#288–The comfort factor . . .

During this pandemic with its prolonged confinement to home, comfort becomes a major factor. I was thinking through that which makes me comfortable, that which makes life livable, that which makes me happy. And here’s what I’ve come up with.

He patiently lets me pile his toys on his back. With a single shrug, he dislodges them without even opening his eyes.

My biggest comfort is my home. It’s where I’m totally comfortable. And Sir Groucho gives me companionship. Those two are my biggest comfort factors, and then my routines complete the picture. I thrive on routine.

And I love having an office where I can work, and a computer that I’ve pretty well figured out. When I have something to write in mind––with Sir Groucho on my lap––I can work for hours. My office is my cozy, comfy spot.

When I’m not zoned out in my office writing, here are the other comfort factors in my life.

Food

Whenever I travel, visiting family and friends or other places, I eat a lot of great and interesting and different foods. But when I get home, I am always happy to be back to the foods that work best for me. So here they are.

For breakfast, I alternate cold cereals and oatmeal, always with a half grapefruit, healthy greens juice, and decaf coffee.

I vary the fruits and veggies and the type of cheese.

For lunch I have a variety of veggies, fruits, and either crackers and cheese or Artisan bread and cheese.

For dinner, I have a dozen ways to cook chicken or I fix pork chops, pasta, grilled cheese or tuna sandwich. And from time to time, I fix soups, stews, or chili in my Crockpot. Fairly often, I’ll have a breakfast/dinner where I‘ll fix eggs or waffles or an omelet. I vary dinner much more than breakfast and lunch.

I love to go out to eat, but that hasn’t happened in a year. And even before the pandemic, it would only happen two or three times a month. So, just about all my meals are eaten at home. I love to eat, so the foods I choose to fix are my comfort food.

Radio

Everyday, I listen to the radio and only turn it off if I need to concentrate or go out in the yard.

KLCC out of Eugene, which is the local public radio source of NPR, is my go-to radio station. I listen every day. I turn it off, if I have to concentrate on something or if I’m working in the yard. And it’s also on my car radio. It provides me with news I can trust, and I would greatly miss it, if it was not available. So, it adds to my comfort.

When I get up early, I’ll be in a situation where KLCC starts to repeat. At that point, I shift to KCST to listen to the old-timers’ music. These are from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, and I sing along. Nostalgia can be very comforting!

TV shows

Why it’s my friends, McGee and Gibbs, from NCIS.

I only watch TV in the evening, and I look forward to it. Weekly shows provide familiar characters, and I feel like I know them. Some of my favorite shows are NCIS, Bluebloods, Magnum, Bull, FBI, All Rise. And for the past several years, I’ve been in daily contact with Judy Woodruff on PBS Nightly News. For decades, I’ve been in weekly contact with the news journalists of 60 Minutes. All these familiar folks provide comfort in the evening—especially during the pandemic when I’ve curtailed almost all social contacts.

Facebook

Strangely enough, Facebook brings comfort. I hear from friends I’ve known for decades that live far away. And I’m still in contact on Facebook with others I’ve known from work or lived in Florence that have moved on. And friends that live in Florence or Yachats or Coquille or Eugene that I see from time to time are also Facebook contacts. I love the fact that at any one time, friends from all periods of my life are looking at my blog teaser on Facebook that I post each Thursday. Seeing all those familiar names is very comforting.

That’s it! Sort of the totality of my life this past year. Lately, I’m venturing out more, so times they are a changing. But I will continue to enjoy the comforts of home.

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#287–Moments of joy . . .

I’m going to continue the theme of being positive and upbeat this week. During the pandemic I’m alone much of the time. I’ve missed meeting friends for lunch or dinner. And I haven’t had a real hug since my sister stayed with me last February. So, maybe these moments of joy are being felt more intensely by me than in normal times.

This Mourning Dove spent a couple hours on my upper deck. This was a first.

Unexpected encounters with birds

To me, birds are magical because they can fly. I am especially blown away by hummingbirds—the way they can fly backwards and stop in mid-air. Amazing!

The other day, I had cleaned and refilled the hummer feeder and was holding it in my hand before reaching up to hang it from its hook. A brilliantly colored and aggressive male Rufus Hummingbird was strafing my head and then took a break and sat on one of three perches on the feeder his tail brushing my hand. He promptly started feeding. I didn’t move. I didn’t want to break the spell. After a bit, he flew off but came back again and again. I stood there like a statue––mesmerized. This hummer was so close, so beautiful, so tiny.

This morning, I saw a Mourning Dove sitting on the railing of my upper deck. The dove sat there as if it were the most natural thing to do in the world. An hour later, the dove was still there. I see pairs of Mourning Doves regularly in the nearby trees but never before on the deck. I got my camera and took a bunch of photos. Then one of those aggressive Rufous started strafing the dove with an occasional mid-air stop to flare his tail. The dove seemed indifferent to the hummer. I was thrilled to be witness to this little drama.

Stretching yourself into creating something new is good for you and feels great.

The high of creating something new

It’s hard to explain, but when I finish creating something new, I get a real rush. This is true whether I’m working on a chapter of my book or a blog post. When I’ve written, revised, and tweaked to my heart’s content and feel it’s the best I can do, I feel great—better than any drug.

I found this was also true when I created my Haiku poems and my cards this past year. I hadn’t worked with Haiku in decades, and I had never created cards before. It’s exciting to stretch yourself and try something new. And when it works—it’s a real high, at least for me.

