Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Christ Child's Journey

The Christ Child's Journey
by H. Linn Murphy
Oh little town of Bethlehem
We see your lights afar
O'er lowing sheep, 
Our vigil keep
Beneath the glowing star

Tiny place all tuck'd away
Tho thou be passing small
Tonight you own
A babe not grown
The savior of us all. 

The angels sang that balmy night
Of baby come from Heaven
To save us all
From Satan's thrall
And all our flaws to leaven.

In Nazareth, the shelter place
The starlight-showered trail
Leads from the East
Both men and beasts
To baby's knee travail.

Again to Bethlehem they went
To share Passover's treat
The boy they found
With men drawn 'round
To worship at his feet

He traveled far from place to place
Down dusty roads and long
He healed the ill
And did God's will
He righted many wrongs.

Then in Gethsemane he bled
And suffered for our pains
He took the cup
And drank it up
No thought for his own gain.

Oh city of Jerusalem
With dusty steps replete
Tonight hath trod
The son of God
Along Golgothas street.

Now we must try to follow close
Along our Brother's trail
He led the way
Down to this day
Now it is our travail.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rudolph the Chupacabra--the Real Story

Once upon a time last year Santa and Mrs. Claus decided to trot on down to Puerta Vallarta for some fun in the sun before the Big Night. They packed their swimsuits, sunglasses, snorkels, sunscreen, MP3 players full of carols, striped umbrellas, a couple of pounds of fudge, some thermoses of hot chocolate, and a road map or two into Santa's bag and hopped into the sleigh. Santa grinned at Mrs. Claus and rubbed his hands together, expecting a lovely trip.

The reindeer weren't all that pleased about having to haul Santa's chubby carcass clear down to Mexico twice in one year. Cupid did a fair amount of mumbling about how Blitzen kept falling asleep in the traces and had to be nudged.

"If you dig that antler into my rear one more time, I'm chopping it off," Blitzen growled. He gave "Loverboy" Cupid the evil eye.
"Easy there, you two," Dancer complained. "You're chipping my hoof polish with all that jigging back and forth."

Santa gave a snap to the reigns and yelled, "On Dasher and Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen, on Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch to the top of the wall now dash away, dash away, dash away all!"
"That only works on Christmas," Prancer said, staring out into empty space, chewing his cud.
"There is no porch," Vixen said with a smirk.
Donner said loudly, "You expect us to all balance on this one wall? You're off your rocker! We'll fall to our fiery deaths."
Comet said, "I'm leaving the dashing to Dasher."
"Oh for crying out loud! Haul your keesters into the air," yelled Santa, snapping the reigns and fingering the whip he normally never had to use.

That was enough for them. The grumbling reindeer chugged down the snowy run way and stumbled into the sky still filling the air with complaints.
"I will turn this sleigh around if you don't stop whining," Santa said loudly.
"Please do. Then I can go back to my nap," Blitzen said.
"See, I told you," Comet hissed. "He needs to go to bed before two am instead of staying up to play Christmas Warrior all the time."
"Shut up and pull your weight, you old cow," someone in the back grumbled.

At last the sleigh hit Mexican airspace and settled into a holding pattern over Puerta until a plane could clear. Santa had had it with the complaints. He seriously considered flying back in a plane, except that he'd left his wallet in his fuzzy red pants.

They landed on the beach and Santa and Mrs. Claus gratefully hopped out of the sleigh.
"If you lot can stay relatively close, I'll let you loose to play in the waves," Santa said, despite feeling like booting each deer in the rear. They'd be unbearable if he didn't let them have some fun. The Clauses unpacked and spread out a blanket in the sun. After slathering each other with lotion, they settled down for a long winter's bake.

So off they went. Dancer had a great time body surfing. Donner found a starfish and a couple of sand dollars. Blitzen took a nice nap in the sand and Cupid buried him up to his nose while he slept. Dasher chased Comet with a hermit crab and tripped over a piece of kelp, digging his antlers into the sand with an "Oof!" Prancer nearly split his sides laughing until Dasher came at him with the poor crab.

Vixen wandered off in search of souvenirs.

After a couple of hours, Santa popped an eye open and mumbled about needing to turn over because that side was done. The two of them flipped over and settled in for the other half of their snooze.

By that time Dancer was pruney and huddling under a towel to watch Blitzen try to dig out of his hole. Donner and Prancer built a sand North Pole compound complete with stick elves. Cupid had found a surf board and was shooting the tube. They could hear his "Dude!" exclamations clear down the beach. Comet had spilled the reindeer snacks and seagulls dive-bombed him to get at them. Dasher limped around showing everyone his boo-boo.

And Vixen was nowhere to be found.

The sun was starting to paint the waves when Santa sat up and exclaimed, "Holy Christmas Carp, Mama! Look at your back!"
"Oh dear," Mrs. Claus said. "I thought this SPF 300 would be enough. The ride home is going to bite." She gingerly touched her purple shoulder and knew they were going to have to stop off for some aloe vera.
"You got that right. Come on, reindeer. Let's get back."

As you might surmise, none of the reindeer were interested in lining up to haul everything back to the frozen North. For one thing, they would be a few hundred pounds heavier, what with all the sand, shells, cool-looking pieces of driftwood, and jars of hermit crabs. But finally, with lots of veiled (and not so veiled) threats, the reindeer shivied into place--all except Vixen, who was still AWOL.

