MY SUMMER & FOURTH OF JULY

Well, how can I describe my summer thus far?  We put the farm on the market, and it sold.  We put Cinnamon Ridge on the market, and it also sold.  I was in the middle of finishing Mulberry Moon.  The buyer for the ridge was supposedly going to pay cash and pushing for an early closing and possession date.  The ridge has collected stuff behind my back over the fifteen years that we’ve lived here.  I swear that I don’t know where some of this junk came from–or maybe I should be asking myself, “What in the world were you thinking?”  I will donate a lot of stuff this summer, for sure.

Anyway, with both places sold, we found ourselves with nowhere to go.  John, already in Montana where he is now working, went into high gear, trying to find something that would work for us.  He found a fabulous piece of land, sixty acres of lush alfalfa pasture with over a half mile of Bitterroot River frontage, and he managed to get it for a price I could afford since the ridge was selling and the expenses there would no longer be a financial factor.

Well, as you can see it is beautiful land.  But when I committed to buy it, I didn’t account for the possibility of Murphy’s Law, that what can go wrong will go wrong.  Three days before closing, the buyer for Cinnamon Ridge backed out.  John entered my office that night, where I was trying very hard not to think about moving stuff from Cinnamon Ridge while I finished MULBERRY MOON.  He told me he had some bad news, and I could tell by the look on his face that it was really bad news.  My first thought was that my dad in Arizona had passed away.  It wasn’t that, thank God, but in a way it was nearly as devastating.  He told me the buyer for the ridge had backed out.  I saw dollar signs flash before my eyes.  If the ridge wasn’t sold, how was I going to manage financially to buy the Montana land, which I’d already committed to do, and also build a residence?

John had already begun making hauls to Montana, unloading his stuff into eight storage units Julia found for me near Hamilton, which was perfect.  She got them reserved for us.  I have since given the storage company my credit card to keep me up to date on rent for the units, because with all the craziness in my life, I knew I’d forget to pay.

Closing date arrived for the farm on June 15th.  I moved home to Cinnamon Ridge.  Thank goodness I didn’t hire movers to gut the house and take everything to even more storage units in Montana.  But it was a near miss.  At least I have a beautiful place to live while all the puzzle pieces fall into place.

As my Facebook friends know, I haven’t been able to be at the ridge because so many sad memories haunt me.  But on June 15th, I had no choice.  I had to come home, where I see my beloved husband everywhere I look.  This gorgeous house became his prison for the last several years of his life.  He became wheelchair bound.  It was so hard to watch him loose ground.  He had pulmonary fibrosis, a dreadful fatal disease, that scars the interstitial lung tissue so badly that the lungs can no longer absorb oxygen.  In short, he suffocated to death.

Faced with financial hardships I had not expected, I paid off the lease on my wonderful Audi Q7 and let it go back to the dealer.  I had put only 17k miles on it in three years, so I did get a two thousand dollar check after the exchange, because the car was virtually almost new.  Now comes the funny part.  And some not so funny parts.  I brought my special edition, Victory Red Hummer out of mothballs.  The vehicle is gigantic and wide and high off the ground.  First I had to get used to climbing up into it again.  Then I had to learn to drive it again.  It is very wide, so it’s hard to tell where you are in the traffic lane.  It is a 2004, so it has no GPS.  For me, this is a disaster.  I can’t find my way out of a paper bag and never have been good with directions.  I need GPS that talks to me and says in ladies’ speak, “Prepare to turn left.”  I also had no car phone for the first time in years.  I hate that.  My grandson has me lined up to get a Garmin GPS and car phone installed into the Hummer dash.

But the Hummer’s little quirks became the least of my frustrations when it came time to move home to the ridge.  My two old Aussies are a bit overweight, and I can no longer lift them.  So after I had all the cats loaded in the back, seven of them which belong to both me and John, I had to figure out how to get my dogs inside.  John was calling me.  I can’t remember where he was, but he kept saying, “Don’t try to lift those dogs into the Hummer, Mom.  You’ll hurt your back or shoulder.”  Well, I knew that was true.  I’ve had surgery on both, and my shoulder is particularly fragile.  But I couldn’t stay the night as John suggested.  For one, my bed was gone, and for another, all my medication was at Cinnamon Ridge.  Plus, I’d worked for hours catching cats!  I didn’t wish to turn all of them loose again.

My solution was to use a cooler as a platform for the dogs.  I managed with a bit of pushing, shoving, and lifting to get my hefty dogs inside the vehicle.  As I drove south to the ridge, I planned how to get the dogs out of the vehicle.  It’s a long jump down for old dogs, and I didn’t want them to hurt themselves.

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Well, I came up with a plan.  When I reached the house, I pulled one side of the Hummer onto the lawn, thinking that Talili, (named after a Papa New Guinea warrior and pronounced Tuh-lily) could jump onto the soft ground without injury.  Once I got him out, my plan was to open the rear door of the Hummer, put my arms around Buddy, who rode in the back, and help break his fall as he jumped.

