Category Archives: holidays

Dear Tom and all my friends, Merry Christmas.

christmas

hanukkah

XOXO! Julia

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Dear Tom, “It’s like doin’ a shot, a painful shot…”

How about a deadly shot? On the video below, scroll to 1 minute 59 seconds. You’ll see what happened to me yesterday when I made homemade chili paste from chilies grown from unknown plants sold to me by an anonymous person standing on a street corner. He didn’t speak any English. His daughter told me he’d bred them himself. They had no name. When I asked how hot, he said, “Muy caliente.” The understatement of the year…

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Beautiful but deadly.

This was me yesterday after taking a micro-taste of what I’d made. (I made the chili paste to give as Christmas presents. Now I must give them with a warning. Deadly~Eat at your own risk.) I’d already weaponized my kitchen so I was coughing and hiccuping and my eyes and nose were burning. Had to use my asthma inhaler last night. Even when I took a shower, the water running over my hands as I washed my hair burned my face. (That was after I’d washed my hands in milk like a million times!) I’ve eaten habaneros. Compared to these bad boys, habaneros are like an apple.

I have but one question- Why are Irish people eating chilies?

 

Dear Tom, opening old doors on Memorial Day.

Two of my uncles fought in WWII. One was a bombardier. He and his crew mates were shot down over Occupied France– it was their second plane, The Beast. Their first plane, I believe it was the Moonbeam Mcswine, got all shot up but managed to limp back to England where it crash landed. The original navigator was killed. In the second crash, all but the pilot survived. The pilot resisted. He was shot in the head by the Germans. The remaining crew members were transported to a POW camp in Germany. My uncle spent two years there. He weighed 90 pounds when the camp was liberated by the Russians. He said the first thing the men did when liberated was run wild over the countryside. Someone shot a cow. The men grilled it over an open fire. They’d starved for two years, surviving off the maggots on rotting potato skins. He wrote in his diary that the cow tasted like heaven.

Another uncle was a tail gunner. He was shot in the face, yet still managed to fly the plane back to England after the pilot and co-pilot were killed. He always wore a beard to cover his scars. (Had what he called a steel jaw.)

Takes big cojones.

My dad was just a youngster at the start of WWII. But he enlisted as soon as he could – 1945, a month before the war in the Pacific came to an end. He was grateful for Truman because, as he says, he and every man in his boot camp knew if they had to invade Japan they would all die. But my father wouldn’t have been part of the invasion anyway. He was so dang smart and scored so high on tests he was sent to the CIC- the Counter Intelligence Corps. Besides, he spoke German.

To this day I don’t know what he learned there. His standard line is, “If I tell you I’ll have to kill you.”

But he didn’t want to go overseas. He missed his mother’s cooking. (Which is pretty funny since he hated her cooking.) When his two years were up, he came home.

My two uncles are dead. My dad is, happily, alive, healthy and happy. And so busy he barely has time to talk.

My gratitude to that generation knows no bounds. These were just regular guys who morphed into hero guys. They had no choice. We are free (even to be idiots) because of them.

Because it’s Memorial Day, and because I had acupuncture this morning and my knee isn’t all that bad today, I started removing the old lead paint from an antique door.

That door will be my canvas. I have big plans…

door 1

Door Number One.

XOXO! Julia

Dear Tom, New Year’s Wishes…

1. Wish you were here.

2. Wish (and hope and pray) 2016 will be a whole lot better than 2015 has been. Not just for me and for those I love, but for the entire world.

3. Wish I was drinking. (Pity I’m not much of a drinker.)

4. Wish good things for all my family and friends and, yes, even for complete strangers.

5. Wish Vikings, Game of Thrones, and Orphan Black were already here!

And I do have a few writer-ish twitter-ish people to thank– You, Ishbel, your wonderful children and grandchildren (Marie has been a most dependable touchstone!), my doggie muse, Jake, Stephane and My French Heaven, Jaye, Penny, Lawrence, Annie, Stephanie, Anita, Tina, Marylin, Steven, Mat, Sandra, Lex, Greta, Roberta, Alicia, Passive Guy, Ray, Tim, the Iowa Hawkeyes, the San Francisco Giants… plus anyone and everyone I may have forgotten to mention.

