Saturday, February 20, 2021

My Love Affair with Poetry

 

My first book was a cloth book of Mother Goose Rhymes. I literally wore it out. Of course, by then I had memorized all of them, so the fact that the words were obliterated made no difference. Even though it was worn out, Mom saved it. (My mother was not a saver. She threw out or gave away a LOT of our childhood items.)



Another favorite was The Little Golden Book of Poetry. My aunt and uncle gave it to me for Christmas the year I was one.



This one had wonderful, colorful illustrations. I memorized it as well. One of my favorites was Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Swing.” Whenever I went high on one, I thought of this poem. Another was “Hiding” by Dorothy Aldis. Of course, mine is much worse for the wear.



Some of the damage to this one was caused by my younger brother. I was always careful with my books, but Ron was not. Still, Mom kept this one, too.

As I got older, some of my favorite poets were Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, and Maya Angelou. I discovered I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in high school, and it became another favorite.

We were required to memorize the prologue to The Canterbury Tales in old English for my freshman English class. I can still recite it. (At a critique group meeting, another gal—who was probably in her eighties at the time—and I recited it together! Kindred souls.)

When I compiled our anthology, Seasons of Love, I decided to write an introductory poem for each of the four novellas.



Here they are.

by Sherry Derr-Wille

Spring

 

Sing in the spring:

The song of new life,

The song of hope,

The song of new love;

Raise your voice and celebrate

The wonder of renewal

 

Summer’s Challenge
by Luanna Rugh


Summer

 

Dance through the summer;

Frolic in the meadow;

Twirl in the sunshine;

Caper among the wildflowers;

Gambol in childlike freedom;

Whirl in nature’s glory.

 

Autumn’s Blessing
by Christie Shary


Autumn

 

Let go in autumn

Of the past,

Of things which weigh you down,

Of hurts and burdens

Leave behind all sadness

To embrace the new.

 

Winter’s Song
by Lorna Collins


Winter

 

Linger in winter;

Await the rainbow behind the cloud;

Hope for what is to come;

Anticipate the green shoots beneath the snow;

Remain still in the knowledge

That life, ’though hidden, is stirring.

 

These are just simple verses, but they set the stage for each novella. If they have made you curious about the actual stories in the book, it’s available in ebook and paperback on Amazon (https://tinyurl.com/3e2j8w3k) and through our website (www.lornalarry.com).

Do you love poetry, too? Tell me about it.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Discovering Dana Point

 I doing research for our book, The Memory Keeper, I found photos of a statue called “The Hide Drogher.” Drogher is a word for the slow, clumsy coastal ships, which stopped in Dana Point to trade foreign-made goods for hides. The statue shows a sailor tossing a hide. I remembered seeing the statue many years ago, but when we were doing our research, I couldn’t find it.

I looked it up and discovered it was on the top of the bluff along the Bluff Top Trail. It used to be visible from the road along the bluff, but now, large homes have been built there.

 Today, after a stop at the post office, we were on Amber Lantern. I asked Larry if we could stop and take a walk on the trail.

The view was gorgeous from the gazebo-structure at the end of the road.

To call this a “trail” is a real misnomer. It is a concrete path with series of stairs, all with handrails.


Not far along the trail, we saw the arches from the 1930 construction of the original Dana Point Hotel, which was never completed because of the stock market crash and the Great Depression.




A plaque describes the wall and the circumstances.

Not far beyond the arches, we spotted the statue. It is now enclosed in a wall of concrete. (It used to stand alone on top of the bluff.)


The plaque describes the statue.

On the way back, we were able to see the old trail, which used to zigzag down the cliff to the beach below. Larry remembers hiking up the trail in the 1960s. Of course, much of the old trail has been washed out over the years.

The trail was lined with rock walls, some of which can be spotted below the new trail.

 


We took some photos with Larry’s phone, but they didn’t come out well. So, we went back and retraced our steps later on. Two hikes in one day! What a gorgeous time to enjoy our hometown!

Now that we know where the statue is, we may visit it more often.

 Are there places in your hometown you haven’t explored? So glad we discovered this one!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Laughter on the Job

 Once again, Larry shares a funny memory. I think we can all use some humor about now!


I’ll call him Henry. He was a middle aged “good ol’ boy” from Oklahoma, born and raised in the oilfields. Henry didn’t have advanced degrees or college smarts, but he knew more about petroleum refineries and how to keep them running than anyone I ever met.


