All posts by tchistorygal

Hi, my name is Marsha Ingrao. I'm a friendly introvert. I love my family, but my family is small, so I invite you to join it. Writing, photography and learning keeps me young. Responsibilities keep me honest and productive. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope to see you again soon.

Why NaNoWriMo – Deadline Or No Deadline?

I don’t know about other writers like you, but I find NaNoWriMo grueling.  I’ve had a birthday, and today is V’s birthday and his son has come to visit.


Other minor interruptions-Thanksgiving, a cold, pink eye, a five-day 5,000 mile trip to DE, and  a trip to AZ planned starting the 30th have ground me into pulp trying to finish writing 50,000 cogent words by Nov. 30th. My breakout novel is destined to be pulp fiction reflecting the state of my brain.



I wanted to keep up with a commentary on my blog with how things were going and what I was learning as I wrote. But guess what? I can’t sit that long. I’ve run out of procrastination hours. I need to write 5,000 words a day to meet my deadline. I can barely snap my fingers on my mouse hand. I’ve gained another three pounds on top of the ten I already had going into the month. My normal sleeping pattern, which is asymmetrical at best, disintegrated in the wake of the NaNoWriMo deadline.

All deadlines fossilize me. The whisper directly into my endocrine system. “You have to get up to go to Kiwanis, Marsha.”

Result  – I blog all night and oversleep on Tuesday morning.

learning, writing, blogging, reading, pets, dog

“You must go to the store today.”

Result – I dither around the house trying to plan my itinerary, deciding which stops to make when I go into Visalia until it’s time for dinner. Then I call Vince to bring home some take-out from Subway.

In the case of NaNoWriMo my back, shoulders and butt tell me to walk away from the computer, take a long, hot bath – or until I have a hot flash –  and head to bed by 8:00 pm This forces Puppy to move off my pillow to the center of the bed. At 10:00 pm my sore body parts scream at Vince to give me a massage. Puppy gives me a respite if he puts enough smelly stuff on me. As soon as he finishes,  she crowds all ten pound between us and pushes with all her might against my back forcing both of us to sleep on the edge of the king-size bed. Then my brain, or Puppy Girl’s pressure against my kidneys, wakes me up at 1:30 am and threatens to kill itself if I don’t go back into the office and sit down at the computer and start writing again.


Vince asked my why I had to do this. After all, I’m retired and still young. (though I’m not feeling it today – pink eye in both eyes) I have a whole lifetime to finish, right? Right? Of course he’s right, he usually is – annoyingly so, but then so am I, so why do NaNoWriMo?

Deadlines motivate me. When I wrote Images of America Woodlake, I started from scratch collecting pictures and information about Woodlake. I worked eight or more hours a day to finish by the six month deadline. About half-way through the writing process the publisher wrote me an email, “You’re doing a great job. We’ll give you an extra five books free if you finish in five months.” I ramped up production to get those five extra books – about a hundred-dollar value – so I had more to give away before I had to buy any to give away to all my contributors.

My amateur diagnosis – there is definitely something wrong with my brain. I guess it’s the reporter-brain training I had as a kid that is just now kicking in.


Motivations like due dates didn’t work on me when I was a kid taking journalism and working on the school paper. Nothing motivated me to finish something that other people besides a teacher would read.  Going public with my thoughts, narrow as they were, petrified me. I feigned illness if the deadline came, and I wasn’t ready – an unpleasant characteristic flaw of mine. No worries If you’ve known me for more than a couple of minutes, then you already knew there were holes in my perfect persona.

After I missed my first real assignment on the high school paper, covering the first football game of the school year by moving to another state 2,400 miles away, I made sure I stuck to more important beats. In my new school I covered the library. I thought nothing exciting happened in the library because I only talked to the librarian, stupid kid. How dumb was that? I just needed to look between the shelves, but that’s another story. The interview and fear exposing myself during the publication process terrified me for six years, and deadlines did not motivate me to do more than get sick.


Deadlines and contact with real humans who need me to accomplish something by a specific date still make me sick, but without them my life would be chaos. Dishes would pile up, beds would be unmade. No one would have clean laundry. I might leave the house, and might not. I would spend the day in bed reading one good book after another until my eyes withered into the back of my head. I would eat until I ran out of ice cream, potato chips and protein bars. Oh wait, I’ve just painted a picture of my life now when I do have a deadline.


The best thing about having a deadline is that it puts an end to something you are driven to do. They validate saying, “It will never be perfect, Marsha. You can stop now. You made it. You got the sticker for your blog. Now go clean your house and fix a nutritious dinner.”

And I do.

What works for you? Deadlines? No Deadlines? Tell me YOUR stories. :)



Flying Across the United States Is A Great Time to Read

I could have watched movies if I had downloaded the United app on my computer or iPhone BEFORE the plane took off. I downloaded it before I boarded to go home, but I was already engaged with Winn-Dixie, and it was more trouble than it was worth to figure out how to use the free movie service.  Books are more accessible.