To 2016 and new beginnings– Let us see if an even number can trump the odd 2015!

2016

Dear Tom, I don’t see the point…

2015 has been exhausting, both for me, personally, and for our nation and our world. I’m plumb tuckered out.

I’m tired of blogging – an exercise which I suspect means little these days.

I’m tired of the publishing wars. Legacy publishing versus indie publishing versus far too many authors I know who are now poor as church mice, homeless even- authors who once upon a time, as in three or four years ago, made bundles of money.

Now me, I’ve never made bundles so I’ve never spent bundles. As they say– don’t give up the day job. Oh, a couple years ago, 2010-1013, the world was a much different (and more hopeful) place. I made a bunch. I sold lots of books. The life of writing was good and I felt inspired to write more and more and more.

These days, not so much. In fact, I find myself less and less interested in engaging the market, i.e., readers, and I have little interest in promotion. To be honest, I find it hard to muster the energy. Attempts to engage, attempts to promote, don’t sell books anyway. So engagement, just like blogging, is another exercise in futility.

But what about that pot of gold, you ask? What about that lightening strike? The newly discovered land? Well, I ain’t holding my breath. Never have.

You know, I’ve read those books – the strike it rich quick books – those books that have caught fire, those six-figure signings, and except for the very first book in the Hunger Games series, those six-figure books bored me to tears. Whatever it was about those books that caught fire did not ignite the fires within me. Couldn’t even make it through the first five pages of a couple of them.

BORING…

More and more I find myself buying nonfiction and re-reading my old favorites in the fiction genre.

But do I plan to quit altogether? Quit writing? Huh. Good question. Maybe. I’m working on a short story as we speak. I have a re-release scheduled for February or March. I have a number of books in the queue. Maybe I’ll finish them, maybe I won’t.

Regardless, I am convinced I’ll be appreciated after I’m dead. My stuff is good. Someday someone will realize it.

In the meantime:

I’m busy with family and friends. I’m traveling. I’ve got bushels and bushels of lemons to juice for lemon curd. I have to figure out how to halter break my steer, Hank. All in all, while my appreciation and affection for the beauty in life continues to grow, my attachment to the publishing world diminishes.

And I’m okay with that.

I miss you. 2015 was a sucky year for you and your family. They lost you. I lost you, my dear dear friend.

I look forward to 2016. The number fifteen has always bothered me in any case. I think it’s a bad luck number. 2015 has been proof of that for so many people.

Anyway, I’m tired– was up the entire night with a sick dog. No, not a kid although I did have a couple kids home– a sick dog. When I say the entire night I mean exactly that, the entire night. Oscar slept through the whole thing. But then that’s typical for Oscar. He sleeps the sleep of the dead. I wake if a neighbor three doors down drops a pin. Onto plush carpet.

The best blog around? The one worth reading? Marylin’s – Things I Want to Tell My Mother. Her recent post is frame-worthy: The Gift of Words. Go read it, you’ll love it.

All right, Tom, maybe I’ll re-watch the genius Big Bang episode (The Opening Night Excitation) and go to bed!

I love you, Tom. Here’s to the approaching New Year.

XOXO! Julia

 

 

Dear Tom, We’ll call this past week The Week of Loss. Oh yeah, tomorrow is the 4th…

Not a fitting post for the Fourth of July but what the hey… I’m not feeling all that festive.

