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


 

 

 

An Update

OCTOBER IS WINDING DOWN to its last week, with Halloween and All Saints Day literally on the heels of each other and Thanksgiving Day not all that far away. The year is winding down—sometimes I feel it happens way too fast. There’s no time to enjoy all the special things that happen just before winter sets in.

We don’t have much “colour-changing” going on here, with all the oak trees, manzanita and pines. My “old-growth” manzanita, with its gnarly, flaky red trunks usually stand out more during this time of the year, but most of them have died in this drought-ravaged area. Now they stand bent and grey; leafless skeletons. I’m not sure if it’s age or disease that’s taken them, but I’m sad to see so many dead. I do have many young manzanita scattered around the yard, but they don’t have the character the older ones possessed. There are a few California laurel that give an occasional spray of red berries … but

Persimmonsit’s my persimmon tree and its fruit that is my one true indicator of the changing season. And this year, the fruit is ripening–plentiful and early. I will be fighting with the squirrels and birds to harvest some for my traditional persimmon puddings, but it will be worth the battle (I may go out today and pull some beforePersimmons-2013 they are fully ripe to ensure at least one or two batches).

I’ve been able to enjoy myself these last few weeks, doing personal, fun things. I’ve been to an outdoor theatre to watch a Shakespeare play (teehe–in the rain), have had several lovely dinners with friends and family … and simply Pumpkin Patchrelaxed at home, puttering around—and spent the time at a few pumpkin patches. I’ve even been free of medical appointments! It’s been lovely.  Our church puts on a trunk or treat event for the kids in the neighbourhood and I’m hopin’ to go. Hope it doesn’t rain. I’ve even planned on attending a Halloween party at a friend’s house this weekend. Haven’t had time to do one of those in years.

But this idyllic time is about to come to an end. November brings National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a time for “writers’ abandon” … though I’m not source about that—I’m thinking more like “writers’ frenzy” since trying to juggle serious writing with book

National Novel Writing Month

Pencils sharpened, computer charged…ready to go, with only eleven days to go!

signings is going to be interesting … to say the least! Yup. November also brings all of the craft fairs out of the woodworks. Joyce and I signed up for quite a few … we’ve added a few new venues, in hopes of spreading the word about our books.

My friends … it may not look like much, but these four events are going to keep Joyce and I very busy this month. If you’ve got time, please stop by and take a gander at plethora of goodies for sale. There is greater detail of each event on my business Facebook page, so feel free to check that out.

Thursday-Friday, Nov 10-11
Holiday Craft Faire
10am-6pm at Watsonville Hospital
75 Neilson Street, Watsonville CA
Friday-Sunday, Nov 11-13
Holiday Crafts

9am-5pm at Watsonville Elks Lodge
121 Martinelli St, Watsonville, CA
Saturday-Sunday, Nov 19-20
Aromas Hills Artisans’ Holiday Faire

10am-5pm at the Aromas Grange
400 Rose Ave, Aromas, CA

Friday-Sunday, Nov 25-27
Gilroy Elks Holiday Craft Faire
9am-5pm at the Gilroy Elks Lodge
2765 Hecker Pass Hwy, Gilroy, CA

So … there’s the craziness for the month of November—with me trying to find time to work on my NaNoWriMo project in between all of these events.

Have a fun and safe Halloween celebration. And a blessed Thanksgiving, hopefully a joyful time with family and/or friends. I will try my best to get blogs out on time each Friday over the next four weeks.


 

Traveling Light-Part Three

TURBULENCE. YUP. IT HAPPENS. Traveling definitely has its challenges. Turbulence can simply be inconvenient, or it can be quite disastrous. It didn’t used to bother me, but since my hair-raising accident (weather was not the problem, by the way), I get a wee bit nervous (mmm, maybe a wee bit more than normal) when there’s turbulence … or when the electronics go wacko. Even all these years later …

Our first part of the flight was rather shaky, leaving me with the jitters. My solution, when flying, is popcorn prayer. A quick little prayer, reminding Him I’ve put my safety in His hands and asking for peace of mind—like He needs a reminder … um, yeah. It’s more like I need the reminder! That won’t work for everyone, but it certainly does for me. And I thank God for it—often!

Sigh … oh, yeah. Kinda backtracking, but after going through airport security, make sure you keep track of all your possessions. I ended up leaving my Fitbit behind (pout)—that’s a fancy electronic step counter that you wear. Fortunately, they do put things left behind into Lost and Found. There is a little “paperwork” one must endure, but not too bad—just be prepared … you may not get your lost item back for thirty days. So much for keeping track of my steps … and the poor thing needed to be recharged that night. Oh, well. Lesson learned. (And, yes, I did retrieve it from Lost and Found at the San Jose Airport.)

I personally hate walking on floors where many, many pairs of bare feet have tread … so, my sandals work beautifully with a pair of socks—easy off and on. The socks—and a light weight jacket or windbreaker—come in handy once on the plane, too. Not only good to keep you warm, but if you don’t need it for warmth, you can always use it as a pillow (well, the jacket, that is … to replace the pillow I forgot—except, I wore a sleeveless shirt and need it for warmth. Such a dilemma. Thankfully, the headrest was pretty comfortable and it was not that long a flight). If the flight is too warm, shed the socks and put into a ziplock bag and stash in your belongings. I knew once I got to Tennessee, I’d want to shed them anyway—too warm for this body. The forecast was for high eighties to mid-nineties whilst I was there. I hoped I packed well … not (pout). And, as usual, the forecasters lied … the day of the event (held outside under a tent, by the way), the temps skyrocketed to just over 100°F and the humidity was … ugh. Thank God for a pretty stiff breeze that came through late in the day, giving us cooler temps and lower humidity for the rest of the day (but tossed our books, bookmarks and flyers around—I did not complain … I needed that breeze …).

