Running water – a blessing or a curse…

Running water is a blessing. It is beautiful, and the sounds of the coursing river passing over rocks and barreling over cliffs, carving out granite runways is usually a marvel as one stands on the sidelines watching nature unfold in all of its glory.  As recently as this past summer as I had just setted down to relax, I was stretched out with a good book, mesmorized by the story unfolding inside the pages of my book. I heard the sudden burst of thundering sounds of running water.  It actually sounded more like a runaway train with brakes roaring within the wall behind my head.  I glanced around the room seeing nothing out of the ordinary, yet the noise was extremely loud. I ran upstairs to the landing and on up to the next floor to see what was happening.  The race against the water was futile as I discovered the master bedroom already had a flow that was curiously similar to the rivers that I have witnessed flowing past me in the mountains when I was vacationing.  In seconds I snatched up my ancestor’s oval heirloom shadow box which had fallen off its wall hook when the water burst through the pipe with such velocity.  It already had water marks on it and I put it up high and then I dove under the master sink, to turn off the valve.  I was drenched by the copious amount of water flowing, and then I discovered the water had burst the shut-off-valve from its grasping point on the pipe.  It was hanging limply as the water coursed over it.  Quickly I ran down many stairs to the porch outdoors and down the garden path to the shutoff valve at the lowest point outside my house.  A neighbor heard the commotion and quickly came to my aid to turn off the valve.   I returned upstairs to a room of water… water, water, water everywhere.

Everyone always says that water will go where it wants and there is no rhyme or reason, it just follows its own course.  I have to say that old adage is true, it traveled far and wide in my home, sometimes skipping over something, and as it evolved it would churn this way and that way, under the vanity, under the floor boards, under the closet, under the shower, under the master bedroom, wicking itself up the bedskirt into the bedding itself, and continuing on under the hall rugs, dripping out through the downstairs ceilings and walls and on down to the garage three stories below.  I must admit that I was in shock but still trying to save everything that was under the water, moving things here and then there, when the water presented its wicked self at a later time, then moving those precious belongings once again into the kitchen where curiously no water seemed to flow.

One never knows how to one will react when presented with adversity. In one moment my tranquil state was interrupted into a world of chaos. Water is intrusive and it is cruel because it hides itself and runs its course in a matter of minutes.   I had recourse though.  Man-made machines dried out the entire house and then the gutting of walls and the floors gave light to where the water flowed because it left a stain and a trail as it carved its way through sheetrock and fibreboard material and painted ceilings.

In this economy my disaster became other people’s jobs to retore and revitalize my house.  The water damage was a blessing to those who helped return my home to a more livable environment.   I was fortunate to have a great team: my brother whose organizational skills helped me with copious details to keep track of, a great interior designer who could visualize a new bathroom and vanity area, and a great contractor whose workers would fit all the pieces together to recreate a tranquil space.  I am grateful for their help and expertise in returning my life back and restoring my home to a tranquil nesting place where I can once again write my stories and read my books in a harmonious state of mind.

The nature of water, whether blessing or curse, is still so precious whether it flows in rivers, graces our tables, and blessess our daily intake.  It is a wonder to be reckoned with because its sheer volumous existence. We are ever so dependent on its very existence, even in the heart of adversity, we still need water to thrive and survive.

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“Timing is key, whether baking a cake, being in a relationship of any sort, timing in anything one says, does, acts, there is always a consequence to the words or action chosen.  I keep finding that my timing is on its own track, especially now when it comes to writing, I fell off the track for quite a bit of time.  I love to write and usually the flow is unstoppable, but what I found this year is that my words just didn’t come to mind when I sat down at my computer.  Everything else came to mind that needed to be done on the mental checklist, and of course when my friends would want my company, I would fly out the door to visit, which at times can be very fun, but at other times, one must find the time to get back to the ritual of writing, because it is the timing of writing which creates its own space.

The will to write is an unusual gift, because one can’t really explain where the compunction comes from when I can’t seem to get the words on the paper.  But when I sit down to write, even if only a few words, they just seem to fall into the virtual landscape.  I can’t imagine a world without writing or illustrating for that matter.  I can imagine so many other things that could be given up, but freedom of speech and writing is an unbelievable truth that we have in our western hemisphere.

Back to timing, I took up golf to learn a new sport, to play with my daughter and a friend, who has been playing golf all of his life.  Like everything in life,  it all comes down to timing when one is to hit that little ball.  It is where you place your feet, being in the swing, having direct contact with the ball and then executing a great hit.  At first I was so frustrated, but as I practiced it became easier to hit that ball and my aim became better and it was exhilerating to make the ball go where it was supposed to.  Just like timing though, everthing comes into play the very second that iron hits the ball.  A reflex move can send that ball off in a direction that wasn’t intended.

