Sally

Sally

About Me

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California, United States
I'm a wife, mom, mom-in-law, grandma, and writer. To read more, visit www.sally-john.com. :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

San Francisco Peaks, AZ

Here we come...

Days 101 - 106


December 23 – 28, 2010. . .
            Merry Christmastime.  =)
            In the familial sense of the season, this has long been a “Christmastime” for us, not an “Eve” and a “Day” and that’s it. This is due to the fact that we as a core family live in far-flung corners. As of the 28th, we have not yet “officially done” Christmas.
            My Guy and I celebrated the Holy Eve attending service at our church. . .a beautiful time of celebration. For unto us a Child is born, a Son is given.
            The 25th we spent driving to Arizona, through desert up into the mountains. . .through desert up to 7,000 feet. . .where there is snow.  ;)  As well as hugs from the Grands, DIL, and Son.
            We’re three-fourths together.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas time

My Guy and our granddaughters and our tree... =)   Well, not exactly ours.  I've adopted the city's tree which stands in front of the movie theater and restaurants, a few blocks from home.

Day 100


Wednesday, December 22, 2010. . .
            Whoa! Day 100!
            The characters check in with me now and then; they are fine, in limbo but fine. I check in with them now and then, very briefly, and promise we will get together soon.
This season of holy days and this end-of-the-year time for reflection and for connection with others all need my focused attention. I sat still, rested, listened. The tiger laid down and purred.
The sixth straight day of rain (eww!) ended with a mostly-blue sky. My Guy and I biked through puddles and sand-packed streets down at the beach. My poor bike! As usual, I was bundled up in jacket, scarf, hat, gloves, and ear bags. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Days 95, 96, 97, 98, 99

Friday – Tuesday, December 17 – 21, 2010. . .
            Ahhh. Final Christmas letter stamped. Gifts wrapped, or rather bagged. Only a few loose ends to tie up.
            The best projects this season were the creative ones that slowed me down: writing the letter, printing it, stuffing envelopes, standing in line at the post office; and designing photo books. Words and pictures that speak a thousand of them are gifts of the heart that take time, a short and fleeting commodity in December.
            Speaking of slowing down, I’m reading a book by Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, sent to me by a dear friend who knows me well. Barton continues the influence of other authors on my journey: Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Frederick Buechner, Thomas Merton, the ones who remind me that if I shut up, I will hear God speaking.
            I am also reminded of Brennan Manning’s retelling of an old story in one of his books. I call it the Strawberry Story.
A man – oh, let’s change this to a woman – is being chased by a tiger. She comes to a cliff and jumps. Part way down she grabs hold of a limb that halts her fall. Above her is the tiger, below her is a long, sheer descent to death, before her the limb is unsteady. And then she sees, growing out of the rock, strawberries. She picks one, pops it in her mouth, and says, “This is the best strawberry I have ever tasted.”
            This describes being in the moment. The ability to dwell in the moment is the fruit of sitting before God in silence, letting Him do heart work that will enable me more and more to later be in the moment, even if a tiger is on my heels.
            December feels like one long tiger chase. Tomorrow I will sit mentally still and look for strawberries. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 94


Thursday, December 16, 2010. . .
            Not to say (see entry below, Monday-Wednesday) that I view/equate God as Santa.  ;)  Thought I should clarify that. Ho, ho, ho!
            Two much-needed centering activities this week were Wednesday church service (the monthly all-singing time) and Thursday home group.
The Psalm reading for Sunday is 24. Part of verse 4 as phrased in The Jerusalem Bible is “whose soul does not pay homage to worthless things…” As I over-browse once again this December, I must guard against this.
Okay, so next year I’ll start in January, a little at a time, in a healthy manner. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sunset from Pier

Monday, December 13
Navy ship on horizon

Days 91, 92, 93


Monday-Wednesday, December 13-15. . .
            Well, obviously not much writing is going on except for CHRISTMAS TO-DO LISTS!
            Speaking of lists, my creative daughter-in-law sent an email to family members. It’s a fill-in-the-blank list of favorites: colors, animals, music, art, books, movies, etc. It also includes blanks for other things: “what I want or need but don’t want to ask for” and “do not give me…”
            We’re all exchanging each others’ lists now, gleaning new insight and getting practical ideas for our $20 gift exchange.
            Filling it in, I felt like I was writing a “Dear Santa” letter. =) It was fun to give in for a few minutes to being a self-centered child. “I want, I like, I need, I wish.”
            On the other hand, the exercise also reminds me of my relationship with the Holy One. This will not speak to everyone, but for me imagining the “father figure” allows me to abide in a sense of well-being. I am comforted. I know I am cared for and so totally unconditionally loved and accepted. I am reminded that He is always whispering in my ear, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Days 88, 89, 90


Friday-Sunday, December 10 – 12, 2010. . .
            Time flies. I fly. Snow flies. Warm breezes fly. Ack! Too much for body and soul to assimilate in a three-day period, at least this 59 and 2/3rds-old body and soul. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Days 85, 86, 87


