#364–Much to be thankful for . . .

When I listen to the news, which is mostly bad––mass killings, war in Ukraine, poverty and hunger in much of the world, and climate change manifesting itself more and more––it’s really depressing. This beautiful blue ball making its way in the universe is not such a great place to live for many of its inhabitants. It makes me thankful for all that I have.

Thankful for family

My brother, Harry, and his wife Jayne, me, and my sister, Edna, last summer at the old homestead where we scattered our parents’ ashes.

I am in contact with my brother, sister, and nephews. Until Covid, I made three trips a year to California to see everyone. And my sister, brother and his wife, and I all had a wonderful trip together last summer. I plan to go to California in December to see everyone again––first time since Covid. I’m glad we all get along–many families do not.

Thankful for friends far and near

I tend to keep my closest friends even when we live far apart. I have friends that go back to seventh grade and college roommates. Whenever I go to California, I try to see two or three of them on each trip besides my family. And with one of my California friends, we usually take a three- or four-day trip that is always fun. There is nothing like friends you’ve known a long time. They are like family––family you choose. And we all need friends that are part of our everyday lives. Besides making life more enjoyable, they come in handy during crises. And that goes both ways.

My friend, Theresa Baer and I at the ghost town of Calico, outside of Barstow, California, on one of my trips to California back in 2018.

Thankful for roof overhead and money to pay bills

As an elderly widow with minimal income (yuck, sounds awful when I put it that way), I’m thankful for my own home and enough money to pay my bills. Years ago, I went against well-meaning advice and risked buying a townhouse right after a divorce. I borrowed and lived frugally to afford it and used hand-me-down furniture the first couple years until I could afford my own stuff. Ten years later, I sold that place at three times what I paid for it. With that money in 1984, I bought a new car and the house I live in now, which is worth seven or eight times what I paid for it. And I have enough money coming in to pay my bills and take an occasional trip, if I budget wisely.

Thankful that I’ve enjoyed my careers

So many people are in thankless jobs and not doing what they want to do. I almost always enjoyed what I was doing. When I went to college, I earned a teaching degree and thought I would teach until I retired. I loved teaching first grade. But after 22 years, I was ready to move on. I remarried and moved to Oregon.

I loved teaching first graders.

I would’ve had to go back to school and take classes towards a teaching credential to teach or even substitute teach in Oregon, and I didn’t want to have to travel to the UofO in Eugene to do that. So, I ended up taking a class in creative writing at the local community college, sending out stories, and getting rejections––until Oregon Coast magazine wanted one of my stories and then more and then asked me to work for them as an editor. I truly learned on the job about being an editor and how to write. I no longer had summers off, but after the first few years, I traveled all over the Northwest on assignment and up and down the Oregon coast doing stories for the magazines. I loved that. During the 21 years I worked there, we published five magazines. At times, it was hectic, but it was always a thrill to see each new issue and to see my stories in print.

Thankful that I still feel I have purpose even in retirement

Here is Debbie Boyle, President, Karen Gassaway, Vice President, and me, Secretary, of Backstreet Gallery at one of the receptions this past spring.

The secret to a purposeful retirement is being involved––as a volunteer or part owner in a business or in creating something. It gives you a reason to get up each morning and gives you something to think about besides yourself. I’m a volunteer at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum and have been for 20 years. It could not function without its volunteers, so I’m needed there. I’m a part owner at Backstreet Gallery, a member-owned co-op. I sell my books there at minimal cost to me, but every Working Member has responsibilities. I am Hospitality Chair every other month, edit the newsletter and all press releases and posters, and am the secretary. And every week, I write about some topic for my blog. I have a need to write and that fulfills that need.

Thankful for my books

I never planned to be an author. Back in 1991, I put together a book of my parents’ remembrances of the interesting years of their lives. I recorded them, transcribed the recordings, and spent many hours tweaking, factchecking, gathering photos, getting it published, and 100 copies printed. So much work. Vowed I’d never do that again . . . until I met Dick Smith.

My books on display at Backstreet Gallery.

It took two years of bugging me, but he finally convinced me to put his research into a book. That’s how Crossings, McCullough’s Coastal Bridges came to be. And if I hadn’t written that one, I would never have written the other five. So, I blame Dick. Who knew I’d grow to love writing my own books and to also love marketing them. I’m so thankful that my books sell.

Thankful for my energy and overall health

Most people my age, 81, don’t have the energy to do what I do. So, I’m thankful every day that I can do what is on my “to-do” list for that day. I am learning to have my yard man do more of the yard work and to pay for jobs I used to do myself. And I even have been known to ask for help.

I had the energy to be a witch at Halloween during the Old Town trick-or-treating where some of us from Backstreet Gallery dressed in costume and passed out candy.

This year, it seemed like I was always going to Eugene or Springfield for medical appointments and procedures. I’m thankful that I’ve finally finished having the ablation and sclerotherapy surgeries on the varicose veins in my legs and that I had an easy time of cataract surgery.

Bottom Line: I have lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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#363–Victorian Belle’s Christmas Bazaar—More successful than ever . . .

It’s the holiday season with more than one holiday shopping bazaar to check out. In my opinion, the Victorian Belle’s is the best and probably the one with the most longevity. This group began with about 12 tole painters 45 years ago. Now, it’s a much larger group, who put on a fabulous Christmas Bazaar each year held at the Three Rivers Casino Resort Event Center on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

They spend all year creating hand-crafted items for the Christmas Bazaar. Expect to find crocheted and knitted stocking caps and scarves, endless variations on Christmas tree ornaments, larger decorative Christmas items for the home, a variety of wreaths, accessories for dogs and cats (especially dog beds), soaps and lotions, candies and fruit cakes, jewelry both lovely and whimsical, and always some Ducks’ and Beavers’ paraphernalia. My favorite is the tole painting on various household items; i have several pieces that I put out during the holidays. And each and every item for sale is hand-crafted.

An example of tole painting.
This year during the start of set-up. You can see the beginnings of structures being built to display sale items.

