Goodbye 2016 …

… THE YEAR IS FINALLY COMING to a close. It’s been an odd year, plus it certainly felt like a very, very long one. Things not completed (no published book, I’m sorry to say), surgery and a lengthy recovery instead of travel, an untended yard that threatens to overtake even the small tended areas … another surgery delayed until the new year. That said, there’s been plenty of craziness in between, plus some actual quiet times that have been quite enjoyable.

I’m not sure how you’ve rated your 2016 … I’m still not sure what to say about mine. Some political turmoil—actually, way too much of that, far too many untimely deaths, weird weather … where does it land on the scale? It would be unfair to only include the negatives.

Life is all about balance, right? So, here are the positives … though I didn’t get to do much traveling, I did thoroughly enjoy the little bit I managed. I met new people—which is always exciting—and was able to spend time with established friends, near and far. I sold books and art, saw new venues for my books and art, and spent time behind my camera. I’ve missed that. Creating some serious art still eludes me—as does hunkering down to get my edits (yes, there’s two that need my undivided attention), but I am sure that 2017 will turn out to be far more creative.

Though I seem to be electronically/digitally challenged at times, I thoroughly enjoy doing my weekly blog and keeping in touch with friends online (via Facebook and emails). The one thing I’m not thrilled with is a website that is slower than molasses … in this day and age, more than 30-60 seconds to move from page to page is unacceptable (I am dealing with this, trying to submit one final receipt for medical expenses … not sure it’s worth the elevated blood pressure! Insert eye-roll here …).

Walks have been coveted events, whether on the beach, at Point Lobos’ forested areas or just “in the neighbourhood”—they are refreshing and I’ve always been able to find little things along the way that bring joy. I’m easily satisfied, I guess. Filled with child-like love for what’s around me. I’d have it no other way.

So, with the pros and cons balanced, how have I “found” 2016? I’d say I’ve had better years, but I certainly cannot complain too much. The good outweighs the bad, hands down. I’m looking forward to a quiet celebration to usher 2016 out and welcome the sparkling, new 2017 in …

I hope nothing but the best for each of you. May the close of this year allow you to dust off the negatives that have accumulated and have you ready to accept the new year, full of anticipation. May you find 2017 blessed abundantly.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Happy Christmas To All


 

LAST WEEKEND I VENTURED UP into South San Francisco with my daughter and son-in-law, searching for a very specific building. I’d only been there once before—as a passenger in the very back of an SUV. ‘Twas a straight-forward drive with little traffic (I use that term loosely, for those that know SF and LA traffic) on a Saturday morning, but even if there’d been traffic, it was such an easy drive. Google Maps reinforced my vague recollection of where it might be.

Our destination? The famous Cow Palace. Looking back at the ease of the trip, I am definitely kicking myself for all of the missed concerts and events hosted at this venue. Too far … all that traffic … I’ll get lost! All of that and more, plus, my younger self wasn’t nearly as adventurous or as self-confident as I am now. It’s all in the attitude.

Our purpose? To have an adventure at the Great Dickens’ Christmas Faire. It’s an annual event held on a months worth of weekends, ending the Sunday before Christmas. It is fun to wander the streets of Dickens’ London. I will openly admit it’s one huge tourist trap, but there are so many delightful things to see and hear … and taste and smell. There are period actors wandering the streets, playing their parts wonderfully. Many of Dickens’ characters from his books join in on the fun—Marley in his nightgown and chains, Christmas Present … plus someone that looked suspiciously like Alice and another that appeared to be the White Rabbit (hmmm … so, characters from his contemporaries too) and oh, so many more! The pubs are great fun … not just for the food and drink (I enjoyed a hot buttered rum—oooh, yum!—and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding among other things), but for the sights of a period family dining quietly in the corner, for the militia dressed to the nines toasting with their chums and the barmaids doing their jobs cheerfully.

My little family and I tasted roasted chestnuts—my daughter and I had never had them before … we quite liked them. The taste of whisky and rum cakes were enough to entice me to buy two (and now I wish I’d purchased more). We even tasted the haggis at one of the shops. It was “okay” … had I not tasted the best-ever haggis whilst in Edinburgh long before this—had this been my first example of what haggis was all about—I’d never try it again. My Edinburgh haggis is the standard I set all haggis against. Now I understand why most people sport a sour look on their face when haggis is mentioned. Well, that … and if they know what the ingredients are (though, most haggis is not made that way anymore for health reasons …).

We had a delightful time and I spent way too much money on gifts (insert Cheshire grin). We were done before it became unbearably busy—gone by 2:30, I believe … the crush usually begins at 3-ish, when the entry fee is cut in half. Perhaps it wasn’t as busy because it was the second to last day … who knows. All that matters is that we had fun exploring and I had a wonderful time—and am thinking about going again next year. Yeah … I know–I’m crazy!

