Is it Christmas yet?

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My favorite part of the holiday season is driving around and seeing homes and shops decked out wonderful displays of light: All white, multi-colored, static light, twinkling lights, and moving lights. Last night as we were driving over the hill to my husband’s company party, we passed a white truck covered in strings of lights. It was wonderful and the owner of the truck enjoyed our happy reaction as much as we did.

What I don’t like, of course, is the traffic, having to stalk people for their parking spots, long lines at the grocery stores and department stores, and well, pretty much everywhere I go. But, even though I grump and groan about it all, it’s still the best time of year because somehow, all this holiday madness still tends to bring out the best in people. We give more to charity. We go out of our way to spend more time with our families. And, in my experience, we’re just generally nicer and more friendly to our fellow human beings.

I think it has something to do with those lights I love so much. Jesus birth is celebrated in December because that was the early church’s best guess. We know the date is not accurate, but it is appropriate because it is believed Jesus Christ is the light of the world and what better time to bring light into the world than in the middle of winter.

Pre-Christian pagans who suffered through long, dark, cold winters often had mid-winter celebrations. One important aspect of those celebrations was to encourage the Sun with it’s life giving warmth and light to return in the Spring. It was also a reminder that the Sun had always returned and as long as we keep faith in that, we can survive the longest, darkest night of the year. So, what better way to enjoy the month of December than by decking our halls with light, no matter what your religious beliefs happen to be.

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When Fantasy Becomes Reality

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Casa Kavanaugh

At one time I used to have this fantasy about living in a cabin in the woods. I would live a simple, self-sufficient life far from any city, surrounded only by nature with my nearest neighbor at least a mile away. I lived alone, of course, because as a serious introvert I tend to avoid situations that require more than the polite minimum of social interaction. As most of my employment reviews noted, I lack “interpersonal skills.” I prefer the term “socially awkward.”

Therefore, in my daydreams, the cabin would be difficult to find and access which would insure that only those people I wanted to see would go to the inconvenience of visiting me. In my mind, my son, his wife and their children would make the trek once or twice a year and they would spend most of their time trying to convince me to give up my hermitage and live with them. To which I would answer, bah! Or something equally crotchety.

Forgetting that God has a sense of humor, I felt safe indulging in this fantasy because, at the time, I could not imagine it coming true. I was a single working woman with no savings, mediocre credit and neither the skills nor the knowledge to find and survive such a place.

Little did I know I would marry a man who would make that fantasy come true. Almost.

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I call it “The Burrow.”

We now live in a small house set on the side of a hill outside the small town of Felton, California. Like my fantasy we are smack in the middle of a forest surrounded by trees with lots of wildlife to enjoy and there’s even a creek nearby. The roads snaking through the area are narrow, winding, and in bad weather somewhat hazardous. We don’t get a lot of visitors.

However, because of the tree cover growing our own food is out of the question, which as it turns out, is fine with me. At my age vegetable gardening doesn’t live up to the romantic ideal in my head. It’s a lot of hard work that my back can’t handle. Fortunately, there are four grocery stores within a 20 minute drive from our place.

We have other conveniences that never appeared in my fantasy such as Internet and Cable, hot and cold running water, a flushing toilet, electricity and a propane stove and oven. What we don’t have is central heating. We have a single wood stove that in a cold snap such as they one we are experiencing right now, works overtime trying to keep the living room/kitchen area warm.

In my fantasy, my cabin was about half the size of this house so a small wood stove was enough to keep me warm on cold winter nights. In reality, we have a very small living room, larger kitchen, two bedrooms, my office (which is always cold), and a small bathroom that, in winter, could substitute as a meat locker. One centrally located wood stove just doesn’t cut it. Besides, wood heat is a lot of work. My husband spends his weekends chopping wood and I spend a good chunk of time everyday managing the fire.

In the summer, it’s hot. Not as hot as it would be if we didn’t have a tree canopy blocking much of the sunshine, but it’s still hot. And dry, and dusty. In the evenings, we like to spend time outside on our deck. Problem is, so do several thousand mosquitoes. These are things we never think about when indulging in nature fantasies.

But, we do get to feed hummingbirds, listen to ravens croaking, and watch young deer, some so young they still have their spots, walking down the road. I’ve encountered possums and raccoons around the house and we’ve become the benefactors of two feral cats that were living under our shed.

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Goldie and Little Bit

One other thing: our nearest neighbors are three feet away. Actually, we’re sandwiched between two houses. Fortunately, our neighbors are lovely people who respect our privacy even if their weekend parties do get a little loud in the summer.

