The Color of Love Is Blue – By Maribeth Shanley

My favorite season is spring.  I love the smell of growing grass.  I love the trees that are budding and sprouting leaves.  I love that it’s warm during the daylight, and slightly chilly when the sun goes down.  As a homeowner, I especially love feeding, listening to and watching all the birds.

A little more than two years ago, Bob and I signed the papers to build a new house.  This house would become our last home.

We paid extra to have the house built on a lot where the backyard met the pond.  It was early spring the day we signed the papers and put down our earnest money.  After signing, we stopped at the lot and walked back to see it.  The first thing I noticed were the bluebirds flying around the pond.  I was thrilled.

I’ve been feeding the birds for as long as I can recall.  I’ve also always provided a few bird boxes for them to build a nest.  Except for our residence in Illinois, we’ve had bluebirds.

At each home we owned in the Nashville, TN area, I would religiously put up a bluebird box.  Our last Nashville home, however, one of the existing residents had already established a bluebird nesting box.  I was fortunate to attract the sweet blue colored birds with a brownish belly to nest at every backyard, except that home we last lived in before moving to South Carolina.

Each spring I watched as one couple would build their nest.  The box in that neighbor’s backyard was visible to me when standing or sitting on my back deck.  I knew I wouldn’t have the birds nesting. However, I thought, Maybe there’s something I could feed the bluebirds to entice them to visit my yard.  After all, the same neighbor didn’t feed the birds.  I was the only person who did.

So, on my next trip to the local Wild Birds Unlimited store, I asked the clerk what bluebirds ate only to discover they love mealworms.  The store kept live mealworms in a small refrigerator.  I not only purchased a large container of squirming mealworms, but I also purchased a bluebird box feeder.  I had a ton of other birds coming to my backyard to feed at the birdseed boxes I had erected.  I wanted the bluebirds to feel safe in my yard.

The wooden bluebird feeder looked similar to most ordinary bird feeders.  Like traditional feeders, the front and back panels were plexiglass.  However, the plexiglass wasn’t slanted inward like traditional seed feeders.  Instead, they were straight up and down, creating a more squared off effect.  Like other feeders, one section of the slanted wood roof was hinged enabling me to lift the roof and drop in the mealworms.

Unlike seed feeders, on either wood end panels of the bluebird feeder was an entrance and exit hole making it easy for the birds to enter the box on one side and fly out from the opposite side.  From that year on I was able to sit on my deck and watch the little birds fly in, eat and then fly out.  I watched for the eight years we lived in that house from early spring through the end of summer.  The presence of the box would also give me the pleasure of listening to their quiet conversations which were sweet and low.

Our first home in South Carolina had a small backyard that backed up to a natural runoff ditch that, when it rained hard would fill up with water.  There were trees on either side of the ditch, and the lot behind one next-door-neighbor was heavily wooded as well.  We had a lot of different types of birds that visited our feeders.  A raccoon and an opossum also visited.

I recall, one night, as I turned on the back outside light the opossum was inside the feeder that I had nailed to one of the trees.  He was eating the cracked corn I put in that feeder for the squirrels.  When I walked out the door, the opossum stopped and looked up at me.  Because I didn’t walk toward the box or move threateningly, he put his head back down and ate more corn.   Since the backyard was small, I didn’t put up any bluebird houses.  Instead, I put one up around the front of the house and in the landscaping next to the roll-up garage door.   The bluebirds found it and raised several broods over the two years we lived in that house.

Unlike most other wild birds, bluebirds can nest up to four times each year.  However, between broods, the box needs to be cleaned.  The female bluebird won’t lay her new eggs in an existing nest, even if it was where she hatched her last brood.

When we moved into our current house, we had immediate success.  The blue colored nesting box I put at the end of our yard and overlooking the pond was perfect for a bluebird pair.  They nested three times that first spring and summer.

The following year, I added a box that still sits just outside the office I share with Bob giving me the opportunity to watch the birds as they enter and exit the box.  Last year, a pair of bluebirds nested in that house once.  The female laid her eggs in mid-August.  By the end of August, I began to worry about the eggs.  The temperatures last year were, for the third year in a row, record temperatures.  August was a brutally hot one.  Although the female kept going into the box, I knew something was wrong.  The eggs never hatched.  I guess that the heat was too intense for the eggs.  When I finally pulled the nest out of the box, I broke open the eggs.  There was a speck of blood in each of them, leading me to believe that the hot climate air caused the box to serve as more of an oven than a nest.

This year, there’s been a flurry of birds trying to nest in our backyard.  The original blue painted box was taken over by a house sparrow pair.  I watched a bluebird couple compete for that box when, finally, the sparrows won the competition.  I bought another box and hung it on the square column on our downstairs deck which runs up to the roof of the deck just above the patio.  For a short time, it seemed the bluebirds might use that box, but the female lost interest in it.  So, I went online and ordered another bluebird box and pole set.

That same week, I noticed the bluebirds seemed desperate to nest.  Thus, instead of waiting for delivery of the online order to arrive, I ran down to the local Wild Birds Unlimited store and bought another box and pole setup.  When we came home, Bob helped me erect the house.  We placed it so that the box hole faced away from both of the existing boxes which now were occupied by sparrows.  We also made sure that there was at least twenty feet from either of the other two boxes.  The same bluebirds seemed interested at first. However, the female wanted to use the original blue painted box from last year.  Of course, I can’t tell if the pair are the original pair that nested last year or if one of them was born in the blue painted box. However, the female simply wasn’t interested in either that newly erected box nor the other new box now secured to the patio column.

I continue to feed the bluebirds with mealworms.  I no longer buy the live mealworms.  Instead, I purchase large bags of dried worms and order them from Amazon.  As long as the bluebirds come to the feeder, I feel confident they will nest.  Once the sparrow’s broods have left their nests, I can clean out the houses giving the bluebirds a choice of four boxes during the remainder of the spring, and summer months.

Yesterday, the box and pole setup I ordered online from Walmart arrived.  I had one more opportunity to help the bluebirds raise their first brood.  I wanted to place the house away from the backyard and the other boxes.  I was about to set it up on the west side of our house and intended to move the mealworm feeder to that side but far enough away so they would use the box.  Then I remembered how hot last summer was.

Knowing that this summer will most likely be another record breaker as will all summers going forward if the U.S. and the world don’t embrace that climate change is real and dangerous, I walked around the front of my house and walked down the east side of our house to find a spot for the birdhouse.  I put it close enough to the house where I know it doesn’t get much sun so that the box can stay cooler than the other boxes.  Also, the box is about forty or more feet from the mealworm feeder.  However, it’s a straight shot to the box opening.

