About Creationsbydjamesonsmith

I am an entrepreneur. As an author, storyteller, personalized storybook creator, photographer, and artist (artist and freelance photographer), I juggle multiple professions that keep me very busy! I am presently nearing completion of the fourth in a fantasy series (first book released October, 2013) for ages 9 to 99—with book five "hovering" in the wings. Set in a small college town, the story revolving around two "tweeners" and their discoveries of a strange creature, a portal to the other side, their adventures and lessons learned at home and in this other world. A fun and fast paced read. I do make appearances at book signings and meet 'n greets throughout the year—the last one for 2016 will be December 10th. When not writing or storytelling, I'm playing with my camera and working on my artistic endeavors with occasional local exhibition showings—the last one was December 3, 2016 at Open Grounds Studio in Seaside, California.

Happy St Paddy’s Day!

OH, MY! TODAY IS ST. PADDY’S DAY … wonderful! Image result for st paddy day imagesWhat a delightfully serendipitous day to have a blog posting! Considering I said I probably wouldn’t do one because of the craziness … well, this seems like a simple, no-brainer kind of blog post, eh?

Image result for st paddy day imagesYeah … right. So, I’ve tried to get a few images (you can click on them to see them larger to see details), then “plagerised” (I did give them credit!) some trivia about St. Patrick (from seeker.com) … insert winky face here … teehee—all “parens” are my personal comments:

Did you know …? In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday similar to Christmas and Easter. And, that “Erin go Bragh” translates to “Ireland forever.”

The very first St. Patrick’s Day parade was not in Ireland. It was in Boston in 1737. (Go figure.)

Related image

The largest parade in the United States, held since 1762, is in New York City, and draws more than one million spectators each year. Over 100 US cities hold a parade every year. Some of the other biggest St. Patrick’s Day parades are in Chicago, Illinois and Savannah, Georgia.

In 1948 President Truman became the first president to attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The city of Chicago goes so far to celebrate that they dye their river green. Green is associated with Saint Patrick’s Day because it is the color of spring, of Ireland, and of the shamrock.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, 110 million people will celebrate the day by wearing green, making an Irish-inspired meal, or going out to celebrate.

There are 33.7 million U.S. residents who are of Irish ancestry. (I’m one of them …) That number is almost nine times the population of Ireland itself. Fifteen million cards are exchanged on St. Patrick’s Day. 10 percent of all St Patrick’s Day cards are sold in New York.

Nineteen Presidents of the United States proudly claim Irish heritage—including our first President, George Washington.

St. Patrick is a hero in Ireland. And there are about 60 churches and cathedrals named for him in Ireland alone. One of the most famous cathedrals is St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. These grounds bear the mark of the place where St. Patrick baptized his converts. (I’ve been to this cathedral. It is amazingly beautiful!)

So, my friends, enjoy your St. Paddy’s Day. Wear green even if you’ve not a drop of Irish blood in ye … enjoy some lovely Irish stew or corn beef and cabbage. Make a toast to your neighbor. Get on with it then.

Slainté! Cheers!

 

Commitments

LESS THAN THIRTY-SIX DAYS TILL TAXES are due. In addition to all that gathering of receipts (ugh … I really, really hate doing taxes), I still have an edit or three on my fourth book to complete, an edit or two on the rewrite of book one (I’ve passed the self-imposed deadlines multiple times for both), book five is begging to be worked on. Ideas keep popping into my head—I try to get them scribbled down before they vanish, but have yet to be successful at that … and I have yet to create any art (sniff …) Okay, that was one very long run-on sentence. Sorry. But, you get the drift, right?

I’m also in a holding pattern on finding out what’s going to happen with my left knee. I really did do it in when I fell (twice) in January. Sigh. I see my orthopedist at the end of March … results of an MRI arrived at my primary care doc’s office last week, and from what I read (I always get copies of the reports … handy to have a medical assistant background), it doesn’t look as bad as it initially felt. My regular doc definitely wants me to see the orthopedist. I’m hoping it’s just for PT … no surgery. At least, that’s what I read into the report, plus how I’m feeling. Hoping and praying …

Why is it, when all I want to do (now that I’ve got better vision—cataract surgery was a complete success—yay!) is to write with abandon, there always seems to be Things keeping me from it?? Doctor appointments that cut into the day, meetings, tax preparation (ugh) and my weekly commitment to help out (or even to actually creating some art, which hasn’t happened either) at Open Ground Studios … all of these vie for my attention and precious time. I write best when I have large chunks of time to let my mind go in whatever direction it wishes—remember, the characters seem to be in control. Those large “chunks” seem to be hard to find these days. The same applies to editing. And, I’m finding I need the quiet of my home for that … so I can concentrate.

