Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Memories of My Father

I lost my father Saturday. Many of you have been there and know what I'm feeling--the sadness, the loss, and the sense that we've moved into another phase of life. One of my siblings said his death was the end of an era, and she was right in every respect.

My father, Daniel Weary, was eighty-five years old and had suffered the ravages of advanced Parkinson's Disease for many years. He fought back valiantly, never believing until perhaps the last few days that he wouldn't get better, that he wouldn't beat the disease. That attitude was typical. He often said he was the luckiest man in the world, and I wouldn't argue. He was an eternal optimist and a force to be reckoned with. His final illness was the first opponent he didn't manage to bend to his will.

I've been thinking a lot the past few days, searching for my favorite memories of my dad and savoring each one. When he was a young father, before his law career consumed so much of his time and energy, he used to make up bedtime stories for my sister and me (before siblings #3 and #4 arrived on the scene). I still remember the long-running serial about a little girl name Iva Marie, her nurse Nettie Jane, and Tony the taxi driver. They got into and out of outlandish scrapes night after night. I loved it. As I think back, those stories must have had their origin in the radio serials he listened to as a boy in Junction City, Kansas in the 'thirties.

My father also loved to sing and did so often and with great gusto. He was famous (in the family, at least) for his ability to calm a crying baby by dancing while singing the Darktown Strutter's Ball. If you've never heard of it, look it up. He also used to regularly burst into his own renditions of Bess, You Is My Woman Now  from the musical Porgy and Bess, the old spiritual Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, and Old Man River from Showboat. I'll never forget the sound of him trying to force his natural tenor to mimic Paul Robeson's deep bass. 

When we were growing up, he and my mother used to load the four children into the family station wagon and drive across the endless prairies of Kansas to vacation at the YMCA camp in Estes Park, Colorado. My father drove with single-minded concentration on the road and always required a navigator. On one trip home, I was amazed when he blasted past a huge billboard announcing the home of the Kansas State Highway Patrol at ninety miles an hour. In true poetic irony, a motorcycle trooper had set up a speed trap behind the sign and pulled us over immediately. Later, Dad claimed he had never seen the sign. It was only about thirty feet tall!

He used to barbecue every Sunday evening in the summer, grilling wonderful hamburgers and steaks. It was a real treat because he often worked late so we rarely got to eat dinner together during the week. He was also a big fan of ice cream, especially chocolate and butter brickle. After my husband, daughter, and I moved to Minnesota, Dad found a favorite old-fashioned ice cream shop in our new town and made sure to stop in on every visit. He once asked the proprietor if they could ship to Kansas City.

He was also an intrepid world traveler. He and my mother visited places I shudder to think of and had a long list of incredible adventures. My favorite Christmas card depicts them at ages 78 and 80 flanked by a pair of headhunters in the jungles of Borneo. After age slowed them down a bit, I gave them a world map with colored pins to show every place they'd visited. The end result was quite impressive.

My dad lived life to the fullest, and I will cherish my memories of him for the rest of my days. Goodbye, Pops.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Welcome Guest Blogger Sandra Dailey

This is a banner day at The Second Half! Today we welcome our first guest blogger, Sandra Dailey! Sandy is a fellow Boomer and romance novelist who is here to celebrate the release of her second book, Twice the Trouble. Take it away, Sandy!

Romance – The Imperfect Hero

How often are our real life heroes perfect? We all know every man has his flaws. If we say we love our man despite his imperfections, we fail. Eventually, when times get tough, those imperfections magnify in our minds.
When we can look past the scars to the core of the man and see him as perfect, we are in love.

My new release, Twice the Trouble is a light-hearted contemporary romance with plenty of humor. The main characters are rekindling an old romance that went terribly wrong. But, now they have two mischievous preteens to deal with, besides.

Over the years the main characters were separated, life wasn’t easy for either of them. My heroine, Lacey, and her children combine home life with hard work as they make their living on a small farm.

My hero, Alex, is a successful business man, living a life of luxury, but he hides terrible scars from a long ago accident. Pity, rejection and scorn has caused him to be self-conscious and insecure. In the scene below, Alex and Lacey are discussing his scars for the first time.

“There’s more to it than just my arm. It was pretty bad. Does it bother you?”
“I know it bothers you for me to see it, but it shouldn’t. It’s just a part of you, a part of your history.” Lacey began hammering again.
“You know, most people are grossed out by it. You and your kids act like it’s no worse than a scratch. I don’t get it.”
“Well, a lot of people are idiots,” Lacey told him. “When you work in this business you can’t be squeamish. We have animals attacking each other, having accidents, and being born deformed. They’re often turned out by the others to fend for themselves or die. Sometimes we get to them in time to help, sometimes not.”
“Well, that little story really brightens my day,” Alex grumbled.
“The moral of the story is: we’re not animals,” her voice lowered. “Although, you may not have guessed by the way my children behave.”
Alex measured, cut and placed another board before he spoke again. “You once said I was perfect. As you can see, I’m not perfect anymore.”
Lacey’s eyes narrowed in contemplation. “Oh, I get it. You thought I was referring to your looks. No, I was talking about your batting stance. Yeah, definitely, you had a great swing.”