Words, golf, relationships life itself… it all comes back to timing.

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I found my way back!

Dear All, Happy Mother’s Day.
Curiously while building my website for my greeting card business I ended up loosing my way into my blog administration. Recently I was able to put it back up on word-press, which is very word-friendly and not hard to use. I was very distracted trying to build a business and I didn’t have a chance to write my blog.

Finding one’s way through the conception of an idea, creating something out of thin air, and then running with the idea is very time consuming. I have enjoyed putting my art into cards, my thoughts into blogs, and now I am trying to pull both of these mediums along with me as I fly the ideas in the digital data world.

One thing I can suggest to anyone who is contemplating a business idea or pursuing a dream, now is the best time to start your idea, while the world moves at its pace, you can put your new concepts to the test of timing.  You never know who is going to like your work. 

I also believe that if looking for a job, one’s website and blog is a window of opportunity both for you and for your future employer.  Your website, albeit, if created by a talented technical person, can be as unique as you like or it can exist as a  synopsis of your work, thoughts, ideas, and creations.  Just having the virtual window or gallery has promoted me to the next level. As I have found in developing my blog and website, that more ideas come to mind.  Interestingly enough, I never seem to run out of ideas, they just grow with the momentum of the mental flow and the fun of putting it all together is an experience that brings much to the table of my life; which also includes raising a teenager, and preparing that one for the challenges of life, college prep and the virtual digital age.

Have a great week.

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The way forward from here…

To dream is the mind’s way of planning without the worries of a plan not functioning right, and one can change the dream while inside of the dream to follow an alternative route.  One of my dreams has been to be a published author, and while I haven’t quite the success of a book published as yet, I have started to put the dream in motion while writing my articles and my manuscripts.  The blog has been a great place to write about what pops into my mind and to test how it is received by other thoughtful members of the crowd who visit occasionally.   In the process of the blog-writing, I heard from a cousin in the faraway islands off of the north end of Scotland, that she wanted to see pictures.  I thought she had a great idea, and like anything else that usually happens when one ventures forth, a door opened up and I peeked through the vestibule to see another realm.  From my vantage point I realized that if I could add my art to the writing pieces that I so enjoy doing, I could start a greeting card business and then I could also at the same time, self-publish my own books. In that split second of reading her comment, “Holdens Whimsicals” was born and I realized that I could create a business that could grow my watercolor images to printed notecards to textile designs and more.  It was a pretty good sized dream that I had, but now it is becoming a reality. I think that when we express ourselves in words and in art, we get to enter another dimension where serendipity occurs. As I go along with my plans to create and publish my works, one artistic venture  has turned into other ventures.  I decided that I needed a virtual store front, so I am having another website built, to replace my present one. Soon  “” will be in the e-commerce fast lane.  Stay tuned.

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The red elephant in the room.

I have a very large red leather chair in my living room, which at first was a curse when I brought it home from the store. Upon its arrival I realized that it was just too big for the space for which it was to occupy. I loved it in the store when I first saw it two years ago. It reminded me of a dark blue recliner that my Aunt Mary and Uncle John had in their mountain home in Tahoe. One could sit in that chair for hours and read, but mostly one fell asleep in it after a full day of mountain air. So when I saw this chair in the store, and sat in it, and it felt the same as the blue chair, I knew I had to have it. I reasoned we only had a couch to sit on, so this would be great for anyone coming to visit us. We have very few visitors but that didn’t stop me from purchasing it. It is funny how our minds work, because when it arrived, the scale was a bit off. It was much larger than I thought. The front door had to be removed in order to budge it through the entranceway of my home. Then the wrought iron staircase banister had to be disassembled to get it up the nine steps to the main floor. I wasn’t discouraged, I was so sure it would be the high point of my décor in that room. The fit was completely out of balance when the two huge movers stood there each holding it between them. They hemmed and hawed about where it would go, this way, that way, but when they put it down, they told me they wouldn’t move it. So in just a few seconds I had to move my mind around it, and visualize where the objects in the room would be situated and moved just to accommodate it.