Certain foods create a zone of pure bliss

Warning! Do not disturb me when I’m eating my half grapefruit coated with a layer of sugar at breakfast time. I’m in the zone. Even though I eat a half grapefruit nearly every morning, the pleasure is there each time.

I go into a zone when consuming a chocolate soda.

I go into that same zone when I have a hot-fudge sundae. I had one the other day from Florence’s BJ’s Ice Cream. It was my reward for finishing all the edit for my book and getting it off to the publisher. It had been at least three years since my last sundae. I asked for extra hot fudge and extra nuts with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. And, of course, the whipped cream and cherry.  Oh, what a treat, what bliss. I enjoyed every bite.

I had the same reaction a couple of years ago when I went into Dewar’s Candy and Ice Cream in Bakersfield, California. It’s an old-fashioned soda fountain that I used to frequent when I was at Bakersfield College. Well, it’s still there. My sister, who lives in Bakersfield, and I went there a couple years ago when I was visiting. I ordered a chocolate soda, which also had whipped cream and a cherry. It was even better than I remembered. I went into the zone—yummy!

Soaking in my walk-in tub

Soaking in hot water in my walk-in tub is pure bliss.

I love the water jets and air jets but what I like best of all is just getting my neck and shoulders in the hot water and soaking. And it’s fun to almost disappear in the foam of bubbles created by the air jets when I add bubble bath. Then I sit up and read amongst the bubbles and hot water. It’s like playing hooky from any chores or responsibilities for an hour or so. It’s pure bliss.

Contact with far-away family and friends

Living in Oregon while my family and long-time friends live in California is hard. Any other year, I would’ve made two or three trips to California to see them. It’s what I’ve done every year since 2002. Well, my last trip to California was December 2019. I made none last year. Most years, I put about 12,000 miles on my car. In 2020, I put on less than 3,000. Not my normal year.

My sister and I at a Christmas party on my last trip to California in 2019.

So, when I receive an email or text or phone call from a far-away family member or friend, it really makes my day—makes my week! Each one, I cherish.

It’s these very diverse situations–––birdwatching, creating something new, zoning out while consuming favorite foods, the bliss of soaking in hot water, and hearing from special people in my life–– that are my moments of joy. And during the pandemic, these moments mean even more to me.

I wish you many moments of joy in 2021!

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#286–This is what makes me smile . . .

During the pandemic, during our isolation, during our loneliness, there is lot to not smile about. Now that I’ve had both my Covid-19 vaccine shots, had my new septic tank installed, and finished my tax prep and met with my tax man, I have reasons to smile. But there are smaller things that are a part of my life and make me smile on an ongoing basis. So, I decided it was time to do an upbeat post about what makes me smile.

A while back, I was sorting all the “free cards” I’ve received over the years from various charities and found hidden among them two cards given to me by my friend Theresa Baer many years ago that I thought I had lost. I don’t save all cards I get, but these were priceless. I was thrilled to have found them.

This Jetson look-alike tickles my funny bone.

One card is of a cat with a hat filled with fly-fishing flies, and he looks just like the cat I had at the time—Jetson. I had just returned from a trip, so this card let me know that Jetson had travel plans of his own.

I have to chuckle as well as smile. Love it!

The other is of a cat, obviously not happy, looking through the smoke of a fire that charred his cupcake. Look closely to see bits of flame still burning. The inside message is perfect: “Another year . . . Another blaze of glory! Happy Birthday!

At the moment, they sit on the dining room table, where I can enjoy them throughout the day.

In my walk-in closet is a poster showing a male lion in his most ferocious look trying to impress a female who looks totally disinterested. The caption really fits: “If the macho bit doesn’t work, try a little tenderness.” One year, during the years I was teaching first grade, the sixth-graders were selling posters. I couldn’t resist this one. And I’ve enjoyed it ever since, which has been about 45 years. Did I mention that when I like something, I keep it.

Good advice!

In 2015, I was selling my books during Rhody Days and my canopy was set up next to a young couple selling wind spinners. I bought one and put it on my upper deck where I could see it through a sliding glass door. It was the perfect place. I just loved it there . . . until it started hitting the sliding glass door when it got really windy. Then it started showing signs of corrosion. So, I brought it inside. I went all over the house and could find no place to put it. There was only one spot that would work, but I didn’t like it hanging there. So, I hung it on the back of the closet door in the bedroom. I didn’t like it hanging there, either.

My wind spinner in its new location.

After five years, I got tired of seeing it where it couldn’t spin and was hidden from sight. So, a few weeks ago, I got it out and hung it in the one possible spot. Since there’s no wind in the house, I have a motor that I turn on each morning that spins it continuously until I turn it off at night. I love watching it, and it always makes me smile. Although I would prefer it outside the sliding glass door on the upper deck, it didn’t work out there. It spins just fine in its new location. So, this is its new home

On the kitchen counter, I have a notepad from the Shannon Martin line of products. I like absolutely everything in that line of products but only buy my favorites. The notepad has a gal saying: “You probably didn’t recognize me without my cape.” And I also have a Shannon Martin refrigerator magnet that has a dour looking gal saying: “I can only please one person a day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.” I’m a Scorpio, and both of those just crack me up! I love ‘em.

We can all be “Super Woman” when we need to be.

This is my absolute favorite of the Shannon Martin products.

There is also another magnet on the refrigerator that always elicits a smile. This time, it’s not humor. It’s because it’s so sweet. I saw the original painting by Fernand Khnopff of Jeanne Kefer 1885 at the Getty Museum in California a few years ago, and everybody who saw it, stopped and smiled. When I saw the magnet for sale in the gift shop, I couldn’t resist. And whenever I see it on the fridge, I can’t resist smiling.