Lacey Carlyle has worked for years to create the perfect blend of home, business and family. Now she risks losing everything when the land she farms is bought by the man who abandoned her thirteen years ago.
Alex has never understood why Lacey walked away from him. Now, he holds the deed to her farm and intends to make her pay. The only problem – two kids weren’t part of the plan.
Jenna and Jarrod may not see eye-to-eye but they are both determined to find happiness for their mom and keep their home safe.
Can Lacey and Alex put their pasts behind them and embrace a future together?

My question is: As a reader, how do you feel about heroes with scars and insecurities?

Twice the Trouble is currently available exclusively on Amazon. The official release from The Wild Rose Press will be on May 8, 2013. To pick up a copy now, go to:
About the author:
Sandra Dailey is an avid reader and lifelong story teller.  She caught the writing bug after winning a short story contest.  The Chief’s Proposal was her first published work and now she’s added Twice the Trouble, but she has many more stories to tell.
Sandra currently lives with her husband in north Florida.
To contact Sandra Dailey:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

So Much Stuff

You probably know by now that OG and I are moving in the next few months. Technically, we aren’t downsizing. When the renovations to our new house in Carmel are complete, it will be just about the same size as the one we’re leaving in Minnesota. However, there are a few problems. One is the lack of basements in California. If you have a basement, think about everything you have stored in it.  Then think about what you would do with all that stuff if you didn’t have one. Next, we already have a condo out there, fully furnished with new furniture I chose specifically for California. It’s more casual and rustic—a completely different look from our traditional home in Minnesota. Lastly, it’s expensive to move and store stuff we don’t need.

And we have lots of stuff we don’t need. In thirty years of marriage, OG and I have owned ten homes, so we’ve moved many times. Some of those moves were only a few blocks, and some were several states away. However, we were always moving to an equal or larger-sized place, and on occasion the company was paying for it. This time we’re on our own.

The decisions about what to jettison are easier for me than for OG. Because of the traumatic way my job ended, I’ve embraced BIG CHANGES. I’m excited to be leaving for a new life in a new place. OG is more cautious about giving up his familiar life with its familiar trappings. Don’t get me wrong, he’s looking forward to escaping Minnesota winters, but in many ways, this has been a good place to live. Because I know how challenging this is for him, I don’t want to push too hard about what we leave behind. I don’t want to abandon things with genuine sentimental value, but I really don’t want to haul a bunch of stuff half-way across the country because we MIGHT need it some day.

I suspect the next few weeks will involve significant compromise. I also suspect we’ll end up taking far too much stuff. Our realtor tells me everyone does this. Perhaps it’s a necessary part of the transition process.

Have you made a big move? Do you regret any of the choices you made in the process?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Will I Ever Sleep Again?

Nearly every one I know over the age of fifty struggles with insomnia to some degree. I have slept through the night exactly three times in the past seven years, and none in the past five. Whenever I manage to fall asleep (sometimes several hours after going to bed), I’ll usually make it through two ninety-minute sleep cycles before suddenly waking completely up in the middle of the night. Often this mid-night awakening is accompanied by a rush of adrenaline and a good strong hot flash—just to make sure there’s no risk I’ll roll over and fall back to sleep quickly. Any sleep I get the rest of the night is broken into short segments with at least two additional awakenings. I can’t even remember what it feels like to wake up refreshed.

And I know I’m not alone. Articles on the importance of sleep seem to slap you in the face every time you turn around. Inadequate sleep is reported to cause obesity, heart attacks, increased accidents, emotional lability. And the list goes on. Just this morning, our newspaper featured an article about a study that found that poor sleep in people of retirement age was a significant factor in memory loss. Small wonder we lose sleep worrying about the effects of losing sleep.

Most articles focus on the fact that few American adults get as much sleep as they need, and the authors approach the problem from a scolding perspective, as if insomnia were a choice. We don’t sleep enough because we work too much or we refuse to turn off our electronic gadgets and relax. It’s easy to find articles describing good sleep hygiene: keep your bedroom cool, no TV in the bedroom, no work in the bedroom, exercise but not within four hours of bedtime, get up and read if you can’t fall asleep in a reasonable time, etc., etc., etc.

