Dean Koontz and Canine Companions for Independence

I had the pleasure of chatting with author Dean Koontz Saturday in Oceanside California at the Canine Companions for Independence campus.CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 003CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 050

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Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. It is the largest non-profit provider of assistance dogs, and is recognized worldwide for the excellence of its dogs, and the quality and longevity of the matches it makes between dogs and people. The result is a life full of increased independence and loving companionship.

CCI looks much like a college campus

CCI looks much like a college campus

 

 

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Dean is a huge supporter of this amazing non-profit. CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 037

CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 006His donations to date total over nine million dollars. From returning wounded warriors, to a child with autism, to a companion to those in scary situations, such as before testifying in a court case; these highly trained dogs change lives. There is no price to be placed on these miracles. But it all costs money, time and love.CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 020

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Dean’s latest book, Ask Anna: Advice for the Furry and Forlorn, is written by Anna Koontz, dog.

Ask Anna book cover

“My dad is Dean Koontz. As you might be aware, he is a writer. For years his first Golden Retriever, Trixie, also wrote books, which sometimes made the CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 022best seller list. I vowed I would never be a writer.CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 047

I barely have enough time for all the belly rubs, ball chasing, bird chasing, tug-of-war, and posing cutely that is required of me as a Golden Retriever. Nevertheless, I have written a book of advice for dogs. It’s not a matter of ego, which anyone who knows a Golden retriever will attest. It’s not about money, because I am paid in sausages. CCI, Dean Koontz, Mission San Luis de Francia 048What it’s about is giving back to my community–which I feel obligated to do especially because of all the park grass I’ve ruined with little brown spots.”

–Woof,

Anna Koontz, dog

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One hundred percent of what the author receives from the sale of “Ask Anna” will be donated to Canine Companions for Independence. And as Dean says…

“One of the best kept secrets throughout history has been the role that the wise advise of dogs has played in human affairs. Many of the most successful and celebrated would have been forgotten losers if they had failed to heed the counsel of their dogs.”

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Some angels have wings, others have tails.

Posted in Animal/Pets | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Early Autumn, the Crush and Danish Delight

Summer doesn’t want to let go in California this year. Early October, central coast sweltered under a near century mark (Fahrenheit) on the thermometer, but the autumn fun seekers still visit the vineyards and charming towns.

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White wine grapes have been crushed, but the deep purple of the reds still fill the vats at Beckman Vineyard. A small family owned winemaker, Beckman had the honor of being chosen as suppliers to the White House for a recent state dinner. As a ‘club member’ I have the pleasure of tasting every time I’m in the area and taking home two representative bottle of delightful product once each season.

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The nearby streets of Solvang attract those who love the Scandinavian life. 015Shops sell everything Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. Roasted pork and picked beets with a cold Bavarian brew are one of the features on the menu. Candy shoppes, trinkets to artist’s creations fill the shops.

Founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who traveled west to escape the harsh winters of the Midwest, Solvang is part of what was the San Carlos de Jonata Mexican land grant.  017The town is home to many quaint merchant shops, restaurants and bakeries; the architecture reflects traditional Danish style. 023 A  one third scale replica of Copenhagen’s Round Tower or Rundetarn  can be seen in the town center.

 

 

 

 

 

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Coming home after a long hot day and playing with the pup is a perfect way to cap off a lovely day in the central California countryside.

030Thank you to my friend Donna for hosting us, poolside, at her comfortable seaside ranch home.

 

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I Dreamed a Dream

200A dream that money would not get in the way of exploration or happiness.

That there are just as many wonders in our own backyard as lie thousands of miles away.

That my imagination is at least as powerful as what is to be mined on Google.

That my ability to open my heart and mind to what another individual is saying; to take in the depth and breadth of their true meaning, not through their words alone, is the basis of all great storytelling–all great communication and relationship.

Image by C London

Image by C London

That I might realize the lesson behind my pain.

That the hidden treasures in the computer memories, the attics and cellars of creative souls might see the light of day so that all of us can be blessed and strengthened by the wisdom and magic of all artistic endeavors.

