Autumn Approaches

(This was last week’s post, but technical issues kept me from posting it. Sorry—djs)

Mmmm … AS EACH MORNING DAWNS, the chill in the air becomes more evident. I revel in the coolness that wraps around me. Even when the days intermittently manage to heat up beyond my comfort levels, and the nights have me wishing I had air conditioning, I know.

I know that the early hours of the new day will bring a cool, crispness to the air, preparing me for the deliciousness that is Fall. And, with this change in the season—which, to my dismay, is not nearly as noticeable on the Central Coast—comes the changing of the leaf colours then the dropping of leaves on the trees revealing a lovely scaffolding of dark branches against the sky.

As I wait in anticipation, the weather flip-flops back and forth between mild and barely tolerable, making predicting the weather a challenge. What to wear? Well, on the Central Coast, it’s easy—layers. It’s a safe bet that they will be shed, then most likely re-layered as the day progresses to evening, but it’s always the best way to plan in our little “Camelot”. The flip-flop weather (as I like to call it) always puts a smile on my face. Then, the mid-to late September and October are the hottest months—off and on, with Autumn and Indian Summer in full swing. This weather is not my favourite, but the knowledge that it is the harbinger to cooler (and hopefully wetter) weather gives me hope.

It’s an exciting (and very busy) time of the year for me, though I’m thinking this year may be a little crazier than most. On top of my normal preparation for book signing and/or art events, I’m scrambling to get books edited and preparing them for publishing; creating art for the book covers; climbing that steep learning curve on publishing … and, in addition, creating some new art and cards to sell. And everything has a deadline … oh, joy <as she rolls her eyes> Well, I mostly say that in jest. It really isn’t all that bad. Just a lot on my plate to contemplate at the moment.

I did have a “respite”—or sorts—from this craziness. For weeks I was dashing about to be ready for my trip to St. Louis for the wedding. I knew it would be hot. But, I’d forgotten just how hot (and humid) it could be. The melty-wish-you-were-in-a-refrigerator kind of hot. A sticky mess kind of hot. I’m so glad it was only for four days. I’m not sure I could take more. I was ready to kiss the ground when I returned home to our blessed climate. I did manage Water Lilies, Bobbing Glass Sculptures and Blooms

Sculptures at Missouri Botanical Gardento get some amazing shots of

Water Lilies

Reflections and Pond Lilies  their botanical garden, zoo and miscellaneous items, plus had a delightful time visiting with relatives as we celebrated Elephant statue at entrance to St. Louis Zoothe wedding of my niece and her sweetie (a very nice fellow—and he loves dogs, which makes him perfect <grin>). So, despite the weather, it was a fun and fulfilling trip.

I returned home, fully intending to dive into the editing/publishing bit … but I’ve Waterfall at St. Louis Zoobeen sidetracked, trying to get an estimate on my four-wheeled baby—a semi “kissed” my bumper (a slow-motion kind of affair, so I’m fine) at a Butterflies at the St. Louis Zoo!stoplight. The bumper needs replacing. Oh, bother! At least it’s “minor”—no frame damage, thank God! That’s a very good thing. And, the fact I need to have work done on the car prompted me to think I may get the damage my ladder inflicted Hole in bumperupon it fixed while I’m at it (that damage, of course, I get to pay for …) so when it’s all said and done, my little baby will be beautiful again. Hmmm … now, what about the old cracked leather seats—nope. Those will stay as is <giggle> for now.

Appointment has been scheduled (end of the month) and now I can concentrate on my creative-side activities. Books, art … yup, here I come! Diving in head-first with abandon to keep my mind off of other things.

Enjoy the photos, have a blessed weekend and week to come and I’ll see you next Friday! Cheers!


 

Personal Connections

“CHECKING OUT” FOR A WEEK has done wonders for my creativity. Shedding responsibilities for the short term is great! I’m feeling far more relaxed — it was delightful to see family members that I haven’t seen since the last major family “events”. Way too long between visits, that’s for sure. It’s sad that—for our family, at least—it takes a big event to get family together.

Staying connected on a personal level (not the electronic kind—that’s another thing altogether … grumble) is such an important aspect of family—at least, that’s my feeling. In this day and age, it’s getting harder and harder to do that. With our family—my parents and all of the kidlets (including me), it always seemed to be an issue. Dad’s work took him away from his family (business trips) and extended family—parents, brothers and sisters, and many cousins due to his many transfers as he climbed the corporate ladder. There were plenty of transfers, taking us mostly to different parts of California, but one biggie—my dad’s last business transfer—took us to the Midwest. While we lived in California, we would make “pilgrimages” three to four times annually: New Years in Pasadena (for the Rose Bowl Parade and family time (mostly the “male population” watching football on the tv, the kids playing and the wives … doing what wives did back then ), Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas in his home town, where all the families would “migrate” to celebrate the holidays together. Once we lived out of state, these pilgrimages ended (or at least happened far less frequently)—costs became prohibitive to travel so far with a large family.

