Saturday, November 15, 2014

Days of Nano, November 15, 2014 - I'm back

November 15, 2014, I’m back

Why not quit?

Well, I may have blown 50,000 words by the end of November.  There’s a reason why I’m continuing anyway.  I’m enjoying this so much.  It’s like a quiet time all by myself.  No one can do this but me.  Each of us is busy typing away, or planning, or asking questions on the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook.  Some of the questions they ask seem so basic.  So what?  That doesn’t mean they’re not going to write a draft of the debut novel for 2015 (it will take a while for them to edit their novel into readiness for print).

I think they band together because they like to write in a group.  They talk about writing and what they’re doing, how they’re approaching the task and how far they’ve gotten.  Like I said, I prefer to write by myself in the quiet of my office.   I like to have the room to myself.  I get up and down and wander in and out because it seems to help the ideas come.

I should, perhaps, be asking more questions myself, but other people’s ideas are interesting, but I never want to use them.  I like to just go my own way.

Writer’s Conferences

A huge writer’s conference called Bouchercon is going on right now in Long Beach, CA.  A lot of people I know and a lot more that I know about are there.  They’re having a good time.  They post photos on Facebook showing the panels and the food and the view of the Queen Mary, the harbor and the ocean (in the order that you’d notice them), and sometimes they do nutty things and post photos of themselves being nutty.

I’d love to be there.  Just pop in and out.  The truth is that I find all those people, all those things to do, the excitement of hearing authors tell me how to write, exhaust me.  I mean truly, go to bed and fall asleep exhausted.  I’d need to take a little walk along the shore and decompress or go over to the Queen Mary and walk around looking for the ghost.  (My grandson Matt documented that there is a ghost there.  He saw him.)  Who could doubt an excited young man who had waited for a month or more to really be there and look for the ghost.

The Queen Mary is a lovely old ship from a different time.  The essence of that time still lingers in the air.  It’s easy to walk the decks, breathing sea air (always wonderful), and feel the presence of everyone who has ever been where you are.

But, I digress.  We were talking about Bouchercon. 

I think Bouchercon is the largest of the writer’s conventions.  I may have attended the smallest in San Diego in October. 
Caitlin Rother invited about 20 of us to spend the day with her and fellow authors, fellow wannabes, and just interested folks.  We met her at a Beach House on Mission Bay, off of the sail bay (limited to sailing boats).  It was really warm that day and the windows were all open.  We could look out from the top floor of this upside down house and watch the comings and goings of everyone, or we could sit on the comfy sofa or dining table and listen to the authors. 

Such a nice day, but a long one.  I had about an hour’s drive to get there, a lunch to pack, which I could eat on the beach, but didn’t.  Nice, but the only one I knew was Caitlin and her not well.  The rest  seemed to regard me as something of an oddity - I was easily the oldest and the biggest person there. 

I also became restless first.  I’m not accustomed to sitting for an hour or more at a time.  I don’t even do that at church because I’m a Lutheran.  Lutherans do a lot of standing up and sitting down in the hour or so of the service.  At the Beach House I sat on the middle cushion of the sofa.  I couldn’t lean either way and if I wanted to get up, I had to disturb everyone.  So I sat.  As the day grew into afternoon and the room became warm,  I sat and tried desperately to keep from going to sleep.
With so few people you couldn’t sleep without being noticed.  So, I stayed awake.

At supper time, Caitlin put out enough finger food to serve fifty people and there was enough variety to call it supper.  Heat, sitting, food, I was soon ready to say good bye and go home.  Walking the few blocks to my car was a relief.  Not finding a parking ticket on my car was a relief as well.  Maybe I was also relieved to go home. 

I was totally exhausted and I still had a long drive ahead of me.  Then I got lost.  I’d left my phone on and the battery died so I couldn’t rely on my GPS program to help me.  I’ve been lost before.  I’ve never had to sleep in the car because I couldn’t find my way.  I’ve never starved because I couldn’t find food.  I wandered around, knowing the freeway home was east of me and the ocean was west.  I just kept looking.

By the time I’d found home I was zonked.  But it was worth the effort.  In spite of the discomforts, I’d really liked being there.

You see now why I didn’t go to Bouchercon.  I couldn’t handle three days of fun and there would never be enough comfy couches for everyone at the conference hotel.

However, if you’re reading this, don’t get tired.  I want you to keep following me and the Nano experience.  Every writer needs a reader.
The spider door.


My other Nano book

I’d been working on plotting and location for my previous Nano book long before I signed up for Nano.  That’s OK because Nano is all about writing 50,000 new words in a month.  Just the words.  Just a draft. 

I find that constantly adding words to the story without going back to fix everything exhilarating.  You just put your mind in dream mode and hover your fingers over the keys and drift away into your imagination.  When you have a scene and you have some characters, all you really need to do is give your characters something to say and do. 