Santa, by this time, had reached thunderous bellow level. Feeling like an over-done lobster had done bad things to his patience. But nobody had seen Vixen in hours. The wind had even obscured her hoof prints.
"That does it," Santa growled. "If she's not here in fifteen minutes, we're leaving her here."
The other reindeer groaned.
"Never again," Blitzen said. "I can nap anywhere."
"Clearly," Cupid grumbled.
"Why didn't anybody pay attention to her?" Dasher asked.
"You know Vixy," Comet said. "She has a mind of her own."
"You mean 'no' mind of her own," Dancer mumbled.
"I'm hungry," Prancer whined.
Donner said, "You could have had a snack if Comet hadn't fed them all to the seagulls."
"Hey! It was an accident!" Comet yelled.
Another fight ensued until Santa cracked his whip. "We're leaving," he thundered.

The sleigh just about didn't make it into the air. It tipped crazily and a couple of buckets of sand fell out. Mrs. Claus shrieked and clutched at Santa until the sleigh righted itself.
"This isn't going to work. We need to find something else to help fly us back," Santa said, thinking hard. "We'll stop along the way and ask."

They leveled off in a field of corn and asked the farmer standing there if they could borrow his caballo.
"Lo siento, but no. I need him to carry maise to el mercado."
Next they stopped at a chili field. The granjero hoeing his chili hills told them, "Lo siento. My burro must carry mis niños to escuela. They must learn to count the chili peppers."
The sleigh even stopped in a cow pasture. The dairyman shook his head. "I am milking mis bacas. Mira, they no fly well anyway."

Santa started to lose hope of ever getting home before Christmas. Just as he and Mrs. Claus despaired, a goat farmer came running down the road yelling, "Chupacabra! Chupacabra! He's eating mis cabras."
Santa hot-footed it back to the man's goat farm, losing a flip-flop on the way. Sure enough, there was a Chupacabra sucking the life out of one of the man's goats. The farmer took up a machete and backed the poor Chupacabra into a corner and was about to hack its head off.
"Wait!" Santa thundered. He turned to the hideous black beast with the spines and the fangs. "Can I interest you in a little venture?"
The Chupacabra didn't have much of a choice. "Si, El Gordo. What can I do for you?"

Santa grinned as he hooked the grinning Chupacabra in back of the line of reindeer, next to Blitzen. The deer's eyes were the size of tortillas. Not one of them opened a mouth to complain.

And that's how Santa got back to the North Pole in record time. 

Copyright by Heidi L. Murphy

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chupacabras and Other Bumps in the Night

My Hubs has Stumbleupon, which he got from his best friend once. He uses it nearly every day. Well lately he's stumbled on some pretty freaky things.

Now I can spin a good yarn. I've been known to make telemarketers frustrated enough to cry or laugh themselves silly. But some of this stuff the Hub's been coming up with you simply can't make up. They have pictures! Yeah. And movies. And people in the areas those stories come from, say all these creatures are real. They all swear by it. Makes me wonder what those things really are.

So far we have chupacabra sightings, Almamula the Ghost Mule, terrorizing gnomes, troll sightings, and the Defuncta Correa. Plus there are always the odd space alien sightings and abductions and crop circles and a Madagascar mermaid or two.

Some of those chupacabra pictures look like a mix of those nasty-looking Mexican hairless dogs and mangy coyotes.
Madigascar Mermaid?
I understand the pull of making something that'll fool people. It's a human trait to want to raise the hackles on your friends' necks. But when you get loads of pictures from different people, you start to wonder.

Several of these have websites that purport to have many witnesses to the anomaly or sighting and report very carefully including some questionable footage, but nearly always these places are in out-of-the-way areas away from civilization for the most part. You never hear of someone in Chicago or New York being abducted by aliens. It's always some dude in a pickup truck out in the wilds of Wyoming or Louisiana, or someplace down in South America.

Some of these things have been proven as hoaxes manufactured to fake us out (the Trollhunter movie for one). I have to admit the Trollhunter movie is fairly well made. They made it look like a documentary. These are the guys who can look you in the face and remain totally deadpan while they act. 

So what's the deal? If they're real, why don't these oddities ever come to town so to speak? If alien abductors want a real cross section of the population and not just to take down the slow, sick people, why don't they hit somewhere with a better cross section. Or how about abducting a major biologist who can really get some information? Why don't we have a chupacabra in the Smithsonian, bagged and tagged?

For that matter, maybe the reindeer aren't reindeer at all down in South America. Maybe they're flying chupacabras. Just think about that while you're writing your letter to Santa. It could go something like this:

Dear Santa,
I'd like a stick and a cardboard box for Christmas. And while you're at it, can you please stop your flying chupacabras from eating my pet goats? Gracias, Gorge

I'm not offering to be an abductee. I'm way too busy. I would love to spot a real chupacabra, though, especially if I had a shotgun or a metal baseball bat for protection. Madagascar Mermaid? Shove it on over here so I can take a look.

(No person or troll was intentionally harmed by this post.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Upon Destiny's Song

Today I'm reviewing a great book. UPON DESTINY'S SONG is about the Ole Madsen family who came across the plains in the Willie Handcart company. It's a gripping read and comes complete with a CD of wonderful music.

This book puts you right into the handles of the handcart. My muscles just ached with empathy while reading about real people who felt each bump in the road and who complained sometimes of the hunger and cold. I felt the anguish of poor Ane Madsen as she said good-bye to her eldest daughter before they left Europe. I found myself reading into the dark of the night to find out how they weathered the night up on Rocky Ridge. Did Marie found peace in her life? Did Ole help guard them against further terrors from beyond the grave? Did they ever know what heroes we would think they were?

The thing that makes this story so fascinating is that these were real people experiencing a very real set of challenges. They were tried so sorely that I can't imagine how they didn't just kneel down in the snow and give up.