By the time my grandparents passed away, many of the grandkids had grown up and moved away … and the coming together as one very large family gathering slowly died out. Individual families celebrated with their own children and grandchildren—possibly even a few of their brothers’ and sisters’ families. Our family was no different—but our together-time became less structured as time went by. We scattered to the four corners of the States—no different that my cousins, but they somehow managed to keep a tighter, closer relationship with their siblings—and for us, visiting became insurmountable by most of the family members. Even funeral and wedding events were a hardship, so our family unit became even more fractured. I mourned with each degree of separation because I love my brothers and their families so much and cherish our times together—yet … even I found myself unable to justify a two day trip across the country—both financial and time-wise.

When my parents moved back to my dad’s hometown, he and his siblings tried to resurrect the tradition in the form of a progressive dinner or alternating the hosting family. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a roaring success.

Since then, there have been two large family reunions—and everyone loved them, but they were labour-intensive (especially the first one, since it ended up being a combination reunion/memorial—sadly, my aunt, the “grand-organiser” of the event, passed away shortly before the reunion!), so there’s been quite a gap between them. I love and admire my cousins for stepping up and taking the challenge on! It was definitely a team effort on their part—God bless them!!

So, any “reunion” I manage to attend (whether filled with sorrow or joy) is very sweet, indeed—no matter the size, no matter which family members are able to attend. I cherish the family time. My niece’s wedding was no exception. Though only one of my siblings from the west coast plus my daughter, her husband and yours truly were able to fly in, it was wonderful to see my younger brothers and one set of nephews—and the bride, of course. She was absolutely radiant—and not flustered one iota by any hiccup that came her way. Cool as a cucumber, as the saying goes! After the wedding, she and her hubby could relax and began their new life together by celebrating with friends and extended family. Lots of family! It was delightful to be introduced to the new branch of our family tree—trying to remember everyone I met is another thing entirely, but they have been forewarned of my forgetfulness … it was wonderful.

Both of my younger brothers are wanting to close the gap between visits—I want to renew my commitment to put a priority on family and extended family. I keep promising to visit, but time, prior commitments and/or finances hold me back. I need to find a way to create some dedicated family time. Now … to figure out how to manage that with upcoming book signings and the frenzy to republish my books with my brand-new publishing company.

It will be quite the balancing act. Oh, I do love a challenge—at least, that’s what I keep saying.

Memories …

MEMORIES CAN BE GOOD … OR THEY CAN BE ones we don’t particularly want to remember because they are so terribly wrong and/or bad. But, no matter what memories there are in our lives, they are what makes us who we are, whether we like it or not.

Last Friday, I was trying to get my head into the “blog space” of getting my current one finished when my mind flooded — literally flooded with memories. What brought it on? The simple act of slicing up an orange. Oh, so many memories. It was like the domino-effect of one memory on top of another, cascading in my mind. Good memories, mostly, but some sad memories came too. Because, that’s life. The memories centered around my dad. As he climbed the business ladder as a chemical engineer into management, he managed to keep our lives rich in family things, like simple meals: sliced oranges (yup, remember, this was the trigger) with powered sugar, usually followed by eggs and bacon, or cornmeal mush, and fresh squeezed orange juice with our breakfast. Or there were the family vacations he was able to squeeze into his busy schedule: camping trips to the Sierras, to Trinity, Twin and June Lakes areas, to Tuolomne Meadows (my personal favorite destination); a trip up into Oregon and another time through Four Corners and the desert and mountain states … the list goes on. I caught my first fish (later — much later — I was told they’d just stocked the lake … sigh) on one of those trips; watched my dad as he floated a the highly saline June Lake, spouting water like a whale … all fond memories.

But, I also remember taking care of him as he slowly and painfully lost his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. The agony he (repeatedly) went through when he found out mom died (how does one deal with this while you yourself are trying to deal with it??). I finally stopped telling him when he’d ask. I couldn’t stand seeing the fresh pain that stabbed him in the heart each and every time he heard of her death; discovering he felt abandoned — he thought his mother had deserted him (she died from an illness when he was very young and he said no one ever told him — not sure this is true, but not important … he did feel abandoned) and trying to help him understand that. Falling then being stuck in a wheel chair as his fractured hip healed, he could not understanding why he couldn’t get up and walk around like he used to … and calling me his wife — I learned to constantly give him verbal clues (“Daddy”) to help keep it straight in him mind what my role in his life should be. Other things like his wandering off — scaring me half to death when I found out he’d somehow managed to get across the freeway with his dog to buy a leash; his time in the hospital with “good-intentioned” doctors and staff that didn’t know how to handle him (wanting to restrain him!) — or properly medicate him when medications he’d been taking ulcerated his stomach. These are part of the sad memories of my dad, but each experience (and how I handled them) has helped shape who I am.

I am a better person for having encountered each experience:  each has helped to shape how I respond to new experiences; how I handle encounters with people — of all sorts; how I live my life. Through them all, having a good foundation (thanks to my parents) — something to fall back onto when things get sketchy — is paramount. First and foremost, my dad was a stickler for attending church. We all grumbled (to varying degrees) about it, but we learned about God and what an awesome pillar of strength He could be if we allowed it. For that, I am forever thankful.

