There’s nothing like the love of a dog

Annie Feb14C

This week, I have decided to share a poem with you. The left side of the loveseat is mine. The rest belongs to Annie. Enjoy.

On the Green Love Seat

Come into the circle of my arms.

Lay your head upon my lap.

I will rub your belly and whisper

into your floppy velvet ears

that you’re my one true love.

 

Stretch your paw across my arm,

lick my fingers with your long pink tongue,

sniff me with your moist black nose,

fix your amber eyes on mine.

You are my one true love.

 

Let your nails chafe the worn upholstery,

your tan fur coat my clothes,

your fleas walk across my bathrobe.

I will hold you anyway

for you are my one true love.

 

When you whimper in your dreams,

I will hold you closer still,

safe in the circle of my arms

in the endless spinning of the earth.

You, dear friend, are my one true love.

 

Photos and text copyright 2016 Sue Fagalde Lick

Bad back: rest, ice, yoga, beans?

Rest.

Ice.

Heat.

Yoga.

Rest.

Chiropractor.

NO chiropractor.

Drugs.

Walk.

Rest.

Lie on a bag of beans.

What?

Everybody’s got advice for the person with the hurting back. That last suggestion came from my dad, who said Grandpa believed in the bean cure. Well, at least that wouldn’t give me indigestion, I responded. Anyway, I don’t have a bag of beans.

Back issues run in the family. My parents went to a chiropractor named Dr. Roy. I think he was about a hundred years old by the time he retired, and God knows what methods he used back in the olden days. I was in my 20s the first time my back went out. It happened after I lifted an enormous amplifier out of the back of my VW bug. I began a long acquaintance with Dr. Birdsong.

The last week has been a real bag of beans, thanks to my wonky back going full-out ballistic. I’m writing this standing, with my laptop on a file cabinet. Wait, my legs are tired. Now I’m sitting on a stool. Soon, I’ll be lying down. On my back. On my side. On the other side. There is no perfect position. Finishing this, I’ll be back at my desk, feeling my thighs go numb. And yes, this is an ergonomic chair! Back to Dr. Schones in two hours.

What did you do, everybody asks. I don’t know. Dr. S. says I waited too long to come in for an adjustment, making me ripe for this grand subluxation (where the bones shift out of alignment). I do know that most days the week before, I sat scrunched up at my desk for hours, fascinated by the project I was working on. Come the weekend, I cleaned house on Saturday and went on a yard-work binge on Sunday. Mowed, trimmed, cut, raked, swept, watered. I was so proud of myself. Monday morning I could not move.

In the worst of it, I had a hard time standing, especially from a sitting position. Ask my dog. I hollered every time at the red-hot pain of trying to unlock the muscles and bones that kept me from straightening up. Suddenly all those sit-coms where a character suddenly can’t move were not the least bit funny. I tried going sideways. I tried coming up from my knees. I tried sliding from a high seat to my feet.

Watching me get dressed would make a fun video. I sympathized with my dad, who had me putting on his socks and shoes after his hip replacement and who still can’t bend all the way down. A week earlier, I was doing yoga, but now I could not bend down or lift my feet up. I considered going barefoot, opted for flip-flops. These are the times that make living alone a challenge. If only Fred were still here to help me with my shoes, lift me up when I needed to stand, and say, “Oh, Babe,” when the pain brought tears to my eyes.

I canceled most activities. I watched far too much of the political conventions and the incessant TV conversations about Trump vs. Clinton. I read, I wrote, and I snuggled with my dog. I penned poems about the fragility of the human body. I prayed for healing.

I am healing. I have been going to the chiropractor. I have been icing my back. I have been trying to keep moving so that I don’t freeze up. It still hurts.I worry that it will never be right again, but Dr. S. assures me I just need to get everything in alignment and let the muscles and tendons get stronger. After today’s adjustment, I’ll feel the raw pain again, I’m sure. But every time I can freely move from sitting to standing, I celebrate. I have been through this before, and I’m sure it will happen again. It’s in the genes. Grandpa lay on beans. Dad went to Dr. Roy. My favorite thing is to lie on my back on the deck with my legs right-angled over the hot tub cover. Takes the pressure off my back. But it’s hard to type that way.

