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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Changes

 

 
My goal when I turn 70.
The fabulous Helen Mirren reminds me it's not over it's just beginning.
 
 
 
It's time for a new look on this blog. I've been fragmented for too many years, trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up (career behind me but life ahead) and kept a blog for each of my passions. I've confused myself.

CONSOLIDATE.  My new word.

I'm sharing it all here and in celebration, changing the look of my blog. I started writing at sixty when my husband passed away. That was nine years ago. Things change. People change. Dreams change. Health changes. At sixty-eight, soon to be sixty-nine, I've changed.

Confessions of the Unfaithful Widow blog is the blog that started it all so it seems the best blog to keep track of what life offers now.

It's not always easy living on your own as you get older. Fear can creep in and the what ifs are scary. A health crisis last year left me feeling vulnerable. So I put on my big girl panties (don't ask the size) and moved to the house of my dreams in a small town an hour away from my friends in Decatur. Now I see cows and chickens and goats and horses in any direction I head. Yet it is quite civilized here. A change to kick-start a new outlook.

The only real difference now, I will share all my thoughts on one blog. Maybe you will join me. My love of  writing, dogs, antiques, books, decorating, farmhouses, cottages, and sometimes men, hasn't changed. It's just pulled together here.

CONSOLIDATE. A new word for me!

Hugs from my cottage home in lovely Social Circle, Georgia!
 
                                                                                 Barbara

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Wrong Turn




There may be a GPS in my future. I have been fighting getting one. But today made me think strongly it is time. With Amazon Prime it will be here in two days. Once again, I got lost on my way to someplace really great. I did MapQuest the directions. I don't know if it is just my experience, or a flaw in MapQuest. There is always one missing street, the essential street that gets me on the final leg of the journey. The street that is on my printed instructions, is nowhere to be found on a sign on the road.

And when that happens, I panic. All common sense is gone. My vision blurs. I get a headache. I know I will never get to my destination. But some little voice says maybe. So I drive in any direction my lack of direction takes me. If I am in town it is unpleasant, but eventually I will find my way. Driving in the country (rural farm land) is a totally different experience. If I get lost, even AAA won't find me.

Perhaps my first error today had to do with the fact I avoid getting on major expressways if there is another kinder, gentler way to go. I might have found the coffee house on the east side of Athens had I taken a more direct route, using a highway.  Instead I took the road less traveled. Winding country roads where for miles I only saw farmhouses tucked far back from the road, surrounded by acres of land, and white fences. Or expanses of nothing except pastures. I passed towns I had wanted to visit when I still lived in metro Atlanta and dreamed of moving to a rural area. Good Hope, Bishop, North High Shoals, but not necessarily in that order (after all, I had no idea where I was). I landed in Watkinsville just as my instructions told me. If I could have patted myself on the back, I would have. But one hand was on the steering wheel, the other holding the printed words, my lifeline to the writing group. Almost there with thirty minutes to spare I felt secure I had made the right decision with the route I chose.

I drove past the delightful main street reminding myself I should come back when I could stay. Before I realized I was through town and heading on an expressway to Athens, yes, but not the side of Athens where I needed to be, and certainly not any place on my sheet of streets to follow.  So, I decided to turn around and go back to Watkinsville. How hard could it be to find the street, just before the church, to point me in the right direction? Not hard. Impossible. The street on the paper did not have a sign on the road.  I did what any idiot in a panic would do. I turned onto a street by a church thinking it might work. After all, a church was on my directions from MapQuest. Ten miles later on another country road I saw a sign for the Athens airport. This could not be right, I told myself, and turned around, backtracking back to Watkinsville. In my case today, I could honestly say all roads lead to Watkinsville.

I did what every man I ever knew when I was younger did. Refused to stop for directions. I saw several places I could have, should have, but did not pull in to ask for help. Back before there was the GPS and in the dark ages when there were paper maps, my husband would get lost and ask me to check the map. I was the designated navigator (by him, not by choice). "I don't read maps," I had to remind him. "Why don't you stop at that gas station and ask directions?" We were at an impasse. I would not read the map, he would not stop for help. Once the conversation got so heated, I jumped out of the car, and he drove off, leaving me stranded on the road. No cell phone, and at the time, I was an inside the perimeter gal. None of my friends would have come outside I-285 (the beltway around Atlanta) to pick me up. He came back within minutes. My hot temper cooled. We had a laugh and somehow got to our destination. I did learn never to jump out of a moving car again, unless I knew where I landed.