I either need to “un-commit” myself a whole bunch or figure out how to work in smaller time slots. I have cut back on my commitments, but … oooh, this sounds way too familiar—it’s a repeating problem I seem to have. Balancing things that need to be done with things I’d like to do … and the things others would like me to do. None of it is going to be easy to work out—never is, is it?

I’ve found myself taking art classes that I cannot complete because of stupid injuries, doctor appointments and other time constraints that happen after I’ve made the commitment to take the classes or … well, you’ve got the picture. It is frustrating to not be able to engage in any artistic outlet, whether it is writing or creating art (hopefully that will change this weekend with a one-day monotype workshop). Sure, I am able to compose a blog weekly (most weeks), but those usually are random happenings. No serious “construction” involved—just ramblings for the most part. Fun to write (in most cases) and for you to read, but even those blogs takes me away from creating serious stuff.

So … I need to re-group, figure some things out and take a serious look at my calendar. And add (cringe) a serious exercise regimen to my schedule to help my knee heal. And start planning some book signings for this spring and summer—right?

Sniggle … even as I write this, I find that I’ve signed myself up for two art classes (hmm … how’d that happen? Insert monster grin)—one on Saturday (just a one-day workshop) and the other begins on 21March—for four or five weeks, I think. It’s hard to resist the great workshops and seminars that OGS offers! I’ve decided those two will be fine, as I’m progressing nicely on my sorting of tax receipts and I’ve actually managed to do a little editing. I’ve even made copies of my two WIPs that need editing—I do so much better with hard-copies … old-school girl, yup. But … I’ve also added another thing to my agenda (I’m not ready to divulge it as yet—I’ll probably do a whole blog about it). And it is eating into my time also, but so far I’m keeping it manageable—for the time being.

So … this isn’t the short blog I thought it would be (oopsie …), but I’m ending the week with a smile on my face, so hopefully you won’t mind. May you have a wonderfully blessed weekend and week to come.

Caution … Staying Safe

ON TUESDAY I WAS GIVEN A TONGUE-LASHING. At first, I responded to the well-meaning reprimand from my friend with the usual head-nodding and agreement—because I do listen to advise, weigh it and then do what what seems best … for me. Occasionally, I will do “dare-devily” kinds of things … but with caution.

But there was much more behind her impassioned plea. She had just lost a dear, long-time family friend to a preventable accident. He and his wife were just beginning a new chapter in their life when his life came to an abrupt end. She was crushed by the senseless and way-too-early death of her friend. And me talking about my gimpiness and hatred for being tethered to a crutch struck a cord.

Her feelings were still very raw as she told me to be more careful. To use my crutch/cane all the time, even if I don’t feel it’s necessary. To think twice—especially before doing those things in my yard that took me off of the ground. Climbing ladders, for example. From reading all my goofy Facebook posts, she knew I took unnecessary risks to take care of my yard and home (mind you, all in the name of saving a buck and getting it done the way I want it done …). Doing things that could cause a preventable accident. As she spoke, my gut reaction were: I’m not that old, I’m careful, I’d never do anything to put myself at risk like that … Right. Never? I do it all the time. Sigh.

She knew I had a tendency to toil beyond the “safe” point … where exhaustion overrides my reflexes and common sense—whether in work or play—and it has led to “minor” incidents (like my sprained ankles and badly wrenched knee and shoulder because I ignored the well-established cautionary red flags in my mind). I’ve worked with power tools in this state—down-right stupid, right? Yes, I see that now.

Her loving rant made me think—to actually take the time to think. To think about how careless I was at times. I’m still thinking about it, which is a good thing. A very good thing. Bless her! She even offered to rally our friends around me to do the cleanups that I need to do (but shouldn’t do) to keep me safe. But, Proud Me refused her—at least for now—as I am utterly embarrassed at how cluttered and run-down my home and yard have become. And this new injury keeps me from doing what needs to be done—yet again—even the stuff on “ground-floor” levels … the safe stuff.