Oops. There I go off on tangents again (sniggle) … And, then there are unforeseen delays. I’m glad this happened on my last flight for the day and I didn’t have any place to be once I got to Memphis. I always put longer than usual layover times between flights and plan arriving well before any activity to insure I’m never late for that very important date (or event). Aaah, delays. Yup … we had ’em. Part of the delays was caused by mechanical problems with the connecting plane. They had to switch planes, which made them late into Dallas. And then, there was a passenger that wouldn’t put his large carry-on overhead. After several chats with attendants, the pilot came back into the cabin to have a heart-to-heart (the passenger had to be told the options three times—his choice was do as they asked or get off … said very politely), finally … he did as told. I think people were getting a bit nervous because of his hesitancy to comply—I sure know I was …

When I arrived in Memphis, I realised that for all my packing wisdom, I’d not packed appropriate to the weather. I’d grossly underestimated the heat/humidity and all the clothes I’d chosen for the events (a meet and greet on Friday night and the actual book festival on Saturday) and for church on Sunday were going to be too warm (for me—probably fine for others … but I can be a little on the warm side—always!). Sigh.

At least I was able to manage pulling together several reasonable outfits. Next time—and, yes … there will be a next time—I’ll know to pack right, but light for these Midwest summers.

Next week I’ll get to the meat of the blog … the festival. The fun. The wonderful people. Until then, have a blessed Friday-weekend … and week.


 

Shifting Gears …

AAAAH! IT IS NICE WHEN THINGS finally start happening they way you’d hoped. A little break in my chatter about my last trip—sorta connected, but not. I’ve been sweating bullets over the bit I started to write whilst traveling. I couldn’t see it fitting in between the beginning and end. No way it was going to bridge the two. Not at all … and I had trepidation about what I was writing anyway (I’ll get into that another day …).

On Wednesday, I sat down to look at what I’d written … and what I needed to do to make that bridge between the front and back work. After re-reading the first part, written so long ago … (still like it—insert huge grin … teehee) and the beginning of the second “half” I was positive it would not work. But that didn’t mean throwing it away … ooooh, no. It’s an awesome beginning to a very intense experience they will have—somewhere down the line. Maybe book five or six. Time will tell—and so will the characters.

So, instead of fretting, I simply re-read the last bit prior to the gaping crevasse and set to writing. Ideas began to dance in my mind—begging to flow into the story line. It was as if I’d only just put the manuscript down the day before—the words flowed beautifully, and before I knew it, I had bridged the gap. I did a little dance and a mental celebration. It felt so good to be writing with a clear head … and with purpose once again. My characters are happy … and so am I.

Now, all I need to do (excuse me whilst I laugh—it’s truly a monumental task) is start at the beginning and do a serious edit. I say “monumental” since my characters are ready for me to keep writing … not editing. Oye-vey! I may try to satisfy them by shifting back and forth between editing and writing. Hope my poor brain is up to that.

Oh! And before I forget, I must tell you … it has begun. It’s official. I’ve made a request to withdraw my work from my previous publisher … though they are dancing around the request, trying to say I can publish with two companies without withdrawing. What should take very little time is taking an extraordinarily long time. Hopefully they return my phone calls … soon.

As it turns out, it will be “up to a month” before they release everything, but Inknbeans Press will begin by simply releasing the eBook later this month. Once  it’s all released, they will get serious and publish the paperback of “Secrets Beyond Scymaria” (book one). Book two will follow in a month or so, making the series altogether, wholly “one” at Inknbeans Press, where it will live happily ever after. Shortly after that, I’m hoping to have the newest book in the series (“Mischiefmaker“) ready for publication!

So, there’s my news … now, next week we can get back to the regularly scheduled blog. Until then, please enjoy a beautiful Friday … and a delightful, blessed weekend!

Traveling Light-Part Two

TRAVELING CAN BE FUN … EVEN exciting. But, there are certain things that can freak me out.

American Airlines has been great so far. Courteous staff at every point. Once on the plane, technical difficulties with the safety video required a flight attendant to do a “manual” run through—done cheerfully, in a very animated fashion with occasional “I’m watching you” hand signals to someone behind me, which made me giggle—and then he asked if there were questions. Very upbeat … but the electrical issues were reminiscent of one flight I don’t really want to repeat, leaving me a wee bit on edge. One of these days, I’ll tell that story, but not now. Apparently only about four of the monitors worked in sync on my flight, with the whole right

Monitors on the Blink

Note the monitors … not in sync

bank freezing and the rest alternating between being blank or frozen. Glad it wasn’t an international flight … and I do pity those who are digital or entertainment dependent. Yes, I had my iPhone (I used it to work on my blog), but I also had an old-school notebook. I could just as easily use that (if needed). As it turned out … I did get hooked on a tv show special with four celebs (William Shatner, Henry Winkler, George Foreman and Terry Bradshaw—strange combo, eh?) and their “handler” as they toured a few Asian countries. It was actually rather hilarious. Once it was over I pulled off my headphones and turned to other things.