Tuesday-Thursday, December 7 – 9, 2010. . .
            Quiet but full days, some writing, lots of Sally Homemaker activities. I cleaned/polished the rocker My Guy and I bought in anticipation of our firstborn’s birth. The sight of the scratched dark wood, the feel of the curvy arms, and the scent of the Guardsman cream polish all took me immediately to the days of little ones when life revolved around bathing them and my husband in prayer and creating a soul-nurturing environment for them.
            I loved being and am still grateful for the opportunity (thanks to My Guy) to be a stay-at-home mommy.
            I’m not quite ready to be a stay-at-home granny. Five days of cooking, cleaning, laundering, and errand-running is enough. =) 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Days 82, 83, 84


Saturday-Monday, December 4 – 6, 2010. . .
            A blurry flurry of carrying, loading, unloading, more carrying, and unpacking boxes. . .of cleaning, organizing. . .of memory-making moments with that wide circle of family that now encompasses Daughter’s in-laws. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 81


Friday, December 3, 2010. . .
            A traveling day. Grateful for super-friendly TSA people, for bypassing the naked photo-taking scanner, for no pat down, for spinach-mushroom quiche in the Denver Airport, for Daughter and Son-in-Law hugs.  =) 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 80


Thursday, December 2, 2010. . .
            It seems that much of my life is annually crammed into December. This probably explains why The Writing is so often a scattered affair.
Besides the usual Holy-day Season, there is My Guy’s birthday and our anniversary. The list has grown:
Thirty-three years ago our firstborn was due (he waited until January to appear). Twenty-nine years ago we learned our second was in the womb. Ten years ago we learned we were going to be grandparents. Six years ago our youngest granddaughter was born on Christmas Eve. We have moved at least twice during this month. One nephew was born. So much happiness is hard to hold.
Two years ago this Sunday, one nephew passed away after a long struggle with cancer. This sucks the breath from me.
THE DETAILS. . .I got a haircut, bought Christmas-y stamps. I like old religious artwork, so went with the Virgin and Child. I printed the Christmas letter; printed, stuffed, and stamped envelopes. Not quite finished but still, yay.
Because business beckons My Guy east and because Daughter and Son-in-Law are in the throes of moving (moving in December is beginning to sound like a tradition) and because I am a mom, I am traveling again. Already. And with a grateful heart for the ability to do so and for a son-in-law who says “welcome.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Recipe


Seafood Bisque ~ Created by Daughter-in-Law

Onions, Carrots, Potatoes, Garlic
-->  Sauté in butter, 5 minutes

Scallops and Shrimp
--> Add
--> Sauté 10 minutes

Chicken Broth, 4 cups
--> Add to above
--> Bring to boil
--> Reduce heat

Fresh Sage, Thyme, Basil, Rosemary
Clams with juice, 1 can [regular size]
--> Add
--> Simmer medium/low, 15 minutes

Cream, 1 pint
Butter, 4 tablespoons
Lemon Juice, 2 tablespoons
Minced garlic, to taste
Fresh Herbs (more)
Salt and Pepper
-->Add; heat through

Top with shredded Gruyere Cheese
Serve with French Baguette

This made approximately 12 - 15 bowls. 
Fresh ingredients make the best (scallops, shrimp, herbs)

[My daughter-in-law does not follow a recipe without tweaking it until it is unrecognizable. And she makes up her own yummy concoctions with whatever is available. Sometimes if I'm nice she will write down a recipe for me.  =)  Or I will jot down steps and ingredients as I watch her work. Where amounts are not noted, I wing it.]

Day 79


Wednesday, December 1, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Mmhmm. Nice time.  =)  A fun part was to shift the setting from Los Angeles up to the Oregon coast. I enjoy revisiting places in my imagination.
            THE DETAILS. . .Finished the Christmas letter. Yes! Last year’s went out in January.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 78


Tuesday, November 30, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Ahhh, back into the story. So comfortable, so cozy, so home.
One advantage to stepping away from a story is that the niggles can do their work. A point had been bothering me, something about the timing of the protagonist’s past. It smoothed itself out last week around 4 a.m. one morning. Today it was easy breezy to incorporate that and move on.
            The holiday season wreaks havoc on my psyche. I don’t want to miss out on the festive ambience nor the month-long anticipation of the Birth and all that symbolizes. Neither do I want to return to my desk on January 3rd and find the characters are total strangers to me and the story is a big fat question mark. How best to balance?
            When it comes to writing, I do not multitask well. But, I may be on to something this December. The story has progressed enough that I can duck in and out of it. Perhaps this will help.
            THE DETAILS. . .Tis Advent, the first season of the church year. I rest in this cyclical nature of the calendar. It gives me hope, it revives, it reminds me that all has its season and that all is in God’s hands. It is the essence of Julian of Norwich’s quote: "And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."
            I worked on the Christmas letter. =)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 77


