It's Christmas season, bring it on
November 27, 2005
It's hard to believe that November is almost behind us. It always seems to fly by as we make the transition from sanity into the holiday season, wrapping up other projects in time to start wrapping up Christmas presents or unwrapping them as we get closer to December 25th. It is November during which the seasons here change noticeably from something like autumn into something that resembles winter what we like to refer to as FallWinter, because our winters in Delta country tend to be mild. Our rainy season doesn't begin in earnest until January, so right now it is cool temperatures with a bit of sunshine during the day and crisp nights that very soon will become foggy. Plenty of time still to do some gardening or enjoy a morning walk up to the grocery store.
We'd vastly prefer the walk to the gardening. Our arch nemesis, Mr. Gopher Too, has been foraging once more through our roses. We recently transplanted most of the bushes whose roots he had nibbled, but we left a couple of the larger plants behind to fend for themselves, including one near our mailbox that has been a steady grower since we planted it there eight years ago. The gopher has been closing in on the plant over the past several months, and recently started munching on the root tips several feet from the trunk. We were close to simply digging it up and relocating it to a planter in our back yard with the other rescued roses, but when we discovered there was still a healthy root system attached to it we decided that moving it would do more harm than good. So the rose remains near the mailbox for now, while Mr. Gopher Too continues to pile up the sand mounds around its base.
We mowed the front lawn last weekend for what will probably be the last time until spring, in preparation for the Christmas decorations we'll be placing there either today or next weekend. Our indoor Christmas decorating got off to an unusually early and strong start yesterday when we assembled our faux tree and trimmed it in a Southwest theme using ornaments we crafted from wood cutouts and clip art graphics we found on the Internet. After five straight years with a tree that looked essentially the same which is all too easy to do when you're working with plastic needles and wire branches we attempted to design something that would reflect our recent visits to Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Roni found cutouts of saguaro cactuses that we painted green and then added some whimsical touches to faces, cowboy hats, large white blossoms. We also painted up cutouts of horses, cowboy boots, western hats and horseshoes. Roni did the bulk of the work, but Glenn and Ben each added their own touches to the decorations.
It took all Saturday to get the tree up, mostly because of the handmade ornaments and the stringing of the lights, which is always a chore regardless of how it is done. We finally finished the tree decorating around 9:30 p.m., which was basically enough time to flip off the lights, ooh and ahh at our handiwork, then head off for bed. Well, that was heading off to bed for Ben. For the rest of us, it was sitting down for our nightly writing session as we pursue our goal of completing a 50,000-word novel before the end of November.
Last month we wrote a bit about our preparations for National Novel Writing Month. This is our fifth go at it, and we are pleased to report that both Glenn and Roni will once again cross the finish line as NaNoWriMo winners. Roni wrapped up her novel, titled "Santa Fe," the day after Thanksgiving. She did so by employing a technique she has used effectively in past years, falling behind the curve in the early going and then surging to victory by stringing together several 5,000-plus word days in the final week. Glenn took a more methodical approach, eking out 1,700 or so words each day on his novel "Catch A Falling Star," which put him on pace to cross the 50K threshold tonight. We are proud of our accomplishments, but neither of us holds high expectations that these works will ever be published. The great thing about doing NaNoWriMo is that it forces you to pace yourself and reach a word-count goal by deadline, but the downside is you are writing for quantity over quality and it usually shows in the finished draft. Turning that draft into a publishable manuscript can take months or years of revision that most folks don't have the time or energy to do. We're determined, but probably not with these latest works.
Although we'd love nothing more in the world than the luxury of spending all our spare time working on our novels, the fact is that there are always other things going on. We spent the October newsletter talking about our trip to the Southwest, so here are some quick hits on other recent activities:
* October was a great month for auto racing action, as Glenn, his brother Sean, and Ben all had turns visiting Altamont Raceway located between Tracy and Livermore. On Oct. 8, Glenn and Sean went to the track for the first time for the final race of Altamont's regular season. They showed up at 5 p.m. and hung around until the last checkered flag fell sometime after midnight, when just about all the other spectators had gone home. There was a stiff wind blowing through the Altamont Pass that night, so the two brothers nearly froze their buns off heading back to their cars.