The upbeat and delightfully cheery attendants took my mind off that flight from long ago and I forgot all about my past experience. I was actually able to get some thoughts on paper (a quiet little yay-yay … hip-hip-hurray from this corner—turns out it was over 2300 words!). Between written

Dry with Snow Caps

Tiniest bit of snow on the otherwise brown mountain-scape

thoughts, I watched the change of scenery—it is amazing to see the drastic transformation of the

Dry, Dry ...

Dry & brown …

landscape as one crosses from the west coast to Tennessee (with a stop in Dallas/Ft. Worth). Dry and brown (mostly) into mountainous, to green valleys, with plenty of cloud formations … and the closer we approached my destination,

Green Patches

LOL … I see a Pacman amongst these circles …

water in the form of lakes, streams and ponds abound. Ooh, do I ever covet that water … California is so Beautiful Mountainsdry—tinder dry and there is so much of it that has burned … or is burning even as I write this. Still.  I pray for rain, every day. Weather fronts have taunted California Clouds ... image imagewith the possibilities, only to peter out to nothing …

But—oh, boy— I digress. Back to traveling.

Trying to remember all the necessities —and the few comforts—necessary to make the trip is important. Things (at least for me) like a cervical neck pillow are pretty handy, especially since this was my first long trip after my neck surgery—and I forgot mine (pout). A list is an excellent idea (especially for me … which I did not do—note to self: make a list … check it twice …), listing essentials like medications, a full list of the electronic devices AND their chargers you want to take, itineraries, airline approved snacks (sealed, prepackaged usually works) …

Everybody’s list will be different. For me, I need to remember my camera and computer … plus all the accessories that entails. It’s no fun getting to your destination and realising you’ve left an important item back home. Some items can, of course, be purchased at your destination … if you don’t mind wasting time making the purchase and the redundancies once you get back home—or the added cost. Others may be unobtainable (especially medications if you are flying out of state or out of country) unless you visit a doctor at your destination, or too expensive, so make that list … and check it twice—if you’re a list maker, that is. I certainly find it useful—when I remember to make one …

A great flight (actually both ways) and great flight attendants made this flying journey doable, even though there was turbulence and electronic glitches for them to solve and quite a few things I forgot. Next time, I’ll talk about my adventures in Tennessee. T’was a wonderful time.

Tomorrow I’ll be camped out at Compass Church in Salinas selling my books and art. Until next week, I wish blessings of the day—and week—on you. Have a serendipitous day and week.

8 October 2016 • 9 am – 4 pm
Harvest Jubilee at Compass Church
Books, Art, Crafts, Food and Fun
1044 S. Main St • Salinas CA

 

 

 

Traveling Light-Part One

THE INFO IN THIS PARTICULAR series of blogs is probably more for the “infrequent flyer”, rather than for those that fly regularly. But there are some fun tongue-in-cheek comments and stories peppered throughout, so give it a read, no matter what your flying status/prowess may be.

It’s been so long (well over a year for this traveler) since I’ve flown. It’s not my favourite way to travel—give me a car … or a chance to ride a train and I’ll jump at the opportunity every single time. But when time and/or funds necessitate flying, it’s a good thing the flying-option is available. Personally, I hate all the queues (standing still is hard on me). And the impatient waiting and grumpiness (not me … I just chill and smile—sniggle … I’m probably one of the reasons people grumble—too much cheeriness). One can get so much further in life by smiling and complimenting—puts people you’re dealing with more at ease and for some reason, they are more helpful—go figure.

Flying comes with certain rules. For me, it’s trying to remember all the rules and etiquette … it’s so much fun with my lousy memory. And of course, there are changes happening all the time due to changing safety issues and such … and, each airline has their own set of rules that may be different from other airlines. That’s where checking into the airline website has its payoffs. Knowing the different

On Your Mark

Traveling light—not this time …

things like allowable bag size for carry-ons (it’s changed—or will be changing soon) or how many bags are allowed and what you can and cannot have in your carry-on are important. Some rules are TSA motivated, others are specific to the airline. Make sure to know the facts. I sniggled at the announcement made whilst waiting for one leg of my flight—”your Samsung 7 must remain in the off position while in-flight due to newly discovered hazards” (exploding cellphone batteries are not such a good thing) … you just never know what their new rules will be. Glad my cell phone is an older model iPhone …

The kiosks at individual airlines for pre-registeration are still something that confound me—at least for a wee bit, every single time. I always get there early so I’m not rushed through the process—or worried about making it through the queue in time. One must use them before turning in luggage—yes, there’s queues for everything. One to do the ticket, one to weigh and turn your luggage in … then you wander off to your gate—wherever that might be. Still haven’t figured out what the “main” counter is actually for these days … it’s manned, and there are people up there—what they are doing, I’m not sure.