Now (sigh) … to put this “newfound” eureka moment into practice. That is going to take some doing, as I am an extremely independent soul. Oh, yes, extremely so. As she scolded, I thought of all the simple things requiring me to get off the ground (or taking me onto uneven ground): a severely cracked timber (2×4) in the bunny condo needs to be replaced (it’s 8 feet off the ground), gutters need cleaning (sniggle—that was supposed to be done before the rains began!), weeding/pulling/cutting down unwanted plants (ivy, poison oak, weedy bushes)—on the hillside, fixing the fence line, creating a parking area off to the side of my driveway (and moving the fence to accommodate it) … and I can’t forget the CalFire requirements of cleaning up the property of combustible stuff—oh, the list is endless … most definitely.

So … even though I don’t like the idea of “strangers” on my property doing things they way they want to do them, tromping on my fragile hillsides without regard to the erosion it could cause … I must farm-out these less than safe (for me) duties to someone I can trust. It means I’ll not be doing the things that I love (what am I saying—I’m not doing them now!) and I’ll find myself less active—I’ll just have to find something else to do to replace them.

Starting today … well, the great procrastinator in me says next week. But, it will happen. Do you wonder how good are you at keeping yourself safe when you toil at home or work, or when you are driving …? Think back to near mishaps. Could they have been avoided? Perhaps you too need to reconsider how you do things. Join me in changing habits to be safer. Our friends and family will be ever so grateful.

May this Friday and the upcoming week find you safe and blessed beyond belief.

 

Gally One and What IS This Crazy Weather …?

[Dear Readers: My apologies for the length of this blog—no good spot to cut it. Sigh.]

WELL, IT’S BEEN A VERY INTERESTING TWO weeks. Between threats of major storms, I managed to make it down to The LAX Travelodge—reasonable traffic (considering it’s LA), not bad accommodations and service for what we needed. And not too bad a walk (0.5mile—three long blocks) to the event hotel—Marriott at LAX. That is … if my knee wasn’t throwing fits and the wind was trying to turn my umbrella inside out. Still, all in all, it was not bad.

I left home on Wednesday and made my ritual over-night stop at Lebec, hoping I would be in good enough shape to trudge around taking pictures—beautiful mountainous countryside. Mmm … not if I wanted to keep my camera dry and me upright. Fits of rain intermingled with bigger fits of wind (gusts) … and exhaustion kept me from playing with my good camera. I was going to take a few Blustery Skies ...shots from the window (a south-easterly view), but really not much of a view—18-wheelers were parked between the hotel and my view. Drats. Well, this one is from my return trip.

Since I ended up with loads of “chill-time” on my hands in Lebec, I caught up on what wasForcasting Rain happening at home via my iPhone and Facebook. The beginnings of a monster storm front started to dump rain … by the time I arrived in LA (actually, Inglewood) the next day, the front had hit the entire coast line—including LA. It only took a little over 1.5 hrs to get to the Travelodge from Lebec and thankfully they were able to accommodate my early arrival (yay). So I settled in and leisurely Dr. Who Paraphinalia unpacked before trudging up to the Marriott. Registration officially opened at 3pm … so I wandered around up in the Lobby for a bit before heading downstairs—plenty to do. By the time I got down there, they were already allowing people through (around 2:15-ish). Score! No queuing, no waiting! Lovely.

Whilst waiting in the faux-line, I met two gentlemen from Canada. After I was asked a few questions—I won’t say what, as John will probably use the same ones next year … we exchanged con ribbons—not my first since I was activelyRibbon Collecting Begins seeking people out up in the Lobby to share my ribbons (and hope to get some in exchange). John and Jake turned out to be hilarious—quick, dry wit that had me in stitches. We ran into each other over and over all weekend—and they had new costumes for each day. Jake did purchase all three of my books on Saturday—I was ecstatic! If he likes them, he promised to do a review and spread the word up in Canada! Yay! Saturday was the “dress your best” day—costumes were absolutely magnificent on everyone!

I nearly forgot the two Thursday events: trip to the local InNOut Burger place (unofficial)—poor locals never know what hit ’em—and Ice Cream Social Ice Cream Socialthe ice cream social (official) … both were tons of fun (but I cheated—took a taxi A Sneak Peek at Dealer's Roomto and from the InNOut Burger spot … I vividly remember the walk last year—LOL).

