Make yourself at home. Put your feet up. Grab your favorite beverage and prepare to enjoy the reads.



Grey Water Gardening

What plant safe laundry detergents and soaps should I use for  my homemade grey water system?

Because of the drought, I don't want to use the hose to provide moisture to my garden. In the past, I totally got rid of grass and just started planting drought friendly plants. (except for my Myer lemon tree) Keeping a grass lawn takes a lot of water to keep it green all year in California. And what a waste of money paying someone to mow it regularly! Certainly with a yard full of grass during a drought, there is no green. Ugly! This year the drought is severe. So, I chose to just let the garden go. Live and let live... the plants that survive will be fine. The plants that need water will die.

It's funny how things work out. When the washing machine drains into the plumbing, it goes out, and down into the sewer. But, recently my plumbing got clogged. The washing machine water was backing up into the kitchen sink. At first it wasn't too bad. I just had to not leave any dirty dishes in the sink and the water would slowly drain. For a while, dumping baking soda and vinegar into the sink seemed to loosen things up a bit. But, after a while, it got to the point that I could only wash small loads because the sink would back up so much there would be no doubt it would overflow onto the floor if I washed a larger load.

One might ask... well why don't I hire a plumber? Simple... I have very little money. I have someone in my life who volunteered to run a "snake" tool into the plumbing, but because of back surgery, that got put off.

I thought about when I was a young mother and had an old fashioned wringer washer. Just like washers today there was a large pipe connected to it that would be able to drain into the plumbing. However, back in those days, I could lay that hose down and let it drain out the back door into the back yard. Wringer washers had legs and rollers on them. As I thought about that, I realized I could do the same today with my modern washing machine. The only problem with it was the pipe on the back of the washer wasn't long enough to get it out the back door and of course, the washer is wieldy. That's when my friend connected a garden hose to that pipe. We ran it out beside where the dryer vent passed through the wall. Today the garden hose leads out to the front yard garden.

When thinking of laundry water going into the soil, I wanted to make sure that any detergent I might use would be friendly to plant life and the soil. Obviously big brand detergents are not a wise choice. I've learned that the various so-called detergents, even ones marked “biodegradable”, are not always appropriate for the soil because they are essentially salt-based. And salt is BAD for the soil. Surprisingly, even Seventh Generation brand laundry detergent is NOT a good choice according to the research I did.

Now that I've been washing my clothes this way (in cold water) I've tried using less detergent. It's amazing how soft my clothes have become. I'm glad I made the switch.

With a little research, I came across this list of safe laundry detergents for grey water use:
Oasis laundry liquid
Bio Pac Laundry Liquid
Biokleen Laundry Liquid
Ecos Laundry
LifeTree Laundry Liquid
Ecover Laundry Wash (some salt)
Mountain Green Laundry Detergent
Vaska Herbatergent

Here is a list of ingredients to avoid in grey water:
boron/borax (toxic to plants)
sodium and ingredients with the word "sodium" in them
chlorine bleach (acceptable alternative: hydrogen peroxide)
sodium perborate
sodium trypochlorite
petroleum distillate
water softeners (contain sodium chloride or potassium chloride)
anti-bacterial soaps & cleaners
enzymes (enzymes in biological washing powders break down protein or fat stains on clothes)
titanium oxide
chromium oxide
artificial colors; FD&C colors
synthetic fragrance
artificial preservatives

NOTE: Most "popular" detergents do not even have their ingredients listed.


It's a Lovely Day in the Neighborhood

Yikes, I just accidentally came across a site that has "offenders" listed for my city.

Directly across the street is one. I had no idea.

Now I wonder what the crime was. How long ago was it committed? Is the perpetrator rehabilitated?

Perhaps that explains the arrest I saw going down last spring in the middle of the street right near where the "offender" is mapped out to be residing.

No more to say about that. I've got to let it go. Be aware, be alert, but let it go.

Two of my neighbors have had yard sales for the last couple weeks in preparation for moving.

One of the neighbors is a genuine Hoarder, and had a garage full to the ceiling of "stuff". Seriously! No kidding!

I saw how emotionally difficult it was for her to let go of her years worth of collections. Her husband had to keep reminding her that they had no choice. They had to move. They had just a few weeks left to get out. I gave her a hug when she started to cry after someone bought up her collection of Mr. Rogers books. I wonder what causes people to hoard. I wonder what's the difference between my too many things, and a hoarder's way to much overabundance of stuff.

