Tuesday, July 29, 2014

This is the stuff life is made of

I was going to write a post about my experience at the writing workshop I attended this past weekend but I am still processing it. Leave it at this:

- It was intense,
- I was surprised that people read things that made them cry while reading aloud,
- I found myself writing things I had not expected to put on paper
- The other attendees were all terrific people an Janisse Ray a fabulous teacher and inspiration
- Once again I recognized my lack of interest in spending a lot of time fine tuning anything be it writing or art and think I may stick to very short essays or word "snacks" that could be part of a piece of art or illustrated

So you can see that writing is not going to be my retirement career.

Today though I find myself doing laundry so Hubby can leave on Thursday to go help his Dad move into assisted living. I am listening to the sound of chain saws as a crew cuts up tree trunks in our wooded area and hauls them out. I am so delighted that while they were waiting for the rest of their crew two of the men carried our broken ping pong table from the carport to the curb so we can have it picked up. I am feeling like I need to do lots of strength training as I couldn't even pick up one end to carry it out (we tried several times LOL).

Hope you are having a great week so far.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Stepping out of my comfort zone

In less than two hours I am hopping into a friend's car for the drive to The Parker Ranch in N. Georgia to attend a 3 day Workshop in Memoir and Creative Nonfiction Writing with author Janisse Ray. Two attendees cancelled at the last minute and I know how they feel. Bring a 3 to 5 minute long writing sample to read out loud? I didn't have one so I wrote the short  piece about my Mom and Turkey Run State Park that I shared earlier. It will probably take a whole minute to read LOL.

I am uncomfortable with what I anticipate the workshop will be like and unsure if I can focus for that many days on writing. Yet when it was announced I was eager to sign up! Why do I do this to myself?

I want to expand my life and can imagine all sorts of experiences that I would enjoy but when it comes to doing them I pull back. I am fighting that feeling and forging forward this time and hopefully many times in the future. I'll let you know how it turns out.

* The Parker Ranch is operated by two friends of mine and I have been there twice with my book club. It is a lovely and well run retreat facility.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Persistence and a cheerful approach pays off

Whew! I finally found out why we hadn't received our state tax refund even though we filed on February 9th. We were selected for "random review" and I finally got to talk to someone in the review dept. who checked my arithmetic while I was on the phone and approved the refund. However, they can't seem to do a direct deposit although I gave them the info so it will be a paper check in 7 to 21 business days. I'll take it. I do wonder how long it would have taken though if I hadn't kept calling and asking where the refund was.

The cheerful approach part is that I know the workers I talk to are not the cause of the delay or my frustration so I am cheerful and thank them very much for their help. You can hear the uplift in their  voices after that. Just think how many disgruntled callers they deal with every day and try to be a bright spot while getting your business taken care of.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Grieving and the expansion of good memories

I've been thinking a lot about my Mom and especially how happy and relaxed she was when we all went to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. I Googled the park and then the memories really came flooding back. The short trail with 140 steps, the ledge where the turkeys used to roost, the rock outcropping along the river's edge where we found the fossil I still have, and especially the ladders you have to climb from the gorge bottom up to the cliffs on one trail. Amazingly they are still part of that trail - they seemed much taller when I was a child though!

I need a writing sample to read out loud at the start of the writing workshop I am attending at the end of the month. It is being led by author Janisse Ray and held at my friends' N. Georgia retreat center. I will focus on nature and memoir writing so I am taking time to think about Mom and write about her. Here's the start:

She loved birds, being a homemaker, her children, dogs, her daughter in law and son in law, Turkey Run, her friends, going out to eat, her grandsons and great granddaughter, reading, art, cookies and ice cream, having seen parts of the world, history, old sitcoms and movies, shopping for new things, day trips, letters, Simon Pearce restaurant, her library and local historical society, her nieces and nephews, her Aunt Juanita, trees, her Dad and Step Mom, getting new clothes, laughing, plays, talking about her past, decorating the house, flowers, and my Dad. Oh how she loved my Dad. And she was courageous.