Well, Talili didn’t give me a chance to get out and go around to the passenger door.  The instant I got out, he shot past me, nearly knocking me down in the process, and hurt one leg when he landed on the pavers.  When I went to the back to help Buddy out, he was just as excited to be home as his brother was, and the instant I began to lift the back hatch, he shot past me.  He landed face first on the pavers, hurting himself pretty badly.

After the dogs recovered somewhat, I figured that they’d want to explore their beloved forest and relieve themselves after the long drive.  Instead they stood at the front door, begging me with their eyes to let them go in.  When I let them enter, they took off like peas from a sling shot toward Sid’s office.  They just knew that I’d finally regained my senses and brought them home to see Dad.  (Do they think I got angry with Sid and left him?  Heaven only knows what goes through a dog’s mind after the death of a loved one.)  When he wasn’t there, they searched every inch of the house for him.  Buddy, who’d gotten on the bed with Sid to say his last goodbye, caught on more quickly than Talili.  I think he remembered that Sid was gone.  But Talili searched for Sid for three days.  Every time I went out to the garage, Talili went with me and ran straight to Sid’s wheelchair.

I did not allow myself to cry.  I knew if I started, I’d never stop.

I’m settled in now.  I can’t find my checkbooks.  I believe they are packed and may be in the shop.  I don’t have the energy to go up there to look.  I found more checks for the bank I use more and started a new check register.  But otherwise, life is returning to normal, and I’m hard at work doing revisions of MULBERRY MOON, working in Sid’s office where I worked over the last year of his life.

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In the foreground lies Talili, pressed against the footrest of Sid’s recliner.  He has pretty much stopped doing this now.  He has chosen, instead, to press against me.  When I must leave to do errands, an expression of absolute terror resides on his face.  He is so afraid that I will disappear, too.

So have I had a summer?  Well, not really.  It’s all a blur of writing, cleaning, packing, and then moving home.

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, a holiday that normally attracts a crowd of family and friends.  I spent the day working.  When it began to grow dark, I decided that I would not sit on the deck to watch the fireworks alone.  The last time I watched them from the deck, Sid was with me and a crowd of relatives were there.  How sad would it be to sit out there alone?  Last night, my niece Gerry texted to say she was sorry she wasn’t here so she could hear me say, at least twenty times, “Okay, everyone, this has to be it, the grand finale!”  It’s true.  When I watch fireworks, toward the end, I do start saying that.  The last burst of color in the sky is always the most beautiful.  Right?

I hope all of you had a fabulous Fourth with family and friends.  Next year, I will be with my son and grandson in Montana, living along the Bitterroot River.  I’m looking forward to the Fourth next year and pretending yesterday was just another day.

Hugs to all,

Catherine

 

MY WRITING DAY

Well, I had a great day of writing.  It was one of those “focused” days.  I call it being in “my zone.”  I got a lot done, even though I have a UTI and had to go to a lab and dribble in a cup for a culture and then go to the pharmacy for medication.  Normally, that would ruin my whole writing day, but I went, I did my thing in town, came home, and immediately returned to my office.  Yay!  Another book is being born, and I feel really good about that.

But about the dribble thing.  They give you this little cup, about two inches wide at the mouth.  Does anyone else have trouble hitting the target?  It was especially bad for me today because, with a severe UTI, just getting some production going on is challenge enough.  Enough about that.  I could get way too descriptive.  Let me just say that my aim was off.

When I got back home, I worked until after five.  Ben is surprising me at every turn.  I am not a particularly witty person during conversations.  If I can reflect back on a conversation, I can think of all kinds of stuff to say, but on my feet, I’m pretty much a dud.  So picture me, fingers flying over the keyboard, and my hero is a smartass.  Not in a bad way, but he’s quick.  This is so totally weird for me.  I’m writing at high speed, without time to think about what he’ll say.  Ben has just taken over.

I suppose that every writer must encounter this at one point or another.  That strange place, where the characters become real and propelled by their own personalities.  I can’t really describe it, except to say that the writer becomes a vessel instead of a creator.  The character/s emerge and have wills of their own.  It’s fascinating when a character becomes so real that I am no longer the driving force behind his or her personality.  It is particularly pronounced in this book because I have two characters who are taking over.  Sissy is no slouch when it comes to witty conversational exchanges.  She is definitely giving Ben a run for his money.

So, moving on to after five.  John has been hanging dry wall and mudding and taping in the loft above the shop.  He started at seven this morning.  Translate that to mean that he is working his tail off.  I’m writing away, oblivious to the real world, when suddenly my stomach tells me the dinner hour is approaching.

I doubted that John would feel like cooking.  He may not be a certified chef, but he is a hard act for me to follow.  He prepares some of the most divine meals!  I actually feel intimidated.  Hello, I cooked for him for years, but suddenly I feel inadequate in the kitchen.

Two days ago, I went shopping and got the bright idea of getting stuff for a Chinese stir fry.  John chose to fix steak that night.  But tonight I was on my own.  I had Yakisoba noodles, cabbage, leeks, red and green bell peppers, plus chicken breast fillets.  So, being the kitchen coward that I’ve become, I decided to prepare all the vegetables for a stir fry, cook the chicken, and wait for John to come in and quickly prepare something magical.