A few other folks, not Victorian Belles, are invited to join the Bazaar. Isham Hobby Photography was there this year with many gorgeous photos––the 8th year to participate. Two authors––Connie Bradley and I were invited to participate with our books in 2011, and the next year, Karen D. Nichols joined us. So, this year was the 12th for Connie and me and 11th for Karen.  

This year’s Bazaar was very successful. There were crowds there on Friday from 9 a.m. when it opened throughout most of the 10-hour day. At times, shoppers were lined up 9 or 10 deep, waiting to pay for their purchases. Saturday wasn’t quite as busy and had a lull in the late afternoon/early evening before a rush just before closing, and Sunday started off slow before picking up steam. Even though, the Bazaar was held in 2020 and 2021, there were not as many tables, masks were required, and only about half as many folks attended. This year was back to more tables, masks optional, and lots of attendees––back to pre-Covid. I think, folks were more than ready to get back into the Christmas shopping groove.

Here are Karen and Connie back in 2019. (I forgot to take any photos this year.)

For the Belles, the set-up is quite involved. Besides decorating the many tables, they construct a free-standing entry way and several structures for holding sale items. And there are Christmas trees of every shape and variety and nearly all decorated—mostly with ornaments for sale.

Set-up and take-down is impressive to watch. It takes a few hours each year on Thursday that involves the Belles as well as husbands and sons and daughters and friends. Many strong men provide the muscle, and hammers and drills are a familiar sound. And the Belles themselves are everywhere bringing in the results of the past year’s creativity, setting it all up, and applying finishing touches.Then it all happens in reverse on Sunday afternoon during the take down.

And this was me last year. I wore a mask this year, too, except when I was eating. I had basically the same display this year.

The preparation actually starts before Thursday as each participant makes sure they have everything they are going to need. For us three authors, that means making sure we have enough books and getting to the bank for money to make change and hunting down everything else we’re going to need. Then on Thursday morning, we pack everything we’ll need in our vehicles, and that afternoon, head to the Casino’s Event Center to set-up.

When we first started, we only had one or two books apiece, so we fit around one fairly large round table. Nowadays, we need three tables, which some years, we have to provide. This year, we did not have to provide any, but I had my six-footer in my car, just in case.  We bring our own table coverings and holiday decorations, display necessities like vinyl holders with prices, business cards, of course, the books, and in my case, my all-occasion cards with my photographs and poems and my bridges’ chart. We also handle our own money, so we need a change purse and our Square readers and mobile phones to handle credit card purchases.

This is from a previous year, but shows more how it looks when set up.

Once set-up is completed, the actual event is a bit of a marathon. On Friday and Saturday, the hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. We brought crossword puzzles for the lulls, as well as doing a lot of catching up with each other. And each of us made the rounds, doing our own Christmas shopping. We also brought our lunches, which we nibbled on throughout mid-day, and candy treats that we shared with each other during late afternoons.

We all sold more books than ever before. And on Sunday, Connie sold 63 books––a one-day record for us. Over the three days, I sold a total of 42 books and made more than $735. I was very pleased. And Connie and Karen were also very pleased with their sales. And the Belles had record sales. So, it was successful all around.

My bundle of two bridge books for $5 off. I think I sold five bundles.

Here are some of my favorite memories. More than once, a wife would come back minus the husband to pick up one of the ribbon-wrapped bundles I had created of the two bridge books for their hubby’s Christmas present. And there were the heartfelt moments, as well as a few tears, as folks recounted their experiences or that of a relative with cancer, when picking up and looking at my book The Cancer Blog. That book was my biggest seller on Friday.

My most memorable moment, though, was when customer Joyce Harrison came to my table to tell me how she had used The Crossings Guide that she had bought last year. She has used it to walk across every bridge covered in the book with either family or friends accompanying her. She was just so excited about the book. Who knew! After talking to her, I was excited too!

This blue and silver beaded pen is the one I bought for book signings while shopping at the Christmas Bazaar.

Next year, Connie, Karen, and I plan to be back at the Belles Bazaar, and I will be signing my books with my new pen that I purchased this year. It’s covered with tiny blue and silver beads that sparkle in the light.  I just love it! Besides, it matches the blue of five of my six books.

So, mark your calendars for the Victorian Belles Christmas Bazaar in 2023 on the weekend before Thanksgiving at Three Rivers Casino Resort Event Center. See you there!

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#362–Living at the coast, living on the edge . . .

During the last couple weeks, the rains have begun. Oregon is known for its rainy weather but only half of the state fits that description—the western half. The eastern half is high desert and much drier—more snow than rain and much lower humidity.

Toadstools grow in this crack in my railroad tie steps.

Those of us who live in western Oregon jokingly say that moss grows on our backs and our toes are webbed. And that we have only two seasons—“rainy” October through April and “less rainy” May through September.“ The only months that usually have no rain are July and August, and then not always. This past summer I used my hose to water the entire yard only four times, and I have no sprinkler system. Four times––that was it. Plants in pots and planters on the decks get regular watering, but not the rest of the yard. It rains or drizzles enough that we don’t need to.

Under my large rhodies in the front of my house, the weathered, 40-year-old branches are covered with moss.

There is moss growing on the ground, up the base of the trees, and coating the branches of trees and large shrubs. Bright green moss lines the edge of the 40+ foot long drain in front of the garages, and on almost anything that is outside during the winter. And lichen grows on anything that has been in the yard for 10 years or more—even wood patio furniture left outside. My maple that I planted back in the late 1980s, lost all its beautiful leaves that had turned yellow this past week. But it didn’t look bare, the branches are covered with lichen. And ferns will simply grow anywhere.

Ferns will simply grow anywhere!

Those of us who live at the coast like to say that we live on the edge. And we are on the edge––the edge of Oregon and the edge of the entire continent. The coast is more humid than the rest of western Oregon all year, cool even in summer, and rainier and more stormy in winter. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Stormy weather can be quite wild at the coast with drift wood being tossed around on the beach. Best to watch the waves from high up on a bluff. Storm-watching does draw people to the coast in the winter.

