Bill – Not Quite the Last Chapter by John E. Stack

 

Well, it finally happened.  Bill has been placed in his forever home, and he now lives several hours from us.  His new parents said that they will stay in touch, but you never know.  Even though we still have a seven-year-old, the house is so quiet.

 

A week after I wrote my last blog, Bill went to visit for four nights and the following weekend we delivered him for the final time.  Unlike all the other transitions we have ever done, we did a parking lot transfer.  In other words, as we unloaded his things from our car the social worker brought the final paperwork and told us we could go.  We had hoped to talk for a few minutes and say good-bye, but we quickly hugged, said our good-byes and left.  She made a visit a week later and couldn’t figure out why he was having a tough time – clueless.

 

The only thing I can compare the feeling to is the loss of a loved one.  Bill lived with us for two years and nine months.  The loss feels tremendous.  Everything we do, everywhere we look and most everything we see reminds us of that laughing little boy.  He was such a lively part of our lives.  But that time is now over. 

 

We pray that Bill comes to accept his new mom and dad.  We pray that his new mom and dad have fallen so much in love with him that no matter what manifests, they will love him enough to keep him.  (Yes, adoptive parents have the option of returning kids if things get too tough.)  And, maybe one day they will re-establish contact with us and at least send us updates with a few pictures.

 

Many have asked us if we will continue to be foster parents and we always answer that we do not know.  That decision belongs to God.  We do need time to heal and for our family to reconnect.  We will renew our license, but we will wait to see where God leads us.  That will sound strange/weird to some people, but many will understand.

 

********************

 

I hope that this first Mother’s Day was the best for his new mom.  I know that she has anticipated this day for years.  Today was a dream come true.  We are so glad we had a hand in this.

 

Being a mom is not instinct, it has to be learned.  Girls learn to be moms from watching their own moms.  Pretty much any lady can have a baby, but it takes someone special to be a mom.  Blessings to all the moms that happen to read this. 

 

 

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

 

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How Soon Is Soon? by Sheila Deeth

I was going to write a blogpost soon, but that was hours ago. I was going to get serious about advertizing soon, but that was days ago. My husband was going to choose paint colors soon, but that was months ago. And my next novel, Subtraction, was going to come out soon, but how soon is soon?

subtraction copy

Then yesterday I got good news. Subtraction has a tentative release date of August 1st. Hurray! So now I shall have to advertize soon, beg for reviews, try to get the book into stores… and dream. And definitely dream. Because Subtraction completes a trilogy begun with Divide by Zero and continued in Infinite Sum. Sure, I’m working on Imaginary Numbers now, but that will follows lives on different paths. Subtraction completes the arc of lives wounded by Amelia’s death. Subtraction follows the absent father, and places him very present on center stage. And I can’t wait to see how it will be received. Meanwhile here’s section one of part 1, just in case you have time to read…

 

Part 1

1

“Now children, today I will teach you to subtract.” Andrew marched to the front of the classroom, ready to start his second year with these kids. He frowned as he pondered whether addressing a middle-grade, special-needs audience as children might be insulting, but his mind seemed devoid of alternative words as it sank into more familiar mathematical terms. “Subtract,” he repeated.  To take away, abuse, discard, destroy…

Youthful faces, ranging from blandly accusing to sleepily bland, stared back at him, and clearly couldn’t care less if he frowned or cried. Faint groans arose, inspiring that familiar tightness in his chest. But these students, subtracted from their regular classes, weren’t rejects; not really; not yet; Andrew wasn’t going to fail them if he could help it.

“Sub-traction.” He spoke the syllables carefully and wrote the word with a purple flourish on the whiteboard. The pen squeaked louder than the nervous quiver of his throat while he half-turned to check the children were seated, and to see who was laughing.

A class clown bounced on his chair in the middle of the room.  “Is that like action that’s not acting right?” Beetled eyebrows wiggled, mimicking the bouncing of the tall boy’s limbs.

“Nah,” groaned the one known as Jonah the Whale, squashed like a deflated football in his seat near the door. The force of Jonah’s voice blew strands of sandy hair up like a helmet, and he clawed his armpits with stubby fists. “ Sub-track; it’s like acting subhuman, like what you do.” He pointed to the clown.

