It's no secret that I love the holiday season. I feel and act kinder this time of year. But I also miss my Mother and Father. My childhood Christmases were always good. My Mother made dozens of her famous chocolate chip cookies, there were always great presents under the tree, and on Christmas Day she cooked a huge turkey dinner complemented with her made-from-scratch raviolis. Company dropped by throughout the day and my Mother made it all special. She died a couple of weeks before Christmas, surrounded by love and gracious to the end. And my Father died before her, in his own bed, comforted and comfortable. I miss them. This time of year the life-gifts they gave me shine bright.
Ha! This is a telling snapshot of JB. Who else manages to take off pants and socks and keep them in tact?
We'll be having a holiday open house in part because it matters to me to offer a festive time to so many folks who may need or want company this time of year. Plus JB and I are good at throwing parties. I had an elective surgery four weeks ago so I'm planning menus from the couch.
And TA-DA! JB has been invited to show her metal pieces at the Bowersock Gallery in Provincetown. This is a prestigious fine artgallery, and she's over the moon about it. I'm so proud of her.
That's it for now. I'll be back. Meanwhile, happy holidays for any reason.
I'm not saying this to brag, but I live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It's a small town in winter, barely 300-400 year rounders, and an any-thing goes tourist attraction in summer--20,000 people letting go and relaxing. The shoulder months of spring and fall are the best of all. Beauty and bouncing light everywhere.
There's a large Portuguese population here, and a large gay and lesbian population, and hard working Mexican and Jamaican folks who send money back home, and plenty of artists and writers and dogs and foxes.
It's easy enough to get tangled up by life's chores and not take the time to walk along the bays beaches that make up this peninsula. Or to hunker in when a storm or a N'Easter comes and not head to the sea to watch the weather come right at you.
JB and I have found that Provincetown is an expensive place to live--we drop close to $ 100 for a nice meal out, and the town government and annual meetings can be pretty funky and contentious. But most of all, there's a vibrancy here that's just awesome.
PS Every so often I can't tell if I've taken a photo myself or copied it from someone else on Facebook or Instagram. If I haven't given credit, I apologize.
Way back, I invented selfies. I'm sure of it. Here are JB and I at a wedding last month. It was a wild wedding with lots of drinking and loose tongues. I don't drink and JB did. When we were ready to leave, I turned my head for a quick moment and found her dancing wildly, hands over head, sandwiched between two grinding men. I told her she was too old to be a grindee or grinder.
It was a big leap to move to Provincetown. But now I love being here. We've fixed up our house to our liking and it's cozy. The bay is a block away. The neighbors are great. I sit on the couch looking at this view more hours than I should admit. I write on the couch. I watch the news, I eat snacks, I read books, I play games on my phone. I have to force myself to get up and move. Which means I could be a sedentary slug if I'm not careful.
This cracks me up. I am on record predicting that Trump will not win a second term. His erratic instability has hit home with the Republicans who ignore and cover for him, but it's at a point where history will not treat them well if they allow him to continue to hurt the country.
And my family. I couldn't love them more. This week we learned that Logan, age 8, has petit mal epilepsy. He has to take medication for the next few years and there's a good chance he'll outgrow the seizures. Even though we expect that his day to day life won't be limited, the diagnosis hurts my heart. He's a very swell kid.
Happy October, everyone. The leaves are changing color.
I'm finishing up a novel I've been working on for several years. Not consistently. I probably went a year or more without touching it at all. But now, 300 pages later, I'm almost done. Actually, I am done, but the last month I've been chopping and polishing and editing, chapter by chapter. Doing this is joy for me. I'm getting closer and closer to knowing I will have done the very best I could.
This is quite a process. I've re-read the manuscript several times now, tightening words and deleting anything that doesn't add to the plot or characters. Today I put together a timeline that begins in 1947 and ends in 2011. I have to fact check all kinds of things: was there e-mail in 1985? How much did a house cost in 1970? When did John Denver write Rocky Mountain High? What was the average hourly wage in 2000? Who won the Super Bowl when Michael Jackson wrote Billie Jean? And on and on. A book has to be congruent. I can make things up, of course, but some things need to be factually accurate. I've picked up a good 2 dozen errors so far.
I'm also establishing what happened when, and deciding what's relevant and what isn't. I realized I can't write this family novel without mentioning September 11'th and JFK's assassination and the AIDS crisis.
And I'm word-smithing. Can I use one word to show this instead of 4? Do I have too much description and not enough action or dialogue? Have I kept the plot moving at a good clip?