You  can read Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo in about an hour and a half. Mama Cormier suggested this book because she thought it sounded too similar to the one I am rewriting now. Di Camillo uses a simple style which includes repetition without being unbearable. I enjoyed Opal’s adventures, yet is well-suited to a ten-year old’s reading level. It reminded me of a picture book for younger children only the author used words instead of drawings.

Opal’s mother left her with her preacher-father when she was young. At age ten she and her father moved to a new community.  Opal’s new misfit-type friends made her feel welcome as she introduced them to her new dog found in the grocery store, Winn-Dixie. Opal, in turn, drew these strangers together into her new community, enriching their lives.  I wish I’d written this one!

Because of Winn-Dixie

I finally finished Writing the Breakout Novel by  Donald Maas. I do this every time I sit down to write – read about writing. It makes me indecisive because I start one thing, then hate it, and start over. My manuscript gets chewed up before it even gets halfway done.  Nonetheless, I think it improves some each time. At this point, I haven’t written a good word in a week, which is 1/4th of the time I have to write. I can’t blame that on Donald Maass. This might be a better book to read between writing exercises, rather than during NaNoWriMo. But DO read it.

Writing the Breakout Novel

Finally, Change of Life by Anne Stormont lapsed over into my regular schedule because my iPhone tells me it took five hours to read, and I started it just before we reached San Francisco.

I would have been happy to write this book also. With an enlarged family of characters and only a few outsiders Stormont manages to inflict everything horrible on the heroine that can possibly happen. She does things to that poor woman, that I just couldn’t bear to do in my Girls on Fire novel. She’s not very nice to her husband either. I cried a few tears with her, but I didn’t put the book down until the resolution. I think the worst secret, saved for the last pages might be little overplayed, for today’s reader, but for the time period in which it happened, not so much. Her husband kept the secret until 2009, and by that time, I didn’t think it should have had the painful impact on the heroine that the book seemed to imply that revealing the secret would cause.  I recommend this book, especially for women battling breast cancer. If I  am diagnosed with cancer, I’ll give this book to my husband!

Change of LifeThe other book I started to read, and closed quietly was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. I thought this book would help me write a successful first page to my new novel, but it drug me all over the writing process.  It would take me an agonizing two hours and fourteen minutes to complete the remaining 81% of the book. Instead I opted to try to sleep my way to Philly with my seatback fully reclined at 89 degrees, every itchy inch of my dry skin making me want to crawl out of it, and shivering in the controlled airplane climate under layers of thermal and flannel wrapped in a down coat.  Sorry Noah.

Did Kids Really Have Problems Growing Up in the 1970s?

Thank you for responding to my NaNoWriMo title poll. Forty-three percent of you had another idea for a title. yeah!!! Debbie Simorte, a friend and fantastic editor you can find on FB, suggested that since the book is about Jenny more than Wynn (the found puppy), maybe she should be in the title as well. Mama Cormier suggested that the Wynn title and the synopsis makes the story sound too much like Because of Winn-Dixie, another girl rescues and loves doggie book. I checked out on Kindle. Chris from The Story Reading Ape suggested Wynn or Wynn Woods for a title.

Because of YOU the new titles I am considering as of today are Winning Jenny’s Smile or Wynn wins Jenny’s Smile, and maybe  Make Jenny Smile, Wynn.

You mean kids had problems like I do clear back in the 1970s?
You mean kids had problems like I do clear back in the 1970s?

Thank you for participating. Your thoughts help me think about the real purpose and goals of the book. Unfortunately they change as I go along. I’m working on a clearer outline tonight and tomorrow. I used to always write an outline when I wrote, and when I sit down to write a novel, I do just that. Sit down and start writing. What am I thinking????

When I revived my twenty-five-year old novel, I started with a series of great stories that I rewrote to take out the boring, and to go deeper.  I learned that all breakout novels have major personal problems and major national problems. I’m struggling to weave them into the descriptions of funny things that happen along the way, which are not as important as the major stakes, but take up more of my thoughts.

Writing the synopsis helped me solidify my boggy plot, but now I need to go back and make sure that the story moves right along and reconsider which stories help move it and how. I’m asking myself, “Are my problems contributing to the plot or just funny or interesting? What will happen if I don’t solve them?”

As it did during the last NaNoWriMo, my brain gets in the way of my writing. :)

If you didn’t get a chance to respond to the poll about your life and opinions in the 1970s here it is again.

Thanks again for all your comments.