The cold apparently was not much of a deterrent, however, as Glenn returned the following week with Ben so they could see the annual Pumpkin Smash 400 enduro race and accompanying destruction derby. It was Ben's first live racing event since he went to a NASCAR race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma in June 2003. He was a little more attentive this time, mainly because in an enduro there is enough slam-bang action to keep even non-racing fans interested. The program had about 41 cars race 400 laps on the track's quarter-mile oval, with rules that pretty much said anything goes. When a car broke down or was otherwise disabled, it was left on the track where it expired, creating new obstacles for the remaining drivers. At 200 laps the race was stopped for an intermission, during which a destruction derby was staged on the infield dirt. We could have stuck around for the second half of the enduro, but by then we decided we'd gotten our money's worth and that it was time to head home.
* Roni stepped up to the next level of her journalism career with the launch of the East County Times on Oct. 24. The new daily paper serves eastern Contra Costa County from Pittsburg to Discovery Bay and replaces the thrice-weekly Ledger Dispatch, which was the sister paper of the weekly Brentwood News for which Roni had written her "Our Back Yard" column on Oakley life for the past seven years. The editor of the East County Times decided to bring Roni's column into the daily, where it now appears under the heading of "Around Oakley" on page 3 each Thursday. The East County Times has a circulation of more than 40,000, so her audience has multiplied four-fold.
* Rumors began swirling this month about the possible sale of Glenn's company, Knight Ridder, under pressure from dissatisfied shareholders who are tired of seeing their stock value shrink. There is no telling where this might lead, or when a sale might happen if that is the course the company's board decides to take. The annual shareholders meeting isn't until April 18. Newspapers are a tough industry to invest in right now because there is heavy pressure for information providers to move to the Internet, and newspaper companies have been slow to come up with a model for turning profits through their online efforts. We are keeping our eye on the stock ticker and communications from corporate headquarters in San Jose.
* We've been shopping around for a new mattress to replace the one we've been sleeping on for nearly 15 years. It's long overdue, but it may have to wait a few more weeks while we search for a decent sale. We got a severe case of sticker shock wandering into a couple of the major mattress showrooms, expecting to find something decent in a king for under $1,300 and seeing nothing in that size for under $2,500. And to discover that some of the "specialty" mattresses are going for $5,000-$8,000 has made us rethink our options. Sure, there are plenty of ads for cheaper mattresses. We just have to start looking at them more closely. The idea is to get a better night's sleep, but we sure won't be able to if the bed we finance is half the price of a new car.
* We celebrated Halloween with our traditional feast of frightening foods provided by Roni and a night of trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. This year was a little different as Ben invited his school friend Joey over to join us. Together they played video games on the GameCube until it was dark enough to go out. Joey dressed as an imperial stormtrooper from Star Wars, while Ben donned a Batman costume. Each year it seems more difficult to find people willing to open their homes to trick-or-treaters, so we expanded our route by a block to catch some houses we don't normally visit. It is amazing how creative folks get at Halloween time. Either they put out nothing at all, or they go all out with gadget and gizmos to create little graveyards and haunted mansions. Both boys came away with a ton of candy. Ben handed in a good portion of his collection in exchange for trading cards, another tradition we've followed the past few years.
* Thanksgiving was a simple affair, as the three of us celebrated Thursday proper with a homecooked meal of turkey, potatoes, yams and stuffing. Roni tried some new things with the turkey, basting it with a honey glaze that made it good and juicy out of the oven. It was an unusual Thanksgiving for us in that Glenn didn't have to work, but there was still plenty of work to do as we spent the afternoon counting newsletters for one of Roni's clients.
That's all for this time around. Next month we'll share our photos of the Christmas season. Until then, hope that your Christmas season is filled with merry-making.
Glenn, Roni and Ben