Santa Lives Here

christmas decorations

It’s Santa’s house.  Not in C.R. and Jane Conn’s imaginations at all.

Standing high above the Colville Valley in Eastern Washington state, there’s magic here.

This home has no corners, vaulted ceilings, white walls, and it’s all concrete and built into a hillside.  The home is backdrop for a veritable feast of Christmas ideas.

Four gigantic seven foot trees are centerpieces in the huge rooms, all with big windows looking out at wooden rain deer flying through the night sky or upon other huge trees outdoors, all lit at 5 p.m. exactly, so they’ll glow below to folks passing by on the highway.

The first encountered is filled with handcrafted decorations, one created every year for years or given to them as gifts.  Each has a story.

One twinkling tree, all silver and big silver snowflakes, is nearby cozy furniture arrangements and other unique ornaments.  “Here’s the area kids and adults love,” says Jane who leaves her hostess duties to show the animated bears playing instruments or dancing.

The bar room features the most whimsical tree of all — friends have made ornaments that are puzzles to solve.  One made of little blocks of wood is ‘a cord of wood’.  Another is a painted white and black cow which has a hole in its center and from which dangles a little pink toilet, a brown deer, and ends with a John Deere tractor, all items at the Conn house, and standing for “Holy Cow, It’s a John Deere.”   There’s so many, a printed key is needed to untangle the mysteries!

“The more risqué ones,” says Jane, “Are hiding on the back side,” as she leads us off to the master bedroom with its little silver tree.  “This one is up all year.  I change it for each holiday.”

“You must work at this for days,” someone says in awe, “Actually, we do a little bit every day for weeks,”

Then, comes along C.R. with a group of men who slyly asks, “Want to see my Man Cave?  It’s in another building.”

The house smiles.  Guests grin.

Santa lives here, joyful, smiling, welcoming, loving, as he witnesses the joys of Christmas unfold.

Illusions of Love

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What does a woman want in a mate?  If it isn’t a man with a job who loves kids, helps with housework and is good-looking to boot, what quality is missing?  Is falling in love and making a commitment like choosing ingredients for a pizza?  Or, more complicated by her underlying needs.

In Casanova Cowboy, several women and their illusions are told about in a story set in a remote area of Montana:  Joy Ann, a rancher’s wife, is desirous of someone who can acknowledge her feminine virtues; Ferris, the most beautiful area men have ever seen, wants a man who’ll challenge her; Stormy, is keen for a playful guy,and, Alexis, who can’t believe that a man can overlook her physical disabilities.

Into this mix in the Rusty Springs Valley comes a lone cowboy with a checkered past.  Not only does he encounter these women but finds himself mixed up in broil of evil-doing at the trashed trailer across the valley from the Oliver Ranch.

In an upcoming blog, I’ll tell you more about this lone cowboy.   It’s tough going right now as I continue to write the final chapters.  He is so charismatic that it’s almost too difficult to kill him.

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Husband Shopping (Second Part)

Husband Store

There it was, a store offering husbands.  She’d put on her tightest jeans and highest heels and wss ready to go shopping.

The sign inside said, “There are six floors.  The product value increases on each floor.  Once you enter and decide to shop, you can’t retrace your steps but must exit the store.”

Checking that each hair was in place in the big gold mirror beside the elevator, one fit for a queen with rose-patterned carpet, she thought,  “Oh, my, this is going to better than I hoped.”

On the first floor a sign over the revolving doors showed shadows of men moving inside.  It announced, “These husbands have jobs.”   No, she wanted more.

The second floor had men who had jobs and loved kids.  But, she continued on to the third floor where there were husbands who were eye-candy. “In whose judgment?  Maybe I wouldn’t care for someone else’s selection.”

She was glad she waited to see what the fourth floor had to offer, for on this floor the husbands liked to help with housework.  It was a struggle to leave, but she moved upward and the fifth floor she found that these guys were romantic.