It’s a bit like the paper dolls I had as a kid.  I’d buy a book of dolls and their clothing and cut them out carefully.  Then I’d dress them up and move them around in a story.  Someone else drew the book.  I cut them out wondering who they were and what they liked to do.  Sometimes there was a little story that went with them, but it was pretty slim.

So I’d hold their paper clothing close to their stiff flat little bodies and make up a story to go with them.  There were no rules.  My paper dolls were extremely compliant.  They’d do whatever I wanted them to do.  Eventually I had a big box of paper dolls and their clothes.  I even made more clothes for them with pencil and crayon.

But I diverge.  I was talking about the setting for my previous Nano book. 

I lived and worked in downtown Los Angeles for about three years.  As location went, it really was downtown.  Really, really, downtown.  Weekends and days off we liked to explore LA and the surrounding cities.  I was alone and driving up the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu one day I stopped to see an old house that was now a museum.  I’d cleared Malibu and began traveling north, past miles and miles of sandy beaches and even more and more hundreds of fancy beach homes.  I was ready to stop.

I followed a stuccoed wall to where decorative iron gates stood opened, with the usual signs about hours of operation and such.  A small house sat by the gate, but a sign directed me past it.   I drove toward the ocean through a grassy lawn planted with flowers.  So pretty.  Finally I came to a house with a tile roof and stucco on the walls and curious windows all around.  A solid wall stood between us and the beach.  In that wall was an opening with a gate, and a little roof over it.  Later when I explored it, I found a little changing room and shower within the gate.  Just for the inhabitants, not the general public.

Note:  In California the beach is public up to and including the high water mark.  The deep creamy dry sand belongs to the home owners.  Because many people don’t know that rule, people are always basically setting their towels down on private property.  That wasn’t the case on this day because we were quite a distance north of the favorite beaches of LA and the private beaches of Malibu.

I parked in a kind of courtyard paved in brick.  The museum had taken over the commodious garage, leaving the house intact.  It was a fascinating tour.  First the museum had turned the garage into a history of the area:  who came first, who built the beach house, who lived in it and how they made their living.  I was astounded that they called it the beach house.

They called it the beach house because the family home was east at the foot of the mountains.  The original owner had built the beach house so the family could move there in the heat of summer.  So, it wasn’t a stiff old house.  It was a house built for comfort, for reading and sandy feet and keeping your shells.  It was beautiful.

I was the only one waiting for the tour so it was just the guide and myself.  What luxury.  I had once been a docent for an historic house in Phoenix and we had to limit the people going through to just a few, so they could be able to view it and ask their questions.

Now I was going through the beach house with a docent all to myself.  It was fascinating.  Docents almost always know more about the house they are showing than they tell you.  This one was talkative and once she heard I had been a docent as well, we were good friends.

We entered the house through a doorway with heavy nails hammered into the door.  It was the style, she said, and not for protection.  We came into a huge reception hall.  To our right was a small bedroom that they had used for an elderly relative.  Next to her room was a small house elevator to the second floor.   Straight ahead led to a gallery leading from where we entered it to the living area that faced the ocean. 

The gallery itself was striking.  I thought at first there was an oriental rug along the corridor.  It wasn’t.  After all this was a beach house.  The original owner had owned a tile factory on the south end of her property and on the beach.  She had had tiles made to resemble an oriental rug and they had done it so well, it took your breath away. 

The gallery itself was a wall of windows and a huge door led to the courtyard outside, opposite of where I had parked.  The glass here was protected by decorative iron grill work.  The double doors featured a huge spider and web clinging in the flowers.  I have wanted that door ever since.  However, it belongs to this house and the time when it was built. 

Directly facing the small patio was a nicely scaled, but small fountain.  It was dry, but when we approached it, we found a tiny rabbit had fallen in.  When we tried to rescue it, it jumped into the drain pipe.  We left it for the gardeners and went back into the house.

Following the gallery we came to a huge darkish room, decorated with heavy furniture and dark heavy drapery.  This was the living area and even had a piano.  Lots of comfy seating with a table and a light at hand for reading, a table for playing games, and a stuffy smell.  Not the right kind of furniture for the moisture of the beach, but it was the right design for the time of the house.  One small, inconspicuous door led out to the scrap of lawn and the wall.  Over the wall was the beach.
I found it disappointing, but it wasn’t my house to change.  Not unless I wanted to change it in the book I was going to write.  If I used this house as a setting for my book, fun things just had to happen.   It was there the inspiration stuck. 

Back the other way away from the ocean we found a dining room with a brick arch over the window to the patio.  Large, heavy furniture again dominated the room.  It was a large room and I could see rowdy dinners with kids already tired from playing on the beach all day.