Andrew rapped a ruler on the desk. “No teasing in class,” he insisted. Then he repeated, slowly, solemnly—fiercely driving down the whimper of his new-year apprehension— “We’re studying subtraction.”

For a moment, the deep, cultured tone of his own voice distracted him. Who am I? he wondered, and who am I to teach them? But he couldn’t pause to evaluate the answer. “Subtraction is sometimes called taking away.” And what has been taken from me?

Andrew’s eyes wandered, taking in shapes, positions, posture, provocation and more. Meanwhile he pondered what these middle-school rejects might make of the phrase, taken away, they who’d never been given enough in the first place? Inhaling an unhealthy burst of dry-erase solvent, he dragged himself back to the present and began a slow walk around the room.

Fair-haired Amy sat near clownish Zeke. She wrapped thin, freckled arms around the treasures on her desk. Her lips were parted as she muttered under her breath, “Not take away. Not take away.” The delicate voice reminded Andrew of the tick from an antique clock, from an antique home, from a life long lost. He leaned forward to offer comfort to the child. Doll-eyes blinked, but she wasn’t looking at him. Her gaze was fixed on some curious infinity. Her face, pink-cheeked and porcelain smooth, bore only the tiniest hint of unlikely concern, as if she were looking through a window at someone else’s lesson.

“Ah, Amy.” Andrew sighed. “Nobody’s going to take your treasures away.”

Three safety pins from a diaper set were arrayed in the middle of her desk. Buttons in multiple colors formed jagged hills beside them. A pencil with rainbow-colored point, and a pad of rainbow notelets were neatly positioned between musically drumming fingers.

“First we add things,” Andrew said, raising his voice as he marched toward the front of the room again. “Then we have a collection”—a collection of buttons perhaps, and did Amy know how many were lying there?—“and then we…”

“Takeaway! Like burgers!” brayed Julie’s rusty voice of triumph behind him.

Andrew turned. “Well, not quite, Julie,” he admitted, feeling the focus splinter.

“I want my takeaway. I want.” Loud thumps of threatening persistence on the desk accompanied Tom’s voice. Angry Tom, he was in his fourth special school for misbehavior and might soon be dropped out entirely unless teachers like Andrew could win him over. But chaos rumbled over other desks as well.

Andrew tensed, needing a clearer answer, before things fell apart. Then he felt a bubble of inspiration turn his frown to a smile. This was why he did this job. This was why he loved it.

“Yes. Yes. And yes,” Andrew announced, facing the class from behind his desk and pumping his arm with the words like a teenager. His tones turned increasingly valiant as his gaze slid across the sea of puzzled faces. “You’re right.” He pointed to Julie. “Tom’s right… And you… and you… Let’s order some takeaway, just as soon as we’ve got this done.” Then he started to count, pointing to the students each in turn. “Let’s order… seven, eight, nine burgers.”

“I want nuggets!”

“Nine orders of food.” Andrew corrected himself. “And I’ll be in charge of passing them around.”

He had their attention now, or food did anyway.

“I’ll set the box down on my desk, right here. And when I’ve handed one meal to Jonah… you tell me… how many more will be in the box?”

“Me first,” shouted Tom, ignoring the question. But others students waved fingers to count and tried to work it out.

Shy Amy’s head hung down as she continued to play with the buttons on her desk. Her fingers wove in hypnotically distracting patterns. Don’t look at her. Don’t watch. You’ll make her mad. But blue eyes focused suddenly on Andrew, cold as winter, distant as spring. Red-button lips pursed into words, spoked out in a quietly determined, uninflected voice. “Eight.”

“Very good, Amy. So then I give one meal to Amy.” Andrew waved a hand with the imaginary parcel. “Just wait a minute, Tom. And how many are left?”

Middle-grade mind needed a pause before answering, “Seven?”

“Then to Tom… “

“Hurray!”

“Six… five… four…”

The students completed the sequence at last, and Andrew announced in triumph, “That’s subtraction, class. When we take something out of the box, we’ve subtracted it.”

