Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nap Time...

I commented on two blogs today--ones I read faithfully--screwing up on both of them. Of course, I didn't notice I had blundered until it was too late. One mistake was a song title; a song I know by heart, know all the words to, and still messed up the title. The other was three misspelled words in a short paragraph reply.

It's become very apparent to me that I should stay off the computer today.  I'm still suffering with the pain and aggro of Lost Tooth Syndrome, and now I can't help wondering if maybe some of my brain leaked out the gaping hole where my tooth used to be. 

Whatever the case, I have a brain disconnect issue right now and rather than add a good dose of humiliation to my other deficiencies today, I think it would be best if I went to have a lie down.

I'll be better tomorrow.  But if not, hopefully I'll have enough sense to keep my comments to myself.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hell in a Handbasket

Sort of lost the plot for a couple of days--Sunday on purpose, yesterday totally against my will.

Sunday ended up being a reading day.  The anticipated storm didn't materialize--as usual with weather reports--though it was cold and crappy.  A perfect day to finish my book, which I did, whilst a nice big pot of spaghetti sauce bubbled away on the stove.  The storm was apparently stalled out at sea, gathering strength, but now is making its way inland bringing high winds, snow and below normal temps.  We'll see how this second prediction goes. 

Then yesterday, everything went to hell in a handbasket.

(Brief aside:  Curious, I looked up that saying.  I know what it means--headed for disaster; things rapidly going downhill--but where did it actually come from?  As it turns out, no one knows exactly, though the general consensus is it's an American idiom, and possibly dates from the Civil War.  Go figure).

So, back to Monday morning.  I had a dentist appointment at Noon, so was up early, had breakfast, then was in the shower when the day took the first dive.

Washing my face.  I use this foaming face wash, and somehow, I really don't know how, I sucked in a foamy bubble.  OMG.  I think most of us have accidentally inhaled some kind of liquid during the course of our lives, haven't we?  My humiliation of choice is usually sucking it down the wrong pipe, then spewing it out my nose.  I'm talented that way.  I've choked on various drinks--milk when I was a kid, water in all its forms throughout my adulthood, wine, whiskey...oh the list goes on.  I'm convinced I have a faulty mechanism down my throat behind my epiglottis.

So, I've sucked in this bubble, and suddenly I can't breathe.  The soap is doing something alien to my lungs.  I try to gargle the soap out, but that makes it worse, like I've just made more bubbles instead of eliminating one.  I start coughing, but that turns to choking, and I feel my heart kick into overdrive because I'm not breathing.  I can cough out, can't take air in.  Slam off the shower, jump out, raise my arms above my head to expand my chest, giving my lungs more room, then I hack, and cough, and spit, and try to clear my throat while the "This Was Your Life" video begins to play across my frontal lobe.

Finally, after what seems like hours, I manage a deep, shaky breath...then another.  Eventually I can blow my nose, wipe the tears from my eyes, and almost breathe normally.  I finish my shower, pondering the "what-ifs".  By the time I get to the part in my mental worse-case scenario where the dogs have had to eat my corpse to stay alive, I'm out of the shower, a bit the worse for wear, but still in this world.  Later, I make a point to fill the dogs' food dishes to the brim.

Dash off to the park, still coughing and clearing my throat, but I'll live; back from walking the boys and it's time for the dentist.  Yippee.  I didn't bother with lunch as the appointment was to be fairly quick and I would just eat when I got home.

I will totally spare you, gentle readers, from the lurid details of what happened next.  Truly, I can hardly bear thinking of it myself. 

(Another brief aside:  I have a bad canine tooth.  When I was younger and didn't have dental insurance, a friend told me about the dental college, and how you hardly had to pay; the trade off was that you were worked on by a student, though with professorial supervision.  I had a small cavity on the underside of the left canine.  Easy peasy.  The sadist student who ruined my tooth was not supervised, and the idiot managed to drill clear up into the root of my tooth.  Long story short, I had to have extensive work done, several times over the years, to repair/save the tooth.  And no, I wasn't able to sue the frigging dental college because you signed a waiver beforehand.  I did contemplate mowing the bastard down in a dark alley though...)

My dentist is working on my canine when there's this...snap...sound.  He freezes, his assistant freezes, then I look up and catch them looking at each other.  Oh well shit, this is SO not good.  The second dive of the day.  And again, I will leave out the bloody, painful, wrenching grim details, though I have two tips to impart:

Tip One:  When the dentist says he needs to give you a shot in the roof of your mouth to make sure you don't feel any of the coming procedure--digging out the broken bits of tooth--tell him you have to pee, calmly get out of the chair, then run as fast and as far as possible.  Be a snaggle-tooth, no one will notice or care and you will spare yourself so much grief.

Tip Two:  While you are silently screaming in agony as the dentist tries to remove the bits of broken tooth, then stitches your gums back together when he's finished, bring the face of that long-ago student into your mind and vow to hunt him down, assuming you survive this ordeal.