Have you heard the warnings about sitting too long? Google it, and scare yourself. We are a sedentary culture. We don’t move enough, and we pay for it. I see far too many young people limping along with hurting backs. Writers and other computer workers try various options. Standing desks. Kneeling desks. Treadmill desks. Timers to make them get up at regular intervals. Perching on an exercise ball. I love to write and revise. I love getting so involved I forget about time. But my body is paying for it.

Annie is enjoying my lazy life. Wherever I settle, she collapses next to me. It’s very comforting. Until she pretzels herself and licks her bottom. Nothing wrong with her back. She only sits when she wants me to give her food. And she nags me when it’s time for a walk. Dogs are definitely smarter than we are.

If you’re sitting right now, get up and be grateful that you can. If you can’t, I sympathize. I’ll share my hot tub with you.

Just hold the beans.

 

Celebrating Twenty Years in Paradise

Annie at South Beach 22315C

We are gathered here today to ponder me being in Oregon for 20 years.

On July 26, 1996, Fred and I left our home in San Jose, California to start a new life in Oregon. He drove a Ryder rental truck, and I followed in the Honda with the dog, my guitars and my Chatty Cathy doll in the back seat. We had no idea what we were getting into.

I had never lived more than an hour away from my family. I had never lived in a small town. I had never lived where it rains 80 inches a year. If we had not moved, I would never have known that the whole world is not like San Jose. Attention suburbanites: There’s a whole other world out there.

For years, we had vacationed on the Oregon Coast and batted around the idea of moving here. After Fred retired from the city and his youngest son graduated from high school, it seemed like we were free to go.

It happened so quickly we didn’t have time for second thoughts until it was too late. Our house sold in five days. We’d expected it to take months. Suddenly we were quitting our jobs, packing and saying goodbye. If I had to do it again, I probably wouldn’t. Certainly if I had known everything that would happen—my mother’s death, Fred’s long illness and death, me ending up alone—I would have stayed on Safari Drive amid the smog, gangs and traffic roaring right behind us on Santa Teresa Boulevard.

I loved my newspaper job and our house. I loved the music groups I belonged to and the church where I played guitar every Sunday. I had finished my term as president at California Writers and had just been elected vice president of the Santa Clara County chapter of the National League of American Pen Women. Life was pretty good. But the money we made at our various jobs wasn’t enough and the Oregon coast called to us. Up here, we could live by the beach in a more affordable house. I could write and play music. Fred could volunteer at the aquarium. As for the rain, we’d buy raincoats.

So, 20 years. Nearly one-third of my life. If we divide it up, the first third was growing up, the second being a young professional, and the third starting over in Oregon.

Let me toss out a few more numbers:

We lived in Lincoln City one year, Newport one year, and South Beach 18 years. I have been walking dogs along Thiel Creek for 18 years. Six days a week, 1.5 miles a day, times 18 years=2,496 walks and 3,744 miles or all the way across the U.S. and partway back. Add the miles we walked in Newport and Lincoln City, and we’re at least back to Utah.

I have made approximately 50 trips back to San Jose, mostly by car. At 1,400 miles a trip, say 45 trips, that’s 63,000 miles and about 90 overnight stays at the Best Western Miner’s Inn in Yreka, California. I should get a gold plaque or something.

I was 44 when we arrived. Fred was 59, younger than I am now. Later this year, I have to sign up for Medicare. What???

Oregon has given me a lot. Six published books. My MFA degree in creative writing. Twenty years as a church musician. I get to spend my days writing and playing music, which has always been my dream. I have a house with a large, private yard only a block and a half from the Pacific Ocean. I can go to the beach or walk in the woods whenever I want. The air is clean, the traffic is minimal, and the temperature rarely gets over 70 degrees. Of course, we don’t have a shopping mall, serious medical issues require a trip to Corvallis or Portland, and full-time jobs are hard to find, but there’s online shopping, I don’t mind a trip to the valley, and I don’t need a full-time job. I’m already working full-time at work that I love. In other words, we got what we came for.

