Beginning October 21, this blog, Rain Trueax's Rainy Day Thoughts, will have a co-author-- painter and long-time friend, Diane Widler Wenzel. We have been sharing, encouraging, and discussing life for over 50 years. We don't always agree... I think this will be fun trip for us both. New posts will be on Saturdays and otherwise randomly as something of interest happens.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What's next?

Since I just wrote about marketing my writing, I thought I'd throw in this article. I know I have a lot of readers who are writers, would like to be, or have the potential to be. This is an issue much discussed among writers in the groups to which I belong.


If you aren't into the various systems Amazon offers, you may not know about this or how it works. Basically all Amazon authors are offered joining this group. As an author, the price you pay, unless you are a very well known author, is to pull all your books out of the other available on-line sellers. Since I have my books in most of the other available sites (Rainy Day Romances), I'd have to delete them and then take the lower fees that Amazon offers through their unlimited reading KU. This was similar to Prime, which I left when I decided it wasn't smart to only have one vendor selling indie books. Sometimes you do things not just to benefit yourself but also for the good of others. This was one of those cases where I looked at how healthy can this be long-term for small writers.

What I have read, and not just in the NY Times article, is that writers have been hurting after this went into place. Whether they offered their books at KU or did not, their sales dropped. The only writers who did not suffer were either very well-known or had a sizable fan base. 

It's not hard to see why readers like KU. A book at almost no cost and on demand. Choices that look to be unlimited. After years of finding books for free on Amazon, readers aren't willing to pay for what they read-- or if they pay, not much. Amazon is virtually offering them a library at $120 a year. Of course, they won't get all the books they might like as some won't be in it, but enough are to make it very appealing.

Who it is hurting the most are writers who need to make a living at their work. It would also hurt those writers who believed the hype that they must pay a professional editor to edit their books, pay another professional to create their covers, and then maybe pay a publicist. By the time they did all that, they better sell many thousands of copies. But if there are 3 million books out there (not sure how many are in KU), once again, how likely is that to happen? Anyway it's all part of this Wild West of indie publishing.

There is another option for writers. If they find Amazon sets up their algorithms to make their books look worse than those in KU, they can sell other places (and I do get some sales those other places), or even sell direct. It can be done, but it is more work for the writer. Amazon has been a great system for writers to get their work out to the public without having to force it to match the requirements of corporate publishing houses, which can mean censorship of many sorts.

Even things like this blog though may not always remain free or reasonable in cost. We have seen an explosion of online connection, but there may yet be a cost we have not seen. I think it's both an exciting time to be out there but one with a lot of uncertainty as to the future.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

ponderings

On a personal level, when I am assessing the year past and looking ahead to 2015, my mind is on marketing because, strangely enough at this point in our lives, Ranch Boss and I are involved in marketing on several levels. Short of major advertising campaigns or big box stores, how do people find the products they need for their lives? The following are four of the ways, which after many years of having no such concerns, we now find ourselves involved in the economics and emotions of marketing.

The first one qualifies as the most-have-to-find buyers-- selling our grass fed beef and lamb. If we were willing to take our animals to an auction yard, where they might end up in a feed lot *shuddering*, this would mostly only involve + or - $$$ differences-- i.e. is the market up or down? 

Literally with raising cattle and sheep, you don't set a price when you take a animal to an auction. You can find it sells at less than it cost you to produce it-- not even considering the labor involved. To me selling through an auction is a total last resort because of what can happen to the animal's life next. We do have to sell or our grass would all become mud; but it's how we sell that matters.

So without the auction, how does an independent grower of beef and lamb get information to the ones looking for grass-fed meat (which is healthier for the consumer but somewhat different in flavor and texture than meat that is fatter, as it is finished on  corn or grain). For a buyer to find such products takes work. Currently we find buyers with Craig's List and our previous customers. Getting the right number of animals sold frankly is often dicey.

Next up would be the rental of our Tucson house. How do you get information about a vacation rental to the kind of people you want using your fully furnished home? Our house sets on natural desert and is more homey and arty than sophisticated. 


VRBO has been our solution. We thought of it because it's how we have found our own home rentals for vacations. I had liked dealing directly with the owner and now as landlord, I like dealing directly with those who want a few weeks in the desert. Vacation Rental By Owner makes all that possible and has worked well for both us and our renters-- once we learned the right way to phrase that blurb-- and that is critical to get a renter who won't be expecting something fancy. The last thing you want as a renter is a dissatisfied customer. 

The next area of our own marketing involves Ranch Boss's expertise as a technology expert. As an independent consultant, he markets his expertise to help start-up companies figure out what they need to overcome certain production problems. He is then also involved with how they get their product seen since it's not like start-ups have a big advertising budget. Word of mouth is a big part of how they market. 

Networking has gotten him most of his jobs since he retired in 2002-- except he didn't retire from working and has had pretty much all the hours he's wanted since he began consulting. 

We are also both involved in marketing my books... Marketing books-- argh! I began to ePublish December of 2010. In the intervening years, I've continued to write new books, improve my craft, BUT have never gotten good at promoting my books or even understanding where to put my effort. I can be promoting one book, getting it zero sales, while several others, where I had done nothing, are selling. I have no idea how readers find them as that's not easy information to access for an indie-- short of paying probably more money a month than I'd be making. One possibility is setting up an email list regarding new arrivals. I haven't gone there yet.

Here's a recent example of a marketing mystery. We put on sale A Montana Christmas at 99¢ for the eBook, ending January 1st. It seemed a good idea-- after all, it's the Christmas season. I put out the word on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon forum, and the blog. It got zero interest (while some of my other books had sales). So what went wrong?

The story is a novella but a lengthy one at 27,000+ words. It followed characters and situations from an earlier book, From Here to There, which had sold pretty well in its time. 

Possible problems-- A Montana Christmas might not be a typical Christmas story since it is about the lead up to Christmas, covers Winter Solstice, and ends Christmas Eve. It's about an estranged family coming together for the holiday and explores how this season can be a time of healing-- or maybe make relationships worse. Early mistakes can't always be fixed... or can they? 