Monday, November 29, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Some email talk with my editor about endorsements for the book coming out next year. The publisher puts soooo much into the work.
            THE DETAILS. . .Ick, ick, ick. The bug wiped me out. I did manage to work on organizing photos for gifts for the little girls. Grateful for My Guy being here for me. If only I had been hungry, he would have prepared food for me.  =)  Looking forward to tomorrow. It's gotta be better.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Days 75 and 76


                                             I miss the clutter, evidence of the kiddos.  =)

Saturday and Sunday, November 27 and 28, 2010. . .
            Daughter-in-law and the girls kayak in the harbor. We eat seafood and guacamole and chips in the sunshine (with a propane heater nearby; it’s not all that warm). Then the goodbyes.
            My Guy and I put things back into our empty-nest order. I’m always torn: happy to reclaim my desk and return to work and yet… =(
            Sunday a stomach bug hits me. Eww. Learn it got to my Son first. (Today, on Monday, he tells me it will go away.)

Day 74


Friday, November 26, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Granddaughter #1, age 9, is a writer.  =)  Yes, I love this. She shared a story that she is working on with me. Because she is a reader and because her parents – often Dad at bedtime – have always read to her before she could read by herself (she and her sister have heard, among others: The Narnia Series; Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, etc; Little House on the Prairie series), she knows the essence of story telling.
            She uses strong nouns and verbs, she appeals to the senses in her descriptions, she has conflict and excitement. She wasn’t so sure on paragraphing, so I had the pleasure of working with her on that.
            THE DETAILS. . .And then she gave me a lesson on her trumpet. Whoa. No clue on my part. I managed to produce one note. =)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day 73


Thursday, November 25, 2010. . .
            Thanksgiving blessings.  =)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 72

Wednesday, November 24, 2010. . .
         Everydayness with my granddaughters.  =)  Thanks be to God for beauty in the mundane.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day 71


Tuesday, November 23, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .As far as writing goes, it was one of those days of osmosis. I’ve mentioned before about the heart always recording situations, emotions, relational exchanges. This simply happens with no conscious participation. It’s why later writing can be such a cathartic experience. Even fiction writing brings out these things.
            But this heart recording also occurs because we writers train ourselves to be observant. We must be observers of all around us. We Sights, sounds, scents, faces, colors, natural and manmade things, textures, voices, the rhythm and vocabulary of conversations.
            All of the above breathe life into story.
            THE DETAILS. . .It was a fun, fun day. We rode the train downtown,  ate Thai for lunch, found a delightful chocolate/gelato/crepe/coffee place, Granddaughters and Son ice skated at the special holiday outdoor rink (complete with blaring Christmas music), a visit to a toy store my Son remembered from childhood.
The toy store was still in business but not the big old used book store.  =(  We were sure we’d find treasures there. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 70


                                              Granddaughters #2 and #1



Monday, November 22, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Catch-up on some other-than-fiction blurbs.
            THE DETAILS. . .Hanging with the kiddos.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 69


                                         Granddaughter #1 and Nonna

Sunday, November 21, 2010. . .
            Kids arrived at 5 a.m. after an all-night drive.  =)  

Day 68


Saturday, November 20, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .A day off. ;)
            THE DETAILS. . .Rainy movie afternoon. My Guy and I saw “Today’s Special,” a food/chef/India culture/slice-of-New-York-life tale. Highly enjoyable and satisfying.
            We also made our first-ever foray into the granddaddy of electronic stores. It has 70 checkouts. This is not an exaggeration. We consulted with three sales guys who gave us three different ideas –  each of whom concluded it will meet our need, got overstimulated, and then we swore off any future attempts to keep up with technology.  It’s for young people. 

Day 67


Friday, November 19, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .A day of “heart recording,” when the intensity of real life imprints itself upon the heart’s memory. At some later time, in some way, it will impact story. Writing fiction is nothing without this.
THE DETAILS. . .A hospital sitting time with others while one undergoes a procedure.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 66


Thursday, November 18, 2010. . .
THE WRITING. . .Ack. Didn’t happen. Real-life anticipation got in the way.
THE DETAILS. . .Grocery/otherwise shopping and straightening/ordering the house. The kiddos are coming!!! Four of the six anyway. I always count the two in-laws and of course the two grand-girls which gives me a total of six, which is the number I imagined at one time that I wanted of my own. Can’t recall when that was. I wasn’t sure I wanted to even get married until I was all of 17 and went on my first date with My Guy.  =)
            I dressed up; that’s what we did back then in 1968. I doubt he wore jeans. We went to see a movie, The Odd Couple, and then to eat at Howard Johnsons. He had fried clams, I had a salad because I was too nervous/excited to really eat like I usually did. And I met his parents and younger brother who happened to be there eating also! Weird.
            Reading the blog of my Go-to Spanish Language Lady (http://mamaoffivegirls.blogspot.com/ ) and watching her and her husband in action, I think it was for the best that I am mamaofoneboyandonegirl.  =) Whew. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day 65