Two hours later, I stagger home.  I'm half in shock at the turn of events, shaky and trembly, and feeling sorry for myself on so many levels.  I'm also very hungry but now can't eat, can't have anything to drink except warm water, and have to bite down on this gauze pad for the next 2-4 hours. 

It isn't until much later in the evening however that I realize the full extent of the damage.  The bleeding finally stops, I manage to eat a small container of yogurt out of the good side of my mouth, then get up the nerve to look in the mirror.

It's bad.  Really bad. 

Here, right now, stop reading and take a moment.  Go to a mirror, and really look at your canine teeth.  They're not like the rest.  They grow into the side of the gums, not out of a flat base like the other teeth.  They are also longer, bigger, very...wolf-like, primitive and, well, canine.  Without that tooth?  The hole is enormous, it goes almost to the top of my gum where my inner cheek starts, and as if that isn't bad enough, the stitches make it look diabolical.

I go to bed early, mouth swollen and sore, teeth hurting, no doubt in sympathy for their fallen comrade.  I toss and turn, reliving my day:  Near-death experience in the morning, want-to-die experience in the afternoon.  Truly, I've just gotta stop having so much fun...

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Yesterday it was a beautiful and balmy 65 degrees.  This morning I was startled to open the blinds and find the hills dusted with snow, then about an hour later it started up again and has been falling steadily ever since.  Combined with the expected storm that is to hit overnight and carry into Monday, we might actually get a good accumulation of snow this weekend. 

Chaos and turbulence most elemental, and yet in the midst of it all, the turmoil heralds the change from Winter to Spring...and that's a good thing.

Speaking of Winter and Spring.  Why, oh why aren't those words capitalized?   They truly should be, and who decided they shouldn't?  We capitalize the months, the days of the week, why not the seasons?  I have always capped them, regardless of getting in trouble for it in school, or trying to defend myself with an editor, even arguing my point with friends after well-meaning critiques on my writing.  I persist nonetheless.  The four seasons are delineated, meaningful dates and events, in our lives and our calendars--and have been for centuries.  Why are they relegated to such unimportant non-capped little words, as if they don't really matter in the big scheme of things?   How much bigger can you get than to be only four of something in the whole of mankind's existence?

I just might have to start a punctuation rebellion, a Capitalize the Seasons revolt.  I'll need a slogan, a catchy motto of some kind, and tee shirts; you've gotta have tee shirts for a decent revolution.  

I can feel the first little twinges of mutiny stirring in my blood.  I will become the champion for Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall...!!!!  I can change history, alter the course of language and literature, I could be queen of---

Oh sorry, so sorry.  Lost my head for a moment there.  Perhaps I just need to start small.  I'll go now and work on those tee shirts...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fastening My Seatbelt...

Okay, the big step has been taken; no more waffling.  Yesterday afternoon my realtor came by, took tons of photos, I signed a stack of papers, and today she will be putting up the For Sale sign. 

I've been waiting a very long time for this to happen, but now that it's here, I feel...I don't know, peculiar, melancholy, wistful.  We're contrary, aren't we, silly humans.  Wanting to go, then not wanting to leave.  I know it's all tied up in the fear of the unknown, or the devil you know, or it's easier to stay put than put yourself out there--all the cliches have meaning if you think about them objectively. 

For months I've had a small quote on the fridge that I read each and every time I reach for the door handle:

Your current safe boundaries were once unknown frontiers

And hey, in my very adventurous life, I've often given up the safe for the unknown, which makes my current odd reluctance to get on with things harder to understand.  In reality, I want off this mountain, I'm tired of the isolation, I want the bright lights of the city, people, cafes, movies, bookstores.

Why then do I find myself staring out my windows, soaking in the mountain views, the valleys far below just beginning to show the greening signs of spring? Where is this pensive, down-in-the-dumpness coming from? I do want to move on; it's time for a fresh start, new vistas, all that stuff, but suddenly I'm struggling with the difficulty of imagining myself elsewhere. 


Course, in the current American housing market I could be sitting here for months, if not longer, before the place sells; that should be enough time for me to get used to the idea, and adjust my thinking for the coming changes.  Right??

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Bloody hell, what is that noise??  I'm sitting at the laptop this morning, bleary-eyed from a sleepless night, sucking down my coffee like it's the last cup I'll get before my imminent demise.


Buggers!  I get up, wander around the room, looking out the windows for someone, anyone, repetitiously hammering.  Nothing.  I narrrow my eyes at the dogs, but no, they're innocent: Max taking his morning nap, Ozzy laying on the floor by the window, surveying his domain, on high alert for those pesky deer creatures.


Holy crap!  The boys aren't bothered, and usually Ozzy is totally on top of anything out of the ordinary.  Could it be this sound is inside my head?  Has my lack of sleep driven me 'round the bend?  Is there something in there, knocking to get out of my skull?  Help me, Stephen King!!


I go through the entire house, searching, trying to pinpoint this mind-boggling annoyance.  For a moment or two, as I stand, head cocked, listening, the sound stops.  I wait.  I wait a bit more.  And finally, at last, I start to think that maybe whatever---


Aarrgghhh!!   A night without sleep is exactly like a bad hangover--minus the barfing.  I am foggy, grumpy, bone-tired, headachy.  And I'm being driven insane by this incessant, inexplicable din.  If I could just figure out what it is.  And kill it.