My answer to today's situation was simple. I grabbed my cell, pulled up the meet-up group web page, and left an apology in the comment section of the days event I would not be there. I was lost. Then I circled around Watkinsville one last time, heading in the direction I knew would get me home.

I did make a stop at a charming antique/junk shop that sprawled along the country road, a sign "painted furniture" drew me in. My head ached from the stress of driving and worry I might never be found if I got too deeply embedded on one of those long winding roads with nary a sign of humanity.

As soon as I walked in the door all tension left my body. So much stuff to look at. I spent the next hour talking to the owner, shifting through piles of books, china, quilts, and artwork.

Shopping. Antiques. The cure for what ails me. An unexpected adventure, just the kind I can handle. I left with two books, and original drawing of a lady sitting at a café in Paris (not that you can tell, she is a large scribble, but so whimsical I had to have her) and a set of hobnail glasses. I made a new friend with the owner. She will see me again of that I am certain. After all, the writing group meets again next month, and I will pass by on my way to Athens, my new GPS leading me in the right direction.

Or Not.

If I procrastinate like I usually do, I won't have a GPS. But you can bet, I will find my way next time.

 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Moving On



If you know me, you know how much I love houses. I've talked and written about my desire to sell the home I shared with my husband for so many years and find a cottage of my own.  A place to  jump start my life once again and get my creative juices flowing.  Part of that journey is captured on another blog The Cottage In My Mind.  When I wrote my widow memoir, I was still so happy in my house. So many good things came in the following years. But I knew if I stayed in my home of thirty years my life would still be good, but it would never be different. I felt change had stopped and I needed to kick start myself again.

This year I moved on. The universe and the man above took me an hour outside of Atlanta to a charming small, slightly rural, town where I now reside with my pack of hounds in a wonderful 1906 Historic cottage.

The biggest adjustment for me? There is no pizza delivery here. No delivery of any kind of food. I am the gal that doesn't cook and ordered dinner through Grub Hub so I could stay in on a rainy night or groceries from Instacart when I was too darn lazy to get in my car and buy dog food.  I am learning to plan ahead. My little town does have a grocery store, but they don't carry my brand of dog food. When you run out of kibble and have five dogs staring you down at dinner time you learn to get organized quickly.

I am fifteen minutes in any direction from lots of shopping, but I see pastures of cows and horses on my drive. I am only an hour away from my friends in Decatur so we still have dinners out. I like to go visit Decatur, but my heart and home are now here in Social Circle. My friends like to come and shop the great antique shops in the surrounding towns.

My farm fantasy is well fed. I landed here in the middle of a chicken war, where folks were campaigning to change the city ordinance to allow backyard chickens. The ordinance changed and, gee, I could have six chickens in my yard if I were a crazy lady who wanted to have five dogs in an uproar. Won't have chickens, or goats, or sheep, or horses on my property, but I see them everywhere I drive.

I think the most amazing thing is at 68 years of age I made a major move to my dream house. I didn't go to a condo. I didn't downsize because I am getting older. For some folks that is what they want. And we all need to do what we want, especially at this age. Smaller was never in my vocabulary. I am an antique furniture freak. I have a passion for old cupboards, farm tables, artwork, and never plan to give up the things I love, the way of life I have made for myself, until they put my ashes in a lovely vintage urn. Then come to the biggest estate sale my friends will conduct.

My one concession, all my rooms had to be on one floor. Gone are the days I want to climb stairs, my hip surgeries brought that message home. In reality, my dogs can't go up stairs either. The short legged hounds couldn't get to a bedroom on another floor, and we all sleep together, all the time.

I look at my cottage in awe. Eleven foot ceilings with amazing deep crown molding. A center hallway that holds more furniture than any room in my old house. The previous owner renovated this cottage so beautifully with an attention to detail that is beyond what I would have done. My hard work was hiring someone to paint all the walls white. The house sparkles in the sunlight.

The dogs love the yard. I did put up a privacy fence to keep them contained and well, private. What they don't see they don't bark at. The yard, as I look out my kitchen window, is beautiful. Flowers keep blooming. Lots of roses by the little white shed and herbs down the driveway. A huge front porch begs for friends to visit and share stories over wine.