Captain Jack

Captain Jack

The costuming all weekend was amazing—especially on Awesome Weeping AngelSaturday as I mentioned. Weeping Angles (very few this year, but that made the ones I saw more special), tons of different Osgood or Zygon ...? Third DoctorDoctors, oodles of Amys, Daleks, TARDIS costumes in various shapes and sizes, a delightful K-9 Lovely Cardboard K-9(full size, but of cardboard and pulled about on a leash), Osgood … oooh, the list goes on. This year, I chose to not cosplay, but rather wear a hodge-podge of Dr. Who things: 4th Doctor’s hat and scarf, question mark pin (I didn’t realise so many doctors used that—three of them to be precise … do you A Bevy of Doctors Sutek and Mummiesknow which ones without googling it?), bow tie of the 9th My "Cosplay" AttireDoctor, vest of Sarah Jane … etc. I left the Osgood lab coat in my bag—no glasses (they broke the week before I left) to make it official. I also left Sarah Jane’s raincoat behind. I didn’t want to be lugging it around—no cloak room. Next year … I plan on making my cosplay outfits (only two) much more special. Next year—that is, if I’m able to manage scoring a pass …

I did have an umbrella—a Doctor Who “special” umbrella (insert huge grin) Dr. Who Umbrella-Inside Dr. Who Umbrella-Outsidethat I found a rubber tip for (I used it as a cane on Thursday—oh, yeah … I’ll explain that later) I finally got to use it asUmbrella ... and Crutch an umbrella on Friday and Saturday. It’s gorgeous—and huge! I didn’t need any other protection and stayed relatively dry—once I worked out how to keep it from becoming a “rain collector” (sniggle) and still keep the rain off.

I scoped out the Dealers Room as early on as I couldDr. Who Pins and found my two missing pins for myA Sneak Peek at Dealers Room hat—the War Doctor and 12th Doctor (Capaldi). Yay! That made me happy!

My buddies that came down late had awesome costumes! Renée was a very posh Dalek and Pam had a dress with the exploding TARDIS. Friends' Cosplay OutfitsMichelle chose to be neutral—she’s not into cosplay, which is perfectly fine! She and I did a number of the talks together … we only occasionally saw Pam or Renée (at Gally) since they had their own agendas for the talks.

Ood

Gallifrey One was amazing, running smoothly throughout the weekend. The all-volunteer staff did a marvelous job. Kudos—to all of them—for their tireless work that made the event such a fun time. I didn’t do Best Doctor Cosplay Ever What Can You Do With Ribbons??Queen Elisabeth or Zygon ?? Dalek Ood and Nurseany of the autograph or photo sessions like I did last year as I was feeling a bit “poor”—unwilling to spend the money for the opportunities. I did attend quite a few talks, both in the main room and auxiliary rooms.  And … unfortunately, I did not go on Sunday. My injured knee (remember the “caned” umbrella? That was not a Ooooh!prop—I trashed my knee … and ankles at the end of January), using a cane instead of the crutch for two days and all the walking took its toll on yours truly. So instead, I packed up my bags, put them in the car and headed home—I was going to try to do it in one day, but knew I needed the down-time in Lebec, so I made reservations at “my” Motel 6.

My trip home was relatively uneventful … Leaving LebecStop For BreakfastOminous Cloudsuntil I was about fifteen minutes away from my house. Flooding, downed trees/power lines and road closures from slides Accumulation of Rain (Wed-Mon)Flooded CulvertDowned Trees—Across Power LinesMore Downed Trees On My StreetUmbrella Damage Umbrella Damage Umbrella Damagebrought the highway to a standstill. I attempted to take alternate routes, but the country roads couldn’t handle the amount of rain and were completely flooded, so back to the highway to wait it out with everyone else. It took over an hour to drive a normally 15-minute drive. I came home to no power and a boil water notice. A tree came down and took out the water pipe for our little community. They had it fixed by the time I got home, but contaminants were in the system (my neighbor had told me to just stay where I was, but I really just wanted to come home, so I had steeled myself for the worst). It wasn’t too bad—that’s what blankets, coats and bottled water are for … and power was back on 24 hours after I got home (still on a Boil Water order … hope that ends soon because hand-washing dishes with boiled water is a nuisance). A glass-topped table with an opened umbrella toppled over. Only damage was to the umbrella (yay) and an aluminum ladder that mysteriously moved in the winds. There’s lots of very soggy ground so I’m treading lightly. I consider myself extremely lucky. No, let me amend that comment—I am blessed. There’s no luck involved.