In the early 1970s, I was working a turnaround on an older oil refinery in Indiana. A turnaround is when a refinery plant is shut down for maintenance. It’s when exchangers are rodded (the tubes roto-rootered), towers are opened, inspected and repaired, furnaces re-bricked, and any piece of equipment which cannot be fixed during normal operation is repaired or replaced. Special crews of experienced engineers and operators are brought in specifically to run the turnaround.

Since any plant shutdown can cost upwards of $100,000.00 per day in lost revenue, downtime must be kept to a minimum. If done right, the plant should be able to operate for eight-to-ten years between turnarounds.

At the end of the first day, we had discovered several critical problems that could stretch beyond the one-week allowed for this turnaround. The situation was serious, tension was high, and tempers short.

At dinner in the refinery cafeteria, the ten-person day crew hardly talked, each of us enmeshed in solving our own problems. Someone suggested we needed a break and noted the movie house nearby was showing 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since there was little to do in this small factory town, we decided to go. We all piled into two cars for the short trip.

For the late showing, the theater was almost empty. We filled two rows in the back.

Midway through the movie is a sequence often referred to as “the psychedelic light show.” Walls of lights flash toward the audience giving the viewer a sense of flying down a neon corridor, while loud music assaults their ears. The lights become faster and, the music louder and more discordant until it finally crescendos into…

Total silence. A blank white screen slowly morphs into a white room.

As we sat in awed silence, from behind me, I heard Henry’s not-so-quiet stage whisper in his Oklahoma twang. “Shee-at! That was great.”

Our snickers turned to laughter, then outright guffaws. The entire audience joined in. I laughed so hard there were tears in my eyes.

I’m sure Stanley Kubrick never expected this response, but it was just what we needed.

We returned with a far different attitude and bonded as a group to face the next day together. And we finished the job on time.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Growing up in the Midwick Tract

Today’s blog is from my husband and partner-in-crime, Larry K. Collins.

Working on the publication of my brother-in law, Ron Lund’s, book, Dominic Drive, brought back memories of growing up in the Midwick Tract in Alhambra, California. I previously blogged about mowing lawns there as a kid. (Lorna’s blog dated: October 9, 2020)

First, a little history:

In 1912, an area of rolling hills between Alhambra and Monterey Park, originally used as a sheep pasture, was purchased by a group of wealthy businessmen to become the Midwick Country Club. The exclusive club featured a regulation-size polo field, two smaller polo fields, a professional eighteen-hole golf course, a massive clubhouse, tennis courts, and a swimming pool. It soon became the meeting place for the rich and famous, including Will Rogers, Hal Roach, David Niven, Spencer Tracy, and Walt Disney. King George V stopped by to play polo, and Sam Snead and Bing Crosby could often be found on the fairways. Membership was expensive and exclusive, restricted to whites only.



The great depression and wars caused the membership to decline. When the club defaulted on a loan in 1941, an Italian immigrant, named Dominic Jebbia, quickly picked up the property at auction.

Jebbia, known as the “Banana King,” had amassed a fortune importing bananas and other fruit. It was rumored he bought Midwick because his membership application was turned down, however he always denied the rumor.

For several years, he spent his weekends selling hot dogs from a stand at the ninth hole. Most golfers didn’t know the cigar-chewing vendor in milkman pants, wrinkled white shirt, and knit vest was the owner.


On May 3, 1944 (one month after I was born) the clubhouse was destroyed by fire. Soon, Dominic decided to subdivide the property.


Midwick 1932


Midwick Tract 1953

My family moved into a brand-new tract home in 1949. Our house on Hitchcock Drive (named for a famous polo player) was at the edge of the second construction phase. Across the street, were the remains of the abandoned golf course. It became my playground until the third phase was built several years later. I lived there until I married Lorna and we moved into our own apartment in 1965.

As a teenager, I surfed with Philip “Flip” Jebbia, Dominic’s grandson. Occasionally, I was invited to the Jebbia home for their spectacular Sunday brunch. It featured omelets cooked to order, and a rich buffet of fruits, breads, and assorted sweets. In the center of the dining room, hung over the table, was always a full cluster containing several hands of bananas. Guests were encouraged to help themselves. The Jebbias provided brunch every Sunday following church for twenty-to-forty people.

Ron Lund’s book, Dominic Drive, is a fictional account of life in the late fifties and early sixties and takes much of its inspiration and events from his own life growing up in the Midwick tract. The title is a tribute to Dominic Jebbia.

 

*Thanks to an article by Cecilia Rasmussen in the 1993 LA Times, Metro Section, for some historic details from before I was born.


