, I find that I do have a choice—even with the negatives constantly bombarding me at every turn. I choose to close my mind to it. I do not let it take up residence in my thoughts. I find ways to replace those thought and images with something—anything—more positive.

I’ve got some amazing friends that put me to shame in the “making right choices” department. One young man—a local—I “friended” on Facebook is a perfect example that few of us could mange to emulate. But, that said, he makes sure that there are opportunities for those with less energy to help out. Todd has an non-profit—Change A Heart Foundation—that he created for various projects he has going—mini-homes for the homeless in the states, trips to Tijuana to build homes for the destitute, digging wells for those with non-potable water in Africa … and he is always looking for funds or willing souls to help out—people wanting to take some time away from their busy schedules or money to help those less fortunate.

I have friends that donate their time to deliver Meals-On-Wheels meals, library books, or simply to check on those that are home-bound. Our church has a really cool and easy way to help others—it’s our benevolence fund … singles (one-dollar bills) collected each week in the offering tray go towards helping others in need—to pay bills, buy groceries, pay for much needed repairs. It adds up fast and we’ve been able to help so many in such a simple way. For me, it’s so easy to tuck away those dollar bills I get back as change from breaking a larger bill. It may be just one … or four at a time, but in time, it adds up and honestly, I don’t notice them. Perhaps a dollar is too much for you (or your kids). Pennies—or change of any sort—can be handled in the same way. Put a jar where it’s easily seen … and at the end of the day, empty your pockets or purse of any and all change into the jar. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much has accumulated at the end of a month (but don’t hoard it, share it—take it to your nearby church and ask it be used for a benevolence fund, or to a homeless shelter, or to a battered women’s shelter—the choices (unfortunately) are endless … which one you decide to contribute to is your choice.

The above are only suggestions. Hopefully they will trigger some ideas for you. If not, next week I’ll finish off with some specific ways you can use your time and/or money to help others.

Until then, look around you. What do you see? Shut out the negatives and look for the positives—little things you can do to make a difference. May your day and the weeks ahead be filled with joy … and insight.

{Sorry … as my month ramps up, I must do a little promo for my books and art/photography—if you’re in town, please stop by and say hi!}

Thursday-Friday 10-11 November 10am-4pm
Watsonville Hospital Craft Fair, Conference Rms, 75 Neilson St, Watsonville (Joyce will be there with our books on Friday, but I’ll be leaving early to go set up at the Elks Craft Fair—see below—with my art and our books)

Friday-Sunday 11-13 November 1pm-7pm
Watsonville Elks Craft Fair, 121 Martinelli St, Watsonville

Saturday-Sunday 19-20 November 10am-5pm
Aromas Hills Artisans Holiday Faire, Aromas Grange, Aromas

Friday-Sunday 25-27 November 9am-5pm
Gilroy Elks Holiday Craft Fair, 2765 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy

That’s all, folks … hopefully I’ll be able to get enough words written between all this craziness to reach my 50,000 word goal in my NaNoWriMo endeavor. Cheers. Have a blessed week.


 

Traveling Light-Part Four

FINALLY … WE GET TO THE REASON I started this whole

Welcome to Memphis

Welcoming sign at Steve’s home

series. My trip revolved around lugging my books all the way to Memphis, to the Mid-South Book Festival.

It was quite an affair. But, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. Though my main purpose was to attend the Festival and meet all my fellow “Beans”, I had grand visions (or was it delusions …) of traipsing all over the countryside, snapping impressive photos of the area. Except, the stifling temperatures on top of the oppressive humidity turned me into a sweaty puddle of I-don’-wanna-do-it … meaning I had extra days (aka extra and unnecessary room charges—sigh …) with no real benefit.

You know what they say about best laid plans … yup.

So … I chilled (literally) in my air-conditioned room and drove in my air-conditioned car, but never stepped foot into the world of Memphis prior to our events, except to go into grocery stores, purchasing simple, microwavable food to sustain me. I was pretty disappointed in myself for not being adventurous enough to deal with the weather. Not having the right clothes—and fearing mosquito bites (I understand they rival the Minnesota variety in their ability to haul off their prey … and I have a tendency to swell up badly when they attack)—all of that did have a bearing on me not wanting to be out in nature.