Faces shone back at him in that pause within the triangle of trouble, food and learning. Then Jonah the Whale bounced his chair, legs creaking scarily. “So, when can we eat?”

Whispers rustled, then Tom’s throaty voice rang out, combining threat and doubt. “Order it! I’m hungry.”

Andrew took out his phone. “What’s the number? Anyone know?”

Then food’s calm promise brought peace, giving Andrew a chance to spend more time in quiet discussion with Tom. He said all the right words, warning of all the right consequences, taking into account the rightness of Tom’s desire for burgers, and adding a reminder that the whole class needed to learn. Subtract a little bad behavior here and there, don’t shout too loud, look like you’re taking notice, and all will be well.

Meanwhile Shy Amy drew with her rainbow pencil, plus and minus signs entwined with whispering shades and colors on the rainbow page. Take away her autism, and who might Amy be then?

Take away Amelia’s autism…?

Voices from the past ushered a host of memories in Andrew’s mind. Amelia was the girl long gone, long lost under green of trees and waving branches in a place called Paradise—Amelia, her mother, Andrew’s parents, Carl… all subtracted like numbers from his page. He let his gaze drift to the window, hoping the sky’s bright tones would wash his palette clean again. But who-am-I doubts combined with the whispering of leaves and chatter of children. He couldn’t forget. That long slow walk between Tom’s desk and the classroom door could take a lifetime, waiting for delivery’s knock.

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction series of novels from Indigo Sea Press. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum on Amazon and at other bookstores, and watch out for Subtraction, coming “soon” on August 1st!

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Favorite “Treevia”

Dear readers, I had hoped I would have a progress report by now on last month’s rock wall project, but alas, my schedule hasn’t allowed me any time spent with paints since then. Maybe next month.

However, spring is in full force here in this area of Florida. We’ve already experienced the lovely and pungent orange blossoms and delicate blooming ligustrums, but right now, the spectacularly vivid, purple, trumpet-shaped blossoms of the Jacaranda tree are enough to take one’s breath away! The intensity of the color is right out of a fairytale! This tree tends to grow tall (66’ to 98’) with a huge canopy that can span the width of a whole yard. I grew up in New Jersey and hadn’t even heard of a Jacaranda until I moved here and saw it bloom. Absolutely stunning!

                                Jacaranda Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacarandas, (Jacaranda mimosa folia), truly hot weather plants thriving in zones 9 through 11, like sandy soil with good drainage and show off their blooms best when planted in full sun. That’s great for Florida lawns that need some shade for nice green grass.  The only downside might be that they tend to litter lawns, sidewalks and streets with the spent blossoms, and could clog pool filters, so placement is important. It took me a while to find the tree below because many times these trees are in a fenced-in yard and getting a good photo is a problem.

The next two trees are in my front yard and they are a part of the reason I bought my house. I love these trees. The first is a Canary Island date palm, (Phoenix canariensis), commonly called the pineapple palm because the fat trunk resembles a pineapple. My tree was only as high as my roof when I moved here in 2002. I used to string icicle lights along the lower fronds and cover the trunk with web lights at Christmas. It looked so pretty. I’d need a crane to do that now. I understand they can get to be 60’ tall. So far my tree man uses ladders to trim it and take the seed bundles away.

                          Pineapple Palm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a family of squirrels who have a nest way up in the fronds and they travel across my roof to get to the back yard where my bird feeder is. I recently took the bird feeder away when I got new sod and I’m afraid I’ve confused the squirrels.

The next tree is my Camphor tree, (Cinnamomum camphora). It is a member of the Laurel family, an evergreen that can grow to a height of 75’ and live to be greater than 1,000 years old. I love the rough greyish-brown bark and the gnarled limbs. The leaves that make up the large canopy are small, about three inches long that come to a point, and are dark glossy-green on top and a lighter matte color on the underside. The old leaves don’t fall off until new light-green leaves appear, to replace them. If the twigs and leaves are crushed in one’s hand, a camphor aroma can detected. It’s a refreshing medicinal scent I really like.