I usually fly United (at least for my last couple of trips). This time around, I’m on American Airlines. I booked it through AAA because I didn’t want to take the time to figure out all the options by myself. This was the best rate with reasonable layover times. American has different rules … and they charge for each bag you check. I usually travel very light and would simply carry on my bag, so that would have been free—and means I don’t have to wait for my luggage at the other end (if it shows up—more on that later). In the past, United didn’t charge for their first bag—haven’t checked their rules, since I’m flying AA this time. But, this

Some layovers are great—look! Outlets at each seat!

Some layovers are great! Look! Outlets at each seat!

time around, I’m not so lightly packed. Purse, one carry-on (backpack with computer, camera and electronic charging paraphernalia) plus two checked bags … oooh, it adds up, but it’s still cheaper for me to check my rolly with sixty books and other promotional material than to ship them to the destination. Plus a bag for all my personal stuff. Worth it. Yup. And by doing two bags, I kept each well under the fifty pound limit, allowing for purchases in and around Memphis. I will be buying books—that is a given … after all, I’m going to be at a book festival all day … right?

Next week I’ll delve more into travel—we’ll get to the actual reason for my travel in the third installment … I hope (sniggle). For now … I’ll be spending the rest of this week and all of next week getting ready for the Harvest Jubilee, with my art and books on sale at the Main Street campus of Compass Church. Maybe I’ll see you there! Have a blessed Friday and weekend.

Authors’ Book Signing and Art
Compass Church’s Harvest Jubilee
Saturday October 8 • 9am-3pm
1044 S. Main St Salinas CA 93901

 

 

Balancing Act Take Two

HAVE YOU EVER TRIED BALANCING stones? There’s a trick to it. Stacking is one thing—I love to find stacks of rocks. There’s one gentleman in Carmel Highlands area that is always making delightful stacks here and there … and when I walk the rocky coves in Point Lobos, I am sure to find one or two. Stacks seem to stick around for others to see. Once, my daughter and I spent the morning walking there and were intrigued by them … we both pulled out our cameras and started taking photos of them at different angles. I’ve yet to see any balanced rocks in person yet.

Yeah … balancing rocks … that is something entirely different. More fragile, I’d think, so winds might upset their balance if left alone. Or, even curious critters that might want to check them out. I’d love to give it a try some day. Some day … when I have nothing else better to do—or perhaps on a day where I need to be still (in my self-made busy life, that would be always …). That would be a good time.

Balancing rocks. Takes concentration, knowing … feeling where the points of contact should be. A little math (shudder) might help, but I’ll go with my gut. I’m just a seat-of-the-pants (sop) kinda gal, after all. I will try it. And I will post my success (or failure—though, I like to think positive … insert huge grin).

I really wasn’t sure which direction I’d be going (that’s the sop gal talkin’) with this post. I could get all philosophical—I certainly could … or I could try to find some photos or links about this balancing act. The link I posted above (from Facebook) is what triggered the idea for this post. Facebook is a goldmine for blog ideas. Oh, yes indeed. I just need to figure out how to wrangle the posts I see into a blog. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. I’ve got lots of “starts” in my pile of drafts here on WordPress … some of them worthy of expounding upon, others not so much.

This one is definitely worthy, since balancing rocks is not unlike the precariousness of balancing everything in each of our lives. School, work, play, family, church … the list goes on (seemingly forever in my case). Knowing which is most important—that would be your foundation stone, so to speak—and then balancing all the other stones above it to keep the harmony. Definitely a challenge. But I do know what my foundation stone is. Church—well, God to be more specific. I try to revolve my life around Him (oh, I’m not so successful at times, but I do keep trying). When I do, things balance nicely—no matter how many things I’m juggling. If things begin to topple, somehow it manages to right itself—if I’m keeping Him in the center. When I don’t (and it’s only natural to stray now and then—we’re not perfect, after all) … well, let’s just say I certainly know it. I always get back on the path, leaning on Him for guidance, wisdom … and so much more, which keeps me centered, calm … and joyful. There may be storms, but I know I’ll make it through to the other side … one way or another.

So, let me ask you—what is your foundation stone in this crazy world of ours? Are you trying to “get through it all” by yourself, do you have a village of friends to help you, or do you lean on a higher power to guide you through your day? I would love to hear from you.

May you be blessed abundantly with joy, strength and wisdom.

 

 

 

Reflections of a different sort

I’M A SUCKER FOR ANYTHING in nature reflecting back in a body of water, or in any reflective surface for that matter! Makes me melt for some reason. The momentary capture of such magnificence … a camera can capture the technical aspect, but there’s more … and it’s hard to explain.

There are other kinds of reflections … the obvious one is of mental images and thoughts. That’s another kettle of fish, isn’t it? So much can be gained from this kind of reflection. Looking back. Evaluating. I’ve had an opportunity to do a little of this in the past few months. No, actually, lots! (Insert severe eye roll here … teehee).

So much has happened to me—and to the world around me in the last four-ish months. I grumble at how slow the healing process seems to be (it isn’t really … just feels that way). Then I look at the absolutely insane craziness of politics, the injustices occurring with our military personnel, in our Native American and  the African-American communities throughout the United States, … I’m sure you are aware of it all. It makes me take a closer look at the depth—and insignificance—of my own problems. Yes, I’m having issues … but compared with what’s happening with friends and their friends, and in the world—it’s nothing. And I am slowly improving. I need to keep reminding myself of this. This is my reflection. Healing, focus is returning … I’m nearly back to normal and I thank God for what I do have.