Well, that didn’t happen.  It got dark.  I was all ready to cook.  It got darker, and he was still working in the shop.  So I said to myself, “Okay, Catherine, put on your big girl panties and get this done.”  I had no idea what to do with what I had.  So I looked at the package of refrigerated noodles–as in directions to cook something.  It essentially said to cook the noodles and do a stir fry of a variety of vegetables.  I had the noodles and the variety of vegetables!  But I didn’t have the called for Yakisoba sauce, out of a bottle.

So I decided to see if there might be a recipe for Yakisoba sauce online.  I found two, and they were so simple  and similar that I couldn’t believe anyone would go out and actually buy the bottled sauce.  I already had the chicken cooked.  So I whipped up the sauce, just ingredients in a bowl with a whisk, and then I cooked the noodles, and then I stir fried the vegetables.  It got tricky because you don’t want the vegetables to be mush.  I wanted them to still have some crunch, and cabbage is quick to go soft.

The Yakisoba sauce was really strong.  I added a bit more sweetness, but it was still really strong.  So after I had everything in my pan, I was very careful as I drizzled sauce over the whole works.  I stirred and sneaked tastes.  I didn’t want to have a whole big pan of stuff that would make everyone shudder.

So I aimed for delicious but mild in flavor and saved back the remainder of the sauce.  I warned John that I didn’t know what I was doing.  He was so tired that he didn’t really care.  He collapsed on the sofa with his feet up.  So I delivered a bowl of my concoction to him.  I had used very little oil.  I figured that at least it would fill him up and give him some protein.  He took a bite and said, “Wow, Mom, this is really good.”  Coming from John, that is a compliment.  Then, after a couple of tastes, he asked if I had any more of the sauce.  I did, so he drizzled on some more and gave it a stir.  He was happy, and I felt really great!  I had wandered into the sea of “gourmet cooking,” and I had at least produced something that didn’t make anyone gag.  As for more sauce, I think it’s better to go mild and let diners add more flavor than to overdo it and have a failure.

John was munching away and said, “Wasn’t it fun, Mom?”  I thought, “No, it was more like stressful!  When I started with the basics, I thought you’d finish it up.”  And then John said, “Your father is up in heaven right now, saying, ‘I knew you could do it, Taffy!”  That was my nickname as a young girl, and my father never called me anything else until he died.  He was a chef and owned several restaurants.  French.  He loved to cook.  “It’s all in the genes, Mom,” John said.  I was eating my portion when he said it, and I thought, “No, it’s all in the jeans, particularly across my hips.”

That’s my story for today, and I’m sticking to it.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that.  The story I’m writing isn’t actually my story at all.  It is Ben’s and Sissy’s.  I’m only along for the ride.

 

My Writing Corner

MY WRITING CORNER

THE SECONDARY HERO IN MY NEXT RELEASE

MULBERRY MOON

 

Well, I have met and fallen wildly in love with a guy.  In fact, I have fallen so in love with him that he will be featured as the secondary hero in my next release, Mulberry Moon.  His name is Finnegan, Finn for short.  He is very cute, and I believe he has come to love me as much as I have him.

Those of you who know me well are becoming suspicious by now because you realize that I already found the love of my life–of the two-legged variety, anyway.  So you are right to be suspicious!  And you probably guessed it; Finnegan is a dog.  To be more precise, he is an eight-month-old blue merle Australian shepherd.  He is mischievous, active, silly enough to make me laugh, and very sweet.

I tried to get some pictures of him night before last, but he either wouldn’t look my way or he was running, so I hope at least one of them turned out clear.

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Here he is, waiting expectantly for his special dinner while his mom, Tiffany, was away at a school the weekend before last.  I love that face!

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This was a motion shot.  I wasn’t sure if it had come through clearly.  It isn’t bad.  Finn is the epitome of high energy.  He ate his mom’s bog boots, and then he had a few tastes of mine.  Luckily, Tiffany saved mine, and the only damage is a scalloped edge on the top of one boot!  Those boots did not come cheap!  Regardless, I still love him.

So, back to Finnegan’s role in Mulberry Moon.  For one, he is featured as Ben Sterling’s pup, so of course you’ll see a lot of him in Mulberry Moon!  And Finn is destined to fall madly in love with Sissy, the heroine, who owns and operates The Cauldron, a café on West Main in Mystic Creek.  Finn has already shown himself to be of heroic proportions in the chicken chase, where he helps herd the chickens.  So naturally Sissy will reward Finnegan often with yummy treats from her restaurant.

I’m trying to think of ways that Finnegan can show how much he loves Sissy.  I sure could use some ideas from you, sweet or funny, either one.