Discussions About Answers to Hard Questions Like Race and Politics

     It’s 2:27 a.m. here in Delaware. I’ve been visiting my mom’s 90-year-old cousin, Hal. We talk a lot, so I’m going to publish a post unlike what I usually publish – philosophy and opinions.  Fair warning.
     Hal is an ordinary brilliant chemical engineer who is trying to build relationships with people since his wife died. He has made some amazing friends among international students, mostly Chinese, who are here going to the University of Delaware for post-graduate degrees. I joined him tonight in an hour of one-on-one conversation with one student, a Chinese math professor aged 45. Being with these students makes both of us feel hopeful and positive. They are fun, engaging and excited to learn and talk about many topics with us as they practice their English skills.
     I needed a good shot of enthusiastic hope for the future, not hatred and lying that I see in politics and between people in general. Hal and I  had lunch with one of my pretend daughters today in MD. We discussed the dangerous situation in black communities near her. She said that a town close to her, comprised mostly  of African-Americans, was burned by militants. An off-duty firemen friend visiting another friend in that city was shot because he was a firemen. Fear prevails. Accomplishment for the solving the racism problem – 0! I feel like I should have had some words of wisdom at my age for her.
     Hal and I discussed how we thought an abused race of people might fight destructive racism. We both agree that both now and historically the black race has been severely mistreated, particularly by the whites.  But what can they do to make it stop?  For the race as a whole, neither trying to be good, even better than good, nor violence seems to have helped them get very far in the war against racism.  Violence against themselves, their own businesses, makes no sense to me at all as a fight against racial discrimination. Does it to you? And if so, why?
     Neither of us can imagine doing other than what we now do as white people, trust in God, and try to maximize our personal opportunities by working hard and doing the best jobs we can do to provide for ourselves and help others.  We both hoped that our lives would make a dent in the problem. But will that work? Has it worked to solve discrimination?
     In politics especially, it seems that people are getting less and less willing to compromise and work together. Teresa suggested that it might be nice to just wipe the slate clean and start over with all new politicians. It’s a great thought, but wow, that sounds immense. Hal suggested that a benevolent dictator might solve the problem. Ouch!  Who in this world is going to please and do the best for everyone?
     When I look around me at all the problems in the world, and how people are trying to solve them, the fewer answers I have. I feel discouraged and things feel overwhelming to me. I don’t like that feeling of losing optimism. It is not me.
     So there’s my rant for the night. so I probably should sign off and go to bed.  Hope you feel more enlightened about what actions we should take than I do!!!!  :) Tell me what you think.

Help Me Choose a Title for My NaNoWriMo 2015 Novel

Marsha & Kalev
This is me, not ten-year old Jenny, but I love dogs, especially rescued ones. None of Kalev’s toys provide incentive for trying on a new raincoat and hat.

Ten year-old Jenny Hatfield resents her dad for moving her family to the Southern end of the Willamette Valley to take a new job. She hasn’t lived in Pine Forest, Oregon three days before she detests it. Her friends and family live in Portland, Oregon. The kids in the rural logging town are mean. The dreary November weather overshadows her sunny spirit.

Ongoing family problems crescendo after the move. The love she craves the most, from her father, continues to elude her. Born with a double cleft lip, (yeah, that part is me – only.1% of the U.S. population would know what it’s like.) Jenny confirms her unspoken sense that her father’s disappointment in her imperfection drives his constant criticism of her. After spending her life trying to win his approval, she runs out of ideas.

Riding her bike home from school on windy Millwood Drive, Jenny saves an Airedale/Poodle puppy from certain death. She hopes her life in Pine Forest will take a turn for the better. Her neighbor, son of a logger, Todd Paul, happens along to help her. He seems like a promising friend until the class debate begins and Sandy Lassiter moves into their trailer park.

Always fighting for what seems right, Jenny finds herself scrambling to find someone in her class who wants to join her team in the class debate. When choosing sides, she never considered that anyone in the enlightened era of the 1970s would choose not to protect the environment. In the rural logging town of Pine Forest livelihoods hung in the balance over the national debate between protecting the endangered white spotted owl and the local economics of the logging industry. Emotions sparked flames she had not anticipated.


Not you , Kalev.
Not you , Kalev.

She finds love and acceptance where it is, and stops struggling to produce it where it is not.

So now the title problem remains. Catchy titles help sell books. Will the title A New Home For Wynn work? I brainstormed another, but what you think?

You can always reach me at, or like me on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn. I’m always listening for good vignettes and ideas to use in my  books. Write me your stories. :)

Where Were You in 1976? Whatever Were You Thinking?

I’m only one inconsequential person who lived through the 70s. Many of you were there, too going through some of the major events of the decade with me with the same or different experiences.

oregon trip 201320130914_1106231R

My new book, A New Home for Wynn,or at least that’s what it is now, is shaping up. My ten-year old heroine starts out on all the wrong feet at her new school in the southern Willamette Valley in a fictitious town named Pine Forest, OR just before the 1976 election.

oregon trip 201320130915_0044168R
This picture is located at the mouth of the Klamath River, where they wrestle still with a salmon issue battling it out water rights with the Central Valley of CA, where I live.