As I begin to write this … early in the week, I look ahead at my own crazy week. By the time I post this, I’ll be half-way across the country preparing for what will hopefully be a very fruitful trip; meeting new people, perhaps purchasing new books and scoping out potential new venues (aka: bookstores) for my books.

Much has been invested into this trip. Time, money … energy. I’ve probably put far more into this than I will see back. At least in the immediately future. I keep reminding myself I am doing this because I love writing—not for money. I’ve spent a lot of brain cells, sleepless nights, worry … and energy to get my series where it is. And I am hoping that this will be another step forward in presenting my story to the world at large. It’s all very exciting.

I’ve definitely stepped out of my comfort zone—all my book signings to date have been no more than an hour from my home base. This is a huge leap for me. I’m in the heartland of our country. A whole new world for me. Reflecting back on when I started this little endeavor—so many years ago, I never imagined it would get this far. It was just a nice little story that wouldn’t leave me alone. It needed to be written down … and the story still begs to be written, just not as urgently at the moment (that’s the focus issue … but as I’ve said, that’s improving). I look forward to the day when I start complaining of lack of sleep because my characters won’t leave me alone.

I’m thrilled that people enjoy my story. Most writers wonder whether their book (and all the angst that goes into writing it) is worth the effort. I know I speak for many writers when I say that it’s delightful to be validated with sales and positive feedback from readers (a heartfelt thank you! to those who have purchased one or more of my books).

Writers—as well as artists—have this critic sitting inside their head … your work is lamewhy bothernobody’s going to get what you’re trying to say … it can be very frustrating. Reviews are great—not only to inform other readers (an excellent tool!) of how good the book you just read is, but also to validate your favourite writer and keep them writing. Believe me—they do read every single review. Some they lament over, but most help bolster their will to keep writing—to go on to publish for the public.

For me, I look back at where I started … and where I’ve landed and am happy with what I see. The learning curve was steep (sometimes I think it still is—insert severe eye roll here) but it’s been a fun ride and I know it will continue to be so.

What this all boils down to is … my past love of writing has brought me to this:  a weekend where I get to rub elbows with a bunch of cool authors—both Inknbean Press authors and others—and meet other book press representatives … and who knows what else. It will be a new experience—and if you’ve been following my blog, you know I love new experiences.

Until next week, have a blessed week … no matter what happens.

If you’re in the area: Mid-South Book Festival
Playhouse on the Square, Memphis Tennessee.
Saturday, 11 September … rain or shine! Come on down!

Aaah, Well … Photo Journaling

IT’S NOT THAT I FORGOT … well, maybe for a couple of days, but “It” is upon me—Blog Day … and I’m nowhere near finished with any of the ones I’ve started. So, today will be a photo blog day—a photo journal, if you will. Pictures I’ve taken over the last week or so, documenting what’s going on around me.

I’ve plenty to choose from. I nearly died when I saw how many (nearly 1300!!) I had on my iPhone that needed to be off-loaded onto my Photo Drive. Yup, I’ve got one external drive almost exclusively dedicated to my photos. Dangerous, I know. At least my phone is functioning faster now … lol.

So without further stalling … here we go with my photo

Fresh Produce

Fresh produce at our local farmers market in Monterey

WestEnd Celebration

Part of Open Ground Studio’s booth (and my books) at the annual WestEnd Celebration in Sand City

journal of the last few weeks:

Greens at the Farmers Market

Love the fresh veggies here!

Reductive Wood Cut

Alyssa Endo working on her current project at WestEnd Celebration

Demos & Creativity

OGS had demos all weekend long of the different things available at the studio

Photopolymer Printing Demo

Susie showing the print she just pulled from the press

Gearing Up for Alzheimer's Walk

Very soon (24Sept) I’ll be walking in Aptos for the Alzheimers Association, to bring awareness to the disease and to help raise funds.

My Goofy Sebastian

Always entertaining—Sebastian plays (very noisily) every night … just as I’m trying to get to sleep (of course)!

Sunrise in the Dale

One morning I actually was up early enough to catch the sun before it was visible!

A Visitor

It’s not often a mallard duck (or any animal) comes to take a look into Open Ground Studios …

Preparations for an Opening

Alyssa Endo loves to create geisha images. Her opening on 9September will showcase her beautiful woodcut prints of various geisha images she has created over the years.

Sunsets Make Me Smile

Actually captured a sunset recently … which really made me smile!

More Sunset ...

Another view of the same sunset

Gardening at OGS

Gardening at Open Ground Studios … making it pretty for Alyssa’s opening!

Whether it’s going to a farmers market, playing or working at Open Ground Studios or events, I always find time to do things that are dear to me … like getting ready for a walk on 24September to bring awareness to Alzheimers … or enjoy time with my critters … or watching the sun set—or on occasion, actually see it rise.

There’s plenty to do to keep me busy. These shots are only a very few of the ones I’ve taken in the recent past. Perhaps, someday I’ll even get a chance to get them onto my Flickr account and you’ll be able to see them all …

Until then, enjoy this little window into my life and have a wonderful Friday and Labor Day weekend!

Blessings to you all …

There's even a place to sit!

There’s even a place to sit!

A Selfie

Snort … never been very good at this sort of thing …

Designs In Nature

Discoveries while cutting up cabbage for a meal—design is beautiful, don’t you thing?