It's not a religious look at Christmas since the characters are mostly those who don't pay a lot of attention to religion. The biggest celebration in the novella is Winter Solstice-- so its nature theme does tend to carry through. That could be a turnoff to someone who wants a religious look at Christmas. 



To add to this, it also is not a romance although it carries on the couple from the earlier book. I consider it a slice of life story. Because I like this imaginary ranch and these people, summer 2014, I carried the family story further with a short story (found at the end of the novella) and plan in 2015 to bring forth another full length novel set on this ranch but with a new romance-- two actually, with two different age groups. 

I've considered that perhaps the title and cover are the problem-- no pzazz. Saving Christmas maybe? lol Or making it part of a series-- damaged families... hmmmm doubt that'd do much to draw in readers either. 

One thing I might advise to anyone who is thinking of writing-- if you want to write what everybody else does, that's craft and can be learned. If you want to write your own story, then you can get it published but be prepared-- you may not be able to get it purchased. It is at that point that you have to find, what I work to find, peace with that fact and enjoyment in the creative process, creating a book that turned out just as you wished, and release what you cannot control-- everybody else's reaction to it. 

There is a big plus to writing fiction; it takes you away from your own disappointments, the world outside, pretty much anything that is outside your created world and its characters. For a little while, you live in a world where you have more control.

As for marketing, it just has to remain a mystery-- whether it's beef, our rental, Ranch Boss's consulting, or my books, the right people have to be reached. That's the sweet spot that isn't always possible to find.

On the other hand, I am an old woman as is my husband an old man. It's kind of good to still be challenged-- don't you think!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

WINTER SOLSTICE

Yah! From here on, day will begin to take back the sky. 

But as a way to feel brighter on the longest night of the year, the following link takes you to more photos of the desert and some of my history with this particular one-- Arizona-Sonora Desert
 

Rain Trueax 
on Arizona and why I love it so much.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

the moods of Tucson

I was first in Tucson in 1965 and have been back many times since-- experiencing wonderful times almost always. This year, I won't be in Arizona for Christmas. Its sounds, sites and scents will always though be in my heart.







I did the following video in 2012. I take so many photos with the idea I can bring some back to Oregon which will always stoke memories. This time we had a lot of work to do on the house; so once again there wasn't enough time to do all that I love. But what I love the most is to be in this home, to sit on the patio and watch and listen to the birds. That I had hours and hours of to take back to Oregon with me in my heart.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kindness

 Ferruginous Hawk
The other day I was listening to an interview Jane Fonda did about her life and where she is now. She is in a relationship that she said really works for her and she has learned something she wished she had known when younger. When told what to look for in a mate, it was for things like strength, sense of humor, smartness, etc. What she learned finally was more important is looking for one who is kind. The relationship she has with a man who is kind has made all the difference for what it's like.

I've thought about it ever since as it's true in friendships as well as lovers. Kind people are kind to themselves and to others. They have a caring that works to get them through rough stretches without it turning ugly. When you read of someone who shoots their spouse because they were going to leave, it's not someone who lives with kindness-- or even understands what it is.

Be kind to others and ourselves. Find those who not only know what that is but are also kind. It's a word that I think often isn't thought of enough, even an old fashioned word, but the world needs more of it.

Nature isn't by 'nature' kind as such. Nature has to survive and it does what it must without thinking beyond what is needed. Humans though have another dimension. We can think beyond survival. It is that other dimension where we can exercise kindness, develop it, truly come to understand what it means. 

As I read people trying to justify the recent revelations regarding torture that was authorized at the highest level, I keep trying to understand what kind of human would do that to another. I had one person say-- isn't ISIL worse? Who cares? If we justify misbehavior by -- the other guys do worse, we lose all possible morality. We can't steal just because someone else has. If we as a nation justify this torture because it'll keep us safe, what does that say about us? I hate to even think.

Kind people would never have authorized such abuse-- for any reason; and they won't find it acceptable. Kindness is a character trait. I don't know if we can develop it, but we sure can lose it if we lose track of everything except what is good for us-- and we don't even really understand what that is.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

aging

"I like to enjoy life. I like food, I like wine. I don’t want to spend 15 hours of my day wondering how I look. For some people, men and women, that’s their primary focus and that’s so boring."     
Kathleen Turner

Once in awhile I think about aging and what it means. I ask myself-- is there something I should be doing about it? Some who reach my age (71) feel they should discard things. They give away or sell what they feel they no longer need-- then often buy something else to fill the space. Nothing wrong with that philosophy, but I am thinking of other ways to look at an age where there aren't likely so many years left. 


What I have been looking at are the activities and people in my life. Do my relationships serve me or me them? Are my activities those I want to be doing and not just filling time? At any age, it's easy to fill time with superficial relationships and busy work; but when you get to a place where you realize less years lie ahead, frittering away time becomes more of an issue.

Last summer, when I tripped on a rug, where the playing cats had rolled up an edge, as I was going down and couldn't do a two step to save myself due to the rug having caught my foot, I knew it could be a bad fall. Beyond the rug, where I was about to land, was a stone floor and a dresser. Hitting either one wrong could have ended my life-- in seconds. As it turned out, I broke my nose. It was scary and shocking, but didn't even require a visit to an ER. Those kind of moments make a person think about the preciousness of time. 

To some degree, I have always lived as though the moment might be all there is because I've had those in my life who died very much before their time. I can't say I expected to get to old age, but here I am and making the most of being old is on my agenda. I have no fear of the word and don't go around saying, I feel like 18. I didn't feel like 18 when I was 18. Numbers are just that, but the truth is the body does change from birth to death.

Old age didn't really seem to come on me when I thought it would at 60. To be honest, my 60s were more a time of gradual changes but until near the end, they weren't that noticeable. 

