Category Archives: Travel

Water – Water

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I took a trip to the Valley this past weekend to see my daughter and the property her agricultural friends just purchased.  I loved the visit and am so excited for the happy couple who are proud owners of their first acreage, right in the middle of a drought.  They are being smart about the property.  The garden area is half the size it was in past years and the irrigation is on drip.  Livestock has been kept to a minimum and air conditioning means opening the house up at 5:00 a.m. and closing it up again at 7:30 a.m.  I’ve been told it means a 10 degree difference in the temperature of the house.  My hostess was charming and we drove all around getting to know the town and the spots she knew I would love.

What continues to haunt me from my trip is the situation the farmers and ranchers find themselves in.  The drive down Highway 99 is peppered with political signs that have sayings like No Water = No Jobs or No Water = No Food and many more.  I am naturally curious and tried not to step into a proverbial cow pie and asked about the water situation.  What I learned was heartbreaking.  It seems the farmers and ranchers must pay in advance for their water.  Even if they have paid 100%, the government is only going to release 5% to them and keep the difference of the 95% payment.  No refunds.

So what are the land owners doing?  They are bulldozing their trees, planting cover crops to let the fields go fallow and buckling down to try and do anything to hang on to their property for the future.  Major corporations are just waiting to scoop any defaulted properties.  I’m not a conspiracy theory person, but it sounds like the makings of an excellent Sci Fi book doesn’t it?

A picture truly does say a thousand words so I snapped a few for you.  These photos show an existing field struggling from lack of adequate water and the trees in their prime that were pulled out.  It is the California Valley region and burning is not allowed so the dead trees will just lay there.  I drove past at least 20 destroyed fields, all orange trees, without going off my route there or home.  The California Aqueduct sending water to Los Angeles could be clearly viewed when standing in at least two separate fields that were destroyed.   The Aqueduct is full.  Now that is heartbreaking!

I’m thinking Southern California needs to start thinking more about desalinization plants and less on dependence on the Aqueduct.  This will not be the last drought year, it is the third in my lifetime and my parents remember that many in their lifetimes.  My beloved is either a sixth or seventh generation Californian (depending on which side you count from) and remembers his grandfather talking about droughts.  It is a cycle and they will come again and go again.  What seems to be wrong is when you take water away from food producers to fill swimming pools in Southern California.  Don’t believe me, try Google Maps and check out the pools.

I don’t want oranges from Brazil; I want home grown ones that are fresh and not irradiated to kill pests. The cost of those killed trees will be seen shortly in your grocery store.  Oh, and the motel in the Valley town I stayed in had drained their swimming pool and had no plans to fill it any time soon.

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Filed under Garden, Travel, Urban Farming

Mental Overload from the SFWC

Loved, Loved, Loved the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. There was so much to take in, I am looking at ordering some of the recorded sessions.
Best ever session was Sheldon Siegel’s session on Blood Money. http://www.sheldonsiegel.com/ Crime and mystery is not my genre but I knew my manuscript was too nice and sweet. The late evening session was poorly attended due to the overload of info and party fatigue 🙂 Lucky me, it was like having a three-hour personal tutoring session with a NYT Best Selling Author! By the time the session was over, I had bled ink all over my manuscript, killed someone in the first page, caused major misdirection between the main characters in the third chapter and generally added a lot of excitement in the novel. Oh, the re-writes!
A Conference attendee, Karl (The Tavern Priestess, http://www.gkarlkumfert.com/books/), turned me onto a SciFi novel by Hugh Howey called Wool, it’s 1,000 pages of pure page turning. I zipped through it on my Nook in two nights. Then, I discovered there are 2,000 pages more, Shift and Dust. I made it through Shift (a necessary prequel) and am now 300 pages into Dust. I’ll sleep later! I wonder why my eyes seem to be sore…
This was the best session ever in the five years I have been attending. Awesome location, awesome people, tons of information! Thank you Harvey Pawl for the excellent hosted dinners at great SF venues!

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Filed under Science Fiction, SFWC, Travel, Writing

Let the Writing Begin!

Mark HopkinsI am still pushing through the extreme lack of energy after being ill. But, there is one event I would not want to miss. It’s time for the annual San Francisco Writer’s Conference, I understand there are only about 50 slots left.
This year NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names), Julie Kagawa (The Iron Fey series), Rhys Bowen, (Molly Murphy Mysteries), Barry Eisler (Rain/Treven series), Chitra Divakaruni (Mistress of Spices) and Dan Millman (Peaceful Warrior) will be Featured Speakers. The director’s are all wonderful but Michael Larsen always has the most energy and punniest jokes.  In addition, over 100 other authors, agents, editors and publishers will be there. Many favorites will be back as well. The conference asks attendees to review the event and the contributors that earn great reviews are often asked back.

The InterContinental Mark Hopkins is a grand dame that sits on top of San Francisco’s Nob Hill. It was built on the site of the original Mark Hopkins mansion which survived the 1906 earthquake, but not the three day fire that ravaged the city afterwards. Lovers from around the world travel to the Top of the Mark lounge to view the city through its glass walls, my parents included!

