26 November 2011

On Being Thankful

A bit late for the official Day of Thanksgiving as originally suggested by George Washington in 1793, but I think one should pause and be thankful more often than annually. Keeping a Gratitude Journal is a great exercise in positive thinking: you list five things you are grateful for daily. The list can change of course, but the idea is to focus on the good things in life.

How important is it to have a positive attitude? Some health experts indicate it adds years to one's life. Being in the healthcare profession, I can see how those who are proactive get the best results. Two words that immediately irritate me to the core are "I can't":
"I can't go walking because my husband won't drive me to the mall."
"I can't exercise because it makes me short of breath."
"I can't walk outside because it's too hot, cold, dry, sunny, wet, rainy, windy, still, humid..."

Yes, there are times when one actually cannot do something. But so often is isn't a question of ability as lack of willingness to try.

Let's look at making that list: five things you are thankful for today. What's on mine? Well, I'm grateful my son came home for Thanksgiving and has had a happy week. I'm thankful I can move and exercise and walk to my heart's content. I'm happy to have a means to make a living. I'm thrilled for the rain and the sunshine we've had in the past three days. And I'm grateful for wonderfully encouraging people in my immediate circle of friends.

What's on your list today?

13 November 2011

Cactus Cymry Released!

Cactus Cymry: Influential Wlesh in the Southern Arizona Territory has been released. I received my first shipment of books and they look wonderful!

Opening a box of books you've written is a far different experience than opening a present. The anticipation is one more of expectation than wonder. Yet there's a thrill to see your book in print, to hold it in your hands and smell the ink...it's totally cool.

I have to say that working with Paul Burt and Min Gates of Open Books Press has been a delightful exercise in professionalism. Communication has been open and quite frequent, and I could not ask for faster service. They have assured me that Cactus Cymry will be listed on their homepage as soon as their webmaster can do so, and they've already listed the book on Amazon (though Amazon has yet to upload the book cover) and Barnes & Noble so you can order a copy whenever you're ready.

Friends know how excited I was to initially have my manuscript accepted by Anaphora Literary Press back in August. Unfortunately, the situation devolved into a nightmare of delays and it was a mutual decision to sever the relationship.

This is my first foray into writing nonfiction. It's a collection of biographies of different men either born in Wales or born of Welsh descent who affected life in Southern Arizona prior to statehood in 1912, all part of the research I've done to compose my Dragon & Hawk historical fiction series. Some of them were good men, some were con artists, but all made an impact on the area. There are photos from the Arizona Historical Society, History Raiders, and my own collection scattered throughout the book. It's a short 114 page read, so if you like your history in bite-sized nuggets, this book will be just about perfect.

And of course, it would make a lovely holiday gift for the history buff in the family!

Happy reading!
Jude

06 November 2011

Beauty Around Us

Approaching the ranch and yes, the sky IS really that blue


I had the blessed privilege yesterday to be part of "The Centennial Celebration of the Cowboy" at the historic Empire Ranch near Sonoita, Arizona. Situated amid the rolling grasslands at the feet of the Santa Rita Mountains, this location was used in the movie "Red River" starring John Wayne, and the 70's tv show "High Chaparral". Driving in, the urge to mount up and canter across the flat hit hard. I haven't been on a horse in a decade (at least) but man, you never forget what it feels like to ride in open country.

This is a vanishing way of life in a threatened pristine landscape. Snow dusted the Santa Ritas in the morning like confectioner's sugar. Brisk and cold, the wind held no hint of car exhaust or tar. Alfalfa scented the air when we arrived at the ranch, just to the left of the hill in this photo.

What angers me is the very notion that the Rosemont Minining Corporation of Canada is pushing very hard to build and operate an open pit copper mine just northwest of this ranch. Stripping the mountains down to nothing and poisoning the groundwater with arsenic and other toxic chemicals is only the start of what an open pit copper mine would destroy in this area. There is a petition to stop it, to voice opposition, and if you are a registered voter in Arizona, I urge you to sign it. The "economic boost" this mine would supposedly bring is minimal and transitory at best. We can do better to preserve this land, this lifestyle, this heritage.

Okay, off my soapbox for the moment. The event included mounted Cavalry Troop B who demonstrated with saber and pistol what these Army riders were expected to do. With wind gusts of 40 and 50 mph, it wasn't easy to hit a balloon while riding!
Lots of folks dressed in fancy and not-so-fancy Western duds. The ranch house, which is now uninhabited and in need of restoration, is on the list of National Historic Sites. A silent auction helped raise donations to that cause, with extremely tempting baskets of wine and cowboy gourmet goodies, striking photographic prints, bronze sculptures, jewelry, and more all up for bid. 

Mary Ann Hutchison and her display
Fellow Gecko Gal Ink writer Mary Ann Hutchison and her husband (who made and brought a batch of totally out of this world brownies--yum and thanks, Doug!) joined me and sixteen others in the Authors Pavillion where we writers offered their books for sale, with a portion of our proceeds donated to the Ranch House Fund. We set up early in the morning, completely unused to the chilly temperatures. Thank the stars the Foundation provided good ol' Arbuckles' Cowboy Coffee for free. I must have had eight or ten cups just to warm my hands now and then! Soon an enticing waft of kettle corn popcorn and charcoal wafted over as the food vendors cranked up the grills to offer BBQ beef, beans, hamburgers and other cowboy chow to the hungry masses. There was a good-sized crowd there to partake and listen to Mariachi Apache from Nogales High School, a cowboy balladeer from Sonoita, and a Western band that sounded quite like the Sons of the Pioneers. I learned something from them: Country music is about indoor happenings, Western music is about the outdoors. So "Home on the Range" is a Western song while "Behind Closed Doors" is a Country tune. Hmm, who'da thunk it?

All in all, it was a fabulous day. And yes, I sold some books, which is always the best icing on the cake.
Mary Ann and I at the end of the day. Yee-Haw!
And please, consider signing the petition to Save the Santa Ritas: http://www.scenicsantaritas.org/