#293–Florence Festival of Books, planning in uncertain times . . .

Yes, we plan to have it, so mark your calendars. It will be September 17-18, one week earlier than it normally takes place. Despite my protests, we were bumped by a large event that the FEC has been trying to host for several years.

Connie and I began the FFOB because when we complained about some conditions at a book fair that we had attended, Dick Smith (in the middle) said, “So put on your own.” Then he went behind our backs and conspired with Kevin Rhodes at the Events Center and put down a date for a book fair. He then called to tell me he thought Connie and I would make great co-chairs! We put both he and Kevin on the committee. This photo was taken at the 5th FFOB in 2015.

Yes, we plan to have it on this our 10th milestone year. When Connie Bradley and I first started with the FFOB back in 2011, we thought if we got 20 writers to sign up, we’d be thrilled. Within a week, we had 20, a couple weeks later 40, and before long we had 60 authors and publishers. It was a success from the get-go, in spite of us not knowing what we were doing.

It truly was a steep learning curve! We assembled a wonderful planning committee and we all learned as we went along. The first week, Connie and I decided we needed sponsors because we had no money to work with. So, we hit the phones and within a half hour had $600. We thought we were rollin’ in dough! Fast forward to 2019––we received $7,600 from sponsors. We now have levels of sponsorships, materials with info, meetings with individual sponsors––just a much more professional operation. That first year, we didn’t pay much for the use of the FEC. I think, they thought that first year was an experiment to see if it would work. Today, we pay the normal rate, and we pay for advertising and marketing, for flyers and posters, a Keynote Speaker, supplies, and more. I think our budget was around $8,000 last year.  The FFOB has become one of the major events at the Florence Events Center. 

Author/artist Kathryn Damon-Dawson was an attendee in 2011 and pitched her idea to publisher Bob Serra (seen here). She returned in 2012 with her book that Bob Serra published.

Yes, we plan to have it, in spite of the pandemic. By September, more people will be vaccinated and, hopefully, numbers of new infections will be way down. In some ways it will be like our first year. There are a lot of unknowns. How much accommodation are we going to have to do because of the pandemic? Will any authors and publishers be willing to be inside for a prolonged period? We don’t even know how many tables we will be able to set up to meet social distance guidelines. Will the public attend an indoor event?

Authors of all genre participate, like this children’s book author in the 2012 FFOB.

We normally start planning the first of April and have applications available mid-June. This year we stalled as long as we could, trying to decide to have or not to have. The co-chairs and a few other committee members had some phone and email discussions and decided to go for it with pandemic accommodations as needed.

The planning committee’s first meeting via Zoom took place on May 11 and we will start accepting applications shortly after July 4. This past week, three committee members with tape measures planned to walk through the FEC’s flat floor with last year’s table layout, making necessary adjustments for social distancing. They will come up with a new table layout. Then we will know how many tables we can have. Then we will know our limit of how many applications we can accept.

There will continue to be no charge for the book fair. And new this year, THERE WILL BE NO CHARGE TO HEAR THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER. It will still be at 7 p.m., and tickets will be needed because seating will be limited. We will probably have to block every other row and have empty seats between groups in the other rows. Our Keynote Speaker this year will be Melody Carlson, one of America’s most prolific romance and teen and tween writers. She has sold millions of books. She has more than 250 novels to her credit as well as a few Hallmark movies. She was on our Friday afternoon panel discussion in 2018 and has attended FFOB several times. We are thrilled to have her as our Keynote Speaker.

Melody Carlson is second from the left in this Friday afternoon panel discussion about the various ways to publish books held at the 2018 FFOB.

As to the panel discussion, it will take place as usual from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, but we won’t have the same intimate setting where both audience and panelists were on stage. Because we have to consider social distancing, we will use the whole theater with some rows and seats blocked off. We don’t have the panelists lined up yet, but we are working on it.

Yes, we plan to have it because we can’t abide the thought of not having it . . . two years in a row. It will be the same, yet not the same. At this point in time, we have many questions. In some ways, it is like that first year where we didn’t know what we were doing. So, we will be adaptable and adjust as the Covid guidelines change and the risk levels rise and fall. Masks or no masks, vaccine passports or no vaccine passports, who knows! What we do know is that the Florence Festival of Books is going to take place on September 17-18, one week earlier than usual. So, mark your calendars now. See you there!

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#292–New book: The Cancer Blog . . .

Within a few months of my first major book, Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges, publication, I started a weekly blog about my adventures with my book. After I added more books, it became adventures with my books. Then when I became ill with late-stage cancer, it became adventures with my health. After I recovered, it became adventures with life in general. So, it has evolved lockstep with my life.