This little girl will make anyone smile.

And lastly, yesterday morning, when I was opening the drapes in the bedroom, I saw a brief but glorious sunrise. Of course, it made me smile. And I grabbed my camera before it faded.

Brief, but glorious, yesterday, Thursday, morning.

I hope there are moments or things in your life that make you smile. We need it––especially now.

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#285–Numbers, numbers, and more numbers . . .

I’m a word person––not a numbers person. That’s why the end of every quarter is a frustration because I have to put together my financial report for the quarter as well as the expense report for the quarter for my business. And the end of the year is even worse. Added to those other reports is the Annual Report for my business.

My five books on display at Backstreet Gallery.

My business is writing and selling books, and now cards, and editing other author’s books. I’m a one-woman show (aka sole proprietor). I do the writing, marketing, and delivery/shipping (aka fulfillment). I also do the bookkeeping, which is not my strong point.

The only reason I can handle the bookkeeping for my business is because my tax accountant, Steve Tollett, spent a lot of time explaining the why behind everything and the how to do it. I am forever grateful to him.   

The key to dealing with all these numbers successfully is saving receipts and invoices and keeping good records, which I do reasonably well. Not only is this good for all business purposes, but also for income taxes. I have one container to keep all income tax records, an accordion folder for business receipts, and I keep a daily log of my activities. So, every trip I take anywhere in my car is recorded.

My cards were such a delight to create during the lockdown last spring.

That way, I can figure my mileage for my business every quarter and figure volunteer and medical miles once a year for income taxes. I itemize to take advantage of every deduction. On December 31, I try to jot down my speedometer mileage, so I can figure my business mileage for the year. But I never remember to do the inventory of my books and cards at that time. I only remember when I’m preparing for my income taxes.

So, this afternoon, I’ll be in the garage counting all my books and cards. I’ve already counted the ones in the house and at Backstreet Gallery. Books that are sold in 2020, I don’t have to count––just account for. And I’m supposed to keep track of any books and cards given away as donations or gifts. AARRGGHH!

This week I’m totally surrounded by numbers. This past Monday, I did the Annual Report for my business––all two pages of it, and next week, I’ll do my financial report for the quarter and quarterly expense report. Between those, I’m doing my tax prep for the income taxes. Dealing with all these numbers is driving me nuts.

When I finished with my Annual Report, I had the hard data to backup what I already knew. My book writing/selling and editing business was down by 87% in 2020. Of the 50 to 60 places that order my books, only three did last year. I did zero PowerPoint presentations and participated in zero book fairs because of the mandate against large gatherings. And I chose not to participate in the Yachats Farmers Market. The restrictions there would’ve made it very hard to sell books. And I had no editing projects in 2020.

Fortunately, things are looking up this year. I’ve already edited two novels and there are more possibilities on the horizon. And I’ve had three books orders placed recently. I’ll send out reminders to all the other venues as soon as I dig out from all these numbers.

Sir Groucho, my helper in nearly everything I try to do in the house. And here he is supervising my tax prep.

Since Tuesday, I’ve been making my way through the income tax prep stuff. So far, I’ve got all the rental info ready to go. The accountant will figure the percentages to be applied.

Now, I’m marking down my personal into–sources of income and all the deductions, etc.

I leave the business part, which I consider the most difficult, to last. After the inventory, I can finish figuring my cost basis. Doesn’t that sound like fun? I hope to finish the business portion tomorrow.

I’ll be having someone different do my taxes this year because Steve, who’s been doing them for about 15 years, is retiring. I’ll be seeing someone he recommended. I gave him a call in February, and he wanted to see my 2019 return. So, I loaned it to him and will be meeting with him soon.

After my end of quarter reports due next week, I’ll be able to get back to my new book. I have only a few segments left to do. Best of all, I’ll be dealing with words! I can hardly wait!

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#284–Silly situations . . .

I’m not the world’s most graceful person, which is why I have a favorite T-shirt that says, “I do my own stunts but never intentionally.” This was never more true than the time, Sir Groucho’s tail got under my heel when I reached up to get something off the top shelf in the kitchen. When my heel came down on his tail, he yowled, which startled me and I fell, landing on my well-cushioned rear and then hitting my head on the cabinet—breaking it. I was able to get up and was all right except for a headache. For months, though, I suffered endless jokes about my hard-headedness. And the cabinet did need major repairs. It would’ve been a really silly situation to watch, but it also brought home to me just how easy it would be to seriously hurt yourself. So, I’m thinking about getting a LilfeAlert or something similar.

One of my favorite T-shirtss.

Speaking of graceful, have you ever toppled off a toilet? I almost did once. Whenever I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I’m sleepy. So, if I stay very long on the toilet, I start to nod off. Well, that happened one night, and the next thing I knew, my upper body was toppling sideways headed for the floor. I woke up mid-fall and caught myself with my hand. That jolted me awake. That would’ve been a hilarious silly situation to watch.

Sometimes, I don’t pay attention to which gadget I’ve picked up and do something really silly. More than once when the phone was sitting near the TV remote, I’d pick it up and wonder why the TV didn’t come on when I pushed the top button––until I actually looked at what I’d picked up.I really haven’t tried calling anybody on my TV remote––yet! But I wouldn’t bet against it!

How could I possibly confuse these two?

And when my landline is near the calculator when I’m balancing my checkbook or doing bills, I’ve been known to start crunching numbers on it without looking up. That only lasts for a second, before I say, “Silly me!”