When in Oregon, I had gathered together photos of myself thinking of a kind of retrospective of from 50 to 70, mainly to show what those years can be. Except there was not the huge change that I had expected. The photos didn't really tell what was happening as I had thought they might. 

Definitely looks are a factor in aging, but it's more about something else that I am thinking-- what do I want to be in these next years--if I am so fortunate to keep good health for say the next 10. I wrote this poem years and years ago and chose a photo of me at 27 to illustrate it.


When we are younger, we can put time into relationships that are frustrating or time wasters (some of that is learning about what works for us), but when someone gets to my age, it seems a mistake. Even as an introvert, I need some special people in my life, but I don't need to spend much time with those where the connection is shallow-- or has changed and no longer works-- for me or them.

Relationships, for me, (not counting family who are in a category all their own) can be broken down into:
  • People I know to smile and wave 
  • acquaintances where I will stop and say hello, ask how they are but don't expect much of an answer-- nor do they want much of one from me
  • casual friendships where we may talk about family, a recent vacation, the weather. It's pretty much public information but just a bit more of it 
  • deep friendships where I can be me. That is where I and they can let the dark and light side come through. We don't pretend to suit each other or put on a facade. There aren't many of those in anybody's life, but having a few is a real benefit.
I am at the age where I am doing some refocusing as to where I want to put my time where it comes to people. I was more tolerant of chitchat relationships when younger when I had more time ahead (probably). Today, each relationship where I put real time has to be one that can go deep or I'd rather be writing or walking somewhere. Making relationships work is about recognizing what they are and then setting boundaries-- something not always easy to do at any age.

When we got to Tucson, we wanted to have a fence that enabled our cats to go outside directly from the house. This is an area with a lot of predators not to mention the prickly things. I wasn't thrilled at the idea of a fence because I liked looking at the desert beyond my home. Once it was up though, I liked it. It offered me something that I hadn't expected. It defined space and yes, the bobcat, cougar, coyote, or javelina won't be coming on me or me them unexpectedly. The fence was built with a large double gate; so it can be left open to the area I most want to photograph. The cats are loving their new freedom and in reality the fence gave me freedom too. That's what understanding our personal boundaries does for us.
From the covered patio, looking toward the pool, which has always been fenced, but it's not a good idea to have pets there without us on the off chance they might fall in.

Along with people relationships, I've been thinking where I want my activities centered. Exercise is a given as it's needed for health, but I am not going to spend hours a day doing it. I need a lot of deep thinking time, which can also involve research and reading. I want very little time with television but when it's on, it's either news (less and less of that these days as it's easier on my emotions to get the news from reading) or something shallow that demands nothing but for me to laugh or cry a little but not feel bad when it's over. 

I did a little personality test on Facebook. Amazing how those 10 questions can sometimes tell us something about ourselves based on the photos we prefer.
You are a Creator! As the name suggests, you are a very creative, imaginative and passionate person. You love to experiment with various forms of creations, and challenge yourself at every opportunity.
One of the most important things in your life is your alone time. During that time, you let your mind flourish and your creativity go wild. Without that creating outlet, you could go practically insane.
Your creative nature helps you to always look at the positive side of life, always find the mental strength to move forward, and never look back.
It made me feel good in a way that I did know myself but also that what I think I need is what creators need. I don't need to feel guilty that I am not satisfying someone else's needs. My job is to know my own.

Where it comes to what I don't want-- shopping is at the top of the list. I remember a time I didn't dislike stores so much, but these days, stores are something to get through as fast as possible, getting enough to not have to go back soon. I also don't want to join clubs. I was never much of a joiner but had my years I did more of that. Clubs are mostly oriented toward the activity and not a place to build a deep friendship. I don't want to put the time into them (although if I was an extrovert, they'd likely be on my list of want to do activities. 

These days, I think the important place for me to spend time is what refreshes my soul and that is in nature or looking at nature. When I am in the Tucson house, to just sit on the patio and watch the quail and other birds interact with each other, to listen to the sounds the quail make, that kind of activity makes time seem to slow. It lets me look into a world beyond mine-- the world of the earth where mankind too often is in the way not a help.

For me, writing will be at the head of any list for the coming year. Wherever I am, whatever else I am doing, it is important as a way to share what I have learned with others but also fulfill myself. I especially like writing fiction, creating new characters, coming up with plots that are meaningful to me. Promoting that writing is not so enjoyable but something I need to do some of... I think :).

There though may be other activities I have not found enough time for recently. I know I want more time on rivers, sitting on a rock and feeling the sun on my back and maybe a week or two renting a cabin on the edge of the wilderness. Time with family is always important. Basically it comes down to wanting meaningful relationships and activities-- and discarding anything currently in my life that is not.

One certainty in all this-- there is less time available to me, and I am not going to fill it up, running from one thing to another looking for something outside myself. I've never been much of a gadabout. Recently I had reason to look that word up. Gadabout is a habitual seeker of pleasure. Well, I am less inclined to be one today than ever. In fact, what I have to watch out for is becoming a recluse ;). 

Anyway that's my thinking in a season where a year is coming to an end-- a time I often reevaluate where I am and where I want to be. It's been a few years since I did one of those, but I think I might for 2015.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

giving thanks

Just past Thanksgiving, although we are a long way from our family this holiday, I am grateful that they are enjoying it together. I also am enjoying our time on the Arizona desert. 

As a nation, we are going through a very tough time. It is important at such moments to figure out what to do to fix what is wrong-- but never forget all that is right. We have a lot that is wrong and immigration policies that don't work could be at the head of any lists. This is more a cultural issue than even a partisan one-- even though it's portrayed as partisan by one group that profits from the existing situation-- and they aren't necessarily who you are thinking. 

President Carter, way back, tried to put through laws to penalize the employers of those here without work permits. It went nowhere. No surprise when you figure who is buying our Congress.

Culturally a people must decide who they are, how they handle those who would breach their borders or break their laws. We seem unable to do anything except react emotionally time and again and then go on to repeat more of the same. 