I chose this location because twenty-five years ago I wrote my first boring novel about this little girl (me, of course). I had recently moved from Cottage Grove, OR, so my heart still lived there even though I had moved on. On November 1st I resurrected the book that I wrote during summer vacation of one of my first years of teaching. At the time I wrote this I taught fourth grade. Elementary teachers teach writing like we know what we are talking about. The text-book tells us what to say and do,  and I taught writing to kids. As I judged kids essays and graded their journals, I sometimes (not often) wondered if I was legitimately qualified to do so. I wondered if I could stand the scrutiny of publication. Proudly I finished the book, and put it away. Overwhelmed by the edits I knew needed to follow, I decided not to push for publication, but I cherished the experience, and the work itself.

Twenty-five years later it's on it way to PA with me. And yes, it weighs a ton! :)
Twenty-five years later it’s on it way to PA with me. And yes, it weighs a ton! :)

I went on about life, but the book remained clipped to my wooden clipboard, its original floppy disks long gone. When NaNoWriMo came up this year, I decided to participate, in spite of the fact I am traveling twice during the month and will be out of commission along the way. I needed something I thought I could rewrite quickly.


And right, because I had the germ for my story, but not the details that will make the book a breakout novel. Yesterday I figured out how to interject the important issue that was part of my book from its inception, but was overshadowed by the girl’s (my) problems with her (my) father — and husband and any other male that  who happened across my path that and rubbed me the wrong way.

Hal, his granddaughter, Amy, and me sitting in Robert Morris' pew in Philadelphia.
Hal, his granddaughter, Amy, and me sitting in Robert Morris’ pew in Philadelphia.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate men! I had the most wonderful grandfather in the world, who looked something like my mother’s cousin Hal, pictured above. He adored me.  So he’s in there, too, you just wouldn’t recognize him as a grandfather because he’s 11 ish. I think Hal adores me too, but he just met me four years ago, but that’s another story I can tell you more about after I see him for the third time in my life tomorrow morning at 9:00 am PA time.

But here’s what’s missing – YOU!  I need opinions from all over the United States and beyond about what you were doing in the 1970s and what you thought about the Endangered Species Act of 1973. My heroine and her grandfather-type friend are assigned reports, debates and all kinds of assignments to involve them in the white spotted owl issues in Oregon at that time. By the way, those issues were not resolved at the time, but they were quite heated.

Palmer's white spotted owl
David A. Palmer, Easton

People all over the country at that time became involved citizens protecting the earth from industrious invaders. What were your experiences?

Click the express yourself link below and share your thoughts with me.  When the book comes out, (and it will – I guarantee it –  my word is my bond) if I use your name or quote you in any way I will send you a free copy as a thank you gift, unless you’d rather have a check for $1,000. You know I’m kidding don’t you? About the check, I mean. I’m hoping it will cost me thousands just mailing copies of the book because so many of you respond!  :)

Click here to express yourself. 

If you have longer stories, you can reach me at

Also like me on WP, FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I rarely check the others, but I do check those.

Books You Must Put Down and Movies That Transport You Out of This World

To be honest, if I’m reading fiction, I can’t put the good books down. If I’m reading non-fiction I have the opposite reaction. The better it is the sooner I put it down and start practicing what I just read.

Because I chose to take part in NaNoWriMo this month, I’ve read non-fiction, how to books to improve my fiction writing as I write.  Along with that I began blogging again, although not at the frantic daily pace I did three years ago when I started.

Writing the Breakout Novel

The first book I began, and hope I’ll finish is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. If you write seriously, you’ve probably read it, but I’ve done other things. His writing style is professorial with honest suggestions, examples, and a summary at the end of each chapter, so you don’t forget the main points. The problem is that I get a few pages into each chapter and I go to my new novel, and begin revising – from the beginning.  I may never finish either my novel or the book.  The good news is that this book is making a difference in how I write fiction.

Every Writer Needs a Tribe

This morning I just downloaded a free non-fiction book, Every Writer Needs a Tribe, from Jeff Goins who I know from My 500 Words. One of my favorite writing friends, Tonia Hurst, invited me to this writing group on Facebook.  This book is very short, 42 pages, and talks about building a writing platform. As a blogger, I have a platform that is pretty scattered, and Goins advises against that, but as most of what I’ve posted on this site has been about blogging, I think you all should know about this book.

The two movies I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks I recommend that you not get up in the middle and walk out. Both of them are still showing, at least in Visalia, where we get a smattering of the current movies.

The Martian, unbelievable as a science fiction should be, enables you to suspend reality and live on Mars with the astronaut that gets left for dead when the rest of the crew takes off to avoid certain annihilation by a fierce Martian storm. (Whew, try saying that sentence without taking a breath.) The photography and Photoshop tricks used to make this movie are every bit as enjoyable as the plot and the acting, both of which helped capture this movie a 93% approval rating.

The Intern entertains entirely differently. If you love Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, you will already love the film. No man is as perfect and loveable as the senior intern played by De Niro, but every romantic wants to believe in him.  I saw this chick-flick with four other retired, successful, busier than working-women friends for our birthdays.  We all loved the movie. The Rotten Tomato website rates this movie as a 60%, but if you believe chivalry didn’t die with your grandparent’s generation, this movie is for you.