Mr. Robin vanished. Oh, I know well enough what happened to him. The neighbor’s cat happened to him, that’s what. Now his wife is left alone with four mouths to feed. Yes, nature (and cats) can be cruel, but still I am sad. Mr. Robin and his wife have been living in my yard for four years now. He was unique. Determined. Single-minded. I always recognized him with his silly macho Mohawk head-feathers. He was our alarm clock, welcoming the sun from the top of our highest redwood tree every single morning. The saddest part? The mournful chirps from his wife– two days of crying. I could hear every single chirp. She cried as she cared for the babies. Broke my heart.

Mr. Robin

Mr. Robin

Dear Mr. Robin, you are missed.

In one week, three people died– two of my childhood friends- one from previously undiagnosed cancer, one from a heart attack, and just yesterday my husband’s cousin died. All three died young, but due to lifestyle they’d aged well before their time. I mean, in one case when I heard the news I said, “Wait a sec… I thought he was already dead. I thought he died of a heroin overdose twenty years ago.” As you can see I hadn’t kept in touch, but my cousin had– She’d remained friends with both gentlemen. (This is what I get for avoiding Facebook. Never know who’s dead and who’s alive.)

My husband has a small family. There are only six cousins on his mother’s side of the family so to lose one of them is a huge deal. But it was not unexpected. The last time I saw his cousin was at a wedding eighteen months ago. To claim the man was in ill health would be an understatement.

He said to me, “I’m waiting for the big one. My life is shit. I am miserable. I’m in pain. I just want to die.”

My husband asked if his cousin seemed depressed. I said, “No, more like resigned, frustrated, unhappy. But no, not depressed.”

Well, he had the big one, a cardiac arrest in the field. Unfortunately he had no advance directive and when the paramedics arrived on the scene they resuscitated him. He was without oxygen for fifteen minutes before CPR. He never regained consciousness. Was on a ventilator. Again, unfortunately, the doctor treating him was very aggressive. Despite the fact that the man was DEAD he took him to surgery to unblock his coronary arteries, then he took him back into surgery to graft some vessels into his legs because there was no circulation (DEAD), and he wanted to begin dialysis because, obviously, if you’re DEAD, your kidneys aren’t functioning. Thank God he suffered another cardiac arrest twelve hours after the first and his son overruled the doctor and said, “Don’t do anything. Let him go.”

It was a difficult death because he was not a nice man and he’d been pretty much estranged from his son and from most of the rest of the family for years. But, you know better than I, death is the great equalizer. Happens to good and bad alike. We are very close with his son– my kids think of him as a big brother, so my husband and son are heading to the funeral tomorrow. They’ll mourn his cousin and celebrate the Fourth of July with family down in Orange County. I’ll stay home with the two dogs and keep an eye on Mrs. Robin.

Last week was a blur– we canceled a trip at the very last minute due to family insanity. My family. We were supposed to fly to Colorado for a family reunion but the hostess of said reunion had a major meltdown and I decided a cooling off period was required. Sometimes words/actions have consequences. The consequence in this case was a canceled trip. However, it was for the best as our youngest needed help making some life-altering decisions. She was supposed to fly to Colorado with us. Instead we spent five days dealing with some pretty emotional stuff.

Isn’t that always the way it is with kids? I can’t remember ever being drama-free. I know you know this, Tom. You too have three children. But I’m good with it. You know the poor young woman who was gunned down on the waterfront in San Francisco? Exactly one week ago my husband and our daughter were standing in that exact spot. They stopped there on the way to a San Francisco Giant’s game. This is why I say I’m good with it. I can accept drama.

Really bad things happen in this world, Tom. Oscar is pretty upset. It takes a lot to upset him, but the thought of a father losing his daughter like that? And knowing it could have been him? He’s not himself today. I’ll tell him you called me a ‘git’ and maybe that will cheer him up!

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Anyway, since it is the Fourth of July, or will be tomorrow, and since you’re English and I’m American, I shall stick it to you and quote some of the Declaration of Independence:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

Words to live by, Tom. Words to live by. Love you! Julia