My driving around came in handy, though. I checked out the AirBnb place we were all going to stay on Friday and knew several routes to and from my hotel to that location … and knew where grocery stores were in close proximity to the AirBnb, so I was helpful to others once they did arrive.

Our AirBnb DigsOur digs and our neighbourhood were wonderful—actually, over the top. I’m not sure everyone had an opportunity to poke around the neighbourhood, but … oh, my. Gorgeous homes. In my area, they would have gone for a cool million at the low end. There was plenty of room for everyone at our AirBnb—there were seven or eight of us staying

Jackson & Gregg

chilling at our AirBnb digs.

there (can’t remember), with a large living room for us to gather and talk, a door to close off the sleeping area so not to disturb the early-to-bed folks (as long as we remembered to shut the door, that is … teehee!) and two eating areas. We were only 20-or so minutes from our venue, which was perfect. And only a stones throw (mmm … ten to fifteen minutes) from our “host” Bean, Steve Gibbs. Our “Boss Bean” stayed with the Gibbs and we had a lovely dinner there after the crazy Saturday event, finally meeting his beautiful (in all ways, inside and out), vivacious wife as these two gracious people opened their home to us.

Having settled into our new digs, we got fancified for the Friday night meet ‘n greet (I can’t believe I have no photos of that night).  Delicious food (I especially loved the alligator—considering I couldn’t have the two shellfish items … serious pout here), great entertainment and of course, time to get to know my fellow “Beans” from Inknbeans Press much better.

The next day started early—trying to get all of us showered and ready for the day was a challenge, but we were up to the task. Books, extraneous promo material, authors and publisher piled into a three cars to keep the nightmare of finding parking to a minimum. After arriving, we unloaded our paraphernalia into our

More Inknbeans Press Authors

L-R: Candy Ann, Robin and Kitty

designated spot and set up under a massive tent, set up in the middle of a side street, just off the main drag through town. Who-knows how many authors and publisher … and a few sales venues gathered underneath. There was a group of high school musicians wandering around, playing jazzy-bluesy music the whole time—

Jazz Band

Our entertainment whilst we sold our wares …

quite good, but they settled down in front of us for a bit and made it impossible for us to hear or converse with passers-by. Situated at the back corner, we garnering the brunt wind—which was perfectly okay by me.  It was what kept me from literally melting into one large puddle. Seriously.

Inknbeans Press Authors

L-R:Candy Ann, Kitty, Steve, Jackson (and his dad, Gregg)

And, it allowed me to wander around (with my camera, of course) to stretch my legs during the event without turning into a big puddle. You will find those (and a couple more) photos at the end of this blog. My apologies—I culled quite a few, leaving very few to share.

Our youngest author, Jackson (age 17) did great guns selling his two books. He made the rest of us look pathetic, but I’m all for how well he did. I think I tied with another author in sales, but I’m not really counting. This whole experience, though expensive, put us into a new “reader pool”, getting the word out on our titles, no matter how many we sold. An expensive promotion for me, but I had a blast, was able to meet some of the authors at Inknbeans Press and enjoyed meeting our “Boss” again. I could not be happier with my decision. I’m so glad I’m part of the Hill of Beans.

I was the only one to stay on, with my flight not scheduled till Monday afternoon, so I came back to the hotel where I planted myself for one more night. I spent the afternoon and evening packing and repacking in preparation for my (thankfully uneventful) flights home.

As much fun as I had, I was definitely glad to be home … it’s always good to come home after traveling for any length of time.

Have a blessed Friday and weekend. I’ll be gearing up for some deadlines that are looming: NaNoWrimo is upon us with planned meet-ups, preparation for the annual member exhibition at Open Ground Studios and quite a few book signings in tandem with my art.

Textures-Pampas Grass Memphis ReflectionsJazz/Blues Band