Those are my recommendations for you. What do you recommend for me to make it through NaNoWriMo?

Word Press Photo Challenge: Treat

It’s a treat to thrash Bob — hard!

Bopping Bob.
Bopping Bob.

In only two months I’ve gotten so much better at it. When I started fighting Bob, I could barely tap him in the chest for 15 seconds. Now I can beat on him for a minute without being out of breath. (OK I exaggerate a LITTLE.)

I’ve learned to sock him in the solar plexus.

Watch out, Bob!
Watch out, Bob!

I can back arm him and thoroughly box his ears.

Two months ago my husband and I began training with our best friend’s daughter, Melissa, a five foot two powerhouse who has competed successfully in at least one national fitness competition. When we started I couldn’t plank, not for a second. Now I can hold still, not without a lot of groaning, for at least 30 seconds after doing two rounds of other serious exercises.

Melissa and her friend, Bob

Some things I still can’t do. While V is doing serious pull-ups, I’m stretching trying to hang from a bar without pulling anything up. I still have to have my tippy toes on the ground, though, and even that hurts. the other day I stretched out with my feet on the ball and my hands clenching a couple of hanging rings. I swear I lifted my body about an eighth of an inch. I was so proud I called over to Melissa to watch.

But put me behind a pair of rope handles, and I can drive those ropes into submission. Melissa tells V to watch my great form. I am so proud.

So what does all this violence do for our bodies? Melissa says our core will get stronger. So far I have only gained weight – about 4-5 pounds. My clothes still fit , and my body still looks roly poly in the mid-section, but I’m definitely able to do more harm to Bob that I ever thought possible, and that’s a treat!

BTW, I thought Melissa named Bob after her dad, but everyone on YouTube seems to call him Bob, and here I thought I was pounding “Bob,” (which I would never have dared in real life!)  :)

For more treats click here.

Considering Your Costume Choices?

People enjoy Evengeline’s Costume Mansion in Sacramento year round, but I’d bet it’s packed today, the day before Halloween.  You might be planning to wear a sexy costume like the mannequin pictured here.

The new Marsha ???
The new Marsha ???  I photoshopped her arm joint seams, but she still looks rather … dead.

My husband, Einstein’s look-alike, wants to dress as Father Guido Sarducci. Good choice for him, don’t you think?


People don costumes for many reasons year-long, and sometimes we copy them for Halloween. Here are a few costumes I’ve seen in my travels. In Hawaii we accidentally toured a park during a religious building dedication. Participants in the ceremony wore native costumes. Native dress for the men included tattoos.