In a few days I'll send the manuscript back to the Development Editor I hired (Zoe Quinton), for her 2nd read through. She's been absolutely great, which for me means helpful and clear and encouraging. She tells me the book is good enough to land an agent and I think that means to land a publishing contract. I have this grandiose idea that the story can also be a mainstream movie.
All of this means I'm writing a book I feel great about. I love the writing of it, fleshing out the characters, creating story arcs, offering a glimpse of my version of loyalty and devotion. That's the theme of the book.
IF (a big IF) I'm lucky enough to be picked up, it would be another 1-2 years before the book would be in print and available for sale. Publishing is an industry that generally moves slow. I'm not sure why.
Is this my new career? I think so. For many people, it doesn't matter if other people like what they do because they do it for their own benefit. That's not me. I would love some degree of commercial success. I think I have a shot at it.
JB and I have had each grandkid, separately, for several days and overnights. We've said 'yes' dozens of times more often than a meager 'no' here and there. We've gone bowling, eaten dessert first, had water balloon fights, seen a drag show and a couple of children' theatre plays, searched for shells, swam every day, had meals together, watched movies, stayed up late, walked along zany Commercial Street, and counted our blessings out loud together 3 times a day.
Ryan, age 12, was the last to leave today. JB and I are exhausted. But exhaustion isn't what I feel the most. I KNOW we've created lasting memories. I KNOW they know it too. No doubt being one of four kids in a family requires daily compromise, so coming to Provincetown, alone, means getting total attention with a minimum of rules. I'm so happy to be able to give these beloved children that. And I love knowing that my Jessica appreciates it all.
And now, JB and I plan to chill. I have a manuscript to edit and a garden to tend to, but both are so easy peasy I'm ready. We'll wring out the last few days of summer and the nearby pool and look ahead to a gorgeous autumn on Cape Cod.
It's been a good summer. In a messed up world where a horrible man continues his racist rants and policies, and too many of my fellow-Americans either ignore or approve, I'm grateful to have a corner of life where only love lives.
First there's Mattie. Now 2 years old, here at 8 weeks old from the streets of Aruba, as sweet as can be even while she holds tight her DNA warnings about jittery sounds and strangers who approach our house. The highlight of her day is the 2 pm arrival of Steve the Mail Person, who without fail brings her a cookie no bigger than the size of my smallest finger. But don't tell Mattie that: she squeals with pure joy when she senses Steve's approaching. And at 9 am every morning either JB or I takes her to the local dog park, where she growls and nudges and runs with both her friends and enemies. I am convinced the human species would be better off with tails and honest growls. We'd know what to expect from each other.
Yes this is a boring photo--a bland door. But to me it's the separation of our master bedroom and my 'office,' complete finally, with privacy for the futon that sometimes someone might be sleeping on. It's taken me a year to get this little wall built and JB isn't happy about it--she loved the expanse across the room. The compromise happens when the door stays open because we can still see the water peek of the bay a block away.
Today two heavy boxes arrived, brought by a slight man who struggled mightily to get those boxes on our porch. I felt bad for him, "They should have sent a stronger man than me," he told me, this nice man who looked like he'd just run a marathon, lugging those boxes.
Inside is an armoire for me, which our friend Raul will assemble on Friday. The armoire will go to the left of the door and I will be a happy lucky duck about it all.
I had to buy paper towels. I went to the grocery store and picked up a six pack, a regular, plain white, simple package of paper towels. There are chuckles in the household because somehow I brought home THESE paper towels!
And finally, last night, after several days of fun summer company, JB and I collapsed on the couch. I don't think much more needs to be said about this photo.
It's still summer and the sun's been out all week and I'm still walking better and that's that in a nutshell.
My friend 8, you've motivated me to blog today. Honest, I'll be blogging more often. I'd like to know that my photos will upload and my comments will publish but I'm taking my chances that the technology and blogger gods have decided to go easy on me.
This first photo is my newly designed side yard. It was a gift by two very talented people who know how to do "hardscape"--laying down paths and decks and installing arbors and trellises and leveling the ground including topsoil. JB and I fed these two fine people (Jeannie and her brother Craig) for the 3 plus days it took for them to start and finish, and we are so grateful. I had an awesome time justifying spending a few hundred dollars buying shrubs and plants, and I'm shocked and sad to say, even though I consider myself a gardener, most have not been successful! The alliums are flacidly limp and the honey suckle stopped flowering. I'm bummed. But I'm also determined. Bring it on, next year!
