Thursday, February 20, 2020

Family Lost and Found

When my father died (I was seven), we lost track of all of his family. Many years later, his youngest sister contacted me. We grew to know (and love) her. We got together with her fairly often before she died.
Taken on our 25th anniversary: Aunt Mary Evelyn, Lorna, brother Ron, Lorna’s mother
Although we reconnected with my aunt, it took another few years to locate her kids on Facebook. They led me to another precious cousin. Margaret came to visit my mother with us in June of 2011, and it was one of the last lucid days Mom had. Truly a gift!
June 2011
Over the next few years, I got to know these cousins well. Margaret and Suzanne came down and spent a few days with us here at the beach. What an amazing healing time it was!

Suzanne and Roger attended our 50th wedding anniversary celebration, and we so happy to spend time with them. My brother also got to know them.
September 2015: Ron, Suzanne, Lorna, Roger
The above photo is especially poignant since we lost Roger last year. I am incredibly grateful that I got to spend as much time as I did with him. We adored each other.

Through DNA, I was able to connect with some other cousins on my dad’s side. They are the grandchildren of my grandfather’s brother, who homesteaded in Alberta, Canada. Last summer, we went there to attend their family reunion. I so enjoyed getting to know more about this branch of my family tree.
Canada Reunion 2019-Marilyn, Lorna, Linda
This Saturday, Linda, her husband David, and friends will spend the weekend with us. I am so looking forward to seeing them again.

When I think about all the years when I had no contact with these relatives, I feel sad. But then I remember all the blessings they have brought to my life, and I give thanks for them.

Do you have any “missing” relatives in your family? How did it happen? Have you tried to reconnect?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Only Constant is Change

We all like things as they are. We like predictability. Most of us like routine. We like comfort. Unfortunately, nothing stays the same.

My friend, Serena, used to say, “When we’re green, we’re growing. When we’re ripe, we rot.”

Most change happens slowly over time. We don’t recognize it until we can no longer avoid it.

In our younger years, we learn more. We get smarter. We can do more and more. We build on our knowledge. We get stronger, too.

But time catches up with us. Fortunately, I was blessed with an outstanding memory—and despite my advancing years, I still have my mental faculties. Not everyone my age does…

I know I can no longer do many of the physical things I could do when I was younger. In high school, I was a dancer. I was very flexible. I used to be a distance swimmer. I was no good at sprints, but I had stamina and endurance. Not so much anymore.

I am watching many of my friends dealing with the issues of aging, and it isn’t pretty. Everything becomes more difficult. The eyesight diminishes. Hearing becomes faint or indistinct or fails altogether. The body becomes weaker.

So, every day, I remind myself I can still get out of bed and walk across the room under my own power. I am still capable of editing. I am a tough editor. I can keep all the threads of the story in my head. I can still usually spot grammar, punctuation, and syntax errors. I think continuing this work has helped me keep my mental skill—at least for now.

Since everything changes, and change is constant, how can we deal with it?

First, by not expecting everything to stay the same. Second, by accepting the changes as they happen, and adapt to the “new normal,” whatever it is. Third, grieve what is lost. (Yes, grief is a realistic response to loss, so don’t apologize for it.)

Last, we can have greater understanding and patience with those who are dealing with changes—large or small.

For myself, I keep trying to fight change in my own life—and losing the battle. So, I will be more patient with myself as well. Will you?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Meeting Kimi

I recently re-edited and republished the six Aspen Grove romance anthologies. I loved re-reading all of them since I have always loved the series. I especially enjoyed Directions of Love, the winner of the 2011 EPIC eBook Award. My novella in this one contains a great deal of our personal characteristics and family stories.

I was reminded of a very special event related to this book.

In November of 2010, we were on vacation with friends in Hawaii. We decided to do some sightseeing, and one day, we went to Queen Emma’s Summer Palace. It was close to Honolulu, and our friends had never seen it. (BTW, it is a lovely way to spend a day on Oahu.)
It was a slow day, and we were the only tourists there. Each couple was assigned a different docent for the home tour. Our friends went first since we wanted to make sure they saw everything.