Dominic Drive is the coming-of-age story of Charlie Williams, a young man who has a difficult childhood but who remains optimistic and hopeful, told through the eyes of another young man who becomes as close as a brother to him. Set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it captures life in a post-WWII community.

It is now available on Amazon.

 

About the Authors

RONALD TRAVIS LUND—known as “Rockin’ Ron” to his friends—was born in Alhambra, California on May 29, 1949. He lived there until December of 1981, when he moved to Covina, California. He died there in his sleep on August 31, 2020. This is his first and only book.


LORNA and LARRY K. COLLINS are multi-published authors in several genres.



Friday, January 8, 2021

Writing About Pandemic

Today my friend and one of my favorite authors, Marilyn Meredith, and I talk about writing about the pandemic.

 

Lorna: My latest book, Romance in the Time of Social Distancing: A COVID-19 Short Story, began as most of my books do with a question: How can single people meet during a pandemic? What made you decide to include the coronavirus in your latest book, Not As We Knew It (Rocky Bluff P.D. Mysteries Book 16)?

 

Marilyn: I could not write the next Rocky Bluff P.D. story without including the virus and what is going on in their community because of it since the books are more-or-less in real time.

 

Lorna: There are lots of different approaches to working during the virus. My single characters work from home. How do your characters deal with work? Do they have to make accommodations? Many are police officers, so most of them can’t work from home can they?

 

Marilyn: My grandson is a police officer, and on a recent visit, I asked him what the rules were concerning his department (big city). He said everyone has to wear a mask. And of course, being in law enforcement, the cops are out in the community. He also told me since it was my department, I could do what I wanted. One of the officer’s wives is a teacher, and of course she is teaching from home, via Zoom.

 

Lorna: You have lots of characters in your books. I don’t have very many. I decided not to include the various views about the recommendations to remain isolated. My character’s sister has decided to have some fun while in isolation by having virtual cocktail parties. How did you decide to present the different attitudes about remaining separate and wearing masks?

 

Marilyn: While writing, I used all the many different feelings and attitudes I hear from my relatives and friends concerning masks and isolation. Believe me, they are all very different. I have one friend who has remained completely isolated except for family members who live on the same property. Another includes family members who wear masks when out in public but go about their business much the same as always.

 

Lorna: My characters remain separated and online, so none of them are exposed, but I know you decided to have one of your characters catch the virus. How did you decide which one and what the outcome would be?

 

Marilyn: Someone I know caught the virus, was hospitalized, and recovered. I contacted her, and she gave me the details. I used what she told me in the story. I chose the person who I thought might be most vulnerable to be a virus victim.

 

Lorna: Other than staying isolated, none of my characters is otherwise affected by the disease. You have one character who is a nurse, so she is well aware of the issues with it. How did you decide to deal with her extreme concern for her family and friends?

 

Marilyn: I have a lot of relatives. Two granddaughters are nurses. Of course, I talked to them and used what I learned in the story.

 

Lorna: My book is a romance, and it is short (actually, a long story or short novella). Yours is a full-length mystery. What do you think are the differences, advantages, disadvantages of the two genres when writing about something as impactful as a pandemic?

 

Marilyn: To be honest, I could have gotten even more detailed about the pandemic, but I didn’t want to depress my readers. I think I did a pretty good job of keeping things upbeat. I wanted people to enjoy reading what was going on with the folks who live in Rocky Bluff, the police officers, and their families.

 

Thanks for taking the time to share. As you know, I adore all your books and had the privilege of editing them—including Not As We Knew It (Rocky Bluff P.D. Mysteries Book 16).

Marilyn: And I want to thank you for all you’ve done for this series.

 

My latest book is Romance in the Time of Social Distancing: A COVID-19 Short Story.

How can two people meet when they are both stuck at home? How can romance bloom when folks are separated? Love always finds a way, but it isn't always easy.

 

Marilyn’s latest book is Not As We Knew It (Rocky Bluff P.D. Mysteries Book 16).

The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle―from a missing woman to a fatal house fire. Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family. Gordon Butler isn’t too happy that his wife was chosen to train the latest new-hire. With the department shorthanded, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff. Her romance with the mayor, which had been put on hold, is refreshed when she seeks his help.



MARILYN MEREDITH is the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series and the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series (under the name, F. M. Meredith). She has also written several stand-alone novels, and other books.