Many people have standing water—or even literally running water—rushing through their homes. The roads are not just flooded, but in many cases the foundation of the road has given way and whole sections of road are gone. In the case of Big Sur, slides and flooding are the least of the problem—one bridge near Pfeiffer has been deemed unsafe and will need to come down and rebuilt. Our area is not the only area that has been inundated by the storms. Dams and roads in Oroville, San Jose and Yosemite (to name o few) have been compromised with flooding and erosion. Getting out from under all of this damage is going to take time  … and money—lots of it—and I’m not sure California has planned for a catastrophe of this magnitude.

I still have to clean up around my property plus empty out my refrigerator and freezer—”better to be safe than sorry” is the adage I’m holding on to—then make a trip to the dump to toss the spoiled food. We have a few days respite before the next round comes.

My biggest concern is that I live on a hill … I’m praying that my hillside stays put.

Dear readers, please enjoy your Friday and the coming week. If you’re a praying sort, please pray for California and all of the effected residents—for their safety, for dams to hold back their burgeoning water supply and for this rain to slow to a trickle for the remainder of the rainy season.

The drought is over for the majority of the state—a blessing. Have a serendipitous week, my friends.

 

 

 

What Did I Say …?

I’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT GOING “electronics-lite” … yet, I spent well over an hour in Costco at the cell phone kiosk (after spending an accumulated day or two worth of inquiries with various cell phone carriers & phone makers). The end result …?

Um … I think I will go bonkers trying to sort things out. Since my iPhone 5S went for a swim, I quickly found my old 3S iPhone and used it as a back-up (had ATT switch the number to the 3S) so I could at least get phone calls and do some texting. But, the battery started to swell as I did a charge, so after an emergency visit to the Apple “ER”, the powers that be decided that they could not replace the battery (a safety hazard). Instead, they gave me a brand new 3S (I didn’t think they still had any of them floating around—haha …) for $75.00. That was what a new battery would have cost me.

After all my research, I decided I’d stick with an Apple phone, but shed my current carrier since the signal in my home has gotten worse with time. Grrr. So, I decided to go with Verizon, since it looks like they’ve got excellent coverage in the areas I frequent (so far, so good …). To save a little money, I chose to use Costco for my transactions.

I almost asked to use my 3S as a backup, but the SIM card is tiny compared to the ones the newer phones use—would not have been able to put the SIM card into another phone. Sigh. So, the other thing I decided—after living with the old style dummy phone (with QWERTY board) way too long—was I would jettison that phone (which was my backup line) and go with a freebee phone (the Samsung J320V) for my “backup” line (my house line became a cell phone number when I dropped the landline) … it doesn’t get used often and only for phone calls and an occasional text when I’m having issues with my Apple. Well, almost free—I do have to pay for the line, but that’s it.

(Serious eye roll here) So, I ended up with two new phones to customise to my needs instead of one  and learn how to use … ugh) … and each phone came with an external backup battery (more electronics). Sigh. Well, I guess I can keep one in my purse and one in the primary car. At least these were free—100% free. And, I’d actually thought about getting one at some point. Kinda cool I managed to get two (insert huge grin …)!

So much for going “lite” on electronics …

What I have found is, after a week of no smart phone, I am not as dependent on my smart phone (yay!) as much for being “connected”. Yes, I do go online in the morning before I get out of bed (check weather so I know how to dress, scan Facebook and mail), but I’m finding myself spending less time lurking and surfing. This is a good thing. I’m even spending less time watching the “boob tube”—another good thing—but I do DVR a few programs that I can “binge watch” when I feel like spending some “quiet time” on the couch.

My laptop/desktop are more for checking mail, working on my blog, editing my stories … and playing with my photos. I’m not as dependent, but I’ll never be able to shed electronics completely. I have to laugh … someone posted the neatest gadget since sliced bread: a sleek “old-fashioned” typewriter that is electronically connected (via Bluetooth) to your computer. I haven’t checked to see how pricey it is, but it would be cool. Yup, no way I’m going to shed electronics (oh, dear …) with all the new gadgets that come onto the market to tease me.

Oh. By the way …mI’m letting you know right now—if I don’t get my iPhone set up completely, I may not be doing a blog next week—but I will try. My friends, have a wonderful, blessed Friday and serendipitous week.