Then there’s those “forgetful” silly situations. I find myself going out to the garage or basement to do a particular thing or to retrieve something really important. While I’m there, I think of one or two more reasons to be there and forget all about my original purpose––until, I’m back upstairs. I’m sure that happens to all of us.

I’m also forgetful regarding my glasses. I nearly always have them on, but occasionally I don’t. But I’ll still catch myself trying to adjust them, when I don’t even have them on.

When I’m on duty at Backstreet Gallery in the afternoon shift, it means I have to prepare and drop off the deposit at the bank on my way home. More than once, I’ve realized that I forgot to drop it off just as I reach my driveway. Automatic garage door opens and car pulls into driveway. Car backs out of driveway and garage door closes and car heads back to town. Neighbors must think I’m nuts. I know, I’m not the only one who has done this, but it’s one more of my silly situations.

During my last delivery to Books and More in Yachats, I almost forgot the books!

On my first day back as a clerk at the Gallery after it had been closed for a couple months, I was so proud of myself for remembering how to do everything––or so I thought. It took me until aImost closing time to realize that I’d forgotten the most important thing of all––to mark down in the sales log whose items were sold. Adding those up at the end of the month is how we get paid. So glad I remembered.

The other day, though, I got a little concerned about my memory, when I was going to Yachats to deliver some books and remembered everything, but the books. I had the invoice, and I got gas while I was in town. I had jotted down how many of each book was requested and had the list in hand. I had the pen to sign the books before putting them in the car. I had my jacket in case of rain. I had my camera in case of great waves. I was ready. I got in the car and thought that I better put the books in the nifty book container that I keep in the car. That’s when I realized, I didn’t have the damn books.

After soaking in the tub, the magazine with George Clooney’s photo will never be the same. Compare to the normal size.

I’ll end on my silliest of all. I was soaking in my walk-in tub and reading an article about George Clooney, when I couldn’t get two pages unstuck. Man, I really worked at it and finally, finally got them apart. By then, a fourth of the magazine was soaking wet. That one, I’ll blame on George.

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#283–Happiness is a new septic tank . . .

It all started last June when I had Wally’s Septic Tank Pumping come and pump out my septic tank. That is something I have done every five years or so. The good news, one of the young men doing the job said, is that it was easy to pump out. The bad news is that it’s collapsing on the uphill side. He said that the baffles were still working and that it could last 10 more years or totally collapse in 10 days. He recommended I do something about it. Hmm! Always something!

I had no idea what a new septic tank would cost. I went to Leasure Excavating and found out. It would be $9,500 and more if unforeseen problems occur. That was about twice what I thought it would cost. We signed a contract. And I pulled more money out of my inheritance. Then I waited. Quit using my walk-in tub because it takes a lot of water. And waited. Didn’t flush toilets every single time. And waited. Did laundry like once a month. Several months passed, and still I waited.

Every few weeks, I’d call Leasure Excavating and whine. I’d ask, how long do you think it’s going to be. The poor gal in the office, Christy, probably got really tired of hearing from me. She would commiserate and tell me that she would let her boss know that I called.

That’s how it went up through a few weeks ago when Carole, who rents my downstairs, had a plugged toilet. And we couldn’t unplug it with the plunger. My first thought was that the septic tank was failing. Of course, it was a Friday afternoon and no one was in the office at Leasure Excavating. I left a rather panicked message. Then I called my plumber who lives nearby. He was out, but when he got home, he called. He came and used a snake. He had it unplugged in less than five minutes. It was not the septic system. Whew! I felt as if I had dodged a bullet.

Before they got too far into the project, Wally’s Septic Tank Pumping came and emptied the old tank.

Maybe my panicked call moved me up on the list at Leasure Excavating. I don’t know. I do know that last Monday, instead of me calling to whine, Christy called me and said that they could probably put my septic tank in this week. I couldn’t believe it and had her repeat the message two more times.

Within an hour, there was a knock on the door. The fellow said that they wanted to check things out. I thought a walk around would be what they would do, but the large piece of equipment on a trailer parked in front of my house should have been a clue.

Within an hour, the piece of equipment that was on caterpillar tracks and was the kind where the cab and arm that had a claw attachment could turn all the way around without moving the tracks. It had plowed through my rugosa roses that I had already decided to replace because the deer had discovered them. Two plants had died and the others were no longer in good shape. They were no great loss, but the machine did a real number on my gravel area.

Before they really got started, Wally’s Septic Tank Pumping came and pumped out the old tank. I was told that we could use water in the house up until the actual connection. That would take half hour to an hour and they would let us know when not to use any water.

The machine made quick work of removing the salal.

I had a great view of the whole project from the balcony off my bedroom. There was a crew of four. One ran the machine and the others were poking around with long skinny prods. The machine plowed through tall salal, pulling it out and piling it up. It is quite a bank there where the septic tank is located. They found my flexible drainpipe and cut it and moved that section out of the way. But the top of the drainpipe would drain right in the area where the machine was working.

By 3 p.m., all the salal was out and the machine was sitting on a slope of dirt. That was how they left things Monday. It rained that night.

A new septic tank appeared in the lot next door on Tuesday morning.

The next morning, I asked how it was going. The guy running the machine said it was scary working on such a slope, and one of the others, said he dreamed of lots of water gushing out of the drainpipe creating problems. Fortunately, there wasn’t enough rain for that to happen.  

Looking for the distribution box.

Tuesday would be the big day. A brand-new septic tank had appeared in the lot next door. The hole would be dug and the septic tank installed before the day was over, they assured me.