On immigration and how it impacts the working poor, read this:  


I am not about to offer a solution to this situation. Maybe there isn't one. Maybe we just have to make our own lives as good as we can-- make sure we act honorably, and then enjoy what we can of life.  We have a lot to be grateful for in our country, but we have major cultural issues that head in the sand won't fix!

In the meantime, enjoy a few photos from one of my passions (yes, there are others).

"Great passions, they say, are not always immediately recognized as such by their predestined victims." Joseph Wood Krutch from The Desert Year.











and our home here-- Casa Espiritu







Saturday, November 22, 2014

Division

Dividing can sometimes be positive. Once I divided my blogs into purposes, it made writing in this one a once a week thing. Yes, that cut the visitors as many want a more frequent entry, but I like how it's creatively been working for me.

One thing about blogging is I never wanted to live my life for a blog. It can almost become reality TV in how it feels in trying to do things that might be interesting to write about. I have, in the past, read a few blogs where they share all their life there. I never wanted to do that. Basically I have this blog for ideas that are of a general nature and to share photographs I especially like.

From this original blog, there have been offshoots. There is one blog for my writing, the philosophy behind what I write, and the creative life. For awhile it was three times a week but I took it down to twice a week to give myself a break.

Then there are three more blogs specifically about the books. Those blogs only change if I add a book. Because I find many creative processes interesting, I have three blogs that are just for book trailers, photo or discussion videos. They also don't change very often.

Finally, there is one blog that deals with politics. Because I had already taken the name Rainy Day Things for a blog that didn't end up being much of anything, it became Rainy Day Rant. I called it the rant to alert those who don't like rants-- and those who would like to rant a little themselves. It has no schedule but only gets an entry when the mood strikes. I could have written there a lot this week as I listened to mostly righties (but a few lefties) rant over the immigration order even before Obama issued it.

Last week I redid the banner for Rant, taking a current picture of me here in Tucson to make clear who is responsible for its content. I am thinking I may change that banner every now and again just because it's fun to do. Currently it has one of Tucson's more spectacular sunsets as a backdrop.


Does it help to rant? Maybe or maybe not. I find it helps me to voice my opinion most especially when I know that it's about all I can do. I read a lot of newspapers and pundits. Sometimes I comment on an article but when I do, I hold my breath (figuratively speaking) as I wait for the insults-- which sometimes but not always come. The world of social media isn't always friendly

There are times I am more involved with what is going on politically and culturally. There are times I tune it out when I just can't handle it. Rants naturally happen the most when I've been reading both sides of what I consider to be an important issue. 

I like a saying, roughly paraphrased-- are you part of the solution or the problem, if you aren't either, let it go. To write my thoughts on what should be done about something can be part of the solution-- a tiny part. Interestingly when something is bugging me and I write about it, I then tend to release it. I like to be informed but removed emotionally from being upset. When I can't do that, I pull back.

When I am writing and researching something new, I tend to pay less attention to what's going on around me. Writing a new book, where I am thinking of what happens next, what are the details along the way, can be so absorbing that the world disappears. 

When, as I decided November would be, I am reading other people's books, I am more open to thinking about the partisan mess that we have gotten ourselves into. I don't have responsibility for these books unless I opt to write a review. I write reviews only when I can give it four or five stars If it's something that really doesn't work for me, I  delete it when I am finished. I am not about to tell some other reader that what I didn't like, they won't.

Because we are a divided nation on almost every issue you can think of, some might think our time is the most divisive they have seen; but if you think back to when this nation was a colony of Great Britain, some wanted us to form our own nation and some wanted to stay part of Great Britain. That led to a hard fought war and not just with Great Britain but within Americans.

Then there was the Civil War, certainly a bitter time and of extreme violence. Not all wanted a war even then; and when it came, not all agreed, even today, as to why it was fought.

We've had times where Congress had legislators physically fighting or even having duels. So maybe our divide today is a consequence of how this country was created, through the crucible of violence, and from how many places we have come. 

Right now, it's not just us experiencing this violence and division. If you read foreign newspapers, you know that it's widespread. Perhaps it is the very nature of humans. I keep hoping it can change but maybe it won't. 

What I mostly would like is if people could discuss the issues that divide us with attention to what each believes should be done-- without insults. That rarely happens even in the media. The media, which is so widespread today, unfortunately, benefits from dissension. They encourage it as it makes for rating jumps. 

So if we are going to change things, it will have to be us doing it-- as individuals. Getting together and talking about what we think should be done and giving our reasons without assuming everyone else is an idiot when they disagree. Supposedly Town Halls were going to do that but they ended up more a place to rant without the logic. Insults and nastiness don't get us anywhere. It's possible that even talking without anger can't change anything because the division is just too deep. It's not as simple as just putting up a new blog.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

changes


When we got to Arizona, the first project had to be in the kitchen. We have a couple who look after the home when we are not here. They had told us about the leak from the hose that feeds the ice-maker. Because it had been discovered early, we didn't expect catastrophic damage as we'd had two years before. 

Once Ranch Boss pushed out the stove and refrigerator, it turned out to be worse. Mold went part way up the wall. Some of the cabinetry wood had been ruined by the water and mold. So began a week and a half of tearing apart and then rebuilding. The stove and refrigerator had to be moved, cabinets emptied of pans and food, then taken outside, wallboard cut away, a working mask to be purchased, and plastic sheeting used to wall off the working area. 

Although this mold did not look like the toxic black mold, it was black, and the only way to discern the difference is with microscope; so better to be extra careful than to take the risk when scraping away mold with spores in the air. 

Next step was a paint that destroys and blocks mold returning. Every step took time between for drying. With the stove and refrigerator out of there, it was discovered the previous owners hadn't tiled the floor all the way to the wall. So that was done. 


Finally wallboard was replaced, plastered, painted and destruction could turn into construction. Between tearing down and then replacing, this was a week and a half of unexpected work. 