I think that we all have different thoughts on decorating; some people are minimalists, some are comfortable with stuff, and others like me want our creature comforts of books, objects, art and perhaps some frivolous things in one place where we can view it all in harmony with our psyche. Perhaps we all build our nests according to some inner training that we received as children, and there may not be a rhyme or reason why we nest the way we do, it just happens. My childhood was spent learning about ancient objects and furnishings, which had great personal value to my parents and grandparents. I, too, found great pleasure in those same objects, and so when I found this marvelous chair, I thought I would place it in a zone where it could have a commanding view of my things and, also of the outdoors. I thought this chair was the greatest chair and as it turns out it IS quite comfortable to sit, rock and sway in. It does serve as a great reading chair. From the red chair’s vantage point, one can swivel around the room to see an underwater landscape of red and blue cardinal fish, view the blue sky and evening crimson sky, silhouetted with birds. The red chair also possesses a commanding view of one of the most breathtaking and mystical views of Mt. Tamalpais, between the round ruddy hued Eucalyptus leaves. One can sometimes view a veiled mountain in a foggy mist, and at other times, the ever-changing daylight on the green shrubs that drape the mountain in a cool cast of colors. Even one of my friends, who comes to visit (who happens to be 96), Edith, says that this red chair is her favorite chair ever because as she slides back into its cocoon-feeling, she feels she is at peace in my place. One day she shared that she feels a deep-seated connection to the ordinary things arranged on my shelves, and that those small items remind her of a place and of a time when she was growing up in French Camp, in the San Joaquin.  Her memory roots as it turns out are very similar to mine.

I have learned to love and trust that this chair is the right thing for my living room, although I admit that it has taken me quite a long time to trust that I made the right décor decision. I know that I have to get used to the fact that I fell in love with a red chair. Buyer beware,  don’t buy on an impulse, instead, carefully measure the space that it will occupy with paper cut-to-size  of the space. Edith comes to visit when she can, and I know that I am the lucky one that she chooses to visit, but I also know that she enjoys the view from this behemoth red chair.

Copyright 2010 Helen Weber Holden-Gladsky

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“Gone with the dogs, and that Cat” Copyright 2010 Helen W. Holden-Gladsky

I can still hear my Grandmother’s voice, “Cats are outside creatures,” according to Aunt Julia Weber. My grandmother told me that Aunt Julia loved all of her animals, horses, and, her collar-less dogs “Toddles” and “Big Charlie” who ran all over the farm at will, yet when called by name, in an instant, they returned to stand by Aunt Julia’s side. Toddles had large, expressive brown eyes and just a strip of white from the crown of his head down to his muzzle. He also possessed the curliest fur, while Big Charlie was very tall and he commanded a fierce front, yet he was as lovable and affectionate as Toddles. Aunt Julia had a penchant for her cats, also, and often times she could be seen strolling along with her dogs and cats parading and scampering after her one by one.

I was thinking of my grandmother and Aunt Julia today as I looked at my elegantly aging gray and white tuxedo cat. I too, would probably walk with him if it weren’t for the busy cars on the roadways. My grandmother told me this story that occurred around when Aunt Julia, who had been used to living on her ranch by herself, with her animals, and with her caretakers, Nellie and her husband. Her niece Helen, age 8 (who was my Grandmother), and her nephew, Charles Weber III, age 4 suddenly became her shared responsibility with her brother and in-laws due to the sudden death of her sister-in-law May Sinnott Weber, of cholera, in San Jose.

After living in the San Jose area, the Stockton Ranch in those days was marvelous. For years, my grandmother, her brother and their friends played in the Calaveras River, shot rifles at things that flew or ran, rode horses together and best of all Aunt Julia finally let them have their pets. My grandmother vividly recalled a story pertaining to the utilitarian back porch which may have been very much like the one that existed during the time I grew up in the 50s long after my grandmother moved the house 500 feet off of West Lane, and renovated the home in 1935, (after Aunt Julia’s death.)

According to my grandmother, the back porch was the center of the universe because it was the depository room where all things from the outside resided there for a time, whether it was fresh cut flowers and cuttings, freshly picked vegetables, eggs from the hen house, household tools made their way out there and even a litter or two of kittens resided there in her day. It had the deepest porcelain kitchen sink that one could imagine, encircled by a long wooden sideboard area. From bee stings to mud-lings, butterfly wings, to bird feathers, herb cuttings and cookie crumbs the back porch was central to anyone’s energy exerted in daily chores.