I will be at the SFO Writer’s Conference as part of the volunteer staff. SFO is the city of my birth and a short drive in for me. I can’t decide if I want to check-in to the hotel or drive in each day. I’ve posted for either a roommate or a car pooler, we will see what happens.

This event always gets my writing flowing and energizes me. I’m especially excited this year because I have asked to staff Grant Faulkner‘s session. Grant is the executive director of the National Novel Writing Month and the founding editor of 100 Word Story. I attended the “Night of Writing Dangerously” this year at the beautiful Julia Morgan Ballroom. Can you say, “I NaNoWriMo?”

Check it out! SFWriters.org This year the conference is bigger than ever.  Please check back for a post after the President’s Weekend event.

 

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Filed under SFWC, Stress Reduction, Travel, Writing

My Life is a Circus!

My life is a circus and I have a tent to prove it! It has been a little crazy lately. My beloved was a wonderful man. He could leap tall buildings, fix anything, reverse engineer or design engineer almost anything. I’m not exaggerating, he was a genius and had the IQ scores to prove it. He would give you the shirt off his back and had literally done so on at least two occasions I can recall. But, ah yes the but! He could not say no! Even when it caused his death. A close friend and former mentor had a heart attack and it turns out he was a hoarder. This could have been filmed for a reality show. The hoarders’ adult daughter called and pleaded for help. Mind you she had her family, her husband, her church, her father’s church and many friends in town. We lived over an hour away. But hey, she knew this close friend who could perform miracles and who wouldn’t say no….

My beloved should have been in intensive care with a fatal case of pneumonia. He was resting at home because he feared and hated hospitals. She knew this, you could hear it in his voice and as he coughed up liquid.

The call came and he went on Friday. I went with him on Saturday and Sunday and helped toss over a ton of belongings into a roll off dumpster. I begged, I cried, I watched him bend over and cough out water from his lungs. He came home Sunday night, could not get out of bed Monday and died on Tuesday morning. He was 52.

I do not bear her ill will, I am not angry with her, I think I have forgiven her, I may have to again, but I am not ready to talk to her yet. Maybe when the circus has left town and I can find some balance in my life again. Maybe these relationships just need to gently fade into the past with the pain as time goes by.

It has been one year and I have been fighting the bugs that came home with him all this time. The cockroaches were easy to kill, the silverfish a little harder but not impossible. The bed bugs won. Until I declared nuclear war and called in the fumigators. Food had to be removed and frozen. Anything taken out of the house had to be frozen or heated to over 130 degrees. We had to find homes for our three cats and ourselves for a week. My adult daughter is spending a few months with me to help me with the chaos of my life. We are both chemically sensitive and Vikane gas with a Tear Gas precursor is a very nasty chemical cocktail. It kills EVERYTHING! We have tossed and replaced one mattress and one box springs and had to destroy a lot of food that we either missed or just wouldn’t make the transfers. The tent alone cost $2,640. and other costs are still mounting. The biggest cost has been the life of my husband so the material possessions pale in comparison.

Clean, toss out, reorganize, sanitize…boxes and bags everywhere. I think it is the residue from the tear gas that is giving us sore throats and sore nasal cavities. It is better after washing all the bedding. The hundreds of little black bodies all over the house…who knew how many house flies and spiders we really had, even after a grocery store type of chemical bombing. The vacuum is busy and so are my daughter and myself!

My advice to you, say no when it is appropriate! Take care of your own health first! Regift, REDUCE, reuse, recycle! And so very important to avoid some of this mess….go to Wal-Mart and buy mattress and pillow cases for bed bugs. Put your box spring, your mattress and every bed pillow in the house in one! Strip all bedding, including the blankets, off your beds after visitors and wash and/or at least heat up in the dryer.

The folks at Clark Pest Control have been as wonderful as they could possibly be. They were very aggressive with the process (a good thing) and their sales person, Vincent, called me almost daily during the process. Sometimes three and four times a day. Now that I have “come clean” about my experience, others are confessing their own stories and what we have is an epidemic of bed bugs, especially areas that do not freeze over. Think about it….someone will pay the consequences of our actions, maybe not ourselves, but someone will.

Fumigation Tent

Fumigation Tent

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Filed under Family Times, Grief, Travel

More Writing Prompts – Photos for Thoughts/Words

Outstanding photographer’s blog you might enjoy. Especially for those writing friends that don’t know what to write about. Try putting yourself in one of these great pictures and write about it. Simply beautiful!

http://placesunknown.com/

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Filed under Photography, Stress Reduction, Travel, Writing

Re-Entry

Musk Ox

I’m back from my vacation to Alaska!  Re-Entry has been an extreme problem.  I just can’t seem to catch my stride yet.  The packing and repacking to leave pretty much wrecked the house and the 3 cats (mine and a friends) were less than happy to be left behind.  It’s been a week and the “surprises” have been tapering off and the bad kitty behavior seems to be settling down now.  They get to sleep all day while I have to go back to work.  It takes me until 9:00 a.m. to get my eyes fully open.  I did manage to squeeze in about 1,500 words yesterday on my post apocalyptic story. 