                          “Homer” the Camphor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from the photo, I have named this tree. He’s my buddy, Homer, and I light up his canopy at Halloween and Christmas. The kids in the neighborhood like him, too and show him off to their friends. Do you have favorite trees or do you name any? I’d love to hear!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Not My Time to Go by Thornton Cline

Cline

Thornton Cline, author of “Not My Time to Go” on Indigo Sea Press.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00008]

Debut book on Indigo Sea Press

A Rambling Man (Part One) from Chapter Eight

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.

Psalm 107:4  NJK

Call me a rambling man or a wilderness man, but I felt lost for a long time. I was growing restless from spending almost 20 years in school, non-stop. I was working on my Ph. D. in music education at Eastman School of Music. I felt like a professional student. I had no life. I asked myself if studying was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was so ready for an adventure, outside the confines of the school.

The year was 1979, and I was traveling the country doing job interviews for a teaching position at a high school or college. In the end, I was offered two teaching positions—one in Long Island, New York and one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I took the Cedar Rapids position directing orchestra at a high school. The cost of living and the opportunities outweighed the Long Island position. In July, I packed what little I had and headed west to Cedar Rapids in my sporty, silver Capri. In August, I started my first day as orchestra director. I was excited about my new position. I had great passion for teaching and knew that I would love being the orchestra director.

In addition to conducting the high school students, I taught a Suzuki violin class at the elementary schools. One of the greatest insecurities that I possessed at the time was my perception of how others saw me. I was age-conscious. I had been told repeatedly, that I looked as young as many of the high school students. That was a huge problem for me to overcome. Some suggested that I grow a mustache and dress more maturely to give myself an older look.

Even though I knew they meant well, I nevertheless carried that “age-chip” on my shoulder. Everyone knew it, even those who didn’t know me.  That particular insecurity was difficult for me to hide.

My first week of teaching was fair. I had my work cut out for me. I was inexperienced as a first-year teacher, and the students took advantage of my inexperience and youthful appearance. The high school and middle school students looked at me as though I was one of them.

The days turned into weeks as I struggled to maintain authority and discipline at the high school and middle school. I was not experienced in disciplinary problems and did not know how to handle unruly behavior. The students didn’t seem to respect me like I had hoped they would. By the end of the semester, I felt like a dismal failure as a teacher. I was self-conscious about my lack of authority, my inexperience in teaching, and my youthful appearance that it started to affect my teaching in a seriously destructive way.

The principal, Mr. Detrich, called me to prepare for my mid-semester evaluation in January. Mr. Detrich told me he would be observing my strategies, class plans, and teaching style. The thought of such an evaluation made me even more nervous than I had been before. Whenever I imagined that January observation in front of disrespectful and unruly students, it made me feel sick all over my body.

When that first Monday in January rolled around, I had to drag myself out of bed just to begin teaching again. The teaching climate began to go downhill for me on that first week of the new semester. The middle and high school students refused to cooperate with me. Behavior was completely out of control. I had a student-led revolt on my hands, orchestrated to humiliate me, and designed to embarrass and discourage me, so I would quit teaching and leave the school system.

Mr. Detrich observed my teaching style and strategies (or lack of them) as promised. He called me into his office afterward for a meeting. Mr. Detrich said he was very disappointed in me as an orchestra teacher. He was greatly concerned about the unruliness and chaos taking place in my classroom.

Mr. Detrich told me that there was nothing that could be done to turn around the grave situation this late in the game.  He offered me a proposal that I continue to serve out my year contract by attending all classes. But the orchestra classes would be considered study halls with the assistant principal sitting in on all of those classes, keeping order with the students until the end of the year. I was ordered not to do any teaching, but rather to sit in the study hall quietly with the assistant principal. This would turn out to be one of the most humiliating experiences I would experience in my life. Principal Dietrich’s proposed agreement with me was approved by the local school board. I patiently waited out my time, drawing a paycheck until school ended in May. I felt totally disgraced and humiliated. Could I ever teach again?

(Read part two from “Not My Time To Go” in June)

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Lessons Learned in a Bluebell Wood by Sherrie Hansen

My love of bluebells is no secret.

Bluebells

They bloom in the woods near my B&B every year in late April or early May.

Sporing - bluebells

cropped-bluebells-08.jpg

I’ve watched their pink and purple buds turn into intense, periwinkle blue flowers, then fade to a soft, sky blue, since I was a little girl.