Wednesday, November 17, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Story moving right along. This is the main course of the novel-writing meal; talking about it would be like getting up from the dinner table, going into another room and describing the grilled salmon with the lemon-Dijon-tarragon sauce. Neither I nor the listener would get to eat.
            THE DETAILS. . .Theological discourse by Sally…
            Monthly praise service tonight, led by Miss Angel Voice, to whom I could listen for hours. I don’t have the technically appropriate words to describe her voice. All I know is that it moves me to silence and I love to sing.
            I do. Despite the Second Grade Teacher at Franklin Elementary who made me sing out loud in front of the class and then gave me a C in music.
My favorite line of the dozen songs we sang tonight? Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss (John Mark McMillan, “How He Loves,” copyright 2005).
It reminds me of Rob Bell’s rendition of the name of God. We heard him speak once at a bookstore in Denver and he described God telling Moses His name. “Yahweh.” Say that without any vowel sounds and you get the sound of breaths.
That’s how close He is to us.
            I’ve recently been pondering God’s immanence (His presence everywhere, within us and around us) and God’s transcendence (His out-there-ness). So tonight I’m singing this line “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” I’m imagining heaven is the same as God’s presence.
Meaning His presence in the here and now as he greets earth which I see as humans and all creation. And His greeting us is like a sloppy wet kiss?
            That’s close. Really, really close. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 64


Tuesday, November 16, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Middle-of-the-night working out of story details. In the morning, wrote at my desk first, then later in a waiting room in a notebook. There is always such a satisfaction when the work flows like this, when time and place do not matter.
            THE DETAILS. . .After that it turned into a spontaneous day, one of those sequence of events that plays so well in a novel but feels out of control in real life. Because of one unplanned event, new choices are made, nothing on the schedule happens, and the character takes a significant detour.
Last-minute my massage was canceled (boo, hiss, my sit-too-long-at-desk muscles need attention) which led to the opportunity to visit with two sisters-in-law (the out-of-towner is in town). There is something nurturing about reminiscing with women who were around each other when all of the babies were born, for us that began over thirty years ago.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 63


Monday, November 15, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Writing fiction, like reading fiction, serves as an escape, a respite from a reality that can seem too harsh at times. It served me well today.
            THE DETAILS. . .A John Donne quote keeps playing: Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Life goes on and yet there is a change in it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Days 61 and 62


Saturday and Sunday, November 13-14, 2010. . .
            Sadness permeates. There is nothing else to note beyond this and I ask for prayer for families and friends.
            David Beres. . .47. . .son-in-law of My Guy’s cousin. . .husband of Kelly Standard, artist extraordinaire and one of my forever-always-favorite young women. . .passed away this Sunday afternoon after a brief illness.
            Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day 61

Friday, November 12, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Pulled the rug out from under protagonist. Heh, heh. We’ll see what she does now. Next week.
THE DETAILS. . .The islands are back! Walking on the pier this morning I was delighted to see in the distance the outline of them, mysterious humps that come and go. They show up infrequently, late fall or winter time. Today was my first sighting in a long while. I’ve studied the map, trying to figure out which ones might be visible.
As I was pondering this, a fisherman greeted me. Then he said, “You’ve got to see this.” He pointed to the islands, as excited as I was. “There are the San Clemente Islands (to the north).”
And I hadn’t even asked. =)
“Now look over that way (south). You can see Coronado Island. We never see that so clearly.”
Wow. To see these bits of land way out in the ocean where it’s usually only water is like being given new eyes.
I learned from him that the islands become visible when the desert winds blow away all the gunk in the air, smog and whatever. But I still prefer my idea that it’s autumn, the air shifts, sunlight slants in low, the earth tilts in her orbit and offers a different angle to awe us mortals with new beauty.
Tidbit: The San Clemente islands are owned by the Navy, used for training. As in blowing things up. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Chunks of rock for war exercises. They’re still amazing to glimpse from a distance.) 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 60


Thursday, November 11, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .A good, lost-in-another-world time. I cried at one scene, a hopeful sign that the presentation will move readers as well.
Arrived at a juncture, thrown into a whole new thread that required information not at my mental fingertips. Oh woe is me! But, but—Ta-da! It was a seamless effort! My pre-written scenario and research were right there in a file!
This kind of prep is soooo satisfying at these types of junctures. (This particular research included picking the brain of my daughter’s lawyer friend who graciously emailed me everything I can use and then some.)
            I was musing about timing. People ask how long I spend each day at writing. I can never give a straight answer and sound like a very confused person. It most always depends on the point I’m at in the story: pre, beginning, the protagonist’s “dark cave,” nearing the end/the last 50 pages or so, editing, rewriting, just imagining, marketing- or publishing-related.
Today went straight from about 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., then I took a walk, then I went back to it for about thirty minutes.
            Why? Don’t know. Just the rhythm of the music. =)
            THE DETAILS. . .It does surprise me when I don’t put in what looks like a typically “full” day and yet get very little else done outside of eating. The “down” time is often so full of imagining that there is no mental/emotional space for the rest of life.
            I think I’ve touched on this subject before!
            I fasted today, a practice I try to follow when I sense the need to open up the windows and let in some fresh air. Almost twenty-four hours, dinner to dinner. Not a major event but enough to slow me down inside and turn my thoughts more frequently to my Abba. My head space gets repositioned and a whole lot else happens for which I have no words. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 59