 

MY FAT CAT

I have an extremely fat cat named Lexi.  She is, hands down, the fattest cat I have ever actually seen in person.  When Lexi moved to my son’s farm, I had no place to feed her separately from my other cats, so she went off her diet food and regained all of her lost weight, plus two pounds, taking her up to a whopping 22 pounds.  I realized that I absolutely had to do something, because she could no longer groom herself and she was getting stuck in the extra-large Fat Cat door, a flap that swings back and forth in a frame inserted into the exterior door of the cat room.  I searched online for an extra-wide cat door, but now Lexi has outgrown even that one.  As a result of her weight gain, Lexi has become my office cat.  (Formerly my nephew Dustin, the chef, stayed in that room, so putting Lexi in there was impossible.  But now that Dustin lives elsewhere, his room is used as my office.)   Well, my dogs, both cat haters, live in my house as well, so it is a balancing act at night.  Lexi comes out of my office for social time, but I must do this with caution until my dogs grow accustomed to the idea that a cat has become a part of their household.

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(A pic of Lexi on my sofa.  This doesn’t really show how rotund she actually is.  It is very difficult to lift her without hurting her.  I put one hand on her chest and one of her bum, avoiding the basketball that is her tummy.  She has now lost down to 20.8 pounds, which is a substantial loss if you consider percentage of body weight.  I’m very proud of her.)

During the day, Lexi goes outside to be with her kitty friends and hopefully get some exercise.  She has a nice, heated cat room out there where she can snuggle in a bed and snooze the day away, but it will be ideal if she loses more weight and begins to explore the farm.  The problem is that only water can be available in the cat room during the day.  If food is down, Lexi will eat it.  All of it.  She seems to be unable to tell when she is full.  So every morning someone must go into the cat room, stow all the dry food somewhere, and pick up the treat bowls.

Each morning I must groom Lexi before putting her outside.  (This translates to, “I must wash her bum, because she can no longer reach it.”)  Believe it or not, Lexi seems to understand that a warm cloth on her bum means that it grooming time, and she tries to help.  She grooms as far back as she can reach while I groom where she can’t reach.  It is a team effort and her attempts to do her part are very cute.

She is a sweet kitty and has a darling personality.  In the picture above, I believe a dog was in the living room, judging by her expression.  Doesn’t it appear to you that she is thinking, “Come within my reach, fur ball.  I dare ya.”

 

WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO

Hi, Everyone!  Well, as you may know if you follow me on Facebook, I have been out of country for a month.  My elder son lives in New Zealand, so my stateside son John and grandson Joshua accompanied me to see them for Christmas.  It was a fabulous trip, all and all, but we had a few exciting and frustrating moments with our travel arrangements, which began before we ever left home.

We worked with a travel agent to plan our vacation, and prior to our departure, she sent us a rather muddled and difficult to follow outline of our departure dates, flight numbers, lodging arrangements, and costs, which we paid by credit card.  Only there was a typo in her cover letter, which read, “Your trip itinerary for December 19th.”

Okay, I know it was our fault for failing to closely examine all the details of our journey, but instead we assumed that we were leaving on December 19th.  On Friday the 18th, John and I both got packed to leave.  I stayed home to enjoy a relaxing evening and get a good night’s rest before we left.  John went out for a farewell, good-wishes dinner with friends.

During the meal, John’s brother, Sid Jr., called on his cell and asked, “So how is Fiji?”  The plan was for us to stop over in Fiji for a two-day rest and then resume our flight to New Zealand.  It is an extremely long trip and exhausting.  John laughed at his brother’s question and replied, “We’re not there yet, bro.  We don’t leave until tomorrow.”

Sid said, “No, John, you and Mom are supposed to be in Fiji right now.  You were scheduled to fly out today.”  (Joshua, who spent Christmas with his mom, was to fly over by himself and join us in New Zealand on the 29th.)  At first, Sid felt sure John was joking about being in Oregon, so he called me.  “Please, Mom, don’t tell me you’re at home in Oregon,” he said.  Well, I couldn’t grant that request, because I was at home in Oregon.  I got up to check our flight itinerary, and it was an “oh-no” moment.  Sid was correct.  We had missed our departing flight.

John’s dinner was ruined.  He borrowed someone’s cell phone to call me while he had his own phone pressed to his other ear, and after a great deal of pulling strings and paying nearly a thousand dollars to reschedule our flight out for Saturday, he got everything straightened out.  We would land in Fiji a day late, cutting our stay there a day short, but the remainder of our flights would remain the same, going to New Zealand and also coming home to Oregon.

I’ll tell you a bit about our trip in a moment, but first I must let you know that all did not go well when we flew into LAX on our trip home.  American Airlines decided not to honor the validity of our tickets from Los Angeles to Seattle and back to Redmond’s Payne Field, our home airport.  Joshua, who had flown over on a different flight, was allowed to leave LAX as planned, on the originally booked flight, but American Airlines demanded nearly another thousand dollars to reschedule John’s and my flights.

If you have ever flown on Alaskan Air, you’ve heard and read that the airline is greatly committed to customer service.  I always thought, “Yeah, right, but how committed?”  Well, now I know.  An employee of Alaskan Air muddled his way through our itinerary, saw that we did indeed have valid tickets, and after many minutes of haggling with American Airlines, he got the other company to honor our reservations without our having to pay for the privilege.  We were rerouted on other flights, this time flying from LAX to Portland, and from Portland to Redmond.