I got a little shaky taking this picture. hahaha I had my zoom extended out to 270 mm, and I was in too much of a hurry! hahaha
~~~~ I got a little shaky taking this picture. I had my zoom extended out to 270 mm.  You would have shaken too!

The girls that sang had their costumes wrapped around them.  It reminded me of a church play, where the church costume designer didn’t really go all out with the costumes, but the cute factor was still there.

The women didn't get as into the total costume as the young man did. Does it look like he's glaring at me?
The women didn’t get as into the total costume as the young man did. Does it look like he’s glaring at me?  It was a very solemn ceremony.

Performers wear costumes on stage year-round, not just for Halloween.  Trick or treaters may buy costumes like these , but nothing matches the storytelling, grace and beauty of the Hawaiian dancer.

Luau Kalamaku in Kauai

Mexican folklorico dancers wear colorful dresses with circular ruffled skirts which they swing and raise to show off their legs as they do tap dance-like percussive steps called zapateados.

2013 CCSS Folklorico Dancers

Different street dancers in wide assortments of costumes entertain daily passersby in large cities like these we saw in San Francisco.  Dancers from Thailand depict combat with short and long sticks. Agile dancers, as short stick fighters do, stay close to their opponents. The teut-teung drum keeps the beat during the energetic dance.

SF Thai Dancer229

Do you have your costume picked out for tomorrow? Hope you have a Happy Halloween and don’t get too scared!

Mapping Back to

Good morning everyone. This is your troubled WP friend, Marsha Lee, streaming thoughts, good and bad for everyone to see.

Streaming or screaming, Marsha? I can't tell.
Streaming or screaming, Marsha? I can’t tell.


I received an answer to my cry for help from the Jonathan S the Happiness Engineer from WP. It looks like with one simple click I am back in business on this site – now that I started a new one. I guess I am happy now.

Honey are we having fun?
Honey are we having fun?

I’ll keep this one going as my fun, social site, so I don’t lose my friends. Thank you Ute, Dianne Gray and Naomi for writing to me on my new site. You made my day!

What are your favorite social activities?
What are your favorite social activities?

The new site,, will be my professional writing site.

How to write and read millions of books in 10 minutes a day.
How to write and read hundreds millions of books in 10 minutes a day. is my site for local history.

Photo courtesy of Ellie Cain
Photo courtesy of Ellie Cain

How many websites have you started either accidentally or on purpose?  Have a great week!

Kind regards,

Marsha Lee :)

Lost in Cyberspace v. Private domain

Where am I?

I seem to have lost my domain name, My account says it is there, but the webpage is not available. So I switched the site back to until I can find myself out there somewhere.

Thank you all for your concern about my web presence. You are BFFs. :)

I’m Really Not Dead, But I Wasn’t Fighting in the Battle

It’s 4:03 in the morning. I slept all day yesterday after minor surgery, so I’m relatively bright-eyed and drug free. How are all of you?

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything besides letters, emails, figured budgets, and fixed computer problems that, I’ve forgotten how to write blogs! So I guess I’ll write you all a letter. I remember getting letters from my grandmother, and every one of them told us about someone we didn’t know or remember who had died. So I wanted you to know that at least I didn’t die, and I’m going to tell some of you about a bunch of people you don’t know.

2015 WVMS Civil War111

I got a call to be a REAL photographer last week by a friend, Lauri Polly, who IS a real photographer and editor of our Kiwanis Magazine, “What’s Happening in the Foothills.”

I’m sure you can imagine, if you don’t already know from experience, how much work it is to plan and execute a day of activities for several hundred students.  First you have to line up volunteers to present, which means you have to know a lot of people who know a lot of stuff, AND are good with kids! Then you have to con your last-minute volunteers (teachers and librarians to stand in for those who couldn’t make it.)

Then you plan the weather. It should be sunny, with a light breeze, not too hot.

Oops it rained. Plan B
Oops it rained. Plan B

Then you invite other students to join you, so there’s a little more pressure on you as a planner, but adrenaline helps because the event is exciting, after all.  I’m sure Courtney slept well that night.

Finally you plan a grand finale. And what could be grander than shooting off a Civil War canon?

And that’s how you send off the year of studying eighth grade history in Woodlake, CA with a big bang.

There’s not much information in here about the Civil War. I can’t with so many of my friends who are experts in the subject – I’d embarrass myself!  I have all the pictures with some notes from the event posted on my Facebook Page.

Good Morning, World

It’s four in the morning here in California as I write to you for the first time in weeks. I have a good reason – for not writing, that is.

“Really? What possible reason could be good enough for not writing to your friends?” asks the little voice in my head.

One thing I learned about writing good dialogue – and writing in general is that you leave the boring parts out.

“So what made you think you should even write anything?”

What a pesky little voice you are. there are maybe five or ten people in the world that are still interested in even the boring little details of my life. Maybe they miss me.

“Well get on with it then, and write what you’re going to say, and quit talking to me.”

OK OK, the truth is that I have a new job, and I was sort of waiting  until the Board President announced to the public before I wrote about it, and I’ve been extremely busy doing exciting things like filing and trying to balance the books.  I am the new Executive Director of the California Council for the Social Studies, and it’s not entirely clear what that job will be, but for me it starts with filing and organizing.


Maybe, but necessary. Today I will attend the Executive Planning Meeting in Los Angeles, so I stayed the night in the hotel where our conference will be next March, and took a tour of the facilities.

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Most important to me is establishing face to face contact. I met Deb, Ryan, Tim and Carmita. Ryan will be our main contact person as we prepare for our biggest event, a conference for about 700-800 social studies teachers, professors, and administrators in California.

2015 Hilton OC109Seeing the rooms gives our planning committee and me an idea of which rooms will be best for the presentations, and where the exhibits and ticketed meals and social events will be.  You can see about one-third of what will be the exhibit hall in this picture above.