Technology, Part Two

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOUR “LIFELINE” goes south? I kept hoping against all odds that my phone would survive its impromptu swim in the toilet, but as the week progressed, though it could be turned on and it was “working”, fewer and fewer of the apps responded to my touch properly and it would randomly shut down. I was unable to get into my calendar to make sure I’d “synced” everything to the huge wall calendar in the kitchen. It will be interesting to see if I miss any important appointments. I couldn’t get the cloud and the phone to communicate to backup anything—photos, most current addresses and phone numbers (sigh). About the only thing that worked reliably was my Scrabble game (go figure—but even that stopped opening for me). I was receiving texted, but couldn’t open them at times (talk about frustrating …) and thankfully, I’d already had all calls transferred to my other phone. Which, by the way, is not the best phone in the world. It either takes forever to get opened when a call comes in (thus, I miss it!) or the moment I touch the phone (in picking it up) I accidentally drop the incoming call. It’s been a comedy of errors—and all I can do is smile … and laugh (otherwise I’d go bonkers)!

So … I started being a bit more philosophical about all these electronic devices in my life. I’ve succesfully cut down drastically the amount of time I spend on the television—that felt good. Do I really need this iPhone? Yes, I am extremely dependent upon it … but do I need to be?  Once I started thinking about what it would require—the changes I’d need to make—I warmed to the idea of shedding the expensive smart phone for something a little less … technology-heavy. Less? You might ask how on earth will I survive. By using my Fitbit as a pedometer (until the rechargable battery dies, then revert to my less expensive, less all-functioning Fitbit that simply counts my steps and has no alarms or timers) and manually log the steps on paper—which I’m doing now (or maybe into the online page—maybe—that’s more technology … and my DSL is slower than molasses compared to the smart phone).

As I contemplated this concept, I became more and more comfortable with it. That is … until I realised I needed something for my credit card reader—for the business end of my life. Book and art sales. And I’ve grown to depend on the clarity of the photo app (and my cool little special apps for tweaking the photos—all business related) Oh, drats. Since I don’t have any book signings coming up anytime soon, I’ve not been fretting about it (too much) … and I do have other cameras I can fall back onto. So, I’m just weighing the options and was waiting on a response from my inquiry at the credit card reader’s web site to see if they have any suggestions (they weren’t that helpful, but gave me some things to research). But, that means I either need to go back to the iPhone (I’ve already started looking at refurbished phones—they’re about half the price of the current model, but still pricey) … or go to another platform within Apple—or look to other brands of phones. Oh, yes … I figure with all these changes, I’ll be changing carriers too (when you can’t receive calls in the house—where I spend an awful lot of my time—it’s time to change).

I certainly have been online a whole lot less … kinda nice, but discovering that I’m not as prompt in responding to business communications (oops). There must be a compromise that allows me to be freer of technology, yet allows me to be in touch where I need to be. I’ve not missed Facebook (though, again … I’ve got two business pages that need to be cared for)—when I come online, I’ve a huge number of notifications that need to be addressed … both personal and business. Sigh.

So, what have I decided after a week on being less visible? Technology has it’s place if I don’t let it run my life (personally or professionally). Once I get my new phone (and it will be a smart phone) I will probably be shedding quite a few apps—the ones that tether me to my phone way too much. I’m still trying to decide which one’s those are, but I know there will be quite a few I’ll be saying g’bye to: the ones I don’t use but once in a while … oh, I’ve got a ton of those! But there are still quite a few that I know I’ll be keeping—wonder if I’ll ever feel I can live without them.

So much for escaping the digital world.

Have you ever run into this kind of dilemma? What have you done—go with the flow or rebel against the technology? Please let me hear what you’ve got to say.

Until then, may your Friday and the week ahead be blessed beyond belief!

Technology

I’M CERTAINLY NOT A TECHNOPHOBE. I can find my way around a DSLR camera, cell phone, computer … and various other electronic devices fairly well. But, by no means can I be considered a technophile either. Technology is going to happen, whether I embrace it or not. Sometimes it’s helpful—as in the advances it affords medical and research … sometimes it merely makes us lazier (remote controlled devices are excellent examples), and sometimes it’s just plain ol’ frustrating—like it has a mind of its own …

Last Friday was an interesting day for me, electronically speaking. I awoke to a power outage … my iPhone’s alarm woke me out of a deep sleep. It was light enough that I really didn’t realise there was a problem—the digital time on my clock radio can’t be seen that well (I have it set on low) when it’s light out. I depend on my iPhone for the time. I actually didn’t realise it until I stepped into the kitchen where I automatically flipped the light switch and nothing happened. Yup … power outage.