That pain and suffering of disease and illness overcome, might be allowed the path to teach all of us its lessons. That those so afflicted have the strength. power and platform to communicate that wisdom to those who have not walked in the darkness of that pain and suffering.

That empathy and compassion might trump knee jerk reactions of retribution and revenge.

That the love we receive have the quantum power to expand its influence.

That pettiness, bullying and other cyanid of the soul be seen for what it is: the pain and suffering of its perpetrators and not the intrinsic unworthiness of  its targets.

That the first commandment of life be kindness. Every one of us is struggling and doing the best we can with the internal strength and wisdom we have at any moment. Evil acts are perpetrated by people who have been wounded by evil. Only love can break the chain of evil.sun through dark clouds

That for each of us every tomorrow might contain more light than darkness both of our making and receiving.

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Glorious Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County Wine Country

The eastern side of the Sierra is clearly visible from over seven thousand foot Kingsbury Grade’s Sierra Ridge. The warm summer-like days dissolved into cool evenings when the Milky Way winks, a ceiling above.

View from time share bedroom balcony

View from time share bedroom balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Tahoe’s Zephyr Cove has beach recreation as well as a jump off point for the paddle steamers and yachts that navigate the deep blue water.Lake Tahoe Sept 2014 035

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Paddle Boat “Tahoe Queen” and yacht “Blue Wave” cut through the lapis blue water toward Emerald Bay.

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The Vikingsholm “castle” nestles in the cove. Constructed in 1929 by 200 workers by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight as a summer home, some parts of the structure contain no nails or spikes, as a result of old-fashioned construction methods. Most of the building was made from materials found at Lake Tahoe.

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Mrs. Knight is best known for building Vikingsholm, but she and her husband were primary backers of Charles Lindberg’s non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927.

 

Tiny Fannette Island sports a tearoom on its summit, both locales listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   Lake Tahoe Sept 2014 064

 

 

 

 

 

In the foothills of Tahoe lies a sprinkling of wineries a midst the famous Apple Hill region of Placerville “Gold” country. Award winning Boeger wines are on display for the tasting in a warm wood decorated room.

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The grounds dotted with old outbuildings, fruit trees and vines are set against a charming backdrop of golden hills, California oaks and pine.

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Just down the road are the apple and fruit farms of El Dorado County. A bit close for comfort, the King’s fire smoke billows into the azure sky.  

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On the east side of the Sierra just below the Tahoe Basin lies the old west town of Virginia City. Made famous by the television series Bonanza, the town hosts dozens of motorcycle enthusiasts this week as they ride the loop to Reno.

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The town’s St Paul Episcopal and St Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church were both built in the eighteen seventies using rich hand rubbed wood and Gothic style arches.  

 

 

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On the last day of touring, autumn blew into the mountains, bringing cold wind and rain—so very needed in drought- parched California and Nevada. It didn’t take too many miles drive down the spine of the eastern Sierra before the rain clouds parted and the desert dry chaparral baked again under the hot sun. Fingers crossed for a wet rainy season to come.Lake Tahoe Sept 2014 156

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Five Steps to Making What Might Look Like the End, Just the Beginning

 

Lemons into Lemoncello

All images courtesy freedigitalphotos.et

All images courtesy freedigitalphotos.et

Darkness Into Light

Dawn at the horizon

Never looked so bright

 

On life’s inevitable roller coaster, there’s bound to be those bottom outs. They usually happen as the culmination of a gentle incline, but any coaster rider will tell you, it is the stomach-in-your-mouth, life threatening drop after the chain grinding vertical rise that evoke most terror.–and potential.

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How do you recover after such a drop? After the screaming is over, you gasp. You take a lung filling breath. Eyes wide open, grateful to have survived, you look forward to what comes next. A furtive glance to the companions at your side, a momentary self congratulatory sigh and it’s back to navigating the world ahead.

But the landscape has changed.

“T’aint over til it’s over.”

Life’s coaster has not entered the terminal station. Whew. There are twists, curves, soaring heights and  gooseflesh-prickling drops ahead. How do you get back to center–on even tracks?