That is what I wrote when I was brainstorming how to personalize my Mom’s obituary after she died this past April. It didn’t all make it into the obituary but part of what has been running through my mind since then is that she loved birds, flowers, and going to Turkey Run. I have remembered how she was my introduction to loving nature.

As an adult I tended to think more about how we were different than about what we shared. Since she died in April what keeps popping into my head is the fact that my love of nature was nurtured by her. She was very connected to the earth and noticed every bird, flower, tree, and animal – all the things alive around her. Dad share her interest in birds and animals but he was less tethered to the ground. He shared his joy in flying through the air and traveling across water. Mom pointed out the small wonders of the world and shared her favorite places.

As a small child we would take little journeys early in the Spring to the piece of yard under my bedroom window to see if the violets were up and blooming. They always seemed to be available for putting in the May baskets that she had me weave from strips of paper and hang on our neighbors’ doors.

In the summer she showed us how to catch fire flies in jars that had holes punched in the lids and we would use them as nightlights in the yard and then let them go before bed.

Then there were the day trips to Turkey Run state park in Indiana. We always took a hike. When I was little it was the trail along the river that crossed using the covered bridge. Usually there was a deer siting for added adventure. As I got older we went on the harder trails including one that required climbing wooden ladders up a cliff from the trail in the ravine bottom. I was sure those would be no longer there (insurance you know) but I just looked on line and they are definitely still part of the trail. Wow, those photos really dredged up nice memories of walking and climbing in those specific spots. Part of the fun besides the geology, animals, river and hiking was that this was one place where my Mom let go of her fears that someone would get hurt. She never admonished us to be careful when we were there.

I left home right after high school and throughout the rest of her life I received letters and calls that talked about the birds and animals she had seen or the flowers that were just planted or blooming. When she came to visit us wherever we lived she always wanted to know the names of the birds, plants and trees that were different than the ones she knew. Memorizing facts has never been a strength of mine so I rarely could answer. That has created an ongoing joke and favorite memory.

We were all at our house in Glendale and she saw a small brown bird outside the kitchen window. Probably some kind of sparrow or wren but then most birds in Southern California tend to be brownish. She asked me what kind of bird it was and of course I didn’t know. It was thus declared a LBB – little brown bird forever. Even in the last year of her life she would refer to seeing LBBs out her window and I loved that connection.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

So glad I didn't live long ago and that I will probably live a long time

I've been working on the family genealogy some more and am totally amazed at how many children my poor female ancestors had - and in some families, how many of the children died within the first 5 years. Wow, what hard lives they had and I am so glad I didn't live then.

Lots of the women (and men) died fairly young too and from diseases that are now preventable/treatable or from wartime injuries especially during the Civil War. Generally though I seem to come from pretty long lived stock. So it is not just my parents who lived a long time (87 and 92) but so many of my ancestors who did not have the advantages of the health care we enjoy now lived into their 70s and beyond. Hearty stock indeed and all the more reason to take retirement financial and life planning seriously!

I just read a book on that topic and it is a great overview. I already knew lots of this info but did pick up some good worksheets and things to think about.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Shamelessly stolen from Fiona's post over at How to be Chic

I just had a good  chuckle at this part of Fiona's post on uplifting quotes over at How to be Chic

I know that dogs are pack animals, but it is difficult to imagine a pack of poodles… And if there was such a things as a pack of poodles, where would they rove to – Bloomingdales? – Yvonne Clifford

I'm adding a gratuitous poodle picture of our own poodle princess who truly believes we are her pack. She turns 5 this month and is still pretty bouncy.

Her post is truly quite full of truly inspirational quotes so check it out.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A recipe to NOT make and painting progress

A couple of snapshots of my day -

Sorting my Mom's old recipe box and found this one. Don't remember having to eat it and don't plan to cook it! Spam and cheese sandwich anyone?

Scheduled time to paint today and made progress so that I finally like where this painting is going. I paint in our sun porch so that is why so many windows, a fence and part of our front yard behind the painting. I'm going to studio the next three Tuesday evenings so I will have help to see if I can finish it without messing it up. The bridge and building on the right still need lots of work. That is tomorrow evening's goal.