Sure enough, the bluebirds discovered the new nesting box and have been on top and inside several times.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  The new box location will not only provide shade for the birds, but I will be able to watch the birds now through the end of their mating season since it sits just around the corner from the patio.  When sitting on the deck, I can watch from directly above.

Spring is here, and love is in the air.  The color of love is blue!

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Filed under How To, Maribeth Shanley

Comfort Foods and Calming Books by Sherrie Hansen

Here in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, we’ve been snowed in by a blizzard for the last few days. For two days, we were completely cut off from the rest of the world by 6 and 7 foot high drifts up and down our road. Now that the plows have come through, there are walls of snow 8 or 9 feet high on either side of the road, and the drifts that haven’t been already been blasted away are as hard as cement. Our temperatures heading into the month of March are forecast to be in the single digits, so there’s no sign of a spring thaw anytime soon.

Blizzard photo 2On Sunday, church was cancelled for the first time in decades, and I’ve been totally discombobulated ever since, wondering what day it is and awakening in the night thinking it’s time to get up and play the piano. Our schools have had 10 snow days in less than a month and at the rate we’re going, they may be making up days until the 4th of July.

Zion 2013 snowy

Not to complain… our electricity has stayed on and we have heat. We had plenty of warning that the storm was on its way so we were able to get where we needed to be before the weather turned the roads to glare ice and stock up on food to eat while we were snowed in.  Thank goodness!

Blizzard - 2019

Is it just me, or do you get hungry for good old-fashioned comfort foods when something in your life isn’t going quite right?  This weekend, I’ve had meatloaf, home-grown sausage, egg salad sandwiches, and raisin cinnamon bread with a lot of smooth, creamy butter spread on top – and a lot of wonderful cheeses because I was supposed to have a cheese tasting party (it also fell victim to the blizzard).

Cheese

I have a lot of other foods that I associate with warm, cozy feelings – chocolate chip cookie dough (well, any kind of cookie dough), Grandma Hansen’s chicken pie with baking powder biscuits on top, homemade apple pie, Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter and butter sandwiches… I could go on… This is part of the reason I struggle with my weight.  But my point is that food does a great job of  soothing frazzled emotions and making us happy. So do books, and they’re a lot less fattening!

Food - Strawberry Pie 2.jpg

Reading a favorite book can take you back to happier, less stressful times. Books can transport you to another part of the world, a different era in time, or an altogether unique universe where fantasy reigns. In a well-woven story, dreams can come true. The characters in a wonderful book can reassure you that things could be worse – that your life and your problems aren’t half bad after all. A good novel can help you to dream again, to move forward and keep trying when your own world seems hopeless.

Quilt - bear

Books can fill your heart with hope. They can uplift you and make you laugh. They can provide a quick escape from the harsh realities of life and renew your perspective.

Celtic Crosses

That’s why I like reading a good book when I’m stranded in a blizzard, trying to relax, or feeling anxious and overwhelmed by what’s going on in my life.

Wildflowers

My love for books helped shape my business, a bed and breakfast and country inn called the Blue Belle Inn, just as my passion for good food has. If you come to visit, you’ll find rooms named Never Neverland, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Secret Garden, Anne’s House of Dreams, A Wrinkle in Time, and Heaven to Betsy from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy books. I’m a writer because Betsy Ray was, and if Laura Ingalls Wilder could make it through the Long Winter, then I can survive these horrible winds and snowstorms we keep having.

Scot - Chanonry Point

If you’re an avid reader, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t picked up a book in awhile – I urge you to give reading a second chance. Whether you need comforting or calming, perking up or settling down, a good book can help. Hopefully, it will bring a smile to your face and a song to your heart.  Cookie dough might give you a momentary lift, but reading can change your life.

heaventobetsy-179x269

Sherrie grew up on a farm south of Austin, MN. After living in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine, she returned home twenty-eight years ago to be nearer her family. Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in St. Ansgar, Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. After twelve years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They divide their time between 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes her novels and murder mysteries on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, and traveling to far off places with her husband. Sherrie has eleven books in print, including her highly acclaimed Wildflowers of Scotland novels. Her new release, DAYBREAK, published by Indigo Sea Press, is the long-awaited sequel to her first novel, NIGHT & DAY, set in southern Minnesota and Copenhagen, Denmark. You can contact Sherrie at https://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor/ or

https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/ or

https://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Hansen/e/B007YXQJ4W/


			

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The Quest for Techies

The other day I received an e-mail from an organization that caters to seniors (of which I’m a member) and that has a 4 letter acronym as a title. This organization was offering a series of free classes in how to operate a smartphone, both android and iOS (Apple) phones. I immediately read further to get the particulars. I have an older android smartphone and my knowledge of its functions is basic to say the least. I can add and subtract people in my contacts, make calls, text, send a photo to an e-mail address and play with my Bitmoji app. That’s about it, so a class to learn more sounded excellent to me. However the letter also stated that our specific phones would NOT be addressed. We students would learn on a phone they would allow us to use during the class. I could just picture in my mind’s eye the chaos in a room full of seniors, all with “deer in headlight” syndrome, interrupting the instructor to ask how this lesson was different than on the phone they used. I had already experienced this phenomenon when I took a class in operating a late model camera and also when I attended a hospital lecture about AFib for which there are several different medications which all work differently.

The e-mail also said that two classes would be offered for android and two classes for iOS phones. One set of classes was offered in the morning and one in the afternoon for each, and these classes were available in St. Petersburg or Tampa. I live an hour north of each of these heavily congested locations. The next thing I noticed was that all the classes in the morning said registration was already full. I never even had a chance to sign-up for a morning class. And the afternoon classes concluded right at rush hour. Surprise, surprise! I wonder who was responsible for setting that schedule up?

I decided to call the number suggested in the e-mail for further questions and when someone answered they knew nothing about these classes. After fumbling around for a while, putting me on hold and coming back, they didn’t know why the morning classes were already full and they didn’t know why the afternoon classes were scheduled to get out at rush hour. They also didn’t know if any classes would ever be offered anywhere nearer me. Why was I not surprised? This sort of thing is so typical in today’s world. Some half-wit took a great idea and turned it into an idiot’s endeavor, by being too lazy or ignorant to figure out how to make these classes possible for people in this geographic area.