I know all that. I suspect you do, too. For me, I suspect the dual culprits are aging and stress. Fact: women of a “certain age” simply do not sleep as well as they once did. We have more trouble falling asleep and sleep more lightly. I certainly do. Then there’s stress. Does this sound familiar? I zip through the day, accomplishing task after task. I have aging parents and a not-yet-fully-launched child to worry about. In the evening, I try to relax by watching TV with OG and/or reading. The minute the lights go out, my mind starts to race, attempting to sort out all the unresolved issues of my life. Because I’m so tired, my brain rarely finds constructive answers, but that doesn’t stop it from trying.

So what’s the answer? I’m trying progressive relaxation and other meditative techniques such as mentally repeating a short phrase over an over like a mantra to keep the mind free. No real success yet, but apparently it takes practice to master the technique. I also saw an interesting factoid in the Oct/Nov issue of the AARP newsletter stating that Americans ages 45-64 spend an average of just 18 minutes a day relaxing and thinking. I wonder what would happen if I devoted perhaps a half-hour a day to contemplation. If I took the time to think things through thoroughly during the day, would my mind still insist on trying to do it again at night? It’s worth a try.  

If you also suffer from occasional or chronic insomnia, what do you do? Have you found any successful techniques you’d like to share?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My First Portfolio Project

I’m thrilled to announce I’ve received and completed the first project in my new portfolio career as a writer/editor/book cover designer before even officially opening up shop. A writer friend, Jannine Gallant, is taking the leap from being published with small presses to independently publishing a series of romantic suspense novellas and asked me to design her covers. I had planned to do a few practice projects to master the necessary techniques but couldn’t pass up an opportunity to start out working on the “real thing”.

The most rewarding aspect of this project was collaborating with the author. Most cover designers ask for input from the author during the initial consultation then work independently before offering the client his or her choice of three completed designs. Jannine and I worked together from the start, selecting the images, fonts, and colors. Along the way, I learned how to size and crop, select and cut partial images, and refine edges. There are many more techniques I need to learn, but this was an exciting beginning. I can’t wait to start on the next one!

The wonderful thing about the internet is the ability to shoot ideas back and forth, quickly make changes, and fine tune the design until the author is completely satisfied with the final product. While every author might not want this level of involvement, a large part of the appeal of independent publishing is the ability to control every aspect of the process, and the cover design is critical. It’s the book’s face to the world. I’d love to hear what you think of our finished product.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Is There a Move in Your Second Half?

It’s official; we’re moving to Carmel.

We might be crazy to add the stress of a cross-country move on top of all the other changes of the past several months, but as I sit here watching it snow (again) in Minnesota, I know we’re doing the right thing.

OG and I have been vacationing in Carmel (on the central California coast two hours south of San Francisco) for the past five years. About a year and a half ago, we splurged and bought a vacation condo in a wonderful location with a view of the mountains and only a few blocks from the beach, thinking it would be the perfect getaway for the five years before I retired. If you follow this blog, you know fate threw a monkey wrench into my retirement plans last summer, turning years into months, and we began to evaluate every aspect of our Second Half. What exactly do we want to do with our time, and where do we want to do it?

For years, the Monterey Peninsula has drawn me like a magnet. For a lifelong Midwesterner (and flatlander), the combination of sea, rocky shoreline, sandy beaches, and mountains is magical. I marvel at the softness of the air and the unfamiliar vegetation. I even love the fog. We rarely have fog in the plains, and when we do it’s thick, solid ground fog—nothing like the mysterious floating fingers of coastal fog that glide above the highway and through the pine-covered hills.

OG has always been a winter-hater at heart, and in Minnesota he’s housebound for several months a year except to shovel snow and run essential errands. The first few weeks of retirement gave me a taste of what that’s like, and I hated it, too. I want so much more for our Second Half. I want to go for walks and work in the garden. I want OG to be able to play golf and take sailing lessons if he chooses.

It’s scary to think of leaving the familiarity of the place we’ve lived for twenty-three years, the place we raised our daughter. OG worries about finding a new barber who will cut his hair perfectly every time. We know we’ll never be able to replace our wonderful dentist, and at our age that’s a serious concern! But there’s more to life than barbers and dentists. With the demise of my job, we no longer have any real ties to Minnesota. Our daughter only comes home a couple of times a year, and we have no family here. It’s time to suit ourselves and move on.

We began house hunting in Carmel last November and settled on a house during our trip last week. We chose a modest ranch house in Carmel Valley a few miles inland from the coast with a glorious view of the mountains. The house is in dismal condition, so fixing it up will be a several-month project. I’ll post updates as we move along. Who ever said the Second Half would be dull?