I remember one September when someone called from Portland asking me if we were going to cancel the Florence Festival of Books because a storm was forecast for that day with wind speeds reaching 30 to 40 miles an hour. I told him, “No way! At the coast, that’s just a normal summer afternoon.”

We might cancel something during a major winter storm when winds get to be 50-70 miles per hour at the headlands and beaches and only slightly less in the Florence area. That’s when the weather person says “High wind warnings!” and means it!  And that’s when we stow the stuff that could blow around and hunker down. I live on a ridge a few miles north of town, and it can get mighty windy. Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, our power would go out on a regular basis—sometimes for days, even a week a time or two. Not so much anymore, and when it does, it’s usually just for a few hours.

Here is the Dolly Port in Port Orford, one of only six Dolly Ports in the world. The boats are moored on the elevated dock and are only lowered by crane into the ocean during mild weather. This is just about the most westerly point on the coast and gets ferocious winds and seas, but the boats stay safe at the Dolly Port.

The towns are small on the coast. The smaller ones have a couple thousand population and the larger ones have close to 10,000. And the largest population area, Oregon’s Bay Area, where North Bend and Coos Bay blend into each other has a combined population of about 26,000. Living in small towns is not always convenient. Not too many “big-box” stores on the coast where you can stock up on basics at lower prices, and for major medical situations, you generally have to go to one of the larger cities inland.

Here is a shot of the Siuslaw River Bridge and Florence, only a few miles from where I live. It’s where I shop and where I am very involved in the community.

But nobody misses shoveling snow or having to have air-conditioning. We do have snow, but most years, if you sleep in, you miss it. Every so often, we have a whopper. I remember several inches and icicles forming everywhere in November of 1985, about 11 inches with icicles from the roof that looked like spears back in February 1989 and that time the snow lasted for weeks, and eight inches in March 2012 that lasted about a week. And there were a few storms that had 100 mile-per-hour winds—maybe three in the 37 years I’ve lived here.

So, those of us who live at the coast enjoy the small towns that have no smog, much less traffic, and cool temps. And we’ve learned to accept having to make the occasional trips to a large city to stock up or for medical reasons. And we’ve learned to live with the rain and winter storms. Most of us enjoy living at the Oregon coast, living on the edge, and we wouldn’t live anywhere else.

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#361–Recycling is as easy as 1, 2, 3 . . .

In the news today, I heard that both Berkeley and New York City were cutting off new natural gas hookups in new building construction–-particularly housing. They are encouraging all electric. That means that the central Oregon coast is so far behind that we’re actually ahead of the curve. We’ve never had natural gas available. So, those of us with fully electric houses are now in the forefront.

The BottleDrop green bag program is fairly new to the Florence area.

Speaking of being in the forefront, when it comes to recycling, Oregon has prided itself on being in the forefront. Right now, I sort my recycling into three categories: 1) the deposit returns; 2) the sorted stuff––cardboard, newspaper, cans, glass, some plastics, scrap metal, etc; and 3) all the other plastics.

1. Bottle Return––For years, I’d save my plastic water and V-8 juice bottles and my glass root beer, Guinness, and tonic water bottles because I’d paid a 10-cent deposit on each one, and I wanted it back. When I had a bunch, I’d take them to Fred Meyer here in Florence, where I do my grocery shopping. Very handy.

For the last couple years, they have limited to 24 containers per visit. I had a couple bags with 24 containers each in my car last week, when I was going to do my grocery shopping and planned to take one in that day and the second one the next day. I discovered things had changed. Now, you have to sign up for their BottleDrop program with its large green bags. They have had it for awhile, but there was always the other option. Not so anymore.

Apparently, you sign up at a kiosk within the store and buy 10 bags for $2, which will be deducted from your account. Each bag is about the size of a 13-gallon kitchen bag and holds about 67 bottles. There will be a location to dump the whole bag, instead of one at a time. When redeeming the bags, there is a 40-cent fee per bag. You receive a voucher at the store’s kiosk, which you can take to a checker or customer service and redeem. Sounds simple enough, but . . .

I watched a friend try to get tags for his bags with no success––just lots of frustration. I don’t know about the tags, which I assume are needed before returning the bags. At any rate, now I’m torn between signing up for the green bag BottleDrop at Freddies or just dropping off my bags of deposit returns for Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, which I do from time to time. They have a handy place in back for returns. Besides, it is one of the cause’s I contribute to, so why not!

2. Sorted Recycling––The sorted recycling can be picked up by the garbage service provider or you can take it yourself to the recycling center here in Florence at the Lane County Transfer Station. I still refer to it as “the dump.” Sorry! It has been so upgraded this past year, I thought a new highway was going in leading to a new subdivision. It turned out to be a very upgraded recycling area. After all that, recycling is still free.

About every seven weeks or so, I load up the car with my recycling and my garbage and head to “the dump.” I’ve done it for 37 years. Where I live, we have bears that love to knock over garbage containers and rummage through the garbage. When they finish, a big mess is strewn all over the road, which nobody appreciates. So, I simply divide my bags of garbage from my two trash cans into three large garbage bags and put two in the trunk and one in the passenger seat. Then I load up my recycling that is all sorted and take off. I have compost bins for my wet garbage, so I feel okay about transporting my dry garbage in my car.

EcoGeneration is held at the Siuslaw Middle School. Always a great turn out.

For the recycling, I put newspapers, magazine/catalogs, flattened boxes (like cereal boxes), other paper, cans, and some #2 plastic bottles and jars in the co-mingled dumpster. Cardboard, glass, and scrap metal/appliances are in separate locations but all easy walking distance from my parked car.

3. EcoGeneration Recycling Take Back for Plastics––This group comes to Florence about three times a year and works with local volunteers. Everything needs to be clean, dry, and sorted by number. And many have to have the label removed.

#1 jugs and bottles, the type with threaded, screw-on caps, DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE THEIR LABELS REMOVED and neither do nutritional packaging, like over-the-counter supplements and medications (not prescription bottles, though). Love these #1s.

This makes removing labels and their sticky residue possible.

