Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Reflection 0n 2015
2015 - It's Melting Away
The end of 2015 is upon us and as usual most of us reflect. This past year has not been my most difficult year, fortunately. 2013 was, and although the pain of loss my family and I experienced that year has not left us (it never will), I have surprised myself by managing to carry on -- to smile, to laugh, to fret, to care, to create, to love.
            I am delighted to have published my fourth book this year, and although I wish I could sell more copies, am pleased with the outcome. Go With The Flo is a mystery, and that fact in itself surprised me. When I began writing this novel, I had no intention of creating a murder mystery. My characters, Flo (Florence) being one, took over though, and yes, I had to go with the flow. It is amazing, but sometimes my characters seem to know where I’m going before I do.
            With the help of Publish Pros, I have a wonderful, new website. Check it out at if you have a moment. All of my works, along with several reviews are highlighted there, and I’m happy with the result. The site also will take a reader to my blog, and, yes, I enjoy blogging, although writing a short piece sometimes takes a back seat to working on the newest novel.
            This past year has lent itself to good things: major home improvements, long walks every day, a great deal of reading and writing, cheering on the Giants and the Warriors, several lovely vacations with my best friend (my husband), an alarming encounter with two black bears in the Sierra (thank goodness they weren’t that interested), connections with friends, old and new, and a few, though not enough, wonderful days with our family. We have experienced loss as well. Our beloved, 16+year-old, $4000, one-eyed cat died in my arms of a heart attack and our precious Chocolate Lab/Brittney died of lymphoma, both within five weeks of each other. Their deaths were difficult, to say the least. Our memories of our fur babies are sweet however, and surprisingly allow us to move forward.
            Putting the home front aside, I feel compelled to say that I am increasingly disturbed by the world in which we live, a world that seems to have gone awry more than ever with violence, racism, extremism, political spectacle, and intolerance, the consequences of which are mind-blowing. Even “friends” on Facebook take insensitive jabs at others without being concerned it seems, about repercussions. While I believe enough is enough, I am not so naïve to believe that any of these issues will disappear in 2016, but, in my own, little world, I’ll do my part, and really, wouldn’t it be nice to see an altering in the current, negative ripple effect?


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Christmas Tale
            A simple Wednesday morning creation of my own

            Abby didn’t have a pot to piss in and that was no lie. She lived, impoverished and alone, in a tiny cabin not one hundred yards from the edge of Mayfield. She had resided there all of her adult life. She was fifty-two, and counting. She had been married once, but her old man, Burt, drank himself silly and finally, on Christmas Eve five years before this lonely one, he had choked on his own vomit and unceremoniously met his Maker on a street outside Jack’s Bar in town. It was a relief.
Their one son, Hank, had headed out on his own when he was fifteen, two months before his pop died. He’d had enough of Burt’s belligerence and had slipped out undetected on a night so frigid that opaque ice coated the windowpanes and the wind howled relentlessly muffling his escape.
 Abby had not had the wherewithal to locate Hank and in the years that followed had heard not a word from him. It occurred to Abby that Hank had gone the way of his daddy but she quashed that thought in exchange for hope. Someday.
            Christmas Eve, 1950, blew in like so many before, cold and blustery, and as was usual, Abby sat alone gazing into the fire. “Need another log or two,” she muttered aloud. She stoked the blaze watching embers flare and bite into fresh wood. She watched mesmerized and her notions of ideal holidays gathered one on the heels of the other, storms of longing. How did I arrive at such a place? What I wouldn’t give for a holiday miracle of my own.
Though both Burt and Hank were gone, Abby thought only of Hank and she did so daily, the ever-present sense of loss perched like a bird on her shoulder. God only knows where he is now. It’s been over five years. He’s twenty now. A man. She closed her eyes envisioning him – dusty brown hair, azure eyes, lanky, and surely now as tall as young pine. So lost she became in her imaginings that she did not hear the knock at first, but then she did, the pounding insistent.
“Who on Earth could that be?” she asked aloud. “Better be somebody with a good reason for disturbing me.”
She stood slowly, walked to the wide, wooden door and pulled it to her. She peered into a dusky light at a man. He was a full foot taller than she. He stepped forward and with tender fingers touched her shoulders.
“Ma,” he murmured in a voice so familiar that it made her weak. Her heart quivered with joy. Hank.
Hank’s slightly crooked smile formed as it always had when he continued. “I’m home, Ma. Me. Hank. I’m finally home for Christmas.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

You Need To Act And Think Like Me
            Or What Happened To Our Happy Holidays?