It won't happen again as we removed the ice maker. First leak we could say just one of those things. Second leak-- not worth having a third. The humorous part is when I thought-- how will we get ice for our vacation renters... before I remembered ice trays. Duh! I bought some of those and began making ice the way we always did before the modern advantages that aren't always advantages.

This amounted to a week and a half of work for Ranch Boss, but when finished, it looks as good as ever and is actually better because when he tore out the walls, he discovered there had been old mold there from the previous owners before we bought the house in 1999. Ice makers might be convenient, but they do have a risk attached especially for people like us who aren't always there


Regarding Toyota and our Highlander (read previous blog if you are not sure what I am referring to-- and be sure to read comments where two engineers discuss what might have led to the malfunction), it's a long drawn out process to find out if they will accept any responsibility for the near disaster. We are going through their formal process of filing a complaint, but doubt it will end up with much satisfaction-- beyond ours in never buying another Toyota of any model. 

What I want to emphasize here is if you have a vehicle with the modern computerized systems, and that turns on the cruise control-- on its own-- quickly push it into neutral. Do not turn off the key unless you are stopped as that turns off power brakes, steering and if you can believe it, even airbags. Just push it into neutral. It will slow it, and you can then get safely off the road. When in neutral, rev the engine and that can get the computerized system to reset. Then get it to a repairman as this is not a safe thing to happen even if you know what to do-- and how many of us would! 



Because Casa Espiritu is both a second home for us and a vacation rental for snow-birds, we routinely do some improvements-- ones we plan. This year it is a fence that will enable cats and small dogs to safely be outdoors. Our piece of desert is home to predators like coyotes, javelina, and bobcats. We love that it is natural desert and that so many animals live here, but it doesn't make it safe for small pets.

For now, our two cats are inside and not pleased as in Oregon they have two fenced yards to be outside a lot. Here the fenced yard is with the pool, not connected directly to the house, and that isn't the safest thing for small animals who might fall (or jump) in and not be able to get out. 

The new enclosed patio, with an attractive metal fence, will allow us to be outside with them but not require it. We didn't want a wooden one because we like being able to see the desert beyond. No fence is ideal in my mind, but sometimes they are the best option.



We've been increasing the amount of walking we are doing to try to get back in shape. It's amazing how long that can take when you are old. But by adding a few minutes each day, I believe it will happen :)
Below are photos from one of our favorite spots to do this hiking because it's nearby and easy walking-- Catalina State Park with a variety of trails.







Sunday, November 09, 2014

it all can change in a moment

Almost never do I write a blog here that isn't on Saturdays, but something happened, which I feel compelled to write about as a warning to others.

Because our son and daughter-in-law had one of their vehicles break down, we said hey, borrow our Highlander while we are gone. Saturday they drove out to get it as well as ramps he would use for fixing their vehicle.

Our daughter-in-law, with our grandsons, left the farm with the Highlander. Less than a mile from the house, going down some S curves which drop maybe 50 feet, she felt the brakes suddenly were sluggish. She stepped on them harder and at the bottom of that hill, the vehicle took off and began to gain speed-- on its own. 

We assume the cruise control kicked in. She didn't turn it on. She stepped on the brake, which should have turned off any cruise control or at least stopped the vehicle. It did not. Then she shoved her other foot as hard as she could onto the emergency brake. It barely slowed the forward momentum. 

This is a two lane, country road. About 1/4 mile from where she was, missing a bridge abutment, she came to our small, community store with a wide gravel lot. Still pushing as hard as she could on both pedals, it barely slowed the vehicle to 40 mph when she went off the highway into the lot. She circled the vehicle, trying to get it to slow or hopefully stop. Finally she had turned it toward a neighboring woodpile. She ran into it. The Highlander was still revving its engine, and she turned off the key to finally have it stop. If she had missed that woodpile, she'd have gone into the nearby river with our two grandsons in the backseat...

You can imagine how we felt after we got the phone call to tell us what happened. Still today I feel teary as I imagine the other way this could have ended.

Although I had read, and do read about any possible recalls or problems with vehicles, I had read nothing about the Highlander doing this. After some research online, it turns out that it's known to happen to the year we have at between 80-100,000 miles. Our Highlander had 85,000 miles on it with never a clue previously that this could happen by anything it had done.

Today I feel shaky as I think how lucky we were and how other families have not been. We have all read about vehicles that did this, and it ended up with deaths. This could have been the same story had it happened elsewhere. 

Our daughter-in-law has always been beloved by us. I think the world of her, but now she is also my hero for keeping her head and managing to stop that vehicle that was doing all it could to kill her and our grandsons. 

When we researched it, we learned how it is happening to the years between 2004 and 2009, and how Toyota is doing all they can to avoid paying lawsuits where death was the result. Besides being furious, I keep thinking, how could manufacturers value money above lives? I know it happens all the time with water quality, air safety, and other manufacturing malfunctions but again I keep thinking-- how can it seem cheaper to settle some lawsuits than it is to fix something that has the potential to kill people. Wouldn't you think they would at least warn owners? Where is our news media in this? Since we bought this one new, we are the only owner it has had. We should have been told even if the incidents are rare. Frankly when it's your family, it's not rare!

Even though there were no injuries from this accident, it was no thanks to the vehicle. It was a combination of happening at the right place but mostly thanks to our daughter-in-law keeping her head. This has impacted us all with stress that doesn't go away. We were lucky. Not everyone is. We haven't yet talked to Toyota about the Highlander. We will do that tomorrow. For now we will have a friend tow it back to the farm. 

Here's the thing. They say that if you turn off the key while it's driving down the road, it disables the airbags, power brakes, and the power steering. You then have no control. The only thing you can do is put it in neutral-- if you can get it there.

So, we'll let our SUV set there while we consider what to do with it. Obviously my choice would be to shove it off a cliff, but we'll see what kind of excuses we get from Toyota tomorrow. I can imagine it will be denials of responsibility. Just a fluke. Not their fault. grrrrrr Anyway, I didn't wait to write this because my reason for it doesn't relate to what our family experienced.