When I hear this last round of taps, I happened to be standing at the top of the stairs, next to the front door.  Are the taps right outside?  I yank the door open, prepared to deal a swift justice to...whatever.

Maybe, if I'd had a good night's sleep, was well rested and not beleagured with concerns about selling the house, moving--allowing my mind to control me in the deepest, darkest hours of the night--I might have recognized the culprit sooner. 

As I stared at the noise-maker, in the birch trees right off the front deck, I could only shake my head, then take these two photos.

It's gonna be a long day...yawn...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stories From the Road

Monday on the drive home, I took a little 20-mile shortcut from the coast to connect to the highway I wanted.  It was a lovely drive alongside a placid river, through this verdant, lush valley, so green it was like we'd stumbled into an Irish enclave, an ethereal, hidden place where the Fae come out to dance at night under the moon.  Big farms, small steadings, a valley perfect for growing things.

Mom and I are quiet, admiring the scenery as we pondered our own thoughts, then as we came around a bend in the road, Mom starts chuckling at this herd of cows she spots out her window.  I look, but see nothing exceptional, just a herd of cows.

"What?" I ask.

"Every time I see cows like that, it reminds me of my grandmother."

"Did she raise cows, or something?"

Mom laughs.  "No, not at all.  One day Grandmother was taking us home (five kids) from Seattle back to Kent (a Seattle suburb),  and we were making too much noise, fighting, being children.  She was losing her patience, so to make us behave, she told us if we were very quiet, she would show us a special herd of cows."  Long pause. 

 "And...?"  I look over at Mom; she's far away, back in time, once again a little girl, in a car with her sisters and baby brother.

Smiling, she says, "Grandmother said if we stopped fighting, and stayed quiet, she would show us a herd of cows with no legs."

"No legs?"

"We got off the highway and drove into the country, and there, sure enough, were the legless cows.  Grandmother drove very slowly, pointing them out.  We were completely amazed, our noses pressed to the car windows as we drove by and no one said another word until we got home."

I'm still slightly puzzled, but before I can ask her to explain, she points:  "Look!  More legless cows!"

I look, then we both burst out laughing as we pass a herd of cows, resting peacefully in a field.

Clever Grandmother.


Mom and I continue driving, make the connection onto the highway, and eventually find ourselves passing through this small town that I recognize.  Alan and I drove through this place on our way to see my mother when we first got to America.  I spot the A & W Drive-in and now it's my turn to chuckle, and Mom's turn to ask what's funny.

Back in time we go, to a hot summer's day, about 18 months ago...

I see the drive-in ahead and tell Alan to pull in.  "What's an A & W?" he asks.

"The A & Dub has the best root beer, and I haven't had one for years.  They serve it in freezing cold mugs, ice sheets melting down the sides, and that first cold bite of root beer is just about the best thing ever.  Pull over!"

There were three picnic tables out front, so we got out of the car, claimed the last available table, and I went to the window to order for both of us: burgers, frosty mugs of root beer, and fries, then as I'm standing there waiting for the drinks, this thundering rumble of a Harley echoes against the building and my heart sinks. 

(Bear in mind that I've been out of the country for over a decade, and I feel like a foreigner; everything is weird to me, the food, the accents, the driving on the wrong side of the road, everything.)

Oh boy, out of the corner of my eye I see this huge man get off his motorcycle.  Alan is sitting at the picnic table with Ozzy as the biker dude comes up behind me, where I'm just getting the root beers, and I swear, he blocked the sun.  Alan and I are both tall, but this guy was at least 6' 6", maybe taller, and outweighed us by 100 pounds easy.  I turn, two mugs in hand, and find myself staring into the upper chest of this massive, leather-clad mountain.  Ah crap.

I raise my head, he looks down, our eyes connect, he sort of snarls, "That your dog?" and does this quick, sharp gesture with his chin towards Ozzy, sitting quietly on the bench next to Alan.  But wait.  Hold on.  Is he going to make fun of my dog?  Am I imagining the sneer on his face?  Well, my hackles rise, disregarding the fact this guy could have squashed me like a bug.  Mother hen in me puffs up; fear recedes.  Don't be dissing my boy.

"Yes," I say, belligerent, as I wonder how fast I can run to the car after I've doused him in two frosty root beers; and damn, can Alan grab Oz and follow me before it's too late?

He reaches into his leather jacket--I tense, thinking holy shit, he's going to shoot me--and the most amazing, bizarre, hilarious thing in the world happens.  He gently pulls out the tiniest, sweetest little Chihuahua I've ever seen.  She couldn't have weighed 2 pounds including her wee pink shirt.  Yes, her pink shirt.  He lovingly cradled her in the palm of his enormous hand like a piece of fine china.  "If your dog's friendly, you think I could sit with you?  Yours is about the right size so she won't be scared."

