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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Welcoming a new year

by Rain Trueax

This is the week where I take some time (usually) to consider my life in the previous year. This naturally reflects some on what I will want in the year to come, despite the fact that I am not one for advance planning-- one of my personality quirks. It complicates vacations in places like Yellowstone, where if you don't plan in advance, you don't go-- so sometimes I must plan ahead, like it or not.

There have been years where I took the time between Christmas and New Years to write goals for the coming year. Those got increasingly complex, divided into categories like spiritual, emotional, and physical. I rarely looked at them as the year would go on. Mostly, I'd look at them when I got to this week where I could see if writing them down had changed anything.

During my fifties, with my kids raised and new possibilities out there, I created soul collages aimed at visualizing what elements I would want in my life. In my sixties, I did less considering what I wanted. Maybe I was doing what I'd wanted or simply recognizing some of those things were never happening. Until my seventies, even subliminal goals didn't relate to aging. The truth is as you go through middle age, things don't change a lot. Once you get into old age, there are more differences that realistically must be taken into account in lifestyle choices.

I think there is some virtue in living each day with intention, but too often I don't. I just live them and don't think much about it beyond what I want for that hour or maybe what to eat or watch or read. 

In my fifties, when I made vision collages (3 of them), I didn't realize I was creating collages about my books, not my life as such. I kept thinking they weren't doing anything until I saw they had-- just not as I'd expected. That's kind of familiar in terms of how my life works out. What I think is for one reason often turns out to be not so much.

When I look at 2017, it was a tough year for so many people. Some of that was those on the left who were disappointed in the country and that the goals they had believed more shared had not been by those on the right. With many of us living in bubbles, it's easy to think that's how the nation is. The truth is we are very divided for what we believe is good. Many Americans felt we were going the wrong way for 8 years and 2017 was a needed correction. Many found that horrifying and it has led to a lot of name-calling with a chasm that can divide a family and end longtime friendships. 

Exactly how 2018 will shake out is uncertain. I wasn't as upset about the political changes as some, mostly because as someone in the middle politically, nobody does all I want; so I'm always wishing it was different. For a moderate, we often wish for a 'none of the above' option, which we don't get.

In 2017, on a personal level, things went in ways that don't make me very happy but that I can't impact or even see what is right-- so I won't be discussing any of that. I'll stick to discussing my work-- writing. It was not a productive year, with only one new book. If had been writing novellas, with my word count of 140,000, I'd have had three or four books, but mine are longer. I've been writing on the fourth in the Hemstreet Witches series since September and only hope to get the rough draft done by the end of the year-- with editing to come. 

In 2016, there had been five-- the year before that even more. I can't explain the reason for the drop in production-- and writing does involve production. I read what other authors produced and felt like-- seriously, what went wrong with me in '17? There are a lot of possibilities. Maybe it was just one of those things-- not my year for creating new books. 

I am hoping 2018 will be a stronger year for work. I hope it'll be kinder to people where life has dealt some heavy blows in '17. I hope that the world will look for solutions to problems that help and don't hurt. I have a lot of hopes. I always do at this time of the year.

When I made the decision to add Diane to this blog as a co-author, I didn't realize it would be for me as much as for the readers here. I like the contrast in thinking-- how she writes what I would never think about. I hope blog readers also like it. There have been some big ups and downs in readership numbers, but if you do something because it feels right, it has to be for how it impacts you, as we can't guarantee anyone else will feel the same-- with books, paintings, poetry, photography or any other creative endeavor. It's about feeding the inner vision, and we do that by doing that.

This is the first painting we ever bought from Diane. She gave us a very affordable price since we were still in graduate school. She had painted it from a 1966 trip the four of us had taken to the Mogollon Rim in Arizona for an Easter break. Good memories from that trip where we rented a log home, which we shared (along with our black cat of the time, Sheba)-- one of many such trips through the years (the others minus the cats).

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A seventy-four year old attempting to stay current with a voguish vocabulary

 Feeling like a dinasaur, not understanding the younger generations language the same as mine, I look up their words. Not understanding the language on the media I refer to Wikipedia and online dictionaries. Then I make a flip card lexicon.
With the New Year approaching, I decided to turn a new leaf. I would act completely out of character wishing my grandchildren with pop culture language with these sentiments:
  Have a "RAD New Year. Bright as LID s on high! Without Fucking circuit breaking!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Holiday Wishes

However you are spending this day, whether it's a special one for you or just another day, I hope you are having a good day with a shiny, new year soon to come. 

