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2016 and a Big Rock

GibraltarTen years ago, my husband and I had the extreme pleasure of traveling around the coast of Spain and Portugal, from Barcelona to Lisbon. What a trip! We’ll never forget the exciting ports, the gorgeous M.S. Deutschland, the lovely company of our friends. One point of interest was the passage through the Strait of Gibraltar. We marveled, and took the usual photos while passing through (the ones of us with our hair horizontal in the wind aren’t worth reprinting here) the eight-mile wide waterway.

We are looking at again cruising the Mediterranean in 2016. One of the trips we considered would take us to Gibraltar, but not through the Strait. What’s there, I wondered? So I read up. Felt a little dumb for not knowing that Gibraltar, which is made up of about 2.6 sq miles and is home to 30,000 people, is a the British Overseas Territory. Listed as “Gibraltar, Great Britain” in the travel documents, this small community is located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula and its top attraction are Barbary Apes, tailless monkeys that congregate in a viewing area. “The last remaining population of the species on the European continent, these playful primates are thriving.”

Of great interest to me are the historical aspects of Gibraltar. Think about it – this point is an amazingly strategic spot to control entrance to the Mediterranean, and during WWII, it served as an enormously important base for the Royal Navy. There are caves and tunnels throughout the rock.

We may not actually take this cruise, but I’m happy that doing the research brought me up to speed on this tiny bit of geographic fascination.


And Proud to Announce…

pam glacierIn my last post, I talked about how I’ve made changes in my life. One very important thing I forgot to mention is my new position as president of Circle of Hope, Inc. Some of my followers know I’ve been involved in the non-profit world for many years. Almost five years ago, I joined this small, local, charitable group at the urging of two of my friends. I was almost immediately elected to the executive board as Secretary, and two years later I move up to Vice-President. Now, as of July 1st, I’m the prez.

CircleofHopeCircle of Hope provides emotional, educational and financial assistance to those fighting cancer who live, work or are treated in the Santa Clarita Valley. But in a smaller nutshell, we raise money to help pay the cancer-related bills our clients can’t afford to pay. Our organization is 11 years old, and we have a board of directors of about 16 people. We have an ace Executive Director. We hold several fundraisers a year, and we derive a significant amount of our revenue from these fundraisers. Competition is tough, grants are difficult to come by, and big-money sponsors are few and far between. Still, we press on, as we assist women and men battling breast, uterine, cervical, ovarian, prostate, testicular and colon cancers. While it’s a challenge to constantly be looking for money, one look into the faces of our clients, one session of listening to their stories, one big, tearful smile of gratitude makes it all worthwhile.

VP Janice Murray, me, Past Pres Jill Bondy

VP Janice Murray, me, Past Pres Jill Bondy

I’ve been accused of being an idealist. But without those of us who believe in the goodness and the possibilities, there would be no Circle of Hope. I have lofty dreams and expectations for the next two years. I know there will be discouragements and disappointments along the way, but there will also be successes and joy. Here’s to seeking, finding and sharing the generosity I know is out there.

Life’s Twists and Shouts

Connor+Gramma 5-10-15

With my wacky & sweet grandson, May 2015

(You thought I was going to say “Twists and Turns”, didn’t you? Just messing with you.)

I want to explain something, and I want to do it in such a way that you’ll understand completely and maybe even empathize a little. I’ve made a change this year, an unplanned and rather unconscious change in a very important area of my life, and I feel surprisingly great. What monumental change could this be, you ask?

I stopped worrying about my books. I stopped stressing over whether or not I was doing enough or the right things to sell books. I stopped mentally flogging myself for being unable to finish my WIP. I stopped obsessing over Amazon reviews and sales figures. I gave myself permission to love my books, love my modest number of fans and to let that be enough.

I feel immensely better. Incredibly better. I no longer feel the need to keep up with all the latest and greatest marketing techniques. No longer feel I’m in a competition with other authors. I’m free! Free of all that struggle and heartache and feelings of defeat.