We were very grateful to Alaskan Air!  The only problem was that our flight connections in Portland were extremely tight.  Our flight from LAX was to land at Portland International at 7:00 P.M., and our departing flight for Redmond left at 7:10.  In addition to that, we faced a four hour layover at LAX.

By the time we flew out of LAX, we had been traveling without sleep for nearly 48 hours.  I cannot sleep on airplanes, but I did on that flight.  I’m happy to say that once we landed in Portland, we were able to reach our other gate and board our homebound plane.

Now for our trip.  When we reached Auckland, Sid and his eleven-year-old son picked us up at the airport.  I was delighted to finally see their remodeled home in person.  It is lovely.  And that first night, I met my first share-time cat.  His name is Keanu, and lives next door, but his human mom started a doggy daycare business, and Keanu no longer likes being at his house.  So he now stays at Sid and Mary’s house a great deal of the time.  They have food and water dishes down for him, and he is very sweet.  In the background you can see my grandson Jonas’s drum set.  In that alcove there is also a piano and Sid’s guitar.  The family enjoys jamming together.

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Keanu recognized in me a kitty mom, so we got along nicely, and he was soon coming to find me when he wanted food.  It made me miss my pets at home, but it was also very nice.

I was amazed by the fact that Keanu never once attempted to climb the Christmas tree, which held a place of honor in the living room.

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On Christmas Eve, late at night, we attended a religious vigil as a family.  The kids were up early the next morning to open gifts.  John had stuffed presents–all unwrapped and out of the boxes–into his luggage, so we arrived with gifts for everyone.  I sneaked upstairs to wrap them.  My big present to each Kiwi grandson was a hundred dollar bill in a Christmas card.  I don’t know how Liam, the eleven-year-old, will spend his money, but Jonas, eight, is saving to buy a steer.  His parents are looking to buy a farm, and this little guy plans to raise his own beeves for a profit.

During our stay in Devonport, referred to as the North Shore of Auckland and across the harbor from the city, Mary and the boys finally managed to catch and cage their pet female bunny, who had escaped her gorgeous rabbit run and was living under a back neighbor’s house.  The plan was to take said bunny to a friend’s farm until Mary could arrange for the bunny to be spayed, something she couldn’t make happen during the holidays because the vets were taking only urgent calls.  (There are several rabbits running free in the neighborhood, and Mary doesn’t wish to contribute to a huge population of bunnies.)  Rosalene, who owns the farm, is delightful.  While there to deliver the bunny, who will now remain on the farm, running wild with other rabbits, we observed a man named Hamish as he sheared sheep.  That was interesting, and John got a lesson in sheep shearing.  John is the one wearing the dark blue overalls.

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The morning that Joshua arrived, we left Devonport to tour the North Island of New Zealand.  Sid had booked a fishing trip on a large vessel as an early birthday gift for John, so our first stop was at a holiday park near the sea.  Mary’s mother, Julie, worried a bit about how I might handle staying at a holiday park.  The accommodations are very basic, with cubicles filled with cots.  The restroom blocks are at the rear of the building, and there is a community kitchen.

Julie shouldn’t have worried.  I’ve done a lot of camping in my day, and the holiday park offered plenty of amenities, including a pool.  It reminded me of camping, only without a tent, although some visitors in other sections of the park were staying in tents.

Above is a shot of Liam practicing soccer, the boardwalk in front of our cubicle, and Sid in the community kitchen, where he was helping John with dinner.  Note the boardwalk.  The cubicle was crammed tight with all of us, so John got an extra mattress and slept on the boardwalk outside our room each night.  Each morning, a man staying next door would lean over him and say, “So they made you sleep out here again, eh?”

This particular night, the guys were cooking their catches from the fishing trip, and it was quite late.  As you can see on the far left, our quarters were a little cramped.  Center you see both my sons, hard at work over our late dinner, and to the far right you see the park manager writing a note to guests on the blackboard that no cooking is allowed in the community kitchen after 9:30 P.M.  She was very sweet about allowing the guys to finish fixing our dinner, even though they made her work a bit late.

Our next adventure was to visit an old whaling town named Russell.  Mary booked us a boat trip to see the Bay of Islands.  On the left above, you see a very windblown and chilled version of me.  On the right, you see The Hole in the Rock.  The boat was similar to a ferry, quite a large vessel, and the sea was rough.  But somehow the pilot managed to navigate the boat through the hole, which was pretty breathtaking.  We also saw dolphins, which played with the boats.  I have many photos of the islands that pepper this bay, but it was a very overcast day, and few of them do the islands justice.

We spent New Year’s Eve in Russell.  Above on the left, a bit farther down the byway, we sat beneath a tree along the harbor shore to watch fireworks and bring in the new year.  It was lovely.  To the right is a swordfish that someone caught earlier that day and had hung from a pulley to show it off.  I had never seen a swordfish except in pictures.  I would not want to encounter one in the ocean.