She and her husband live in the foothills of the Sierra, much like the place where her heroine, Tempe Crabtree, lives. She once lived in a beach community, which resembles Rocky Bluff.

She loves to hear from readers who have enjoyed her books.

Visit her webpage at http://fictionforyou.com, and follow her blog at https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Goodbye and Good Riddance to 2020

Last year was the worst year of my life. No comparison. Too many losses. Too many cancelled plans. Too much missing friends and family. Thank goodness, it is over.

 I have had bad years before.

 My father died in 1954 when I was seven years old. It was terrible. But I still had my mother and brother and neighbors who were like family. I escaped at school, which I loved.



Another difficult year was 1980. Larry’s best friend was diagnosed with leukemia. We had planned to move to Orange County, but we had a fire in our house. The attic space and roof were lost. We took a cruise, which was a minor disaster. And Larry’s best friend died. A pretty terrible year.

 Another challenging year was 2011. Larry’s dad died on January 3.



We returned to Osaka in March for the tenth anniversary of the opening of Universal Studios Japan theme park. We loved seeing our friends and enjoying the park. At the end of April, Larry retired. 

Near the end of July, my mother died.



I retired at the end of August. I wasn’t really ready, and it took months to adjust.

But this year…

I lost several of my closest friends, including my oldest and dearest childhood friend. A classmate from Hawaii who stayed with us when she was in Orange County died suddenly of cancer. We stayed with her on Maui on our last trip.

Then, a close friend and fellow Girl Scout leader passed away unexpectedly. We raised our kids together and stayed in touch for years. 

At the end of August, my brother died suddenly. I haven’t been able to write about him yet. I’m not ready to process the loss.



Then, last month, a precious young man we loved like a grandchild took his own life. It brought us to our knees with grief.

We haven’t seen our daughter in a year. And we won’t see her for several more months.

BUT, we survived. We have not caught the virus, so far. We have lost a few friends from it, and others have been very ill. We trust science, Dr. Fauci, and the CDC. We wear masks and stay home.

 2021 feels like hope and the promise of better things to come. We hope to travel again this year, and see friends and family, and to hug and kiss again.

Wishing everyone a joyous and better new year in 2021.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Full Circle

 My guest today is a fellow graduate from my high school. We both attended an event several years ago and realized our connection. This year, she approached me about editing and publishing her book, and I was delighted to do it. I hope you will enjoy meeting Myra and hearing about her book, Full Circle. (BTW, Larry designed the beautiful cover.)

 

What does a writer gal do when cooped-up during a COVID-19 pandemic? She polishes three memoir and six memory-based short stories and combines them into a book, Full Circle.

As a two-time cancer survivor, uterine and breast, I was motivated foremost to offer solace to my two children. When one is diagnosed with cancer, one’s life implodes. The entire household suffers the cancer with that person. I was not able to handle my own grief and fear, or help my children deal with theirs. I wanted them to realize that this was our story. I did the best that I could, under the circumstances. Their sorrow did not go unnoticed. My supportive husband, friends, and coworkers, were also a blessing.

I decided to publish my book and not limit it to just sharing with my family. I felt the themes were universal and would resonate with a larger audience. Coping with cancer, the immigrant experience, the loss of a baby, shared love of reading, a father’s temper, a beloved colorful great-aunt, the compassionate care of a home health care nurse, who brought me laughter when I had stopped smiling and laughing, plus the devastation of Alzheimer’s, would tug at the heart strings and bestow comfort.

Memories enrich and give meaning to our lives. May you delight in my Full Circle.



About Full Circle (Click title for the Amazon link.)

All nine stories in this collection are the author’s actual memoirs or based on her memories. Some include the names of actual people, while others have been changed. Some are sweet. Some are touching. Some are bittersweet. All are memorable.

About Myra





Myra Fay Graubard earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from California State University Los Angeles. She is a retired instructional assistant, who directed an elementary school computer lab. She also aided high school and elementary special needs students. Ms. Graubard worked as a graphic artist for an engineering firm. She is a freelance writer, who penned a collection of poetry, Within the Without. Her published articles have appeared in Antique Doll Collector, Doll Reader, Teddy Bear & Friends, and The Collector’s Eye. Myra resides in Southern California, ten minutes from Disneyland, with her family

 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Celebrating Thanksgiving Away From Family

This year, we celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving by ourselves. We had a nice dinner with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, baby peas (Larry’s favorites), croissants, and Aunt Muriel’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie for dessert. (More about this later.)