A week ago Sunday, I attended a concert at Newport’s Performing Arts Center. Walking through the lobby, I kept running into friends from music, writing and church. Lots of smiles, lots of hugs. We knew just about everybody on stage as well as in the seats. I have spent many hours in that auditorium, in the audience and on the stage. I felt this huge sense of belonging as my friend Pat and I settled into our seats. I would not get that kind of feeling in San Jose in a massive venue where everyone was strangers.

Fred and I lived together here for almost 13 years. He spent two years in nursing homes and died five years ago. He absolutely loved Oregon, never had a moment of regret. Over the years, we have lost many family members, including my mother, both of Fred’s parents, Aunt Edna, cousin Jerry, cousin Candi, cousin Dale, Cousin Irene, Uncle Bob, and more. We have also welcomed Candace, Courtney, Riley, Peyton, Keira, Clarabelinda, Kai and Kaleo, Eddie and Wyatt, and more. The cycle of life includes our four-legged loved ones. We lost our dog Sadie in 2007. We gained Chico and Annie in 2009, then I lost Chico in 2010.

My dad, now 94, has survived heart surgery, a broken wrist and a broken hip. My biggest regret of this Oregon journey is not being close to him all the time instead of just a few days or weeks when I visit. When he complains about crime, traffic and heat in San Jose, I encourage him to join me up here, but he is firmly rooted in the city where he was born.

Over the years, I have thought about going home. I miss my family. I get tired of the endless cold, gray winter days. Why am I in this big house alone now that Fred is gone? Most widows seem to move close to their families, usually their children.

But I stay. Why? The opportunities for connections with writers and musicians are huge here. I am allowed to play, sing and lead the choir every week at church even though I have no music degree and I am not a concert pianist. Yes, there are more opportunities in big cities, but you’re one of a crowd.

I might have better luck finding a new man (do I want one?) somewhere else, but when I sit writing on my deck with the dog sleeping at my side, warm sun on my face and a light breeze tousling my hair, I don’t want to leave. It’s peaceful here.

Lots of other people have moved to the Oregon coast since Fred and I came. I’m an old-timer now. California retirees are still falling in love with the place and moving in. But we are unlikely to see our population grow to the point that it’s a problem. Our weather is too challenging, and there’s no easy way to get to the rest of the world–tough roads, minimal bus service, no plane or train service. Also, jobs and housing are scarce. Good. Keeps the riff-raff out.

I like this place where I know lots of people, where the rain has dirt to sink into, where strangers wave at me and Annie as they drive by in their pickup trucks, where I hear the ocean at night instead of freeway noise and sirens, where I can slip away to the beach in five minutes if I feel like it or doze on my loveseat with the dog sleeping beside me. Driving over the Yaquina Bridge into Newport, I look down at the blue waters of the bay, the white boats bobbing there, and the green hills around it and am still awed by how beautiful it is.

On our anniversaries, Fred and I used to ask each other if we were willing to stay together another year. We’d click our wine glasses and pledge not just a year, but forever. It’s time to ask myself that about Oregon and this house. I can’t pledge forever or even a year. Things happen. But for now, I’m staying. It’s home.

***

You can read the story of our journey to Oregon and what followed in my book Shoes Full of Sand. Follow this blog to continue the story.

Finding solace amid daily tragedies

Sky 11914

Dear friends,

The world is going crazy. Every day, the headlines scream of another mass killing. Orland, Dallas, Nice, Baton Rouge. And yet, here in my little patch of coastal forest where the main aggravation is moles tearing up my lawn, I can almost feel safe. Almost. Today I offer a poem I wrote after the killings in Dallas. There have been so many since then I can no longer tell which loss the flags are flying at half staff for. Let us all pray for peace.

MASSACRE DU JOUR

On TV, in Dallas, a black woman

with turquoise hair fights tears

amid the blood and bullet shells.

 

Three days after Fourth of July,

they thought it was fireworks, late

celebrations by boisterous youths.