2015 Hilton OC114Session rooms are huge, but they can be divided into thirds. Left open they seat almost 200 guests. The hotel has recently been remodeled, and is quite lovely. Most importantly it has good internet access for everyone – in public places and in the rooms, and I will soon learn the cost to make it available during sessions.

2015 Hilton OC202I can visualize two history teachers networking here with computers open and a cup of coffee, discussing how they will use what they learned in a session in their class .

2015 Hilton OC201I expressed surprise over how pretty the tables looked, and Ryan told me that the facility is linenless. That’s a new term for me. Normally when you see tables at a hotel without their linens on, they are rough pieces of wood, that sneaks up and snags your nylons when you cross your legs under the table.

“No one wears nylons anymore.”

Be quiet. I do sometimes. It’s cold in hotels.

“That’s not why YOU wear them.”

2015 Hilton OC207There’s a perfect little office right outside the registration area where we can set up shop so everything will be close by. It is linenless, too. I never realized how pervasive linen was.

2015 Hilton OC206This is a small part of the foyer outside the exhibit hall. One year we had Mexican folklorico dancers in the foyer it was so big. Another year we had extra exhibits. Our conference planners will have all kinds of decisions to make about the space, but at least now I know how the space looks, so I can picture it when they ask me questions.

2015 Hilton OC127A beachy place wouldn’t be complete without swallows. It was nice to have the time to enjoy the scenery. I’m sure I’ll be very busy the next time I see this place. :)

Now you know I haven’t disappeared or died. In fact I just renewed my domain, so I’m here for another year, starting my fourth year of blogging.  Thanks for reading and chatting, and being my friend.

Spanish Baby Liam & The Californian Bear


Manny’s brother and counterpart in crime, Lammy, has gone to live in Spain with baby Liam. I had to use Kalev’s dog leash on Manny to keep him at home when he saw Lammy getting into his travel box.

Originally posted on Bluefish Way:









Oh, come on cats ! They are good kids. And Sonic, stop ripping up my pants !


Some of you, dear commenters, have asked how Liam is. Liam is Toni & Pedro’s baby. The stork bought him to my neighbour’s house in our Spanish village late last December.

b1 Liam and Ralph. December 2014


And then, out of the blue, Marsha …..


…..sent a lovely soft toy which happens to be Manny’s big brother…….


…… all the way from California, USA, to Liam in the mountains of Andalucia, Spain.

Lammy was cooped up in the parcel for 24 days with no air holes. Poor bear !


Lammy is Liam’s first and only soft toy.

b21 Liam and Lammy. April 2015



Her husband Pedro away for the day, Toni brought her children up to my apartment for a photo shoot with Lammy for this post and to send to Marsha.

b15 Eidan, Toni, Lammy…

View original 90 more words

The Deliberate Blur: Retirement?

We looked forward to our vacation in Sedona for weeks, and we’ve already been home for two days.  What happened?

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Sights seemed clear enough when we were there. We stopped at a wonderful museum in Kingman even though this lady view us with some distrust.  Maybe her vision was blurred.

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If you are at the Route 66 Museum, and you like old-fashioned milkshakes and malts you should go across the street to Mr. Dz. Yelp provided this picture, so I’m a bit blurry on the name details.

Mr DzWe spent the first and last night in Laughlin, so we met ourselves coming and going. It was beautiful on the way, but by the way back, the blurry air smeared the town’s beauty.  So enjoy the first glimpse.

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We visited a park called Slide Rock on the way home that may have been the most beautiful place in the world. In 1912 a man named Frank Pandry homesteaded it and grew apples.

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It’s heyday came and went in a blur, but artifacts remain. It’s definitely worth a visit.

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The red blur at the bottom explains how the place got its name. Kids and adults alike still enjoyed the slippery rocks.

2015 Sedona184Bees still enjoyed sniffing the black apple blossoms. I had never heard of black apples.

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Can you imagine a finer setting for an apple orchard?

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For more blurry pictures click here.

Organizing – a Fresh Start or the Kiss of Death?

It’s spring, time for a fresh startTC Iris Festival

Spring gives me clutterphobia.  In the spring, after a winter of projects, clutter creeps up on me like the consequences of a young female kitty with outdoor privileges. Oops, where did this come from? Unfortunately, having clutterphobia means I must make life and death decisions about MY valuable STUFF.

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I remember my grandmother hanging dresses on top of dresses on her bedroom and closet doors and every other door that would open because her closet, chests of drawers, three car garage – that housed Grandpa’s business and Grandma’s clutter – and full basement weren’t large enough to hold her favorite things.

I don’t want to be like Grandma, but I admit that I don’t notice clutter when I’m slaving madly in some pet project. If I have enough drawers, boxes, shelves, table tops or containers I can shove it into or stack it neatly when company comes, I’m happy. But sometimes I have to stop, and make a fresh start. Like when Vincie says, “We’re starting a new project. You’ve got to move everything out of here!”

We're also remodeling our bathroom. Yikes!
We’re also remodeling our bathroom. Yikes!


During intense periods of work, my house fills from the inside out. I go to a conference and bring home freebies and purchased books that I couldn’t resist, and I’m too busy to deal with it. If Vince or I can’t find gloves, make-up, pair of glasses, jewelry, bowls, hammers, flashlights, we buy cheap replacements. The longer I let it go, the less space I have to walk around in my house, and suddenly the clutter hits me like an infestation of cockroaches. I need a fresh start. But how?

My enormous collection of handmade or inexpensive jewelry.

My enormous collection of handmade or inexpensive jewelry.

Organize it and put it somewhere safe

Eventually I complete or tire of my messy project or collection, but I still can’t bear to part with the stuff.

Organize it and put it somewhere safe.  :)
 I’m sure I’ll be wearing that stuff sometime soon! :)

I start a new job April 1. I’ll tell you about it after it’s publicly announced, but I’m cleaning and organizing my house to get ready for a fresh new project!

My 5th trip to Goodwill in the last three weeks. (Since I haven't been blogging!  :)