To say I was speechless would be an understatement.  I think I nodded my head, though I don't remember.  I was so focused on this giant of a man with his tiny dog, and the sudden startling turn of events, that it took me awhile to wrap my head around it all.  Alan waves the guy over, and for the next hour the three of us, and two little dogs, sat in the summer sunshine at the A & Dub, eating, talking, laughing, and honestly?  Having a great experience as our lives unexpectedly crossed paths for a brief moment in time.


Mom and I are laughing when I finish my story.  I told her I learned something really valuable that day:  Never judge.  Just because someone looks like the Devil's minion, until you have all the facts, don't judge them by how they look.  You never know.  The baddest dude in town could just be a marshmallow with a tiny girl tucked close to his heart inside his leather jacket.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Now What..??

Have you ever been sitting around with friends, talking, musing about stuff, and that fantasy question arises:  What would you do if you won the lottery?  Or maybe it's the other mythical question:  If you could live anywhere, where would it be?  I've had that conversation, many times.  It seems so clear and easy to answer either question when everyone's laughing, drinking, playing the game, and it's just for fun, nothing to lose.

But in real life?  Having too many choices is oddly paralyzing.  Now, don't get me wrong, I haven't won the lottery, and most certainly don't have the wherewithal to buy a small island off the coast of Brazil, though after I get rid of the Money Pit, I will have options.  The problem is, I can't figure out what to do with that.

One very cool thing about the road trip this past weekend were the long drives, with Mom and the boys, as we went speeding down the highway, enclosed in our little car bubble.  We had some really good, meaningful conversations, plus it always helps clarify things in my mind if I can talk it out.  The boys are my usual sounding board, though for the most part, their input isn't too relevant... 

"What should I do, boys?" 
"Give us more treats!"

"Where are we going to live, guys?"
"The park!  The park!"

Mom's input was decidedly more valuable.

What I've taken away from this latest fact-finding mission is that I won't be moving to the coast.  It's a beautiful place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.  Way too isolated, towns too small, nary a thing to capture my interest other than walking the dogs on the beach every day, and oh, be still my beating heart, that level of excitement is nearly overwhelming, isn't it?

It became quite clear to me last night--after getting home to the quiet--that there are basic things I want.  Like a bookstore, a cinema, a theatre for plays or concerts; cafes with good coffee and pastries where I could sit and dink on my laptop, or read a book and no one would be bothered; a choice in grocery stores, and other shops; good parks or trails to take the dogs; a place where I can walk to most of the above and don't have to drive everywhere.

Well damn.  I've just described my life in Edinburgh; the only place that fits the bill, but is unfortunately 6,000 miles away from this mountain aerie where I'm mired in indecision, paralyzed by options, and can't make a bloody choice to save myself.

Now what, you ask??  I'm doomed, that's what.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Endless Possibilities...Or Not

A glorious, beautiful Sunday at the coast.  I took the dogs on a long beach walk before breakfast, though the tide was high so we were in the driftwood more than sand, which of course the boys weren't happy about.

The view from the front window of our hotel room this morning...

Close up of the rocks and the wave action as the tide came roaring in...

Mom and I went to the bookstore--the largest on the Oregon coast--for breakfast (organic muffins and a very large coffee), then we wandered the aisles on two floors.  It was a unique book shop, with quotes and sayings all over the walls, and artwork and crafts from local artisans scattered everywhere, giving the place more of an art gallery feel.  I was actually a bit disappointed to discover that the shop was predominantly used books, though the coffee was excellent. 

Standing on the main floor, shooting up to the second floor.

Shot from the second floor down to the main...


I had seen a flyer around town about a book sale at the Cannery, a building at the harbor, so we headed that way before driving south.  It was really fun; all the books you could stuff into a brown paper bag, costing $2.00.  Mom found several books, though I didn't fare as well.  Still, we left with two very full bags and only spent $4.00.

There is a most beautiful bridge that spans the Rogue River, and the view from the harbor was one I just couldn't resist.

The Patterson Bridge, built in the early 1930s, and how Art Deco could it be..??  At night it's lit up and looks really cool.

Next we drove south, about 30 miles or so, to the last town before California.  It was another place I was considering in my quest.  Along the way, I took these two pictures...again because I just love the spectacular scenery of this amazing coastline.

We drove all over the town, though unfortunately discovered there is no beach access either because access is private, or the land is on a cliff.  Not exactly what I want for walking the dogs along the beach in the mornings.  As we were wandering down one lane along a cliff side, we saw a For Sale sign, so turned onto an even smaller lane...and discovered this.  Seriously.  What in the world..??  Move back to America and live in a Scottish castle...go figure.

We got some take-out food as we left town and drove north.  About ten minutes later we found this lovely little secluded spot beside the highway and had lunch.  Quiet, just the sound of the surf, and the munching of food--that would be from the dogs, Mom and I were dainty, of course.

Back in our own little village, we went shopping, bought some treats and okay, yes, some wine, and unloaded our book booty and other stuff.  I took the dogs out for a beach walk, then brought them back for Mom to doggy sit, and headed out by myself to do some thinking, brainstorming, and beachcombing.

