California = snowboarding + sun

 ** Sorry to those who received a jumbled-up run-on email version of this post moments ago. It should be much easier to read this time around!**

I made it back! Sans broken bones!!

I'm no snow fan, but I had to admit, the views were stunning.
I’m no snow fan, but I had to admit, the views were stunning.

My husband and I (who I should take to calling the Scotsman as a fellow writer I admire calls hers “the Frenchman”, and it’s much simpler than saying, “My husband” all the time. And I’m not fond of “The Hubs,” at least, not with a straight face…).

Okay, start over.

The Scotsman and I returned from a very unexpected holiday to Northern California.  I lived in Sacramento (or “Sac”, as it’s disgustingly referred to by locals, but I myself have been known to call it that ;)) for about 4 years just prior to moving to the UK, so it’s been a little over 6 years since I was last there. In fact, I celebrated my 6th anniversary of living in the UK while we were over there.

SIX YEARS. Wow. So much has happened in that time, so much I never expected to experience. But that’s another post. Our holiday was awesome. When I moved away from California, I was so ready to go, ready to start my new life in Britain, and ready to leave a lot of toxic stuff behind.

A week at Tahoe was enough to make me really sore... but love snowboarding.
A week at Tahoe was enough to make me really sore… but love snowboarding.

I did, but I also left some really good friends behind, friends I now only see on Skype, or if they do the unthinkable and make it over to visit. I left some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen: Stinson Beach, Muir Woods, Mt. Tamalpais, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco. I left a few of the most mouth-watering restaurants behind: Wasabi sushi bar, and Sizzling Fresh (yes, I do love a good Mongolian BBQ and that’s the best IMHO). I left behind glorious weather and that big orange thing in the sky.

The wonderful news is I got to experience all these things again, and this time, with the Scotsman. I’m so grateful to my awesome friends for taking time out of their non-holiday days to spend catching up, eating, chilling, and generally being their generous and fun selves that I miss so much. It was all a huge breath of fresh air, and we soaked up every second of it.

Visited my favourite wine's vineyard. Yay! We both had colds. BOO.
Visited my favourite wine’s vineyard. Yay! We both had colds. BOO.

On a writerly note, my first MS is set in another part of the Bay area but is based on a lot of the places and experiences I had in Sac and the north Bay, so it was with a bit of trepidation that I revisited these places. I’m happy to report we had an awesome time, despite us both catching colds after Tahoe, and I lived 100% in the present while appreciating what was good about my past experiences there. I’m so grateful we had the chance to take this trip.

I could get used to this view (from Coppola's vineyard).
I could get used to this view (from Coppola’s vineyard).

Apart from the memory lane-trips and seeing friends, we spent a week in South Lake Tahoe, mostly at Heavenly (one day at Northstar). The Scotsman is an experienced snowboarder and we had two friends from the UK over there on their own holiday, so the 3 of them went off on the slopes in the morning while I had 3 mornings of lessons.

In retrospect, I’d like to have had maybe 5 days of lessons, but Tahoe is ridiculously expensive. I had ONE good instructor, and he was from Scunthorpe, England.

The first day I had a stoner dude, the sort of which I am told there are a lot in Tahoe. He was all, “Use your MIIIIND, be a wise learner, watch others!” to which I wanted to reply, “Why the heck am I paying YOU, then?” The third day, I had a 19-year-old LA girl who said, “Snowboarding is all about the cute outfits!” and when I asked for help on starting to turn on my board, she said, “I don’t know how else to explain it to you,” I again wanted to ask, why the *&*£$£ am I paying you?

I finally walked across the Golden Gate for the first time, & wore flip-flops. Mistake.

My husband and friends gave me lots of tips, though, along with the GOOD instructor, and while I think I mastered falling leaf and braking, and got in lots of J- and C-turns, I didn’t start to connect them to S-turns, and managed to exit the ski lifts about 4 times without wiping out (and taking others with me). Getting off ski lifts is the most frightening part for me. But it turned out fantastic all the same. For 5 days and having never skied before, I’m actually really happy with that 😀 There’ll be a next time 🙂

So now we’ve been back nearly a week and jet lag still has me in its clutches, but I managed to get back on track and start working on my WIP again yesterday, as well as some more (very slow) job hunting.

On to my #WriteMotivation update:

1. Revise NG chapter. Not yet, but I made some notes today and I do think there needs to be even less backstory than there is here. None would be nice, since I know backstory in the first chapter is meant to be a big no-no…. it’s a bit confusing though when most books I’ve read lately are CHOCK FULL of it in the first chapter. But I will persevere.