The last twelve months were difficult. My hip surgeries, the loss of my mother, selling my house in Florida that she lived in, and finally selling my house that was the home I shared with my husband when he was alive. Letting go of so much to move on. I still have difficulty walking, but I managed to keep moving forward.

My hip surgeries scared me. Living by myself with all my dogs a constant fear nagged at me. What if something else happened? If I stayed in my old house I had the comfort of the closeness of friends and all that was familiar. I lived next door to a hospital. When my husband died, I felt sorrow, but I had my health and could run from my fears. When my health became an issue I was vulnerable. I couldn't run away from myself, I could barely move on a walker at first. In a new town I would be totally on my own.

I had to make this move. Letting fear rule was not my style. If not now, when? After all, I am not getting any younger.

The timing was perfect. My house sold the same day I listed it. I put an offer in on this cottage the next day. Thirty days later we sat at a closing table. I sold my house in the morning and purchased my new home at lunch. I had thirty days to get my act together and move.

The "cottage in my mind" is now my reality. Yes, I am getting older, but I am living on my own terms again. The move proved what I knew in my heart. With faith and courage anything is possible.

I. AM. HERE. HEAR ME ROAR.



 The little house in my back yard. Plan A is to make it a studio.
Plan B is to keep it for storage of all the furniture I am still buying.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ready, Set, Go


    
Yes, please. I'm ready.
 
 
    My mantra for the coming year is Ready, Set, Go. It took an Oracle Card reading to prove to me good things are on the way, especially if I work hard. This year has been a difficult one, and frankly, I have dwelled and talked about it too much. I am lucky to have such wonderful friends that listen and don't remind me how much I repeat myself.
 
     In a nutshell, which does not in any way minimalize the emotional aspect of everything, this is what happened. I went in for hip replacement surgery in April. The surgery went badly. Somehow, my femur fractured after I was back in my room. Two days later, and many pain meds to help pass the time, the hip replacement surgery was done again and the femur stabilized. I now have a cadaver bone bracing the femur and three pints of blood from goodness knows who. Just as I was beginning to relax, an infection set in and I had to have a third surgery to clean the wound. (Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?) Three surgeries in thirty days, an infectious disease doctor, twenty plus days at a terrible nursing home rehab, and seven weeks away from my home. While it seemed never ending, I am wrapping up outpatient physical therapy now and feeling pretty good. Not 100 percent, but darn close.

    During this same creepy year, my mother had horrible health issues, and thanks to my horrible hip issues, I could not be with her. We talked daily. She went into the hospital about the same time I did and had the same amount of time away from home with her physical therapy. Sadly, things did not go as well for her. My sister moved mother closer to her , into a lovely assisted living home. But mother’s health plummeted and she went into hospice mid-August. We lost her two days later.

     Mother was my champion. She taught me you could be whatever you want at any age. She was a shining example having redefined herself several times after my Dad died and encouraged all my craziness to find myself when I became a widow at sixty. My six dogs never worried her, while many of my friends questioned my sanity on those numbers. At eighty-four, Mother got back to her writing roots and published many romantic novellas. We could talk ‘shop’ at night on our calls. We had a mutual admiration society. While she is gone, she lives on every time I sit down to write.

     And that brings me to my goals and my Oracle Card reading. My friend whipped out her cards and ordered I needed a reading. She prefers Oracle Cards because they are more uplifting than Tarot Cards.

    “The Magical Mermaids and Dolphins Oracle Cards are specifically designed to help you manifest your goals, life purpose, and divinely inspired dreams,” she told me as she opened the box and handed a beautiful deck of cards to me. I shuffled the cards, placed the deck in my left hand, put my right hand on top, and picked a card. I picked three cards and the meaning of each showed me I was ready to do something grand.

     I’ll buy that. It’s time for me to find my place again. Ready, set, go. I can’t think of a better mantra to move ahead. To be honest, I had figured that out before the reading, but a tad of mystical power is always a lovely ingredient.