Some people have disdain for seniors, claiming they are too stupid or lazy to learn how to use a smartphone or other technology. Those who feel this way are not being fair. I am a senior and I love to learn new things, as do many of my friends. The problem is in finding a source for that learning. I’ve always been good at reading owner’s manuals or going to a store where I’ve purchased an item when I’ve gotten stuck. Owner’s manuals are no longer being printed. The manual that does exist is on the phone, but if one doesn’t know how to get to it, what good is it!!! And if by some miracle you do get to the manual, nothing is explained in detail. It’s assumed we are already tech knowledgeable. And phone stores don’t typically teach people how to use their phones. They upgrade!  The few classes I’ve seen offered are too basic for me. Talk about frustration! It’s laughable!

We seniors need patient young folks to offer instruction in operating cell phones!!! Other technology, too! We’re even willing to pay. Help!!!

 

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 How To, musings

Does the Human Species Have the Will To Save our Planet? – By Maribeth Shanley

There has been one issue that has occupied my mind for quite some time.  Recently, I listened to a report that put my brain on high alert based on the fear that humans have run out of time.  Here’s my thinking.

I fear that humans don’t have what it will take to stop global warming brought about by our desires and habits.  I am left feeling sad for humans.  I am also left feeling that the basis of our condition stems from our greed, our desire for progress and convenience,  our still primitive mythologies, and our lack of cohesiveness as a species.

Greed

We’re all guilty of this.  As a human species, we’ve allowed ourselves to compromise principles for what we want here and now.  Think of how our society markets to us.

We all want the latest phone.  We all want the latest, classist, most up to date computers.  We all tire of our cars after a few years and begin thinking of our next car.  If we are up and coming in our work, we think of the next, classiest vehicle with all the bells and whistles, and such features as sporty appearance, or rugged handling, etc.  We focus on whatever fits the self-image we present to the public, our audience.

There’s a commercial for Grub-Hub that chants the line, “I want it all.  I want it now.”  You know the one.  You can probably hear it in your head as I do.

We do want it all, now, not later or never.  But, at what cost?

I’m not talking about the monetary cost to our wallet.  I’m talking about the cost to our environment and our future.  Now, consider the reports that are becoming more commonly published.  Think of the two whales a lot of us recently saw posted on Facebook.

Two sperm whales were found beached on the shore.  The photo was an aerial one.  The focus of the photo was these two behemoths lying side by side as specks of humans hovered around the giants.  The humans were saddened, curious and befuddled by the spectacle.

Later, scientists determined the cause of death.  As they cut open the bellies of the whales, the researchers discovered they died of malnutrition.  Yes, their bellies were full, but what filled their bellies?

Their bellies were bursting with all the gadgets of technology we all throw away while we replace them with newer, smarter gadgets.  Their bellies were jam-packed with plastic bottles and bags, fishing nets left in the ocean as well as car parts.  Yes, car parts!  We, humans, have trashed our oceans so we can have it all and have it now.

Greed goes way beyond you and me.

The upper management of the oil industry has known for decades the damage fossil fuels are causing to our environment.  Nevertheless, the oil industry continues to focus funds on digging deep into the ground and ocean floors for oil.  The same energy companies also rupture the subterranean rocks of our planet as the industry digs deep and fractures that same ground through the violent means of fracking.  The marketers tote fracking as a safe means of siphoning “clean” gas.

Clean, where have we heard that term in the recent past?  We heard it from the dying coal industry.  Common sense tells us that oil, gas, and coal are anything but clean.  All we have to do is pull up images on the web showing how oil fields destroy everything under the ground, as well as on top, and around that same ground.  Reports of flames spewing out of people’s faucets and causing those same people to purchase and drink bottled water because the well water that naturally houses their drinking water has been poisoned by the fracturing of the ground around it is commonplace.  Fracking is not clean and it’s not safe.

In fact, according to the experts who study fracking, fracking causes extremely small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern. However, the injection of wastewater and salt water into the subsurface can cause earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and cause damage.  However, humans probably won’t accept that potential result as dangerous until a major earthquake is caused by fracking.

Greed persists among the wealthy and climate change deniers as they refuse to do what is needed to stop the pollution of our planet and its atmosphere.  Our president conveniently calls climate change a Chinese Hoax.  Then he eyes our natural and historical monuments which previous administrations designated public and protected lands such as Bears Ears, and Escalante National Monument among twenty-five other national monuments and parks, including parts of Yellowstone for extracting fossil fuels and precious minerals.

Escalante will lose half of its pristine beauty while Bears Ears will lose 85%, all in the name of progress and convenience.  Trump was caught on camera when he mouthed the words, “If it’s in the ground, we will go dig it up and use it!”

Then we have politicians with whom we entrust our future, that of our children’s, and great-grand children’s future as well chiming in as they too deny that climate change isn’t real.  Consider Oklahoma Senator  James “Mountain” Inhofe’s snowball stunt as he decried the global warming hoax.

In the winter of 2015, as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Senator stood at the podium on the Senate floor.  In his right hand, he held up a snowball and asked, “Of National attention, in case we have forgotten, we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, do you know what this is?   It’s a snowball from just outside here.  So it’s very, very cold out.  It [the weather] is very unseasonal.  Alright, Mr. President, catch this,” as he tossed the snowball out to the Senators sitting in front of him.

How ironic his stunt was.  It was sarcastic because twice Senator Inhofe chaired the same Senate Committee.  In fact, during his committee tenure, the senators were listening to Scientists testify on Climate Change, when Senator Inhofe made the following comment.  “Do you realize I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee, and I first heard about this? I thought it must be true until I found out what it would cost.”

Inhofe has since repeatedly decried climate change as he invokes the Bible as proof that God would not allow humans to perish over something as benign as climate change.  During his career,  Inhofe has invoked two failures of how difficult it is for humans to deal with, let alone accept the reality of climate change.  His cost comment appeals to human greed, while his bible quoting summons biblical mythology as reasons for not allowing our Federal Government which is supposed to protect us from harm from addressing the topic of climate change.

Mythology

The Bible states, “And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and every living thing.”‘ Genesis 1:28

I can grasp that the mainstay of religion and its mythical beliefs stem from our human fear of death.  As I march toward my demise, I feel the pull of the strings that link me to my Catholic background.  We all need to have hope that there is a life after death.  That belief or desire to believe is what gets us through life.  However, it is mindboggling that humans prefer to invoke that mythology when there is pragmatic evidence that climate change is real.