She checked her list of characteristics desired in a husband and went up to the sixth floor. There she saw a huge electronic sign blinking which announced, “You are the forty-third million and sixty eight thousand visitor.  There are no men here.”

Hugely disappointed, as a girl would be on a disappointing shopping trip, she went out the store.  Across the street she saw a man exiting The Wives Store.  Running between the cars on the street to get to him, she cried, “Sir, did you find a wife?”

“No,” he said with gentle sympathy, “I wasn’t ready to make a commitment.”

“But, what did you find?” she asked, hoping for clues to aid her search.

“There were wives, all right, another man told me.  On the first floor, he said he found those who liked sex and who were good cooks.  On the next floor, he said there were those who in addition like sports and who have  money.”

He looked past her, stopped talking and was ready to walk off.  She caught his arm, “Was that all?”

“Who needs more,” he said.  “No one has ever checked the other floors.”

The author of this blog does!  I want to discover the illusive quality women are seeking on that  sixth floor.   I currently am writing “Casanova Cowboy” and seek answers for five women.  It’s an exciting writing adventure for the cowboy, too.

Shopping for a Husband (Part l)

Husband StoreThere’s a store where a woman can shop for a husband.  It’s in Manhattan, of course.  That’s where you’d expect to find such a gem.

On Thanksgiving Day, I’ll tell the folks who come to the lazy Bee more about this fabulous store.  For now, I’ll just say to you folks reading this  blog about the traditions we have at our little ranch to celebrate this holiday. On next week’s blog,  you’ll hear Part II about these husbands

Before we sit down in the bar room — every ranch should have such and ours has been guaranteed – everyone is welcomed with a beverage.

Then, there is a program in the living room.  Everyone is asked to “do” something, even if it’s just to stand up and say more a little more about themselves.  We’ve had surprisingly talented guests, from musicians to the juggler who tried to teach guests his skills (very funny) to a couple who had a conversation with God.

This Thanksgiving, Bud’s collection of shot glasses filled with Gretchen’s Apple Pie beverage.  We’ll start with toasts to people who are no longer with us.

The first is the young man, Max, who died unexpectedly while visiting his Mom in Oklahoma City at the tender age of thirty.   The other is Rod Kohlieber who died a few days ago at age 57.  His mechanical and woods skills kept our little valley going for the last seven years.  He knew how to find and identify mushrooms, how to made any vehicle run, and how to take down window-making trees.

Our chefs will be many.  One, however, is going to show off one of his skills as his “performance.”  Bud is using his new cutting board that’s almost as big as the kitchen and carving the twenty-pound turkey that’s been brining in an orange peel brine filled with many herbs and apple cider.

Wish you could be here.  Just picture adults, one pre-teen and one teenager, all sitting together at the long, narrow table that weighs one hundred and twenty pounds.  I had made years ago for Thanksgiving celebrations.  No kids’ table.   Barry will help Bud carry it back to storage when the day is over.

We’ll end the da with lots of laughs as we break into two teams and vie for lottery tickets.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from  the  Lazy  Bee.

Students Can Make Teaching Difficult

Miss Sarah is a young art teacher in Orlando.  She loves teaching, however her students from wealthy families more often than not make it difficult due to their inattention or meanness.  Her class size for the sculpturing and ceramics is 38 students.  Sometimes they’d rather use their creativity to throw clay at someone than to make a it into a pot.

“Some of my friends have left teaching,” she says.  Clearly this is not her intention as she loves art in all its forms. starting early while a high school student to pursue her talent at Universal to draw caricatures of people.  Her web site sarahmbender.com features prints depicting her old-fashioned love of chickens wearing aprons.

She’s sometimes is quite bold.  My favorite print of hers is a this back view of a nude.  It has a chicken head pointing dramatically at the viewer.  On her business card, the front view has a view of a proud chicken’s head, too .  The back states she is not  only a painter, sculptor, and art teacher, but  optimist.

On her website she tells WHY she likes chickens.  Check it out.