Until next week … Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and have a blessed weekend and week as we gear up for the finale …

 

Changes And Letting Go …

I SPENT A LARGE PART OF THIS WEEK looking up and verifying words in the dictionary and thesaurus. Why? Because, I’m trying to figure out how to explain my reluctance to discontinue a medication I’ve been taking for years. Looking for words to express myself. To justify my reasons for not stopping the medication … or to finally get a grip on why I should stop taking it and then follow through.

I justify continuing it with “it’s benign—won’t hurt me to continue” … and at the opposite end, “it’s so blasted expensive … just stop taking it—it’s not doing you any good!” I’ve been on this see-saw of emotionally rationalising this one way or the other for quite some time and it’s exhausting. Honestly.

Also, I feel like I can’t explain it so you’ll understand—which is childish, really. It was started as an experiment, to see if it helped my memory. It did, but only a little. After a year, the doctor said I could stop … but also said I could continue it if I wanted (since there were little or no side effects). And because of one little thing he said so long ago I chose to continue it—fearful of stopping it. I’m hoping I remembered it wrong … if it really is working, and I stop, my memory might regress. Restarting the drug is always an option, but I’d be starting at the regressed point, if that makes sense (the drug slows the progression of memory loss, not improve it). I saw him a while back and he would not admit to saying that. So, is it because new information has proven that theory wrong … or did I hear it wrong from the get-go?

Well, for years, I’ve taken it—my “security blanket”—wondering if I stopped, would my memory worsen or would it stay the same? Memories can be precious—whether they are those of past delights, of errors made that you don’t want to repeat … or simply of what you did an hour ago; to be able to draw on your memory to engage in conversations with friends … so, seeing what Alzheimer’s  did to my dad (an extreme example, I’ll admit), I am reluctant to knowingly do something that might jeopardise my memory.

Recently, another doc had me trying another simpler (more natural) method to improve my memory. He thinks I may have a deficiency due a lousy diet, which certainly makes sense when you look at my longstanding lopsided meals. I’ve been trying so hard to make sure I get enough protein and keep carbs and fat down that I’ve forgotten about vegetables—colourful greens and oranges and yellows—that have carbs but are so very important (“good” carbs). Oh, yeah … plus the fact that I love my breads, pasta and cornmeal mush and … so many other things that are not so healthy. To give me a “boost”, he put me on a folate supplement. Hmm. I think it may be working. Slowly—but it is working. I’m also working towards increasing my veggies (sadly, not the potatoes, which I adore)—which is harder than it should be. My busy (aka: rushing around) lifestyle makes that a bit more difficult, but now that the “busy” season is over, hopefully things will improve.

So, back to this expensive, useless medication. I’m down to the last couple weeks of pills and I’ve promised myself I’m going to stop. I’m not panicked about it, but … well, maybe a wee bit anxious. But, I am hopeful that the changes in diet will bring me back, at least a wee bit, to a more normal memory and I won’t have anything to worry about in stopping the medication.

As the days dwindle down towards Christmas and the end of the year—and to my need to make that decision to change—I wish that this coming week or two turn into an amazing experience for you and those that are special to you.

May joy and peace find a place in your life (and mine …).

2016 … The End Is Nigh

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN … THE SAND FOR 2016 has almost run out. I’ve only a few more blogs to do before the closing of the year. I’m surprised I’ve managed to produce one weekly (well, almost). These last few months have been crazy. I knew they would be. I almost burned out—but not quite—from five-plus weekends of book signings and a lovely OGS Artist Showcase party (and a few personal and holiday fun things I squeezed in—I just cannot say no to fun with friends and family!) … leaving me with only one more event coming up tomorrow (that’s Dec 10th at Aptos Grange, Aptos CA folks)—and a mere three blogs to conjure after today before 2016 expires.

I’m ready for it—for all of it! I still have my initial edit for book four to finish (then begin the re-writes) and my publisher will be sending me a first “re-edit” (actually, first truly professional edit) of book one for my perusal—gotta get that back asap so we can get it back into publication! And for my event tomorrow, I worked my fingers to the bone all week trying to get the Christmas cards done—I was so excited that I was able to use images taken two nights in a row at the Christmas at the Inns in Pacific Grove. The Bed and Breakfasts and Inns were splendiferously dressed for the occasion. Beautiful. And yummy goodies to nibble on, too. My favourite was the Jaberwock Inn … for obvious reasons. And I had so much fun turning a slew of photos into lovely faux watercolour images. They all turned out very nice (insert huge grin).