Before leaving Russell, we stopped at a viewpoint for pictures.  Top left, I featured Joshua with the ocean behind him. The next to the right is a photo of the gorgeous holiday home Mary and Sid rented for us to stay in at Taupo until the holiday home at her parents’ place was empty enough for us to stay there.  The third to the right is a picture from the deck of the rented holiday home, showing Lake Taupo in the distance.  Far top right is a photo of a gorgeous waterfall somewhere near Taupo.  The water carved its own path through stone and was the most gorgeous blue!  At the bottom from right to left, are Mary’s brother, her nephew Dorian, and Joshua.  As you can see, we were enjoying a lovely dinner.  Bottom right is a shot of a lawn barbecue dinner, which shows Lake Taupo edging up to the lawn and public walkway.  It is incredibly beautiful there.  From left to right at the back are Mary in the pink sweater, her father Dave, a surgeon who still volunteers to work in places where medical care is needed, and Sid.  In the foreground, from left to right, are John in the bright yellow shirt, Dorian, and Mary’s mother, Julie, who is a physical therapist who travels with Dave to treat people who need her services while he does surgery.

I wanted to show you a picture of Joshua wind surfing.  He failed to get up the first night, but the morning before our departure, he finally mastered the feat.  Unfortunately the photo won’t load for me, possibly because I’ve included so many.

In my next installment I will do a show and tell about Fiji.

Until then, bug hugs to all of you.

Catherine

I’m Here!!

I apologize for leaving this untouched for so long.  Life has been crazy at my end.  In August, I unexpectedly became a surrogate mom to a six year old boy named Thomas.  He is very cute and even busier than he is cute.  If you are a writer, you already know that little boys and writing mix like oil and water.  Imagine me in the middle of a scene, off in a world of my own, when a little voice says, “Can I have something to eat?”  Or, the far more jolting scenario is when I hear no sound at all.  It has been a long while since I was responsible for a little boy.  My brain is accustomed to silence.  I’ll be typing away, happy as can be, when all of a sudden my brain shrieks, “Silence?  Silence!”  My laptop goes flying.  I leap from my chair.  I race through the house.  And, as you’ve already guessed, I find no child.  We are staying on a farm, which has horses, cows, chickens, a pond, ATVs, pitchforks, and all manner of other dangerous things.  Have you ever combed five acres, plus several large outbuildings, for a little boy who is moving at a fast clip in the same direction that you are?  This means, in short, that you can race in circles until you’re so exhausted that you nearly collapse.  I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t find said child after making one complete circle, I should go the other direction.  This tactic can be slightly dangerous if the child is on a bike, pretending he is racing on a track.  One must move quickly to avoid a collision.

In addition to unexpectedly inheriting a child to watch, I lost my long-time house manager.  I have since hired someone to replace her, but the replacement had to give notice at her other job, so I was left without any help for a few weeks.  Ah, well, it was good for me.  It got me outside, racing about to do chores, and I learned how to run my vacuum cleaner.  On the down side, my writing career nearly came to an abrupt halt.  It tried to write, but finding the time–or the peaceful quiet that writing requires–was a challenge.  I’m pleased to report that the replacement is proving to be amazing!

I’m also happy to report that my chickens, who began dying for no apparent reason, have been repeatedly treated for the lice that were killing them, and they are now healthy, happy, and laying more eggs than we can eat.  My dogs are doing well in the farm environment, doing none of the things I feared they might, like chase the horses and cows, or get killed on the highway that borders the front of the acreage.  My cats are enjoying life here as well, adapting to highway noise, whinnying, mooing, and crowing.  My canary has nearly finished his molt.  And arrangements are being made for the six-year-old so that I won’t be babysitting for long stretches of time.  This will enable me to write–and it will undoubtedly save his life.  Grin.  The moral of that story is, “Do not leave a child with a woman who spends much of her time lost in a make-believe world.”  Hello, sometimes I can’t remember what month it is in the real world, and when I’m writing historical fiction, I may not know what year it is.  When I emerge from the 19th century, I’m often not even sure who the President of the United States is.

Well, my friends, my book in progress is calling my name.  I hope this finds all of you happy, healthy, and rich in all the things that matter.

Hugs,

Catherine

Hello, Everyone!!!

Well, I’m locked out of Facebook.  I never intentionally did anything wrong, and I’m very hopeful that my access to my community page will soon be restored.  That said, Facebook is slow sometimes to get around to doing stuff, so—I wait.  I miss all my friends online so very much!!  I can’t help but be afraid that they will not forgive my unintentional transgressions and will never allow me to access my page again.

Their message to me indicated that, (A) it appeared that I had multiple pages or (B) that I had multiple identities.  I had to send them a photograph of my driver’s license and, for good measure, I sent a photograph of my passport.  It felt kind of like being in security at the airport, so why not?  I needed to prove my identity to them, so I sent double proof.  I was so upset about losing access to my Facebook page that I would have happily volunteered for a body X-ray.  After all, it wouldn’t be my camera that got broken.