 

When the cops fell, the protestors ran,

one picked off by the sniper hiding

in a community college parking garage.

 

Twelve cops shot, five of them dead,

the suspect, a soldier still carrying guns

blown into ash when he wouldn’t give up.

 

The blue-haired lady offers prayers

for the blacks, for the whites, for her kids

who worry that they might be killed, too.

 

President sends his condolences,

lowers the flags to half staff,

rails about gun laws again.

 

Freeways blockaded in Oakland,

subways stopped in New York,

Texans marching with signs.

 

Orlando, Nice and Baton Rouge.

Another crisis every day,

more breaking news for CNN.

 

Talking heads talk on and on,

speculate about why and how.

Ads hawk cars and sleeping pills.

 

My dog leads me out to the trees,

away from the scenes on TV.

A light rain is starting to fall.

 

Drops tickle my face and my hands

as sun warms the bones in my back.

Around me, the pine trees stand guard.

 

Robins trade tunes with the doves,

the Pacific whispers in and out.

In the distance, I hear guns.

**********************************

[Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2016]

 

 

 

Not the hands! Musicians’ greatest fear

IMG_20160711_091241546_HDR[1]One minute I was deadheading my roses and nudging the compost cart along. The next I was on the ground staring at my throbbing fingers. The open cart had become unbalanced and fallen toward me. I fell in among peach parts and chicken bones. I know I hollered as I went down. Only the trees heard, and they said: “What do you want us to do, we’re stuck in the ground?” If a woman hollers in the forest where no humans can hear her, does she make a sound?

Anyway. I landed with my left-hand fingers first, specifically the middle, ring and pinkie fingers. Yes, I’m left-handed. I also banged my left knee and whacked my ribs pretty hard on the rim of the cart, but all I cared about, once I determined I was still alive, was my fingers. I needed them to hold down the frets on the guitar and play the bass notes on the piano. Everything else I could figure out with one hand. I’ve done it before.

As a musician, I always worry about the fingers first. Once upon a time in Lincoln City, OR, I fell down the stairs of our rental house. I still wince at the memory. My injuries were relatively minor but worrisome. My sideways-pointing big toe was the doctor’s main concern, but I kept whining about my fingers, two of which were swelling rapidly, and hey, I had a performance in three days. I didn’t need my big toe, but I definitely needed my fingers.

This turned out to be not that bad. Nothing broken, just bruised and slightly swollen. After a few days of ice and rest, they’re almost like new, sore and a little purple but workable. I played all weekend. Why did I put my hands out to stop my fall? It’s instinct. Better hands than head, our body says, throwing the hands down before we have a chance to think about it.

A couple days later, I was chopping berry vines at the side of the house, my hands protected with leather gloves. My late husband Fred had left behind this pole saw thing that I had never used, but I just had to get those high vines that were leaning on my house. So I studied the thing, hung it on a branch, pulled the cord, and it cut! Excited, I started cutting everything in sight. However, in my enthusiasm, I pulled down too hard right above the chain link fence and whacked the heel of my right hand on the upward-pointing wires hard enough to bruise it. It was at that point I thought maybe klutzy musicians should not do their own gardening. But then yesterday I pinched a finger in my keyboard stand. Another bruise. Fingers are in for it no matter what we do.

Fingers are so vulnerable. They stick out at the end of our hands with no protection. Without them, it’s hard to play guitar or piano or most other instruments—although I do know two talented men who play well despite missing their left index fingers. It doesn’t take much to put you out of business. A paper cut in the wrong place, a mashed fingernail, a mosquito bite. When people shake my hand too hard, I think: Careful! The fingers!

An injury to one little finger can put us out of business. It seems like we should sit with our hands in our laps and do nothing. But we can’t do that. We have to live our lives. I’ve had sprained wrists, torn shoulder ligaments, golfer’s elbow and tendonitis from my shoulders to my fingertips. I’ve worn slings, splints, and braces. I’ve applied “liquid skin” to torn calluses. Most of the time, I played anyway. I have seen guitar players bleed on their strings from cuts that didn’t have time to heal. Life is dangerous. We take our chances and thank God every time we get to play again, even if it hurts.