So my back problem has limited me from just about everything. For a year JB had to drive me to the front door of a restaurant and let me lean on her so I could hobble inside. But no more! I have a way to go, but I'm on the mend. I can walk without pain, and my rehabilitative reputation in the neighborhood has included painting this wall. This photo shows about 2/3 of it. For the last week, I've been out by 7 am painting. First coat finished, second coat almost finished. This is like winning an award to me. PROGRESS! (This picture is before I started, FYI)
We expect to have a fine summer here on Cape Cod. Friends are coming and each of our grandkids is coming separately, ages 12, 10, 8, and 6. They'll each stay for 3 nights and 4 days and we'll do pretty much whatever they want! This includes dessert first. It also includes this pool. JB and I have this saline pool available to us all summer, and it's one block from our house. I gotta tell you: it's heaven. A couple of hours of cooling down and then letting the sun dry us from a lounge chair is as good as it gets. This is also great exercise for me: I still don't know if I actually can swim but I've gotten better at doing whatever it is that I do.
And finally, that little speck of a person on the top left quadrant is my Jessica, zip lining in Sundance, Utah, in the midst of a work conference. I had no idea she's be brave enough to do this (I'm not, JB is) but I'm always so darn glad when I know she's happy, and she is. Did I already post about my Mother's Day present from her? I got an email from a place called "Storyworth." It told me every Monday Jess would send me a question via email, I would answer it each week by email however I wanted--long, short, photos, no limits--and they would send my answer to Jess. For the next 52 weeks. That was cool enough. But at the end of a year, they will give Jess an bound book of all her questions and all my answers. I'm over the moon about it because it's memorializing my life for when I'm no longer here. Questions so far: what was your grandfather like?, where did your family vacation?, what's your strongest memory from childhood? etc.
Today is July 4th and I hope it rains tonight so President Trump['s takeover of the country's celebration is minimized. I'm as ever appalled, hoping he'll be replaced in 2020, shocked that I even have to hope.
There was a time when I blogged 2-3 times a week. Facebook didn't exist then and the most special part of blogging was the comaraderie of 30 or so regular bloggers, I among them, who shared and supported and enjoyed each other's posts and opinions and talents and gallivants. I miss those days. Unlike Facebook, we didn't know one another in person--we were from different backgrounds and different countries--but over time we did KNOW each other. A number of my real time friends were born from my blogging friendships.
I've begun this post explaining this because I'm utterly failing to blog regularly these days. My photos weren't uploading. But today: they are! So here I am, starting with a glimpse of where and how I live. It's a spit of land in the shape of a boot at the very tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, winter residents 3000, summer residents 20,000. It doesn't get more beautiful than here.
The first photo is of Mattie watching over her neighbors and neighborhood. She turned 2 this month, rescued at 10 weeks from the streets of Aruba, and she's a nice dog. Every dog owner knows there are great joys and plusses in sharing life with a dog, but there is also inconvenience and sometimes guilt in leaving them behind.
The second photo is our new deck off the kitchen. I like this picture because I think it shows my lifestyle these days. Summer is a slow-down season. For the second year, we again have access to a salt water pool one block away, and bobbing in that pool and lying in that sun is close to heaven for me.
The third photo is a quick shot out the window of a local restaurant. It's actually a commonplace picture because almost everywhere you look you can see light bouncing off the sea.
A word about myself: I've had serious back pain for months now (actually 2-plus years) and there have been times when I couldn't bear weight, period. I can't believe I'm better now, but I am. I underwent this private pay, non-surgical, non-traditional program, 3 days a week for 5 months, run by a chiropractor, laser and other cell repair treatments, and I'm as surprised as anyone to say it's worked. I'm not ready to dance the night away but I'm walking and moving and ready to enjoy my summer.
My other big news is I've (finally) finished my second novel--a 330 page manuscript that seems promising. I've had 2 independent editors and a few friends read it and the feedback is good. This summer I'm working with one of those editors, chapter by chapter, to get the book ready to shop around. It is my fondest wish to be picked up by a publisher and in my own way enjoy even modest success. In any case, I love the process and don't mind the work. I'm rooting for myself!
I am trying extra hard to be fair and kind these days. I figure we seriously need as much of that kind of energy as each of us can muster, to offset the damage from He-who-I-refuse-to-name and other white supremacists.