It was my understanding that they had already been living in a trailer because there was no more room in their house to get around safely. Now they were moving to another house, smaller than the one they are in.

It made me realize just how much junk I have sitting around that I don't really NEED!

My local Project Purr is holding a giant Rummage sale this month.

I've managed to clear all this stuff off the dresser!
Except for the cats. They are permanent fixtures!
I'm donating directly to them. They use the funds they raise from their twice a year sale in order to rescue feral cats. Some they can tame and place for home adoptions. Some they can place with people who can maintain them without expecting them to be tame.

I love the fact that I can help cats this way. I already took one carload over to them last week.

My car is half packed right now with another load. When I feel better, I hope to finish and take more extraneous belongings away.

It's nice to have reminders from the examples of others how I can improve my lifestyle.


Cab Driver

I realized I was not as honest with myself in this soulful concept as I thought I was, when the man who picked me up in his taxi wore prison gang tattoos on his scalp, face, arms and hands.

I struggled not with fear, but with revulsion, and judgementalism. Though he chatted nicely and I soon learned he had seriously left his criminal life behind, his exterior appearance got in the way of my seeing his inner light.

Now I understand how my father was able to perform his prison ministry when I was so angry with him for doing so.

I didn't believe prisoners, especially rapists and murderers deserved forgiveness. I still have that hump to clear. But have learned a lesson that some people can be rehabilitated and deserving of the same respect as anyone can have. I wonder how others would feel to discover that their cab driver was an ex-con.

It was very thought provoking and soul searching experience for me.


Note: I borrowed the picture of the "prison sleeves" from a site that sells them. Guess what! They are not tattoos at all!


America, the Ugly - A Rant

Someone I know posted something on Facebook that I found offensive. I was so angry, I posted a very careless sarcastic comment. The statement she posted was:

"We have illegal immigrants who are staying here on a military facility while homeless veterans are outside the gate with no shelter and no food."

My sarcastic comment was: "Yeah just kill those kids and be done with it!" Sadly there are people who might really feel that way!

I steamed and fretted about it for an hour or so. Then, also thought better of my comment, for the sake of the relationship between me and the person who posted, as well as the fact that someone might actually take me literally and take action! Heaven forbid!

So, I went back to the posting. No one else had responded yet. And I then posted the following:

"I'm sorry. That was rude of me. I just get so sick and tired of the hypocrisy of statements like that. Yes, we need to care for our homeless, veterans or otherwise. I go to my local homeless shelter regularly to donate clothing. I hand out money on the street corner. Not much, but a dollar is a dollar.

Photo: Breitbart
These children seeking refuge from us are starving, sick and courageous for traveling all that way to seek asylum in our country that has a statue of liberty with a statement on it. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Either we are proud Americans willing to stand up for the human rights that we supposedly believe everyone should have or we are hypocrites and believe it is only for US citizens.

Note: I got a little personal here and have changed the name of the person I was addressing.)

How quickly we forget our own history, Gretchen. What's the history of your mother's people? How did they get here to the land of the free? Do you know?

I know my own family history going back for generations. We came here in the 1600s for the same reasons those kids are coming here. Did you hear about the one they found dead yesterday?

Do you have friends who were refugees from another country? I do. In fact, the father of my grandchildren came as a child refugee from San Salvador. I have friends who came from Russia as children. They are now grown up and committed American Citizens. I have a young friend who escaped from rape and torture as a child. She now takes care of a little old lady, and bicycles 20 miles round trip daily to attend college classes to make a difference in our lives and hers. A dear friend who came to our country, served in the military and sacrificed his life. Just like those who came before us to America, our own ancestors!

I cannot believe how cruel, insensitive and unchristian people are towards these "Illegals". I'm ashamed of our countrymen."

Note: This is the end of my rant. Sometimes I am so ashamed to call myself an American. 

Is it Father's Day Already?

My father is no longer in my life to wish a Happy Father's day.  He died at the age of 90 after living a very fulfilling life. I thought I knew him well, but learned his friends knew another side of him and when they shared with me their experiences, I learned some completely new facets of his life. I'm still learning from my Dad, today, especially this week when I have been writing about him.

I have some other wonderful fathers whom I would like to honor:

Dear Son-in-Law:
I am so happy you are in my daughter's life and are the father of those wonderful kids. You work so hard to provide a good secure life, give them guidance and love and most of all, you do things together that are fun! I know you give your kids enough of yourself that they have a good self esteem. That's so important that they all know how much their Dad loves them and shows it!