The kitchen was hidden near the dining room.  It was small and dark, being on the opposite side of the house from the ocean.  There were tiles on the counters, and tiles on the floor.  At the window there was a built-in eating nook with about enough space for four.  Perhaps the servants ate there.  I was told there were servant quarters, but they weren’t open to the public.

Back to the reception area.  Along one wall by the front door there was a smallish staircase that curved around and up to the next floor.  On the landing, there was a window made of bottle glass that threw beautiful colored shadows on the staircase.  The window was made from the bottoms of colored glass bottles:  yellow, blue, green, even red.  Above the landing hung a small Spanish-style chandelier.  I’ll bet it was pretty when it was lit up at night.  Guests would see it when they parked in the court yard.

At the top of the stairs we found a landing similar to the one below.  This probably also doubled as an indoor playroom for the children who lived there.

Come and see said the docent as she backtracked behind the stair and opened a door.  She stood aside so I could see.  It was a tiny kitchen with running water and a tiny stove.  “They could have hot chocolate or some tea without having to ring a servant or go downstairs for it.”  she explained.  They seemed to have thought about everything.  And this was what we’d call a vacation home, a beach house, not their only residence.  I believe she said the family had at least three residences.


My hands are aching.  I’m stopping here at 12, 781 words.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Days of Nano, November 9, 2014 - Ready to start writing again

A bit of pain

I’ve been away for several days because my wrist swelled up, my elbow hurt (still does a bit) and I recognized the signs of typing too long at a stretch.  I had to let my wrist and elbow rest or have long-range consequences. 

Many years ago I saw a neurologist for pain in my hands, noticing that I preferred to open a door with both hands flat on it instead of turning the door knob.  He diagnosed an injury to the ulnar nerve and we narrowed it down to how I sat when I was at work editing.  I would lean my forearms on the edge of my desk (the right angle edge) while holding my marking pen in my hand - and rarely putting it down.

Knowledge is strength and I soon learned to put the pen down when I wasn’t using it and to rest my arms on my chair, not my desk. 

I soon saw the similarities to what I was doing now, which was cradling the mouse with my hand when I wasn’t using the mouse and leaning against the edge of my desk - that right angle edge again

Today I’ve wrapped my wrist with a small flexible splint and rolled up a hand towel to serve as a wrist rest.  That should help.  I’m also planning a shorter day typing.  I don’t want to drop out of Nano, but I also don’t want to make my hand and arm unusable for other tasks.

Wish me luck.

Nano on Facebook

There’s a group for NaNoWriMo on Facebook and I joined it - as well as being part of Brynne’s smaller group of writers.

In general I just skim the postings.  I’m in this to write, not to talk about writing.  However, if they want to talk about writing that’s OK with me.  But today, someone posted a snobby comment about seeing so many people using two spaces after a period instead of one which he insisted was absolutely the most correct way to do it. 

The group seemed to be responding to his comment as if God Himself had spoken.  I was an Editor for 25 years or so and that’s how long the debate’s been going on.  Some people say that two spaces after a period was a result of using a typewriter that saw no difference between an I and an M and gave each of them the same amount of space.  So, to be clear that the sentence had ended, they typed two spaces after the period.

In the days of the computer and automatic kerning (giving each letter only the space needed) people will argue that only one space is needed. 

You can see what kind of an argument that is.  If I’m working for someone, I use the type of spacing they’ve set in their style guide (a guide settles this type of argument, at least for the company).  If I’m writing for Nano, I use two spaces after the period because I like the definition it gives - and I used to be someone who typed on a typewriter.

This is the argument today.  My first comment to the post was that I used two spaces after the period because I liked it that way.  They continued to argue the point, but seemed encouraged that someone had spoken up for two spaces.  Later today I saw the argument for either side in full swing so I commented something like:  Why are you arguing about one space or two?  Nano isn’t for editing and polishing your manuscript, Nano is for typing a 50,000 word draft.

I wish I could have seen their faces.  (That doesn’t make any sense, but it’s words and I’m leaving it in.)

I just checked Facebook.  It’s now nearly 5 PM, and they are still arguing the point.  Easily distracted, I’d say.  Oh well.  It’s their challenge and they are responsible for how they go about it.  Maybe one of them will become a famous author and then I’ll remember having argued that they should have stayed on track with their book instead of being distracted for hours and hours over one space or two.

Youthful enthusiasm or mature knowledge?

What’s happening on Nano is a lot like the young against the old.  I’ve already argued that case and formed my opinion.
The other day I was reading a post on Facebook.  There was an article about what sort of clothing you shouldn’t wear once you were a certain age.  Of course I had to click on it and see what I’m doing wrong.  I could have sworn that writer was just out of high school - she sounded like the snobby kids that know what’s IN and what isn’t and don’t mind at all telling you about it.
She had a long list of things she thought older women shouldn’t wear.

