Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Future is an Adventure we have not yet Imagined

So a few weeks ago I published a blog that was rather dismissive of books people recommend or give me to read. At about the same time Jason recommended I read Eragon by Christopher Paolini. It is about 700 pages long and the first of a four volume series; each volume slightly longer than the one before. I was honest with Jason that I didn’t do well with long books. I gave up after the third or fourth volume of Harry Potter as each volume got longer and longer.

However he spoke eloquently enough about the merits of Eragon that I was moved to immediately seek out the book. However possibly as an expression of my commitment my first stop was McKay’s Used Books, unfortunately McKay’s did not have a copy. I was already near Barnes and Nobles so I headed over and picked up Eragon.

This is a story about dragons and dragon riders, Elves, Dwarves and Urgals (A tame sort of Orc.) as well as humans all battling the evil empire lead by a misguided former dragon rider. It is full of magic and magicians and spells as well as various other sinister creatures. There is a tremendous amount of lore and back story as well as battles and dragon fights. It was strongly reminiscent of and probably influenced by the works of J. R. R. Tolkien.

Well at times it was as if a spell had been cast over me. When I would start reading I couldn’t stop until at least whatever danger or conflict had befallen the heroes had been overcome. I sped through the four volumes in a month and enjoyed each thoroughly.

So once again I am confronted by the reality that the past is no predictor of the future. And the future is an adventure we have not yet imagined. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

People who Made a Difference

I remember the evening clearly. We were watching the Thursday night lineup of network sitcoms. Yes we watched network shows and sitcoms back in those days. It was November 9, 1989. The shows were interrupted to announce history as it happened.

A Mistake

Pressures had been building for a time to reduce travel restrictions between East and West Germany. At some point in the day a decision had been made to move forward on those plans the next day after border guards could be informed and other preparations made. Günter Schabowski the spokesperson for the East German politburo had a scheduled press conference. He was handed a note with this information right before the press conference. He either didn’t fully read the note or it was not clear, but he announced the border would open immediately.

A Decision

Crowds began to gather at the gates of the Berlin Wall. Harald Jäger, the commander of the Bornholmer Straße border crossing had actually been on break earlier and had seen the press conference so he knew why this was happening. He called his superiors but they had no instructions and would not make any decisions.  His border Guards were fearful that if violence broke out they would be quickly overwhelmed. They turned to him for direction, but also wanted no responsibility for a decision. The mass of the crowd also began to be in and of itself a threat to safety. Jager ordered the gates opened. Before the night was over East and West Germans were dancing on top of the wall.


A reality that had been changing moved into fast forward that night propelled forward by a border guard acting on his own, unfortunately because the crossings were demilitarized they no longer needed border guards Jager was unemployed. He wrote about his experience in a book titled The Man Who Opened the Berlin Wall. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Every Day Heros

Arnold Abbott is a 90 year old man with a heart for feeding hungry people. Unfortunately the people he wants to feed are homeless and in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida it is against the law to feed people in public places. Ft. Lauderdale is one of 30 cities who in the past two years have passed laws to outlaw or regulate the feeding of the hungry in public places.

These cities must hope that by being inhospitable to the homeless the homeless will just move on. Do they have any suggestions as to where they should move to? Aren’t the homeless also citizens? I am not unsympathetic to the sanitary and other challenges created by a homeless camp, yet the solutions are not to deny their existence or to drive them away, but to find ways to incorporate them into the community.

Arnold Abbott received a citation from the police and a court date. He returned to his previous location and continued to feed people. When he has his day in court he could face a fine and or jail time. If the jail time is based on so many days per person fed in a public place I wonder how long Jesus would have to spend in Jail.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Try this Book I Know You'll Love It

I was recently given a book and told, “I would enjoy this.” Now first I have my own reading list. Yes they are mostly graphic novels and are not life changing or life informing. (For readers who don’t know this was a joke. Graphic novels are really hard back comic books that are apparently very popular now.) Any way I usually read a chapter or two of the suggested reading material trying to understand what the donor got out of the book and whether they are suggesting it to me for my enjoyment, or to change some misguided idea I have expressed, or because they think my education is deficient. (If you are one such book suggester please do not be offended this is about me not about you and please don’t hesitate to suggest books because I do occasionally express misguided ideas and areas of my education are deficient.)

Any way I picked up Lawrence Wright’s  In the New World: Growing up in America from the Sixties to the Eighties with these thoughts in mind. The book is an autobiographical journey exploring the forces that united and divided the people of America from the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas up until the election Of Ronald Reagan as President. The author was born about five years before me, in Dallas. He goes onto a career as a journalist and writes wonderfully.

Once I started I couldn’t put it down. Taking this journey with him was much like remembering my journey through that same time period. I often found myself thinking, ‘Oh yeah I had forgotten that.’ Examples of those moments are that Martin Luther King’s nonviolent approach to civil rights was beginning to be challenged by other approaches within the black community and his assassination let free his spirit to empower the moment in new ways. I had forgotten that American products in the late sixties and early 70’s were lousy compared to cars from Europe and electronics from Japan. And finally that John Hinkley was from Dallas and grew up Episcopal. And I wonder if I ever knew Ronald Reagan and JFK campaigned on many of the same positions.