This book also adds a second storyline: the author's experiences in searching for his ancestors and their stories and how they impact the author's life. I enjoyed reading about how his heart changed in trying to find what drove his family to carry on.

At times the book got a little disorganized, but searching for ancestral records is often that way. One comes by information by bits and pieces. This work got to me in a very real way.

I too had ancestors who came across the plains. My great great grandfather (at least I think it's two greats) was one of Brigham Young's scouts and one of the first 100 white men into the Salt Lake valley. His name is on the seagull plaque in Temple Square.

My husband had people who came across in the Christiansen Handcart Company just before the Martin/Willie Company.

This book has gotten me more interested in finding my own stories and putting them into written form.

I fully recommend UPON DESTINY'S SONG. Make sure you have lots of tissue handy.

You can purchase this book at latterdaycottage.com

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winning Nano--Year Three

This is why there is little content on here for the month of November. I'm sprinting, now, to finish the entire book THE DAY IT RAINED GLASS by December first--at least that's the idea.

Here's a short synopsis:

Thrace and Chara are sisters who have survived the end of civilization as they knew it. Now they are fighting just to find food, shelter, and safety from the hungry cannibals who rove the landscape looking for anything they can sink their teeth into.

The girls begin to manifest special skills that can help them make it at least to the next day. Soon other young survivors flock to their growing community, each manifesting a special skill or two. Unfortunately their opposition is also growing.

The Force is a gang of people who follow Vagio, a charismatic thug who is raising an army to take control of the ruined city. They'll collect anyone who can aid their cause, whether voluntarily or not.

In Thrace's frantic bid to keep her 'family' from being entangled in Vagio's web, she nearly misses her most valuable asset. Grit is a boy with a dangerous secret. He can spell success or absolute defeat, not only for their lives and civilization, but for love.

It's all together, or be picked off one by one.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lost Boy

H. Linn Murphy
I wrote a truly wonderful poem for a friend of mine the other day. He was experiencing a particularly dark time in his life. For some reason the poem got erased en route to the blog. I tried everything to get that stupid poem back, but it wouldn't come, wiping out hours of my much-needed writing time.

So I just re-posted this picture and put it on a time release hoping I'd still somehow retrieve the poem. No go. But then I finally realized that It was Christ's voice he needed to hear, not mine.

We all have challenges and rough water to navigate. Who better to tell us where the rocks are than the person who put them there under God's direction? Who better to calm the storms in our hearts than Christ, the One who stilled the angry seas one day in Galilea?

This is a picture I drew one day when facing my own rough seas.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sitting Atop the Writer's Block

I was going to leave a note saying I was off at the NANOWRIMO sweat shop pounding out words this month and leave it at that. But I couldn't pass up the chance to say that it's sailing right along. I have almost half of THE DAY IT RAINED GLASS done.

THE DAY IT RAINED GLASS is a dystopian YA book about some kids who survive a nuclear holocaust in Chicago. I wanted to set the book there because New York has been done to death. It's been interesting researching the area and thinking about what it would look like two years after The Blast. I don't remember going there when I was little (I was five or so, I think) so I've done lots of research. I think this calls for a lovely trip to Chi-Town--maybe to watch a baseball game or see the Chicago river run green on St. Patrick's Day.

I love the characters. Thrace is a sixteen-year-old girl trying to build a life for herself and her little sister while still remembering and mourning the old one. How do you deal with the fact that your younger sis can boss you around or life gets hairy?  
Chara is the spooky fourteen-year-old sib with a burgeoning psi talent and a soft heart.
The mysterious loner, Grit, has troubles of his own, not least that everyone thinks he's a coward.
As their band grows, so do the troubles. Navigating through the rocky shoals of Chicago After can be deadly--especially if you taste good.

Anyway, that's my tease of THE DAY IT RAINED GLASS. See ya at the finish line.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ghoulie Meal

My Hubs loves to decorate for Halloween. Every year he buys some other kind of decoration for it. This year it's an owl. Last year it was the NOPE spider (As in NOPE, NOT GOING TO THAT HOUSE--THERE'S A TITANIC SPIDER!!!)

The thing is, he gets the decorations going pretty much on Halloween. So for me, October 31 evening is Insane. He always stays home to prey on...I mean scare people spitless and I take our horde and go trunk-or-treating and sometimes the regular kind of house-to-house begging. So with getting everybody in costume and doing the Hubs' last minute deco errands, getting people fed is absolute craziness. 

In years past I've found myself gnawing on the odd 3 Musketeers bar swiped from someone's bag, or something petrified from the fridge, or nothing at all until well after midnight. About four years ago I came up with a better solution. 

The Hands all corpsified and gross


Severed hands. I made them out of meat loaf with hard boiled egg bones. They were such a smash hit with my family that the next year I made hands and feet. There's always a healthy dollop of ketchup 'blood' and pumpkin seed nails. I coat the hands and feet with cheese to make it look like burnt skin.
Ghoulish feet to go with the hands

Last year I tried something even more ghoulish--a severed head. The eyeballs were hard boiled eggs and there was cauliflower for the brains. I had to cook it in two parts so it would cook all the way through (and fit in the oven). It was much harder to make it look like a real head.

This year I'm going to do guts. The heart is going to be interesting trying to make the coating on it look like pericardium, but cheese might work. And I'll need to apply the ketchup with a paintbrush. The main vein might be tough. I figure I'll make the lung with cauliflower for the alveoli...that is, if I have time to get to the store. Otherwise it'll just have to be the outside of the lung. And there'll be sausage kidneys.
Ack! A Weeping Angel!