Each time I took a peek, the hole got bigger and bigger. I asked how it was going and one fellow said that the old tank was going in the opposite direction of the drawing on the plans that they had. And they couldn’t find the distribution box. He was down in the hole with a shovel and clearly annoyed. He said that if they had put it in, there would be no problem!

The septic tankk makes its way across the gravel area in slow motion.

I kept my distance for awhile. Then the next time I took a peek, they were messing around at the far end of the hole. I asked if they had found what they were looking for, and they had. Whew!

Ever so gently, it was lowered into the hole.

Next thing I knew, the machine had traversed my gravel area and rugosas once again and came back carrying the septic tank, which was being guided with two fellows holding a rope. They moved very slowly, and it was exciting to watch. Then ever so gently, it was lowered into the hole and put precisely where they wanted it. Then they brought in this gigantic level. The younger, more nimble fellows handled the level and moved some dirt around. When they got it exactly the way they wanted it, they started hooking it up.

It’s settling in.

They brought in large, white pipe, which they cut to fit and fiddled around for awhile until they got everything just the way they wanted.

Now, they are in the hook-up phase.

I had to leave to run an errand in town. When I got back, the machine had a scoop where the claw had been and was filling in the hole around the septic tank.

Filling back in. Burying the septic tank.

The next day, they traded the machine they had been using for a smaller one. It also had cat tracks. It finished filling in around the tank and smoothing out the slope; the younger fellows smoothed out the gravel area. The gravel area looked better, but where there was gravel in the damaged areas, it is now more dirt than gravel. I may have to replace some gravel. The rugosas are gone, gone, but that’s okay. I will replace with three rhodies. Deer don’t normally eat rhodies.

Different, smaller machine finishing up moving and smoothing the dirt around.

The next day, one of the crew came out and spread some bales of straw on the slope to keep it from eroding with upcoming rains. Also, a county inspector came and left a tag. I received numerous emails from him. Apparently, it passed inspection! Thank goodness!

Bottom line: I have a new septic tank and can use my walk-in tub again. And I don’t have to worry about flushing toilets or doing the laundry. Happiness is a new septic tank.Woo! Hoo!

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#282–Light at the end of the tunnel . . .

As far as my book-selling business, 2020 was a disaster. I received 1/7 of what I did the year before. Pre-pandemic, my business model involved venues selling my books and direct sales through events such as PowerPoint presentations, book fairs, craft shows/holiday bazaars, Yachats Farmers Market, and Backstreet Gallery, where I’m a member/owner. Only three venues of about 50 that normally carry my books ordered books, and I attended only one event, Victorian Belles Holiday Sale, where I normally do about 30 events each year. And Backstreet was closed mid-March last year until the end of June and closed January and February this year. When open, it was fewer days each week and fewer hours each day. Far less opportunities to sell books in 2020.

The Astoria Column is one of the 26 Unexpected places in my Guide to the UNEXPECTED. It has 164 steps to the top for a fabulous view.

A Book Order – Hallelujah!

So, when I received an email two days ago, March 2, that read, “If I could get 12 copies of The Oregon Coast Guide to the Unexpected that would be great!,” it was great for me too and so totally unexpected.  It was from the Friends of the Astoria Column who operate the little gift shop right across from the Column, a historic Astoria landmark.

I took it as a sign that “the times they are a changin’” and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, finally. I figure, if one venue wants more books, maybe more of them do. So, next week, I’ll send out an email to all the venues––bookstores, museums, and tourist hotspots––that carry my books throughout western Oregon and see if any would like more copies. I don’t expect an onslaught of orders but a trickle. It’s best to be realistic. Nevertheless, I’m excited.

If the Yachats Farmers Market is held this year, I’ll sign up for the summer months like I did for the six years prior to the pandemic. And, hopefully, we’ll be able to hold the Florence Festival of Books this year in mid-September. Can’t have large gatherings yet, and we do it in conjunction with the Florence Events Center, which has been closed for a year. But a lot can change in six months. So, I give that a 50/50 shot. As to holding PowerPoint presentations, not gonna happen until we can have gatherings. I never set these up myself, I was always asked. And I usually did 10 to 15 a year. So, we’ll see.

My books on display at Backstreet Gallery.

Backstreet Gallery Reopening

As of yesterday, Backstreet Gallery reopened for the first time this year, except for a few days in January. This is another positive sign that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This is very exciting to me; I love interacting with the visitors and, of course, selling my books and my cards, too. I’ll be on duty Saturday and Sunday this weekend in the afternoons.

We will have all the bells and whistles of Covid––masks, sanitizing, social distancing, ventilation, and keeping track of total number of folks in Gallery at all times. Nearly all the clerks will have had at least one of their Covid vaccine shots and none of the members who feels uncomfortable working has to work. As more Gallery members receive their vaccine shots, we will open more days. Right now, it is four days a week––Thursday thru Sunday. But the plan is to open Wednesday thru Sunday starting March 17.

Second Covid Shot Scheduled

On March 11, I’ll receive my second shot of the Covid vaccine. I’ll be so pleased to have that accomplished. I will feel even more comfortable working at the Gallery then. My next time to work at the Gallery after this weekend, will be March 24 & 28. By then, two weeks will have passed since my second shot and that is the time it takes for the vaccine to become effective.

New Book Becoming Reality

I am signing the third edition of The Crossings Guide and with Bob Serra, my publisher.