Sarah says:

Art is an escape; a place where things look different than our reality. I have transformed the children’s book character ‘Little Red Hen’ along with other disturbingly nostalgic imagery into symbols of the complex role women play in contemporary society. The viewer is left feeling uncomfortably amused as whimsically weird subjects stare them down. Seemingly banal settings of floral wallpaper, sprawling landscapes, and chicken coops come off as oddly threatening. Chickens represent the absurdity and senselessness of over analyzing our gender roles, the fulfillment we seek, and the judgment we encounter, by labeling ourselves as mothers, wives, career women, or otherwise I am the chicken.

Let’s Support This Practical Item

??????????????????????????????????????????Aprons have had a bad rap for too many years.  These practical, often endearing items, have virtually disappeared from women’s lives in the U.S.

Well, they’ll make a gala return at the fundraising pie auction at Fire District No. 10 up near the Canadian border.  Next summer, we’ll have a parade of women in aprons who are carrying a pie to show it off.

The most popular is lemon meringue but we’d have to figure out a way to keep them cool in August.  There’s even a microwave nine minute recipe for making this favorite.  The ones who have used this method report it’s just as good as the one that takes one hour to make.

Second top seller is huckleberry.   Gretchen Yoder has a list of all the favorites.  She and her husband go every year with a group of friends to ride in a small town where the grange hosts pie auctions.  Her husband spent two hundred dollars for three pies this year!  And, he’s a conservative spender!

Now, back to aprons.  “I don’t have an apron,” said a woman yesterday at a memorial lunch.  “I should have worn one today to fend off a few spots when I was baking.”

A man can wear an apron.  He can strut about with pride near his bbque.  A woman has to wear one in secret.

Why?  They are so adorable.  Each one is a creative marvel and so practical.

Tony’s Market in nearby Northport has the cutest one in its gift shop.  I long for it every time I drop by to pick up an item.  It even has little cap sleeves and is made of many pastel prints.

I want it.  But, something keeps me from buying an apron or wearing the few that I have.

Therefore, I rise up against the stigma of a woman wearing an apron.  She seems less than more.  Why did they go away?

1) No time to put one on.

2) Not many for sale.

3)  We wear a suit in a boardroom.  Why not an apron over this suit in the kitchen to protect it?

Who put the whammy on aprons?

His Take on My Questions

I couldn’t believe his answer.

He heard me ask him the Four Rivers of Life questions.  This simple daily process is suggested by a Basque tradition in order to be able to speak and listen deeply.

Where was I inspired today by someone or something?

Where today was I surprised?

Where today did I find myself being challenged or stretched to grow?

Where today was I touched or deeply moved by something that came into my life?

“The answers to all four,” he said, “Is ‘My Wife.”

Stunned, I asked him to explain.

“We were in a department store and you called me on my cell phone.  You said, ‘I’m in Women’s Wear and I said, ‘I prefer you don’t wear any.’

“You surprised me by wearing that silly green hat with the big white flower.  In public.

“I lost my car keys.  You challenged me to find them on my own.  You few clues did help though.

“No day goes without you saying or doing something that amazes me.”

You might have different responses if you ask someone these questions.  I’ll try medium_3889243610someone else at an appropriate time or seek answers in my journal.

Stop to Savor

medium_3889243610There is a strong feeling of DOING now that Snowbirds, my memoir of our RV trip in a vintage 1973 Ford Scout has launched.

I fidget.  Anything but simply being with and enjoying the quiet transition before jumping back into writing the final chapters of Casanova Cowboy.

If there is a lesson to be learned, it may be to stop.  Appreciate where I am without unnecessarily complicating things by doing.

It’s the tolerance to simply be with what is happening without trying to change it.   When I do, there is a quality of inner strength and balance that allows a mindful presence of being, even when taking care of the everyday little things of living.

The concept of BEING is not easily grasped.  It is similar to a writer who is learning to show instead of tell.

Yesterday after we had presented our excerpts from Snowbirds, one comment was: “It’s just like you were performing at Woodlawn’s (local theater).  Instead of a one-person show, it was interaction between two persons.  I enjoyed it very much.”  (For me, she told me that I had written Snowbirds something that has substance.)