We see it every day, in newspapers, on social media, in the news, on billboards, on t-shirts, and God only knows where else . . . It’s my way or the highway; Do as I say, not as I do; I’m right and you are too, but only if you agree with me; if not you are dead wrong.
 Myriad agenda-based messages, many with an undercurrent of anger and frustration inherent in them, assault our senses and sensibility every day, and to be honest, I’m beginning to be a bit weary. Whether one believes in gun control or not, whether one supports a woman’s right to choose or not, whether marriage should be only between a man and a woman or not, whether one believes global warming is a reality or not, whether one supports law enforcement officials or not, whether one supports immigration reform or not, ALL are important issues. However, many topics have become dumping grounds for hate, cynicism, racism, and bigotry. Lashing out on a matter of importance with little forethought or restraint lacks tact and could be quite risky. The fact is that most adults already have made up their minds about where they stand on the matters listed above. A quick sarcastic blast, verbal or written, in one direction or the other is not likely to change any one of us, and the excessive number of caustic comments I’m reading and hearing these days is off-putting, at least to me.
In recent years, based on opinion alone, a person is sized up as either very, very wrong, or incredibly right if he or she is a Democrat, Republican, Socialist, atheist, Christian, Muslim, a person of color, a member of the LBGT community, a veteran, an immigrant, a flag-waver, a voter, a church-goer, an educator, a politician, a supporter of Planned Parenthood, a proponent of college affordability, affluent or poor. You’re wrong. I’m right. Get your head on straight. Think about it. Yes, think about it. We are who we are, and it doesn’t look as if change is in the offing no matter how many darts fly.
I have friends who are extremely liberal and I have others who are quite conservative. And, I like them. That’s why they are my friends. I’m not looking to change them, even if some statements I read or hear crawl right under my skin. I can deal. Rather, I would hope to embrace our similarities and differences and move forward. I wish every one of my friends a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, which ever sets best. It doesn’t matter to me.
What I do hope is that 2016 is a year of peace, good health, happiness, understanding, and goodwill for us all. That would be a positive outcome.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Remembering Rudy
Rudy at Lake Tahoe

            Yesterday was a tough one. Our family had to say good-bye to Rudy, our precious Chocolate lab/Britney mix. He had just turned eight years old, way too young to die, but he did of complications caused by lymphoma, another insidious cancer. He was diagnosed the end of August, started treatment on September 3rd, and died on December 10th, 2015. We are heart broken.
            We didn’t pick Rudy, but through a round about way, we were his chosen ones. In February 2008 we bought a German shepherd. She was delivered to us straight from the heart of Los Angeles. We named her Hallie. From the moment she was a puppy, Hallie thought she was “all that”, and that has never changed. She’s still in charge. But today she is grieving, just as we humans are.
When Hallie was three months old, our son, Alex, gave us a call and planted a seed. “Hey, Mom,” he said, “my friend, Darren’s dog had puppies . . . thirteen, I think. The mom’s a lab/Britney mix and the dad . . . well, he’s a full-bred, big, old, hunting lab. The female got in heat, the male jumped the fence, and a few months later . . . puppies! There’s one, Mom that I really like. He’s the only brown one; the rest are blond or black.”
“Sounds as though your friend has his hands full,” was my response. Though I sensed what was coming, we had a puppy and were in the midst of crate training. I didn’t want to commit.
A week later, Alex called again. “All of the puppies have found homes,” he said, “except for two, one black one and the brown one I like. Do you think you guys could take him? Hallie could use a friend. Darren’s keeping the black one.”

My husband and I have soft hearts. It didn’t take much convincing, and in a couple of days, Alex arrived at our doorstep, puppy in hand, all he way from Chico, in Northern California. The poor, little pup was quite emaciated with a big head that didn’t seem quite to fit his body. Clearly he was hungry and he obviously had worms. He was cute though and happy to be plopped down in a warm house with another puppy. The two smelled each other, he humped, she wrestled, both whined with happiness, and he ate and ate. We found out later that he and the other puppies had been left in a tuff shed competing for food. This little guy obviously had not fared too well. That predicament ended the moment we took him.

We named him Rudy. The name just seemed to fit. The first night he was with us, we put him in his own crate. He hated it! He whined and whined. Needing sleep for myself (I was a fulltime teacher and had to work the next day.) I finally got up, took Rudy out of the crate, stood in the middle of the family room, and rocked him like a baby. He grew quiet at last, fell asleep, and never again cried when he had to stay in his crate. I’ll never forget that bonding moment.
Hallie and Rudy became best friends and my husband and I grew to love them dearly. We walked them three or four miles a day for years. We hiked them in the Sierra, we took them out on our Ericson ’35 in the San Francisco Bay, and we went to the beach. Best of all for Rudy, however, was swimming in our pool. We’d throw a ball high in the air and he would leap to catch it before landing in the water. He would huff and puff, paddling around in circles until he was exhausted. Swimming for Rudy was pure joy and I am sure I never will sit next to our pool again without being reminded of him.