The Cancer Posts

In the years since my recovery from cancer, I’ve shared my posts about that period of my life with numerous people who had been recently diagnosed. Being able to read about someone else’s experiences in a similar situation provides hope and they know they are not alone. And first-person accounts have credibility. Folks often said that I should put the cancer posts into a book, but I pooh-poohed the idea.

That is, until this past Christmas. That’s when one of my roommates from college told me about her long-time friend, who had just been diagnosed with the same type of cancer that I had. So, I suggested my cancer blog posts, and she said to send.

I didn’t have any run-off copies handy, so I ran off some. I sent 16 posts, covering first symptoms to recuperation after chemo. As I ran off each one, I read it. Re-reading them, six years after writing them, gave me a totally different perspective. I decided that they would, indeed, make a decent book. Once it was MY idea, I jumped right on it.

From Blog Posts to Book

Here I am with my publisher, Bob Serra of Maple Creek Press (formerly Pacific Publishing) with the second edition of The Crossings Guide. The Cancer Blog is our fifth book together.

I ran the idea by my publisher of four of my other books, Bob Serra of Maple Creek Press, and he liked it.

I edited each post and beefed it up a bit and decided to keep them from the perspective of the day each blog post was written. The first was September 30, 2014, and the last was April 1, 2015. If I wanted to add anything that the author at that time did not know about, I put it in parentheses.

So, I worked on the 16 blog posts in February and March and started sending to my publisher, Bob, mid-March. I added a dedication, table of contents, and introduction in the front of the book and an epilogue, about the author, and cancer help information at the back of the book.

The “Epilogue: The Importance of Hair” chronicles the year following the end of chemo through the growth and changes in my hair as it grew back. It took a year to the day when I was diagnosed that I wore my new hair out in public for the first time. I became very attached to the wig I wore in public for 11 months and to the variety of head gear that I wore at home.

After Bob had designed the book with photographs and the cover, it went back and forth between us until we were convinced there were no more changes to be made. Then The Cancer Blog: For those who have had cancer and for those who haven’t went to the printer.

On the Brink of Printing

Two days ago, I went over everything in the digital proof sent by the printer. And, I found four minute typos that need to be changed. Dang! Change a period to a comma, change a comma to a period, and delete a comma. And one two-line section that looks darker and larger than the print surrounding it. Like I said––minute, nothing major!

I sent these off to Bob and he changed them. You can do that with a digital proof. I checked his changes and now the edit is good to go.

Here you can see the back as well as the front cover of The Cancer Blog.

When I printed everything out, the photos within the book looked dark but looked great on the computer screen. And I love the cover on the computer screen, but I would like to see how it will actually look—color saturation, thickness of cover, how much gloss. This is a new printer for us and they sent us samples of books they’ve printed, and they were beautiful. But I want to see how my book will look before giving the go-ahead.

I expressed my concerns to Bob, and he has requested a hard copy proof. Then we’ll both be able to see what our book will actually look like. So, we’re almost to the point of printing. It’s a little scary giving the go-ahead when 1,500 books are on the line! But it will happen, and soon.

I expect to have copies of my new book available sometime in June.

Endorsements

I’m including two of the five endorsements I have, the other three are on the back cover of the book:

No one knows if or when cancer or something equally bad will occur. The descriptions and perceptions of Judy’s experiences, that she reflects in such candid, insightful, and sometimes humorous ways, are appreciated. Maybe it will be for our own purposes or to extend to a loved one who is facing a similar foe. Nonetheless, information is power, and this book can serve as an inspirational path to acceptance and recovery.” –Laurel Gerkman, writer friend of the author

Judy and I are long-time friends. I used her descriptive blogs written throughout her cancer treatment to help me later when I was diagnosed with cancer. I then passed them on to another friend who was going through her own cancer treatments. Judy’s blogs, filled with optimism and humor, helped us all. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone affected by cancer.  –Phyllis Bright, friend of the author since college days.

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#291–My throat was slit . . .

This was my opening statement to the postal clerk who was used to laughing at my jokes. I said, “My throat was slit when I went to Eugene last week.” It got her  attention and every one else’s in the small lobby at the post office. Suddenly, I was the center of attention. I  went on to tell that it had been part of minor surgery to remove a basal cell carcinoma and leaned my head back to show the bandage on my throat. It was an easy surgery, and days later by phone, I learned that the dermatologist had gotten all of it. I was glad of that, but I also enjoyed telling people I got my throat slit. At times, it’s fun to be a little outrageous.