The best science technology dates the oldest found Biblical transcripts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, as having been written as far back as the third century BC.  In fact, according to historical research, scientists believe the Hebrew Bible in its standard form, first came about some 2,000 years before the carbon dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

How can we trust the research and its empirical findings that tell us how old the Dead Sea Scrolls are, while, at the same time, we deny the identical type of research findings because we believe they go against the mythology of believing in something we can neither see nor touch, let alone prove?  Why would that God take care of everything instead of giving humans the means to figure it out for themselves?  In that sense, God did not abandon humans once He kicked them out of Eden.  Instead He gave us the ability to help ourselves in our new paradise we call Earth.

As we consider this current scientific dating process, we discover that the men who wrote the transcripts lived over 4,000 years ago.  How could they, who were mere humans, know what the distant future would bring?  How could they know that their distant descendants would still be primitive in some of their thinking and behavior yet be brilliant in their ingenuity to invent and build the technology of today?  How could they know that their descendants would become consumed with greed and convenience?  How could they know that their descendants, every one of us, would consider that, if we are so smart and all animals are not, then we are kings and queens of our dominion?

That type of thinking encourages those same kings and queens to misinterpret the bible in order to rationalize that everything in our new paradise must be here for our use and abuse.  As such, God simply wouldn’t accept our interpretation.  He would, instead, expect us to use the gifts He gave us to help ourselves!  If  faith, hope and charity are virtues, then covetous and sloth are not.  Instead they are two of the seven deadly sins and the complete antithesis of the virtues.

Senator Inhofe also claimed that God would never allow climate change to harm humans; and, as such, He would prevent the damage to our atmosphere from happening in the first place.  What makes humans think that the same God wouldn’t expect us to solve the problem for ourselves?  After all, we all know that God does indeed help those who help themselves, especially in this new paradise He created for us.

Now consider that, it was the same God that banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because they disobeyed God by caving to their own human selfishness as they ate the forbidden fruit.  Thus, this same mythology and God would further warn all the descendants of Adam and Eve to take care of their new paradise by respecting its riches.  He would warn against exploitation and corruption of those same riches found in that new paradise to the point that it harms that paradise.  As such, if God would become angry and punish Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit, then, it makes sense that God would also punish Adam’s and Eve’s descendants for creating harm to all animals He created and for usurping the riches of their new paradise.

That same mythology would teach us that God created the knowledge called science.  Subsequently, He also created the inquisitive science-oriented mind equipped to figure out when humans were causing harm.  He would encourage those science-oriented humans to develop methods that would protect the new paradise.  In that sense, God is helping humans to help themselves.

Progress and Convenience

What is progress?  The definition of progress is an advancement.  The description of progress claims it as the developmental activity in science, technology, etc., especially concerning the commercial opportunities created thereby or to the promotion of the material wellbeing of the public through the goods, techniques, or facilities created.   As one species of living creatures among a vast number and variety of living creatures, we must exam that hypothesis.

The word that jumps out at me the most is the word public.  The culture of that word describes only one species, the human species.  In other words, progress calls upon the advancement of the human species alone.  It suggests that humans should not factor in the welfare of other living beings when considering, planning and creating progress.  That definition is the most careless description of human intention.

Progress denies the right of other living creatures who co-habit the Earth.  Every time we drive down the highway, we witness our selfish notion of progress when we see animals who have lost their lives as a result of human progress.  Every time we drive down the same street we’ve driven down numerous times and see an empty lot where trees stood, and animals lived and played; we see the result of human progress.  All the progress we see around us is species-centric and only defines progress in human terms and for human convenience.

As we again consider the two beached whales, we can’t help but admit that our greed, and our lack of conscience toward all other creatures who share this planet with us have suffered.  We’ve been so focused on our perceived needs that whales are dying because they mistake our trash for food.  In addition to killing the animals of Earth’s oceans, climate change is also poisoning the oceans as well. However, that’s a topic for another blog.

Lack of Cohesiveness as a Species

We don’t need to look very far for evidence of that.  When Donald J. Trump took office, one of his first acts was to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement which is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, starting next year in 2020.

As of November of last year, 195 UNFCCC member countries have signed the agreement, and 184 countries have become a party to it.

The agreement’s language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, and adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. The Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, since this would substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change.  (Source, Wikipedia)

Under the Paris Agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming.   No mechanism forces a country to set a specific target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets. In June of 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw our country from the agreement. Under the agreement, the earliest effective date of withdrawal for the U.S. is November 2020, shortly before the end of President Trump’s current term. In practice, changes in the United States policy that are contrary to the Paris Agreement has already been put in place. (Source, Wikipedia)

As he does with all other matters, Trump has placed our country in violation of the Accords we signed and are obligated to adhere to.  Without human cohesiveness at the national and international level, cohesiveness at a local level seems fruitless.

In closing, I wish to define for those sitting on the fence of believing or not believing that climate change is real, the distinction between climate and weather.

First, I am happy that our species is finally having open and public discussions regarding climate change.  It wasn’t until last week that a verbal distinction between climate and weather was discussed.  It is a distinction that should have been expressed years ago.  If it had been expressed, Senator Inhofe would have exposed himself to be openly ridiculed for bringing that snowball onto the Senate floor as evidence that global warming is a hoax.

According to the American Geosciences Institute:  Whereas weather refers to short-term changes in the atmosphere, climate describes what the weather is like over a long period of time in a specific area. … Looking at Climate Normals can help us describe whether the summers are hot and humid and whether the winters are cold and snowy at a particular place.  (Source, Wikipedia)

Both weather and climate refer to local conditions (temperature, rainfall, wind strength, etc.) in a particular location or region, but the main difference between them is a matter of time. “Weather” refers to local conditions on the scale of minutes, hours, days, and even months to years: you can have a particularly wet month, warm winter, or rainy decade.   Whereas, Climate” is an average of weather conditions over 30 years or more, and can be assessed for a single location, large area, or globally. While weather can change dramatically in a single location from day to day (for example, cold and rainy one day, followed by hot, dry conditions the next day), climate generally changes less quickly because it represents the average of weather conditions over a longer period of time. (Source, Wikipedia)

When someone laughs at the notion of climate change while invoking the fact that the Earth has experienced Ice Ages, it becomes instantly apparent that person has no clue what he or she is speaking of.  It is true that the Earth has experienced at least five ice ages, but those took thousands of years before they began to form and thousands of years of frozen ground ice before the ice began to recede giving way to more temperate climate conditions.  Those five ice ages were natural phenomena.  Humans had nothing to do with causing them.

On the contrary, the climate change our Earth is currently experiencing is human-made and the changes we are experiencing took less than 300 years to reach the critical stage we now find our home.