#2,#4, and #5 plastics need to be clean, dry, and have no labels. I remove labels at the time I empty each one. I don’t let them accumulate. It’s much easier to remove one label, than 100 or more. I keep a spray bottle of Goo Gone and a Nitrile glove handy under the sink. I have found the secret to removing labels is to go slow. After the label or as much of it as I can is removed, I use Goo Gone to get rid of any sticky residue and/or any portion of label that is left. Wipe clean with a paper towel and then wash with the rest of the dishes, but not in the dishwasher.

For the “clamshells” that berries and bakery goods come in, they have to be clean, dry, and all labels removed. (I use my method, but some folks use an Exacto knife and cut out the label.) They will only be accepted by EcoGeneration in a large brown bag, what I would call a grocery-store size bag. Here’s the bad news; each brown paper bag costs the recycler $20 to recycle. Also, in the bag can be plastic bags, up to a gallon-size bag of plastic screw-on caps, ink cartridges, pens and markers––all stuff that is more difficult for EcoGeneration to find a place to recycle.I always have at least one brown paper bag. For questions about accepted materials, visit EcoGeneration.org.

Now you know! Recycling is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

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#360–The Case Against the Death Penalty . . .

When Nicolas Cruz, who killed the 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was in the news recently, he was about to be sentenced. The choices were the death penalty or life without parole.  And that generated a buzz around the country regarding the pros and cons of the death penalty.

Most people think that he deserves to die after what he did. It would be hard to not feel that way. But wouldn’t killing him, make us all murderers. You may say that we are not individually injecting the lethal dose; it’s the state or county or federal government that does the actual killing. But don’t they represent us, making us all culpable?

Most of us have the capacity to feel the urge to kill. It’s the ability to control that urge that is the mark of a civilized person and by extension––a civilized society. I remember times when I felt as if I could kill––the brutal behavior of the bully down the street when we were growing up, a couple of fellows on dates during college years who couldn’t understand the word No, the patronizing misogny by men that many of us felt when entering the workforce as young women in the 1950s and ‘60s, and even today seeing anyone mistreat animals or children or the downtrodden. I may have the urge to kill, but I don’t act on it. The only time I would condone it is in self-defense or to protect my family.

Just as we as citizens of a civilized society shouldn’t kill, neither should civilized society. There are many reasons pro and con regarding the death penalty, but I come down on the side against. There are more than 117 nations worldwide that have done away with it. In 1976, the United States reinstated it, putting us in company with Iran, Iraq, and China. Hmm! I can think of many other countries I’d rather be aligned with.

My main argument against the death penalty is that innocent lives are lost. Since 1976, 138 men and women have been released from death row. Some were released within minutes of execution, which begs the question of how many were not saved who were innocent. This information is from an article by Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. I have no doubt that men and women have been executed who were innocent, which is absolutely, totally, morally wrong. I feel it is a risk we should not take.

Also, not everyone is treated equal in this country. It is not inconceivable that being the wrong color, being poor, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or having poor counsel that results in an inadequate defense could land an innocent person on death row.

And it’s so expensive to maintain a death row and to go through the endless appeals process. “In Oregon, in 2000, a fiscal impact summary from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services stated that the Oregon Judicial Department alone would save $2.3 million annually if the death penalty were eliminated. It is estimated that total prosecution and defense costs to the state and counties equal $9 million per year.“ This is according to Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. If that is what the cost was 22 years ago, then I’m sure it’s much more today. And I can think of far more positive ways to spend that money.

I also am concerned about the corrections officers that administer the lethal dose. Nobody should be asked to kill another person as part of their job description, even if it is considered legal. I would not be surprised if these folks have high rates of PTSD and suicide.

The only pro-death penalty argument I ever considered to make sense besides the eye-for-an-eye vengeance one is that it will deter crime. But study after study has shown that not to be true.  In our country, there are states without the death penalty that have lower murder rates than neighboring states with the death penalty.

After doing some serious thinking about the death penalty, I have not changed my mind. After researching a variety of sources, it has only made me more convinced. And I would think for a young person like Nicolas Cruz with his whole life ahead of him that life in prison without parole would be even worse than the death penalty.

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#359–In praise of audiobooks . . .

I love to read books, books with pages you turn. But I’ve had such a busy life, that when I do sit down to read, I nod off. It seems like It’s always in the evening, and I’m often tired or sleepy. So, to satisfy my craving to read, I turn to audiobooks.

Michael Connelly is one of my favorite authors, and I have this on CDs.

At first, it was cassettes that I checked out from the library and used in my car when taking long trips. Then when CDs became the way to go, I had my car’s cassette player replaced with a CD player. And I have amassed a small collection of audiobooks on CDs. But the way I listen now is most often through my iPhone.

For a few years, I only listened to audiobooks on long trips. But it dawned on me one day, that I could listen to them at other times too. So, outside during yard work or inside doing those pesky occasional chores like cleaning the refrigerator or washing windows, I now listen to audiobooks. I even look forward to doing these chores because it gives me an excuse to listen  to an audiobook. Sometimes, I’ll put one in when I’m cleaning house. I just love having somebody read to me.

I will try for this bestseller through Audible next month.

I subscribed to Audible, after my sister and nephew signed me up for a free month as a Christmas present. I pay a monthly subscription fee and get one credit for a book of my choice, which includes one of the bestsellers. Of course, there’s the option to buy more, and sometimes they have special deals. So far, I’ve just stuck to the one a month.

Then I also got the audiobooks.com app. With Audiobooks.com app, I can pay for books or go to the free section. So far, I’ve only downloaded from the free section. They are not the bestsellers, but there are many choices in many genre. And I’ve heard some very good stories. One of my favorites lately was The Case of Jennie Brice by Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Both of these audiobook companies have the Classics as well. Endless possibilities!

So, after I’ve “read” or I should say listened to my one bestseller book from Audible, I go to the freebies on Audiobooks.com for the rest of the month. All the books I’ve downloaded from both Audible and Audiobooks.com are now part of my library for each one, and I can listen to them again whenever I want.