Blue Belle - Jump Canva

I’ve written a book named Blue Belle. The B&B and tea house I’ve owned for 25 years is called the Blue Belle Inn.

BlueBelle 2016

Familiar as bluebells are to me, I’ve recently learned a few new lessons while walking through the bluebell wood.

bluebells - dense

It’s possible to be broken, bent, and beautiful at the same time.  One most likely leads to the other, like the beauty of a mosaic made from broken pieces.

bluebells - broken

You can focus on the beauty of a place, or the ugliness. Stuff happens. It’s your choice what you dwell on.

bluebells - dung

For every hill you struggle to climb, there’s an easy cruise down the other side, and a beautiful view from the top besides.

bluebells - hill

 

Even when you feel hollow and empty inside, you’re a thing of beauty to someone who needs shelter from the wind.

bluebells - hollow tree

Finding your own little niche to grow in is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Bluebells - log

No matter how bad you have it, someone else always has it worse.

bluebells - mud

Being front and center isn’t always the best place to be. Wallflowers are much less likely to get stepped on than flowers that grow in the middle of a pathway.

bluebells - path

You can lift your eyes upward to the tree tops, or follow the shadows down into the valley.  Your choice.

bluebells - ridge

Being uprooted is never fun, but there’s always a bright spot on the horizon.

bluebells - roots

Sunshine or shadow – it makes all the difference.

bluebells - shadows

Some people live lengthy lives in obscurity, others are chosen to be loved intensely for but a moment.

bluebells - smashed

Some are fortunate enough to find a clear, straight, well-marked path.

bluebells - straight path

Sometimes the path winds  so much that you can’t see what’s around the bend. But that’s okay. It’s good to be surprised.

bluebells - winding path

Everything you do and say is a reflection on the things you love most – the real you.

bluebells - water

 

I’m in a time of transition in my life. Are you? Wandering in the bluebell wood, I was reminded that there’s no better way to find your way than in new lessons learned from the comfort of the familiar.

 You can see what’s Sherrie’s up to at: 

https://www.facebook.com/BlueBelleInn

 https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

www.BlueBelleInn.com or www.BlueBelleBooks.com

https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

http://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Hansen/e/B007YXQJ4W/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Sherrie’s newest release is Sweet William. https://amzn.com/B01H2TUD3U

He’s a real sweetheart. She’s a wee bit tart. When Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge, the atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. Will someone get cut, or will they find a recipe that works? Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear.

Sherrie’s next Wildflowers of Scotland novel, Golden Rod, is coming soon from Indigo Sea Press.

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It’s Not Really All About Bill by John E. Stack

Bill came into foster care two-years and nine plus months ago.  Bill was a micro-preemie weighing less than two pounds at birth.  We met him at two months and he weighed a little over four pounds.  He has been my daughter’s little brother since.  His dad was given almost two years to get his act together, but other things were more important.  Most parents only receive one year to work their plan.

Time has moved on and months have passed.  The more we experience, the less we like dealing with Social Services.  At first, it was a real dog-and-pony show.  For those of you who are not familiar with this term or have never been in the military, it means we are going to tell you what you want to hear and pretend that we are doing everything in your best interest.  We have really got our act together.  In regards to Social Services (some, not all) and adoption, we get “if we transition back home we will probably take four months” or the transition to a new home will be slow so that Bill suffers no trauma.”  “This all about getting Bill into the right home and we want to keep him in the local area.”

 

What these things translate to are “Bill has been in the system too long and we need to get him placed now.”  “My boss and the transition team decided that we know what is best for Bill (most never met him) and we think a fast transition will work best.”  “I have too many kids on my case load and if I place him, then that is one child we no longer have to worry about.  Even if he is re-homed (put back into foster care), it will go into someone else’s case load.”  It’s not really about Bill.

 

We had a family that was real interested in adopting him until the case-worker and her boss tried to force the family into a transition of 3-4 weeks.  The family thought that they and Bill needed to have a longer time to transition.  They were told that if they didn’t want to do this, then someone else will be found.  So, they backed out in the interest of the child.