The climate change scientists speak of began at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution which took shape between 1760 to 1840.

Before the Industrial Revolution, most humans lived in what we now call rural areas.  There were towns, but those towns were small, and they largely serviced the rural outlying areas.  With the revolution came sprawling cities populated by masses of humans who were needed to fill the jobs of the industries the revolution birthed.

Many of us remember industries with their factories that spewed out huge plumes of dirty smoke from large smokestacks that rose up to the sky.  The factories also deposited their waste into the rivers that ran through the cities and those rivers dumped into the oceans.

In the hinterlands, farms began to grow.  Those farms not only fed families, but they began to feed cities.  Farming changed dramatically.

More ground was needed to be cultivated, and more plants needed to be planted.  Equipment became large, and they all depended on gasoline to fuel them.  Chemicals were developed to encourage crops to grow larger and produce more.  Other poisonous chemicals were developed to kill the insects that posed a threat to the health of the crops.  All those chemicals found their way to the rivers during rain runoff.

In the cities, people needed transportation, so automobiles needed to be purchased which also gave way to public transportation.  All these vehicles needed gas to fuel them.  What happens to fuel as it burns?  It dumps into the atmosphere and as the years progress the atmosphere experiences an abundance of invisible fumes from the fuel that causes the atmosphere to choke.  It chokes just as you and I choke when we stand in a garage with the door shut and the car running.

The fumes have nowhere to go, but up into the atmosphere.  For some time, our trees that evolved to breathe in carbon dioxide (the fume composition of the gas that fuels the cars and factories) were able to breathe in the carbon dioxide and change it to oxygen.  However, when tons and tons of carbon dioxide are exhausted into the atmosphere, those trees become incapable of inhaling all the exhaust, so the atmosphere chokes more.

Then, because the cities encourage human population growth, more and more trees are cut down to make room for buildings whether they are office buildings, factories, stores or living dwellings.  Continue to multiply that and soon you have an overworked atmosphere which is becoming sicker and angrier, when, suddenly, that atmosphere can’t take it anymore so it begins to rebel via climate change which causes more powerful storms taking place at unusual times with winds and floods that destroy the buildings in the cities.

Climate change also causes droughts which have plagued a large portion of  California.   Last year was so dry, that fires broke out and spread so rapidly that fire fighters couldn’t keep up.  The result was massive, out-of-control  fires that destroyed a large percentage of land and forests, including an entire town.

Just this week, the upper mid-west and the east coast experienced record-breaking temperatures that took the lives of nine individuals.  Several areas recorded temperatures below those in the Arctic Circle.  The cause was a fracture in the vortex over the Arctic Circle which caused the air that typically swirls over the Arctic to be blasted south into Canada and the upper mid-west states as well as the uppermost eastern States even causing unusual frigid air into southern States such as the one I live in, South Carolina.  Although fractures in the vortex over the Arctic Circle are not un-common, scientists claim this recent fracture was indeed a result of climate change, caused by the warming of the atmosphere over the Arctic Circle.

Climate change is real alright, and it’s only going to get worse.  Scientists thought we had more time to work up the courage it will take to address that climate change to stall it and then stop it from progressing.  However, their research is proving that the changes are happening at a far more rapid rate than previously thought.

Recently, scientists reported that we have only twelve years to change our ways before the weather becomes even more erratic and more damaging.  We can’t wait that long.  In real time, twelve years is a blink of the eye.

Still, the question remains, do humans have the will and the dedication to change to save the only home we have.  If we don’t, we have nowhere to go.  The only place we can move is another place on our planet.  However, that will be an act of futility because the entire planet is suffering from climate change.

I am typically an optimistic human being.  However, I must confess.  Given the state of the desires and habits of the human species, I am not at all optimistic; and, that makes me very sad.

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Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

DNA = Deconstructed Niche Ancestry by Sherrie Hansen

According to Ancestry dot com, my DNA is a mishmash of curious combinations. While the main classifications that they identified held no great surprises, after seeing my DNA pie chart, I’m left with unexplainable images of a debonair Italian troubadour sailing to Scandinavia to open a pizzeria and wedding a sweet Danish girl from a seaside village, or a Middle eastern orphan who was conscripted to be the cook on a Viking vessel and ended up married to a Dane. My imagination and my travels have taken me many places in the world, and so, evidently, it was with my ancestors.

Scot - castle ruins

If you’ve read my novels Night and Day or Daybreak, you already know that I have a love for and a strong connection to Denmark. My mom is half Danish and so was my Dad. That makes me half Danish – but who knows what snippets of DNA filtered into the Danish Viking gene pool over the centuries.

Quilt - Jensen

I grew up believing the other half of me was 25% English / Scots / Pennsylvania Dutch (which I thought meant Dutch}, and 25% Bohemian. A few years ago, after living in Germany for 3 years in the late 70’s and not having a clue that I had any German blood, I found out that my Bohemian quarter was actually half Bohemian and half German. When I was in grade school and researching family trees, my Great-Grandpa Miller was already dead and buried. My great-grandma’s Bohemian pride had carried on while the German part of our heritage had gone to the grave with him. I started asking questions when I realized that Miller was NOT a Bohemian surname, and my dad filled me in on the rest of the story. Finding out that we were part German certainly explained why I felt so at home in Deutschland – and my family’s love of the Jaegerschnitzel and homemade Spaetzle recipes I brought home from Germany!

food - schnitzel

My love for and the connection I feel to Scotland is a little harder to explain. But then, I think I have not only explained it, but given many illustrations of it in Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William, and Golden Rod. I feel at home in Scotland. The scenery and the lifestyle and the people call out to me. Yes, I supposedly had a great-great or great-great-great grandmother who was Scottish. My ancestors hailed from a little village in Lincolnshire called Scoton, which means Scott town. But my passion for Scotland is born of my heart somewhere deep in my soul, and is really quite unexplainable.

Scot - Uig sunset stones

My husband and I are currently in Arizona for a Spiritual Life Conference and later tonight, we’re going to attend a Burns Dinner with bagpipers, Scottish dancers, haggis and meat pies, addresses to honor the great poet, Robert Burns, and of course, some wee sips of whiskey. I can’t wait to meet others who love Scotland and relive various facets of the culture we fell in love with in the 9 weeks we’ve spent in the country – so far.