Patience, Please …

WAITING. I’VE NEVER BEEN good at that, even though (until recently) I’ve thought myself to be a pretty darn laid back, relaxed person. Patience is one of the Fruit of the Spirit. As my daughter went through all her various growing phases, patience reined (well, mostly). Thank God for the abundance of patience given to me to get through those times. I think I’ve mentioned her lolly-gagging through meals … and our desires for her to hurry-up, right? And her response back to us? “I’m savouring it, Mom … I’m savouring it!” Lesson learned (at least for awhile …)—from a five year old.

But lately, my patience seems to have grown thin … even a wee bit moth eaten, with holes everywhere, allowing my impatience to flow through. Waiting on my slow internet connection … pages open so painfully slow.

Sitting, waiting in a doctor’s office. Waiting for my car to get fixed. Waiting. Waiting for doctor’s offices to return calls … or get authorisation to set up procedures. Life is definitely a waiting game, that’s for sure. It’s what you do with that waiting, right?

I’m not sure why I’m becoming so impatient. Impatience, coupled with frustration, may be my downfall. Doctors have become so specialised, so narrow-minded in their scope of care. I know the insurance industry has a lot to do with it. Sitting, waiting for my eye doctor’s staff to call me in, I’ve been ruminating on the fact that they (at least this office) will no longer do an eye exam (for glasses) in conjunction with an exam to check for eye disease. Apparently it’s not allowed (so they say) by insurance. I have to make two separate appointments. Or be thinking ahead enough to schedule the two together. That may be the reason I left them five years ago. Hmm. The doc I was going to in the interim uses numbing eye drops—which I seem to react badly to—to do the pressure test (to check for glacoma). At this office, they use a machine that puffs air on the eye, so the numbing meds aren’t necessary. The dilation medicine does sting a bit, but that’s no big deal.

… And then there are the patients that should be in hospital for just a wee bit longer. I’ve heard horror stories of patients having out-patient surgeries (like a hysterectomy)—that used to be done in-patient—and released after an overnight stay … where it used to be a minimum of three to five days. Insurance companies, not doctors, rule the roost these days. And we all must wait for them. Sigh.

It’s been well over a week and I have yet to hear back about a procedure that used to only take a day or two to get authorised and scheduled. Another procedure, I’ve been waiting for three days. It’s all about hurry up and wait. And I guess I’m just tired of waiting. I’m an action kinda gal. A get-it-done kinda gal. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m an oh-my-gosh-…-hurry-up-so-can-get-it-on-my-calendar-already kinda gal. So all of this waiting is driving me up a wall. To say the very least.

All of that said, I find that trying to rush, scurry and push things into happening usually causes more stress than necessary, so I’m trying to breathe … breathe slowly, smile and enjoy the quiet time forced on me as I wait. Key word is “trying” … My daughter’s concept of savouring—savouring time is a sound one … and one I should fully embrace. I’m trying. I believe in enjoying life, honest. It’s just that there are bouts of impatience that get the better of me …

Breathe … stop and smell the roses … chill … relax. Yup. I definitely need to slow down (as I keep glancing at the clock—I don’t want to be late for a doctor’s appointment!).

Have a blessed day and weekend, folks! Until next Friday … peace be with you!

Life’s Stages

SOMETIMES I FIND MYSELF STUMBLING through life, taking falls, picking myself up, dusting myself off and plodding forward, hoping to make it to the end of the day in one piece. Other times, it’s as if the seas part—there’s not one obstacle in my path and I’m almost flying … with exuberant joy through the day.

As a young adult, I must confess, I was pretty myopic. Very unaware of anything that didn’t directly impact me. Completely naive of the terrors in the world, seeing only the good in everyone. A flower child if there ever was one, wearing rose-coloured glasses.

I’d like to say that I’ve held on to that glass-half-full optimism about most people and the rose-coloured glasses aren’t too far out of reach, but some skepticism has crept in, bit by bit as I’ve gotten older. Thankfully, still not bad, though.

Even as I aged (gracefully, I hope), I still found most people could be trusted and I’d willingly give my all to support them, whether friends, strangers or employers. I’m glad that helping others seems to come naturally. Doing what needs to be done. And I love doin’ it—even now. I’m not driven like some (who I admire for the fire in their hearts), but I will not waiver from the standards set by my parents. No compromising. No cutting corners. And if I promise to do something, my word is my bond. It will happen—unless I’m on my deathbed … it will happen (as long as I remember that I’ve made the commitment—I’ve taken to writing them into my calendar so I won’t forget!). There have been times that I wonder what on earth I was thinking, but since I said I’d do it, well … I did it—no backing out.

I don’t think that will ever change, no matter how old I get—at least, I certainly hope not. Things happen slower these days—that makes me laugh.  Yup … I’ve slowed down. A lot. Still getting things done … just a whole lot slower. Maybe a little too slow for some people, but that’s okay.

To steal a saying my daughter “coined” when she was just five (when we were pushing her to finish her food—she was such a slow eater … sniggle) … “I’m savouring it”, she’d say (where on earth does a five year old come up with a response like that?? LOL). I’m savouring it. Yes, indeed. I am savouring life with all its intricacies, ups and downs … and surprises. Serendipity at its best.