It’s not just musicians and fingers. Think about the body parts people use to do their work: the artist’s eyes, the pitcher’s throwing arm, the dancer’s feet, the perfumer’s nose. And you would not believe how paranoid I am about my vocal cords. I can’t get sick! I’m a singer. But that’s a whole other blog.

I’m typing this post with all 10 fingers. The keyboard seems to be a safe place, but you never know. There’s always carpal tunnel syndrome.

Worst case, I’ll play my harmonica. No fingers needed.

Comments? Do you have any finger-hurting memories to share?

News flash: widow lady sets up tent

Tent_7216D[1]I’m sitting in my tent. In my back yard. It’s a green dome tent, and it took me three years plus two hours to figure out how to put it up. It’s cozy in here, protected from the wind, comfy with my lounge cushion to lie on. I’ve got my notebook and pen, a book of poems to read, a cold Heineken, and my phone. Every now and then the dog looks in to make sure I’m still here, but she doesn’t stay. Something about the crackly-sounding floor, I think. I lie here thinking about where I will go with my tent. I could go anywhere.

When I was newly widowed, I bought this tent thinking I’d like to go camping. I enjoyed camping with my family as a kid and with my first husband. (Second husband Fred thought camping was a hotel without HBO and room service.) I could set up my tent by a river or in a wooded park and enjoy nature all by myself. Maybe I’d even go fishing.

Sure. When I first bought it, I tried setting up that tent in my front yard. The instructions baffled me. Short pole, long pole—they all looked long to me. It was like Starbucks’ drink sizes where the “tall” is the smallest size. J-hooks, ring fasteners, slip knots, what’s this Velcro thing for? Yes, the pockets for the poles were color-coded. Yes, the instructions said you could put up this tent in minutes. But no. The poles would not sit still, would not arch. I’d get one end in, and the other would pop out. I tried until my back gave out. Then I wadded up the whole thing and stuffed it onto a shelf in the garage.

Tent_7216B[1]Lately I’ve been cleaning out my garage. (Anybody want a TV vintage 1965?) I still had that tent, along with all the stuff I didn’t sell at my October 2014 garage sale, the day of the monsoon rain. It was use it or get rid of it time. Maybe camping wasn’t meant for me.

I assembled my tent parts in the back yard this go-round, to keep my humiliation private. Once again the poles would not stay put. One end in, the other flopped out. Where were these alleged hooks? Okay, the poles crossed and then what? Clearly the people who wrote these directions assumed I was an engineer or someone who had set up tents before. I hadn’t. I never went to camp as a kid. My parents camped in RVs. My first husband was Mr. Nature Guy, but he did the tent-wrangling. I handled the food. I think I hammered in a few stakes, but how the rest of the tent went up, I had no idea.

But darn it, I could picture this tent set up and me inside it being total nature woman. I didn’t want to give it to charity because I was too stupid to set it up.

A couple hours in, my back was screaming again from all the bending and getting up and down. I was ready to quit again when I decided to try one more thing. Bingo. Why couldn’t the directions just tell me or show me that I was supposed insert the end of the little key things attached to the rings into the ends of the poles? I kept putting the poles in the rings and they slid all over the place. Stop laughing at me, experienced tenters. I had no clue. Once I did that, the poles stayed in place, I got them to arch, and the limp pile of “Dry-tanium” fabric turned into a tent. Once it was upright, I was able to figure out the rest—the rain flap, the stakes, the s-hooks. Okay, it looks a little lumpy, like my cakes, and I seem to have three stakes and a rain flap pole left over, but here I am, camping in my back yard.Tent_7216I[1]

It funny how I have a whole house, but I’m more comfortable in here, writing in the green glow, drinking from the green bottle. Life simplified.

It’s cloudy outside. The ocean is loud. The neighbor’s rooster crows. The yellow dog stands guard. This tent is labeled as a two-person tent. I don’t think so. It’s not big enough, and that’s fine with me. Maybe one woman and a guitar. I have decided to stay here all day, leaving only for food and bathroom trips. Errands canceled.