At that moment, I was so glad Jim and I made gas one of our requirements when searching for a house. The house was cold so I automatically went down the hall to pop the thermostat up and realised no power … no heat. Drats. Confident I could make breakfast—even without electricity, I headed for the stove. I tried to get a flame going to make eggs … quickly remembering that it had an electronic starter and there was no electricity, so I immediately turned the gas off and went searching for my little handy-dandy long-handled, propane fire starter. Location unknown … hmmm. Oh, well … breakfast out—I needed my coffee or tea. Definitely.

Well … once I was dressed, the power came on so I had my breakfast at home and entered the meal on MyFitnessPal app. My multitude of electronics (microwave, coffee maker, stove, clock radios) were all flashing at me, telling me to reset the clocks. Ugh. Later. I’d been knocked off my routine, so I forgot to sync my Fitbit to my phone app … no big deal—I’d do it later.

I went on my errands, delivering things to friends and made a pit stop at Open Ground Studios. I figured I’d do a wee bit of gardening whilst there, but I dropped my iPhone in the toilet (insert eye roll here) … before I had a chance to flush (yuck). I quickly dried it off and rushed home to put it in rice … hoping to save it. It made an awful lot of weird noises in the first 12 hours.

Then, I started to realise how dependent I truly was to electronics. I could not get into my phone to forward my calls to my secondary phone (which I needed to find and charge first). As night fell, I realised I couldn’t use the handy flashlight to get me up the dark stairwell (yes, I could turn on the lights, but it was my habit to save electricity—sniggle) and that meant if there was another power outage, I’d need a flashlight. So, I went searching for one. Took me forever to find one … which had not been used in so long, it needed batteries. And the cascade of event continued.

I couldn’t play Scrabble (one of my iPhone apps)—part of my evening routine. Sure, I could probably find a game on my laptop, but I didn’t want to have to wrestle with a cat trying to sit between me and the screen. I couldn’t enter my food entries into my MyFitnessPal app so I had to use my laptop for that … nor could I get my Fitbit to communicate with my laptop. And then I realised I wouldn’t be able to use MapMyWalk app either … on those rare days I manage to find time to get to Point Lobos or down on the beach or wherever to walk. Drats. By the way … have I mentioned my DSL connection is like dial-up? Slug-slow compared to the smart phone (which is why default to the smart phone more and more).

I couldn’t check the weather on the iPhone. Again, had to use my laptop. The iPhone make getting all information (no matter which app) so much easier—and faster—than on the laptop. Switching back and forth to different pages is a breeze on the iPhone and so cumbersome (not to mention time consuming) on the laptop. Saturday, when a young deer browsed in my yard, I realised I didn’t have access to the quick-snapshot-photos … I’d have to use my clunky DSLR to take a picture. Over the last three months or so I’ve defaulted to my iPhone for photos because of my cataracts. I’m not getting sharp shots with my DSLR. With the iPhone, its quick, excellent images make it so easy. Yes, I could put the DSLR into automatic, but it takes more time to get the settings right (I’m not perfect). And, at that point I realised that I’d no longer have the “instant” uploading of photos available—and waterlogue (watercolour) app was no longer an option. I’d have to use Photoshop. Back to finding time to download onto my laptop’s external drive, then upload onto FB or wherever I wanted it to be. There were so many more realisations that popped into my head in the first 24 hours of no smart phone. It’s truly amazing how much I depend on it.

Next week, I’ll explain my thought processes on what I am trying to do whilst my dependable phone is no longer dependable …

How dependent are you on all of your electronic devices? Could you live without them?

 

 

 

Roller Coaster Ride of Life

OF LATE, I’M BEGINING TO FEEL like this thing called “health” is one heck of a roller coaster ride … and, honestly, a very precarious ride. I never was terribly fond of those rides. Not one bit. I really don’t recall ever being hit so hard by a microscopic bug as hard as I was in December. I’m still recovering—nearly a month later. I suppose age has something to do with it … but you won’t hear me admitting that openly. Oh, wait. Isn’t that what I just did??

