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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Aging from 2014

One of those-- what I'm thinking about. As I still don't know when I'll have internet, I may make this the last past-times blog. If you follow my blogs, you know I have been in Oregon, living in a vacation trailer, no cell phone coverage, and limited internet. Always interesting to figure out how important communication with the outside world actually is. This old post was looking at what I thought would be important almost 7 years ago. I am a lot older now but a lot of this is still true. I have learned though that what I thought aging was back then-- not so much when you really get there.

Saturday, December 06, 2014


"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, September 18, 2021

Timing is everything-- or what goes around comes around

 About this time of the year in 2015, I wrote this one. 

Timing is everything

 Going Home out September 21, 2015
In 2015, we are living through a period where being politically correct is dividing us as a country. It's not enough how we treat others, we have to say the right words and have the right opinions-- and each side argues over what those might be. I can laugh when my Word tries to correct the word waitress to server person (for a story taking place in 1901), but is it really funny to have to use zy instead of she or is it ze, which in the end will mean the same thing since there is a gender difference in how we appear-- whatever we might call ourselves.  

So we learn to say Xe and pretty soon that's not okay and what comes next-- a desire to make words meaningless? It's not enough for us to fight over the issues actually impacting our country, we have to argue about things that happened long ago and force everyone to be politically correct-- until what is politically correct changes.

Several years ago, when I wrote Going Home, I knew a great deal about the American Civil War, having researched books and films, and having seen how it was viewed when I was in the South on vacations. I never dreamed the extreme divisiveness of that war would rise up in 2015. I didn't imagine the issues that were part of the Civil War were still roiling under the surface. Did the media, and by that I mean social media too, change everything or just reveal it?

Emotionally, the resentments experienced between North and South seem to have returned with accusations that Southerners who fought for the South all fought for slavery, that they were all traitors, not heroes-- followed by a demand that statues of Confederate leaders be removed from parks and the Confederate flag be viewed as a symbol of shame. In the eyes of some, the Confederate flag was the reason for the recent Charleston church murders. They believed that those flying it wanted to secretly illustrate their disdain for blacks and their feeling of superiority. And so the arguments raged.

When it became one of those politically correct issues several months ago (yes, it's about being PC because there is no real call for action or change beyond symbolisms), I hoped it would settle down before my book came out in September, but with Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War being run again, the side, that knows how it was back then, tolerates no dissent and rose to criticize even his even-handed depiction of a War that caused more American deaths than any other. How dare anyone suggest honorable men served on both sides?  

When you write an historical series, you try to keep it realistic to what you think would happen to these people (to a reasonable level as some words are simply not acceptable today-- accurate for then or not). When it's a romance, of course, you also want to give it a touch of emotional magic because real life too often doesn't do that.

My hero had come to Oregon two years before the war broke out. He bought a ranch, fell in love, and regarded Oregon as his home. Then his mother wrote from their Georgia plantation that his brothers had joined the Confederate army, and she was dying. She begged him to return home. Once he got there, the choices narrowed, and he did fight for the South even though he neither believed in secession nor slavery. He did believe in family and clan.

The book opens when the war has just ended. Jed, bringing his half brother to Oregon for the first time, has returned to an Oregon angry at anyone who fought on the Southern side, an Oregon filled with hypocrisy (a law was passed to forbid blacks from owning property in the state) and self-righteous rage-- especially from those who never fought in the battles. The soldiers actually did better with accepting that each side had done what they believed they had to do. 

An example of Southern thinking is Robert E. Lee, condemned by some in today's rage. He had been offered command of the Union forces by Lincoln, but he had to refuse because Virginia, his state had gone with the Confederacy. From what I've read, Lee didn't believe in slavery or secession, but he believed in his people, country and state-- and to him that country was the South once it seceded-- something it felt Constitutionally that it had the right to do. Of course, Lincoln interpreted the Constitution otherwise. He was not willing to see the dissolution of the United States under his watch-- no matter how many lives it cost. In the end, he paid for it with his own. Although Lincoln did not personally believe in slavery, it was not the reason he went to war.