 

We spoke on the phone with Larry’s brother, Casey, and the rest of his family. We usually celebrate Thanksgiving with them. (Christmas is usually at our house.) They had more people than we were comfortable with, but we enjoyed talking to them. Kim was with friends in Texas, and our niece, Carrie, was with her immediate family in Utah.

 

This was far from the first Thanksgiving we have spent away from the rest of our family.

 

In 1969, we moved across the country to Illinois. Larry had to go for work, so we packed up and traveled there. We were both very close to our families, and this move felt traumatic.

 

In retrospect, it probably strengthened our marriage far more than anything else we have ever experienced. We had to learn to depend on each other. We were all we had.

 

We also learned to be flexible. This did not come naturally to me, but this experience and others along the way taught me great lessons.

 

We made good friends, Carol and Bob Wilson, while we were there. This couple had a three-year-old girl, Denise. Kim was two. They became friends and playmates.

 

For Thanksgiving that year, Carol’s parents invited us to their house for dinner. (They did the same for Christmas.) Even though we missed our own families, these dear people made us feel as though we were a part of their family. And we were most grateful for them.

 

In 1971, we spent Thanksgiving by ourselves in Colorado, where we were living at the time. Larry’s job necessitated several moves. But we knew we would be back in California for Christmas, and we were looking forward to it.

 

In 1980, we took a Caribbean cruise over Thanksgiving week. Another friend, Betty, and her son, Bob were with us.



Thanksgiving dinner on the ship was an extravaganza with lots of food. We all dressed up for the occasion.

 

Of course, we spent three Thanksgivings in Japan.

 

The first year, 1998, I tried to make dinner to share with our neighbors, Misayo-san and her daughter, Kazue. It was only a partial success. I wrote about it in our book, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park.





I couldn’t get the ingredients for Auntie Wanda’s Pumpkin Pie, so I settled on a variation of Aunt Muriel’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (the same pie I made this year). Both recipes are in the cookbook from Oak Tree Press authors: Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook. (This is the link to the full-color version shown below. It is also available in Kindle and black-and-white interior versions.)





By the following year, I planned well ahead and made Auntie Wanda’s recipe. The same for the next year. I even baked a few for Kazue’s students’ Christmas party. They loved it.

 

Of course, we would rather gather with the whole family to celebrate, but this was another year when we needed to be by ourselves. Fortunately, we still like each other after all these years.

 

How was your Thanksgiving different this year? 

Friday, November 20, 2020

WHEN OUR BELIEFS ARE CHALLENGED

Today, my friend and fellow author, Janet Greger (J.L. Greger), will share with you some of the challenges of being a novelist. Sometimes our expectations for the characters or the plot don’t go as we plan. And sometimes our own expectations take an unexpected turn.  Lorna

 

In my latest novel Dirty Holy Water, I wanted to explore what happens when our basic beliefs are challenged. Specifically, what happens when we feel sorrier for villains than victims?

 Let me set the scene. Life is complicated for Sara Almquist. She's about to become engaged and leave for a vacation in India with her boyfriend when she becomes a suspect in the murder of a friend. Sara is used to being a trusted scientific consultant for the FBI and finds being a suspect unnerving, but not enough to prevent her from trying to help the police uncover evidence about the murder. The police and Sara quickly realize that the murder victim, Lurleen Jansen, was killed by a member of her own family. But which one and why?

 Read this excerpt from the first chapter and see if you can guess reasons why a family member killed Lurleen?

 Lurleen Jansen must have been a pretty woman once. Now Sara Almquist could see little attractive about Lurleen, except her expressive green eyes. Lurleen had called Monday and almost demanded that Sara drive her to El Santuario de Chimayó this week. Sara had hesitated but finally agreed to the field trip because Lurleen needed a friend.

 Although Sara had pushed the front passenger seat of her Subaru Forester back to the maximum, Lurleen looked like she was a piece of pimento stuffed in a green olive. Her face was red as she tried to close the clamp shut on the seat belt that strained around her green camouflage cargo pants and T-shirt. “Should have brought my seat belt extender along. Too much work to walk back inside for it.”

 Sara felt a twinge of guilt. She considered volunteering to get the seat belt extender but knew she wouldn’t. Lurleen had been her neighbor in the adults-only community of La Bendita until Lurleen and her husband Pete decided about five years ago that the two- and three-bedroom houses of the gated neighborhood were too small to meet their needs. It wasn’t jealousy that kept Sara from looking for the seat belt extender in Lurleen’s large house. Her reasons were simpler—she knew it would be difficult to locate something small, like a seat belt extender, among the stack of boxes and piles of junk in the house. She was also afraid what she might find. Lurleen didn’t waste time cleaning her house and only hired someone to clean it when a new infestation problem appeared. Some sort of pest, usually bigger than ants, appeared every year.