Anyway, I’m really excited that I’m only days away from my cataract surgery (finally!). I’ll actually be able to see again … without blurry halos for car lights and a screwy depth perception, without my eyes getting prematurely tired of reading. My right eye is getting lazy—gee … I wonder why? (Insert rolled eyes here …) Really. I can hardly wait!

I’ve tried to keep my schedule plenty clear so I can focus on editing, because once I’ve got clear vision, I have absolutely no excuse not to be editing. I’m actually looking forward to it (really??)  To get back into the story without my eyes rapidly getting fatigued … it’s going to be wonderful! As I said, schedule is clear—well, relatively so. I do have a few doctors appointments, regular meetings … and in February there’s the Gallifrey One convention. I’m not ready costume-wise, but that’s okay.

My overseas travel is definitely off the calendar for 2017 (sniff). Instead, my money will be going to get termites exterminated … and the damage repaired.  Yup. There will be no extra money available for jumping across the Pond. I may do “closer to home” travel—staying within the US boundaries, or at least within the northern continent (so I can include Canada. I haven’t been up there in ages). Canada was one place my husband and I were going to visit before he died but we never managed to make it, so … I have a little “gift” to deposit up there, whenever I make the trip. Now I actually have friends there, so I have actual destinations in mind for once (insert huge grin) …

My books are my first priority, but since I won’t be traveling much, I will be working on making my property fire-safe (didn’t get it done last year … the rains foiled me—teehee) and getting some things done that have been on my ever-growing To Do List. The things that kinda fell through the cracks when I had my spinal surgery last year. Things that will make me want to spend more time in my yard and home.

I have decided that 2017 is going to be the year to get things done—roller coaster or not! I’m looking forward to it—and I am ready. So very ready! So, my friends … hold on to your hats as the whirlwind ride begins.

My dear friends, I wish you all a blessed Friday, weekend and month!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying No …

IT SEEMED LIKE A LOVELY, SLOW MONTH — really it did. And that’s just how I wanted it, especially with two edits hanging over my head. But … I have a tendency of “filling” my time — without thinking. The only thing I had going this month was my cataract surgery in the middle of the month and my weekly NaNoWriMo group. Now, all of a sudden, my calendar is being populated with art classes at Open Ground Studios … and dinners with friends and families. Oh, yes. And there’s the short story for an anthology I said yes to (but now that I know more details, I may back out). Whaaat was I thinking?

I’m not even sure it has anything to do with saying no … because — at least for the art classes — nobody asked if I wanted to do them … the flyer was just sitting there and I was craving some dedicated creative time. Time specifically set aside for practicing and playing with what I love. I signed up for two classes (photopolymer and watercolour), but now I’m not sure about the timing for the watercolour class — evening classes and I don’t get along that well. I hadn’t realised the times when I signed up for the that class. The other is a daytime class so I’ll have no problem with it. And, I’ll be there anyway. Um, well, all except the first day. That’s the day of my cataract surgery (oopsie) … so, I’ve got a note into the instructor, letting him know — just in case that makes the class a no-go.

Well, I guess it does have to do with saying no after all. Just because there isn’t a physical “other body” to say no to doesn’t mean I can shirk the saying no. Sometimes I’m the one I must say no to. That’s hard. I thought I was getting really good at saying no — but apparently only to others (stifles a guffaw …) — so, I still have some work to do on that.

I was able to say no to an extended family get-together, but needed to say yes to another one … since I was sick for Christmas, I missed two dinner/get-togethers. My daughter (and son-in-law) and I decided to move our annual get-together to a time when I was well. We tried last weekend, but I wasn’t quite up to it. So, this Saturday it is! I’m looking forward to spending time with them … and planning our next dinner (also delayed due to me) to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. She gets to choose the when and where, then we’ll all go and have a lovely time. I love spending time with these two (one of my harder duos to say no to …) — any time!

Trying to keep my calendar underpopulated is going to be a challenge. I can foresee some complications that are likely to arise, but all in all, I think these first three months will stay fairly quiet … and that’s a good thing (and very much needed). Making time, finding time … and preserving those times for whatever is needed — for me, it’s time to be still, refresh and get some things done that have been ignored for a very long time. Saying no can be so freeing (Cheshire grin here …)

Before I sign off, I’d like to wish each of you a Happy New Year. May this year bless you with many serendipitous happenings.

 

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.

 

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