Now where will I go? Am I afraid to go camping alone? Yes. Should I do it anyway? Definitely. Can I put this thing up again in much less time? I think so. I can’t leave it up in the back yard forever, although I’m tempted to make it my new office . . . .

It’s two days later. I took my tent down for fear the dog would start chewing on the ropes and pulling out stakes. She has done such things before. I followed the disassembly instructions step by step and managed to fold the whole thing small enough to fit in the handy green bag. My back is killing me, but I am so proud of myself.

That’s just part of what I did on my Fourth of July weekend. I also learned how to make S’mores. How about you?

 

[All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick. Republish this without permission, and I will sic my dog Annie on you, and she chews on logs for fun and can destroy an indestructible Kong in minutes.]

Can you find one square inch of quiet?

I’m spoiled. The place where I live is quiet. Sitting in my back yard, I hear mostly birds and the wind. Occasionally a plane or helicopter flies over from the small airport a half mile south, and sometimes I hear a truck gearing up on Highway 101. Sometimes the ocean whispers and sometimes it roars, but overall it feels quiet. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t hear as well as I used to. As noted in earlier posts, I have a measurable hearing loss typical of people my age. But in my yard, I can almost hear the quiet.

Gordon Hempton, author of a wonderful book called One Square Inch of Silence, would disagree. He would say it’s pretty good, but it’s not truly quiet here in South Beach. If he measured the sound levels here, he’d probably come up with about 35 decibels coming from cars, waves, and miscellaneous mechanical sounds that I don’t notice. When a helicopter passes over, it would go up to about 90. Wherever we live, we become accustomed to a certain level of noise: cars, lawnmowers, TVs, appliances, dogs barking, people talking, and so much more. Some of us even become uncomfortable if it’s too quiet. We reach for our iPods or turn on the TV. I confess that sometimes I sleep with the radio on.

Gordon Hempton specializes in sounds. He makes his living mostly from making and selling recordings of birds, beaches, and train whistles. But his favorite sound is no sound at all. He prefers quiet, quiet enough to hear your own footsteps or the chorus of birds that greets the new day. But quiet is hard to find. Even places billed as quiet are filled with the noise of cars, planes, trains, and people. He’s on a mission to set aside one square inch of silence in Washington’s Olympic National Park, making it a place where people don’t speak and planes don’t fly over. As part of that mission, he drove across the country to Washington, D.C. in a VW bus, measuring sounds in cities, parks and wilderness areas. His book is the story of that journey. I found the book fascinating and enjoyed the way the science is folded into an engaging story. I also learned a great deal about sound.

Did you ever think about the fact that our hearing is designed to keep us safe, that most animals depend on their ability to hear predators coming so they can react to protect themselves. Animals won’t nest where it’s too noisy because they can’t hear, Hempton says. For us people, that might mean hearing a car coming so we don’t get run over, hearing a rattlesnake before we step on it, or hearing someone knocking on the door. We need to be able to hear a baby cry or a loved one shout for help. We need to hear each other in order to communicate. Hempton says we don’t have “ear lids” because we need to be able to hear all the time.

But it’s getting to be so noisy we can’t be sure we’ll hear anything. On his travels, Hempton visited a symphony hall, the Indianapolis speedway, and a basketball game. All were so loud it was nearly impossible to converse and the sound levels were high enough to cause damage to people’s hearing. Even in many of the restaurants he visited, it was too loud to talk. The roar of conversation, kitchen noises and Muzak added up to an audio attack. Even in places where people assured him it would be quiet, places like national parks and areas deep in the wilderness, Hempton found planes flying overhead every few minutes and power plants roaring 24/7.

All of this makes me glad to live where it is relatively quiet. Of course, there’s a price to pay. Mid-morning on my street, I’m the only human around. It gets lonely. At my desk, I hear a hum from the refrigerator, I hear my computer keys clacking, I just heard a fly bounce off the window. If I pay attention, I can hear myself breathing. But as soon as I get in my car, I turn on the radio as I ease into a world of noise, a world where quiet is becoming harder every day to find.