 

Another family was found in another part of the state.  We were given no information, such as names, visitation dates, length of transition, etc.   We did get a call saying that they (social services) would pick Bill up on a specific day and transport him to another town to meet his new family.  Let me rephrase this:  they were going to have a stranger pick Bill up and take him to a strange place to meet someone he did not know in order to see if he will be a good fit for their family.  Then another stranger would bring him home.

 

We were trained to believe that a transition needed to begin in the place the child was most comfortable.  For the past several adoptions we have been involved in, they all began in our home.  We had the adoptive couple in as friends, maybe shared a meal and got the child used to the other couple.  We would have some day visits, then maybe an overnight or two, then over the weekend, and so on.  Eventually, the child spent more time in the other family’s home than in ours, so the final move was really easy.

 

Bill went almost three weeks between his first and second visit.  The first visit was for one hour, the second visit was for eight hours.  Due to his confusion, Bill now hits, pinches, bites, throws tantrums, and screams.  He doesn’t know whether he is coming or going, but neither do I.  After about a week and a half, it was time for a third visit – pick up on a Friday and return on a Monday.  Even the family thought it was a bit much.  We did get to meet the adoptive family when they brought him back.  We feel that they will be a good match for him and can tell that they are already in love with Bill.  They wanted to know if all transitions went like this and we had to tell them that we had never experienced a transition like this before and we had no say so.

 

 Bill will have another visit or so and the transition will happen at the end of the month.  The couple seemed like a couple that we would really like to get to know.  Maybe we will be able to in the future.  I have to think back to a saying an old friend used in regard to something done wrong that actually turns out right – God’s will will be done, even if he has to use the devil to do it.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

 

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Maundy

A new command was given on Maundy Thursday – a mandate – mandatum – hence the name. And in honor of “loving one another,” priests wash parishioners’ feet, kings and queens give coins, and altars are stripped to remind us of that giving of it all.

I’ll add my homage to Maundy Thursday in two short drabbles below – a 100-word story and a 100-word essay. And I’ll wish you all the blessings of this season.

bread and wine

Imagine the scene; twelve men on an after-dinner walk to a place of quiet reflection, bodies stuffed, minds tired, and souls restless with that nervous sense that something is bound to go wrong.

The streets were quiet. Night had fallen, everyone sleeping or praying, except for them.

“Strange about the bread,” said James, still tasting forbidden matzos eaten after lamb.

“And the blessing”—“This is my body,” the master had said, reminding them of something they were too full, or too tired to remember.

They stopped at a garden, sat on rocks, lay on grass, their bodies weary with food. And they barely noticed when Jesus left to pray with Peter, James and John.

Matthew looked up. “Huh? Where’d they go?” then, “Wonder what happened to Judas.”

Voices whispered. Armor jangled. Footsteps approached.

Mark 14:22 “…Take, eat: this is my body.”

 After they’d eaten the Passover meal, Jesus blessed and broke another matzo. He prayed over the third cup of wine—cup of redemption, blood of the lamb—and the feast drew to its end.

Maundy Thursday evening begins a three-day celebration of Easter: Maundy pennies to the poor; priests washing the people’s feet. But it’s communion that matters most—bread and wine shared in remembrance of Him. We file out from church, leaving the light shining in a tiny garden—shrubs and flowers, a place of Easter prayer.

And through the night, people visit, to watch and pray one hour.

Imagine this scene too, re-enacted in churches all over the world, including my brother’s church, where people, including my mother, watch and pray, souls restless with that whispering sense that even this is God’s plan, and resurrection will follow.

resurrection

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum on Amazon and where all good books are sold. And watch out for Subtraction, coming soon.

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The Flying Boat by Chuck Thurston

The PBM Martin Mariner was a flying boat that saw considerable action in World War II. It was a long-range sea plane that provided escort duty for convoys headed for Europe and was credited with sinking 10 German U-Boats during the course of the war.

After the war, a number of these planes were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard for search and rescue service. The Coast Guard phased them out in 1958, and I expect I was one of the last aircrewmen to have a ride in them. These planes were built to stay in the air a long time, and they were outfitted accordingly. They normally had a crew of nine, so you could be relieved after a four-hour watch – as a radioman, in my case. Off duty, you could go to the small galley in the belly of the aircraft and get something to eat. Then, maybe, take a nap in an available hammock.