If you are driving a Toyota, any model, do some online research to see what other drivers have experienced. In fact, if you are driving any of these new vehicles where computers make it soooooo much better, do some research on known problems for your model. It could save yours or your loved one's lives. 

Right now I need to take some deep breaths and try to not think about how different today could have been :(.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

a window in time


Lately I have been thinking about windows of all sorts. Books can be windows to other ways of thinking. Non-fiction can take us back in history or yield ideas for living in our own time. Fiction takes us to other worlds.

Windows are more than the kind we look through. They are the kind we find appearing in our lives. There are windows where suddenly we see something more clearly. Windows give us a chance to change things-- windows of opportunity. Some windows are more pleasurable and useful than others and it takes discernment to separate them out.

In my life, windows have come along regularly and some have changed my life when I have gone through them-- not always as I expected. Sometimes a window is a change of direction or a turning down of something. Other times it's a deepening of understanding. A window in time might be the only chance or maybe the window lies ahead, and we have to wait for our opportunity. Our awareness lets us see the window. Then we can decide what to do with it.

My most recent example of a window was when we knew we would be driving to Arizona pulling our trailer. We had to wait for a window to leave the farm and that involved fencing, livestock problems, getting it all set to be gone with new stewards to watch over the animals and land. It involved a weather window. I wrote quite a lot about that in my Rain Trueax blog; so if you want more info, go there when you finish here. But do finish here.

photos are of our Tucson house, still a little torn apart due what we found when we got here-- more about that in the other blog.
I can't really go further here without discussing the mid-term election. We saw a window again where one group wanted to change the country in a new direction. Those who wanted change voted in greater numbers than those who liked it as it was. 

And so we shall see what that means on a host of issues from increased war to social and environmental issues with Republicans decisively taking control of all of Congress. We could argue here about whether voters were duped by slick ads or whether they got what they wanted. We could debate whether all the money spent on this election, over $2 billion, was the why or whether people feel riled, don't know why, and attacked what they could. Lashing out at what is nearby can lead to a feeling of empowerment-- unless your fist hurts from breaking it on the door.


For those of us who don't want to lash out, what is our own window in such a time? The election is over. We can't change the results. So what do we do?

Relax about it is my main advice. The Republicans have experienced loss, and now it's our turn. We could demand our representatives, the few who believe in progressive values, try to block anything the repubs want to do as McConnell said he would do when Obama won both times. We could try to put the partisan issues ahead of the national ones. This is destructive thinking but if we let hate control us, it's what we might want even when it hurts us.

This kind of back and forth shift happens a lot in the US where the people are so divided. This country can't make up its mind, and we saw that when states voted to do things that progressives encourage, like up the minimum wage while they elected a senator who didn't even want a minimum wage. Division leads to confusion. 

One has to think some of the vote against dems came out of hatred of Obama and that hate is very real. I listened to Limbaugh for a bit the day after the election and heard a caller talking about how evil Obama was and dangerous. Is it any wonder there have been so many threats on his life when such talk is encouraged by these right wing radio pundits?

But can we feel proud of some of the dem candidates who frankly nearly tried to deny their party affiliation and one refused to say for whom she voted in the last presidential election. Some blue dog dems aren't any more leftie than the repub who replaced them. So for something like the XL pipeline, to deliver oil shale from Canada to Texas for refining and shipping oil to South America, it is pretty much a done deal now that it will be approved. In the mind of righties, it's all about oil for the US-- except it's not. It's about big bucks for a few, jobs for awhile in building it and then shipping the oil elsewhere. It's not about our gasoline at the pump, as currently the US has a glut of it thanks to fracking, which Obama has not tried to regulate and who knows the consequences of that.

I could discuss a dozen issues, but it doesn't help. Whatever is going on with voters, whether we are a right wing country or whether this election was about emotions that had nothing to do with facts, well who knows. If we, on the left, don't let go of the anger and disappointment, we personally lose. We win when we take a deep breath and let it all go for awhile-- until we get closer to the next election.

Personally, Farm Boss and I donated quite a bit of money again this year to certain Senate races not just in our own state but around the country. Some of it might have helped, and our candidates won. Some of it went down a hole because it didn't end up being enough.

Some of these contests are hard to understand like Joni Ernst winning so big in Iowa. What did people expect they were getting when they cast their vote for her? Iowa is not one of the races where we donated, but I did follow it because of what she stood for if you looked at her issues and how she presented herself. She, as well as Cory Gardner in Colorado, sold a vision of herself and tried to avoid running on her positions-- other than dislike of Obama. How responsible was the media in Iowa with revealing her positions or did Iowa voters know exactly what they were getting? I don't know anybody from Iowa to ask but that is my real question regarding this election-- and not just about Iowa but about the country.
Ernst has said: that Obama has “become a dictator” and suggested he should be impeached; told an NRA convention that she would be willing to take up her Smith & Wesson against the government “should they decide that my rights are no longer important”; spoken and voted in favor of state nullification of federal laws; said she still believes there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when we invaded in 2003; and given credence to the notion that there is a United Nations-driven conspiracy called Agenda 21 that is, as she put it last year, set on “moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them that you don't have property rights anymore.”  
She is critical of the existing social safety netshe has spoken in favor of privatizing Social Security and waxed nostalgic about the time, before food stamps, when “wonderful food pantries” took care of the poor. She is opposed to a federal minimum wage and has said that $7.25 an hour suffices for Iowans. She has sponsored “personhood” legislation that would have amended the state constitution to legally define someone as a “person” at conception, and said at a GOP primary debate this spring that if such a bill passes, abortion providers “should be punished.”    article by Alec MacGillis-- broken media.
This is who Iowans just elected by a decisive majority. Did they know all of it? Was she selling herself as a veteran, a pretty woman, a farm woman; and the media went along with the spin ignoring her stand on issues? Keep in mind for all the talk of the media being far left, it's mostly owned by the oligarchs who are right wingers. What gets out there is what they want.