So, what do I listen to? Mostly, mysteries and thrillers by authors like John Grisham and Michael Connelly. But sometimes I go for actual history as well as historical fiction or the memoir or biography of someone I know about. I just love a great story––no matter what genre. One of my all-time favorites is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that my sister, a retired librarian, sent me.How could I resist that title?

Audiobooks.com has 130.000 titles in every genre. And Audible probably has a similar amount. So, I’m set for life!!!

This is one of my all-time favorite audiobooks.

Update on last week: My eyes are better; I have an appointment next week with my eye doctor. The door is still down. I’ve given up on the fellow I was tying to connect with and now have an appointment with a local garage door company. And my decks, posts and railings, and steps are all stained as of this past Tuesday. And tomorrow, the guys will return and put the heavy planters and redwood chairs back on the decks. I’m so pleased that the decks got done before winter sets in! Life is good!

All stained and ready for winter and replaced segments where needed and restained those too.
Balcony, lower deck, and both sets of steps restained also. I’m so pleased.

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#358–Of eyes and door and deck repair, of cabbages and kings . . .

Last Friday morning, I had no idea what I would write about this week. I had no idea that my eyes and the garage door would become such problems beginning later that day and that this past Tuesday would be the start of long-awaited deck repairs. You just never know what each day will bring.

What’s wrong with my eyes?

One eye felt irritated on Friday and the other on Saturday, which meant both eyes were also extra watery. So, I went back to the drops I used to use for my dry eye problem, even though I had put in different drops when I got up that morning. Mixing drops may not have been such a good idea.

Although I felt like I was trying to be incognito, the “movie-star” type sunglasses cut the glare and made it possible for me to do my normal routine.

And I also got out the eye mask type compresses that heat in the microwave and provide a moist heat to help irritated eyes. I let the compresses cool a bit and then applied them. They felt wonderful. I lay down and elevated my legs because I’m supposed to do that every day. After about 10 minutes, the heat was gone from the compresses, but I left them there and sort of dozed off. About 40 minutes later, I awoke, removed the compresses, and got up. My eyes now were super sensitive to light and one felt actual pain when confronted by bright light or if I touched the lid. I guess, leaving the compresses resting on my eyes for about an hour was not such a good idea.

I thought I was doing the right thing. I’m sure spending the next three hours in front of the computer did not help my eyes. I tweaked the Backstreet Gallery minutes I had written the day before from my notes. I was listening to the recording of the October 4 general meeting, which lasted nearly two hours. With all my pauses to tweak certain sections, it took about three hours to get through them and make any needed changes.   

The next morning, my eyes were worse––so blurry, I couldn’t read anything. I took a hot shower and they felt better after that and cleared to the point that I could see to read once again, but still sensitive to light Then I remembered my super sunglasses from when I had the cataract surgery. They made a major difference. So, I went ahead and did my shift at the museum from noon to four.. Those sunglasses made my eyes feel much better because it cut the glare of the bright light. I didn’t take them off all afternoon. They were a Godsend.

What’s wrong with the garage door?

Something is broken, and it will not open.

Last Friday was not only the start of my eye problems, but it also was the start of my garage door problem. When I got home last Friday about 6:30 p.m. from Backstreet Gallery, where I’d been on duty as clerk all afternoon, the garage door would only open a few inches––not all the way. I tried disconnecting it from the garage door opener, so I could lift it manually. But it just gave a strong springing sound, like I had released great tension and the door settled down and was immovable. Now I had a problem with the garage door as well as my eyes. I was batting a thousand!

On Monday, both eyes were better—less sensitive to light and less watery—but still not normal. I called my garage opener repair fellow and discovered that he had retired. But he told me to call Pro Lumber to get the phone number of the fellow he has trained to replace him. I did. I got the number and left a message.

Deck repair––a reality!

This is the upper deck. After removing the railings and cables, they removed the facia boards on both sides. That was a lot of work from the top of a ladder. Glad I wasn’t doing it.

As soon as I hung up, the doorbell rang. Paul Garrett was at the door. He thought that he and brother Evan could get to my deck repair this week, as well as power washing the decks and the pieces of outdoor furniture that were beginning to grow moss and fungus and really needed cleaning.

Paul and Evan have been my go-to guys for years. They did the last house painting, put on my fabulous new roof, put new posts under the main deck, and other jobs over the years. I thought the power washing would commence on Wednesday and the deck repair on Thursday and Friday. I was mistaken.

On Tuesday, I had to go into town to run a few errands. After I got home, I planned to remove everything from my decks. I was only gone two hours.

But when I returned, there were two vehicles in front of my house, nearly everything had been removed from the decks, and the large deck railings and cabling were partially dismantled. Once these guys decide to do something, they don’t mess around. I opened the sliding glass door, so the rest of the plants from the upper deck could be placed in the dining room. And I was able to clear off my balcony before they began working on it. Those plants are in my bedroom.

They have changed places and are removing the second facia board little by little. In the background someone else is power-washing the lower deck and stairs.

With four men working all day, they got an amazing amount done. On the large deck, they replaced some boards, the long facia boards on both sides, and the railings and all posts. And they replaced a board each on the lower deck and the balcony and scraped the remaining boards, power washed both decks as well as the posts and railings and deck furniture that I had left out for that purpose. They also power washed the upper and lower steps and their railings and posts. Whew! Just writing this makes me tired.

Then on Wednesday, it was mostly the youngest worker that showed up. He spent hours power washing the upper deck. Afterwards Evan appeared and drilled holes through all the new posts and restrung the cabling. Then on Thursday, the young guy was back with an outdoor vacuum cleaning up all the hundreds of chips of past stainings blown off by the power washing that was littering the gravel area down below.

The fun continues . . .

Now the decks need to dry. On Friday or Saturday, the plan is to apply stain. I have a gallon, but will need more. I’m pleased with what has been done so far. I had been hoping they would get to my decks all summer. When it got to be October, I figured, I’d have to wait til next year. So, this has been a wonderful surprise.

As to my eyes, they are better, but still a problem. I will call my eye doctor today.

New railings, posts, facia boards, and some deck boards. The deck was power washed after this photo and the cabling restrung. All that is left is the staining.