I found some stones and a lovely agate, nearly froze my buns off as the sun went down and the wind kicked in, sent my thoughts out to sea asking for guidance--or at the very least a sign.--then had a compelling, inexplicable moment with a seal...

Home tomorrow, long drive--thanks to that detour--with lots to think about, and more to post.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Road to Nowhere...At First Anyway

So.  Mom, the boys and I hit the road bright and early this morning.  All systems go, and excitement in the air.  We drive for nearly an hour, several times passing a neon highway sign that advises us the road is closed at milepost 45, but we can use the alternate route.  Okay, fine, good to know. 

We finally reach the infamous find that the alternate route is back where we started, at I-5.  Oh no, no no no no.  I have a very heated discussion with the moron asswipe highway guy who keeps arguing that the signs were very clear.  I have to disagree; "alternate route" does not in any way tell me that I shouldn't have taken this road for any reason, and will now have to retrace the entire 60 miles I have already driven.

Whatever.  Back we go, all the way back to Roseburg.  Two hours now wasted and we're right back where we started.  Without going into all the gory details of having to drive north, then west--another hour and an half gone--we finally reach the Coast Highway, though are over 100 miles north of where we should be.  Sigh.  Groan.  Whinge.

It took us over 6 hours to make a simple journey that usually takes just 3.  You really don't want to know how cranky I got toward the end wasn't pretty.  I make no apologies.

Along the route west to the coast (second attempt), we saw this wonderful herd of elk off in the distance.  I was driving pretty fast at that point, trying to make up for lost time, but as no one was on the road at that point, I stopped, and backed up until I could get some shots.

I see so many deer on my mountain that I've gotten a bit jaded, but wow, elk?   They're so big and majestic, and such cool animals, it was a treat to see this herd just out and about, walking in this field.

Eventually, after a grueling drive, with a short stop for the boys to have food, water and a nice long walk in a little park, in a small village I don't know the name of, we finally came out of the this:

Honestly, the Oregon coast is just so beautiful. When I took these photos, we were about 30 miles from our destination, and I was so happy about that.   Left the house at 9:30am and near the end of the trip at 3:30pm.  Cripes. 

Anyway, half an hour later, we check into the hotel--which is right on the beach with a great view.  After getting all the gear out of the car, we took the trail to the ocean to see things.  Ozzy has a thing about the noise of pounding surf, so needless to say, it was a short trip.  I was standing on the beach, and turning back, I snapped this shot of our hotel.  That odd little white building in the foreground is the spa area with several hot tubs and a pool.

Mom and I drove around town for awhile to get a feel for things, then went to dinner.  Back to the hotel, and now the dogs have collapsed in apparent exhaustion from such a fraught day--if they only knew.

Time now for my turn to collapse, with the sound of waves crashing outside the window.  It might have taken most of the day to get here, but I'm thinking it just might have been worth the effort...

Friday, February 17, 2012

On the Road Again...

Mom will be arriving shortly, then tomorrow morning we will be driving to the southern Oregon coast on the Great Fact Finding Mission. I'm really looking forward to the road trip, though I'm a bit apprehensive about the results.  What if it isn't a place I can call home??  I'm going to remain open and receptive; not make any decisions, and just have a good three days of fun at the beach.  Time enough for soul-searching and conclusions about my life's path next week.

The boys will love the adventure of traveling, and the excitement of crashing waves and new smells.  I will love that as well, but also can't wait to investigate the bookstore, shops and wander about aimlessly, getting a feel for the place.  I'll take loads of photos, and might even take the laptop, though haven't totally decided about that yet.  If I don't post until next Tuesday, that pretty much will clarify what my decision was.


Remember the wee hummingbird post of a few days ago??  This morning I managed to take a quick shot of him in the tree, without any telephoto or Macro effects.

The small photo on the left is the one I loved best from the original post.  The bigger one is a shot of the tree off the back deck this morning.  Can you spot Waldo??  I find these two photos amazing on two levels: how tiny he is in real life; and how great my camera lens is to get such clear close-ups.

Time to go.  I have some stuff to do before the Mother Ship arrives.  Good weekend to everyone, and I'll either catch you on the flipside, or will post throughout the weekend.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 16, 2012


A great word, one that dates back to 1750 or thereabouts. I can picture a stone beside the road, one for every mile, as the horse and/or carriage rumbles by. Then I think of how the word came to mean something big and important.

The World English Dictionary definition:

1. a stone pillar that shows the distance in miles to or from a place
2. a significant event in life, history, etc

And hey, I never thought of the mile marker as being a pillar. Why isn't it called a milepillar then?   Oh. Well.  Maybe because it looks and sounds ridiculous??

In any case, my milestone: 

Today is one year since I quit smoking. One long, agonizing, brutal, insane, astonishing, I-can't-believe-I-did-it, feat of endurance against all odds using sheer bloody will power.  Yes, thank you...I appreciate the applause and those pats on the back.