Dear #1 Grandson
You have had your share of challenges and still managed to get through them and continue to achieve, but always you have been a good father to the boys. You have taught them good values, given them a strong foundation and openly shared your faith and love. I can hardly wait for them to grow up and see the wonderful young men they will be. I am so proud to see the Dad you have become!

Dear #2 Grandson
You are quite an extraordinary father balancing your very tough work life with your family life and managing to be 100 percent there for both as well as taking care of your other grandmother. It has been amazing to see how you have grown with your delightful little ones and all the effort you make to keep them all happy and well cared for. I just love that they have you in their lives to call "Daddy"!

Dear #1 Brother,

James D Deane
It's surprising how quickly the years have passed by, and here we are, both of us, great grandparents. You, the Great Grand Dad and patriarch of your side of the family. It's hard for me to keep track of all your progeny! I know you have been so instrumental in their upbringing, and well being. I admire how you spread the love throughout 3 generations and still manage to live a good life, especially with all the medical details you have to attend to.

Dear #2 Brother,
It seems so incredible to me that not only are you a father, but also a Grandfather. It seems like it was just yesterday you were my "baby" brother. Does your grandson call you Grandpa? I can't fathom it! Not only do I know how you put your heart into being a Dad, I know your love and talent passes down to your grandson, too.

Dear #2 Nephew,
You grew up so fast and so far away, I hardly know you. Suddenly you were back home and a young man with a son of your own. I was flabbergasted how quickly you grew into fatherhood. And here you are with an almost grown son, who I see is the image of his Dad. I know you work hard, but I suspect you have also taught him how to enjoy playing hard too!

Dear Brother-in-Law, "Ampa",
I can't imagine how hard it might have been for you to step into the role of Grandfather to such a large brood of grandchildren. You have admirably taken on the role like a duck to water. It is obvious all the kids love you dearly. You are such a good influence and stabilizing force in their life, and a man they all can look up to.  I'm so glad you are there for my nieces and nephews.

To the memory of my dear Nephew,
I still love you, will still miss you forever. Your beautiful daughter looks so much like you, it is almost like you are here with her. I delight in seeing the lovely young lady she is growing into. She hasn't forgotten you and everyone in the family watches over her and keeps your memory alive for her. We didn't see what kind of Daddy you would be, but I know for sure, you would have been the best, as you were such a true, open feelings, young man.

Dear Chi Man
I am delighted that you came into T's life and give her the love and support she deserves. I am so grateful that you are a good Dad to the two who needed you so much. What a incredibly strong influence you have had on their lives. And I'm so happy that you've got the youngest to raise up as the special little one she is.

Dear One,
I admire the kind of father I have seen in you and the ongoing relationship you now have with your grown up son. I'm so glad to see you have given him the freedom to spread his wings, supported all his creativity and been both mother and father all those years. You remind me a lot of my own father.

To the missing father,
Oh, how I wish you could see the incredible shining soul your son has become. I would like to think you would be so proud of him and the multi-faceted young man he is. I am glad that he had his Papa in his life for his early years. You were such a loving, doting father. I wish you healing and peace.

To Moses, William, Rick, Mike, Dacia, Jason (RIP),
I never got to know you as fathers. For the one's whose children are my grand nieces and nephews, I hope you all know what an influence you have had on your children. They are all such beautiful souls. You can be so proud of them. They all love you and that speaks a lot.

To all,
I have often thought that wishing someone "Happy father's day" was so inadequate to the message meant to be said behind it. The unspoken is so hard to express in a culture where acknowledging and accepting deep feelings and respect is somewhat taboo. We don't know how to say, "I honor you, my father, this day." I wonder if it will ever catch on.


Death Changes Everything

I look back upon other deaths in my life and see them differently. My father didn't want any fuss to be made, no viewing, no ceremony. He just wanted to be cremated, and be done with it.

Gennie and James Deane age 85 and 90
Both my parents had expressed this as their choice for years. Yet, when Dad died, it was immediately obvious that, though we would respect the wish for cremation, we would still go through the nice dressed up appearance, the new tie to go with Dad's favorite suit, the make up for his face to look healthy and happy.