I knew when I wrote the book that some would not like a hero who fought for the South. I didn't expect the national brouhaha that arose. Oh well, the November book, where the hero is mentally disadvantaged, likely will have some irked at it too. Try finding politically correct words regarding that for today and work for 1901-- now that got interesting...


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Ponderings from 2014

 Another old blog from 2014 with the issues I was wrestling then. I know today is the anniversary of 9/11. I know what's gone on with Afghanistan up until now; but seriously, I need to think elsewhere and away from the outside world. What I was thinking about almost 7 years ago (it was published near Christmas) seems a lot on my mind today. Time doesn't really move on -- or does it.


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!

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Georgia O'Keeffe and New Mexico

 From 2009

In trying to think when I first became so enamored of Georgia O'Keeffe, it seems forever but couldn't be. It wasn't just her art although that would be enough. It wasn't just her life. Although that would also be enough. More than likely her greatest appeal to me was because of New Mexico and her love of the land there. It wasn't even just New Mexico but more that it was a wild land that spoke to her spirit. She felt the land like I feel the land. Whatever the whole set of reasons, I have read and seen about anything on her that comes along. It was 1998 when I had the opportunity to visit Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu-- areas that provided her a home and gave her inspiration for her paintings. New Mexico is a powerful place with its light, history, and then that wonderful, interesting land which has drawn artists and writers from around the world. It was easy to understand why she had found her artistic soul there. Irony was that her heart's home was with a man in New York who would never come west. Thousands of miles would often separate them but both were part of her inner being. It was a conflict. Was it also fate? Who knows. Unfortunately I was unable to tour her home due to shortness of time and not knowing enough ahead of time the limitations on the tours. We had other places to go (Chaco Canyon which is also the best). I will go back someday and see inside the home-- I hope. I have seen so many photos of it, the little things she treasured, the simplicity of how she lived that I seem to already know it. Why she is coming up right now is very apropos as I go through photos and remember my trip to a land I love. Then last week-end, I watched on Lifetime the film, Georgia O'Keeffe, a biopic starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons. I really liked it even though no two hour movie can do justice to the complexity of the woman-- let alone all of those in her circle. The film was mostly about her relationship with the photographer and gallery owner, Alfred Stieglitz, and his impact on her painting. Even that, it couldn't fully deal with in the limitations of two hours. It needs a miniseries. I don't suppose enough Americans would be interested in her story for that to happen. If she had been an English painter, it would have already happened. What fascinated me about the film wasn't just her relationship to her art or even to him but the bohemian quality of the way so many of them lived. Definitely not satisfying to the right wing of today-- well not totally rewarding to themselves either as everything has a price and there is no such thing as true freedom in love or relationships. Stiegtlitz saw early that her life was her art. She was her painting. When he photographed her nude and then showed the artistic photos at his gallery, it made her a sensation and began the mythology that added to her value as an artist-- as he knew it would. This might sound crazy but when we buy paintings, it's the subject but also the energy. Her energy was that of a passionate woman. Her love for him was part of that but it went beyond it to her essence. Land and man helped form her into the woman she became. The Whitney in New York City is opening a showing of her paintings, which I was fortunate enough to have seen at the O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe. This article shows some of the paintings and the love letters she wrote to Stieglitz.

For anyone interested in art or love, the link is well worth taking the time to read with some of her paintings for those who are not familiar with her art. I have read she didn't think she was good with words. Lordy, wonder what she'd have been like if she had thought she was...
From New York, II 13 July 1929 "I know that many things that seem very precious – very holy – are gone for me – but I feel too – that way down beyond that – where you can not touch it – where no one can touch it – there is a bond – that is my feeling for you – it is deeper than anything you can do to me – that is why I know I will be with you to the end – whether you wish it or not – whether I choose it or not – whether I am close to you or not … "You have always told me that the work came first – that has often been very difficult for the woman in me"
Their relationship had its ups and downs, two imperfect people coming together as it always is, both of them fascinating, complex, strong, conflicted, extremely creative artists. They were soul mates in the truest sense of that word. Being soul mates doesn't always make for easy relationships. These photos were all taken on the 1998 trip to New Mexico. We came in September and saw most of it between torrential rainstorms. The photos don't do justice to the lighting on that trip.