I would go for the sandwich and drink, but I was more into sightseeing, and I found the perfect place for it. Although the .50 caliber guns had been removed, the gun turrets were still in place, and the tail gunner’s seat provided a view like no other. I had to crawl on my hands and knees through the long tail boom to the back of the aircraft. I would squeeze into the plexiglass bubble, hunker down in the tailgunner’s seat and watch the world go by.

I would have my sandwich and drink and watch the ocean roll below. I could imagine the battles planes like this engaged in – the sight of a U-Boat just breaching the surface, or alerted to danger, preparing to dive. I could feel the course change, the big plane wheeling over to line up on the target, and the thump as the depth charges were released. I could imagine the tail gunner manning the hand-aimed machine gun, and alert for danger from the skies.

Or I could daydream. It was peacetime. We were actually in-between wars. Korea was over, but Viet Nam was not yet on the horizon. In any case, the action was over for these old flying boats. Their exploits were honored, their duty was done. There is one in the Smithsonian now. There are a few others, scavenged for parts in a sunbaked bone yard in Arizona – far, far from the rolling ocean.

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Rock of Stages

After moving into my house here in Florida I set about trying to decorate it to suit the eclectic diversity of my possessions. I’d traveled extensively for years and many of my memories were tied to those travels in the form of furniture, statuary, paintings, masks, tapestries, etc. The trick was to try to keep my home from looking like the hodgepodge it actually was, and not, too terribly tacky. I am generally pleased with the way it all turned out, but I have to say, one room in particular presented a huge challenge. My 14’ x 9 ½’ one-step-down sunken sunroom.

I have an open floorplan with cathedral ceilings so my main living area has a living room with an island bar separating it from my kitchen and breakfast area and the sun room is located at one end of my living room with the step down and triple sliding glass doors separating the two rooms.

Each sun room side wall consists of patio type sliding glass doors. One side leads to the breakfast room and the opposite one leads to my office. The fourth wall is the back of the house outside wall which has two, 4 foot-wide jalousie windows starting two feet above the floor and going up to the ceiling, a glass single door/screen combo and one more small window, also starting at two feet above the floor and going up to the ceiling. I explained all this so that you could realize that at least 90% of the sunroom “walls” are clear glass doors and I had no idea how I was going to place any useful furniture in it.

My dilemma was I needed more walls, but I also needed the light the sunroom provided to brighten up the surrounding living room, office and breakfast room. Part of the solution came when a friend gave me her no-longer-needed room divider made of knotted jute cord. And that idea started me looking for other room dividers that were see-through. I found two “curtains” made of 2” coconut shell discs strung with black cord. The two curtains together were the width of two of the sliding glass panels leading to the living room. If all the sliding panels were drawn back or open, the three panels stacked into a recessed area at the end of the wall. If closed or partially closed, the recessed area was a blank single-door-size wall.

I decided to close the panels of the living room glass doors and leave one width doubled and open to walk through and then faux paint the blank recess area to look like a rock wall. Having never attempted painting rocks before, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off, but I wanted to give it a try. I wanted the rocks to look stacked up and maybe cemented in place, but I was having trouble visualizing different rocks. My yard doesn’t have any rocks in it, so I roamed around the house searching for something that looked like a rock. I found what I needed in the kitchen. An Idaho potato! Don’t laugh; it really looked like a rock. Ha! So I got my paints out and started painting with one hand and holding and turning the potato with the other.

After my painting project was done about a week later, I placed my reading chair and a small table against the coconut shell curtain and sliding glass panels between the sunroom and living room. A fountain was placed in front of the “rock wall”, and a knurly tree that I made out of a fallen limb from an outside tree went in the corner at the entrance to my office. The rest of the decorating project fell into place after that. I placed a rustic-painted ice cream table against the glass doors going into my office. My friend’s knotted curtain acts as a backdrop, and I put a wicker storage bench below the jalousie windows and a wicker tower cabinet in the corner near the entrance to the breakfast room.