It had been a year and a half, since I had seen my dermatologist, Dr. Diane Baird, due to the pandemic. Normally, I see her in Florence every four to six months, and, she often finds something. The appointment was just a few weeks ago. Because it had been much longer this time around, I figured she’s find something. I had three spots on my face I was concerned about.  And she found two more on other parts of my body that she was concerned about.

Where I had my throat slit a couple weeks ago, when the basal cell carcinoma was removed.

Two of the three spots on my face were precancerous and she froze them with liquid nitrogen. The third spot was nothing to worry about. The ones that she found, she biopsied. The one on my back turned out to be precancerous and the scraping she had done for the biopsy was all that was necessary to take care of it. The other one was the basal cell carcinoma on my throat. That one, I would need to go over to Eugene for minor surgery.

I’ve often had to have skin cancers removed. I’ve probably been diagnosed with 45 to 50 that have all been successfully removed. The first one was discovered when I was 39. And I’ve been checked every year since. And the last 15 years or so it’s been more often. On most visits something is found and either zapped or biopsied. I’m used to it.

During the past decade, the Mohs microscopic procedure has been used often on me to remove skin cancers. This is where they take a very thin layer of skin tissue and check it under a microscope to see if any cancer is found. They do this over and over until no cancer exists. Each layer takes about 45 minutes, so it can take hours. I happen to be the happy owner of a four-Mohs nose. My poor nose has also had about 30 precancerous spots zapped.

I’ve had two serious situations with skin cancer. The first was during the early 1980s when my whole face was treated all at once with Efudex for numerous precancerous spots. Many people have a few spots that scab over when using Efudex, and their face never looks bad enough nor do they feel bad enough to stay home.

The pressure bandage after my melanoma surgery.

It was different for me. I rubbed on the Efudex cream and within a couple days, my whole face reacted with redness and then blisters that began oozing. Then it crusted over into one giant scab. As it healed, the scab pulled at the corners of my eyes and around my lips and nose. I was miserable. I also had cold sores all over my lips. I felt hot all the time and only felt relief when I held a wet cloth on my face or a cold can of beer pressed against it. I was burning up. Good thing it was January and the weather cool. I couldn’t have stood it to have the heater on.

I was teaching during that time, or I should say I was taking time off from teaching during that time. I missed three weeks of school during the Efudex treatment. I would go in every few days to turn in lesson plans for the substitute. One of my first-grade students, Laura, arrived early one day and saw me. She took one look and said, “I liked it better before.” I told her, “You and me both.” The doctor, however, was thrilled. Evidently, I had hundreds of pre-cancerous spots on my face and just about all of them were reacting to the Efudex. I took no photographs of that experience.

After the pressure bandage came off, I could see what had been done. The Z shaped scar, I called the mark of Zorro!

After the scab started coming off in bits and pieces. Every part of my face started peeling. That was when I was at my ugliest. Finally, the whole top layer was simply gone. I looked like I had brand new skin—which I did. It was like baby’s skin. I had to be very careful because it burned easily in the sun. Nearly all my precancerous spots disappeared during this treatment. But over the decades since, I acquired some new ones––particularly on my nose.

Fast forward 30+years to my second serious skin cancer situation. I had an in situ melanoma on my cheek removed. Evidently, it had been a harmless freckle for decades before it started growing larger and getting darker. As a kid, I had a number of freckles across my nose and cheeks. They disappeared during my early teen years. But not this one.

Just before Halloween in 2012, Dr. Baird determined that it should be biopsied, and we found that it was a full-blown melanoma. I had had a couple of pre-melanomas on one leg before but never a full-blown one. So, she made an appointment for me with Dr. Jay Park in Eugene. He is also a dermatologist who has extensive experience in the  Mohs procedure. He was the one who did the four Mohs procedures on my nose. He knows my face well.

Within a few weeks the scar was becoming hard to see.

For this melanoma, he also used Mohs. When all the cancer was removed layer by layer, it left an area about one inch by an inch and a half with no skin covering. Dr. Park made a large shallow incision that was in the shape of a “Z” which allowed him to pull and maneuver skin into place to cover the hole. Then he stitched it into place. For a couple of months, I had what I called, “The mark of Zorro!” Within a few months, though,it was almost impossible to see. He did a wonderful job. Today, no one notices it unless I’m in bright light at a certain angle.

As a young person and throughout my life, I’ve avoided the sun because I burn easily. As a baby born in Honolulu, I received a lot of sunburns very early, I later learned. As a kid, whenever I went swimming, I would get sunburned. Then as a teenager, I got a sunlamp and received a second-degree burn all over my face and chest. Never used it again. So, these experiences must have been enough to cause many of my skin cancers. As an adult, I use sunscreen daily and try to stay out of the sun mid-day.  