Then our docent appeared. She took my breath away.

At the time, I was working with the editor on the final changes to the manuscript for Directions of Love just prior to publication. I took my computer on vacation with me specifically so I could complete the book.

This young lady was the personification of the protagonist in my novella, “Finding Love in Paradise.” Kimi McGuire was half Irish and half Hawaiian. She was raised in our fictional town of Aspen Grove, Colorado, but went to Hawaii to attend college at the University of Hawaii.

After staring at her for a while, I finally apologized and told her about Kimi. I had described her as tiny with long straight, dark hair, dark eyes, and fair skin. There she stood in front of me.

After I described my character and we began to talk, the similarities became even more striking.

Our docent shared Kimi’s ethnicity: Irish and Hawaiian. They both attended UH at Manoa, and both studied anthropology. Kimi worked at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, and our docent volunteered at the Queen Emma Summer Palace while attending college. Both were interested in their own Hawaiian heritage.

I don’t remember much about the tour, but our conversation with our docent remains vivid.

I wrote down her name somewhere. (I lost it shortly thereafter.) I gave her one of our author cards and wrote the name of the book on the back. I asked her to email us so I could let her know when the book was published. I never heard back from her.

I often base my characters’ appearance on other people: friends, movie and TV stars, etc. This was the only time I wrote a fictional character and then met the personification of the character in person.

I really wish she had contacted me or that I remembered her name. (It was unusual.) But I’ll never forget this lovely young lady.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Out With the Old—In With the New

A new year. A new decade. A new start.

But first, a look back at the holidays.

We picked up Savannah the afternoon of the 26th of December at Long Beach Airport. Then, we joined her aunts, uncle, cousin and her mother’s best friend for dinner. Everyone—including us—was so happy to see her!

We made it an early evening because we had to get up early the following morning to go to Universal Studios. Savannah’s mom’s friend, Liz, spent the night with us.

We left the house at 5:00 a.m. and made the very best time ever—one hour, door to door! Our friend, Kit, got us passes. Such a wonderful gift!

We were early enough we even had time for breakfast at a terrific waffle house near the park. Then on to Universal.

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly twenty years since we worked for Universal Studios. How the park has changed! Gone are E.T, Backdraft, Terminator 2, Back to the Future—most of the attractions we worked on.

We headed first for the Harry Potter area. The theming on the castle and queue area is fabulous! We were all Harry Potter fans, so we truly enjoyed being in the environment.

We boarded the ride, but it stopped immediately. A woman behind us fell. It took nearly 45 minutes to get her onto a gurney and get her out of the building. They restarted the ride, but unfortunately, they left all the work lights on, so the effects were compromised. Larry loved being able to see all the mechanisms, but the storyline was lost.

We went by later to try it again, but the ride was shut down.

We did get on the tram ride and enjoyed it a lot.

Liz and Savannah went on Transformers while we located a table for lunch. (They were very hard to come by.) When they got off the ride, they joined us, and we all ate.

Next, they went on the Mummy ride—after a two-hour wait! We went on Transformers and the Mummy the last time we were in the park, so we chose to sit them out.

We finished with the WaterWorld show. Still the best live-action show in the world.

Then we went to Citywalk and had crepes for dinner.

Along the way, Savannah collected a few keepsakes.

We returned home, dropped off Liz, and returned to John Wayne airport to pick up Kim. She arrived from Dallas on a late flight. Then home and to bed.

The next day, the 28th, was the big family dinner party. Members of Savannah’s family as well as ours came—about 24 altogether. I loved seeing our big table filled along with the “kids’ table.” Kim and Carrie wanted to sit there, but Savannah, her cousin Vlad, and Carrie’s boys, Eli and Asher, staked out the table early.

The four of them had a great time together. Eli and Savannah are the same age and share many of the same interests. It helps that they are both off-the-charts smart! Asher and Vlad also hit it off. They are both younger than the other two.

Asher and Eli brought their laser tag equipment, so a rousing game began. Even Savannah’s uncle Chase joined them. As it got dark, we watched the lights move up the back stairs, up and down the waterfall, and through the trees in the backyard. They tracked in a bunch of mud and grass, but they had such a great time, it was worth the mess.