Rock Wall

Beginning Rocks

Rock Wall

Coming Along

Rock wall-whole - Copy

Recess #1 Finished, Coconut shells – left

After walking past that rock wall for years now, I’ve decided I’d like to try to make the rocks look a little more three dimensional by adding shadows in and under some of them and by darkening grout. I still don’t know how to do it, but I’d like to give it a go.  Anyone have any suggestions? I’ll follow up with more pictures later when I finish. Please cross your fingers for me. FYI, I have noticed that the grout and some shadows look darker in my photos than in real life. Hopefully, I can make them more real looking.

Sunroom

Sunroom Complete

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Filed under Art, blogging, Coco Ihle, How To

Caught in the Middle of a Mafia War “Not My Time to Go” by Thornton Cline

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Thornton Cline, author of “Not My Time to Go”

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00008]

Chapter Seven

       If you’ve been following my monthly Indigo Sea Press blog, you’ll know that I have been focusing on stories of my angelic protection from my new ISP book, “Not My Time to Go”. In this blog I will be sharing with you of how I was caught in the middle of an ongoing Mafia war.

       It would be eight years before any more near-fatal experiences occurred in my life. I was accepted into the Ph.D program in music education at the acclaimed, legendary music conservatory, Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. I arrived in Rochester in August 1977 on a Greyhound bus. Rochester, New York was a wonderful cultural arts city and offered me many exciting opportunities in music. But while it was an amazing place to live, there was a downside–crime.  The administration at Eastman School of Music warned the students about the dangers of the downtown area.  They told stories of students being held at gunpoint and robbed in broad daylight. They warned of beatings, murders, rapes and kidnappings that occurred even during the daylight hours. The school advised students to walk together in parties or use a form of transportation other than walking. Most of the students, including me, ignored the warnings and didn’t take them seriously.

Late one night in November of 1977, I was camped out in a practice room, frantically preparing for a violin jury, where I would perform a difficult classical piece memory in front of an entire panel of distinguished judges. I thought that night would never end.  By three a.m. I was exhausted. I had to call it a night and headed home for a few hours of sleep.

         1977 was particularly violent for Rochester. Crime and murders had risen sharply due to a major Mafia war sweeping the city. The war was fought between two Mafia-associated families the Pistilli clan and the Giovanni family. There were numerous reports of deadly drive-by shootings, car bombings and families being sprayed with roofing nails placed inside homemade bombs rigged to front doors of the Mafia family homes. 

       That night in November, I was so exhausted after hours of practicing that I couldn’t keep my head up or my eyes open. I packed up my violin and walked the six flights of stairs to the ground floor.

      “I’m leaving for the night,” I said to the security guard.

     “Be careful,” he replied.

      As I left the school building, I could feel the gentle breeze of the early morning air. It left a cooling mist of dew on my tired face, promising to keep me awake on my long walk home. I was completely alone, with not a single person or car anywhere in sight. The morning was calm and peaceful. I was numb and basically walking in my sleep. As I crossed Elm Street, I passed one of those parking lots where you pay to park for a certain amount of time. Then I saw a lone man walking to his car. It seemed very late for a man to be out doing business. But I reassured myself that the man was probably drunk and had just left one of the nearby bars. As I passed the nearby lot, the lone man went to unlock his car door. Unexpectedly, a colossal, thunderous explosion rocked the streets, forcing me to the ground. A massive ball of fire billowed from the car and engulfed the man, lighting up the dark, peaceful night. I felt glass and shrapnel fall all around me on the sidewalk. I lay there shaking for the longest time, in a state of shock, scared to the death. 

       After awhile, I carefully and slowly crawled on the sidewalk, away from the fire. I felt my entire body to see if I was still alive. The police, firefighters and paramedics arrived shortly after that and began asking me a million questions.

       Needless to say, I completely forgot about getting any sleep. The paramedics checked my vital signs, but couldn’t find a scratch or cut on me. Despite my close proximity to the explosion, I wasn’t injured in any way.

      Some declared that night a miracle. Others said I was lucky to be alive. I knew better than that.  I was definitely protected by angels and the hand of God. Again. it was not my time to go.

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