One- Slow down, pay attention, quiet the mental clatter and breathe. Tune back to your essence. Remember what makes you–you.

Two- Be kind to yourself. This process can no more be rushed than the vegetables in the garden can be convinced to grow faster. The nurturance is kindness.  Give yourself a break. Allow yourself to heal. Now is not the time to try to conform to anyone’s expectations. Give yourself permission to reconnect to that tune that plays in your head–the melody of happiness that leads you to the things. places and people that uplift. What tugs at your heart? Allow yourself to experience it. You need the salve to heal the emotional and physical wounds just past.

Three- Hone in on the powerful. Ask yourself what might be learned from the drop? What happened to me that I might feel good about? Was it a change of heart, perspective, gratitude? It is true that our perceptions create our reality. This process and now are the perti dish of a positive life ahead.

Four- Give yourself permission to live a full happily ever after. Not trying is failing. Begin to look for ways to come back to the table of life…and pursue them. Fear not failure for it is in blunders that true wisdom is cultivated.

Five- Avoid trying to be someone else’s ‘perfect’. None of us are, so set out to find and apply what works for you in this new landscape. See your life shift in the new direction you seek with improved clarity, courage steeped in gratitude and the wisdom that you are more than a survivor.

ID-100279860You have chosen  to thrive.

 

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“You Have Cancer”

In the lottery of life, this is one pronouncement no one wants to hear. Time slows and the world takes on the look of a slow motion, faltering fantasy.

On June 27th, I drew all six numbers in the Cancer lottery.

“Anyone can hide. Facing up to things, working through them, that’s what makes you strong.” 
― Sarah Dessen

For the past seven weeks I have lived, day in and out, not knowing if an extensive surgery would remove the dreaded “C”, or if it had seeped into my bloodstream to be taken to parts unknown. Melanoma is my poison. The same that painfully crumbled and claimed a dear friend–six three, athletic and healthy, at the age of twenty seven. The deadliest of skin cancers, often attributed to sun exposure, but also happens in people with genetic predisposition and in locations never exposed to the sun. (Mine in two locations: inner right ankle and middle right back) So doctors don’t know the whole of it, as is the case in so many maladies. Fair, Northern European blonde and redheads are most vulnerable, but even dark-sinned African descendants get it. So best not to court — wear your sunscreen and protective gear. Not a sun over-indulger, this was indeed a surprise.

Would I live or would I die?

The emotional agony of it could well have been shortened. HMO’s, after all, operate within their own time frame and all the stars must align for the proper doctors to be same time- same place to perform the required surgery. In the world of the wealthy elite in which immediate medical intervention can be afforded no matter the cost, the dreaded pronouncement of cancer can be followed by necessary surgery within days. In the world of HMO, not so much.

Metastasize. Has the cancer spread from its original location?

Find the ‘sentinel node’ – that lymph node that is closest to the site of the cancer and determine if cancerous cells reside there. If they do–more ‘treatment’ – the dreaded chemo and/or radiation–the possibility that it has spread to places yet unknown. If they do not – you are well on your way to being a cancer ‘survivor’. Now all that remains is the surgery and recovery. No small feat in and of itself.

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I am in recovery. Surgeries are complete and healing, fingers crossed, will go smoothly, not requiring any ‘re-do’s’.  As I lay in bed, doctor’s orders to encourage best blood supply to aid the healing of the skin grafting, tears run into my ears. The “Call” finally came and I can breathe the air again with the belief that I will most likely live to see my golden years. The sentinel nodes are clear; the border area around the excisions, also clear.

The exhaustion of weeks of not knowing is setting in. Nights of shallow sleep punctuated with wee hours alone in front of a flickering tv, seeing nothing, have permeated every molecule of my body with a kind of fatigue from which one does not quickly recover. I don’t think I will ever see the world in the same way.