Wednesday, November 10, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Finished the workshop blurb, fiddled with the short-version bio, chose a quirky photo, and sent it all off to the conference folks, two days ahead of deadline.
            Then slid back into Heart Echoes. Prepping the ground for a major rug pulling out from under the protagonist. Oh dear.
            THE DETAILS. . .Have been reading Eugene Peterson’s The Message, in Genesis. For years I have read sections from this Bible when wanting to compare the wording to another version, but now it is drawing me in like a novel. He writes in his intro to the New Testament how the original was written in the informal “street language” of the day. He says that his “goal is not to render a word-for-word conversion of Greek into English, but rather to convert the tone, the rhythm, the events, the ideas, into the way we actually think and speak.”
            That’s a description of writing contemporary fiction. =) I like it.
My Guy and I had the privilege of hearing Peterson speak once. I remember a humble, gracious man very much in love with God’s written Word.  
Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 58



Tuesday, November 9, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Worked on workshop material for next June, trying to summarize in three hours how I write 92,000 coherent words.
            The workshop is one reason I started this blog, an attempt to freshen my perspective on old presentations. Exactly what goes on in between all those words?
            THE DETAILS. . .A visit down memory lane with My Guy. =)
We drove to Julian in the mountains, ate breakfast at the Julian Café, an old favorite; skipped their famous dinner-plate-size cinnamon roll. Sigh. Then we went to nearby Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, our traditional Veterans Day picnic spot in the late 1980s, when the kids were young and had that day off of school.  
            An old gold mine (above photo) and one-room museum is there. This was the memory I tapped into a few years ago while writing A Time to Mend. How could my characters escape a wildfire? Go inside a mine! =)  All of life is copy, even years-old family outings. (The wildfire in that story, by the way, was not on my personal radar until ten months later than the writing of it.)
            The deep quiet and crisp air was luscious.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day 57


Monday, November 8, 2010. . .
THE WRITING. . .Caught myself orchestrating a dialogue rather than letting the characters run with it. Ah, Monday writing.
THE DETAILS. . .So fun to say to myself throughout the day: wow it’s only such-and-such o’clock!
Actually it wasn’t such fun about 3:30 or 4 a.m. when I awoke to the sound of a smoke alarm’s battery alert. Beep, beep, beep. I checked the house but it came from outside, louder in the back than the front. It went on and on and on. Nothing to do. Figured it was from a vacant vacation rental nearby. I dozed; awoke at 6 and it was still going.
A little later My Guy and the neighbor (who said he heard it at 2 a.m.) met up in the alley, both trying to figure out where it was coming from. They zeroed in on an apartment; knocked; found a frazzled woman who did not know what to do. (She is the hair washer, by the way.) The poor dear had been in the same apartment with that noise since 2 a.m.
With her permission the neighbor guys took the hard-wired alarm down, cut the wires, could not get the battery cover off. The beeping went on and on.
I happened to be at my desk and heard the men in the alley; looked out in time to see the neighbor take a sledgehammer to it. One swack and it was still beeping! One more and it FINALLY quit. He tossed it in the dumpster.
Life in our eclectic neighborhood. =) 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Days 55 and 56



Saturday and Sunday, November 6 and 7, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Pen and pad at the beach.
THE DETAILS. . .A “soul catching up to body” weekend after the trip. It takes longer than in our younger days. =)
Saturday, early morning coffee at the beach led to hanging out there, from reading the newspaper and books to picnic lunch to writing the old-fashioned way. My Guy and I were the only sitters for a long time; it’s not sitting/sunning/swimming beach weather for most. It was a busy place, though, with walkers, runners; bicyclers were in the midst of a long-coast ride, the start and finish line near us.
Dinner at friends’ home inland, where we used to live. It was a belated, now traditional, “celebration” of the Witch Creek fire anniversary. This is the family (Illinois friends) who fled to the same area we did; we spent much of those following days with them, wondering if their house was okay (it was). One memory: their hotel actually served a “comfort food” dinner buffet. I remember scarfing down mac and cheese followed by brownies or cookies. Maybe both.
Church. Reading at beach again (all bundled up; only in the 60s with a stiff breeze). Such a treat to enjoy an extra hour. Arizonians do not get to do this. Of course they still get to see the sun at 5 p.m.
Time is such an odd, unnatural thing. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 54


Friday, November 5, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Full day. Threads unraveling. Trick is to let them go and yet not lose track of them. =)
            THE DETAILS. . .Walking highlights: Passed several jogging Marines; most make eye contact and greet me with a “ma’am;” I say a blessing over each. And dolphins played near enough to the pier that I could see them.
It’s Friday, garbage pickup day for which I am still grateful. After 14 years in a rural area with no disposer or pickup service [My Guy carried some into town; I carried the recyclables into town; we fed the raccoons a lot], I love the sound of the big truck in the alley. =)
We started the weekend reading at the beach and watching the sunset. Krakauer’s book Where Men Win Glory is an interesting bio and history of Afghanistan. Grilled salmon later and a recorded “The Mentalist,” one quirky show. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 53