Since I finished editing the second novel, I have time to work on MY new book, The Cancer Blog, For those who’ve had cancer and for those who haven’t. Now, that putting this book together is MY idea, I’m anxious to work on it, whenever I have a chunk of time. My publisher, Bob Serra, is just as excited about it as I am. He has designed the cover and figured out how he wants to do the inside pages and is ready for the chapters to edit. I’ll be sending him six chapters and their photos tomorrow. And then five more each of the next two weeks.  I will still have a cancer info section and the acknowledgments and credits to put together as well as two pages about me and my books that just needs to be updated. My self-imposed deadline is April 1, and I should be able to have everything in by then. My deadline to have it ready for sale is September 1.

For all of these reasons, I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I feel that 2021 will be a far better year than last year for me, and, hopefully, for the rest of the world too.

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#281–Random Thoughts . . .

No one topic this week, just lots of little stuff I’ve wanted to write about but didn’t have enough for a full post. Maybe enough for a random thought. So, here are a week’s worth.

I REMEMBER

–My mid-life crisis–age 10––When I was 10, one of our spelling words was decade. The teacher explained it by saying that a decade is 10 years and people live about seven or eight decades. I was 10 and realized that I had used up one of my decades and only had six or seven left before I . . . . That’s when I realized that I was going to die someday. I would actually die––just like our cat had died, just like a friend’s grandfather had died. I was devastated. And I still remember. Now, that I’m nearly eight decades old, it doesn’t bother me.

When I was about 10 (on the right) with my brother and sister. We lived in Portland. I think this is a stop to take a photo in the snow on the drive to Timberline Lodge.

–The 1973–74 Oil Embargo––The death of the former Saudi Oil Minister Yamani was announced this past week. He was the one who engineered the October 1973–March 74 oil embargo that brought havoc to American drivers. Gas was very limited and prices had gone up because the newly formed OPEC stopped––totally stopped––sending oil to countries supporting Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Waiting in line for hours became commonplace. Gas stations were only open for certain hours a day one or two days a week.  

I remember that one of the days the station near the school where I taught would have gas and be open was a Tuesday between 9 and 2 or until the gas ran out. I needed gas and would be teaching that day and unable to obtain gas. So, one of the parents of one of my students volunteered to get gas for me. She waited in line for hours, so I could have gas. This had become the norm. Just as we have adjusted to wearing masks and social distancing during the pandemic, we adjusted to spending a good part of a day just filling up the gas tank or getting someone to do it for us.

When most telephone calls were from people I knew––I remember when most of the time, the ring of the phone was actually from someone I knew—either social or connected to my life in some other way.. Now, I check the number before I answer.

Even so, I get unwanted calls. They remind me that my car warranty is about to expire, that I have a charge of anywhere from $299.99 to $799.99 on my Amazon Prime account when I didn’t even have an Amazon Prime account, that I qualify for a reduction in credit card rates, and that they want to do some updates to my Windows computer when I don’t have a Windows computer. Sometimes, it’s the IRS calling to say I owe money or the FBI calling to warn me there is a warrant out for my arrest. Lately, the most common one is Medicare has a brace for my knee or shoulder or wrist or a new benefit I might qualify for. They just need some information before they can proceed. AARRGGHH!!! I think they are all scams.

CONTRARY VIEWS

–Why I Like Facebook––Facebook has a fair amount of bad publicity and rightly so. But I like it for a couple of reasons. One, I can connect with people from my whole life. When I look at the folks who “like” something I’ve posted, they are college roommates, folks I met through working for Oregon Coast magazine, fellow co-owners at Backstreet Gallery, relatives, fellow writers, and folks I know casually around town. What a wonderful mix. This is a way to stay connected with many of the people I know

Second, it’s a place where I can publicize my blog, my books, my cards. It’s especially helpful when I have a new book out. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s an easy way to spread the word.

Sir Groucho is a long-haired cat, and his fur has been getting matted more and more this past year.

–US Mail Service Not Slow––I hear a lot lately on the news about the mail service being so slow. As far as I’m concerned, mail service has never been better. We have USPS package delivery on Sundays this past year––no mail, just packages. Unheard of! And at Christmas, I sent a package on a Tuesday, not expecting it to get there before Christmas on Friday. But it arrived on Thursday. Two days from Florence to one of the many cities in the LA area. In January, not a holiday, I sent a package to the LA area and it arrived, again, in two days. Amazing! As far as I know, the rest of my mail may not be that speedy, but it’s not late. And I’ve received no late notices on outgoing mail.

FRUSTRATION

Mats in fur of long-haired Sir Groucho––This has only become a problem in the last year or so. Sir Groucho is no longer young; he is somewhere between 18 and 20. Evidently, he doesn’t groom himself as often as he used to. And I should be brushing him more.

To get out mats, I usually use the brush and comb and then my fingers and as a last resort, the scissors. Research says to keep the cat calm, use something like cornstarch on the actual mats, use the wide part of a comb and your fingers but not scissors. Hmm! Once Groucho figures out what I’m doing, he goes from Mr. Lovable to Mr. Vicious. So, I usually have a very short window of time to work on the mats. I haven’t tried cornstarch, but I will.

HAPPINESS

Winter’s Blue Hole Days––These are those sunny days of winter when it doesn’t rain at all during the entire day. These are the days that the late Doug Newman called the Blue Holes of Winter. He wrote the hiking column for Oregon Coast magazine for several years, that’s how I got to know him.

A sunny day in a rainy winter is simply wonderful!