Every day is precious; every moment not a given. Yet I am numb – reeling from weeks of interior negotiations on how to die with grace. Yes, I know this life is precious. I always knew that, so the bright colors of sunlight playing in the garden, the smell of a savory dinner cooking, the heart swelling melody of a perfectly sung aria, the flirty feeling of a briny breeze coming off the sea – they all have held my rapt attention in the everyday. Perhaps in that, I am truly blessed. The life of an author is one immersed in awareness and nuance. I am not seeing, feeling, tasting, hearing everything anew or with increased appreciation. In fact, right now I am so shattered, I am lucky to put thoughts to page. I will continue to look for the ‘lessons’–the change.

Words are cathartic. They carry with them a power beyond the here and now. They have the ability to reach into the reality of anyone who reads them and perhaps, just maybe–make some sense in what is their reality. They might lead to thought, to appreciation, to evaluation, to gratitude.

So, my dear friends and readers, I do not have to do as I had planned, given a more negative outcome to the tests, and begin a series of blogs about the long path of fighting cancer. I have not come to you before this precisely because I wanted to spare you even a shadow of the last seven weeks I have lived wondering how, should it be in the cards, to die with grace.

Would I have had the strength for the further good fight? I’d like to think so, but I am wise enough to know that I will never know until and unless that time arrives. We all hope to pass quietly after a well- lived, long and healthy life, peacefully into the great mystery of death. I once again have a chance at just that, as do we all.

No matter what your path, I wish you grace — and to keep living every day with senses wide awake, steeped in gratitude.

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Have you had a life threatening incident or events? What have you learnt? What do you now carry with you? What has changed?

 

My Milo, ever steadfast, watches over me

My Milo, ever steadfast, watches over me

May you have as loyal a friend in your hours of need :)

 

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Christine (London) In Progress

After a weekend that included blood, sweat and tears,( no, literally)– my website is now hack-free and the “Christine In Progress News & More” sign up is ‘live” and operational!

Those more tech savvy friends may not understand the anguish of we who populate the learning curve battle field inherent in even the most innocuous looking sites. My WordPress, Go Daddy and MailChimp tech helpers are probably talking about the crazed woman who thought the sun would not set when her site displayed a ‘fatal error’ message on all pages and posts. On second thought–they probably have had to talk potential tech-challenged jumpers from office skyscraper ledges and suspension bridges—daily, so my calls and emails were most likely taken in stride as just another day at the office.

*wipes sweat from brow and blows nose*

Tah dah dah dah—

You are invited to the updated website of your friend and humble author, Christine London, at christinelondon.com and are cordially requested to sign on for “Christine In Progress News & More”. If nothing else you’ll have a good chuckle should I fall on my virtual face again.

I titled my new writing effort “Christine In Progress” for a reason. This seeming spit and polish struggling author is not ‘all that’. She gets up every morning and faces the great unknown of tech challenges and the spine tingling fear of a blank screen on the word doc of her work in progress, with fortitude and nerves.

For every cool looking photo from a fun or exotic local, there are heart breaking rejections from potential publishers, few and far between downer review from a reader that did not ‘see the light’ quite like the majority, or blooper moments in my ‘real’ life. Like last night, I was on my a** in a blink after stepping in unseen hole at the park while walking the dogs. Ouch! and so not graceful.

Hey, but I remind myself that I am truly “Christine In Progress”. Tomorrow is another chance to get it right and take some baby steps forward toward the goal of entertaining, inspiring, educating and/or uplifting my friends.

…Or maybe just walk down the street without tripping.

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Gran and Kindness

Today is my Grandmother Myrtle’s one hundred eighteenth birthday. She has been gone since 1982 and yet every time I think of her, I remember kindness.

She was the kindest person I have ever known.

Myrtle was one of those people who made you feel special. That is a too rare gift, especially when it is bestowed from an adult to a child.

When I was a kid, Gran went out of her way, quietly and without fanfare, to make sure that I felt every bit as important as the grown ups in her life. She bought play dough and assembled kitchen toys, keeping them stowed in her walk in pantry for any time I might visit.

She valued my exploration and growth more than any precious piece of furniture or beloved collectable and she was wise enough to know how to set reasonable, kind limits.