The weather in Alaska was very similar to SFO Bay Area so we felt right at home.  We tromped all over Ketchikan, Skagway, Juno and Vancouver.  Back on board our cruise ship, it was great to just lay in a deck chair and stare out at the glaciers while sipping hot cocoa and eating ice cream!  I was very apprehensive about a Cruise Ship with all the bad press.  I have to say that being onboard the Diamond Princess was nothing but a great experience!

Internet connections were scarce or costly during the trip so I will write in a later post more about our trip to fill you in.  My traveling companion was Sarah Mocchini (www.hookedonfiber.com) and she was so much fun!  Everywhere we had a port of call she dragged me to all the yarn and fabric shops.  Oh darn, had to buy some fabric to bring home!  I learned all about Qiviut (musk ox yarn) and actually got to touch some of the unspun fibers and fondle the finished yarn and products.  It is a hollow fiber without scales.  That means that it will not felt like wool and it is incredibly light and soft.  It is one of the rarest fibers in the world and is a homegrown Alaskan (and Greenland) commodity.  The musk ox does not like to be domesticated so they fence off a large area and pick the fibers up from bushes and herd them through a shoot to pull the fibers free as the oxen travel through.

The musk ox is called “oomingmak” by the Alaskan Natives which means “the bearded one”.  The musk ox is an ice age mammal that was once endangered and is now thriving in the semi-domesticated farms in Alaska and Greenland.  It is the softest fiber I have ever touched and its insulating capability far exceeds that of wool!

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Filed under All Things Crafty, Stress Reduction, Travel, Writing

Happy Birthday America!

Traveling outside of America has made me a better American!  I spent a short time in Croatia and learned to love my liberty in a way that no classroom or textbook ever could.  I have a friend who is Croatian and I affectionately call him a Cave Man.  He has a gruff demeanor about him and protects his soft marshmallowy center.  My time in Croatia taught me that there is a whole country out there (probably many more) of people who are fearful.  I traced the bullet holes in the many buildings with my fingers and witnessed the efforts to restore their infrastructure. I saw the results left behind years later in a village that was ethnically cleansed. Communism has been over for them for years but they still live with the residual fear of someone knowing too much about you.  My first trip to a modern grocery store was a real eye opener.  My hosts were so proud of the choices they had.  I smiled and agreed with their obvious excitement.  The vast choices they happily showed me were not choices by American standards.  The one brand of laundry soap now came in plain powder or liquid, no other scent or brand choices. 

I have had my early days of being a starving college student and an impoverished young married.  I never lived with the reduced liberties that these folks live with every day.  To my Croatian friends and readers, no disrespect has been meant in this writing.  I loved your country and the people and their spirit.  Trust won too easily has no value and I will always value my days in your beautiful country.

This 4th of July we put out our flags (yes that’s plural) and invited family and friends.  The Italian’s were cooking!  My daughter made Arancini’s the way Nona made them, we BBQ’d ribs and steak, had corn on the cob and potato salad and of course apple pie and ice cream for dessert!  A big thank you to the vets and service people who paid for my liberties.

God, please continue to Bless America!

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Filed under Family Times, Travel

Serenity Doesn’t Come Easy

I’m back from a favorite trip to Morro Bay.  It was wonderful to spend some time with my host just hanging out and talking.  Watched a few Sci Fi shows and a couple of chick flicks.  Did our nails like teenagers (did you know there are magnetic polishes now?!) and did hand work.  Really enjoyed the food and the long walks on the beach.  There are two things in nature that seem to really calm and center me, the ocean and a redwood forest.  I’ve always felt you can hear God breathe in a redwood forest.  I have so many happy memories of family time spent camping when my Dad was alive.  The teaching moments on a camping trip have served me a lifetime already.  He would pull the truck up to the campsite and everyone would pile out and go canvass the entire site looking for trash, broken glass and anything that might be non-native or hazardous.  Then we would create our home away from home.  After spending a week or two, even a few days, we would canvass the area again before we left it.  Dad always said to leave a place better than you found it.  If you borrowed something, you gave it back better than it was loaned to you.

I am continually introduced to individuals that are suffering from some form of severe anxiety.  Their lives are full of the stress of living a lifestyle while being unable to stretch their time and dollars from that lifestyle to their beliefs.  It cannot stretch that far without changes.

“We live longer than our forefathers; but we suffer more from a thousand artificial anxieties and cares. They fatigued only the muscles; we exhaust the finer strength of the nerves.”  Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)

My recommendation, less time at Starbucks and more time on the beach and in a redwood forest chatting with God.  Hey, it works for me! I’m already planning my next trip!

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Filed under Stress Reduction, Travel, Word Worthy Quotations