We had such a day this past Wednesday. I got up early and loaded the car and went to the dump aka the Florence Transfer Station. I take my recycling as well as all my garbage. I have never had garbage pick-up service in the 35 years I’ve lived here. Since I compost and recycle, I only need to go every seven weeks or so.

On my way home, I stopped by the nursery and ordered bags of soil and fir bark to be delivered and a few flats of a particular ground cover I want to plant. I also picked up 30 plants of another groundcover for a sunnier area and 10 replacement flowering plants for the upper deck. I want both groundcovers planted soon to take advantage of the rainy months still to come.

Then I worked out in the yard from 1 to 5:30 p.m. It was cool, but sunny with an occasional breeze––perfect. My yard man came by and did the heavy-duty stuff preparing the areas that will be receiving the new groundcovers. I raked the front area and my east side yard and collected many piles of downed branches and fallen leaves that I carried to one spot. My yard man ended up taking all of it in his trailer to the transfer station the next day. I loved getting outside and getting stuff done.

That’s it! A week’s worth of random thoughts!

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#280–Vaccine––Bring it on . . .

Note: #281––Will post on Sunday, February 28!

Some people are afraid to get the Covid vaccine, but I’m not. Six years ago, my first week of chemo treatment was the biggest assault I had ever had on my body and chemo left me with a compromised immune system. And I’ve had allergic reactions with some vaccines. Even so, I’m going to get the vaccine when I get the opportunity.

If I could survive this week, I can survive anything!

It was the third week in October 2014

–On Monday, I was given radio-active isotopes for a PET Scan in Eugene. I was in serious pain, and it was excruciating to lie motionless for 45 minutes in the huge scanner.

–On Tuesday, I was given more radio-active isotopes in Florence for a heart MUGA scan to see if my heart was up to the rigors of chemotherapy. But the machine wasn’t working properly. I laid there on a flat, metal surface in pain for at least an hour, before I was asked to come back the next day.

–On Wednesday, I was given even more radio-active isotopes. These are hard on your body even one time. and I had them three days in a row. I was probably glowing. This time the machine worked fine, and I passed my test––sort of. My heart function was “on the lower end of normal but should be able to tolerate chemo.” This was not exactly resounding but evidently good enough. (I did not know this until months later. Ah, the bliss of ignorance.)

My first day of chemo.

–On Thursday, I started chemotherapy in Eugene. From 8:30 a.m. until around 5 p.m. when we left, I was being injected or infused with medications, most of which were chemo. The one most difficult for the body to accept was the first one that they dripped in very slowly––took 3 ½ hours. I had four chemo meds total and a bunch of others to combat side-effects. I went home exhausted.

–On Friday, I went to the hospital in Florence for a shot of Neulasta, which I took after every chemo session. It makes your bones ache, but it helps build back the white blood cells to fight off infection when taking strong chemo. It has so many potentialy serious side-effects, that if I’d read them, I would’ve refused to take it. Once again, the bliss of ignorance.

During most of this week and for several weeks prior, I was in serious pain. I was taking Hydrocodone every three hours around the clock and it only took the edge off. But a miracle happened mid-way through that first day of chemo. The pain went away and never came back. Consequently, I became an instant fan of chemo and stopped the Hydrocodone cold. Man, if I could survive that week, I could survive any vaccine. Chemo did do a real number on my immune system, but I think it mostly bounced back.

And I survived allergic reactions to past vaccines!

My history with vaccines has been checkered, very up and down.

–When I was six, I had the DPT vaccine (Diptheria, Pertusus [whooping cough], and Tetanus) and had a serious reaction. My arm swelled up really big, I got very sick, and I still remember. It left quite a scar. When people ask about it, I sometimes make up an exciting story involving a gunshot.

The bandaid above covers the injection site of Covid vaccine. No swelling, redness, or soreness. Below is the major scar left by my DPT multiple-vaccine shot when I was six.

–When I was 14 in 1956, I received the polio vaccine injection. Later, around 1960 or 61, I had the Sabin oral vaccine administered through three doses in sugar cubes. I had no problem with those, and what a relief to be safe from polio.

–When I was 33, I had a Tetanus booster and my arm swelled up so much, I had to cut the sleeve of my shirt. And I developed a fever and was fairly sick. The doctor said to never get another Tetanus shot. And I haven’t.

–About 20 years ago, I had a fairly bad reaction to a flu shot, so I’ve never had another one.

–When I was 70ish, I had a shingles vaccine and a couple months later, a pneumonia vaccine and no problems with either.

Even though, I’ve had these problems with vaccines, I’ll take my chances with the Covid vaccine. I definitely don’t want to get sick with Covid-19.

I’m sure I can survive the Covid vaccine!

I became eligible on Monday, February 15, and thought I was already on a waiting list. I discovered I wasn’t and called the hospital scheduling desk. On Thursday, February 18, I called at 8 a.m. and was placed on a waiting list. The gal on the phone was friendly, but not encouraging. She said it could be weeks because they never knew when they would be getting some or how much. And with the cold weather, everything was delayed. She suggested that I might want to contact BiMart or Safeway and try their pharmacies.

Here s a Haiku poem about Covid Vaccine. I find Haiku fun and easy; just stick to 5-7-5 syllables.

So, I was very surprised when about 2:30 p.m. the same day, I received a call from the hospital saying that they could schedule me right then for a shot. Could I come in that afternoon? I was there 30 minutes later, and it takes 20 minutes to get there.

I wasn’t the only one there. We were all given a number, and there was a wait of about a half hour. The shot was given in a room with a doctor and no one else present. Then each of us was sent to a waiting room, where we were seated six feet apart and watched for either 15 or 30 minutes. I had to wait the longer time because of my vaccine history. Other than being a little warm, I felt fine.