A collection of records of the day were available to play. I can still hear the old walnut encased record player filling her modest apartment with music.

Gran made the most amazing family style dinners. Pork tenderloin is one I recall. Tender medallions of gravy drenched heaven accompanied with home made mashed potatoes, veggies and what she called “Ice Box Cake” for dessert. This decadent concoction (name reflecting a time before electric refrigeration) incorporated delicate lady finger cakes, butter, chocolate and whipped creaminess filling. Heaven.

lady fingers

image of lady fingers

Ice Box Cake

4 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 pound sweet butter

1/2 bar Bakers sweet chocolate

2 1/2 dozen sponge cake lady fingers

Melt chocolate with one teaspoon water. Stir until smooth. Cream butter in medium bowl. Add in sugar, then add chocolate. Beat four eggs for five minutes in separate bowl, then add mixture to eggs and beat until creamy.

Grease 2 ice cube trays with cooking spray or oil. Slice lady fingers in half horizontally and line the trays. Pour 1/2 chocolate mixture and spread to cover ladyfinger layer. Repeat with second layer of lady fingers, chocolate–ending with lady fingers on top.

Chill overnight in ice box.

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Gran was Norwegian.  Her mum immigrated to Chicago from Norway as a young woman in the late nineteenth century. Great gran was a widow too young and raised seven children with the help of what has also largely gone out of fashion–her family and neighbors. Gran was number six in line. Her great gran, or so the story goes, was a baker in the royal court, so she came by her baking wizardry honestly. Before the days of low fat this and reduced calorie that, we enjoyed reasonable portions of real food that nourished our bodies and our souls.

Thank you for taking me to the toy store ‘by accident’ as we did your errands in Chicago’s ‘Loop’ together. Thanks for buying a small trinket there to make me feel special. Thanks for letting me dig in your garden. Thanks for the memory of rich cooking aromas and laughter.

Most of all, thank you for making me feel like an important person at a time when the old adage ‘children should be seen and not heard’ was still largely accepted as wise.

I loved you then, I love you still and as long as I live, you will be alive too, not only in my heart but in the ways you taught me. First and foremost–be kind.

 

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Because I Love My Regular Readers

You’re receiving this because I adore you

Hopefully the feeling is mutual

Melbourne Totems

New gray hairs demonstrate my tech savvy while trying to figure out how to manage this new platform of staying in touch.

No, you did not suddenly go senile and forget signing up for Christine In Progress. This email is what you might look forward should you decide to go to my BLOG at

christinelondon.com

…and sign up.

Yes, dear London Blog friends….I am spamming you. Just this once–honest.

I’m figuring that a ‘pretty please’ might be incentive enough for you to take a minute to click over to

christinelondon.com

and type in your name & email in the boxes below the headshot of me in the blue turtleneck: “Sign Up for ‘Christine In Progress News & More’ ” – click

Oooohhhh…Pretty Please?

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Welcome to Christine in Progress

Have you ever used Mail Chimp to send emails or a newsletter?

Neither have I.

SO hang with me and together we’re going to discover how to better stay in touch.

There will be stuff there that London Blog readers don’t get. Gotta ‘show up’ (sign up) to play.

Maybe a contest.

Maybe a free read.

Maybe a free download.

Maybe a gorgeous picture.

You know—cool stuff.

Entertaining stuff.

Uplifting and inspiring stuff.

Stay tuned and….sign up!

 

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In Time Of Trial, I Wish You Grace

If I could say one word to you in time of fear, trial and waiting…

that word would be

GRACE:

Patience to endure the unknowable.

Strength to handle whatever is to come.

Wisdom to accept that all things have their time and purpose.

Friends that will be with you in silence–to listen, to exude love

Time to reflect and be grateful for all that is good

Elegance in acceptance of what is– “It is what it is.”

Mercy and pardon both from on high and in your deepest heart so you will be free from  guilt and self-flagellation

Acceptance  of any perceived weakness and all emotions

Forgiveness where it is needed-of self and others. No one needs carry the burden of a grudge.

Peace to still the quivering heart

I wish you GRACE

 

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