I did not reach the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I was about 20,000 words short, but that’s okay. I’m super excited about where the story is headed. I was going to the NaNo TGIO (thank God it’s over) Party last Sunday, but was too exhausted from a combo of some personal fun and work-related stuff on Friday and Saturday. Sunday turned into a day of rest. I had printed up an excerpt to read—re-reading it was fun … oh, yeah! So sad I didn’t get to share it. Maybe I will later … maybe. Book five is going to be suspenseful. Definitely.

Tomorrow, Joyce Oroz and I will be in Aptos at the Grange—along with quite a few other vendors—hawking our wares: Josephine Stuart Mysteries series (I think she has eight) for Joyce and my Secrets Beyond Scymaria series (books one-three). I think we’re the only ones with books, but I will also have my art. I was told “no photos—we’ve already got three photographers”. I was given permission to sell art and my photopolymer prints (plus … well, I haven’t talked to the contact about my Christmas cards … but I’m sure they’ll be fine because they are “watercolour” vs straight-up photos).

Don’t freak out but … do you realise there’s only sixteen days till Christmas (eeeek!) and fifteen days till the beginning of Hanukkah? Sniggle … on that note—before I close, I want to wish you a blessed Friday and week ahead. Try to stay focused on the reason for the season rather than the craziness all around you.

Where Have They All Gone …?

THEY COME AND THEY GO. LEAVING AN indelible mark on our lives … and on our hearts. The deaths of so many famous—and not so famous people, peppered throughout 2016 has me thinking about life and death.

We’ve lost so many of late: icons of society, television celebrities … and normal, everyday people … close, cherished loved ones. In my lifetime, so many of each have left their mark before departing this world. Those icons—I grew up learning from and enjoying those wonderful, creative souls. They are missed, certainly, but they leave a visible legacy behind in the form of recordings—whether their music, theatrical performances or singing … or their art, or writings. Something we can listen to, peruse or read and enjoy, over and over again. What about the others—those less famous—that have left us behind?

A comment my mother-in-law made when she was in her 80s was sobering. “I’m the only one left …” All of her friends and most of her family had passed before her, leaving her with few contemporaries to pass the time with. I always thought it interesting … and a little sad that she had outlived them all. I was too young (in my 30s maybe) and naive to understand it fully. Now that I’ve reached my mid-60s, it’s beginning to register more fully. When our “circle” starts getting smaller, how do we handle it? Do we start to recognize our mortality as being finite? Do we feel abandoned or lonely?

Those in my immediate family have dwindled to mostly the current (my contemporaries) and younger generation. I have only one remaining aunt—now the matriarch of the Jameson (my dad’s) clan and her husband, plus two “in-law” aunt. That’s it for the immediate older generation family. My grandparents died long, long ago. What’s left are my brothers & their families, plus lots of cousins, thankfully … and oodles of nieces and nephews—and grand-nieces and -nephews. The family expands nicely on the Jameson side. My mom’s side, not so much. I have two cousins—both a bit younger—and neither have children. I’m not aware of any other living relatives on her side. That family line ends with them.

So, the top end of the family tree has dwindled to a mere few. Both of my parents and my mom’s brother are gone. Chances to ask questions are gone. We can only hope someone has the information we’ll wish we’d asked later on.

My mom and dad were instrumental (as were my many life experiences) in molding me into what—and who I’ve become … but there are so many others that have had a hand in shaping me also. My grandmother did her best to nurture and advance my artistic side. The moral examples off- and on-stage of my favourite actors: Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Audrey Hepburn … there are so many more. All long gone.

They were never my contemporaries, though. They were the older generation’s rising stars. Now, I’m finding that my generation’s “rising stars” are, one by one, passing on to another life.

When I hear of an actor’s or singer’s death—or someone on a more personal level, I’m surprised to find that he or she is not that much older than I am. Makes me think … why so young? Why now? Heart disease, cancer … all of these diseases and lifestyles are taking them before their time. And, why and how have I managed to escape death when I know I’ve pulled some very stupid stunts …? Why …? “Not my time”? Live a “charmed” life? My story’s not finished yet? Oh, (giggle …) now that’s the truth if I ever heard it … (wonder when I’ll finish my series …?) but that doesn’t stop The Grim Reaper from fulfilling his task.

Only God knows. You can be sure that will be one of my questions when I finally pass through the Pearly Gates … if I remember. In the meantime, shouldn’t we be living our life—setting examples for others? Helping others? This is a wonderful way to leave a legacy for the next generation. Perhaps, leaving behind a lesson for others to follow …

A living legacy … one that will continue to give after you are gone.

May this season fill you will a desire to help others in some meaningful way … a desire that will hopefully stay with you, well beyond the new year. Have a blessed Friday and week.