    My head is spinning with new things to write. I’ve started my dog memoir and a fictional book about a widow who has to restart her life at sixty-five. My platform is always so obvious, widows, dogs, and old houses. Things I understand. Throw in the occasional chapter on antiquing, and you have the story of my life, in memoir, in fiction, and perhaps, in poetry soon. A few years ago, I published a Kindle Christmas anthology with thirty other authors. In the works is a book on writers and their dogs. Appropriate for the gal who named herself “Writer With Dogs” after adopting my bunch of rescue hounds.

     Whatever I write this year, I will honor my mother with my words. She will be by my side encouraging me as I remember all the late night conversations we had about life and the stories we hoped to put on paper. The gift of writing is one that pulled me through when I lost my husband eight years ago and will keep my mother close as I pursue my upcoming goals. You can be anything at any age . . .   her words fill my heart with hope.
 
 
 
It has been my pleasure to be part of Julie Valerie's Fiction Writer's Blog Hop this year. So many great writers sharing their thoughts. You rock, Julie.
And thanks to all who have read this post. You can return to the hop by clicking below.
 
                                                                        
Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-oct-2016

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Little Gardening Library

 

 
I love this quote, but if you know me there is one more important ingredient to give me everything I need. . . my dogs!
 
 
 
Years ago when I was more an antique dealer than I writer, I collected vintage gardening books and made a special place for them in my house. Tucked away in the back corner of my sitting room were built-in shelves I hated. Hated because I wanted an old cupboard where the shelves took up so much space. It didn't take me long to figure out the shelves were perfect to start a little library. I filled them with old gardening books, small treasures, and a few tiny oil paintings. It is a peaceful spot where I can hide out and dream about the past and future while surrounded by beauty. The books there range from late 1800's to mid century. While it is organized and I can label it 'my library', all the other books I collect and read are stacked all over the house. I haven't figured out what to call them yet.
 
 
 
The hated built-in book shelves now house my garden library.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A favorite Rose book
 
 
 
 
My collection of vintage and antique gardening books make a sweet library in my sitting room.
 
 
 
 
The antique dealer in me surfaces with small items added to the library shelves.
 
 
 
 
 
Some houses have formal libraries, some with books on shelves or piled high on tables, by the sofa, or bedside.  I can't imagine a house without books. It would not seem like a home to me. My guess is we all agree on that!
 
 
 
 


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Jane Austen Book Club



Ok. I admit I am smitten with this movie. It is on my all time list of favorites. Watching this movie is like visiting with old friends. Based on the novel with the same title, written by Karen Joy Fowler in 2005, the movie came out in 2007.
 
This is my book club fantasy come to life. Six Californians read the works of Austen, six books over six months, with each member leading the discussion of one of the books. They find the novels have plenty of insights that can be applied to contemporary friendships, marriages, sexual politics, money and class issues, social manners, self-control, second chances, and finding one's own place in the world. Their discussions are what you would imagine a book club discussion should be; intense, exciting, passionate. The characters are people you'd like to spend time with.
 
 
 
Characters 

 
Jocelyn (Emma): a breeder of Rhodesian Ridgebacks lives outside of town and her dogs are her family.  Jocelyn has been best friends with Sylvia since  childhood and introduced her to her husband, Daniel, when they were in high school. Now in her fifties, she has never married and has no children. She originally invites Grigg to the book club for Sylvia's sake, but ends up attracted to him herself.

 
Allegra (Sense and Sensibility): the young and impetuous 30-year-old daughter of Sylvia and her husband Daniel. Allegra is an artist and a thrill seeker who enjoys activities such as rock climbing and skydiving. Allegra is separated from her partner, Corinne, and lives with Sylvia.

 
Prudie (Mansfield Park) : a 28-year-old French teacher at a local high school. She is married to Dean, whom she loves, but feels distanced from, especially when one student in particular flirts with her.

 
Grigg (Northanger Abbey): an offbeat 40-something, and the only male member of the book club. Grigg grew up the only boy among his three older sisters. He met Jocelyn outside a science fiction convention as she came to attend a nearby dog breeding convention.

 
Bernadette (Pride and Prejudice): a talkative, 67-year-old yoga enthusiast. She has been married multiple times and is the most satisfied with her lifestyle.

 
Sylvia (Persuasion): Jocelyn's best friend, Sylvia is also in her fifties and is separating from her husband.