Though, I thought that smile was probably broader than any my father had ever made, it was still better in appearance than what it might have been. There was no fancy, expensive coffin, but a temporary one. I don't recall what it was called, they had a special name for it. Sturdy, yet disposable, something that would burn with him, for little expense. Perhaps some sort of cardboard?

We went against Dad's wishes for the sake of our Mom's comfort. Her grief was so intense, we did this to help give her some closure, to help her face the fact that his physical presence would not continue to be with her, to help her make that transition into widowhood as best as possible. It gave her the chance to be dressed up for him, for her to say goodbye. After all, he died when she was asleep. When we woke her, she tried to revive him. Perhaps she thought she might have prevented his death if she had not been sleeping. We like to think that going through with a ceremony, a priest, a church as she was brought up with, as was familiar to her, would help to bring some sort of comfort to her.


Letter to a Dead Mother (2)

Dear Mom,

It was nice to smell the aroma of my childhood today as I sipped my cup of coffee. Yes, it's true! I didn't have my tea. I made me a "cuppa" in remembrance of you. Wish you could sit here with me to enjoy it.

I wonder if there is anything to the notion of treating ancestors to earthly gifts. Would it be nice for you if you could get a whiff? A taste? Kats has a shelf where pictures of his parents are displayed. Every morning he puts a cup of coffee and a bowl of rice in front of them, out of respect and remembrance.

I remember when Dad was close to death and he couldn't eat, he said he didn't miss food. But, coffee... oh if he could just have a taste! So, we dipped a cloth in a cup of coffee and touched it to his tongue. Would you have liked that?

No, I think not. In your last days you were a chai drinker. Weren't you? Tomorrow I will make a cup of chai and drink it joyfully in honor of you. Yes, honor you. I didn't do enough of that when you were around, except maybe on Mother's Day, Birthday, Christmas. The rest of the year, you knocked yourself out working for a living and being our mom. How did you do it back in the 1950's when being a working mom was not very acceptable? I certainly didn't appreciate it. I felt resentful that I had to babysit and do things around the house while other kids were out playing. And it didn't help that others made it clear to me how "deprived of a childhood" I was. Especially other adults!

I remember some neighbor saying, "Oh? Your mother works? She should be home taking care of you kids! Tsk, Tsk."  Soon I decided to not mention your being employed. I let my resentment simmer. Today, of course, a woman who is co-owner of a business, present on the job, AND a mother is valued. Today you could have held your head high for your achievements and not be embarrassed. And perhaps I would have been proud of my mom and the responsibilities she entrusted me with.

I remember that last decade of your life, Mom. You fussed and worried and apologized repeatedly. "I should never have left you kids on your own. I should have been there for you. Maybe things would have been better if I never worked."

James and Genevieve Deane, Easter 1950s
8295 Laughlin Dr. Niagara Falls New York 
I don't know how many times we all tried to reassure you that things really were better for us that way. We all became quite self-sufficient and independent. I didn't envy other kids much for having their mothers at home nagging on them all the time, making them mind their manners, making them stay indoors when the whole outdoors was our playground. We had freedom, Mom! Other kids didn't have that. I secretly felt quite smug about that.

I could go across the street to the park and swing on the swings when other kids had to come in and do their homework. I could watch cartoons all Saturday morning if I liked. I learned how to shop for food on my own. All of us kids had freedom to wander and wonder at what other kids were forbidden. We played in the woods nearby. We dug in the dirt without worrying about getting dirty. We had life as a gift to discover without constraint. Some people thought we were a bit wild. And yes, some parents wouldn't let their kids play with us. So what? We didn't like those prissy kids all that much anyways.

Mom, I hope there is a way now, you can see that it all worked out for the best. Can you see we are all getting through life with solid confidence that we can make it, regardless of the challenges? We learned to make mistakes. Unlike other kids, we knew how to fall down and pick ourselves up.  If we scraped our knees, we knew to go home, clean up, put a band aid on, and get back out in the world ourselves. You kissed our boo boos later, if we thought to tell you. Me? I usually didn't. I was too busy complaining about having to do the dishes or whining about having to clean my room. But, only when you really got after me to get those things done.

Of course, there were a few motherly cuddles we missed. But, you were there for us when we grew up and you didn't have to work, couldn't work, anymore. I could call you anytime and tell you all my problems. You didn't try to tell me what to do. You listened. You held your tongue. I know it was hard for you. I know now you could see I was making the same mistakes you had. I wonder if it would have been different if your mother hadn't died when I was a baby. Maybe she would have told you. Then, maybe you could have guided me in the same way. You had no experience raising kids, or relating to your adult kids. Yet, I blamed you for not being a better mom. Yet there I was as a troubled adult, reaching out to you. It's so odd, now that I think about it. Sometimes I thought you were my worst enemy. But, I look back and see you weren't.