And the garage door is still in the down mode. The fellow who will be working on it, has been out of town. I did speak with him on Tuesday and expect to hear from him today, Thursday. We’ll see! Tomorrow, it will have been a week. Thank goodness my car was outside, instead of inside, when it happened.

This past week has been full of surprises, some bad, some good. Such is life!

Note: Today’s title is patterned after Lewis Carroll’s famous stanza from The Walrus and the Carpenter,

The time has come,’ the Walrus said,

To talk of many things:

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —

Of cabbages — and kings —

And why the sea is boiling hot —

And whether pigs have wings.’

which is one of my favorites.

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#357–Writers––it takes all kinds . . .

Backstreet Authors Book Signing

There we were outside under the canopy with our books on display––Larry LaVoie, Karen D. Nichols, Pattie Brooks Anderson, and me. It was a Sunday, the day after the Florence Festival of Books. It was a lovely day with many folks in town. And several stopped to see the books and chat with us.

Larry LaVoie, Karen D. Nichols, Pattie Brooks Anderson, and me at the Backstreet Authors Book Signing on September 25, 2022.

Some folks came specifically to get certain books, others were there because they heard about it at the Florence Festival of Books the day before, but mostly the folks were just passing by or heading into Backstreet Gallery.

Larry has written more than 20 books, most of which are thrillers and several take place in National Parks. Karen has 11 books, most of them involve a love story and a mystery with a dog story intertwined. Pattie has written two children’s books that she has illustrated and one romance that takes place on the Oregon Coast. And my books are all non-fiction. I have two histories—of the historic bridges on the Oregon Coast and of the Florence area––, two guides––to the coast’s major bridges and to that which is odd, unusual and quirky on the coast––, and two personal books––one about rescued dogs and cats that eventually became great pets and the other about navigating chemo while battling late-stage cancer. Between the four of us, there was quite an assortment.

As expected, there was a lot of good conversation with those who stopped by and some sales. Also, a few business cards exchanged hands for possible future sales.

All of us have our books for sale in Backstreet Gallery. And all but me, have art work as well.

Unexpectedly, a fellow looking down at us from B.J.’s Ice Cream’s elevated porch next door asked, “Does anybody read?” That got our attention, and we all responded. Then he asked if any of us had attended the book fair the day before. Since we all had, once again, we all responded.

I continued the conversation, mainly because I was the closest to him. I learned that his late wife had participated in the FFOB, and I remembered her. He mentioned that he lived out by Siltcoos Lake. So, I asked if he had known Bob Jackson who also lived at Siltcoos. He did, and we exchanged Bob Jackson stories. Then he asked what kind of books I wrote. After giving him the quick version of each, he bought two. What started as joking with us, turned into an actual sale. You just never know!

It was an enjoyable afternoon and part of the “books and authors weekend.” All four Backstreet authors have their books for sale in Backstreet Gallery. 

***

Writers––three basic categories

As I was thinking about the wide variation in types if writing among the authors who participated in the Backstreet Authors Book Signing and the Florence Festival of Books, I realized that they fell into three basic categories: wordsmiths, deadline writers, and storytellers who then fall into two subcategories––storytellers who are good writers and those who aren’t but have excellent editors.

Wordsmiths are the poets and those who write prose poems who carefully consider every word. This also includes some novelists and non-fiction writers who labor over every sentence. In more than one type of poetry, not just every word, but every syllable is carefully considered. This is especially true in Haiku, where the three lines are composed of five, seven, and five syllables.

These are two books of poems by my nephew, Lindsay Wilson, who teaches creative writing at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno. He is a wordsmith,

The deadline writers might be fiction or non-fiction writers. They can sit down anytime, whether the muse is in attendance or not, and write. They often have a deadline and a word limit, and the ability to write about numerous subjects. So, sometimes research beforehand is involved as is factchecking afterwards. Since word count is often part of the equation, they are rarely accused of being wordy. But flow is important. If you cut too much, then the writing becomes choppy. Deadline writers become expert at cutting just enough to keep the flow going. This is my category, my way of writing.

Them there are the storytellers who can sit down and inhabit another world in their minds and write about it. Most have to do research, plotting, and character development beforehand, but others have an idea in mind and just write, letting the characters and plot develop and doing any research as needed. Either way, these writers, know the basics of writing, and after getting a segment of the story down, they can self-edit.

I’m a deadline writer. In UNEXPECTED, I kept edit to 475 words for each of 26 locales. And I had to do major research before writing and factchecking afterwards on each one. I must have done a good job because second printing required no changes

But there are some writers who are not good writers but fabulous storytellers. They write the story, but it will need major editing, All writers need someone else, preferably an editor—not a friend or family member––to edit their work. But these fabulous storytellers need more extensive editing. In the end, they, too, can have great books.

I know writers in all these categories and have bought their books and read and enjoyed them.  In some cases, I’ve been the author’s editor. The takeaway here is that there is more than one way to write a book. And no particular way is better than another. Whatever works for the writer is best!

Next time you pick up a book, I’ll bet you’re going to wonder what kind of writer wrote it.

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#356––FFOB 2022, a great success . . .

The 2022 11th Annual Florence Festival of Books is over, and now, I can get my life back. It does have a way of taking over between June and September each year.

“Our first time at a book event and we thought this was well done!”

This year, it was a great success! And I’m not the only one who thought so; I’ve included comments that were on the evaluation forms we handed out one hour before closing and picked up just before. That way, we usually get a good return.

Ed Fender has been here several times before.I just loved his book Italy Calls. I keep; asking him to write a sequel. –Photo Courtesy Ed Fender

I wasn’t sure it would be a success at first. Five minutes before the panel discussion was to start at 9 a.m., I, the moderator, was the only one backstage. But the panelists magically appeared right on time . . . except for one. He had taken ill the evening before and was not there. But another panelist had his script and would do his part as well as hers. Okay! When it was time to start, few people were in the audience.  With only an hour, we had to start. So, we did, and it went well for about 20 minutes, then a mic conked out while a panelist was speaking. Matt, the FEC go-to guy for any tech problems brought one up. Okay. Soon another conked out. Then Matt brought up a handful.