Media bias is, of course, how righties thought Obama got elected. If that's so, it means we again got who they wanted us to have. What exactly the country will get when leaders like Ernst enter the Senate, who knows. Mitch McConnell will have his hands full with the extremists just elected, but then again, what did he promise to get the big money behind him to the extent they were?

Personally, I don't worry so much about people like her nor even Mitch McConnell. I worry about who we are as a nation. Can we be manipulated by the slickest ads? Do we read actual position papers or just love to go with the drama? Are we so selfish that we only think about ourselves without looking at whether the ads are true? How scared are we of the 'other'? I hear how bad the country is doing under Obama-- only it's not. But despite the fact that most people know they are doing well, can see all the growth around them, they buy the spin.

The irony is they are angry because wages haven't gone up and yet the reason wages have not is due to people with political philosophies like Ernst in positions of power. They don't want a higher minimum wage, and in her case don't even want a safety net. So Democrats, who at least used to help the unions (not sure today given their cowardly response to the big money), are blamed for lower wages? Those in power have done all they can to create hate for unions and reduce their power. Ever wonder why wages ever were high for the middle class? Don't think too hard, it might hurt your head.

But that's the sum of my rant on this because of my belief we need to live our life right and well or we will suffer for things beyond our control. This time it's our window to let go what can't be changed. 


Make our own life as good as we can right where we are.

Yes, I have concern that sensible gun control won't happen with a right wing Congress. I also see them going farther in ignoring science regarding climate change and their willingness to see the environment sacrificed for $$$. I have concern that they will try for a marriage amendment to block states from allowing gay marriage, and that they will try to make personhood the law of the land. Yes, I worry about the poor, but did they vote and do what they could to get a party in power that had concern for them? Despite how the right thinks, the poor are often least likely to vote.

This election was decided by way under 50% of Americans. In some states, like Arizona, only 37%. Anyone who did not vote this time should do some serious soul searching. Who was it who stayed home and let this happen? It wasn't me. 

Oregon elected the ones I wanted and we got one piece of good news. Although Oregonians turned down GMO labeling (again thanks to huge $$$ ads and fear), we will have recreational marijuana-- unless that right wing Congress, who believes in personal freedom, tries to block all the states that have voted to legalize it.

Normally in Rain Trueax, I post on Wednesday and Sunday but because I wanted to discuss the election here, I am posting about our drive south and what we found here at the same time as this one.


Saturday, November 01, 2014

Name Three Books

Listening to talk radio, they were discussing a debate question: what three books have most impacted your life. The question had been posed to a politician, who was stymied for an immediate answer (politicians have to have the correct answer to suit their base). The talk program discussed it as they explored how difficult that question really was. Who could answer it in a few seconds. On the other hand, the books that have influenced our lives do mean something.

One of the hosts said he felt that the book titles for him would be different at different points of time. Another said he felt saying the Bible was a cop out even for a Christian. Sure it might have influenced your life, but it's the easy answer.  A person might say it's the Bible but has it impacted your political views or is it those who tell you what it says who did that? How about if you believe the Gospels and yet ignore Christ's words about caring for the poor or not judging others. Does it really impact your life philosophy or is it just a get out of jail free card?

This led me to thinking about what three books could I say had impacted my life the most. Of course there are the ones I read as a child but I figured to start with young adulthood. I took more than a few seconds to really think about it.

I came up easily with The Virginian by Owen Wister. I consider that book definitive for the western and something to describe the western ethic. I loved the honeymoon scene more than any romantic scene I've ever read-- and it had no sex. It had plenty of tenderness and meaning. I liked how it showed the need of the community to bring law and order to a land. I liked how it showed there is cost to what we do. I loved the humor and scenes of the people gathering together in ways I remember hearing my father describe as he recalled being a child growing up in South Dakota. It was written during the time it depicted and to me it had truths that still apply today.

There are lots of authors who have influenced my life by writing books about nature, farming and their lives. Pilgrim on Tinker Creek is certainly one by Annie Dillard. But in the same vein were books like Wapiti Wilderness by Margaret Murie and her life married to the naturalist Olaus Murie. She took her children into the wilds of the Tetons and spent summers there. She wrote about it beautifully. Gladys Taber wrote the Stillmeadow books and they, like many others set in the rural lifestyle, certainly impacted my life and still do today.

Then there are the books by John Steinbeck, pick any of them but especially Grapes of Wrath. I think today it impacts my political view that sometimes the government is needed and people can be pushed beyond their limits by circumstances. Being poor doesn't mean you did anything wrong. Once again, there was a cost to trying to help others. The book is about society shunting some people aside and others taking responsibility to make a difference.
"Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there." --- Grapes of Wrath
There are a many other authors who have probably impacted my life philosophy along with the life I lead-- writers of fiction and non-fiction. Today though, the life I lead, those three are still in my life philosophy-- they have lasted.

So just for the fun of it, think about what three books might you say impacted your life and still do today? If you are so inclined, how about sharing them. They don't have to be famous authors or books that are noted for being classics. That's not what it's about. It's what touched you and maybe even changed the direction of your life?



 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Easy Chair Bookshop


When the world of reading books on a device opened up to the general public, the controversies began at once. Fear was expressed that the electronically available books were trying to destroy paper books. I've heard all the arguments from 'I prefer the feel and smell of paper,' to 'the system will fail and then where are you?' Some are determined one has to succeed and the other fail. One must be better than the other. It seems to be the way of humans to put everything into competition. Why not one for one thing and the other for another? Why does it have to be either or?

One complication regarding the reading devices has been finding the right book. The way we used to do it was head for a bookstore, read a review, hear a recommendation from a friend, or get hold of a list of what should be read from newest to classics. You could still do all that, but there are other options.