I didn't realize it at the time, but your listening to me on the phone was better than gold to me. You know better than anyone the twisted turmoil I inflicted upon myself the secrets of my heart, the troubles of my soul. You put up with a lot of my taking it out on you, my blaming you for my troubles.

I remember you saying, "Yes, yes, it's always the mother's fault her kids are unhappy. Just ask any shrink!" I didn't know how much that hurt you, that we couldn't be close. You bent over backwards to help me, to be there for me. But, you didn't know what I needed. Not really. How could you have known? I certainly didn't. You didn't have a parenting manual. You didn't have a psychology degree to help you with your unstable daughter. How it must have tormented you when I couldn't get effective treatment, when I got so despondent I didn't want to live. I can barely stand it when my own daughter faces her grief. What pains her, pains me. I don't know how you did it, Mom.

I know sometimes you got upset, you worried about me doing the wrong thing, worried I was suffering because of the way I lived my life. Some mothers turn their backs on their adult children when they don't like how they live. Some mothers let go of the apron strings right when the kids leave the nest. They disconnect from their kids, then wonder why they are so distant. They live out their "golden years" disenchanted.

Grown up or not, I was still your child. I remember you saying that more than once. I think the last time you said that to me was when you were eighty-six, and I was sixty-one. "No matter how old you are, you will always be my child".

Whether it is real or not, whether you know what I'm feeling or not, it doesn't matter. I'm so glad I finally found this way to feel connected to you again. It's been a lonely five years without you.

You know what Mom? No matter where you are now, you'll always be my mother.

Acknowledging Pain

Pain is my friend. 

Once I realized that pain was my "body adviser, or mentor", I paid attention to it instead of trying to ignore it. 

I taught myself how to treat it, how to prevent it, how to work with it, and accept that it comes and goes. 

And my life choices can still be enjoyed. 

Yes, I go with the pain. 

For me, I understand that the strength I gain from living life fully, even with pain, is only part of what it's all about. 

Pain is like the weather.... It's changeable.

Today I had a medical procedure to help relieve some pain I've been dealing with for a long time. 

It didn't go well and I ended up in more pain. 

But, I know it will change in a few days as the steroids take effect,.

Then I can return to my methods of physical therapy to strengthen and enhance what my body can do.

(Note: in case you think I don't know what pain is, this is the result of bone cancer, chondrosarcoma from 45 years ago. The pain my body carries never ceases. It is always there in varying degrees. Always.)

Solar Panels Opinion

I don't think Big Business and the Electric Company folks are going to support this brilliant plan. When solar energy can be created so that the average person can hang a "curtain" in their window of something as simple as that, I doubt there's much chance it's going to go big. I want to tell the inventors of such things to tell me how to do it myself... use old mayonnaise jars or aluminum cans or whatever so I can turn on the washing machine or heat bath water and erase that carbon footprint. Sorry to sound negative, but I find my own personal opportunities to be lacking. That's my reality. Solar energy? Not happening. #justsaying


The Doctor's Cemetery

Today, I drove into parking lot at my doctor's office which overlooks the cemetery

I've always thought it odd his office should be located there where patients can have the visual reminder of their mortality. 

I felt just a tinge of irony until I saw several people walking the paths wearing Ipods or just talking with one another, a guy on a bike, a woman with a dog on a leash. 

The juxtaposition of the very much living with those very far gone away threw me back in time... sitting in the car with friends driving through to the end where the pond was, throwing stones and munching on treats. 

Still, even the boys wanted to make sure we got back to the car and out of there before the sun went down. No one made jokes or poked fun at one another for feeling squeamish, it was just an unspoken understanding that it was time to leave.


Dish Drainer Dreams

My metal.. plastic coated dish drainer has gotten so rusty through the cracked plastic that I've been looking for another at the Goodwill. People just don't seem to donate good dish drainers these days!

Finally! I saw the perfect replacement, just like the dish drainer I have, only not cracked and rusty. Looked like it had never seen a dish and was longing to caress one, or many... whatever it's dreams.