So I’m slower. That’s okay. It allows me to take more in. To savour everything I see. To stop and “smell the roses” …

Have you ever zoomed down the road, completely unaware of the things happening along the road side? Well, perhaps it’s time to slow down, take a look now and then to see just what is happening around you. Yup. To quote one of my favourite songs … “slow down, you’re movin’ to fast—gotta make the mornin’ last. Just kicking down the cobble stone …” (insert dreamy-eyed smile … yeah, love this song!) …

 

Hmmm. This is sounds vaguely familiar. Well, I’m not even going to check to see if I’ve already done a blog on this. Just enjoy my thoughts … and find the time to slow down. It will be worth your while. Believe me …

And, as I write this, I’m thinking ahead to the end of this month and into next month—life is going to get really busy, so I need to take my own advice and figure out how to keep chilled as I zip through my activities! WestEnd Celebration in Sand City CA 26-28 August (I’ve only committed to the 27th and will have my art and books there), then gear up for The trip to Memphis Tennessee for the Mid-South BookFest 9-11 September (I’ll be there with other authors from Inknbeans Press—it will be lovely to meet them all!), a women’s retreat (much needed personal time), Alzheimer’s Walk in Aptos CA on 24 September—something I try to do every year in memory of my dad … then October begins super craziness. Won’t even go into that. Yes. I need to make sure I slow down and smell the roses along the way through the remainder of August and all of September!

May your weekend and the upcoming week find you taking time to enjoy life, finding serendipity in your life. Peace to all of you.

 

 

Respite

I’VE FOUND THE INTERNET a little on the dismal side these days … what with the Great Debate about who to vote for (with all the mudslinging), the gender bashing, the violence … you name it, it’s happening. Way over the top. And I’ve grown very tired of it.

So, I’m going to avoid all of that. I don’t need that in my life right now. I’m trying to get my head wrapped around words. Words I’ve written that need editing. And images. I need to get my head wrapped around images I’ve photographed. Images that need to become works of art. Lots of things are waiting for that to happen.

But until I can do that—and there is a glimmer of hope that I’ll be back to doing all that very soon—I decided to go for a walk on Wednesday and take snapshots of pretty things along the way. So this blog is about that — walking, enjoying, taking a moment to stop and smell the flowers—even if only as an catchphrase …

I haven’t done much walking since my surgery. I’ve been reluctant, mostly because of the exhaustion I’ve experienced after little forays into life. So, when I knew my neighbor was not going to be available to take me over to pick up my truck after it was services … well, I was a wee bit anxious about making the jaunt over on foot. I’d done it before. Many times. No big deal—but I’d also been taking two-plus mile walks on a regular basis. I haven’t done that in three-plus months. That’s a long time for muscles to atrophy, right?

So, I started out—deciding that I’d take my time, use the Starbucks as a way station on the way over (if necessary) to recoup some energy. And, along the way, search for flowers to take picture of—forgetting that we are in the midst of summer … and a drought, so there were very few flowers. Weeds, yes. Garden-variety flowers, not so much. But that’s okay. The tenacity and vibrance of “weed” flowers was welcoming. They are so delicate — yet, manage to survive where to manicured flowers fail. I didn’t take a shot of mustard — not entirely sure why, but I did get the dainty

Horseradish Flower

It’s seen better days … but still, it is a pretty little thing.

horseradish bloom. And dandelion.

Dandelion

Lots of these along the way …

And quite a few others. I did find a few flowering garden plants up at the shopping center … and the rock rose planted along the overpass section.

Lily of the Nile

Can’t grow these in the yard … the deer love them.

More Dandelions

Dandelions … can’t tell if they are the same, just different stages. Hmm…

The wild roses were past their prime, so I skipped them. I can never remember the name of the sturdy — and very tall — bush with yellow

Yellow ... Very Yellow

Don’t know why I can’t remember it’s name!

flowers, but it catches my eye every time I make this walk.

By the time I made it to the mechanic’s shop, I was revitalises — Rock Roseyet exhausted –from my walk. Kind of an odd combination, don’t you think? I think the fatigue won in the end. I paid for the servicing of my truck and melted into the drivers seat to recover a bit before driving home.

Diedes at the Shopping Center

Different from what grows in my garden—like mine better …

Home. And a nap.

Now, I am thinking about my story … a first glimmer of hope for the story to come alive in my mind, once again. This is a good thing.

That was on Wednesday. Thursday was to be another wanderlust day to grab more photos, but the weather and our raging forest fire rained on my parade. The fog locked in all the smoke below the marine layer and they were saying the parts per million was upwards to 500—100-300 is unsafe for us folks to be in—as far north as Santa Cruz … so, needless to say, after a mandatory doctor’s appointment, I beat a quick retreat to my safe haven of locked doors and windows at home. The smoke still filtered in a little. Today was much better, so I did some errands that I couldn’t do yesterday, driving up Hwy 68 to get back home. I’d forgotten that the fire departments had taken over Toro Park as a staging area for the Big Sur area Soberantes Fire (this is a huge fire—well over 65,000 acres and only 55+/-% contained) … and all along the road were placards, cardboard signs and fancy plastic printed signs the size of a car, all saying thank you to the firefighters. From Monterey, all the way into Salinas. Their number increased, the closer to Toro Park I got. The shear volume peppering the side of the roadway made this humble soul tear up with each sign I saw. “Thank you”. “We love you”. “You are heroes”. “We love you, firefighters” … I would love to share some of the photos of the fire—they are terrifyingly beautiful … but they are easy enough to Google. I don’t think I could have pulled over to get even one of the thank you signs, as traffic and my blurred vision (from tears) hindered me enough.