Okay, so I'm freakishly ghoulish. It's strange to hear my kids say, "Please may I have a pointer finger" or "Please pass the brain." But what can I say? They sit down to eat on Halloween now.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Snow Rising

I just read a remarkable book so profound in its simplicity that it'll not only rock my day, but my life. SNOW RISING is a book I picked up in my favorite local bookstore (Latter Day Cottage) while waiting for my daughter. The pictured mountain and classy cover treatment caught my attention, but the truths inside constituted the real gold and wouldn't let me re-shelve it. 

SNOW RISING is about a man broken and battered by his decisions and failures. He stands at the brink of losing his wife and family. He hates what he has become through poor choices, laziness, and lack of a road map. All his life he reaches for the brass ring on the merry-go-round, thinking that success at any cost will bring him happiness. He has 'things'. He has a measure of what others would term 'success'. And yet he wallows in misery.

He meets a woman who not only guides him to the summit of Mt. Hood, but teaches him the secret to happiness and a lasting peace in life. The book tells the story of that summiting, but more than that, Jason Snow's climb back out of his personal crevasse and into possibility and change.

Four basic principles or axioms make up the building blocks for a happy life. I'll let you read this book to discover them. Suffice it to say that if you adhere to these four, you can make a splash in the pond, the ripples of which will reverberate against incalculable frontiers and affect untold numbers of people.

The principles Matt Baldwin teaches are clean and bright and have intrinsic value for all of us. He lays them out in such a way that I couldn't help lapping them up. I found myself gritting my teeth and holding my breath as the climbers slipped toward the crevasse, trying to arrest their fall. The allegory was not lost on me.

Thank you, Matt, for this map. Thank you for being our mountain guide. What a wise and insightful person you are!

Remember, we choose our beliefs and values, and our actions. The rest are consequences.

Choose this book.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

ANWA Conference!

Hey it's time to sign up for the ANWA writer's conference. I have greatly enjoyed the times I've attended in the past. I've gotten to meet great new friends like James Artimus Owens, Donna King Weaver, and Marsha Ward to name a few. Go to http://anwa-lds.com/conference today and book your place in Writer's Trove. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Oh the Carnage

This woman has a long-standing love affair with words. They inspire me, goad me onward, enrage or entrance. I'm always looking for more of them to illustrate my life and the lives of others. Where before I used to use mostly paint to color my world, now I paint more often with words.

I've neglected my journal for the past few years, choosing instead to write novels or blog posts (I write for three blogs including this one, ANWA Founder and Friends, and Mommy Authors) or emails. But I miss being able to go to my journal to prove something. (I've actually used my journal in a court case in the past. It's interesting how much I've forgotten or remember differently.)

So I decided to hunt down my journal and start afresh at filling it with interesting tidbits. I went to the shelf where I normally keep the dusty old thing and surprise, it wasn't there.

A two-week-long odyssey ensued, in which I plundered all my bookshelves (there are many--love affair with words you remember), sacked every corner of my bedroom, pillaged whole dust bunny civilizations, and to L and J's great horror (oh the carnage) changed things around. All in search of the elusive personal history.

No dice.

 Through it all I kept a running commentary with my Heavenly Father, on whom I rely heavily on in these seemingly hopeless situations. After checking the same places dozens of times, my pleading began.

To no avail.

I did, however, find several interesting items (Esmeralda-the-Tooth-Fairy's decaying collection, a hat I'd forgotten about, my knitted doll shirt from my Austrian Auntie) and other more needed things I had been missing for a long time. "Huh! Look at that," I'd say, drawing an interested family member to my side. "My old glasses collection." They'd roll their eyes and escape from the lunatic sporting the layer of dust.

J was utterly horrified that I would move things around in the living room. "Dad will hate what you are doing here." I laughed. "You mean You hate what I'm doing. Come on and help me move this bookcase. Change is good." More eyeball calisthenics. It turned out he liked my moving ideas this time, and even helped me accomplish them.

Still no tome of memory.

Finally, after the dust had settled and several areas of my house were looking chipper with a new location or slightly less dense patina of dust, I ended my travails. It was Sunday, a day of rest and contemplation and I had a conference to watch.

I did, however, want to hang the laundry which I'd washed the day before--basically because when it sits in the basket for a couple of days the clothes begin to smell like sour death and unwashed dog so I have to hose it off. I was just about to hang them when a subtle little voice said to me, "If you don't hang the laundry, you will be blessed." 

Now normally one would think that I was merely advocating personal laziness. It happens now and then. But when this particular indication hits my head, I sit up and listen. I'm making a habit of paying close attention, because more often than not, it's the Spirit communicating, not me.

So I merely took the baskets out to the line and came back in. The conference was starting anyway. I took copious notes until there was a break. I stood up and was going to the kitchen for a snack when I looked over at the shelves on my desk--the ones I'd emptied and checked almost every time I'd passed them.

There it was!

It sat there taunting me with my selective blindness, having been maybe two feet from my face every time I sat in this chair. The absurdity stunned me. All that time I'd spent combing every inch of my house.

I'd been schooled again.

God pays attention to heartfelt prayers, no matter how insignificant or penny ante. He has ways of encouraging us to do things that may stump or annoy us. He uses us to do His work and accomplish things so far afield that we don't understand the reasons.

So now my house is less dusty, more user-friendly, and I have found several other lost items I hadn't been praying about but still needed.

I think I'll wear my black shorts today.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sara's Gone

(I hope I embedded this right. It's Chris Medina's song, What Are Words.)

Sara rounded on Tom, her stomach feeling like the bottom had dropped away. Tom sat there in front of the TV, his legs splayed out, his filthy shirt half open. He probably hadn't seen a comb in days.