It was sitting in a shopping cart in the corner with other stuff where the workers often leave things they are supposed to be putting on shelves, but walked off and left to take a break... or whatever their dreams may be. Ecstatic, I helped myself to the long sought after treasure!

I happily shopped some more, finding a needed few dishes I'd been wanting, in fact. They bonded with the dish rack right away. Perfect synchronicity!

Imagine my horror (and theirs) when a woman, another thrift shopper, walked up to me and informed me that was her dish drainer!!! Oh... I was tempted to tell her it was too late to separate such a well matched kitchen family. But, no... I had to be Ms. Nice Guy and let her have it.

Now another year or two will go by before I ever see the likes of that one again.

Sigh... such is life!


In regard to Indiana's current cold snap

Photo by Vic Mastrogiovanni
I must admit, it's getting old
This indoor life that's caused by cold.

The dogs are crazed, my husband bored,
I'm on my knees to beg the Lord:
"Please, oh please let them go outside."
My nerves are jangled, I want to hide.

It's peace I need, I need me some!
What shall I do...where'd I hide the rum?
What is the matter, what can it be?
What's stressing my delicate sanity?

The walls are slowly coming in,
The ceiling's nearly at my chin.
The floor is closer it seems to me
The room grows smaller or it seems to be.

My husband shares a valid thought
And in the phone book finds what's sought.
A quick phone call, oh hurry please
And soon the flashing lights we see.

Two men in sparkling coats so white
Haul me into the frigid night.
They are so kind, give me a shot
And peace descends, WOW, quite a lot.

At last I'm calm and now can breathe.
They cloak me in a shirt with sleeves
That cross in back. Not stylish: sad.
At least the fit isn't quite so bad.

My husband happily calls out to me,
"Honey, the Farm is where you'll be.
I know you'll beat this Winter thing,
I'll come and get you, come this Spring."

From the talented Indiana Guest Writer, SA Springer

(inspired by Donna and a little Dr. Seuss).


Weather Changes

Over the years I have lived many places in the United States. I grew up in Western New York... Niagara Falls, to be exact. Nasty snowstorms and thick summer humidity was the norm.

Photo by Jon Ball - Boise, Idaho
Walking to school in the snow was a delight as well as a struggle. When it was delightful, I would be late for school because I had been catching snowflakes on my mittens to examine before they melted. I would lie down in some strangers front yard to make snow angels. I would get caught in playing with other kids throwing snowballs at each other.

When the snow was not fun I would be late for school, too. Trudging through sidewalks that have not been shoveled, not daring to step into the street because a car just might hit you was a deterrent. If the wind was blowing the snow in my face, I kept my head down watching each step of my boots gloved hands in my pockets. Apparently the other kids got rides to school on those days.

At least by high school I could take the bus.

Then as a young military wife, I lived in Los Angeles, lots mini earthquakes, but nothing I worried about. Then Delaware; what a swampland! At least that was the impression I got of the place. Then, back to New York state. I live at the shores of Chautauqua Lake. Beautiful country, but lots of sub-zero winter weather. Since I lived in the country, there were no sidewalks to shovel, only the driveway. If the snow plows didn't come down my dead end road, I could drive nowhere. Snuggling down in the house, I watched the beauty of the lake through the windows.

Then, I moved back to Southern California, so hot all summer, spring, fall, winter, (you name it) and the smog. EW!

Leaving that behind I ended up in Santa Cruz, California on the Monterey Bay. I loved it there for many years but husband lost his job and we decided to be adventurous, to go where no one had gone before.. at least not us. We traveled the Southwest first, then headed to Indiana for a new job. It turned out to be a decade of what I call "My Hoosier Hell Years". Honestly, I saw more damage due to tornadoes than I ever saw from California earthquakes. (Note: I became an amateur storm chaser!) Was pretty sick there all the time with asthma because of allergies and mold. The summer humidity was harder to take than any I'd faced before. I had never had so much trouble breathing even in the Southern California smog.

Central California winter hillside in drought,
Compare to photo below
Finally, I came back to Northern California. In all my total years here, until these last few, I've never seen such drought and subsequent wild fires! The drought makes the hillsides ugly. By this time of year, after our winter rains everything is usually green and luscious. But, sadly, not this year. It's all dry tinder!

We just had a big fire recently in the wilderness of Big Sur. Thirty four homes were burned to the ground. Last summer, among other fires throughout the state, 402 square miles was burnt near Yosemite National Forest. It took a full month before the fire was contained. I don't know how many homes or livestock or people were lost. It's worrisome. A fire on the outskirts of my own town a few years back was quite threatening, too.