NOTE:  I just spent 10 minutes on the web trying to find that post.  Couldn’t do it.  Waste of my time.

The only thing I agreed with was that older women shouldn’t wear shorts so short you can see the cheeks of their butts.  True.  I don’t think it’s a great style for younger women either.  However, things like leather, leopard prints, etc., etc.  were on the list.  The more I read the more I felt this was a very opinionated young person.  My comment to the post was that I thought women of this certain age wore pretty much wore whatever they wanted to.  They don’t need the fashion police to tell them what to wear.  I still think she’s very young.

I have years of experience wearing clothing and I’ll tell you this.  The only things I am sorry I never wore (and would not wear today) were a strapless party dress (my mother thought they were only for older women) and a bikini.    Once I was free to choose my own clothing (and pay for it) I no longer wanted that strapless dress.  In those days anyone wearing a strapless gown was in danger of exposing her private body to the public.  I know, now people are doing it just to get a reaction.  I prefer not to.  A bikini, well, I never really wanted to expose that much of my body.  I also had fears of the top or the bottoms coming down.  I knew I couldn’t handle the embarrassment.

Colors?  I’ve never cared to wear beige, olive, bright orange, brown.  Those just aren’t good colors for my fair skin and light hair.  I’m not locked into that.  I just have never tried something on that I liked in that color.  Never.  Ever. 

What am I wearing today - what I wore to church:  jeans, t strap shoes, and a big loose lime green shirt.  It’s warm enough and that’s what I’m wearing.   That sweet little girl who wrote the article would probably have me in tiny print dresses, a bun, lace up shoes and a shawl.  She’ll figure it out some day.

You know, I wonder if she wears her shorts so high that her butt cheeks hang out?  Is that even a fashion?  Or is it a bit of “I’ll wear what I please.”  same as I have. 


Quitting here at 10, 276 words.  That way I can write again tomorrow.  Happy Nano to you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Days of Nano, November 4, 2014, Part A

November 4, 2014 - A gorgeous sunny day

The good and the bad

 I am by nature a slug and a night crawler.  I was up before daylight this morning because my blood sugars were low.  This is both a good thing and a bad thing.  It’s good because it indicates that I’m doing a good job monitoring my diabetes.     This is a fairly new thing for me - not the diabetes but having it under control. 

For years I’ve run around telling people that a diabetic is always hungry and always wants sweets.  That was me and I believed it to be true.  Worse yet, I tend to binge now and then.   On binge days I eat everything sweet I can get my hands on.  There is no stopping me.  I know I shouldn’t do it, but the child in me says “I want it and I’ll have it.” 

Binge days are usually followed by tapering off and feeling bad.  As an adult I know this, but it’s harder for me to do than you’d think.  If I have a binge day, I might go a week feeling really bad, feeling out of touch, sleepy, wimpy, unfeeling, all those things that I don’t like, but somehow feel helpless to control.

Am I feeling sorry for myself on those days?  Not a lot because it kind of dampens my feelings as well.  I slug along trying to move, but everything seems to be so hard.  I am just existing at this point.
So, how did I get on the good side of this?  Can’t tell you.  Don’t know for sure. 

  • Chocolate.  I’ve been doing better because I discovered I can eat the really dark chocolate squares of Ghirardelli without impacting my sugar count a lot, particularly if I limit the chocolate well.  I love good dark chocolate.  When I can’t find Ghirardelli chocolate I sometimes buy Hershey dark.  It’s definitely not the same thing.  It’s not as chocolaty and and it has so much sugar in it that it almost feels gritty with it.  So, I have a named treat.  I do well with it if I don’t go nuts.

  •  Cookies.  I love cookies. Sugary, crunch, tasty cookies.  I limit myself to 2 or 3 cookies a day.  To be honest, the cookies I like the most are the ones that are the sweetest and the most fattening.   I like the ones that are really two cookies with a wad of frosting squished between.  (Oddly enough, I no longer like Oreos.)  Definitely tasty.  Definitely not on my diet.  I have limited myself to one cookie now and then, eaten in public and not at home.  It works.


·       Ice Cream.  As a kid I didn’t like ice cream.  As an adult I suppose it was because my mother, who had a weight problem and loved ice cream, had discovered ice milk.  Ice milk has half the calories and more sugar than the “real” stuff, but I don’t like it at all.  At home, the only ice cream was Mom’s ice milk.  I wouldn’t eat it.  (Thinking about it, I’d guess she liked that she didn’t have to share her ice cream with me and the rest of the family.)  