Find out more about Gordon Hempton’s One Square Inch of Silence campaign and watch a video at his website, onesquareinch.org.

I found a free app for my phone that measures sound. It rates the sound here in my office right now as a whisper. Is it quiet where you are? What kind of noises surround you? Do you notice them most of the time? Let’s talk about it in the comments. Quietly.

Portuguese-American novel lives again

AD new cover 6816 bigSummer 2016 is becoming the summer of revisiting and revising past writing projects. First I did a new edition of Stories Grandma Never Told: Portuguese Women in California. Now I have a new edition of my Portuguese-American novel Azorean Dreams. This is the novel I wrote while I was still trying to sell the Grandma book. One of the women I interviewed, who had published her own book, convinced me that a novel would sell better than nonfiction. I no longer believe that’s true, but since nothing was happening with “Grandma,” I started writing a novel. Some of the people, places and events came directly from my experiences researching Stories Grandma Never Told. Others stem from things that were happening in the late 1990s in San Jose, California. And a lot of it is from my imagination.

My protagonist, Chelsea Faust, is a newspaper reporter working for a local weekly but with ambitions to move up in the business. She’ll do anything to prove herself as a great reporter. Although her mother’s side of the family is Portuguese, with roots in the Azores Islands, she doesn’t know or care much about her heritage. Then an assignment sends her into Little Portugal, and she meets the handsome Simão Freitas, who has not been in the U.S. very long. Romance blooms, but they disagree on many things, plus an incident from Simão’s past threatens to ruin everything.

I never imagined anyone real could have the name Chelsea Faust, but there is a real Chelsea Faust, with whom I connected online. She’s okay with her name being in the book. I have not met a real Simão (sim-OW) Freitas, but there probably are several men with that name because it’s pretty common.

Anyway, my Portuguese-American mother got a chance to read Azorean Dreams before she passed away, and she loved it. For that alone, I’m glad I published it when I did. The first time, I went through a company called iUniverse, that offers “print-on-demand” publishing, meaning when an order comes in, they print a book. There are not boxes of printed books sitting around somewhere. You pay for the service and—here’s the catch with these companies—you pay for copies of your own book. Their designers decide what the book will look like. They also determine the retail price.

To be honest, I never liked the look, the size or the price of the iUniverse version. I have seen the same cover art photo used in advertisements for several products. The background is not even the Azores. I’m pretty sure it’s Italy. The print inside is huge, making the book itself huge. And they charged $20.95 a copy. Who would pay that much for a paperback novel by an unknown writer? Judging by my sales, almost nobody. But I had signed a contract and thought I couldn’t get out of it. I was wrong. As of last month, I am free from iUniverse. They’re not all bad, but it didn’t work for me.

A few years ago, I revised Azorean Dreams a bit and published it as a Kindle e-book. Same stupid cover. But now I have a new cover for both the e-book ($2.99) and the new paperback version. I used Amazon.com’s CreateSpace program, which allowed me to design the whole book myself, so now I love the way it looks. It’s a more reasonable size and price, $14.95. I feel so much better about it, and maybe a few new readers will take a look.

Now I’m immersed in another project that I will tell you about soon. Happy summer, everyone. Get some books and start reading.

 

Finding peace and beauty at Oregon’s Cape Perpetua

IMG_20160612_112710756[1]In light of current events, I think we could all use a little peace and beauty. Yesterday I ran away to Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, a wonderful park about 25 miles south of my home. The sun was shining, although the cool breeze made me glad I was wearing my sweatshirt. I took a trail and then another and then . . . realized I’d never get back to my car if I kept walking, so I backtracked and sat overlooking the incredible ocean view with my journal.I breathed in the quiet and relaxed. A sparrow kept me company.  My photos only hint at the gorgeousness of this place. Admission is $5 for day use, but there’s a great campground for those who want to stay longer. The visitors center offers lots of information, frequent nature talks, movies, and books. I found out the names of the flowers I’d been seeing and learned which of them I can eat. Salmonberries, yes. Foxglove, no! If you find yourself on the Oregon coast, definitely stop at Cape Perpetua. Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures.