Just the same, I figure that no matter where someone lives there is weather phenomena that are going to be problems. Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Desert heat, Snowstorms, sub-zero temps, flooding, etc etc. But, this is home now. Earthquakes, drought, fires, mudslides. This is where I want to live out the rest of my years.

Misty view from outskirts of Watsonville, California after a bit of rain.
Strawberry field on left. Orchard on right. Mount Madonna straight ahead. 


36 Books I've read in 2013

Bibi n Eric Sandstrom-Kollenberg
near Santa Cruz Veterans Hall
In no particular order, these are some of the books I've read (and finished) reading this year. If I didn't finish reading a book, I didn't like it. Therefore, these are books I liked.

Twelve Years a Slave
     By Solomon Northup

Southern Fried Sushi
     By Jennifer Rogers Spinola

Here Shall I Die Ashore: Stephen Hopkins (Bermuda Castaway, Jamestown Survivor, and Mayflower Pilgrim.)
     By Caleb Johnson

Tune In Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries
     By Tim Anderson

The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie
     By Allan Goldstein

Ten Days in a Mad-House
     By Nellie Bly

Stone of Tears (The Sword of Truth #2)
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Love & Darts (On Impulse)
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2000 Deciduous Trees (On Impulse)
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Dance Like There's No-one Watching : Attract Happiness the Natural Way
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Scout's Honor (A Tale From The Deadlands)
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Daisy - the Autobiography of a Cat
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The Eden Prescription: The war on cancer is not what you think...
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Breakthrough!: How the 10 Greatest Discoveries in Medicine Saved Millions and Changed Our View of the World
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Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature
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Living to Tell the Tale: A Guide to Writing Memoir
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William Gibson, Yoko Ono, Barry Eisler, Jake Adelstein,

The Fathers of New England: A Chronicle of the Puritan Commonwealths
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New Discoveries at Jamestown: Site of the First Successful English Settlement in America
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The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty
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Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Eben Alexander III M.D.

The Son of Man
The Son of Man 2, Elders of Zion
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By Johnson, Charles W.

Hunger Games
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By Suzanne Collins


A Morning Page

Today, I present Guest Writer, Thia Tsurata who follows the practice of "Morning Pages" as suggested by Julie Cameron, author of The Artist's Way.

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing,
done first thing in the morning.

This is an example of one of Thia's morning pages.

So I made up my mind that I would do this. Thanks to Aptos Writer's Group. I got the book, The Artist's Way and got going... I started the very first morning pages while visiting Mom and Frank in Montana.

Taka and Thia Tsurata
There were days after that, weeks and months, where I'd set my alarm to get up and write from 5am... and then be able to go back to bed hoping to doze off again- would loved to sleep again. However... the main idea was to be able to just wake with Taka to have breakfast together before sending him off to work. There were days, actually they felt like the middle of the night, when I'd awaken to pee and not be able to sleep again. So many nights... in the wee hours, anywhere from 3am and 5am, I'd write for an hour and take my homeopathic insomnia pills eventually with plans to sleep again. Or it'd be the nights of "dark regrets" that I knew I could spew out on these pages for my morning.

It took maybe a year before I trusted myself to get to the writing after Taka would leave for work. I'd get myself distracted too much sometimes and not really feel I was giving my pages the attention they deserved. But it's been an evolution. And I've learned to write in cars, in hotel bathrooms, while others slept, on planes... figuring out the time differences between Japan and the U.S.... two mornings in one day of looking like I missed a day on the return flight. But all I've missed has been half or a page in more than sixteen months and MAKING UP MY MIND to do this. Being ALLOWED and GETTING to do this has changed my life, my direction, my heart, my friends ... and the way I am now able to... how I am getting better able to express myself having taken this "course".

When my stepbrother this past October  asking me (another one of the many) what I'm doing now, I once again shyly... almost... really hesitantly... practically GUILTILY I try to say "Oh, well, I'm writing." Or when asked my job, I'm still uncomfortable saying I'm a writer. And stepbrother Jim, said with quite the firm conviction, "Ok so that is your job now.... so THAT is what you will spend 2-3 hours every day doing now cause it's your JOB!" And I nodded, feeling somewhat...like..."oh- yes-yes..." and beginning to feel this stirring of excitement "Yes!! My JOB now!!!"