"Why do you act this way?" she asked, shaking inside. She knew what was coming. The frost. He would turn the full force of his vitriol on her. Sara braced herself.

His eyes iced over. "What way? What do you want me to say, Sara? You always have something you want and you never can tell me what it is."

"That's because you don't care enough to want to know. You sit there watching football from the minute you get home right through dinner. You're on that couch until you fall into bed sometime after I've been asleep for hours."

"So what. I like football."

"Clearly. She's your mistress. She lures you away from everything else in the world, including me."

His laughter, derisive and cold, chilled her to the core. "You think football is female? That's rich. You're such a dim bulb. Anyway, football doesn't make demands of me. It doesn't try to 'talk' at me and make me do stupid stuff like take out the trash. Yammer, yammer, yammer, Sara. When did you get to be such a nag?"

Sara swore to herself she wasn't going to let him see her cry. That was for later in the darkness of their bedroom when she lay like a cold husk between the sheets. So many times before she'd simply given up and gone to hide in the dark to lick her wounds. She'd tried talking to him, but she always got the feeling that he was mentally trying to move her aside from in front of the TV so he wouldn't miss a play.

But now she was done. "Jam a fork in me," she muttered to herself.

"What was that?" Tom asked, never looking away from the running figures on the turf. "Hey, do something useful for a change and get me a cold one."

"Get it yourself. I'm out of here." She yanked on her hoody and caught up her purse, slamming the door behind her. Where am I going to go? I've got no money and a quarter of a tank of gas. The tin words echoed in her head.

Nowhere. I'm going nowhere. For years I've let my marriage slip away until the only thing left is inertia. We're like roommates who don't even like each other. We've got nothing in common and nothing to say to each other. How did that happen?

She unlocked the car and bounded in, slamming the door on the distant sounds of the match. "How I hate that game!" she exclaimed. And then she yelled it, filling the car with her anguish. She pounded the steering wheel until she felt something snap in the side of her hand. She swore and cradled her hand in her lap, breathing like a freight train, fighting back tears of anguish.

She could handle that kind of pain. It was the other, deeper, soul-sucking despair that threatened to devour her whole.

How did I get here from there?

She leaned her head back against the rest and closed her eyes, willing the pain in her hand to go away. Memories, like anesthesia, dimmed the ache in her palm.

She remembered when she'd first met Tom. He'd been a janitor at a school where she taught. Every day she'd looked forward to seeing his cheerful smile. He'd been nothing special to look at in his blue coveralls, but she could tell he enjoyed her company.

Tom sightings had gotten her through a messy break-up with an old fiancé. He'd been there for her when things seemed bleak. But that sadness couldn't be compared to how she felt now.

This felt like a true betrayal. The ex fiancé had been a passing fad--nothing invested, nothing much to ditch along the way. She'd realized almost as soon as the gold ringed her finger that marriage would never happen. Tom helped her figure out how to kick the other guy good-bye.

Tom had been so different back then. He'd looked into her eyes when they talked. She had loved the spark of playful friendliness she saw there--loved when it flared to passion. He'd laughed at her jokes and told her things he thought about. They'd shared dreams and plans and hopes for the future.

Now? Nothing.

He didn't want to go anywhere or do anything with her. If there was a way to avoid making plans, he did. If he could get out of going with her even to the store, he would. He found excuses to do everything with his friends unless there was a game on. Then he'd hunker down like a bear in hibernation mode.

"Maybe I should just start driving and not stop until the gas runs out," she hissed into the night. "Maybe my marriage is like this old car: on its last gasp. It's probably ready to be junked." Her voice sounded shrill in the confines of the car. She stopped yelling and just sat there, hurting.


But Tom wasn't garbage. The man she'd married had to still be in there somewhere under all the scrap metal and greasy fast food wrappers and crusty old rubber bits. He had loved her then. And she loved him back. When he finally got up the guts to ask her to marry him, she hadn't looked back, or sideways, or forward. She'd simply said, "Yes." He'd been enough for her then. Why not now?

Because he cared then.

When did he stop finding me valuable? Why?

And then it hit her. "It's me. I've stopped thinking of him as my prince. I started thinking of him as the janitor instead of the shining knight who came to rescue me. I let him slip away. I let football edge me out. I let him make me a victim. And now he sees me as the cleaning woman instead of his princess."

She looked up at the crystal-studded velvet sky above her. She took an ocean-sized breath. "I will not bow to defeat. I am the princess, not the cleaning woman. I'm going to go in there and act like it. I'm going to be his queen and I'm going to treat him like the prince I thought he was when we first met."

She hugged herself and let the tears loose at last, washing away the grief and pain. She dug a wadded up tissue from her purse and dabbed away the evidence. Then she went in, climbing over Tom's outstretched legs. His glazed eyes caught her only as she passed him.

"Where'd you go?"

"Nowhere. Everywhere. I went to my castle."

He threw her a look as she slipped into the kitchen.

The crowd on the TV roared at a touchdown and Tom stomped his feet. "Yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about! Git er done!"

His mouth dropped open when she brought out a frosty soda and a bowl of popcorn. She sat down on the couch and handed him the treats. He stared at her like she'd suddenly grown a huge wart on her nose.

"Here," she said, cuddling into his side. "Thought you'd be hungry. Playing ref for the NFL is a thirsty job."

She felt his arm come around her and pull her close. She looked up to see him gazing down at her, completely missing a key play.

"I'm sorry. I've been a jerk lately." He leaned in and kissed her lips. It was the gentle, silky kiss she remembered from so long ago.

"Yes you have. I think you lost your way."