That one thing — having God to lean on — and each experience building upon the next helped me through the deaths of my parents and my husband … and through all the ups and downs in life.

I was too young when my first grandmother died — I don’t even remember being allowed to attend the funeral. When my grandfather (her husband) grew ill, I was not allowed to see him in the hospital, but when he died, It was felt I was apparently old enough to attend the grave-side burial services. All I remember is sitting in the back with my cousin, goofing around and giggling (and being shushed by my mom) — obviously not old enough for the proper decorum. With the death of my dad’s father, then mother, I was much older and the gravity of their deaths was felt deeply. As my aunts and uncles passed away (both before and after my parents and husband’s deaths, each one was a blow, but God helped ground me, helped get me through. And before his death, with each of my husband’s catastrophic illnesses, again, I remained calm (people kept commenting on it and I was beginning to wonder if I was not engaged with the gravity of the situation, but finally realized it was simply because I leaned on God for my strength — and that was a good thing). I was able to come through to the other side in one piece, at peace … and refreshed.

Repetition, life experiences and leaning on God. Yup. That pretty much sums up how we build our lives. Well, it’s how I formed mine, at least. And, it seems to be a good formula for me.

…And in light of the news from today: the loss of an icon, Leonard Nimoy … a all-time favorite of mine, that’s what I’ll be doing — definitely shedding tears, but mostly, praying for his family and friends and leaning on God

May your life be peppered with ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, creating the strong, vital character that is you. Hopefully you too have someone to lean on to make it through to the other side, in one piece and at peace.

The End Is Nigh

I AM ABSOLUTELY AMAZED at how smooth this month has gone.  Well, I mean to say, considering I’ve procrastinated like never before and there was a major holiday smack dab in the middle of it, I find that I am energized, full of ideas, have time to post quite a few blogs and still take the time to work on — and am almost at the completion point of, my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project.

That’s 50,000 words in 30 days…though I squandered nearly half of the month, writing a little here and there, blogging here and there, with life taking up the lion’s share of each day.  That is, until last week.  I have dishes stacked in the sink, laundry that needs to be done, my cat has to bat me about the face to get my attention and my dog simply sulks and the chickens just have no clue.

Oh, they all get fed, me included, but that’s about it.  I have occasionally changed the kitty litter — Sebastian has a rather unique way of reminding me.  When it “time”, I suddenly notice that there is so much litter on the floor surrounding the box, it makes me wonder if there is any left inside.  When I check, I realize I have, once again, been a bad kitty mom and do my duty…

My dishes are tilting rather precariously, so it is time, once again to don the gloves and scrub them up so I can return to using metal rather than plastic utensils.  The plates seem to be holding up well, but bowls are in short supply.  So, since I’m scrubbing, I’ll end up taking care of those too.  If there’s an earthquake before I get this job done, I won’t need to do dishes…they are all going to crash to the floor.  Then it’ll be broom-time.  Oh, dear.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Just so you know what it’s like when someone gets so focused on what they are doing that everything other than the focus item becomes inconsequential.  At least to a degree.

Do you have someone like that in your life?  Someone so focused, that you get left in the dust?

Thankfully, I was blessed with a fairly normal husband and daughter.  So was I…note the past tense.  I find I get much more focused on things nowadays.  But, then, it’s just me, so there’s nobody else in the house to complain.

I enjoy what I do so much, that I could spend hours upon hours working on a project, whether photography, printing artwork, or writing, and completely forget about eating, or taking medicine.  Thank God for the iPhone alarms…I have one set for doctor appointments and other important events in my life, for medication times — haven’t set one for meals, but that’s mostly because I take my medicines around meal times (makes it easier to remember).  But even with the alarms, if I’m in the middle of something, I either ignore the alarm (that’s 15 minutes of jangling in my ear) or get up, turn it off and go right back to whatever I was doing.  And forget about the alarm or what I was supposed to do when the alarm goes off.

So, I can see how someone can get completely consumed by something and forget things and people around them.  But, in my case, it’s not a big deal.  There is no family that I am ignoring.  Well, they are only animals, after all, right?  Even now, my NaNo project is calling to me.  It wants me to leave this ( “– just save it and come back to it,” it says) and return to the writing.

My “animals” are my family.  They need my attention, almost as much as my daughter did when she was a youngster.  Right now, they are getting the basics:  food, water, “good girl” or “good boy”, a few special treats and that’s it.  I know they should be getting more, but I also know that this ignoring them will be short lived, even if they don’t know it.  And, to keep the guilt away, I choose to dwell on that.

Well, I have a little over 4,000 words to write and a tad more than two days to meet the 50,000 word challenge that makes NaNoWriMo what it is, so my ramblings are done for now.

May you find that your focus is family and not things.   For family is where your heart should be.  Peace of the Season to all of you.