Thursday, November 4, 2010. . .
THE WRITING. . .I am writing and there’s not much else to say other than that. =)
My Guy came across this interesting website for writers: http://www.nanowrimo.org/ .  November is National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo). The assignment is to write a 50,000-word novel between November 1st and 30th. For real. Awards are given for those who succeed. I don’t think that I’d care to try, not this year anyway, but it does encourage me to – as mentioned before – lock myself away with my imaginary friends in their imaginary world.
THE DETAILS. . .Farmers market. Haircut. Home Group/Bible study. 90+ degrees on the coast; very unusual. 
Having some trouble stepping in and out of that imaginary place and communicating coherently with real live people.  ;)  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 52


Wednesday, November 3, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .=) Back into it, full-on. Have I mentioned that I really like my new people?
            THE DETAILS. . .Finished unpacking. Trimmed fingernails way back, makes for less typos.
            Santa Anas are blowing. Morning winds come from the east, bringing warm temps, freeway noise, and yummy waffle scents from a few cafes two blocks away. Afternoon high on the coast was 81 degrees, unheard of this past summer and a welcome treat after October cold and rain. My Guy and I ate dinner al fresco. =) This is why I don’t whine too much about the crowds, freeway noise, train horns at 3 a.m., etc, etc. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day 51


Tuesday, November 2, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .A focused effort of hard work gave way to contentment. It’s difficult to return after any amount of time away from the story. After a week or so away, I have to read what I’ve written and reacquaint myself with the people and the events that have already occurred. It led to some editing, though I held back and did not dwell in that mode.
            This slowing of the work is why writers check out of reality.
            I began filling in that calendar now in a file.  =)
            THE DETAILS. . .Morning walk, delayed because with the shorter days the streets were too dark before 7 a.m.  Made country ribs in the Crock Pot. I nearly missed the start time because I was caught up in the writing. What happened to all those 10 to 12 hour recipes? It’s best if I can turn the thing on by 8 a.m. By 10 a.m. I am elsewhere!  Maybe when My Guy and I were first married (we received at least three slow cookers for wedding gifts back in 1973) and dinner was often started long before 8 a.m., we ate a lot of mushy meat?
            Still picking at the unpacking and laundry. Talk about a slow cooker.  =)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 50


Monday, November 1, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .As always, I so enjoy being back at my desk.  =)  Especially since I cleared it before leaving. Love all the vacant surfaces ready to be filled with work-related stuff.
            I entered my handwritten calendar/time line into a file. Tedious! But rewarding. It will be helpful for my editor (who needs it for Book 2) and now that I have a format, I can easily copy and use it for the new story (Book 3). There is something about the physicality of pencil and paper that enhances the process for me, but this is more practical. ;)  I'm sure I'll do both.
            THE DETAILS. . .Unpacking, laundry, groceries. Potted plants were drowning due to too much rain weeks ago. Even a cactus died.  =(  I pulled out dried-up sticks that had been petunias and daisies and alyssum and basil; then dumped soggy soil from the pots. Green thumbed I am not, but it’s still fun to play in the dirt.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Aspen, the Granddog

She lives in Arizona.

Day 49


Sunday, October 31, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Spent much of the afternoon and evening in airports and on airplanes reading. Finished Child’s novel and as usual – despite the “whoa I can’t recommend this book to anyone I know!” reaction (I mean the hero wreaks violent havoc against really bad, evil guys) – I admire the author’s writing techniques. It seems technique wins over subject matter in my choice of reading.
There is a perfect rhythm and pitch to his writing. Scene- and chapter-ending hooks are grand. The way he elongates a moment is masterful. These are things that makes any type of novel a work of art.
THE DETAILS. . .Goodbyes to Daughter and Son-in-law.  =(  Airports and airplanes. Quiche at the French bistro in the Denver airport is tasty.

Day 48


Saturday, October 30, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Characters nip at the edges of my imagination, gearing up for full-on reunion in the coming days.
            Picked up the following quote found by my daughter. It’s basically all we fiction writers (who do not want to step into Flannery O’Connor-size shoes) need to know.
Kurt Vonnegut’s “Creative Writing 101:”
1.              Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2.              Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3.              Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4.              Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5.              Start as close to the end as possible.
6.              Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7.              Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8.              Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
“The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.”