 Lurleen appeared to hold her breath and clicked the seat belt shut. “Pete’s being tight with me.” She smiled. “But I’ll get what I want.”

 Before Sara could make a catty comment, such as you must have asked for the moon this time, Lurleen changed the subject. “Thanks for agreeing to take me to Chimayó to get some holy dirt for Matt. He’s talking less these days.”

 Sara gave a soft sigh because Lurleen had reminded her why they were making this trip. Lurleen’s daughter Mitzi had become a foster parent for a one-year-old girl named Kayla almost twelve years ago. About that time, Kayla’s biological parents had another child, Matt. He was born addicted to cocaine and quickly displayed developmental delays. The New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, better known as CYFD, had decided the two children must be kept together, and Mitzi had reluctantly agreed to become Matt’s foster care mother, too. When she was five, Kayla had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Eventually Mitzi had adopted both children. Lurleen had been supportive of Mitzi and her two adopted children during the long adoption process.

 Sara admired both women because it took guts to adopt special needs children. Although Sara doubted the holy dirt dispensed from a small pit at El Santuario de Chimayó had curative properties, she recognized faith was sometimes effective in helping patients. 


Buy Dirty Holy Water (paperback or ebook) at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0960028587   

 

The Kirkus Review for Dirty Holy Water is: "A thought-provoking, disturbing, and engaging mystery with a likable, strong-willed female lead."



The author incorporated her experiences in India into the novel

 


J.L. Greger is a biology professor and research administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned novelist. She has consulted on scientific issues worldwide and loves to travel. Thus, she likes to include both science and her travel experiences in her thriller/mystery novels in the Science Traveler series. Award-winning books in the series include: Murder: A Way to Lose Weight, The Flu Is Coming, Malignancy, Riddled with Clues, and A Pound of Flesh, Sorta. Learn more at: http://www.jlgreger.com


Friday, November 6, 2020

Learning to Let Go

Learning to Let Go

As I get older, I am more and more conscious of the “stuff” we’ve accumulated over the last fifty-five years we’ve been married. We’ve lived in this house for thirty-three-plus years. It’s a big house with lots of storage and a three-car garage. But someday, we may want to downsize. What will we do with everything?

Every time I get serious about purging, however, we seem to acquire more.

My brother’s recent death added a few more items. I have made a concerted effort to give away most of his things to people who will appreciate it.

I have kept a few family items, and they have been added to our stash.

The main item I kept was this tapestry.

Originally, it belonged to my grandparents. After my grandmother died, my brother took it home. It hung at the end of Grandma’s hallway for as long as I can remember. They moved into their house in 1928, and it may have been there since then. It is a really nice painting on heavy burlap of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

When we unearthed it at his place, it was so embedded with dust I wasn’t sure it could be salvaged. However, Larry brushed it off and then vacuumed it. We hung it out for several weeks, and it now looks like the piece I remember as a child. When I look at it, it makes me smile.

We talked to the mission about donating it to them. However, they already have a similar one and didn’t need another.

We’ve decided to keep it. It may become the cover image for our third San Juan historical. (We first have to finish the second one and then write the third.)

It took moving things around so we had enough room for it on our walls, but I’m glad we decided to keep it.

We also brought home the oil painting which had belonged to my mother. When Larry brought it out, it had a thick layer of dust and dirt. We couldn’t even make out the details.

Again, Larry brushed it off and vacuumed it. It still looked pretty terrible. Fortunately, our friend, Bob Schwenck, is a restoration specialist. He took the painting, cleaned it, and re-varnished it. The colors are back, and it looks the way I remember it.

Bob wanted me to keep it, but if I’d wanted it, I would have kept it when my mother moved in with us. My brother had it because I didn’t want it. This was easy to let go of. We will auction it and share the net profit with Bob.

So, we now have more “stuff” in our house. SIGH.

This year, I have lost many friends as well as my brother. I have become uncomfortably aware of my own mortality. Having had to empty my brother’s home, I am hyper aware of everything we have accumulated and how that burden will fall on our daughter when we are gone.

Yep. Time to start thinning our “stuff” down. Oh, but first, there are edits to finish and books to write…

Are you able to keep your “stuff” to a minimum? If so, how?