 Image and quote from Stencil

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas with its expectations

by Rain Trueax

What do we do when Christmas isn’t a time of joy for us and all around we see those where it is?

When I wrote my Christmas stories, I tried to keep Christmas as a positive time.  I though several times used the other side of Christmas, how it can be a dark season for some of us or at certain times in our lives. For my books, I stuck to an upbeat ending, as we need more of that in our lives-- and the news provides us with plenty of instances where it's anything but.

Some of how we feel about this important holiday is influenced by how much control we have over how we spend the days.  If we are in a family, where others need a particular way of seeing Christmas, our options are fewer than if we are by ourselves.  Christmas might seem a lonely time to be by ourselves.  It can be lonelier to be with a lot of people and feeling none of what they feel.

For those by themselves for the holidays, they can take a trip.  If they always wanted a white Christmas, but don’t live where that’s going to happen, go where it is.  Going to a big resort or on a cruise by oneself might seem sad, but the likelihood is there will be others there in the same situation.  Doing something really different can be liberating.

Another way to make Christmas into a different experience is volunteering at a place handing out Christmas dinners.  Serving others, seeing they are in worse shape than we are, may have a depressing aspect, but it can also take us out of ourselves - -something we all need once in a while.

Image from Stencil

Part of what makes Christmas in particular a holiday with pluses and minuses is based on expectations.  I think getting control of our expectations can make us happier in a potentially troubled time as well as one that is supposed to be joyous.

In 2014, when I wrote A Montana Christmas, I had in mind continuing a story of a couple who'd had their own love story and romance.  In From Here to There, the heroine had learned that her husband had come from a very dysfunctional family.  In their Christmas book, her object was to bring his family to the Rocking H ranch, joining them with hers, and creating a new dynamic that would change what had been his negative expectations into positive ones.   

Christmas is one of those times where that kind of idea can work or prove catastrophic.  The hero is convinced it will be the latter.  The heroine is determined Christmas has been a time of magic for her, and it will be for the two families.  She has many reasons to hope she is right.

Here is a snippet from A Montana Christmas, where Helene discusses her plans for the holidays with her uncle and the ranch hired man:

“Speaking of seasons,” she said, “with Christmas just three weeks off, I was thinking we should make some plans.”
“More than the usual with Nancy, Emile and the boys?” her uncle asked.
“I was thinking yes… Phillip will be here, I hope. I’d like to have the dinner up at our house. How would that be?”
Amos shrugged. “Never no mind to me if it don’t matter to Emile and them.”
“I invited too?” Curly asked.
“Of course, and a girlfriend if you wish.”
Curly snorted as he leaned back against the counter, crossing one boot over the other. “Women are too danged much trouble. Not gonna mess with one again. I’m too old anyway.”
Now it was Helene’s turn to snort. “You are still a handsome man, Curly, and you know it. What happened with Sherri?”
Amos was the one to laugh that time. “She found out about Jan and that was pretty much it for both of them.”
“Good riddance to both. Women just wanta own a man.”
“Maybe you haven’t found the right one yet,” Helene suggested.
“He’s been married three times. Maybe he’s right to give it a rest.”
Obviously to divert that direction for the conversation, Curly asked, “What you going to cook, Helene, not that I’d be picky or anything.”
“Just traditional fare.”
“So long as that means turkey, dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and lots of gravy,” her uncle said with a grin. “I got no complaints. But what’s this planning business about. Throw a spread, open some presents, isn’t that about it? What’s to plan for?”
“There are the numbers. I’ll call Nancy to be sure they can come.” She glanced at Rafe who had said nothing. “You will come also, won’t you?”
“Where else would I go?” he said with a grimace as he shifted positions and manned up to another sip of the potent coffee.
“If no one minds, I’d like to include a few others. One or two that might have to sleep down here.”
Uncle Amos frowned. “My sister coming?”
“Heavens no.” She laughed. “Mother is in Palm Springs with her bridge buddies, and Dad is off with Sharron to wherever it is she convinced him to take her this year. No, not them. I’d like to ask Phillip’s mother, sisters and brother.”
Curly choked on a swallow of coffee. When he got his voice back, he asked, “Phil okay that?” His look said he doubted it.
Despite having had a rocky start when Phillip first showed up at the ranch to win Helene back, those two had ended up working buddies and pretty much thick as thieves. If he had confided his feeling about Christmas to anyone, it would have been Curly, which meant he understood all too well why Phillip wouldn’t want his family there, anymore than he had wanted to have any sort of traditional Christmas.