After I left and was in the car, I took off my mask and looked in the mirror and saw that I was very red on my cheeks and nose and they were hot to the touch and my face felt hot––very much like a hot flash. I went home and kept an eye on it. Within an hour, the redness and heat had lessened, and within three hours, I was totally back to normal. At the injection site, I had no swelling, redness, or soreness. The next morning, I had some soreness, but it was mostly gone mid-day.

My second shot is March 11, and I know the after-effects are supposed to be worse. So, I’ll let the person who is to watch me for 30 minutes know about the flushing on the first go-round.

Bottom line: I did survive my first Covid shot in spite of a possibly compromised immune system and an iffy history with vaccines. My hope is that everyone is able to get vaccinated with little or no after-effects.  

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#279–Writing keeps me sane . . .

Note: Post #280 will post on Sunday, February 21.

What a bizarre world we are living in right now. I’ve been listening to parts of the impeachment trial and it just seems totally obvious how anyone should vote, but since it is a political, not a criminal or civil, trial, it will probably end in acquittal. If the vote were secret ballot, then I’m sure it would go the other way. But that’s now how our government works, nor should it. Enough of that.

And I in my bubble of one (bubble of two, Groucho informed me), due to the pandemic, have days of loneliness and depression just like so many others, but I try to overcome them by being busy. Nothing like a deadline to get you out of the doldrums.

It’s a bizarre world for more than one reason but writing keeps me sane. That’s why I write my blog each week. That’s why I’m writing my new book. I’ve said more than once, when I’ve finished writing a piece––whether an article or blog post or chapter of a book––once I’ve tweaked it and got it where I want it, I feel great. It gives me a high—better than any drug. So, that’s my antidote to this bizarre world we’re living in.

My view of the world this past week. Only picture me in the chair with Sir Groucho on my lap.

This week, I made progress on all fronts, and each one gave me great satisfaction, but none as much as the progress made on my own book.

Editing Jobs

I think I’m finally finished with my part on the first novel. I thought I was done last Sunday and sent it off to the publisher after putting in some changes requested by the author. But I decided to just look it over for mostly formatting changes and to look for those lines under words that Microsoft Word does to alert you to a problem. I was just going to give it a quick scan. Ha!

Before I knew it, I was reading it and finding the occasional introductory phrase without a comma and more independent clauses connected with a conjunction but no comma. And a few other things, so minor nobody but an editor would notice. I had to let the publisher know that I had made more changes and then had to resend to the author. So, he read it through again and, of course, he found a few “oops” and found a few things he wanted to re-word. So, yesterday, I got his last changes in and sent to the publisher. Finally, it’s ready to move forward in the publishing process.

I really enjoyed reading and editing this book and think it will sell really well. All I’ll say is that it’s set in western Oregon with lots of familiar places mentioned and that it’s a love story with legendary creatures and a wildfire. Sounds like a winning combination to me.

And the second novel is almost twice as long and has a more involved plot. It intertwines a nautical story with a military one with science fiction overtones. Very exciting! I look forward to each editing session.  In order to finish by my deadline, I need to do a certain number of pages each week. On this book, I send these to the author each Friday. He gets a chance to see what I’m doing to his manuscript and return it with his changes and comments. Yesterday, I reached the halfway point of the book as to the editing. Tomorrow, I will start putting the editing changes both his and mine into a fresh copy. When we have finished all the segments, I will send him the fresh copy of the entire manuscript for a final read though before it goes to the publisher. So, progress is being made here too.   

I have learned in editing these two books just how important it is to develop a good working relationship with the authors.  One of these authors has written several books, and for the other, it’s his first. As it has turned out, each of them has been a pleasure to work with.  I’m kind of enjoying this editing gig.

During my bald days, when I was undergoing chemo, this was my “happy hat.” Everybody who saw it smiled!

My Book

Last Monday, I sent my publisher, Bob Serra of Maple Creek Press, my possible title with a couple of subtitles to choose from. And another informative segment for the cover. By Tuesday, he had the first draft of the front cover and told me what he wanted from me for the back cover. So, I got it written and sent to him. By Tuesday evening, we had first drafts for both front and back covers. The next couple of days involved some tweaking and back and forth emails. By Thursday, we had a cover we were both happy with. I also tweaked the Dedication, the Table of Contents, and the Introduction that I’d written in the last couple of weeks and sent to him yesterday.

This book will chronicle my battle with caner six years ago. It will consist primarily of my weekly posts during my six months of fighting late-stage Lymphoma from first symptoms, through chemo, and recovery. Just like my blog posts, it will have several photos and be in color.

Since my battle with cancer, I shared some of the posts with folks newly diagnosed and was often told that I should put them into a book. I was working on a new book at the time and didn’t want to even think about another one.

Don’t know why, but right around this past Christmas, when I was running off copies for someone else recently diagnosed, it hit me that these would make a decent book! Duh! Now, that it’s “my idea,” I’m off and running, full-speed-ahead!!

Tomorrow, I’ll send the one chapter I’ve just written that was not a blog post to my publisher along with a number of photos. It’s called, “The Importance of Hair.” If I have the time, I’ll also send the first five chapters with their photos. These were blog posts that I’ve already re-worked. I am so excited and thrilled at each step along the way with this new book––much to my surprise I might add, since I pooh-poohed the idea for so long. Who knew!

So, amid all the craziness of the world, my writing (and editing) keep me sane!

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