What happened?  Well, I merged my old Catherine Anderson Author page and a linked business page with a new page, a Catherine Anderson Community Page.  When Facebook first did the merge, I was unable to access the new page, so Facebook postponed deleting my old Catherine Anderson Author page.  (Is it sounding confusing to you yet?  Well, it was to me.)  I was advised by social media experts to leave the old page up for a while, unfriend everyone on the old page, and not use it.  Then, when I determined that it would be smooth sailing with the new page, I should delete the old page.  During this two-page period, I was told to use a slightly different name to clarify for people on Facebook which page was which.  So I added my maiden name to my profile name, making it Catherine La May-Anderson.

So when I signed in to the old page, with every intention of deleting it, I discovered, much to my dismay, that during the merge, I had been removed from the page as an administrator.  Being the technically impaired individual that I am, I had no idea how to reinstate myself as an administrator.  This left me without the authority to delete the page or deactivate it.  Simple solution: Hire a social media expert to fix everything.  Right?  Well, that was an obvious alternative, even to me, challenged as I am by technology.  But I had just paid social media experts for work they’d already done for me during the merge, and I’d just paid a significant amount of money to the designer who had created a new website for me.  I could not comfortably afford to hire a social media expert to get rid of the old page.  Then there was an additional wrinkle.  On the old page, I had a private group.  During the merge of pages, that private group was duplicated for the new page, only somehow several members of the old group didn’t get transferred to the new group.  (I know this sounds like a mucked up mess.  That is because it is a mucked up mess.)  So I also needed to get all the abandoned members moved into the new group.

Well, I happen to know a lady on Facebook who is a whiz at this kind of stuff, and I believed she would help me out for a reasonable fee, so I began trying to get in touch with her.  I finally did connect with her about three days before Facebook shut me down.  She not only said that she would help me out for free, but she immediately began trying to get all the left-behind members in the old private group moved over to the new private group, and I was working on that as well.  I went to the new private group and made a list, by hand, of all the members there.  Then I went back to the old group and compared the list to the membership there.  Anyone not on the list needed to be invited to join the new group.  In order to invite them, I needed their email addresses.  So I was in the old group, posting away, asking each of these people for their Facebook sign-in email address.

Well, this is only my best guess, but I believe Facebook algorithms picked up on all the posting that took place in the old group and then noted that Catherine La May-Anderson was posting to a group on the Catherine Anderson Author page.  This looked like suspicious activity.  For one, Facebook doesn’t not allow people to have multiple identities on Facebook, and Catherine Anderson aka Catherine La May-Anderson was a red flag.  Plus, I clearly had two pages, and that isn’t allowed, either.

So my goose was cooked.  Or, given the imminent arrival of Thanksgiving, maybe I should say my turkey was cooked.  In a blink, I was locked out of Facebook.  If this has ever happened to you, you know how frustrating it is.  It is also emotionally traumatizing.  I have so many dear friends in my Facebook community.  Were they posting and wondering where I’d gone?  Or would they even post at all?  Did they think I’d just dumped them?  Not even my personal assistant could go in and tell my Facebook friends what had happened because her page had also been locked down.  I think Facebook suspected that Julia Ashton was another of my fraudulent identities.  I have been so upset!  Facebook sent me a support link where I can check on the status of my case.  Using superhuman restraint, I only check my case status about every thirty minutes.

A social media rep at my publisher has been in touch with the Facebook person who assisted with the merge of my pages, and I am hopeful–note that I stress the word hopeful–that I will be granted my Facebook privileges again soon.  But there is also a chance that my transgressions may not be forgiven.  When I think of that possibility, I get heart palpitations.

So I’m waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a verdict.  I hope all of you will keep your fingers crossed for me.  I do not blame Facebook at all for this.  It is Facebook’s obligation to protect Facebook users from fraud, and fraudulent businesses apparently operate with multiple pages and multiple identities.  So, in a way, it is comforting to know that Facebook is so vigilant in protecting all of us.  It’s GREAT–until you are one of the users who gets shut out.

Anyway, I hope all of you will consider keeping in touch with me here on my blog.  I believe you can comment, and I miss you dreadfully!

I did have some nice news today.  I was sent a wonderful Romantic Times Review of my upcoming release, NEW LEAF, due to be out on January 5th.

new leaf RT review

Nice, huh?  Well, it brightened my day, anyway.  Hugs to all of you, and hopefully my next post will be about something far more uplifting.

Catherine

THE MIRACLE OF READING

OF Like Minds

Have you ever considered how people from so many different walks of life can come to a center point of thought after reading the same book?  Think about it.  Okay, okay, I realize that not every book I love is someone else’s cup of tea.  But there are books, really great books, that appeal to the multitudes.  Those people can be worlds apart in their political views, their moral views, or their religious persuasions, and yet through a book, by crawling into the hearts of well-drawn characters, most can, for the duration of that book, be in agreement and of like mind with thousands of other people.  They feel the love for someone that the character feels.  They can feel his pain.  They associate with his panic.  They understand his passion, whether it is for a woman, achieving a goal, or creating a priceless work of art.  They can burn to help the poor or to correct a deplorable injustice.