For those who’ve been on this journey with me, relax. I haven’t completely checked out of the hotel. I will finish The Gypsy in Me. I am in the midst of contracting new covers for the first two books in that series, which I will unveil and release when Gypsy is ready to come out. I’ll make it a 3 book box set. But I won’t push myself to the point where it hurts to think about it. I don’t need deadlines or any other “shoulda-coulda-woulda’s” that steal all the joy out of writing. Don’t need it.

There will likely be another lighthouse book, too, when I have a good enough idea to set in motion. Perhaps, by releasing myself from all these imagined obligations, I’ll have a mind free enough to invite the muse back in.

Mom’s History Book

Weathers,Margie dec 1941

Mom at around age 16

On this date–April 13–in 1923, my mother was born, number 9 in a family of 10 children and 1.5 adults. The .5 would have been Poppy, her father, whom wasn’t around all that much. When I think about my mother’s 83 year lifespan, it seems like something I read in a history book. Both of my parents lived through one of the most rapidly changing eras of modern times. She lived on a quasi-farm, without indoor plumbing. I don’t even know if they had electricity. Her grandfather, Joseph Newdigger (Neidecker) was an Austrian stowaway at age 13, who arrived in the U.S. around 1850. He settled, at first, in Arkansas, where he met Mary Elizabeth Hooper. They married in 1868 and settled in Newton County, Missouri. They had 3 children, but by 1878 Joseph had moved on and married Louisa Rebecca McDonnel, a Native American, with whom he had 13 more children over a 17 year period. One was my grandmother, Mary Catherine.

Newdigger-in process

My great-grandparents, Joseph & Rebecca Newdigger

My mother never knew her grandparents, and I don’t think she knew her father very well, either. Her mother succumbed to cancer when Mom was only 13, and Poppy was long gone by then, off to father two more kids with someone else. My mom and her younger sister were passed around amongst the older siblings until they could be married off. Both of these young sisters faced unwanted relationships early in their lives, stories they lived, but weren’t inclined, to tell.

Think about population in America’s rapidly growing years. Joseph Newdigger fathered 18 children, and one, just ONE of these children had 13 more children. Consider that most, if not all, of those original 18 kids had an average of 10 more. That’s 180 lives. My grandmother, Mary Catherine, had some 28 grandkids and and least 32 great-grandchildren. The figures are mind-boggling when you consider it all.

Newdigger Weathers, Mary Catherine-new

Mary Catherine Newdigger-Weathers, one of 16 little Newdiggers

So I meant to write about Mom today, and got all tangled up in stats. These large families certainly had an effect on her life–but what kind of effect? Competition for attention, even life’s necessities? Once any of those aunts, uncles and even older sibs moved out of the line of sight, they were virtually lost to her. No telephones, no “change of address” cards. Hear-say, maybe… the neighbor that lives over near the church “heard” that the oldest sister, Mamie, moved to Texas with that guy that comes around selling egg-gathering baskets… it was easy to lose touch. Today, I can spend a few minutes on Facebook or Ancestry and locate many of my long-lost or unknown descendents. Strange, huh?

Mom has been gone for 10 years now. I wonder what she’d think of Facebook and all the myriad ways the Internet ties people together? With her background of riding an old nag to school, using an outhouse, killing her own chickens for dinner and leaving school at 13, how could she have even a basis for understanding today’s world? I barely understand it myself.

Nonetheless, she made a good life for Dad, my two brothers, my sister and me. She didn’t need to look up on YouTube about how to make a pie crust or reupholster the couch. She loved us all with a devotion and passion she was denied as a child. She was socially shy, however, and I have to smile thinking about how tramatized she’d be by Facebook’s friending/ unfriending and “like” systems. Best that she was spared that nonsense!

Happy Birthday, Mama. Love and miss you.