I’m ready for my 5th trip to Goodwill in the last three weeks, since I haven’t been blogging! :)

This past week I’ve also been organizing my computer into external drives and getting things off about ten different cloud drives that slowed my poor little Apple down to a crawl to give it a fresh start. (It still has an arthritic drive, and takes longer to get going than my grandpa used to take getting out of his recliner.)

I’ve spent two days freshening up my CCSS and SJVCSS files, and moving them to a Google Drive so a new volunteer will be able to find things they might need. Without files, there is no institutional memory. An organization for social studies – history, geography, economics and government teachers – better have some institutional memory. We don’t even have a historian in either group.  Yikes. But I have ORGANIZED files.

The SJVCSS website needed a fresh start, too.  I destroyed the home page accidentally. That’s one of the hazards of cleaning I forgot to mention – destruction. My mother was a clutterbug. When I was 10, she had to spend a week in the hospital. My dad decided that he would organize and clean everything. He even took the dresser pulls off the dresser and soaked them in solution that ate off the finish instead of the fingerprints.  Now I’ve turned into my dad.

We’re hiring an expert to start afresh with a new website that it won’t wilt when a little Miss Sunshine decides to organize and freshen it up a bit.  In my defense, it needed organizing. the Latest News and Twitter Posts showing on the homepage were dated May, 2012, and newer posts existed.

My lost manuscript

One positive note to cleaning the clutter before I must leave you. Over twenty years ago I wrote a book during summer break. I stored it on big floppy disks, (LOL if you remember those!)  but I also had a printed copy of it that I couldn’t find anywhere. I found it last night. It’s like finding an old friend. I have it sitting next to my computer where I can look down and smile at it and put my coffee cup on it for a few days until I have to find a new place for it. It’s about 250 pages clipped neatly onto an old brown clipboard. I doubt that I will retype it any time soon. BUT IT’S NOT CLUTTER … is it?

For more ideas about Freshness, check out the WP Daily Post.

Graceful Is As Graceful Does


You all know that I am the Klutz Queen of the Universe, but there are other kinds of gracefulness. Last week I looked around my yard where grace and beauty abound thanks to my hubby, Vince.

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To me there is nothing more graceful than clouds, and if these seem to be a bit upside down it’s because they are dancing on the water. I dare anyone to be more graceful than that!  :)

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The cloud queen even impressed Puppy Girl, princess of our home.  This is as close as PG comes to getting in the water unless held tightly by her mom or dad. She is anything but graceful in the water.

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The trees  bow their limbs in honor of her majesty. These cloud rulers of the earth are graceful, yet they get puffed up at their own beauty. Beware, “pride cometh before a fall,” my lovely sky beauties.

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And lo, up springs a little competition for the rulers of the sky from these little buds that spread their fingers and toes and dance gracefully in the wind.

For more on the theme of graceful from Alisa’s Travel Theme, Where’s My Backpack, click here.


Want A Beautiful 1.25 Acres in the Country?

A few years ago Vince and I purchased five acres of beautiful property, and subdivided it into four parcels. Three have sold. Two have beautiful homes, and my favorite remains.  We thought it had sold to one of my former fourth grade students, but financing fell through. I was so sad – instant grandchildren came with that sale. But maybe there is someone else just as lovely that wants to build a home there.

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Two days ago the weather was so perfect, I had to do a photo shoot there. It’s on a cul-de-sac and has a pad already cleared for building. This is the house across the private road.

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It was about 4:00 pm. The full moon peeped out of the clouds in broad daylight. I see a rabbit. What do you see?

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The lot has five or six oak trees that are probably between 50 and 100 years old. They are indigenous to this area, but are not protected like the Visalia Oak. The cute little house across the street is ours.  It is small, but very I think very adorable. He’s getting ready to redo our master bathroom. His son is coming to help him today, and I’m going out of town. (Whew!)

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The trees have many birds, mostly owls, woodpeckers and vultures. They are camera-shy. I waste so much time trying to capture them with my camera.

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I almost missed this one, and it’s not clear. I’m probably spinning as I follow it. I shot using my telephoto lens, which gets really close, but it sticks out so far, I can’t hold it steady. You are looking at the underbelly of a woodpecker. They love telephone poles. Every pole stores thousands of acorns. They like to put them in our gutters as well, up under the edge of the roof.

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This is probably a vulture in the top center of the maze of limbs.

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He doesn’t want to even land.

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To the east beyond the foothills, you see the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range on a clear day.


There is a vacant lot right across the street next to our house. Vince has always wanted to plant a vineyard, but there are many regulations, and neither of us knows what we are doing, so it sits fallow.

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You can see that the trees will bloom any day now.

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The young couple that planned to buy the property asked about snakes. Mama Kitty ate one the other day. I think it was a garter snake. She made the funniest screaming noise while she was playing with it. After munching it down, she later gave it back, but  was no worse for the wear.

2015 BV March115We have seen about 2 tiny rattle snakes in the 15 years we have lived there, so they are there. We had Kalev rattle snake trained, so she is alert. The cats just eat them. They also catch gophers. The squirrels are too much for them, so we have help catching them and the raccoons. Scardy Kitty got stuck in the trap one morning. He was quite irritated as he waited patiently for me to figure out how to open it.

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Country life doesn’t appeal to everyone, but city slickers, Vince and Marsha wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.