However, now and then Mom would begin to skim the cream off the milk (milk used to be unpasteurized and therefore the cream would separate from the milk and be found at the top of the milk bottle.)  She’d save the cream and when she had enough to fill a large ice tray, she’d whip it, flavor it, and freeze it in the ice tray.  She’d take it out now and then and whip it cold.  The end product was basically frozen whip cream, but to us it was ambrosia.  An ice tray full of frozen cream divided between the six of us wasn’t very much, but scarcity only heightened the treat.  (It wasn’t one of the essential food groups.)

·       So, no candy except for a dark chocolate square, no cookies (which make me restlessly pace the house when I want one and there are none), but there is ice cream in the house.  I have discovered Breyers, Dryers, Ben & Jerry and all those other manufacturers  who make deliciousness that happens to be ice cream.  And in order keep this under control, I have two tiny cups, one pink and the other green.  Each holds a half cup of ice cream (the measure on the carton).  If I want ice cream, I may have one of those cups full, modestly packed and happily devoured.  I keep the ice cream in the freezer that’s in the garage.  Having to put on my shoes, maybe a coat or sweater, and make the short trek to the garage is often enough to convince myself I didn’t really want it anyway.

·       I do have another source of ice cream.  It’s called a Lil’ Drum.  A drumstick of ice cream in a sugar cone and topped with chocolate and nuts in miniature form and 120 calories.  It’s a big treat for me and I make myself earn it.  A trip to Curves (a woman’s gym) or doing the laundry in only a few hours or cleaning a corner of the house.  Those things must be done in order to allow the possibility of a Lil’ Drum.

·       As I’ve managed to cut down on my favorite sweets, I’ve added more protein to my diet, fewer fatty foods, fruit and veggies, etc.  We love to make steel cut oatmeal with apples and raisins.  We make the full batch and refrigerate enough for another breakfast or two.  I eat my cereal without sugar and I limit my choice of cereal to those with a low sugar count.  (No sweet peanut butter kid cereal for me.)  

Do you wonder how I can eat cereal without added sugar?  In severe cases (like plain oatmeal) I sprinkle Stevia on it.  So, you can say I’m eating better.

·       I’m exercising better.  Before I sat down to write this evening, I exercised with my 5 pound weights and my hand hoops (like a hula hoop, but you spin it on your arms).  My shoulders feel pleasantly exercised, not tight and tired from hovering over my computer, though they will be sore and tired before I finish today.

That must mean I’m losing weight.  I am.  Very slowly, but what I lose is staying gone.  The additional exercise gives me energy and I’m trimming up.  I’ll never want to wear a bikini anyway.
The result of this is that I really feel like doing things again.  I’m not strong because I’ve been lazing about but I’m getting there.  I’m interested in life again.   I feel so good that I want to defend my effort and keep it up.

I have a secret.  My everlovin’ took the Halloween candy after I told him I’d eaten one miniature candy bar.  I told him to hide it and bring it back when it was time to distribute it.  No sooner had the last trick or treater left, then he took the remainder and hid it.  I went from the time I bought candy until after Halloween trick or treaters were gone with only one little insy weensy bar.  I love him for doing it because I know if I asked for it back, he’d give it to me.  He’s my helper not my enforcer.
So it’s working.  This evening, after a big lunch, I am having a small bag of peanuts (just salted) and a low-calorie, barely sweetened yogurt, with perhaps a chocolate for dessert.  I haven’t decided yet if I need it.

That’s why I had low blood sugar this morning and why I may need something to eat before I go to bed.

The Days of Nano, November 4, Part B

About that beautiful sunny day

After my morning low blood sugar had been tested and recorded, I had an early breakfast of toasted Ezekiel bread (a wonderful whole wheat bread) with jam and decaf with cream. Bread to keep me from being hungry and jam to bring up the blood sugar.  Decaf because I wanted to return to bed.  I read for a while, then slept in until 10 am.  Everlovin’ was off on an errand by the time I was dressed and I was powerfully hungry when he returned. 

We frequently go out for lunch, being retired people with enough income to afford to do it.  This glorious day, with its rain-washed sky called for something special.  When I mentioned we could go to Oceanside Harbor (only 15 miles away) he was all for it.  I checked my sugar, OK, and off we went, carrying jackets because it’s usually colder at the beach. 

We found a parking place (not easy to do in the summer, but in the fall on a week day it’s manageable).  Immediately the highly oxygenated air of the sea breeze made us feel invigorated.  Along the edge of this small harbor there is a string of tiny businesses along a tiny walk and within the view of all the boats anchored there.  (This harbor is barely large enough for the charter fishing boats to go in and out.)

The little shack-like shops were open as well.  They sell brightly colored, easy to wear beach dresses, beach towels, sun glasses - about what you might expect on a beach often visited by tourists.  Also along this way are a number of indoor/outdoor restaurants.  You know food always tastes better when you eat outdoors and that’s what I had planned.