Fantasies and day dreams are fun and a great way to stretch the imagination, but the cold truth is, reality can never measure up to those ideals. But, for me, that’s okay. Real fantasy is a mixture of both and as a writer I’ve found that reality provides more material that is rich in the sensory details that make a story come to life. Things like freezing in winter and being eaten alive by mosquitoes in the summer, for instance.

Happy dreams and Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Deepwater Horizon

My husband and I saw the movie Deepwater Horizon yesterday. I cried for the men and woman who suffered the terror of that catastrophe and for the 11 men who lost their lives.

The movie recounts the 12 hours prior to the worst oil disaster in United States history and one of the world’s largest man-made disasters. You might remember it as the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill that occurred in 2010. It took the company 87 days to get it under control.

The Deepwater Horizon itself is a semi-submersible oil rig.

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Deepwater Horizon oil rig

At the time of the explosion, 126 people were on board. Eleven of those people were never found after the explosion, fire and sinking of the rig.

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Coast Guard ships trying to contain the fire

I believe greed and criminal negligence were the cause of this disaster. The U.S. Department of Justice agrees:

“Numerous investigations explored the causes of the explosion and record-setting spill. Notably, the U.S. government’s September 2011 report pointed to defective cement on the well, faulting mostly BP, but also rig operator Transocean and contractor Halliburton.[22][23] Earlier in 2011, a White House commission likewise blamed BP and its partners for a series of cost-cutting decisions and an inadequate safety system, but also concluded that the spill resulted from “systemic” root causes and “absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur”.[24]

In November 2012, BP and the United States Department of Justice settled federal criminal charges with BP pleading guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter, two misdemeanors, and a felony count of lying to Congress. BP also agreed to four years of government monitoring of its safety practices and ethics, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced that BP would be temporarily banned from new contracts with the US government. BP and the Department of Justice agreed to a record-setting $4.525 billion in fines and other payments.[25][26][27] As of February 2013, criminal and civil settlements and payments to a trust fund had cost the company $42.2 billion.[28]

In September 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the oil spill because of its gross negligence and reckless conduct.[29]

In July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines, the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.[30]” (Wikipedia Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.)

The movie is a superb retelling of the events leading up to the disaster and a fitting tribute to the men and women who survived by sticking together and taking care of each other. It is well worth your time and money.

San Francisco Comic Con 2016

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The con took place at the Marriott Marquis hotel in downtown San Francisco on Friday, September 2 through Sunday the 4th. This is a shot of the lounge and information area on the 2nd floor. Panels and games were spread out over the 3 floors directly above this one. The exhibitors/dealers room was 3 escalators rides down into the basement.

We got there Friday afternoon and stayed in the hotel for the weekend and I’m glad we did. Commuting via Cal Train each day would have exhausted this old bird even more than I already was. (Still in recovery mode to be honest) And the place was packed all 3 days which was made more noticeable by the fact that the venue was just too small.

But, honestly, none of that matters when you’re having a great time. I shared an elevator to a few other con goers and we naturally chatted a bit. A gentleman asked me what my favorite part was. My answer was easy – it’s the people I meet. That and spending time with my family. Now, I’ve only been to 2 conventions, but at both of them I have met some of the nicest, friendliest people ever.

I spent some time this last weekend sitting on a couch just enjoying watching people walk by. During one of these breaks something occurred to me. When you spend time in a room full of people who are doing what they love, you can’t help but have a great time right along with them.

So, without further ado, here are my pictures from the con.

San Francisco Comic Con

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This is me saying Hi to Iron Man at the Wizard World Comic Con, Sacramento.

The Wizard World Comic Con in Sacramento was my first. Not my first convention. I’ve been a Star Trek fan since the original show aired in 1968. (Yes, I’m that old.) And I’ve been to a few of those cons. This was my first comic book convention, and man, was it fun. Just as much fun and the Star Trek cons were back in the day. Only this time, I actually had money to spend on swag. Even better!

Anyway, I had so much fun at the Wizard World con that I asked my son “when’s the next one?” Turns out, it’s this weekend. So, tomorrow afternoon I will be headed to San Francisco with my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter for the San Francisco Comic Con. It’s being held at the Marriott Marquis where we will be staying Friday and Saturday night. Hope to see you there!

I’ll be posting pictures on Monday. In the meantime, here are some shots from Wizard World.