SW 57

Tomorrow, we’re heading to northern Arizona to visit the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest and an Indian reservation – another culture that’s been precious to me ever since I read about Sacajawea in the 3rd grade. Yes, I’m a bit eclectic.

az-purples

This fall, we’re planning a trip to Prague and several villages in the Czech Republic to explore my Bohemian roots. A few years ago, we spent 2 weeks in Romania, where we followed up on leads regarding my husband’s ancestors. I’ve been to Denmark three times, England several times, and returned to Germany with a new appreciation for my heritage. The ties are there, the pull is strong. I can truly imagine living in any of those areas. Somehow, I’ve bonded with the people and places – in part, because of my heritage, and in part, because I listen and pay attention when places and things call out to me.

Scot - Fairy

There’s one other component of my DNA that is an integral part of my personal DNA, and that’s that I’m part of the family of God, adopted by grace, through faith in Jesus. Those roots go deep as well, impacting everything I think, do, and write.

Zion - Sunset

So take me as you find me, for who I am and who I will become as I deconstruct and explore the various niches and facets and colorful strands of my DNA. It’s reflected in my books – in my whole life. If you haven’t already, I hope one day you’ll join me in the journey.

SW 143

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Reunification by John E. Stack

It has been a while since I’ve written about foster care, but I felt that I needed to share this.  If you know anything about foster care, then you know that one of the main objectives is reunification of the child with their birth parents.  As a foster care provider, aka foster parent, our job is to keep the child safe until the court says it is okay for the child to go home.  We have found that this may take a year, eighteen months or even 3 years.

If the birth parents do what the courts ask, then they will receive temporary custody of their child(ren).  If all goes well, then after six months they will receive full custody and the Department of Social Services (DSS) will step out of their lives.  If not, then parental rights will be removed and the child will be put up for adoption.

In the eleven years that we have been foster parents, we have had one child be returned to her mother.  We have had several where the birth parents have signed their rights away and had decided from the beginning that they could not provide a stable home for a child.  The one that did go home was a special situation and her mom did everything she needed to do, plus some.

Anyway, number twenty-two, may be the second child to make her way back home.  I’ll call her Abbie.  We received Abbie when she was two weeks old.  She had gastrointestinal problems which resulted in colic.  Most babies out grow colic in about four months or less.  Abbie’s lasted about five and a half months.  About two and a half months ago, the court decided to give her placement with her grandfather.  This was encouraged by DSS. We figure it was because in a relative placement they do not have to pay the monthly stipend.

Since the move, her grandfather has contacted us several times a week, sometimes to ask a question and others to send pictures.  He lives real close to Abbie’s mom and dad, so they have supervised visitation as often as they want it. This past week, we received a message from mom.  She wanted to know if we could come to Abbie’s first birthday party.  Of course we did, and we did everything we could to make it.

Abbie didn’t seem to know us at first – almost as if she was mad.  After about 30 minutes, she started to warm up.  She showed us how well she could crawl, which she was just starting before she was moved.  Now, she is cruising around the furniture getting ready to walk.  She has continued to put on some weight and appeared to be a truly happy toddler.

So, at the end of the month the mom and dad will find out if the courts are going to let them have their little girl back.  They have been working real hard to do all the things the court required.  She has her grandfather wrapped around her little finger, and I do believe her mom and dad too.

Maybe, just maybe, we are getting ready to see a second, successful reunification.  God’s miracles are often surprising and we are so happy to see this family receive his blessings.

In the meantime, we are at a crossroad.  Are we supposed to continue traveling this overwhelming adventure called foster parenting, or are we at that time in our lives where we need to allow someone else to enjoy the bumps, twists and turns of a path that usually ends in a broken heart.  We have been praying about this, but we can’t see where God has given us an answer, yet.  We are both at or near the age of retirement (I just turned 65 and I won’t say how old my better half is) and we are raising our nine-year-old.  Keep us in your thoughts and prayers that God will tell us what to do.  That is how we started this journey and it is only right to end it that way.

I have a friend who moved away to another state and he called me recently to say they had completed foster parent training.  They had been asked to do respite care (short term) for a two-year-old (I believe).  Anyway, her time was up and her other foster parents were going to get her the next day.  His question to me was “So, how do you deal with this?”  My response was something like this, “First off, I never told you it would be easy.  Second, you have to realize that even your own kids were never your own.  In turn, this one is not yours either.  Third, prepare for a chunk of your heart to be ripped out and know that it hurts like hell.  Fourth, don’t be to big or to tough to cry, and know that it is okay when you do.  After the bleeding stops, God will heal that spot and will place another little one in your arms to help in the healing.  Take some time to regroup.  Suzanne says that every child in care deserves to have foster parents grieve when they leave.  Otherwise, you are not doing your job.  Love you guys.”

Have you ever considered foster parenting?  Know that if you do, you can change the lives of the children you care for and better yet, you can become a person that you thought you could never be.  You will know great blessings and many broken hearts.  People use the excuse that they could never let the children leave because they would fall in love with them.  For some children, you could be the first one to fall in love with them.  What a concept – to be loved so much by someone they couldn’t bear to let you go.  That’s called a family.  Take a chance and change a life.

 

***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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Size Matters – to Me

As a reader, I have a general book length that I prefer reading. As a writer, I found I did, too. When I wrote my first book, it just naturally came out to about 75,000 words which equals roughly between 250 and 310 pages of either a Mass Market Paperback or the larger Trade Paperback, and can vary even more with e-books.

I guess most of the books I read are classified as traditional mysteries, historical mysteries and cozies with an occasional fantasy or adventure thrown in, and these books are all in that general word length mentioned above.  I almost always read every day for at least an hour, sometimes more, so one could say I read a lot of books.

Keeping the price of reading under control is a challenge because I really enjoy keeping up with my favorite authors who have to be prolific in order to keep their publishers. And publishers seem to understand this, so they have encouraged authors, especially best-selling ones, to recommend their favorite books to the public through companies who promote current books (as if authors didn’t have enough to do in marketing their own books). Note: I seriously find it hard to believe that some of the authors listed as recommending some books actually have read them, much less have the time to recommend them. Okay, call me cynical. But, I don’t want to miss out if so-and-so says it’s really great… What to do? Opps, I got a little off track.

Lately more and more opportunities have become available for books to be offered at a discount, both in print and in e-book form and not all the books are current. Some are classics or books that were popular years ago, went out of print and have just become available again (largely due to Print-on-Demand).  Sometimes the books are free or $.99, or $1.99, sometimes more. These books help my budget, provide good PR for the authors and keep their name “out there.”