I considered all the restaurants along the way but the one I had in mind was at the end near the fishing charters.  We had eaten there when some of us were going fishing and others (me in particular) were taking the car home and coming back later to pick them up.

This is a tiny narrow place.  There are sailing boats, boats large enough to sleep aboard, rickety boats, all kinds, including the large fishing charters.  People fight to get on the waiting list for these slips and it’s packed full.  In the summer you sometimes can smell the barbeque cooking on the docks.
A quick story.  A man walked by me followed by two loose dogs (not on the leash, but under control.)  He went down to the docks, paused to let himself through the gate and walked on.  When he got down on the docks between the boats he stopped and looked back.  The dogs hadn’t be quick enough to follow him through and were waiting patiently for him to let them in.  Which he did, apparently without any thought so it must happen now and again.

So, there is the sea breeze blowing gently, and the boats bobbing at their moorings, and the sea gulls wheeling in the sky - maybe a few other sea birds - and the warm fall sun shining on it all.
There we were walking along and inspecting the menus of the small restaurants.  I noticed a lot of them sold take out.  You could buy it and go a little further to the beach to eat it.  Sounds like a deal, but I’m of an age where I want a table and a chair and maybe a bathroom.

We met a lot of people along the way, most of them young, most of them either having an early beer or inspecting those beach dresses.  Pretty typical.  We found the restaurant and were in the act of choosing a place to sit when we wondered why no one else was out there.  It only took a sea gull dive bombing us to figure out why.  The birds were all lined up on the railing or flying overhead hoping to be first for a bit of food.

Birds flying overhead mean poop down below.  We went inside where we found a seat with a view of the harbor.  So easy, so simple to just drive down and have lunch.
I love fish and chips and I love it in all its deep fat fried splendor.  The menu offered grilled fish as well, but we decided to have it the yummy, non-diet way.  We ordered and sat down to wait. 
There is a restaurant in the Old Town area of San Diego where they served wonderful Mexican food.  (Mexican food is close to the only kind of food you find there.)  In this restaurant they serve several kinds of tostada.  That’s meat, beans, cheese, salad on top of a fried tortilla.  They’re good and popular in this area. 

If you are local and waiting for your food, you know exactly what happened when you hear a group of tourists say AAAHHH!  and begin to laugh.  Someone at their table has ordered a tostada.  Normally a tostada is about the size of a luncheon plate, maybe even smaller.  The tostadas at this restaurant are served on a steak platter, brimming full and I’m guessing 4 to 5 inches high.  It’s enough for three or more regular diners.  It gets a laugh of surprise when it’s served.
Back to Oceanside Harbor, our plates arrive.  My everlovin’ has ordered two pieces of fish, fries, and a drink.  I’ve ordered a piece of fish and a shrimp that came with chowder, coleslaw, fries, and no drink.  Our meals were served on steak platters.  My piece of fish didn’t fit entirely on the plate.  Surprised laughter and we dug in.  It was too hot to eat right away - a plus for the restaurant.  How many times have you seen your order sitting under a heat lamp waiting for someone to bring it to you?  Not here.  It was almost sizzling.

It was good too.  Really, really good.  Eaten in the sea air with the sun sparkling off the water between all the boats.  Really good stuff.  We ate until we were stuffed.
A little walk along the harbor and we were ready to go home.  A good day.  A really good day.

End, at 9,038 words.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The days of Nano, November 3, Part A

The end of one story and the beginning of the next

Note:  This text belongs at the end of November 2, Part C

It was a strange kind of fear.  I knew my parents would protect me as well as they could and I knew I could contribute to my own safety.  I knew the radio station would do its best to help us know where the safe places were.

What I didn’t know was what a flood was like.  Other than drowning, were there other dangers?  What really happened when a levee broke?  Would the water spread out or rage straight out like a river?  If the river caught up with us, could we still do things to help ourselves?  Would the water level rise slowly or quickly? 

Not knowing what would happen made it all the more difficult.  We’d left the safety of the borrowed house in the dark of night.  It was pitch black and raining, still raining.  We were just following the car in front of us now.  Once in a while we’d see a police or fire car going the other way, but they didn’t stop to talk to us.

We felt snug in the car.  My smallest brother was sound asleep, unaware of the drama.  We’d ask questions, but my Dad was getting irritable and my mother just told us to shush - be quiet.  What little I could see from the light of the headlights spilling away from the road, told me that the land was most probably flat.  How far did we need to drive to be safe?  Would we stay safe there or need to flee again?

It took hours of creeping in the dark before we crossed a bridge and drove into a small town.  All of a sudden there were lights and people directing traffic.  Housing had been arranged for the flood refugees (was that us?) in the various schools and halls in the town.  We went to our assigned building where people were putting up wood and canvas cots in rows and others were assigning each person a cot.  We were told that a school bus would take us to the high school for meals.  They were free.  All of this was organized by the Red Cross. 