Dr.Baird, my dermatologist, suggested I take Niacinamide twice a day because it is supposed to cut down on skin cancers. So I do. It hasn’t eliminated me getting them, but perhaps there are not as many or as severe.

When I had my throat slit in Eugene a couple weeks ago, I was a willing participant! And the scar is already less noticeable.

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#290–In praise of that which actually works . . .

You get sucked in by the advertising. You buy it. Then it doesn’t live up to your expectations. It does exactly what the ad says it won’t do (like the kinkless hose). Or it works for awhile before it breaks (like trigger-spray mops). Or is a flimsy replica of what you expected. Or you replace parts, and the product no longer works as well. But, sometimes, products or services actually live up to their advertising and work! Here are some that I am happy with, plus one disappointment and some wishful thinking.

PRODUCTS

This is exactly what I wanted.

Seiko Wall Clock—I love this clock that I bought online after much research. It is the right size for the location and fits snug against the wall. It does not stick out too far and be in the way of anyone walking up the stairs. I love the Westminster Chimes, which I can regulate as to loudness during the day and have off at night. And the pendulum works just fine.

I had a Howard Miller clock much more expensive in that location for about 15 years. It was a bit too big for the location, but I overlooked that because I loved the look of it. It also stuck out too far and folks would bump into it. I also had to put shims behind it to make it possible for the pendulum to move, which created even more of a problem with folks bumping it. The chimes worked just fine, until I had to replace the clockworks after about eight years. Then the pendulum and the chimes didn’t work. But I stilI kept it for several years because it kept good time. Though, I was not happy with it. So, I really appreciate my Seiko wall clock.

LED Bulbs in Picture lights. I bought a painting years ago for a reasonable price and love it, but it is darkish and difficult to see detail. It needed a picture light either attached to the frame or the wall above. I went over to Eugene and finally found one that cost more than the painting. I got the salesman to reduce it by half. But the light never worked for more than a few hours before needing recharging with a cord. And the whole point was to not have a cord showing. It was not what I wanted, but I put up with it for years. This past year, I bought another painting which I placed in a darkish spot. Otherwise, it was the perfect location. It too needed a picture light.

This is my newer painting located in a darkish spot. The Concept Lighting picture light actually lights it better than it shows here. I am very pleased with it.

A few weeks ago, I went online and researched picture lights with LED bulbs. Most worked with batteries that ran anywhere from 40 to 80 hours. Much to my surprise, they now come with dimmers, timers, and remotes. I bought two Concept Lighting picture lights that go 80 hours on the brightest setting and have dimmers and remotes. And each one didn’t cost as much as the “half price” of the one that I had. I removed the old one, installed the two new ones to the wall above each painting, and they work. I’ve been using them for two weeks at one of the dimmer settings. One is on all day and the other from about 4 p.m. Each needs three C batteries, and I just replaced them yesterday.

Thermawrap advertises to take away the pain. Yeah, sure! It’s the kind of advertising you take with a grain of salt. But with Thermawrap, it actually works. I’ve reached the age where I get pains here and there with no warning. So, when I have a pain in my neck, at the arch or heel of my foot, my knee, or wrist or any other part of my body, I wrap with Thermawrap and wear it for the allotted hours (either 8 or 16) and the pain goes away. It’s a miracle! I make sure I always have a few on hand.

SERVICES

Zoom, which makes meetings possible or birthday get-togethers possible on your computer or smart phone or tablet, is wonderful, in my opinion. I am not one who has to be on Zoom for hours and hours at a time day after day. There are the little glitches when words are garbled for a few seconds, but for the most part, it works just fine. This is so much better than a conference call, because you can actually hear and see the other folks present and know who is talking. Backstreet Gallery uses it, and as secretary, I can watch and listen to the entire meeting on a recording afterwards if I need to, just to make sure I’ve got everything accurate when it’s an especially important meeting. Also, when members are out of town, they can participate. And I love seeing family on birthday get-togethers.

WordPress I’ve used for a decade and it works. Every once in a while there will be updates that confuse me briefly. Working with the text is easy, but It also makes working with photos easy. I can access my photos and place them where I want––left, right, or center. And I can edit the post after it has posted. I need an outlet for writing and this provides it. I‘m very glad to have it. Also, for a minimal annual amount, I can eliminate all ads above, beside, below, or within my posts. Since I don’t want the ads, it’s worth it to me.

DANG! DANG! DANG!!