"Maybe. Okay, yes."

She put everything into the next kiss. The TV crowd went wild, like an invocation.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Man in the Van

This thing has been banging around in my head every time I run past this van and the empty place where it once rested:

There's a little old man
Who lives in his van
It is parked in the park every day.

He's got stacks of books
On the seats, in the nooks
I think he has something to say.

I heard the bright tune
Of his ukulele in June 
His cracked voice singing along.

And I ask in the dark
Why he lives in the park
And I'm the one sharing his song.

As I run past his car
I feel his sharp stare
And I know there's a story inside

Does he have a wife
Or a family or life?
Or simply a black past to hide?

It's been two weeks
Since my cautious peeks
Have seen the old van in the park

I wish I could know
If he had somewhere to go
Or just disappeared in the dark.

How far afield
Is my home four-wheeled?
With its battered doors closed on the world

Will I end up there
In an old lawn chair
With my life neatly packed up and furled?

Life is a game
With your word and your name
And the things you can do with your mind

But the life you make's
A big gamble with stakes
Unless you've an anchor, I find.

My family and God
Make a strong iron rod
To a life with magnificent gifts.

So before it's too late
To banish the hate
I must mend all the troubles and rifts.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Crampy Little Boxes


My daughter and I have been watching a series of talks on the TED network. These talks range all over the spectrum of odd, innovative, extra-box-ial thinking. These people have been pushing far past the barriers of normalcy into the crazy, mind-bending, and amazing.

What these talks have done is impel me into a state of questioning:

*What are my limitations in this life?
*Are they physical, mental, emotional, or societal?
*How often are they self-imposed?
*What kinds of scenarios spark such impositions?
*Are my perceptions always correct about what others say about and to me?
*How often are the boundaries picked out by those around me?
*Are they impenetrable walls of steel or are they made of soap bubble?

For two days we've watched people take bazookas to long-standing ideas and blast them into smithereens. There was a woman who scuba dives in a wheelchair. There was a woman who wants to leave no toxic waste when she dies, so she has developed a mushroom suit which will cleanse her remains of toxicity. There was a man who paints with candles and food. There was a man who has developed a substance called a Superfluid, which, when cold enough, acts as something neither solid, liquid, or gaseous. The ideas simply pour out of them, and are germinating inside me.

I live a proscribed life. I do many of the same things every day/week/month/year. There is a routine which mishaps rarely puncture. At times I feel claustrophobic in my littleness, despite the lure of a book or the Internet or other mind-stretching devices. I find myself wishing I could simply get in my car and turn it on and drive. And keep on driving until the car can't drive any further because of the salt water inside it. It's not a suicidal urge, but a need to break out of the sameness.

What stops me? That's a good question. Sometimes the impulse to stop and think is so much smaller than the urge to fly that I am amazed. Mostly it's inertia and my personal fears about what it means to break the box. I think that is so with most people. What happens to box-breakers and the escaped? How intrepidly to we try to find out?

I find I am often defined by those around me. They construct a series of boxes into which they stuff me. Some of the boxes are fairly spacious. Some are so cramped that there is barely room to take a full breath. I perceive people thinking things like:

"This is my mom. She annoys me every time she opens her mouth. She's always asking me to do chores or how I'm feeling about some boy. I wish she'd go away."

"My daughters are piglets."

"My wife keeps moving my stuff when she cleans. I wish she'd just leave my things alone, but now and then she snaps and then I can't find anything for weeks."

"My mom is wrong about eighty-five percent of the time. It's so embarrassing when she tells a story because she gets so much of it wrong."

"That woman is scatterbrained, over-bearing, and I pity you for having her for a mother."

"Oh. We didn't even know you had a job. What do you do? Write? Have you gotten anything published? Why haven't I ever heard of that book?"

"My mom is an okay cook. But keep her away from pickle water. She put that in the stew once and it was horrible."

"This is my eldest daughter. She's an artist."


What if I've honed my cooking skills and have never again added pickle water to the stew? Still I am bound by the stigma of once having done so. What if I've moved beyond being simply an artist? What if I've worked hard to become a singer? Or a dancer? Or a scientist? Or an architect? Or a rodeo clown? An architect may not be a bad thing, but it may be obsolete. Maybe I've moved on to marine biology or found a love of rescuing cats. What if I've developed a love for having a clean bedroom? What if I've spent 364 other days not "hiding" my husband's stuff? What if I've lost a leg and can no longer be a world-renowned ballroom dancer? What if I've had to slow down due to asthma and can no longer climb to the top of El Capitan?

No matter. The boxes are devilishly difficult to break out of. Some of these receptacles we construct when the poor person is in diapers and we never let them out, sometimes even post mortem. Who hasn't heard someone say, "Oh that was So-and-so. He had Alzheimer's." As if that malady was the be-all, end-all of his life. What about the thousands of other things which made up his experience? Why did the sum of his life accomplishments and challenges equal only Alzheimer's?

We watched a speech today by a woman talking about the ability of photography to influence history, not simply document it. She showed pictures of several men who had been wrongly convicted by accusers who had seen pictures of the perpetrator in line-ups. Sometimes, because of a reintroduction of the picture in another line-up, that person develops a perception that the accused is the villain because the picture was reinforced that way. In effect, the victim sometimes paints the perceived perpetrator how he or she has been trained to see that person. Our minds try to construct boxes which, at times, are ridiculously wrong-sized.

We have all experienced the phenomenon of the "Spin Doctor"--someone who is skilled at taking a fact and altering it in such a way as to cause the general public to sway away from the truth towards a more palatable falsehood. Kings, presidents, and dictators have employed these creatures since time immemorial to clean up after them. How difficult is it to see beyond the false fronts to the real meat of the matter? Do we try?