So, we had a row of six cots covered with six blankets in the midst of a crowd of people sitting or milling about their assigned cots.  No one seemed to know what to do now.  We’d never been evacuated before.  We didn’t know if we had a home to go back to or whether our things were wet with water.  As a teen, I was appalled with the lack of privacy.  We were going to sleep in the open with all these people?

We did and in the morning of Christmas Eve day, we boarded the bus to go and have breakfast.  We had to eat what we were served or go hungry.  We ate.
The day drug on.  In the afternoon my Dad confided that while they had brought a few gifts for us kids, particularly for my little brother, he had left Mom’s gift behind in our house.  “She’s been through so much,” he said.  “come help me find a gift for her.”  So Dad and I went out to find a store that was open that might possibly have something we could give Mom.  We ended up in a small hardware store that also sold household goods where Dad bought her a new iron.  Apparently she’d been complaining about her old one.  Okay.  If it makes Dad happy, I don’t care.
Throughout the day people would come by to sing Christmas Carols or to bring diapers and clothing for people who needed them.  We definitely turned those down.  We had too much dignity to take that kind of charity.  That was true of a lot of people.  It just seemed important to hold on to a little bit of self respect.

After supper they brought in a Christmas tree and played Christmas music on the radio.  Later on, before we went to bed, Santa Claus came and talked to the little ones and handed out wrapped presents for the little children.  Someone from the town had gone house to house and asked people to donate a gift or two for children from under their own tree.  So the little ones all got a gift.  I think my little brother got a metal truck, maybe a dump truck.  The rest of us felt very superior and grown up to forgo the gifts.  (Well, they were for the little ones anyway.)  No one was turned away though.  If they came up for a gift, they got one.

Dad gave Mom her gift and she finally cried.  We sat on our cots watching the Christmas entertainment, while Mom cried on Dad’s shoulder. 
Being there we found out more about the flood.  The level broke outside of town, but the water flowed toward town, not into the fields.  It had broken where people (volunteers)  were trying to sandbag it on the top.  People later said that once it began to break down, a huge chunk of it broke and the people sand bagging the level ran for their lives.  It was pretty clear that some of them didn’t make it. 

This was real, not a story of somewhere else.  People had died that night.  We also heard that in our town, where they had also sand bagged the levees, the levee broke in the place where the road went up the levee and on to the old bridge that led out of town.  When it started to break, they could see a huge bulge in the levee.  Someone had the presence of mind to drive the truck full of sand bags into the bulge and that was enough to make it hold.  Our town was “dry”, but still surrounded for the levee to levee water.  However, we learned that because the break happened across the river from our town, it released a lot of water and lowered the river level making the other towns more safe.
So we lay on our cots that night thinking of all that happened.  Maybe we slept a little.  I don’t remember, but I do remember it was cold in the building and I slept with my coat over me.
After breakfast (by school bus) the next morning, Dad said he’d heard that our town was open to us going back and we were going to go there.  We have work to do, he told us.
I’d forgotten to tell you that he was a Pastor.  It was Christmas Day and a service was scheduled.  We have to be there to open the church in case anyone else came, he told us.  And so, on a strange wet Christmas Day we drove back over the bridge and went home.  Christmas decorations were still up, but the lights were off.  It felt like we were the only ones left.  We saw no one driving down the street.

Home looked just like we’d left it.  We quickly went back to our routine.  We opened the Church and held a Christmas service.  I played the Christmas Carols on the piano.  Our family and maybe two other people were the only ones there, but it was important to Dad that we be there in church that day.
Since the phones weren’t working (they crossed the river on the underside of the bridges) Dad began driving around, checking to find out who was back and who got flooded and get all of the news from everyone else.  Dad was also a Ham - a licensed radio amateur and he fired up his long distance two-way radio and began to tell the world that we were OK.  As the days went on and we began to understand the depth of the devastation, Dad used his two-way radio to help people tell their relatives they were OK, and what they needed, etc.  They’d come sit by dad while he contacted another radio amateur.  If they were lucky, the other Ham would call the relatives and relay information, maybe invite the relatives over at a certain time so they could talk together or even “patch” the radio through to the telephone to their relatives.

The radio amateur thing went on for several weeks with Dad calling “CQ, CQ, CQ . . . . CQ for Chicago (or whatever town).”  He was always excited when he made the connections.  I guess we kids were too.

Dad took me out with him several days after the flood to visit the homes of parishioners whose homes had been flooded.  Let me tell you a secret.  After a flood, everything stinks.  That means that if your house flooded it stunk.  If your car flooded, it stunk.
By the time we made our trip to the flooded areas people were back, taking things out of their flooded homes so they could dry.  They’d was them off with a hose and sit them in the sun to see if they’d be usable after they were dry.