“Just to be is a blessing.

Just to live is holy.”      (Rabbi Abraham Hershel)

Seven Keys to Success

medium_6895594686High-stepping your way through life like these sturdy elephants are doing with their swank is a way to be in agreement with these seven keys to success:

l)  Don’t ask permission.  Oh, you can explain your actions and decisions or your mistakes.  Ask instead for feedback and use the information in your decision making.  In other words, don’t ask permission, do it!

2)  Check things out with yourself not others.  You show respect for others by caring enough to tell them the truth about your needs.

( Personal example for several of these keys:  The fall in the Pacific Northwest has been exquisite in color and crispness of the air.  I felt the NEED to see an area where I’d not been before.  Instead of explaining why, I said to my sweetie, “I need.”

We returned from the weekend trip into Canada and when I expressed my thanks, he said, “but, you just sat and drove 300 miles.”

“Oh, no.  You gave me a very romantic weekend that I craved.  We had a prime-rib dinner at a restaurant where a flowing river went by.  You said, “This is the spot in Bonners Ferry, Id., where we put in from our float trip from Troy, Mt.”

Capping off the great weekend was breakfast by Lost Creek in the Selkirk Mountains.  At the peak and trail head, there was a new rustic chalet beside a gorgeous lake just for passersby.  It was where a coyote roamed the parking lot within arms reach, fearing no one.)

3) Don’t apologize without good reason.

4) Take an opportunity if you feel it is right.  A missed one might keep you stuck so you won’t move ahead.

5) Ask “Why” or “Why Not?” instead of “I should” or “I shouldn’t.”

6) Act on what you think and feel.

7) We need support, encouragement and help from others but make your own decisions.

You know your needs and wants.  If you don’t, ask the Universe and answers will come. These keys can help you deal better with anxiety and conflict.  You’ll be sure of your capabilities.   Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, suggests that if you can face tomorrow without fear, you have the confidence (swank) of self-belief.

Reading. . . Reading . . . Faster and Faster to Write Better

IMG_0054Pew Research shows the average reader of e-books reads twenty-four books a year.  This is more books than the average reader who reads only seventeen.   That’s a plus for e-book readers.

Untrained readers use half of their perceptual field on margins by moving from the first word and spending up to fifty percent of their time reading margins with no content.   Minimizing rapid eye movements boosts reading time.

The average adults reads 300 words per minute.  A third grader, 150.  College Professor, 575.  High level executive, 575.  The speed reader, 1,500.  But, comprehension matter.  Some reports say skimming leads to forgetting details and poor retention.

Your brain stores information you read by: a) impression, so maybe read a passage out loud; b) by association and linking the text to something you already know; c) repetition, the more you repeat the more you remember.  My method is to write key insights on colored index cards.  Going through the cards, the information I don’t remember is put in a separate pile.  These are the cards I repeat and repeat if I want to remember the information.  Remember, the more you repeat, the more you remember..

There are several levels of reading in addition to speed.  There’s the quick or leisure read where the book’s preface, table of contents and inside jacket are read.  The next level is to classify the book by subject, say what the book is about, list the major parts and define the problem the author is trying to solve.

The very best way is what is called the syntopical which requires you to read other books on the same subject and then compare them.  I know someone who is doing that now.  After reading an historical novel about Cortez conquering of Mexico, he is now reading the KING of HISTORY: Prescott’s non-fiction History of Mexico and Peru.  He said recently, “As an author, if I wrote the things that Cortez did, no one would believe me.  That Cortez was sure one lucky guy.”

Take notes.  Scribble in the margins.  Bookmark passages.  Write a review.  I don’t read e-books but I’m told that you can do so while reading in them, too.

There’s a woman in our remote area who writes a little review inside the front cover of a library paperback novel.  She’ll note that on such and so page the character is NOT wearing a watch but in chapter which follows, the person is referring to the time on her watch.  It’s the best of all fun to see someone surprise you as you read.