The next morning, we went down to the Outlets at San Clemente. Both the girls had gift cards to spend, and Mom felt like shopping. (This is code for she’ll buy them a few things if they find something they like. Kim and I do it every year after Christmas. This year, Savannah joined us.)

We started with brunch at Ruby’s, followed by shopping. Kim got some new items, and Savannah got several sweaters.

The girls enjoyed spending time together. Kim has adopted Savannah as her little sister.

The next day went by far too quickly. We watched several movies, and ate at the Northwoods Inn at Kim’s request. She had to leave the morning of the 31st. Her trip was far too short, but we enjoyed seeing her for the little time we had her.

Vlad spent one night with us. His dad brought him down. We intended to go to the show, but the movie we wanted to see was sold out when we got to the theater. So, we all went to Islands for a late lunch and then came back to the house where the kids played games.

The next day, they played some more, watched a movie, and Vlad’s mom picked him up. We ate dinner here before they went home.

All too soon, Savannah’s visit came to an end. We took her back to Long Beach and put her on the plane home after a wonderful time.

We spent several days un-Christmasing the house. As much as I look forward to Christmas, I always feel good when everything goes back to normal.

Now, we’re looking forward to the new year and whatever it holds in store.

Wishing everyone a fabulous 2020!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

My Favorite Gift of 2019

This morning I am so excited. You see, this afternoon I get to pick up my very best Christmas gift for the year. Our great-niece, Savannah, is arriving for a ten-day stay!

She moved to Reno over a year ago to live with her father. We got to see her in August when we visited there, and her dad agreed to let her come during her winter break from school.

Savannah is the author of A Wolf’s Magic.

She wrote the book when she was ten and eleven! We published it on her twelfth birthday. And it is a really good young adult fantasy. She is a naturally gifted writer.

She has changed quite a bit since we took her “author” photo. She is now thirteen and still adorable. We continue to encourage her to write.

So, when we had the chance to spend time with her, we jumped at the opportunity. We simply adore this young lady.

We were happy to get to know her dad while we were in Reno. He is a wonderful man and a terrific father. She is in a good place, and we are grateful.

On Saturday, we are hosting a post-Christmas party for the whole family—ours and hers. The tables are set, the ham is in the refrigerator, everyone is bringing a dish to share, and we can’t wait!

Christmas is a bit like my birthday—I spread it out as long as possible!

What was your best gift this year?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Santa Pictures – Part 2

Last week, I posted some of my photos with Santa. This week, I’ll show you the rest of them.

This was taken when I was five. I’m wearing the same dress I wore on the first day of kindergarten. I loved Santa, but I don’t look thrilled here. I assume my brother, Ron, has a separate picture. He would have been two. (I gave him all his photos years ago.) 

My mother loved bonnets on me. I hated them. Here, I'm wearing another one.

The next one was also taken when I was five. Apparently, I liked this Santa better, or maybe my cousin David (six-years-old) gave me more courage. (This is a better-looking Santa than the other one.)

Note the scrape on my leg. I was painfully clumsy as a kid and fell down a lot.

At age six, I look happier with the guy in the red suit. (He looks like the same one with me in the first five-year-old photo.) I still don’t know where my brother was.

When I was seven, I finally took a picture with my brother (aged four).

This one is bittersweet. By the next Christmas, my father was dead. (He passed away the following February.) This is the last real Christmas of our childhood.

I took Kim to see Santa when she was little (as well as the Easter Bunny a couple of times). I have the photos to prove it. As I recall, she generally liked Santa and looks happy in her photos.

These pictures represent the best times during my childhood. Do you have any of these? How do you feel about them?

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Santa Pictures – Part 1

I have noticed many encounters with Santa no longer offer formal photos. I keep seeing signs for “Selfies with Santa,” where you can take your own pictures on your phone.

When I was a child, the formal photo with Santa was a required ritual of the season.

My mother loved these photos. My dad and grandfather both worked at the Broadway Department Store in downtown Los Angeles, so our Santa photos were always taken there. My first one was taken when I was sixteen months old.