The problem with going to Amazon for the right book is how they rank their books-- i.ie. easy to find big authors and hard to find something different or new to you. Their algorithm is made up of many elements, kept secret, and most of which the reader has no idea from where they came. If you ever counted on their rankings to tell you what is selling, you might be warned the list does not mean what you think. It is weighted all right but to what? Besides with so many books, how to separate out what you wanted?

One of the huge pluses to the eReader is your ability to be in the mood for a certain type of book, or maybe the latest by your favorite author, and instead of having to run to a store, it is available at the click a button. But you still have to find it!

There are sites that have developed around the need of indie writer and reader to hook up. These enable the reader to find books by new authors, the undiscovered authors.


is fairly new and already offers a wide variety of genres by many authors. It simplifies finding a book you will find perfect for an evening read. Check it out and scan down the list of genres. The developer of this site, Australian author Susan Horsnell, keeps it free for writers and readers. Sue, who is a retired nurse, also keeps fresh work coming in; so if you checked your favorite genre last week, something new might be there this week with a blurb, cover and a link to find out more about it. 

For both the owner of an eReader and the indie writer, sites like Easy Chair Bookshop are a big asset. Incidentally, click on the link for Easy Chair, as I am author of this week :). Sue features an author and a book each week; so always something fresh to read as well as all the potential books to browse through.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

is it in the planets?


This has been a weird week for me, well for the world in some ways given the random violence we keep hearing about-- some terrorist inspired, some humans who have no respect for any life but their own (if that). The soldiers killed in Ottawa are the latest as some reach out to attack any symbol of order.

Farm Boss and I keep asking if there is some invisible zeitgeist out there that is leading to all the brutality-- as it seems recently the news has been full of it. Is there some astrological cycle that means this kind of violent cycle won't last?

Well I am not a big believer that astrology can explain such times but just in case, I wanted to put this out where others could see it as it has something positive for us in it. It's from an email: 
 "The New Moon with a partial Solar Eclipse is Thursday, October 23 at 3:56 PM MDT (mountain daylight time). This is the second eclipse of the month and serves as a bookend to the most highly eccentric aspect of the month. Take some time today to just breathe. It’s as if you have just witnessed the most radical circus act and your adrenalin is settling back to normal. 

"If there is any way to take a bit of a retreat here just to honor yourself and your authentic self with gratitude and awareness of your many talents, do it. It could just be that you give yourself an hour to be in contemplation or you leave work early to take a walk. This new moon is a reset point where you get to decide who you are and what you are up to, what you WANT to do and how you are going to express and support it. If you truly don't know, start with what you are not and do not want to do and work from there. The energy of the eclipse period as well as this new moon will feed these inner realizations with much power and help carry this new alignment forward."          Lena Stevens
 Now where I might not specifically believe in planets impacting us (don't disbelieve either), I do believe in cycles which might be what astrology records. If so, might things will get better in terms of man's inhumanity to man? It's hard to comprehend how some can decide another life has no value if it is of a different religion, educational/economic level, country, age, or political persuasion. Sometimes the horror of what I am reading, like the children in Mexico, just overwhelms me. I empathize so much. Yet, I have to go on and lead a good life, make my own reflect my own respect for others-- .

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

an interview

For anyone interested in writing process, check out the link below. Fiona Mcvie interviews authors and has thought up a lot of questions, some I had never been asked before. It made the interview fun on process and inspiration. 

Check it out and bookmark her site if you are interested in writers and writing as interviews are what she does. If you are a writer, she is always looking for more to interview.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

western art and Judy Erickson

 a friend gave me this drawing as she said when she saw it, she thought of  me

Living on the land, in the sense husbandry-men/women have for centuries, I am into that lifestyle. I grew up with this kind of home, not a big yard or mini-estate but a farm/ranch. 

After marrying, I was living in a suburb of Portland but wanted to get back to the land as soon as I could. When I was 34, we moved to the 34 acres where we still live today. It isn't particularly an easy life. It's certainly not a profitable one, and if someone was into making money, they'd not choose it. But if they are into a life close to nature, it is perfect.

You might think with cattle, sheep, a creek and barns outside my door that I'd choose art inside that was somewhere else-- maybe seascapes. In my case, the life I love out there is the one I most want on my walls in here. 

The cowboy way is a factor in the writing I do also. I have actually only written two books where the hero or heroine are ranchers or cowboys, but I consider the cowboy ethics to be ones I have in every story whether the hero is a high school principal and the heroine a home decorator. The cowboy way shows up in the ethics they hold, what they will do when push comes to shove.


Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. John Wayne

So I thought I'd share some of the western art on my walls. 

Where I have painted a few cowboy scenes, mostly I recognize this is not my gift. This poster (couldn't begin to afford originals by this artist) is how I see strong women, my heroines, myself, the life I want to think is inside me even now as I am old.


Three western paintings I like very much are by Judy Erickson, a Sprague River painter and real cowgirl. Years ago, I came across Judy's work because we had driven through Sprague River (small town in eastern Oregon) and stopped for lunch at a little cafe. 

On the wall was a huge painting of cowboys crossing the Chewaucan River. It was full of wonderful energy and absolutely magnificent about the country and the work drovers do as part of their lives. 

For sale was a giclee by the cowgirl who had painted what was virtually a mural. I bought it. It is of cowboys driving a herd of wild horses. 



After getting the information on how to contact Judy, I called her, liked what I came to know. Judy bases her paintings on the life she has led as a cowgirl going on drives (yes, they still happen in the West and her experiences as a horsewoman. 

Finally, we bit the bullet and bought one of her originals, Closing the Gate. She said it was based on having seen a cowboy doing this after one of their drives. I love the energy but also the life symbology of closing or opening a gate, which I have photographed often.



We then saw another print that spoke to us, which is also on our walls.



I would love to have a photo of the first one I saw of her work, cowboys in the storm and doing the work anyway despite the danger... Okay I'd love to have it. I could make a wall fit or build on a new room for it ;). 

Judy Erickson's work is available at Two Rivers Gallery in Chiloquin, Oregon. Yahoo cowgirl!