I have (had) this one habit, the hardest thing for me to overcome when I stopped smoking.  It's when I'm writing.  I could be madly typing away, thoughts flowing as I work, then run out of steam and have to stop to think. My usual method at this point was to take a break, light up that cigarette and walk around outside while I huffed and puffed until suddenly the chain of events, the perfect word, the exact sentence I was fumbling for, would unfold in my mind. Every time. No, seriously. EVERY time. Maybe the nicotine spurred me on, or the mix of oxygen and poison stirred my brain. I don't know. What I do know is, it always worked.

After I quit, when I would hit a snag in my story, I would automatically reach for a smoke, then stop in horror as I realized my muse, my brain starter, my story maker, was gone forever. Even now, a year later, when I can't pull a thought together, I want a cigarettte to help me clarify. I have tried many substitutes:  I've sucked on toothpicks, Tootsie pops, straws, cinnamon sticks...nothing works. Nothing stimulates my little gray cells except that demon weed.  I pace from one end of the house to the other, sometimes to no avail; nothing comes to me, my brain is quiet.

I guess the tradeoff is that at least now I have my lungs back, no more wheezing or shortness of breath, I'm healthy, smell like a woman instead of a stinky late night dive bar, and have no doubt my quality of life has been restored.  A good thing, for sure.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nat Geo Moment...

Yesterday I was looking out one of the big windows that shows the back deck, a plum tree and the mountain slope.  There were several birds in the tree--mostly robins, with a few little sparrows--having a get-together of some kind.  It was interesting, though nothing unusual...until this darting flash of yellow/green whipped around the tree, scattering the sparrows and pissing off the robins who began flapping and grousing.   After everyone flew off, a tiny green hummingbird settled on the tree, claiming a prime spot as he surveyed the landscape.

I recognized this wee guy.  Last summer I had to water the pumpkins on the slope every evening, and almost without fail he would come out of nowhere, flit around my head, darting here and there, sometimes even flying through the spray of water.  Once he came within a foot of my face, the sound of his wings a loud buzz of noise in the quiet of dusk as he hovered in front of me.  I used to talk to him, asking about his day, why he was alone, how were things in his know, chit chat.

When fall arrived, I just assumed he would fly south...or go wherever Hummingbirds spend the colder months.  I couldn't imagine how this tiny creature could survive in frost or snow.  I remember reading once that because of the energy they expend every moment of every day, they have to eat constantly.  What would he eat in the winter?  Unless he flew south, of course.  Well, what a shock to see him flitting all over the back garden one day as the snow softly fell.  I've seen him often over these fall/winter months; he's always by himself, and sometimes the bigger birds pick on him (bullies are everywhere), but he's too fast for anything serious to befall him.

Okay, so back to yesterday.  I watch him sitting on the branch and wonder if I can grab my camera and get back before he flies away.  Doubtful, but worth the effort.  I dash into the living room, snag the camera, carefully sidle up to the window and do the Macro thing on my camera--a feature I love but that really requires a tripod, just my heartbeat jars the camera like an aftershock.  I center him in my lens, hold my breath, and quickly fire off ten photos, half from one angle, and half after he did this nanosecond maneuver and turned on the branch between one shutter click and the next.  He is one hyper little guy.

I managed to get one that I think is almost perfect, and three others that are borderline good, all things considered.

The first shot, with his back to me.  Love his yellow/green color...

This is the money shot--so to speak.  You can even see his tiny, minute tongue sticking out of his amazing is that?  Because my camera is on Macro, he looks like a normal-sized bird.  Visualize something the size of your thumb and that would be close, if not actually too big.

He is just getting ready to do his turn-on-a-dime move here...

And now we can see his manly chest and again a clear view of that tongue.  And I have to say, I don't understand why he doesn't have a girlfriend, really I don't: handsome, manly, colorful, brave (driving off bullies), and that tongue...

Sunday, February 12, 2012


When the boys and I returned from our walk this morning, I was hanging up my jacket and glanced out the back window.

And there they were, the first twins of Spring.

That's the Mom on the stone wall above, the kidlets below.  I used the telephoto so they look bigger in the photo than in reality.  Unfortunately, my reality is that now I have to hit the Co-op to buy more coyote mean Deer Fence solution.  And after my last experience, I think I might also need a new sprayer.

I love the wildlife aspect of things up here on the mountain, really I do.  What I don't like are the rapacious appetites of that same wildlife.  Once the herd of babies start roaming all over the place, I'm doomed to keep any flowers, plants, shrubs, even some trees alive, unless I spray every week, and still the fawns will eat everything in sight until they figure out what tastes like crap and what is good to munch into kindling.

Ah well.  They've got as much right to eat as anyone, I guess.  I just wish they preferred the neighboring gardens to mine...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Here's a Cool Thing...

The other day I was having breakfast, reading one of my Daily Fix usual morning routine.  The author of this particular site was having a giveaway.  She had found these divination cards, called The Answer Deck, at her local bookstore, and along with a copy of her latest book, was offering them in her giveaway.  All you had to do to enter was comment about what motivated you to write.

(On her website, she always has these great techniques, tools, or ideas to help with plots, characters, or really just anything to do with writing). 