If your house flooded over the floor, you had to take off the base boards and make an air space so it could dry underneath.  If you had hard wood floors, you had to take out random boards making space for the remaining boards to swell with the water, then shrink again when they were dry.  If you didn’t do this, the boards would push up ever so often and they were much harder to fix.
I saw cars and houses on railroad tracks, on streets, cockeyed and fallen over.  I saw people grinning as they went to work cleaning up the mess and I saw people crying because the work overwhelmed them, or their home was too broken to fix.

A funny thing happened.  When the mother church heard about the flood, the diverted a shipment of clothing collected to be shipped to another country and sent it to us.  Our church set up huge tables full of goods and people were free to take what they needed.

It was also an eye opener for the members of our church.  We had these clothing drives once or twice a year after which we packed the donations up and sent them off to be shipped to missions in other nations.

When we received one of those shipments (from another congregation) we got to see what the recipients received.  In those big boxes there were hats and hand bags, evening gowns, squished shoes, all sorts of silly things.  People coming in needed coats and sweaters, underwear and pajamas, and most of all baby diapers.  This was in a time when you gave an expectant mother packages of cloth diapers which she washed and folded and pinned on to the baby before continuing on with the cycle.  People really needed baby diapers. 

It was quite reasonable for someone whose children had outgrown the need for diapers to donate the clean, worn ones.  Apparently it hadn’t occurred to many families to do so.  So we gave out dish towels and bath towels and even flannel sheets - anything that could be cut up for diapers.  We were pretty much stuck in town by flooded and broken roads and bridges.  Only one of the bridges worked and it went over the river to the flooded side.

Interesting to me was the fact that my future husband was also in that flood.  His family lived on the side of the river covered by the old bridge, which was unusable because the flood waters had gone over the time and they weren’t sure it was safe.

His family had been through an earlier flood and knew what to do.  They were evacuated, but their home, like ours, was fine when they returned.

You know what?  I’m tired of talking about water.  Let’s talk about something else.

The Days of Nano, November 3, 2014, Part B

I’m thinking about watercolor

This morning I was up early for a mixed media art class, in which I study and paint in watercolor.  (Oh yuk!  More water stories.)  With Daylight Savings Time over, I still am waking up at my usual time.  So I had time to think about my next project. 

I had a huge piece of sturdy watercolor paper that I wanted to paint on.  I’d kind of decided to do a bouquet of red sunflowers.  I gathered some photos on the web and went to class to work out how I would do it.  After spending an hour and some cutting out a group of sunflowers (which weren’t the same size), I realized that I couldn’t create the painting that way.  No matter how I placed the cutouts on the marvelous piece of paper, I couldn’t make it work.  Not at all.  I was so disappointed.  I was looking forward to painting those red leaves striped with gold and their deep black/purple curly leaves.  But plan A was a wash.  I was so glad I had cut out the flowers to arrange them instead of just starting to draw.  I put them aside.  It wasn’t going to work. 

However, I had a vase of those sunflowers at home.  I needed to photograph them in the base.  Maybe that would give me the forms I wanted to paint - but I had to go home to photograph them and I didn’t want to leave class.  So I picked up the other photos I  had brought for inspiration. 
I had brought a primitive street scene, the sunflowers, a photo of a quirky house in summer, some boats on a lake (that drew me to it, but I didn’t feel like painting it), and a man and a young woman walking with their faces away from us.

That street scene drew me, but I’ve always had a problem with perspective.  People tell me that after a while you just do the perspective naturally.  Me, I have to get out the ruler and draw lines and puzzle out where the lines belong and what is connected to what. 

When it was my turn to have the teacher to talk to, I told her my conundrum.  She’s always talking me out of my comfort zone and that’s what she did today.  She explained how I needed to do the perspective and reminded me that I’ve done other things equally complicated. 

There are a lot of incidental people in that painting and I looked forward to drawing them. We talked about what I needed to do to improve on the painting.  (Yep, improve the painting.  It isn’t enough that I’m copying to learn the work of someone else, I’m planning to improve on the work.

Actually these paintings are often just a portion of another work.  Something that can be taken from another work to be a bit of art itself.  So the artist has maybe not given this part her full attention.  Other parts of the painting were more important to her.

But me, the student, I want to take this portion of a painting and make it something I can be proud of.
So, the end result of this class was that the sunflowers I’d brought weren’t going to work, a discussion of perspective, a bit of schmoozing with the other students, and a bit of watercolor paper still pristine, mounted on a board and ready to go, but only the outline of the size I want it to be written on it (and it won’t show).
 
So, be proud of me.  I’ve made my watercolor decisions and will begin to draw out the painting.

I’ve also finished my writing for the night at 6,689 words.  Still on track.  

Red Sunflowers from the store, but so beautiful