Maybe I haven’t been paying enough attention, but recently I noticed a trend where a favorite author has a new book out and in my rush to get it, I didn’t check the word-count or length of the file or page count, and after I’ve downloaded it to my Kindle, I find out the book is only 55 pages long. True, I may have only paid $.99, but I feel cheated when the book was not advertised as a novella. It’s easy to check when purchasing, but I’ve been excited and in a hurry and downloaded before checking a few times now. That won’t happen again!

When I read a book, it takes time for me to discern the plot of the book and get the characters straight and usually by 55 pages, I’m really getting interested, not ready to close the cover. Here I’ve invested my money, time and effort and (granted) senior memory in this book and it’s already over. That makes me very unhappy. Has anyone else noticed this trend, or is it just me? Makes me want to mumble, “Grrrrrrr!!!”

With some really favorite authors I’ll wait impatiently however long it takes for the next book in their series to come out and I’ll pay the full price at release date (or pre-order price), but I can’t afford to do that with all my reading material, so from now on, I’ll watch carefully to see how long the book is before I order, because I want to be a happy reader.

How about you?  Have you noticed this size thing? Does it matter to you?

 

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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The Mystery of Life by Sherrie Hansen

It’s been two months since I blogged – but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing.  In late October, I dashed off a Christmas play called Count Your Blessings which has since been performed by the Sunday School at my husband’s church to rave reviews and a few laughs, too.

Blog - 1Sheep

Blog - 1Christmas program

In November, I wrote the first 50,000 words of my first ever mystery, Seaside Daisy, set on the Wild Atlantic Way in Dingle, Ireland. I’m loving my main characters, Daisy Fitzpatrick and Cavan Donaghue, and even Aunt Sheelagh and that spawn of the devil, Darcie Sneem.  If you liked my ghosts in Golden Rod, you’ll love Granny Brigid and Captain Donaghue. It’s been great fun reliving the days we spent in Dingle and Killarney and touring the Wild Atlantic Way as well as all our other Irish adventure in early summer 2017.  Participating the the annual NaNoWriMo writing challenge was a great way to jump start my novel and discipline myself to write every day in the month of November.

 

Here’s a sneak peek at what you have to look forward to in Seaside Daisy:  When Daisy Fitzpatrick discovers a treasure chest filled with gold unearthed by a storm in a sea cave near her granny’s Dingle Peninsula shanty, she rents out her seaside shop and loft apartment, buys an old mansion in Killarney, and overnight, finds herself a celebrity with a grand new life. A few months later, the local priest in Dingle ends up dead and the police claim the gold she found was on his land, not hers. When Daisy loses everything, including her friends – both tried and true and new and fickle, can she find it in herself to start over? The Wild Atlantic Way might be a hard foe to tame, but the townsfolk of Dingle, Ireland soon learn that even the roar of the sea is no match for a Fitzpatrick with their mind made up.

Blog - 1Celtic Crosses

When December 1st came, it was time to set Seaside Daisy aside and begin writing a murder mystery for New Year’s Eve at the Blue Belle Inn, the bed and breakfast I own and operate when I’m not writing. Of course, I had a million other things to catch up on after doing little but writing the whole month of November. I also needed to tweak the Christmas program before rehearsals started and plan and create characters for our February mystery. And, I wanted to make some of my Celtic Crosses to go with my Danish books and my Wildflowers of Scotland novels in case people wanted to buy them for Christmas gifts. And, of course, since I was thinking about Seaside Daisy, some Irish crosses, too. That’s where I got sidelined. 

Then, the next week, when I came up with the following premise for our February 15 and 16 mystery dinner, I was so in love with the concept that I wanted to write it immediately! And the menu – well, be still my heart. 
Food - Seafood Mornay
Oh Venus – Make My Dream Come True (or is that too much to ask?) a Mt. Olympus Murder Mystery by Sherrie Hansen – When the Roman gods have a horse fall gravely ill that cannot be healed using any of their powers, they call in Dr. Brown, a gifted veterinarian from Iowa, to try to find a cure. When Dr. Brown restores the horse to health, the gods invite her to a relaxing stay at Mount Olympus Spa “on the house.” “Sorry, Charlie,” she wrote to her husband, “but since I am having such a divine time, I am going to stay on at the spa as a Valentine treat to myself.” After all, she knew that he was not going to buy her flowers or chocolate or take her out to dinner. A few days later, when her worried husband arrived at Mount Olympus Spa to surprise her, she was found dead from an arrow in her heart. Now Jupiter, Mars, Diana, Vesta, Neptune, Pluto, Venus, and Dr. Brown’s husband are all suspects. Figure out who killed Dr. Brown, and you could be the lucky sleuth who gets your dinner free!MENU:

Mount Olympus Tortellini Soup, Green Salad and a Roll with Your Choice of:

Chicken Carbonara a la Jupiter with Parmesan Cream Sauce, Bacon, Mushrooms and Peas on Bow Tie Pasta OR

Pork and Parmesan Stuffed Manicotti a la Mars with Spinach Artichoke Alfredo Sauce and Italian Cheeses OR

Seafood Mornay a la Venus with Swiss, Shrimp and Imitation Crab on Puff Pastry Hearts on Scallop Shells OR

Italian Meatballs a la Vesta in Tomato Basil Cream Sauce with Provolone Cheese on Garlic Toast Rounds OR

Roast Vegetables Diana with Spinach Artichoke Dip on Wild Rice with Italian Cheeses

A choice of Our Homemade Desserts including Italian Cream Cake and Amaretto Whisper Cheesecake will be offered for $5.00 each. Optional Beverages $1.50 each. You may bring your own wine, beer and champagne. A charge or $1.00 per stem includes uncorking as needed. Dinner and Mystery $24.95 each. Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House in St. Ansgar, North Central Iowa.

MM - Midsummer Night's Murder
But since December 31st comes long before Valentine’s Day weekend, I knew I needed to get cracking on my December mystery. I finally found time to write it the week before Christmas and I love the way it turned out.  Here’s the story:  I was in Paris, France on New Year’s Eve, 1979 to ring in 1980. I had been living in Germany for 2 1/2 years and couldn’t wait to experience a unique French menu and entertainment. When we arrived, the host hotel “surprised” us with a German dinner and “oom-pah” band to play polkas! So, remembering that night, I’m preparing the French meal I was dreaming of to go along with a mystery called The Unresolved New Year’s Resolution.