But this. This outpouring of love is what I absolutely love to see. Nature is always beautiful … but to see the magnitude of love and care put into these signs—fills my heart with joy. It truly made my day.

There is a good side to humanity. It’s a pity it takes such tragic events for it to shine so brightly. Need I say more …?

Let me wish you an amazing weekend … and a blessed week ahead. Now, I’m going to go see the newest remake of Pete’s Dragon (came out today!)


 

Adjusting to Life—day by day …

I AM OVER TWO MONTHS POST-OP (wheeeee!) … I know this is an odd thing to be writing about, but it is a very real part of who I am at present.

For most of those two months, I’ve been relatively pain-free … which, for me is quite phenomenal. And deliciously delightful. At first, I didn’t realise it was the “cocktail” given to me during the operation that created this euphoric, pain-free state. For two months! Two. Whole. Months. Even with the burdensome restrictions—which have been a thorn in my side—it’s been a heavenly wonder. At first, I was waiting for the spasms to hit me … but when then didn’t, I started to embrace this new feeling. One I haven’t had in … oh … such a very, very long time. And, hoped that it was permanent (my neurosurgeon said he couldn’t take credit for me being pain-free, but wouldn’t say anything more).

Now … the pain is beginning to return. The problem is, my “pain memory” appears to be zero. The reset button on my pain tolerance appears to have been pressed … so, I’m feeling rather “wussy” as it re-establishes itself. Ugh. Once I figured out the why (none of my docs were willing to tell me anything—I had to figure it out myself)—medications given during surgery relaxed my body so profoundly that it appears things stopped causing undue pressure—I wondered if I could get this miracle “medicinal cocktail” quarterly, to keep me pain free … but those obnoxious restrictions would probably apply also. If I was an under-active individual, I guess it would be fine. But I’m far from that. I’m fiercely independent and very active (some would say overly so) … so these restrictions would be stifling to the point that I’d eventually do my body injury … (they are stifling, but because it is a temporary thing, I’m doing my best to be a good girl—minding my P’s and Q’s … so I can get back to normal life).

My body is beginning to wake up as I become more active—random muscle spasms (none that are painful … yet) that noticeably yank at muscles and occasional sharp, momentary twinges of pain were the first things to knock on my “door”. Such weird sensations. Little aches and pains—nothing serious. But with each new day, more harbingers of “the old days” appear to be settling in, hanging around rather than simply playing tag and dashing off. If it progresses slowly, I think I’ll be able to re-establish my wonderfully high pain tolerance, but if the floodgates open, I’m going to be one wussy gal. Maybe the doc knew something I didn’t when he gave me such a large number of pain pills … (I hope not). So I’m praying for a slow—very, very slow—progression of pain.

Another issue I’m having (as I work on trying to maintain a stream of thought to get this written …) is an increase in my memory deficit. A medication I shouldn’t have was given to me post-op, whilst still in the hospital. Snort. I think I mentioned it before, right? Sigh—I can’t remember … that, I think, is harder on me than relearning how to deal with the pain. Well, maybe. Perhaps they are close to equal. The good news is, my memory will slowly—very slowly—improve. Eventually (we’re talking years, folks). So, my friends, if I repeat myself, please forgive me … please. If I’m slow to get my next book done—please forgive me (I’m nearly in tears about this). This delay not only means you don’t get the next story in a timely fashion, but it delays me transferring my first and second book in the series to Inknbeans Press. And it delays my working on an anthology of short stories … and—you can see the domino-effect in play here … right?

Memory will improve but, the pain will inevitably (but hopefully gradually) increase. Back to what it was before. Sigh. That’s life …

And in life, things must go on. In one weeks time, set-up for the Monterey Scottish Games begins. I have a helper—bless her—who has offered to do all my heavy work as Michelle and I prepare our clan tent for the weekend event. At the end of August I’ll be able to not only sell books at the WestEnd Celebration in Sand City, but my art also—which means I need to crack my own whip and get ready for that. A week later, I plan on driving back to Tennessee for the Mid-South Book Fair (then fly home—or maybe I’ll fly both ways … don’t know yet). I’ll finally get to meet up with some author friends I’ve met through Facebook and Inknbeans Press—I’m excited about that. Plus, I’ll finally have put my books out there beyond my little corner of the world. That makes me happy!

… And then, life gets really crazy through the holidays with book signings—all local, from Salinas to Watsonville to Gilroy and Monterey. I look forward to all of it—with mixed feelings. My energy will be back by then, but what about the other stuff …?

My next post-op visit to the doctor (mid August) will include x-rays to see how my neck is healing. I look forward to that visit, as I will—hopefully—get the weight restrictions lifted … or at least improved so I can actually begin doing productive things around the house and in my “work” life. I’ve been a “good girl” so things should be just fine (insert huge grin).

So, on with life … one day at a time, as I readjust to the new me with all that it entails.

May your life be blessed serendipitously …