I love the idea of a small community of friends supporting each other through life's changes in the framework of a book club. The fact they are reading Austen to me is minor compared to the relationships that strengthen between the characters. A bit of romance also adds a nice touch. Each month they meet in a different place (a coffee shop, a member's home, at the beach) to discuss the month's selection. I've been in a few book clubs, and started one myself that is successfully moving forward, although I have put someone else in charge for the last few months, but have yet to find the perfect fit for me.

Has anyone else seen this movie or read the book? I'd love to know if you have the same infatuation with it as I do.


Thanks for reading. To return to the Fiction Writers Blog Hop on Julie Valerie's website click here:

http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-aug-2016/

 
 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover . . .


What makes you buy a book?


You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover. But the cover can certainly make you buy the book. At least for me, the cover is what draws me to a book in the first place. I am a visual person, my senses enhanced by what I see. My urge to spend money also ignited by something that is colorful, pretty, whimsical. I have bought books because of the cover, books I never planned to read, but loved the artwork.

     Perhaps it goes back to my career with the federal government. A great job, but for one that wanted to be surrounded by beauty, a government office is a dreary setting. I used to joke, “If only I could have a wicker chair and a hooked rug in my little nook.” I could keep books tucked around my desk, tiny pieces of art that made me smile as I went about my work.

     The words on the back cover play a huge role, too, on my purchasing the book. If the cover has pulled me in, made me hold the book in my hands, or enlarge the photo on my computer, I want to read what it is about. That small space where the author leaves a blurb is as important to me as an elevator pitch to an agent. Make me want to read you.  My attention span is short and you need to grab me.

      Recommendations by other authors? I don’t pay attention to them. It’s nice if you have a novel and a NY Times Best Seller Author has left a kind line on your jacket. It just tells me that person loved the book. But will I? An award-winning book? Perhaps that will get more attention from me.

     My own reading habits and book purchases are questionable at best. Loving  the art on the cover, instead of reading reviews, and buying the book versus  reading a great review and putting the book back on the shelf because I don't like the cover. I always go for the look I love best.
 
     Certain images that pull me in, make me want to see what the book has to offer, go along with my passions in life. As a gardener, antique dealer, dog hoarder, it should come as no surprise I can’t pass up a book with any related image to the above. If there are people on the cover, please don’t show me their faces, or much of their body parts. I like to form my own opinion of what the characters look like. If I don’t like the people pictured on the jacket, well, I won’t like the book. Just telling it as it is for me.
 
     The exception to my rule, memoirs. There, a photo is a must. My stalker self comes out. I want to see who I am reading about. An example below, A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas.  The cover hits many of my must-haves. A photo of the author and her dogs. And to contradict my earlier comment about blurbs by other authors, Stephen King says it is the best memoir he's ever read. Okay, I am inconsistent. But that cover, oh my.
 
 
 
 
 
 
I love the cover on The Language of Flowers. Bought the book in 2012,  and haven't read it yet. The image makes me smile and the book is placed where I can see it on my dresser.
 
 
 
Of course, I am crazy about all of Jackie Bouchard's book covers. What dog lover could pass by this cover without taking a peek at the book? And the back blurb, well, guess what the dog ate . . .

 
 
 
 
Then there is whimsy? Below are two covers that made me stop and look on Amazon.
 
Garden illustrations . . . A Sweet Cover
 
 
 
 
 
Not only does this cover make me smile, it makes me hungry. So I might buy the book and a cupcake.
 
 
 
So I read and loved Abigail Thomas' memoir, I own the Language of Flowers, and yes, I might buy the other two books based on the cover art.
 
***********
My memoir cover in 2010 drew some comments on The Book Designer site (link to site but not comments on my cover. That was some time ago.) No one liked that I had so much white in the cover (it did fade as a thumbnail and I had to frame it in black) and men did not understand the image of sunglasses being tossed, thinking I was getting rid of my husband's glasses. A friend, a professional designer, came up with the cover.  Since the essays are of hope, and the memoir a bit quirky, the pink and white seemed to convey more of the nature of my story. Does it draw a buyer in? I haven't a clue. But I hope it lets the reader know the book is more lighthearted in its approach.
 

 
 
***********

I wish I had a more intellectual way of choosing books. For me, my method works. How do you choose what you will read next? And what do you like on a book jacket?

 Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here: 

http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2016