How often do we reinforce wrong perceptions of a person based on faulty thought processes or flawed information? And how often do we help that poor person batter out of the box?

I am on a life-long search for truth. I cannot afford to construct unbreakable false boxes. For just as I want to avoid being pigeon-holed, so, too, do others.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


I went to do battle with a history teacher of my son's last night at high school open house. I got my power suit on and slicked back my hair, knowing that this woman had no respect for what she perceived as a scatterbrained (yes, she actually called me that) stay-at-home mom. I left that interview feeling like I needed a shower and a dry cleaner.

The woman felt she was on the trenchant edge, instilling in my son a will to tow the mark and succeed. The reality is that she is bullying my son and apparently many others in her class for perceived faults because she believes she can get away with being a schoolroom despot.

I am the product of teachers and have been one myself. I graduated with high honors in a double major from college. So I don't advocate sloughing off in school. Just the opposite. I want my children to succeed and even pass me. I would no sooner champion them for being lazy and ignorant than roll around in a cow pie.

I found when I went, however, that my son's so-called 'daydreaming' and inability to get papers correctly signed by their parent was in actuality not the main problem. The teacher in question wants to show my son R-rated movies (especially Shindler's List).

On the surface an R-rated movie might not look like such a bad thing. There have been movies with that rating that I felt could have shucked a few unnecessary scenes and been a decent movie. Some of those I really wanted to watch (Braveheart, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven to name a few).

Sure it's just one little scene. There are just a couple of decapitations. They only use the F-bomb three times. You only glimpse the man's rear end for a few seconds. You can't really see them having sex. The excuses go on and on.

Those are entertainment movies written and filmed to titillate and engross us. Dirt sells, you know. Everybody is watching it. It got an Emmy and three Golden Globes. It must be fine.

I think I need to head outside and find the shovel.

What the teacher wanted to do was let a movie babysit my child while she relaxed in the back. She wanted to really bash them in the face with the proceedings of the Holocaust (her words). She felt that THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK and THE HIDING PLACE by Corrie Ten Boom (my suggested replacements) were both substandard movies because they were childish and written for the eighth grade level.  


Has she watched those movies or even read those books?

She said they didn't pack enough punch.

Well I don't know about you but I don't want any teacher punching my children in the mind. I purposefully try to keep evil away from them. I don't need to wallow in manure to know that I don't want any on me. I am perfectly fine with seeing it come out of the cow and smelling the result to know that I'd rather stay away, thank you. She wants to throw it at her students and rub their faces in it.
Excuse me, lady. This is MY SON we're talking about, NOT YOURS.

These people think that parents are brainless puddles of TV-sucking slime good for nothing but birthing people for the state, apparently. And perhaps some parents are. But not all. Some of us want our children to learn the truth. We don't want them filled up with propaganda sensationalized and dressed up as "history".

I find it interesting how one person's viewpoint can so widely differ from another's without even a movie perspective's aid.
Once I was visiting a friend. As I was getting out of my car, I looked down the street. I saw a young man get bitten by a dog. I rushed up to the scene and gave my name and number as a witness. When it came time for the court appearance, I sat behind the boy's family. Up to that point, I had been solidly in the kid's court. 
But then I found out several things: 1. The chubby little recalcitrant creep's parents were egging him on to get as much money as possible by faking an injury. I heard them tell him things to say. 2. A closer observer who had been watching from earlier, witnessed the boy teasing the dog with a stick. Apparently it was an on-going problem. The boy often walked past while running a stick over the fence, which aggravated the dog on several witnessed occasions. 3. The owners had tied the dog in such a way as to render the dog harmless and unable to bite the boy unless the kid was trespassing on the owners' property.
By the time I found out these truths, however, I had already given my statement. I am happy to say that the owners were not forced to put the dog down. They were, however, fined and ordered to keep the dog inside the house. 

Do you see how I changed your view of the boy with three well-placed words? And I'm not even lying. The boy, from his actions in court, demonstrated his personality enough to him to earn the moniker of 'creep'.

There are examples of what lies, "spin", half-truths, and illusions can do to a society all around us. Unless we continue to search diligently for the truth we can be gulled just as are the majority of the lazier, more careless masses. Hence the advent of Snopes. I see people all the time checking with Snopes to divine whether an article is factual or not. Unfortunately there are times when Snopes has been known to be wrong. Apparently the people down there have a price just like many others do.

I personally want my children to know the difference between perceiving evil and in wallowing in it. I want my children to stand up against it and not allow evil to flourish. I personally told them how it felt to be around viciousness such that it made me want to vomit until my stomach was empty.

I've been to East Germany before the Wall came down, with its machine gun-toting guards. I was followed everywhere by those guards. My friend was deported for taking pictures. All of the students with us at that time agreed that they have never felt so completely oppressed as they had at that time and in that place. I could have cut the palpable and very potent feeling of super-condensed evil with a machete. When we got out of the country, every single one of us rejoiced verbally at leaving those feelings behind us.

I've been to Dachau. I've walked the pathways between the barracks foundations. I've seen the piles of shoes. I've seen the pictures of the poor starving scarecrows who survived. I've talked to people who bear the tattooed number on their arms. I do not want my children ever to shut their eyes and allow something like that to take root.