2. NG x10. Not going to happen unless #1 happens and I’m 100% happy with the result.

3. Revise 1st draft of A BREATH OF SILVER. HAHAHA, uh, what now? That would mean having a finished 1st draft.

4. Finish reading all outstanding CPs/betas’ stories. I’ve finished two this month, so I’ve actually done okay with this one. 3 more to go!!

So, as you can see, sadly it’s day 23 out of 31 and I’ve not accomplished much, but for being out of the country for 17 days and fighting jet lag and a cold that clings for the last 4 days, it’s not surprising, really. Every #Writemotivation month I’ve been involved in so far, I’ve failed to reach all my goals, but I’ve also done a lot more than I would have, had I not been involved. That I know is a fact. So thank you, as always, to KT and the crew for giving us all this extra push to get our words down 🙂

If I have a completed 1st draft of A BREATH OF SILVER done by the end of April, I’ll be pleased. If I rewrite NG chapter 1, and maybe another 10k on BREATH by the end of this March #Writemotivation Month, and finish one more beta’s MS, then I’ll settle for that!

Revised Goals, then:

  1. 10k written on WIP.
  2. 1st chapter of NG rewritten.
  3. If #2, then NG x3.
  4. Finish at least 1 more beta’s MS.

Hope you’re all doing well and getting those ideas down! I know this weather is appalling but happy almost spring anyhow 🙂

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A Love Letter to Allegany

“I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

-Frodo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring

Dear Allegany,

I’m so sorry I didn’t get to see you this year. I got married and some of my family and dear friends flew all the way to Scotland to see us tie the knot. I wanted to share it with you, but we just didn’t have the means. But we had perfect weather and a day I’ll never forget, followed by a week in Corfu. It was the best time of my life.

But I’ve had lots of “best times”. Last year, the best time I’d ever had was the week I spent with you. My husband-to-be and I rented one of the same cabins that my family and I always rented when visiting you on the Ryan Trail. Every summer from when I was a baby, we rented a cabin on that trail or sometimes others, and stayed a week or more. Playing in the creek, at the beach, on the playgrounds, visiting the A-building museum and gift shop, hiking the trails, fishing at Red House or Science Lake, exploring woods, spotting animals, roasting marshmallows, playing board games on the screened porch with the glorious scent of the falling rains, smelling of campfire, looking for salamanders post-rain, climbing Thunder Rocks. The list is endless and some of the best memories of my thirty-four years are with you.

As I got older, my sisters and I would bring a tent and camp. Then it got to be short visits, a day here or there, when I lived away from home, but I’ve only missed a very small handful of summers with you. In recent years I’ve made sure I came back. Last year topped them all: the first time I’d stayed in one of your ash-scented green cabins since childhood. Opening that creaking, battered screen door, the smell I hadn’t thought of since I was ten hit me like a nostalgic tidal wave, washing memory after memory over me.

My parents came down with us to help us set up. I’d never stayed in a cabin there as an adult, so Mom had a long list of everything she remembered she always packed. An axe, matches, antibacterial gel, buckets, dish soap and pan, tons and tons of newspaper, citronella candles, Trivial Pursuit, a mirror, a nightlight, a lantern, a kitchen full of food . . . a car’s worth of supplies.

It was a beautiful week. Every evening, we walked around Red House Lake with the setting sun, looking for the animals that came out at dusk. I showed my future husband the place most important to me that feels like part of why I am who I am. One of my sisters and her family came to visit for a day. I loved seeing the kids’ faces enjoying everything the way I enjoyed it, hopefully making memories like the ones I’ll always cherish.

You’ve always been my favorite place on Earth. You remind me of all that was good and fun and exciting in my childhood, and when I go back, it’s like I’m 6 years old again, without a care in the world.

This year, I missed you. After our amazing week last year, I swore I’d never miss you again, even if we were reunited for only one day in a summer’s visit home. Life has other plans sometimes. My passport has been in the hands of the UK Border Agency for several months now, stuck in their backlog of visa applications, and I missed seeing you this summer. And as the summers disappear quicker than a blink, I realize how precious my time is, and what I do with it counts more than ever.

Next year, we’ll be back. We’ll rent a cabin and I won’t spend a second of my time with you thinking about anything else. But knowing that you’re there, even when I can’t be, that other people are enjoying you— that makes my heart happy. 

Thank you for a lifetime of memories, and the rest of my lifetime for even more. I can’t put a value on the amount you ignited my imagination as a child, and how much joy you always bring me. Maybe someday I’ll introduce my own kids to you. Please don’t let anyone change you, and I’ll see you next summer.


P.S. I could do without the hanging caterpillars, though.

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