 

BBInn - heavy snow smaller

Our New Year’s performance is sold out, but we will be doing a repeat performance on Friday, January 18 at 6:30 pm. Here’s the scoop:  When someone tries to put an end to newbie 2019’s hopes, dreams and ambitions before it even has a chance to get started, the New Year is forced to go into hiding. If guests can’t determine who is guilty of attempting to stop the New Year in its tracks, 2019 won’t come out of hiding, New Year’s resolutions will remain unresolved, and 2018 will continue on in infamy! It’s up to you to solve the mystery of who’s trying to put an end to 2019 – time traveler Claire Voyant, numbers fanatic Flo Bia, computer geek Y2K19, Back to the Future opportunist Biff Baby Back Baby Back Baby Back, devilish incumbent 2000 Haight Teen, politician Lane Duck, 64 year old Rhea Tyree, and old timer Lester Day, who longs for the good old days when all his troubles seemed so far away… One lucky sleuth will get their dinner free.

Menu for December 31, 2018 and January 18, 2019:

French Onion Soup, Green Salad and a Roll

Your choice of:

French Steak with Cheddar Chablis Sauce and Red Potatoes OR

Herbes de Provence Chicken and Bacon with Roquefort Cream Sauce on Mashed Potatoes OR

Chicken Cordon Bleu Crepes with Ham and Swiss Cheese Sauce OR

Seafood Stuffed Salmon on Wild Rice OR

Roasted Vegetables with Spinach Artichoke Dip on Wild Rice with Cheese

Dinner and mystery $29.95 each. Our featured desserts will include Blueberry French Cream Pie and Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake and will be offered for $5.00 each.

MM - Blue Belle

So that’s what I’ve been up to and why I’ve been too busy to blog. I didn’t even mention writing our Christmas letter since my husband did most it! I hope you enjoyed catching up and that you’re having a great holiday so far. Blessings to all of you as we look ahead to a hopefully wonderful 2019!

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The Season by John E. Stack

Merry Christmas.  Early.  Yeah, I know that it is still a few weeks away but down here in North Carolina we received an early Christmas present.  We got an early snowstorm that dropped around 10 to 12 inches on us.  It’s just God’s way of telling school teachers, “You’ve worked way too hard this year, so take a few day off.”  Gotta love it.

Even if we have to make it up, it was good time off.  I did grade a few papers but also started cleaning up and organizing our upstairs. I got the Christmas tree up and Allie helped me decorate it.  Our stockings are already hung by the fireplace and the manger scene is lit in front of the house.

Tradition is a big part of life.  If you try to break tradition, lots of people get really upset.  But hey, if it works, why change it.  We have a 9 ft. artificial tree that we picked up about twelve years ago.  It’s old but still looks very real.  A few years ago we decided to buy a smaller tree, about 6 ft.  Everyone we looked at looked so fake.  We even ordered one and had to send it back.

Sometimes we tend to lose sight of what Christmas is all about. It’s about giving, not receiving.  It’s about providing money for a decent Christmas dinner for a family whose dad lost his job.  Maybe it’s about learning that a family can’t afford to buy gifts, and your Sunday school class picks up gifts for all the kids.  Maybe watching your daughter save her money all year to buy gifts for another child her age who lives in a poor neighborhood.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  God loved us enough to send his Son to save us.  He was given humble beginnings and died as a sacrifice on a cross.  For us.  All of us.  Talk about a gift.  It is difficult to imagine a love so great.  It hard not to tell people about it.

I may not be politically correct, but I know what I believe.

Whether you believe or not, whether you celebrate Christmas or something else, I pray that this holiday season brings you much joy and happiness.  Blessings to all.

 

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

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My Christmas Card List

My early adult years in the mid 1960’s were spent as a military spouse and as such, friends were most likely people who had shared my husband’s and my life. Military bonds tend to run deep, because they frequently involve hardships. So when friends are made, they often remain so for life, at least for me.

For instance, my husband, Byron and I were assigned to a small radar site in northern Montana, six miles from the Canadian border as the crow flies and thirty-eight miles from the nearest town, population 10,000. Temperatures reached minus 50 degrees that first winter and sand storms were the norm in the spring and fall. Twenty-eight houses comprised the living quarters for families and a small BOQ (bachelor officer quarters) held two or three single men. We were lucky to have TV, but the signal was interrupted every 18 seconds or so with the sweep of the radar antenna. Once every three months, we had a doctor, dentist and priest/minister rotate to our site for a few days, so neighbor helped neighbor, regularly. We became family, a concept particularly meaningful to me, having been orphaned early in my life.

I imagine you have an idea what I’m trying to say about how deeply military families extend and grow to include neighbors and friends. And in each place Byron and I were stationed, our original family of three became larger and larger. From our first deployment, I decided to create a Christmas card list so I could keep up with my family no matter where we all were.  Even now, fifty-five years later, after a divorce even, I’ve kept up with many people from those wonderful military days. From Montana, the people across the street, Cliff and Shirley had a daughter who babysat for our son, Rob, when he was three. Cliff has passed now, but Shirley and I still stay in touch. Then when Byron was teaching aerospace studies at North Texas State University to ROTC students, several of those students are still exchanging Christmas cards with me.

Three years in Germany added to the list and New Mexico and Texas did too, and I gained another friend when I was lucky to invade my husband’s remote tour (without family) to Iceland for a two week R&R (rest and recuperation) visit. And during Vietnam, I spent time with my in-laws since I lived nearby. Our last assignment was in Montgomery, AL at Maxwell Air Force Base Wing Headquarters ROTC and we lived just outside the back gate of Gunter Air Force Station, so the family we gathered there were not just military, but members of a Scottish society and civilians alike.

My husband and I may have divorced, but not my through-the-years friends. In fact they became even closer to me since I’d lost part of my family. And I made new ones from neighbors, church, and various interests.

Yesterday, I received a Christmas card from my sister and enclosed was a poem that I just have to share with you. It says everything I feel about my Christmas card list. Perhaps you have your own version.

 

The Christmas Card List

There is a list of folks I know
All written in a book,
And every year at Christmas time
I go and take a look.
And that is when I realize
Those names are all a part
Not of the book they’re written in,
But deep inside my heart.

For each name stands for someone
Who has touched my life sometime,
And in that meeting they’ve become
A special friend of mine.
I really feel that I’m composed
Of each remembered name,
And my life is so much better
Than it was before they came.

Once you’ve known that “someone”,
All the years cannot erase
The memory of a pleasant word
Or of a friendly face.
So never think my Christmas cards
Are just a mere routine
Of names upon a list that are
Forgotten in between.

For when I send a Christmas card
That is addressed to you,
It is because you’re on that list
Of folks I’m indebted to.
And whether I have known you
For many years or few,
The greatest gift that God can give
Is having friends like you!

Author Unknown

 

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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