Isn’t that beautiful?  I think it is.  And I also think it gives each of us a very good reason to read, because through the passages and scenes, while we see the world through another person’s eyes, perhaps we can become better people with more compassion and understanding for others.

THE NEXT BOOK

I just finished proofreading the galleys for NEW LEAF, the second book in my new Mystic Creek series, a sequel to SILVER THAW.  Now I’m between books, which, to me, is like being in limbo.  I have a story idea, and I’m eager to sink my teeth into it.  Instead I’m sidetracked with improving my “online presence.”

New Leaf Touch UpNew Leaf_FINAL_stepbackSilver Thaw

When I first began this endeavor, I was slightly mystified by the term “online presence.”  I mean, hello, I was present online.  Or at least I thought I was.

Where did I ever get the idea that being a writer meant just that, being a writer?  I tapped away at my keyboard, believing that all I needed to focus on was producing a good book.  My publisher would handle the promotion and all that other stuff, right?  Well, a publisher does do a certain amount, but in this era of e-readers, the Internet, and social media, a writer is on the spot to do most of it.

Imagine my bewilderment when I received an email from my publishing house with an attachment to all its authors about how important an Amazon Author Page is.  Say what?  I mean, I knew that I had an author page on Amazon, but I had no idea that I was supposed to do anything with it.  So I dutifully got online to do all the stuff this article suggested.  To my dismay, only one of my books was presented on the author page, and when I began adding the multitude of my other books, I discovered that most of them lacked vital information–reviews, book descriptions, and other stuff.  I felt as if I had leaped into a pit of quicksand.  I’m glad no one was around to hear me muttering.

The next curveball the Internet launched at me was having an author page on Goodreads.  I had seen authors on Goodreads being touted as Goodreads authors, but I assumed that, if my books were present at Goodreads, I’d be automatically added as one.  Only, um, I wasn’t!  What the heck?  With a sick husband and a full-time writing career, I didn’t have much time to explore Goodreads.  I checked it out a few times and really liked what I saw, but I didn’t hang out there enough to comprehend what a truly awesome site it is.

Needless to say, I’ve been busy. not to mention being in a perpetual state of amazement at how much online stuff there is that I didn’t even realize existed.  Once I get everything done, I will keep it updated with the release of each new book, which brings me full circle to my opening paragraph, my eagerness to get started on my next novel.  It will feature Ben Sterling, the brother of Jeb and Barney Sterling, and a young woman, Sissy Sue Bentley, who inherited from her aunt a café called The Cauldron.  The plot is sketchy in my mind as yet, but once I can spend time with my characters, it will take on more detail.

I’ll check back in soon.  Until then, maybe we’ll meet up online!

Hugs,

Catherine

SOMETIMES I THINK I WAS BORN ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE BED

Do any of you ever feel this way?  It isn’t that I don’t have some really fabulous days.  I do.  But it seems that I have more frustrating days than not.

Some things that just seem totally unfair to me:

IF DISHES ARE LEFT IN THE SINK AT NIGHT, THEY ARE STILL THERE WHEN I WAKE UP IN THE MORNING.  I find this very upsetting, so I try NEVER to leave dishes in the sink.  But sometimes someone comes in behind me after I’ve gone to bed, and in the morning there they are, still in residence.  Has anyone tried going to the sheriff’s office to have dirty dishes served with an eviction notice?

dirty dishes

My biggest peeve right now.  I worked and babied a vegetable garden all year, and now it’s harvest time!  I had gorgeous winter squash and heavily laden pepper, tomato, and basil plants!  Man, was I ever walking proud.  And then Mother Nature decided to send us two overnight freezes.  My poor plants are frost bitten and pathetic.

2015-09-20 14.55.40

Isn’t that about the saddest squash patch you’ve ever seen?  Why couldn’t Mother Nature wait another two weeks?  I think I’ll file a complaint.  If you have her address, would you send it to me?

Then, the thing that really, REALLY gripes me is looking in a mirror.  Is that woman I see actually me?  Unfortunately, yes!  If you have moments when you see your reflection and simply cannot believe it is you, would you please post a few comforting words to me.  And, please, don’t tell me that beauty resides within us.  Someone would need an excavator to dig deep enough to find my inner beauty.

And, no, I’m not posting a pic.  I haven’t done my hair or makeup.  I don’t want to scare anyone to death.

And last but not least, there is a huge problem with Sundays.  When it is Sunday, it means that tomorrow is Monday.  And most of you know what that means, back to work.  I work most days of the week, so I don’t know why a waning Sunday afternoon is slightly depressing to me.  Tomorrow won’t be much different for me than today.  Maybe I have sympathy depression for all of you who look forward to Friday because it means you’ll have the whole weekend off.

Hugs!  I hope you have a wonderful week.  I’d send wishes that it will speed by and be Friday before you can blink, but my mother always warned me not to wish my life away.  So I won’t wish yours away, either.

Catherine