If you lived through those years and its dichotomies and arguments; If you remember being for the war because you believed in the domino theory, but opposed it as it dragged on with no victory insight; If you loved or hated Nixon; If you just like a good read maybe you would enjoy this.
Someone just recommended Eragon to me. It’s another great read. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Canning or Jarring Tomatoes

Saturday Pam brought home 30 pounds of canning tomatoes from the farmers market.  Canning tomatoes are the blemished and bruised tomatoes of the tomato market. First thing in the morning we had put 18 quart jars in the dishwasher to clean and sterilize. I don’t know why it’s not called jarring?

The first step of the preparation process is to cut out the stems and any rough or bruised spots on the tomatoes.  Second we drop the tomatoes, a few at a time, into boiling water to parboil them and loosen their skins. From the boiling water we drop them into an ice bath to make them cool enough to handle. We pick them out of the ice bath and pull off their skin. For 30 lbs. Of tomatoes this takes a good amount of time.

We then squish or crush all the tomatoes. Crush tomatoes are then packed into the jars. A teaspoon of salt is added to the top of each jar.  Tomato juice from the squishing bowl is added up to about one half inch from the mouth of the jar. Then with a wooden skewer I poke around inside the jar to release any air bubbles. More juice is added if necessary. Lids are applied and the enclosed jars are placed in boiling water at least an inch over the top of the lid. This goes on for twenty minutes. Saturday the only pot we had that was deep enough for this step only holds four jars at a time. (Since then we bought a canning bath. (A large pot big enough to hold 8 jars at a time with an internal rack to use to lift them in and out.)

There is great fun in this process but the real joy comes throughout the year when we have wonderful fresh cooking tomatoes that we canned ourselves.

And if this wasn't great enough on Sunday afternoon we made two quarts of pesto with fresh basil from our garden. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

If you do the Crime you got to be ready to do the Time

New Grill Assembled
 In this case the crime is sloth and procrastination and the time is three weeks of staycation hard labor.

So let’s start with the brain labor. 

I finished my work on Henry in Stand With Fred Friday. I have continued with work on appendices, back cover and other preparations for publishing. The text has gone to my editing department and the cover is being worked on in the design studio. I also read Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Then there is self care.

I completed my annual physical and treadmill stress test passing all.

Then there is physical labor.

3700 pounds of river wash rocks
I patched a six by eight foot hole in the basement ceiling, painted the den ceiling and painted a downstairs hallway ceiling. All required because of Neptune’s disfavor of me causing the release of destructive water from my pipes at various occasions over the past few years.

In exterior Neptunal challenges I worked to reroute some storm water that has been causing considerable erosion under the deck. We must await further storms to discover if (a.) the problem is solved or (b.) I have created a new problem.

I assembled the new grill I got for my birthday. I smoked quantities of chicken and pork ribs. 

Storm Water project
I installed an under sink spray bottle holder.

Installed two new smoke alarms.

I moved two yards of mulch and 3700 pounds of river wash rocks, one wheel barrow at a time.

I cleaned and organized the garage which included installing a new shelf and building a box to hold scrap wood.

I took 200 pounds of tree trimmings, one load of garage trash and ten old paint cans to the landfill. I took numerous items from the garage to the Restore.

I sold my Jeep to a high school Junior. It will be his first car.

I bought a new Jeep. (This was the most exhausting thing I did on my staycation.)

I installed a rod under the kitchen sink to hang spray bottles on.

Finally I unhinged the front door, sanded it down, painted it and rehinged it.

I had a great time.

Front door being painted

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A visit to Rosa Parks Elementary

I had a great time at Rosa Parks Elementary in Woodbridge. We were nearing the end of summer school and the kids had a lot of energy. I read some of Henry then I played the game of asking one of the children
to come up. I had a desk and chair as a prop. I say, "So you arrive late and when you get to your desk your already there. At least someone who looks just like you is in your desk and all your classmates think the first child is the real child."

This gets a stronger reaction from boys than girls. I then say the teacher is giving a test and she decides that since they are identical they can work together on one test. All the kids holler. I play with it a little more having great fun.

The teacher had asked me to talk about the importance of checking your work and rewriting. So I had the following sentence on the flip chart:

The boy run really fast across the room, bumping into too chairs then fell flot on the floor buy the teacher?

They immediately catch the grammar, spelling and punctuation problems, though I really push them on 'too'.

We then went through and talked about how to make the sentence stronger. We gave the boy and the teacher names. We replaced 'ran really fast' with sped and replaced 'by the teacher' with at her feet. 

I gave away ten copies of Henry on Fire and gave everyone a friendship bracelet.

They sent me a great stack of thank yous. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

I'm Back

Bradley my editor is excited about the third book.
I have been away from my blog so long I had trouble remembering it's address. I am back with new energy.

I am going to Rosa Parks Elementary on July 30 to talk with seventy 4th and 5th graders about the excitement of reading and writing. Any suggestions are welcome.

I have been hard at work on the third Henry book. It's working title is Henry and the Red Dress but I don't think boys will want to read a story titled Henry and the Red Dress. Any Thoughts. I need to nail down a title so I can start working on the cover.

I am also starting to book craft fairs to sell books at in the fall.  I am looking for affordable fairs with lots of traffic. That is hard to find.