The “Back Porch” also, as it turned out was, the area where the dogs were fed or bathed in a large tin tub filled with warm water and it was probably the same one that I saw in my day at the Ranch, leaning in the corner at the end of the porch room. My grandmother’s and her brother’s outdoor shoes lined the base of one of the cabinets, just beyond a swinging, creaking door, atop of several wooden steps to the ground. I can imagine how busy that room would be with dogs prancing, ceiling hooks that offered vertical airspace where dried flowers hung with their stocks upside down, and garden baskets of every size and shape were suspended within a quick grasp, and even the cats were fed out there, laced shoes on and shoes off…

In my day, when I was 8 years old, (1960) an orange and white cat arrived one day at dusk. It was a feral tomcat and, of course the answer was no, I could not bring it inside my Grandmother’s home, “cats are outside creatures” and then my Grandmother proceeded to tell me a story about a cat, so similar in color and behavior, which also by coincidence arrived late one day when she lived in Aunt Julia’s home. Right away it took a liking to my Grandmother, although she remembered she was slow to accept its attention, having just lost her mother to cholera. It became apparent to Aunt Julia that the cat was becoming more tolerable, as its affectionate ways were growing on her little by little, and it was a good mouser. After a time that cat had succeeded in gaining my Grandmother’s attention, who, of course, then wanted it to be inside at night, because she argued the foxes would have it. One day, out came the huge tin tub, that Toddles and Big Charlie often bathed in, and Aunt Julia busied herself warming the water on the pot-belly stove in the kitchen, muttering to herself, just inside the door. As she poured the last watering can of warmed water into the tub, suddenly, as if on cue, a blur of orange fur parted the water and the cat submerged itself. It’s blue-green eyes sparkled and blinked and, after that uncanny moment, Aunt Julia relented and let that cat come in at night along with Toddles and Big Charlie, who often cuddled together in front of the fireplace in the living room.

That day, when I was 8 years old, the orange and white fluffy tomcat that took to me, (who, by the way, always terrorized and cornered my little four year old sister, by standing on his haunches with his paws on both of her shoulders, he stood face to face in front of her)… That Cat ended up in that very same tin tub, and much to my surprise, maybe a reincarnated spirit, he took to the water too. After that weekend, he went home with us, only to return when permission was granted. For many summers “that cat” accompanied us to Pine Crest where he swam daily from the shore, and when we took him back to the Ranch, sometimes I found him down in the Calaveras diverting canal stalking something in the tulles. I suppose it is quite uncanny that my grandmother and I would have so many similar coincidental experiences, and it really was fun sharing memories with my Mom and my grandmother, which is probably why she ended up choosing me to tell her stories to.

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BREAD PUDDING — Taste Buds – Be Transformed!

How often is it that we look for a tiny escape to our regular routine? I know that I crave change and on evenings when I can steal some time to myself for “adult” time, I love to meet up with friends of like minds! Last Friday evening was an evening that turned out to be such a nice surprise. One of my friends has a penchant for finding new eating places with atmosphere and we happened to find Bill Higgins restaurant “Whipper Snappers” on 4th Street in San Rafael, CA. Instantly upon entering one is greeted by a pleasant visual experience of a Caribbean palette of colors from deep blues to purples and exotic art graces the walls and niches. We grabbed two seats at the bar right in front of the door. I noticed how warm and inviting it was, and, the table seating is plentiful, with a delightful intimate back porch that begs for company. A musician was playing a lively Spanish Flamenco just as we entered and upon a quick glance I saw many families enjoying their feast. Sangria was offered and with the lively music we were on our way to a fun evening.

Fun … it was an extraordinarily fun evening, yet I can’t do it justice without mentioning my experience with the fabulous dessert, BREAD PUDDING, comprised of a secret recipe prepared by Bianca Smith and, actually she is responsible for all of the desserts there! I have to say, without a doubt, that her Bread Pudding takes first prize. I have a long background of bread pudding in my family, as my father was a connoisseur of many things, and bread pudding happened to be one thing in particular that he was very fond of. We grew up with various types of his experimentation of many different bread pudding desserts with currents, raisins, and perhaps some mysterious leftover food additions, that I wasn’t sure what he may have added in those days. However, to give praise to Bianca Smith’s own exotic recipe, it is a taste treat – to die for! For those who are adventurous and may want to experience a separate reality I do encourage you to try her bread pudding, but I must forewarn you that her dessert’s secret ingredient of chocolate melts in your mouth at every bite. For the past several days I have been craving her special pudding, which I must admit is above and beyond my father’s recipes. Bianca Smith’s  culinary treats will delight your sweet tooth, her BREAD PUDDING will alter your taste buds forever. I am most certain you will want to return to this special Caribbean adventure, just a hop, skip and not too far away.

Copyright 2010 Helen W. Holden-Gladsky

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