The fact is though that he’s gone. Yesterday morning he had trouble breathing, he would not eat, and he began to drool a thick swath of mucus. He began panting and was restless. He couldn’t seem to breathe lying down or standing up. Eventually he walked over to my husband and stared at him as if to say, “Do something, Dad. It’s time.”
I called the vet, we were scheduled at 11:30, and by noon it was over. Rudy’s passing was peaceful. He was given an injection that put him to sleep, and then a second one that stopped his heart. I sat on the floor beside him and petted him until he took his last breath. I won’t forget that moment either.
Losing a pet is so difficult. I’ve lost many dogs: Cinder, Star, Seurat, Comet, Quazar, Lupus, Max, Bummer, and now Rudy. And the cats: Micio, Madle, Patches, Soda, Smoke, Bernie, Sunny, Micio #2, and Poncho. All had long lives, all except Rudy, whose disease cut his short. Losing a pet is never easy. I have cried gallons of tears for the animals I have loved. This latest bout with grief, however, seems to hurt the most. Five weeks ago we lost Poncho and now, Rudy. It’s a bit much all at once, but I accept this space and ironically am guardedly content, and why? Dogs, especially offer companionship, loyalty, and love beyond belief. Cats can be a bit more aloof, but become amazing, loving pals. All of them teach us lessons about responsibility, caring, nurturing, devotion, and most of all love.
Rest in peace, sweet Rudy. You died with your “people” right beside you. No dog could have been more loved and we will remember, oh, how we will remember.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Getting Sidetracked

It’s the holiday season and it’s so easy to get sidetracked. I haven’t blogged for days because, because, because . . . first, Thanksgiving came and went. That took hours . . . to drive, to cook, to spend time with family, AND all of that was wonderful, even the driving, although some drivers definitely should stay off the road, but that’s another story. (At least, thankfully, we drove BY the four-car pile up in the fast lane on Interstate 80 rather than being a part of it.)
Then came Black Friday and Cyber Monday when I spent way too much time on the Internet shopping. “What happened to this day?” I asked myself . . . twice! My husband and I went shopping one morning last week. It actually was painless, even for him. We went into a couple of stores, bought what we needed, and left, just like that! We rewarded ourselves with Togo’s sandwiches. The good thing is that the shopping has been completed . . . almost. We have one more present to purchase, but we have to get it right, and yes, that’s another story! It will happen though. I’m confident.
Shopping aside, it took two days to assemble and decorate our tree. It is always a great deal of work but worth it in the end. It’s beautiful. It took another day to sort through wreathes and other decorations and place them around the house, but it’s done now, and I’m pleased. I spent one afternoon wrapping presents, another addressing Christmas cards, and another wondering what the hell is going on in our world?
Yes, I have been sidetracked, as so many others have, with news of the senseless murders of fourteen, innocent people who, like I have been, were simply enjoying being immersed in the spirit of the holidays. What gives two wacked out individuals the right to terrorize? What’s left in the aftermath? I would say anger, fear, sadness, shock, disgust, prejudice, and bigotry are bubbling everywhere. None of that will go away, I’m afraid. At least those of us who have watched events unfold from a distance can feel one positive emotion . . . pride, that law enforcement, firefighters, other first responders, and good Samaritans at the scene were quickly on hand to help, without thinking twice.
It’s been a few days now, and I’m left wondering - Am I the only one who has been sidetracked? Despite the tragedy of yet another mass shooting, it’s back to business for some folks. Politicians, for example, use others’ misfortune for political upmanship and fall back on trite phrases that sound empty. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families,” has been said by so many people in public office that it’s lost its meaning. Really? Who really is praying? Who really is considering what Christmas will be like for six little children whose father was slaughtered, or a man who lost his partner, or a wife whose husband was shot dead, or traumatized souls who will never see their friends again? It seems to me, in our egocentric world, that one’s standing in the polls is more important than anything else, which leads me to my final thought.
I am wondering these days why is it that the whole world can’t get back on track. Why can’t we choose love over hate, peace over violence, acceptance over intolerance, and giving rather than taking? I sound naïve I know, but perhaps during this holiday season we all should give the notion of good over evil some serious thought.