Although the audience grew, it didn’t get much over 30. But they were an engaging group. Their questions kept coming until we had to wrap up at 10. So, in spite of a missing panelist, mics conking out, and a small audience, it was a success because we all heard up-to-date info about how to turn a manuscript or print book into an eBook and we all appreciated it! And if anyone still had questions, each of the panelists would have a table during the book fair and could answer questions until 4 p.m.

“I want to thank you for the many young people and others who greeted us when we arrived. Being from out of town, we felt very welcomed and well cared for. Thank you!”

One of the most popular services we provide are the young greeters. These young people, whom we didn’t have set up until just a few days prior, were there and greeted the participants as they drove up. They helped unload boxes, banners, and other table swag. They then guided the participant to the posted table layout, so they could see where they would be and took them there. That way, nobody was wandering around lost or wondering what to do.

Here are four participants––panelist Donna McFarland, Jennifer Chambers, Cy Bishop, and Catherine Rickbone. Catherine was the only author in this photo new to FFOB. —Photo Courtesy Kathy McCullough

Another popular service is the volunteers that could be spotted by their blue aprons. They would answer questions and take over any participant’s table when they needed a break or went for lunch. That way, tables were always occupied.

“I want to compliment you all on a well-organized, friendly, supportive event! All the blue-apron helpers were so awesome!”

We have a central location for those participants who do not have the ability to handle credit cards. That way no sales are lost, and it is greatly appreciated. For example, I have a Square card reader, but I need my mobile phone to use it. On this day, I left my mobile phone at home. I had put it in my purse the night before, so I wouldn’t forget it. But the next morning, I made a last-minute change. I took the important stuff from my purse and put in my fanny pack because then I would have room for my change purse and booklet for recording transactions. But I did not check the compartment where the phone was. Because I didn’t have my phone, I couldn’t take photos or use my card reader. I was bummed! So, I was among those very grateful for the credit card service.

On the left is Leslie Ghiglieri, new to FFOB. I was very pleased to see that she is a ‘true crime’ writer. That’s a first for FFOB. –Photo Courtesy Leslie Ghiglieri

After 11 years, we have worked out most of the kinks and pride ourselves on being well organized. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems. Every little while, Victoria, one of our committee members, would come to me with a question or problem, which we would discuss and she or I would handle. There was the empty table of the panelist who could not come. We simply moved the table next to the adjoining one and she spread out her stuff. We never want an empty table.

Then we had an unexpected participant show up who said he had filled out an application and paid, but we had no record and he had not brought his confirmation. Because he was one who had come before, we believed him, and put him at the previously empty table after removing stuff and putting it back. Then there were a couple of participants who kept leaving their table unattended. Later, there were questions about when should we announce this and that, including the door prize announcement, and so on.

“I loved the ability to send people up to the credit card sales clerk as my Square device was not working. Also appreciated the layout and space for the event and individual tables. Many thanks!!”

Because the FEC was going through personnel changes during the summer, during the time of our preparation, there were a couple of glitches. The welcome letter, evaluation form, and small door prize form for the attendees was on the FEC computer, and they needed to be updated and enough copies run off. Well, the evaluation form had the first paragraph with dates updated, but the bottom questions asking about Friday events had not. This year, we were a Saturday, one-day only affair with no Friday events. At least 16 people pointed that out to me the last hour of the book fair.

Kathy McCullough (left) learned to fly when she was 16 and retired as a Boeing 747 captain in 2007 and now enjoys being an author of fiction. –Photo Courtesy Kathy McCullough

And the attendee form from which we hoped to gain zip codes and permission to add names to our mailing list did not get used. Another form, not used in years that did have many places listed where they may have heard about the FFOB, was used. It did not have the two items, we really wanted. I was very disappointed when I realized this. What a missed opportunity! Before the event, I did check to see that they all had been run off, but should have checked more thoroughly. At least, the data we did get will help us target advertising next year.

As far as the participants and the attendees were concerned, it was a smooth-running affair. There was help when they needed it, there were many books of many genre all for sale to choose among, and the new caterers outdid themselves with great food being served in the lobby area.

“So friendly—the vibe and energy are outstanding. I’ve been to many book events, have sold more books, but the collaborative kindness here is outstanding.”

I don’t know the total number of attendees. I do know that it was a lot more than last year, but not as many as our highest number years. And I know that most participants had good sales. And what I especially enjoyed was the happy vibe throughout the day from both participants and attendees.

This is the certificate I was presented to acknowledge my 11 years as Co-founder and Co-chair of the FFOB.

I, personally, had a fabulous time. For those of us who have been every year or even several years, it’s like a reunion. It’s absolutely terrific to see other authors who have become friends. I spent so much time socializing that I didn’t concentrate as much on selling books. Even so, I sold 19. The networking that goes on is one of the real pluses of these types of events.

This year there were several returnees and several new authors—a good mix. One of the new authors told me that the best thing was being in a room filled with other authors! She was positively giddy!

“The panel discussion was great! It was worth the price of a table. And the Keynote Address by William Sullivan was worth twice the cost of a table!! A great day!”

After the book fair was the Keynote Speaker. We only had scheduled 15 minutes for break down and moving everyone out of the display area. The book fair ended at 4 p.m. and the Keynote to start at 4:15 p.m. Not enough time. Next year, I’ll bet we change it to 4:30 p.m.

Here is William Sullivan, our Keynote Speaker, at his table right where you entered the display area. –Photo Courtesy Kathy McCullough

Before the Keynote began, there was a special recognition given to two FFOB Planning Committee members who would be stepping down from leadership positions. One was Bonnie MacDuffee, who will no longer be treasurer of our umbrella group FACE as well as our committee and me as Co-chair for the past 11 years. On stage in front of a much larger audience than that morning, each of us received a lovely bouquet of flowers and a framed certificate of appreciation. I was totally surprised and loved it! The flowers are on the dining room table, and the framed certificate is on prominent display in my office.