I totally fell in love with these cards, more for inspiration as plot devices than fortunetelling; the graphics were just amazing in the few photos she posted.  I entered the giveaway, never expecting to win, but lo and behold: I did..!!  So, the other day I get this great little packet in the mail.  The cards, her book, and a very cool bookmark.

The artwork is, well, wonderful.  I love how the graphic ties in with the divination word; and the simple drama of the black & white drawing, bordered with brilliant red.  Without too much effort, I can see whole stories in these cards.  My photos aren't so hot, but the pictures on the cards are visible enough to get the drift.  There are 73 cards in the deck, all of them really good; I randomly chose a few, but--

Oh here, just let me show you:


So clear...the overflowing cup as the person keeps pouring, wasting tea with no regard or care, making no attempt to stop, just wanting more, and more.



A small child playing with her little dog.  Jumping, laughing, happy.


Wow.  How much do I love this one.  The lone rose, the drop of water falling like a tear, the puddle on the table growing...


Perfect, with the falling leaves; marking the change in seasons, or just the letting go of the old to make way for the new.


Another cool one.  Really, can't you see it?  The shade nearly drawn over the window; what's happening in that room, in that house?



Dropping, breaking.  Not an accident, but a mistake of some kind.  Can the cup be fixed?


This is perfect.  Where to go?  Which is the right choice?  Is there a center to the maze?

(I should blow this one up and stick it on my fridge.)



Great graphic.  Bridging the differences, finding a way back, meeting in the middle.  I see so  many interpretations for this one.

I haven't used these cards for any divinations; I've been too captivated by the graphics to do much more than look at them, letting my imagination soar. 

If I were ever to win a giveaway, how glad I am it was this one...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Coast Isn't Clear Yet...

Remember the other day I said I was at a crossroads?  I was a bit hasty. By my reckoning, I'm still about half a mile out, though I think I can see the signpost off in the distance there, wooden arrows pointing to the four winds.

Since last year--when I shockingly became a widow between one breath and the next--I've been searching for my place, trying to find where I belong now.  I have covered this fair land from Bellingham to Boston, San Diego to Coconut Grove, and most of the country in between.  I've spent long hours reviewing the many places I've lived, searching out places on the internet where I haven't lived but might want to.  I've become addicted to House Hunters on HGTV because they go all over the country where I can see prices, neighborhoods, availability.  Through all my efforts, I still haven't found home.  

My heart yearns for Scotland, but there are other things to consider--financial, emotional, realistic things--before I can decide whether I'm staying in America, or heading back to Scotland. My pro/con list has grown, shrunk, expanded, subtracted for several months now, and it's time for me to stand up, take a deep breath, and choose my path.  After all, once the house is up for sale in just a few weeks, I need a plan, don't I?  Yes. Yes, I do.

Next weekend I'm going to the coast, a last ditch fact-finding mission, my final attempt to clear my mind and make the crucial decisions I will shortly have to make.  Do I go, or do I stay??  (How did that song end anyway?)  I'm taking my Mom, and the boys, and once we get through the mountains, we're going to drive south on Highway 101, down one of the most beautiful 60 miles in America.

I love the sea.  I've said before that for a Fire sign, I have a strange affinity for the water, be it ocean, river, lake or stream.  (Might have something to do with being born on an island in the middle of the Bering Sea). 

I particularly love this coastline, from about halfway down the Oregon coast to just above San Francisco.  Rugged, rocky, stunning. 

The area I am interested in is the Banana Belt of the southern Oregon coast with a warm, temperate climate.  Not too cold, too hot, too humid, or too...anything.  Just right. 

The only concern I have about the place I've chosen to visit is that it's a very small coastal town.  Like really small.  I'm isolated enough up this blasted mountain without going from small to blink-and-you've-missed-it. 

Still, the biggest bookstore on the Oregon Coast is in this little village, they have a theatre (as in stage productions), the Rogue River (a wild and beautiful white-water river) spills out north of town to the sea, so wow, for such a wee place, it seems to have a lot going for it.  At least in theory.

Here are a few photos I took last year.  The halfway point begins right about here--midway down the Oregon coast--and continues south to the Monterey peninsula in California...

Really pretty.  And these shots are at the beginning of the journey; the further south, the better it gets.  I will take a bunch of pictures next weekend, in between scouting out the area, trying to leave myself open to the flow of possibilities, walking the dogs on the beach, and hoping I have a blinding illumination of epic proportions to guide me forward.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Inspiration in a Cloud

There's an interesting website called Wordle that I like to play around with when I need inspiration, or just want to dink with words.  Wordle lets me make word clouds--a very wonderful concept all by itself--from whatever is typed into the appropriate space, then I can pick the font, colors, layout to fit my words.  I wrote a brief description of something I'm currently working on, and got this:

If I'm in need of clues, hints, stimulus--whatever it takes to motivate ideas or stories in my mind, I like to do this.  It's not only entertaining, and makes me think outside the box, but suddenly word groupings jump out, or two small words floating next to each other show me a plot twist I might have overlooked, or not even considered. 