TofuKitty cat litter worked exactly as advertised and I, and Sir Groucho, loved it, but as of Wednesday’s notice, they are going out of business. I must have tried 20 different cat litters before hitting on this one just about a year ago. So, I am VERY disappointed

The color was a little off-putting, and the new one will be a more brownish/beige color. But I loved everything else about TofuKitty cat litter.

TofuKitty advertised to be earth friendly because the pellets are made from soy and not clay that comes from unsightly mining. And the pee balls dissolve in water for easy disposal. Since it’s soy, the left over each month easily decomposes in my debris pile outside. And there’s no odor. All of this, I appreciate. But my favorite feature is that there is very little tracking. My long-haired Groucho, whose feet are like a snowshoe rabbit, can mess up the house in no time. With most other litter, 20 to 30 particles per furry foot gets tracked all over the house after each trip to the litter box.

The only down side was that TofuKitty was expensive. But, for me, it was worth it. The recommended company, Natural Paw Tofu Cat Litter, sounds wonderful according to their advertising––with all the good features of TofuKitty––and costs less. So, I ordered some Wednesday night. They will have a hard act to follow. We shall see.

WISHFUL THINKING

I’m still looking for a hose that actually, really truly does not kink, a trigger operated squirting mop that actually lasts beyond a few moppings, and a lacquer finish that doesn’t sag when applied vertically––like on a door.

It’s absolutely wonderful when a product actually works as advertised!!!

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#289–Haiku has taken over my life . . .

Note: April is National Poetry Month

Last year after the lockdown began and Backstreet Gallery was closed for three and a half months, various artists began sharing through email attachments their wonderful artwork they were creating at home. I wondered what I could do as the only writer/non-artist in the group. Then it hit me that I could do some Haiku. I hadn’t done any in many years, but I had always enjoyed doing them. It is very structured with its five-seven-five syllable format. So I gave it a try.

My first Haiku in many years. I found it fun and loved the feeling of creating something new.

The Covid series

My first efforts ended up being about various aspects of the pandemic—masks, gloves, Zoom meetings, staying home, and social distancing––and I was encouraged to make cards with them, which led to more cards. I loved being able to create something new.

Vaccine Haiku

Then nearly a year passed before I wrote another one. It was inspired by trying to get my vaccine shots. It was part of my blog post––“#280––Vaccine–Bring it on . . .” This Haiku turned out to be very simple, but said exactly what I was feeling.

Very simple, but said exactly what I felt!

Recycling Haiku

About a month ago, when I was on duty at the Gallery, Floyd Bidwell, manager of Restock, stopped by to let the artists at the Gallery know about the upcoming Art Show for Earth Day at Restock. He wanted to spread the word that Restock was looking for artwork made from recycled materials. A week later, he called with more details, and I told him that I was a writer and wouldn ‘t be entering anything. Without missing a beat, he said, “So, write a poem on a used paper bag.” So, I did.

I wrote a three-stanza Haiku about recycling, and entered it in the show. After all, it was his idea! He was there, when I brought it in last Friday. He loved it! I told him that Restore could keep it after the show. He was thrilled and said he would frame it. I was very pleased.

My recycled artwork entry for the Earth Day Art Show at Restore in Florence through April 24..

I didn’t really write on the used Fred Meyer bag, I composed the poem on the computer and then printed on expensive cardstock, recycled from an old Florence Festival of Books poster. The back hadn’t been used and looked brand new. I then cut jagged edges all around and used a couple of the left-over pieces to frame the poem, which also showed that the paper the poem was written on was recycled. That whole experience was great fun!

Spring Glorious Spring Series

So, when the Gallery decided to do “Spring Glorious Spring” as its theme for May and to allow all Gallery artists that want to create something for spring to do so, I immediately thought of Haiku.  

Last weekend, I played around with words and tweaked again and again until I came up with three, three-stanza Haiku poems to go with three cards of mine that have flowers on them. Actually, Haiku is supposed to be about nature, so these are my only Haiku truly in the tradition of Haiku.

The daylilies in this photo lasted only half a day because the deer also liked them

One is about Daylilies for the card with beautiful, orange daylilies. A second is called Springtime in Florence for the card with lovely pink Rhododendron blossoms. And a third is called O.H. Hinsdale (Secret) Rhody Garden and goes with a card showing the garden filled with several blossoming rhodies.

One of three Haiku poems I did for the May “Spring Glorious Spring” show at Backstreet Gallery.

I already had the cards for sale with blank insides. Now, I have a few of each of these with Haiku poems inside that will be for sale in May.

I woke up the other morning when the alarm went off, and I had been dreaming of writing a Haiku poem. I tell ya, Haiku has taken over my life!

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#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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