But I also know that a sensationalist movie made to titillate and deaden the senses doesn't work, and especially not at the age of my son. I recently read an article (which was actually first a speech) by Meghan Cox Gurdon, who has been a reviewer for children's books for the Wall Street Journal since 2005. She said:

"Books show us the world, and in a sense, too many books for adolescents act like fun house mirrors, reflecting hideously distorted portrayals of life. Those of us who have grown up understand that the teen years can be fraught and turbulent--and for some kids, very unhappy--but at the same time we know that in the arc of human life, these years are brief. Today, too many novels for teenagers are long on the turbulence and short on a sense of perspective."
And again:
"The trouble is that the first person present tense also erects a kind of verbal prison, keeping young readers in the turmoil of the moment just as their hormones tend to do. This narrative style reinforces the blinkers teenagers often seem to be wearing, rather than drawing them out and into the open."
"Books for children and teenagers are written, packaged, and sold by adults. It follows from this that the emotional depictions they contain come to young people with a kind of adult imprimatur. As a school librarian in Idaho wrote to her colleagues in my defense: 'You are naive if you think young people can read a dark and violent book that sits on the library shelves and not believe that that behavior must be condoned by the adults in their school lives.' "

Books can be intense. How much more potent are movies? The human brain, and especially the teen-aged human brain, tends to believe much of what it sees, at least to a point. Psychological studies on Change Blindness or Flicker Paradigm, have been done in which a person is confronted with the image of a person, which is subsequently obscured by a large mirror or other obstruction. When the obstruction clears, there is a completely different person in similar clothing. The difference is often not perceived by the observer.

The brain tends to continue to perceive the information it was initially given. This phenomenon feeds into the movie business quite nicely. How many of us were afraid of all sharks for years after we saw JAWS for the first time? I was. I have subsequently been swimming with a couple of fifteen-foot long sharks and lived to tell the tale. The movies would have it that all sharks are hideous man-eating menaces, when in fact only a fraction of them are dangerous to humankind.

I don't want my children inured to the fact that evil is very real, very present, and very dangerous. I don't want them to blow it off as a fairytale or an alarmist piece of fiction. The danger is immediate and palpable in some cases. There are very real, very evil people who want to harm us--who are bent on the destruction of mankind. They aren't necessarily clothed in spikes and leather. They probably shoot better than any movie villain. Some of them prance around in regular jeans and t-shirts or power suits. I want my children to know the difference. I want them to know the truth.

So, no. I don't want my children to learn their history from an R-rated movie. Do some actual work and find the truth. Then I'll respect you as a teacher and let you teach my children. Otherwise, the second they get home, I'm going to tell them how it really was, according to my research.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Presenting A CHANGE OF PLANS! Audio Book Giveaway

Donna K. Weaver wrote a smashing book called A CHANGE OF PLANS, which I reviewed on the sixteenth. Today I'm offering a chance to receive a free audio book of A CHANGE OF PLANS.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway



When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old, Colorado high school teacher wants to do is forget that her dead fiancé was a cheating scumbag. Lyn plans a vacation diversion; fate provides Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship's make-believe world and temporary friendships, her emotions come alive.
However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he's navigating, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship--on the very anniversary Lyn is on the cruise to forget. Lyn's painful memories are too powerful, and she runs from Braedon and what he has to offer.

It’s hard to avoid someone when stuck on the same ship, and the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise's snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. Paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped and Lyn's fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.


Barnes and Noble 


What impelled you into the writing world?

I wanted to learn how to write so I could write my personal history. Right now, I'm totally stuck on fiction. lol

How do you find time to write between taking care of a large-ish family and a busy work schedule?

I have a very supportive husband. He's retired and is able to pick up the slack.

How was the seed of A CHANGE OF PLANS planted?

When I decided to learn about writing, I thought I might also see if I could write a full-length novel. I'd had a dream about a man and a woman who were stranded on an island with this huge old tree and a tree house. I needed to figure out how to get them there. Also, in the dream, they didn't now each other, but when I started writing the book I realized I wanted there to be some history between them.

What future plans are there for sequels?

My publisher has the first of three companion novels. It's called Torn Canvas, and the main character is Jori Virtanen, a secondary character in A Change of Plans. For NaNo this year, I plan to write another companion novel that will have Lyn's younger brother Marc as the main character. It will be set about three years after the end of Torn  Canvas. The final book will star Braedon's niece, Kate.
Do you listen to music while you write? 

I do. Music is a big deal to me, and I love to have my music match the mood or character tastes when I'm writing. I have added a page here http://weavingataleortwo.blogspot.com/p/a-change-of-plans.html to my blog with some videos of the music I had in mind when I wrote certain scenes in  A Change of Plans.

Did your son write the music score for the book?

He did. Adam is an amazing guitarist and really into music. He and his brother Paul started a band symphonic Metal band, with Adam being the power behind the music and Paul doing the lyrics. When I heard the song I used in the trailer, I knew that was just what I was looking for. I even snuck their band name and the title of that song into the book
Any certain comfort food you like to munch when the muse hits you?

Not really. I tend to sip on water. I use Dragon software for new words, so it's best to keep my mouth clear when I'm actively writing.
Do you have other writing projects in the works?

Besides the A Change of Plans companion novels, I'm working on a short story with Lyn's friend Elle as the main character. I have written a YA but soon to be NA fantasy duology that I will be editing soon and then a SciFi trilogy that's got about a third of the outline (read that as first draft) done.
Thank you for a lovely interview, Donna. I'm looking forward to reading what you have to offer in the future. Congratulations on a fantastic book.


Donna K. Weaver has always loved reading and creating stories and has been ever entertained. A Navy brat. A U.S. Army veteran. An avid cruiser, she’s sailed the Pacific four times. A Shorei Kempo Karate black belt, she lives in Utah with her husband. They have six children, eight grandchildren.