One of the first things I saw in the cloud above was this grouping:  secrets defy deceitDo they?  Or are secrets by definition deceitful?  If something is truly a secret, how then can it be a deceit?  Wouldn't you have to know the secret to make the call?

Or how about this one:  historian returns dead.  I see two ways to go with that.  Has the historian returned as a dead person (vampire, ghoul)?  Or is the historian returning something dead (stolen mummy, perhaps)?

Here's one I just did of this post.  What jumps right out at me:  dead know things.  And, two pretty little clues.  See?  How much fun is this?

With just a few words--though, the more the better--there are myriad possibilities floating in the cloud to inspire, excite and encourage a boundless imagination.  I think that's really cool.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dancing with Dogs

Before I left on the road trip last week I downloaded some new tunes to my MP3 in case the book tape was a dud idea.  It wasn't, and I spent all those hours in the car happily listening to someone read me a book as I cruised up and down the highway.

This morning I tossed the player in my coat pocket to listen to those new tunes as the boys and I did our mileage on a foggy, cold walk.  I get all plugged into the music, but it's too loud--front row next to the giant speakers at a Stones concert loud--and  while struggling with two dogs on leash and the tiny buttons on the player, I somehow did something wrong and wiped out every song/album/artist on the freaking machine.  Crap.

Later, back home, I reload the player, song by song.  And figure out how to lower the volume without another wipeout situation.

So, headphones on, player set for Jace Everett, I hit the button and whoa--music, smokin' music, deep, throaty voice in my ear music. 

Before I even realize it, I'm dancing.  The dogs are watching me, heads tipped, ears swiveling like little satellite dishes.  The music is so foot-tapping, get up and dance, that there's just no way in the world to sit still. 

When I get to the second song, one that I know, I'm not only dancing, but singing.  The dogs actually look over at each other, then back at me like maybe I need an intervention.  I laugh, then dance down the hallway, into the bedroom, out again, into the living room, dining room, the den.  When I come back into the living room, both dogs are off the couch, sitting in the middle of the floor, tails sweeping across the carpet.  I keep dancing, though now I've got them following me from room to room, big cheesy dog grins as they decide this must be a fun, though slightly crazy, new game.

The fourth song is slow; I feel silly dancing by myself to a slow song.  I get the dogs all worked up instead so when the next tune comes on, we're dancing, barking and singing from one end of the house to the other.

By the time the album is finished, I'm sweating, grinning from ear to ear, the dogs are sprawled with tongues lolling, and I figure I can skip the yoga today.  I've just done my daily torture, and thanks to Jace and his oh-so-wonderful music, it wasn't torture at all, but a sweet little slice of heaven.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Short...

This is the coolest little film. Even if you're not a book lover, as I am, you can't help getting drawn into this wonderful short story. It's up for Best Animated Film at the Oscars this year, and honestly, I can see why. Take a few minutes, sit back with a cup of whatever, and enjoy.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I've had many crossroads in my day. Some are just that: a road that has led to choices, the leaving of one path to walk another, and though it can be daunting, sometimes even a bit scary, it’s nothing compared to my usual method of instigating change: a great blind leap into the abyss.

Today began as more crossroad than abyss.  I'm not dangling over the precipice, toes dug in, as I teeter on the brink of my next adventure, not concerned with consequences, heart pounding as I anticipate the rush of change before I jump.

No. Today I'm standing in the road, able to look in all directions over a prairie-flat world to the distant hills, too far for me to see over the horizon. I know what's at my back though, and that's why I find myself here, in this place, as the wind mourns around me, dust devils whisper through the grasses; the soft sounds in this bare landscape make me feel lonely, unsure, not a feeling I want or need right now.

I met my realtor for lunch this afternoon. I was fine while we were talking, eating, catching up. Very business-like as we discussed the financials over tea. Firm in my resolve about certain conditions that aren't negotiable from my end. We finished our meeting, said our goodbyes, plans set in motion over the next few weeks for photo sessions, marketing strategies, agreements made on details great and small—then driving up the mountain back to the house it hits me: I've taken the first step toward my new life. I'm at the four corners of my destiny, three ways to go: left, right, or straight on till morning. Back is not an option--that's where I've been, not where I'm going.

As I turn down my street, the crossroad visual flashes into my mind.  I feel the wind, smell the dry grass as I stare, shortsighted, trying to pierce the unknown land ahead.  My heart begins to pound, not in eager expectation of change, but in a stuttering panic of uncertainty and doubt.  I pull into the driveway and sit for a minute, taking a few deep breaths as I rub my hand in soothing circles over my galloping heart, striving for calm.

It takes me a moment or two, but okay, I get it:  Yes, I might indeed be standing at a crossroad, but once I make the choice, pick my path and step out, the abyss will most assuredly crack open at my feet, yawning and beckoning.  Am I ready to take that leap?  Feel the exhilarating shift from the old to the new?  Welcome it?

I can only trust the compelling nature of change will eventually overcome my reluctance.  When it's time to move on, you just have to put one foot in front of the other until you stand on the edge, ready and willing to jump.