I got an email from Snowbrush today, wondering if I'm okay. Thanks, Snow. For the 10th time I'm going to try to blog more regularly. I'm also on Facebook and if any one here wants us to follow one another there, I'm interested.
Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by and thanks for everything.
I've lost my touch on my blog. It's a challenge to upload photos and sometimes I can't leave comments. But finally I'm here, the charm of Spring almost here too.
We're redesigning our outdoor space. We have a small deck off the kitchen, a large deck off the back hall, a front yard barely able to fit the raised garden bed we put in last Spring, and a side yard that will be getting a new facelift in a few weeks. Shopping for ambiance is so much fun. We found this birdhouse a few hours away from home, during one of our gallivants. We pick it up next week. To paint or not to paint? (Soft green, soft blue, a little victorian dwelling?)
The buoys are all too easy to find here in Provincetown, where water is everywhere.
Meanwhile, our pup Mattie is suddenly skittish and still sweet and she snuggles in between us or on top of us except when she manages to spread out like this. It's good to have a dog again. My back problem has meant that JB has had to escort Mattie to the dog park and on walks but that's about to change: I'm doing much better. No more horrible pain. I'm not yet limber but I can stand and I can walk. I'm feeling pretty thankful.
And finally, I've finished my manuscript and have sent it on to an editor for feedback. Then I start shopping it to agents and publishers. I feel really good about the story. Meanwhile JB is happily occupied in her studio. This piece is called "Orange is Scary" and on close inspection there's the unfortunate discovery of 5 photos of America's current president.
There is little else that lifts my heart as quickly as the promise of Spring. My family's healthy, I'm on the mend, the yard awaits. When I focus locally and put aside concerns about the state of our world, I have no complaints today. I hope this is true for you too.
I can't figure out how to download my photos. So this post, written 30 minutes ago, is the best I can do. Thanks for coming by even though I'm not reliable. love, kj
I’ve been thinking about this for the last year. Sooner or later I end up writing something about how I see life. I lean on the optimistic side of things.
Maybe not so much this time. In the last year some major events took place for me. For one, my back gave out. I saw a half dozen doctors and psyched myself for surgery. My brother died, the end of my childhood family. And I turned 71 in August. Seventy-one. That is not an age easily fudged, inside or out.
The result of these events is that I dropped out of my cushy active confident life and stayed quietly on the couch, uncertain how I”d end up. ( I still don’t entirely know.)
Now, just a year later, to my surprise, the treatment I did to avoid surgery seems to have worked! I walked a full block this week and today I made it to the bay beach with Janet and Mattie, where before I couldn’t tolerate ten steps. I’m not a fan of exercise and I actually like time on the couch. But it’s now within my control to decide how much I help myself through movement and weight and diet and good energy.
The other major event—age 71—is something else. It’s weird to be this age. It sounds old. And based on the number of medical discussions I seem to now hear and have, ‘old’ includes more physical problems and more lost objects. (It’s okay to smile at that last point.)
I’ve worked in a number of different careers and jobs but mostly I’m a Counselor and a Writer so over the years I’ve had a lot to say about life and stress and happiness. I’ve seen people change and grow in giant ways and I’ve always felt the world is more beautiful than savage. But now, at 71, I’m less sure.
The poet Maggie Smith wrote a poem I wish was mine. She called it “Good Bones:”
“The world is at least fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative estimate,
Though I keep this from my children.”
It’s a great poem: worthy of googling and reading.
I’ve wondered A LOT if I agree with this. Fifty percent terrible. That’s A LOT.
There’s also a third major and troubling awareness that’s grown quite large for me—not just my back and not just my age, but how should I name it? Trump. Incivility. Racism. Wars. Refugees. Harmed Children. And damn Cancer.
Maybe it’s my age now, but I’m not as likely these days to jump into the big picture to change what I can. My family, my friends, my neighborhood—that’s different. In those cases I still do what I’ve always done: offer my skills, help how I can. But I’m not choosing to ‘make a mark’ anymore, at least not in the same way. That’s not to say I don’t hope to have a publisher pick up my novel-manuscript this year. But I’m increasingly comfortable enjoying the company of wonderful children and interesting adults, cooking up new recipes, reading and writing, watching Wheel of Fortune and the Great British Baking Show. I’ve begun to travel again, because I can walk again!—and I’m glad of that. But I don’t mind sticking close to home either.
So I ask myself a BIG question. DO I think the world is fifty percent terrible?
I answer with great sadness. Yes. Yes I do. BUT:
The end of Maggie Smith’s poem is also true:
“Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind stranger