            I’m not quite sold on #8.  =)
THE DETAILS. . .Visited an amazing Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Science Center. One room was devoted to the Mona Lisa. There was an unframed replica and huge displays of it in the original color and what it is today. Other rooms contained replicas of his creations such as a tank and a bullet (it is said he was a pacifist) and flying machines and submarine and countless tools and other machines. It seems he had a hand in some way in most inventions that impact our lives today.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nonna and Grandcat Tobi

Day 47


Friday, October 29, 2010. . .
            THE DETAILS. . .The drive back to Des Moines. Sweet down time with Daughter and Son-in-Law.  =)   Autumn beauty in the Midwest:


Friday, October 29, 2010

                                              "Burning bushes" everywhere, October in Illinois
                                          Lucy [my mom's goose] ready for day's cold temps

Day 46


Thursday, October 28, 2010. . .
            THE DETAILS. . .Mom, errands, saying goodbye, business gathering with My Guy and visits with many acquaintances through his work.  Lots of hugs and catch-up chats. Packing.  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 45


Wednesday, October 27, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Copyeditors are now at work on our story.  I think I am on a team.  =)  It’s a good feeling.
            THE DETAILS. . .No cemeteries today.  Doctor and dentist appointments. Lunch with my mom and sister at Bishops, a long-established restaurant. Dinner with My Guy’s side of the family.
At lunch my sister and I stood at the buffet, in front of the desserts. We looked long and hard at the chocolate pie. It is a thing of luscious beauty, several inches high, the whipping cream topped with wide chocolate curlicues. We were instantly transported back to our childhood. Our grandparents often took us to this restaurant (in a different location back then) and we always got to eat a slice of this pie.
My sister and I smiled. We could taste the sweetness. But she had to get back to her office and my day was not yet over so we did not pick up a piece. No time for a sugar crash nap for either of us. (Isn’t the imagination a wonderful thing?)
I qualified for the senior discount. =)
While there, I had another treat. I ran into former neighbors who were also my reflexologists, a grandmother-granddaughter duo. I miss their work on my feet and their friendship. An extra treat was meeting the younger’s adorable little girls, three years old and two months old.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mississippi Whitecaps

Day 44

Tuesday, October 26, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .An exchange of emails with my editor – she is still hard at work on my manuscript while I visit cemeteries – reminds me of the importance of timing in a work of fiction.
            I use a blank calendar, one I designed (okay, I drew lines with the handy-dandy Word tool). It has large day spaces; one month fills one page. I print it off on colored paper. Then, in pencil, I make notations about the story.
            I begin with the month. (Weather and climate most often impacts the characters, though less often in certain areas of the world. This probably comes from my Midwest roots where everyday plans revolve around the weather. Clothing? Allow time for driving in snow? Umbrella? Boots? Avoid flooding river and creeks? Get to the grocery store in order to stock up before the ice storm hits? Make alternate plans for the picnic in case those clouds unload?)
            Then I fill in the blanks. In this month on this date, the story begins. Pivotal scenes are noted as I write them to remind me that such-and-such happened two weeks ago so I best not refer to “three weeks ago” later. (This is what Smart Editor is taking care of.)  I also include “off-scene” info to remind me what is going on that affects my characters but that we readers don’t need to “see.”
            Nothing happens in a vacuum.
            THE DETAILS. . .Two more cemeteries and mausoleum visits with my mom. I have concern that this is too much foisting of details upon her. At 83 she wants to make these decisions so that we children do not have to later, but it is overwhelming for her.
            We did enjoy driving through the oldest cemetery here, which she knew as a child and which my sister and I would explore with her and my grandmother (who lived across the street). Interesting bit of trivia: Charles Dickens’ son is buried here. Tim and I found the site when we were teenagers and dating. The man passed away in Davenport, Iowa (as did Cary Grant who is not buried here).
            We entered one mausoleum – which we liked much better than yesterday’s because it smelled nicer and there was a sense of peace – and recognized several names etched in the granite. It was like a pleasant bumping into old friends. One couple had lived next door to us when our son was born. They adored him.
            The cemetery man was not delightful like the woman at the other one. Oddly, though, this made the whole scene feel less like a business that needs to make money and more like well, yes, death is a part of life and this is what it costs. There were no handwritten prices with discount percentages and warnings of imminent increases. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 43


Monday, October 25, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .The week’s writing will most likely be similar to today’s: a subconscious recording of emotions/personalities/characters/situations. Idea seeds were planted. They will sprout when their time is right to influence stories.
            THE DETAILS. . .Errands with my mom, hours of everydayness with her. Well, everday-ish except for the visit with the cemetery lady (who was a delightful woman). We got the lowdown on mausoleum and in-ground burials.
This woman’s job is quite interesting. I could do a lot in a story with the position. The business of dying is interesting. We looked in a detached manner at facts and figures.
I think I would rather my family and friends had a party nowhere near a cemetery. I love cemeteries. History is so evident there. Dates of births and deaths have always intrigued me. I like that I can visit the gravesites of my great-great grandparents in Orion, Illinois. I like that I stopped by my grandmother’s in Silvis, Illinois.
I suppose that the tombstone is for those who follow. But still. I guess it is not my desire to have one. I don’t own any ground right now. I don’t know that I need to after the fact. I hope my “footprint” is one of a spiritual impact that lives on in the lives of my children, grands, great-grands, and so on.
My “green” side is showing here. =) Hopefully so is my faith in God Who leaves hints all over the place that this life we know is not the end of our story.
In Cutting for Stone the doctor makes an interesting observation: the patients he treated in Africa expected death; the Americans he treated always seemed surprised at that prognosis.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Midwest