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After starting on the Whispering Spruce trail, I came upon this rock shelter. Note guitar in opening on the right. Inside, a young musician was posing for a photo shoot.
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The path wasn’t always smooth like this. Along the Amanda trail, I encountered steep ups and downs and some pretty gnarly roots, along with this tree, below, that looked like a chair.
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World getting you down? Turn off the Internet, find a path, and go.

All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2016. Publish without permission, and my dog Annie will eat you for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portuguese grandma book lives on and on

Stories_Grandma_Neve_Cover_for_KindleStories Grandma Never Told was conceived one day more than 25 years ago when I was hiding out in my parents’ vacation trailer making random notes in the wake of publishing my first book, The Iberian Americans. That book was an overview of the experiences of immigrants from Portugal, Spain and the Basque Country. My roots lead back to all of those places.

What about the Portuguese women, I asked myself. What has been passed down from my great grandmother to my grandmother to my mother to me that makes me who I am? The eyes, the nose, the body, yes, but what else? Who were these women? The few books about Portuguese immigrants that I had found focused on the men, as if the women didn’t come at all. There were stories to be shared.

The result was my next published book, Stories Grandma Never Told: Portuguese Women in California. The title is slightly misleading because the book does not include my grandmother’s stories. I never heard them. Instead, I looked up “Portuguese” in the phone book (pre-Google) and started interviewing women: family, friends, people who were active in the Portuguese community and the people they insisted I speak to. I had never been exposed to much of the Portuguese culture. A few words, a few foods, but not much more. My parents’ generation insisted on being as American as possible. Forget the old country. But I got involved, I learned, and I wrote.

It took almost a decade to get this book published. We had already moved to Oregon when I finally got the letter (pre-email!) from Malcolm Margolin of Heyday Books offering to publish Stories Grandma Never Told. It was released at The Dia de Portugal celebration in San Jose in June 1998. That was one of the best days of my life. My family was there, and the books sold like crazy.

Eighteen years later, the book is still selling, but not in the same way. After nine years doing a fantastic job with my book through three printings, the people at Heyday decided it wasn’t selling enough to be worth doing another printing. But it was still selling, and I wasn’t ready to let it go, so I started my own publishing company, Blue Hydrangea Productions, hooked up with a local printshop, Lazerquick in Newport, and produced my own edition with a gorgeous new cover photo of my grandmother, Anne Avina, on her wedding day.Stories Grandma Never Told_justified text.pmd

That first Blue Hydrangea edition kept selling. I went through three printings, and I’m still getting orders. I’m out of envelopes and almost out of books, but Stories Grandma Never Told lives on. I am releasing a new edition this month through Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand program. You can order it online right now. Again, we have a new cover. This one features my great grandmother, Anna Souza. Why go through Amazon this time? Cost and efficiency. It costs me nothing, saving me a big printing bill and allowing me to charge less for the book. I can also offer it as a Kindle ebook for the first time ever. Plus, since most of my orders come from Amazon, they won’t have to get the books from me, meaning readers can get copies more quickly. I will still get paid and should make more money than before.

Why self-publish? These days, it’s a big question in publishing. It’s so hard to get accepted by traditional publishers, although I have done it several times and expect to do it again. Some self-published books are poorly written and badly edited, but many respected authors are taking control of their own careers by publishing their own books. We have the technology now sitting on our desks. Why depend on someone else?

“Grandma” was originally edited and formatted by the best at Heyday Books. I’m just keeping their work going. Why? Because the readers still want the book, and they don’t care how it came to be. I marvel at this, that I wrote something people want to buy and share with their mothers, daughters and friends. How could I let it die?

Grandma Souza, who died in 1954, would be shocked to find her face on the front of a book. She never learned to read in either Portuguese or English. But here she is, digitized in 2016 and being written about in a “blog.” As she might have said, “Ay, Jesus.”