A Montana Christmas is available as a novella but also until mid-January in the anthology, Christmas from the Heart. I had meant to write more stories about this family but other books got in the way. Still, someday I want to do it as I love writing about ranch life and these people-- just have to get my paranormals finished-- maybe the last one could use Christmas as part of it :).

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A painting could sell a ranch : A fantasy that emerged as I overcame painter's block

Initially I overcame inertia  by just mixing colors and painting without a plan. I decided  I did not have to paint a meaningful painting. Some vague notion of landscape would be a starting point. I didn't know what kind of landscape I would make -  maybe a seascape, alpine meadows, water reflections or near non-objective abstract.  Internal or external type was not decided. As I brushed on the acrylic paint covering about two thirds of the canvas,  new thoughts of possible meanings flashed across my mind.

When the four foot by five foot canvas was almost completely covered,  I thought it was good. The painting was a nice backdrop to holiday clutter being  decorative and calming.   But if it was done in just three hours, it was void of a possible ricer involvement. So I took courage ignoring fears of spoiling the painting.

New directions 

My paintings are a pictorial journal of my life with some even becoming solutions to problems I have encountered. Time to paint when changes are near. The beautiful wood lot and ranch in back of our property is going to be subdivided. The view will be gone forever, but I will have a sentimental memory painting. For awhile I thought I would paint a deer jumping over the foreground fence out at the viewer, which shortly occurred to me was merely an exercise to see how good I was as a painter - a short lived shallow reward for me.

Once a painting solved a problem I had. I used to sign my maiden name to my paintings in hopes that I would find a long lost cousin when all the usual means of searching failed for a decade. A painting of a common ancestor published on a blog did result in one child of the lost cousin calling me.  Then I  visitited the cousins I never knew as a child.

Though it is a long stretch, maybe a want to be ranching family will read this blog and  buy all 13 acres and continue ranching while rearing their children like my painting reminisces.

The flow was strong with purpose for a couple of weeks

After blocking in  the atmosphere and colors, each day I added a small pictures of my heart warming memories like the house decorated with Christmas wreath, along with the barn and horse arena. I have more memories that could be added like the chipmunks, rabbits, humming birds, robins, peacocks  and steers. There were quail, China pheasant, owls, raccoon, coyote and skunk, shrews, mice and rats, hawks, woodpeckers and more. My husband giving a neighborly assistance in the falling of trees, and cutting wood, the tractor added too. The small family farm opens up the continuation of fundamental values upon which our greatness as a nation was built - neighborly caring for each other sharing our labors and bounty with one another. Urbanization of most of us is at the heart of our loss of empathy. saving this life style is important.

 Because in this season I was overwhelmed by adding so much, I placed the painting with the front to the wall in my studio out of sight until next year.

 The  view outdoors had changed from being autumn to wintry frost.  I was mesmerized by the pastels as the sun started to melt away the whites. When the sun set behind the trees at 3:30 PM, the purples and greens died in my painting, only coming back to excite me in the early mornings when the sun glow peeped through the window.

 What is slowing the flow now? Wanting to paint a winter scene?  Indecision? Would more additions  take away from the pony ride?  Or have the holidays called me to do some baking and shopping that I have been avoiding? Time to put it away until next year. I am too close to it to make a decision.
I have successfully kept a flow going but not the holiday preparations.  Enough is enough. Time to hide the painting away until next year when with fresh eyes I will determine if it is complete. Time for undivided time with family. Next year I will be ready to do more paintings of the neighboring ranch.
I hope my Jewish friends are concluding their last day of a happy Hanukkah celebration and to my Christian friends a Merry meaningful Christmas with hope for peace for all faiths and beliefs in 2018.