Field Trip: Forest Lawn Glendale Museum


By William Stout (see below)

For the last few years, my family (specifically my brother, his wife, my husband and I) have been taking once-a-year field trips around Los Angeles to take in some iconic and/or historic sights. So many of us grew up here, smack dab in the middle of a rich, cultural stew, and have never seen so much of it. We’ve toured places like Griffith Observatory, the Getty Museum, Angel’s Flight, the Bradbury Building, etc. We augment our little trips with out-of-the-way eateries and unexpected side forays. For our Downtown venture, we boarded the lite rail and took it to Pershing Square. We took time to admire a stories-high, vintage painting of Anthony Quinn as Zorba the Greek on the side of a brick building.

Read more about Anthony as Zorba

Better known as “The Pope of Broadway,” the 70-foot mural painted in 1985 by artist Eloy Torrez, was inspired by the actor’s 1964 role in “Zorba the Greek.” – See more at: http://hollywood.greekreporter.com/2014/10/29/restoration-ahead-for-anthony-quinn-zorba-the-greek-inspired-mural/#sthash.mPqN0CZU.dpuf

This year, we decided we go in search of stars’ graves. Funky, perhaps juvenile, I know; but it caught my fancy so off we went to Glendale. After first partaking of a delightful lunch at the Los Feliz Cafe, we headed on over to the one of the most beautiful cemeteries ever. Forest Lawn in Glendale is also unbelievably huge. Over 300 acres, with over 300,000 gravesites. It is the single largest final resting place for movie stars–over a thousand individuals of some level of show business notariety. My brother and I are both film buffs and truly appreciate many of the legendary stars of the Revolutions-Home-Page-Toutpast, so we looked forward to seeing how they…ended up. But you won’t find any “Maps to Stars’ Graves!” at Forest Lawn. Quite the contrary. The young man at the gate was polite and quietly explained where we might find James Stewart and Liz Taylor, but beyond that, we were on our own. According to Seeing-Stars.com, the establishment can be downright hostile about sightseers.

While touring the park, we came upon the Museum, which is currently hosting “Revolution 2:  The Art of Music.” Can you imagine my delight? Here was a treasure trove of original album cover art, rock star portraits, magazine covers, and a special section showcasing the art of William Stout. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed, but above [Beatlesongs!] is a sample of Stout’s work. You may also know him from Firesign Theater and Life of Brian.

A video was playing, and we sat a while to watch Live Aid 1985, the portion offering Elton John, Kenny Loggins, and George Michael. Talk about being in hog heaven.GNP.EASTER.4.040110.RR

Afterward, we entered the Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection for a telling about the painting and refurbishment of Jan Styka’s “The Crucifixion” – a canvas that is 195 feet wide by 45 feet high. The video accompanying the display was very entertaining and informative.

Stewart smallFinally, we got back into the car and went in search of Jimmy. We found him, right where the gate attendant had said he’d be, beside his wife Gloria. We were humbled by the simplicity of this wonderful man’s grave.

First Look: Secrets and Lies

MV5BMTUxNTE2NzY5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjk5NTU2NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_This is a new drama/miniseries (ten episodes) on ABC.

From IMDB:  A family man finds the body of a young boy while jogging and becomes the prime suspect. He has no choice but to try to find the real killer as his marriage, his kids, his reputation, and his sanity are all at stake.

I watched the first two hours (season premiere) and by the end, I felt exhausted. I told my husband, “there should always be some periodic relief for the viewer. This show has none.” It literally doesn’t let up on the tension. First of all, it breaks the rule about showing dead children onscreen. Little Tom Murphy has been murdered, and there is a brief showing of blood on the hand of the man who finds him.

That man is the belabored protagonist Ben Garner (well-played by Ryan Phillippe), whose drunken memory-lapse casts the only minute shadow of doubt over his innocence. The cop doggedly harassing him really has nothing to go on, yet she is so annoying in her pursuit I almost just turned off the show. Juliette Lewis’ portrayal of Detective Andrea Cornell might be considered great because we hate her so much.

Reviewers have used the words “catchy, perfectly flowing” but also “boring,” “annoying,” and “irritating.” I understand, people! Apparently, it is a remake of an Australian effort that was (again, apparently) much better.

Will I tune in next week and give it a third hour of my life? I kinda want to just skip to the end to see Detective Cornell eat crow, which she undoubtedly will. We’ll see.