                                                            Mighty Mississippi


                                                          Iowa is not flat

Days 41 and 42


Saturday/Sunday, October 23/24, 2010. . .
THE DETAILS. . .In Iowa and Illinois, Des Moines to Orion to Moline to Eldridge to Moline. Days full of family, hugs, catch-up conversations, scent/sound/sight-triggered memories and making new ones.
Daughter is well on her way to becoming the Keeper of Memories (she had a jump start into the role since I managed to lose the all the literal ones three years ago [Yes, I can laugh at that at times.]). Appropriately, she now has the piano. She and Son learned to play on it beginning 25 or so years ago. Five years ago when My Guy and I moved, we did not want to carry it with us to San Diego. He and she arranged for friends to store it. Now married and planning a move from the apartment, she was ready to claim this piece of her past. So a UHaul and a loading were part of our Saturday.
The honk of the Canada geese flying over the Mississippi tickle me. They’re passing through, announcing the approach of winter. My childhood backyard looks smaller again, but that may be because forty years’ growth makes the sycamore a giant on the kickball “field.” 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 40


Friday, October 22, 2010. . .
THE WRITING. . .I began this and almost noted that there was no writing today, but then I thought of The Reading and realized that there is always Writing. =)
I finished reading Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. Humming beneath the sheer delight of an engaging story was je ne sais quoi. I don’t know how to phrase it, this underlying flow of how, of technique, of oh my gosh how did he do that!?
There was history and culture and there was back-story woundedness – but over all there was “because of this character’s choice, there was this consequence and then there was that consequence and then” wow.
            I want to do that.
            THE DETAILS. . .As My Guy and I headed down the I-5 in the early morning dark to the airport, we remembered heading north up the I-5 in the early morning dark, on this day in 2007, to safety. We found our way to a theretofore unknown to us motel, as far west into the Pacific that the land allowed in Oceanside.
            Several miles behind us to the east was a raging wildfire, pressed by 40-mile per hour winds with gusts up to 90 mph. The last we had seen, it was a block from our house, headed our way. We drove away, through the neighborhood on streets clogged with hundreds of others. We passed a burning house up the hill a few blocks from ours. Embers bounced off the pavement all around us. Days later we would find damage to a tire which had to be replaced.
            We secured one of the last rooms available at that motel. Dear friends, also fleeing our burning community, joined us . As we sat around a breakfast table in a restaurant (they with two of their children, the third being away at college), Mr. Friend spoke on his cell with someone who lived up the street from us and said that (had he seen for himself? details do not matter at this point) our next-door neighbors’ house was gone.
            And I knew. If theirs was gone, ours was gone.
            A Matt Redman song sprang to mind. We had sung it recently in church. It was a favorite. He quotes from Job. “He gives and takes away. My heart will choose to say: blessed be the name of the Lord.”   
            My heart will choose to say. Will choose.
            I remember not sleeping well that night. Our kids were afraid for us, in Chicago and Flagstaff. From our room we could see fires burning on Camp Pendleton. I was glued to the news. Yes unhealthy, but also a necessity. It seemed the entire county was on fire, the entire city at risk. We needed to be better informed than we had been the night before.
We were awakened in the middle of the night by a banging on the door. I thought we were being evacuated, but it was a homeless woman begging for a blanket. We gave her the room’s extra one and a pillow.
The fires continued for days. We were cared for by family, friends, and insurance agent. Our son and daughter flew in to spend the weekend with us. I bought new underwear and a sweater at Macy’s. I sifted through ashes and found crosses and angels, blackened and somehow preserved.
And today I sense God telling me it’s okay to fly to my daughter’s and be lost for hours in someone else’s story. He’s got me covered.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 39


Thursday, October 21, 2010. . .
            THE WRITING. . .Today is the official IT’S DONE DAY.  =) I emailed the manuscript to my editor.
Writers know it is best to let a project sit for a bit, at least for overnight before turning it in. I do not always follow this advice.  Similar to how I described in an earlier blog about walking out the office door and having characters “do” something in my imagination, any type of writing may continue once we leave our desks. It’s good to wait for that to happen and not hand our work off to someone else to read. Then they have to tell you, “uh maybe you could work on this?”
Yes, I speak from experience. 
            So, the formalities over, I am still all smiles this day.
            THE DETAILS. . .Too many! Packed for trip to the Midwest. (Is it colder there than here now? I remember snow in October.) Put some order to the house for friends who will stay while we are gone. 
           We leave on an early a.m. flight. First stop: Daughter and Son-in-law’s (Iowa).  My Guy is going for business (Illinois). We will visit parents and siblings there. Our last big Midwest extended-family event was waaay back in April when the Son-in-law became the Son-in-law.  I’m overdue for in-person hugs.
            Also on my mind – and I’m certain bugging my unconscious – is the memory of three years ago tonight and tomorrow, when the Witch Creek/Guejito wildfire struck San Diego County including our street. (I mentioned this in Day 36.) Not necessary to rehash details on a blog. Suffice it to say there was great loss for us and great gain as well.
            Such is life. And as my grandma used to say, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”