Books, Fairs and A Bit More …

OH, MY. A BUSY AND INTERESTING week with a new venue for Joyce Oroz and I. The Cesar Chavez Library’s Joyce Oroz and dj jameson smith's tableFirst Salinas Book Fair was a hit with the locals—mostly Hispanic, with the two of us sticking out like sore thumbs. All announcements were made bilingually; most of the authors spoke Spanish, and many of their books were written in Spanish. It took us very little time to realise it wasn’t exactly the best fit for us, but we made sure we had dj jameson smith at the First Salinas Book Fairfun and each of us did make a few sales. It was fun meeting many of the authors—and quite a few of them, including yours truly and Joyce, had to read from their books. Aaack! I’ve only done that once before—in front of a bunch of teens (tough audience). Well, I did okay … and Joyce did too. Reading a selected bit from the book gave the audience (aka: readers or parents of readers) a chance to hear what many of the books were like, then come to the booths and get more information … or better yet, make a purchase.

Now, Joyce and I have a bit of a respite from our books—well, at least I do. I’ll be taking some “personalOne Big Pile of Weeds To Go Please ... time” for the next two weekends. On the week days, I’m trying to fulfill CalFire’s requirements to make my property fire safe. I’m making progress … slowly. Weeds, dead trees and branches … ugh. I’m looking forward to my weekends—I’ve decided to pop over to Carmel Valley to check out (and probably purchase) a few glass pumpkins. I’ve found myself collecting them (insert eye-roll)—just what I need! They are so gorgeous—I want to buy, buy, buy—but they are also a little on the pricey side.

Anyway, not only am I doing that stroll amongst pumpkins, Tiger Lily and Peter Pan from Forest Theatre, Carmelbut I’m also going to see the play, Peter Pan, at the Forest Theatre—an outdoor theatre (a very cool theatre)—in Carmel with a friend and her kids. I know I’ll have fun—no matter what the weather (I always come prepared)!

The following weekend will be another double-header for me. On the calendar for ages is the Alzheimer’s Walk—the only one I’ll be able to attend will be held in Aptos at the Walk to End Alzheimerslovely Seascape Resort. Depending on how I feel, I’ll either walk the full 2-3 mile walk—which includes a bit of a walk on sand with Taiko drumerss at the turn-around point (love, love, love Taiko drums!!) or I might do the short circuit if I’m not feeling up to par. Either way I am going to have a wonderful time, walking for a cause that is near and dear to me. For those of you that don’t know, my dad had Alzheimer’s Disease. To find out more about this devastating disease, go to my personal page or to the Alzheimers.org page.

I did say it was a double-header, didn’t I? Well, after the walk, I’ll be jumping in my car and traveling up to Los Gatos for their annual Magical Glass Pumpkin Patch event (yes, My Glass Pumpkins Are Lonesome ...more glass pumpkins!). I’ve never been, but one of my friends brings home a number of exquisite pumpkins for me to choose from. I decided this year, I’d go there in person. I just hope the drive up will be enough to re-coup my energy, because I believe there will be plenty of walking involved!

Next week, I believe I’ll be giving you a sneak peek—snippets from two stories in my series: Book Four, Mischiefmaker and Book Five, Catalyst (working title). I’m all excited about these two books. It’s hard to edit my first book, knowing I’ve got the edit for book four waiting (I have been working on it, but bouncing back and forth between two edits makes my head spin) and book five wanting completion.

With that said, I do believe it’s time to say Belladonna Lily (Naked Lady)good-bye for the week … I’ll leave you with one last photo. A beautiful pink flower (Belladonna Lily—aka: Naked Lady). I wish you all a wonderful and blessed Friday and weekend. Enjoy!

 

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?

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.

 

 

Precious Memories …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walk to End Azheimers

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

Bless you!

Have a beautiful weekend, folks!