I look at this photo and can’t believe I was this age when my grandfather stood me up on my grandparents’ dining room table on Christmas Day, where I recited A Visit From St. Nicholas. You probably know it better from its first line: Twas the Night Before Christmas. I raced through the whole thing, taking a deep breath following each couplet. Sixteen months old! And I know it happened since my mother recorded it in my baby book and often told the story. Besides, I actually remember looking down at my patent leather Mary Janes throughout the whole thing.

The next one is when I was twenty-eight months old.

My grandfather died two months earlier. He was the most important person in my life. In November, the month before, we moved into our new house in Alhambra, California, so my whole world had recently changed. I don’t look too thrilled, do I?

When I was three, my younger brother was a baby. He isn’t in this photo because he was too little (just over six months old).

I am always surprised to see photos of myself at this age because my hair was quite light. It was dark when I was little. It lightened until I was three. Then it grew dark again. I look as though I was forced to get the photo taken and was trying to escape.

By four, I was a veteran at taking these photos.

My hair was growing darker again. Note the curls. Not natural. Mom believed in permanent waves. They probably made dealing with my thick hair easier for her. I had a sensitive scalp, so it hurt every time she tried to brush or comb it. This is about as short as I ever wore it. (Note the skinned knee. It was a semi-permanent condition of my childhood.)

Ron would have been about a year-and-a-half, and I think he had his photo taken, too—by himself.

Next week, more Santa memories.

Did you have your photo taken with Santa? Do you still have yours?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Holiday Traditions

Most families have holiday traditions. Often these have been passed down from generation to generation. We are no exception.

In our family, one special tradition began several years ago when decorating the tree became a chore. When Kim was little, I looked forward to doing it. I have hundreds of ornaments, and each one has a story. We have no plain or generic decorations. Each one represents memories.

For many years, our daughter invited a friend or two to help put them on the tree. We had hot chocolate and cookies as a reward. Of course, the best part was spending time with Kim and her friends.

Even when we moved here to Dana Point, Kim still came over to help. But when she moved to Texas fourteen years ago, it became more and more daunting.

For a few years, I hired our friend’s teenage kids to help, but they grew up and had lives of their own.

Enter our neighbors and their kids. Their property adjoined ours in the back yard. We first met them when their little boy—aged six—broke our window. Before long, we fell in love with the whole family. Since we have no grandchildren, we became surrogate grandparents—even though they have four wonderful grandparents already.

About eight years ago, I asked their mother if I could “rent” the kids (at the time there were five) to help decorate our tree. They were excited to do it. The first year, I learned to put the most fragile ones on the tree before they arrived. I wasn’t as concerned about broken decorations (things are to use and enjoy) as I was about one of them being hurt.

Now there are six of them, and yesterday, the tradition continued. Their mother brought all but one, who had a game, and they swarmed in to finish the job for us.

I took me two days to put on about a third of the ornaments. They put on the rest in less than an hour. Thank goodness.

Over the years, I have given them some of my ornaments each year. Now all the duplicates are gone as well as the ones without an emotional attachment. I have also given them most of my Christmas books. Several of them went again this year, including a new copy of my favorite, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Another part of the tradition is cookies. Ahead of time I bake several batches of cut sugar cookies. Once the tree is completed, the kids sit down and decorate them.

I put out icing and sprinkles and turn them loose. This year, Larry found eyeballs, and he couldn’t resist. The kids loved them! The youngest child decided to make “monsters” with multiple eyeballs.

Once they have decorated all of the cookies, each one chooses their three favorites to take home. (Of course, they eat few along the way.)

Before they leave, they always have to climb the back stairs and play in the back yard. They have now moved away, so one of their “jobs” is to check out their yard to see what has changed. (The family still owns the house.)

I know that some day in the not-too-distant future, they won’t want to come and do this every year. The oldest will graduate from high school in June, and the rest will follow behind.

But for Christmas 2019, we have a beautiful tree and cookies to serve during the holidays—along with the story of how they were decorated.

What special holiday traditions does your family observe?