I heard the Keynote Address by William Sullivan was great––entertaining and humorous as we had advertised. I had planned to attend, but had to finish loading up and then gathering the evaluations and attendee forms to tally later at home. When I was offered help to load my stuff into my car, I took it. Then there were a couple of folks I knew, whom I visited with. As they left, a woman walked in wanting to buy some books and was disappointed when I told her that the book fair was over. She was truly unhappy, so I told her I was one of the participants and had some books that I could show her. She gladly followed me to my car, where I opened the trunk and proceeded to show her my books. She bought two, paying with exact cash. We were both happy!  Just as I was about to go back in to hear at least a part of the Keynote, the audience started streaming out. I had missed it!

“This is the best book-selling event/venue I’ve ever attended. Thanks for your hard work.”

All in all, it was a great day! . . . I was glad that it was a success, happy that I’d had such a good time, and relieved that it was over! It was the culmination of planning begun in April.

Note: Mark your calendar. Next year, the Florence Festival of Books takes place on September 23, and it will probably continue as a one-day event.

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#355–FFOB Crunch time . . .

It wasn’t fair that Aleia, the gal who worked at the Florence Events Center and who was part of the Florence Festival of Books Planning Committee, was leaving just before we opened up to accept registrations. Working with different people not familiar with the Festival’s inner workings turned out okay for the most part. But we no longer have an FEC person on the committee.  Much of what Aleia did, we are now doing. We miss Aleia!

 By early August, sponsors were lined up for the Florence Festival of Books, so we were able to get our flyers and poster finished and printed. By the third week of August, all tables were sold out. Then the bios of the authors and publishers participating were edited and placed on the website, www.FlorenceFestivalofBooks.org along with info about the Festival as a whole, info about the eBook discussion panelists, and info about the Keynote Speaker, William “Bill” Sullivan. All that was happening mostly on schedule.

These five books were part of a “Wake Up and WIN” book giveaway each day last week on KEZI TV in Eugene.

Then three weeks prior to the Festival, everything ramped up––especially advertising. We were on the radio, TV and social media. I did a 25-minute interview for KXCR in Florence and two other committee members were on Our Town for KCST also in Florence. And two of us recorded 30-second spots for KCST

I was recorded via Zoom for a 2-minute, 45-second segment for a Eugene TV KVAL news program that aired at noon. We were mentioned every day for 10 days on Eugene TV KEZI with a book giveaway each day from 10 of our participating authors.

And these five books were given away each day this week. All to help advertise the Florence Festival of Books.

We were in the local newspaper with articles and ads as well as the Insert the Wednesday before. We plastered Florence with flyers. And mailed them to 55 venues throughout western Oregon and distributed in person in Yachats, Waldport, and Reedsport. I heard from more than one source that they noticed more advertising this year. I certainly hope so, that’s why we hired a marketing consultant.

On Wednesday just four days before the Festival, the special 12-page Insert appeared in the Siuslaw News devoted totally to the Florence Festival of Books. To prepare for it, the committee put together four articles and the lists of sponsors and committee members as well as assigning two more articles. The deadline was September 2 and proofing was done the following week. Besides appearing in the paper, the Insert will also be the program at the actual event.

Here is the cover of the 12-page Insert for the Siuslaw News that came out Wednesday with the paper and also will be our program on Saturday at the Book Festival.

On Thursday, a special sponsor poster we had ordered was picked up and is exactly what we wanted.

On Friday morning, the FEC team will set up the tables and drape them as well as set up the separator curtains between them. That afternoon, the committee is scheduled to collate and pass out everything needed by the 66 participants. Later that afternoon, the keynote speaker, William Sullivan, will meet with the tech person at the FEC to set up for his Keynote address.

Fifteen or so volunteers are undergoing training this week for their particular duties on Saturday. And by now, the committee has located the T-shirts and/or aprons that they will be wearing.

One committee member has prepared the table numbers and participant names and also the name inserts for the lanyards, and they’ve been edited. Someone else located the lanyards. The welcome letter for the participants and the evaluation to be filled out at the end of the day have been run off and are ready for the participants.

This is the centerfold of the Insert that shows the table layout and where all 66 participants sit at their 50 tables.

A form for the attendees letting us know how they found out about the event and their zip code and their email if they want to be on our mailing list has been run off also. This form will go into a drawing, where one will be the winner of a basket of goodies. Included in the basket are five donated books from participating authors. I sent out the request Thursday, and within a couple hours all five let me know that they would be happy to donate a book. Love these authors!

This was taken last year. This is a typical scene at the Book Festival. This is author and publisher Suzanne Parrott, one of this year’s eBook panelists. Notice the table skirting and the black curtain divider behind.

The central credit card station will be set up with help from Oregon Pacific Bank and the forms in triplicate needed for credit card sales were located last week and collated into packets of four to be passed out to every participant.

Each panelist is prepared for their segment of the eBook panel discussion, and they plan to arrive early enough to get their tables set up before their 9 a.m. panel discussion. I’ll be the moderator and have been working with them.

The participants arrive Saturday morning and set up their tables and display areas before the public arrives. Here a few years ago, H.S. Contino sets up her area with one of the helpers that assist participants unload their cars in the morning and then later in the day help load back up.

On Friday, the stars of the show––all 66 participants––will be getting their books together, obtaining cash for their cash boxes, and locating their display swag and packing it in their cars ready for a quick getaway Saturday morning.  Or maybe they will arrive on Friday, having made plans to spend one or two nights at the coast. We did work out discounted lodgings at three places in town.  

And so it goes . . .

The planning that began last April, culminates this Saturday, September 24, in our all-day Book Festival. The past few weeks have indeed been “crunch time” with almost daily last-minute problems that needed solving. Finally, we feel like we’ve got it covered, that we’re ready, that everything will run smoothly. So, I hope you can stop by and see for yourself how it all comes together.

Note: Except for the panel discussion at 9 a.m. and the Keynote Address at 4:15 p.m., you can come and go as you please during the book fair between 10 and 4.  All events are free and at the Florence Events Center, located behind Safeway. See you there!

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