Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tek the Modern Cave Boy: A Review

A new children’s book being added to our library’s collection caught my attention today.

At first, I thought Tek The Modern Cave Boy was a baby board book because the front and back covers are so thick and board like. They were smooth and black, resembling, an i-phone. However, when I opened the book, I was surprised to see regular paper pages. And, you know, that first page had me hooked. This is just what an author works for: a cover that gets noticed and a first page that hooks the reader!

Picture courtesy of Google Images

That very first page looked like a three-by- three  i-pad security keyboard screen, but instead of numbers zero thorough nine, it had a mixed up variety of letters of the alphabet. The next page highlighted the security password: T E K. ---- And we were in! Time to read!

Tek, a little caveman boy who won’t do anything except game is missing out on all the adventures his world has to offer--- he could be seeing real live dinosaurs but he doesn’t even care! Evolution happens. He doesn’t care. His parents intervene- to no avail. All Tek ever does is game. (I love how the art work tells the story too.)

That is, until a volcano has a huge explosion and Tek’s tiny, narrow world changes.
This cute story, written by Mutt’s creative genius, Patrick McDonnell, tells a cautionary tale of how a person can get pulled into technology causing erosion of all other interests and activities.

I’ve written about the infiltration of technology into our daily life in previous posts. It’s a real problem. Patrick McDonnell’s approach to this topic is fun and hopefully, will be inspiring to young readers and their parents.

Look for this book at your local friendly library or bookstore. You won’t be disappointed.

Until next time,
Be Good to Yourself,


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Top 10 Reasons Why I Like Thanksgiving Over Christmas

Photo courtesy of Google Images

OK. Let’s get this straight. I am a Christian. I am thankful for the Gift of Jesus. I am thankful for God’s Graces in my life. I celebrate the Birth of the Christ Child.

But. I don’t like the Christmas season. There. I’ve said it. I don’t think I’m a Grinch or a Scrooge. I don’t rain (or more likely, snow) on other people's Christmas parade, I just silently wait for January to come. 

Let me tell you why I like Thanksgiving over Christmas, and then maybe you’ll understand.

Number Ten: Its typically not as cold and snowy at Thanksgiving making travel less stressful.
# 10: Photo courtesy of Google Images

Number Nine: The “Food Train” last for two days, three at the most, not for the whole month.

Number Eight: Thanksgiving food involves pie. That’s all. No cookies. No candies. Just pie.

#6: The extent of my Fall/Thanksgiving
Number Seven: There are no Thanksgiving songs on the radio.

Number Six: Thanksgiving decorating equals Fall decorating. Fall lasts three months. Yay!

Number Five: To go with number six, My Thanksgiving decorations take up next to nothing of my storage space.

Number Four: Shopping lasts one afternoon. And it's just food.

# 5: Christmas decorations.
I have a few new ones, too!
Number Three: There are no physical gifts at Thanksgiving.

Number Two: Thanksgiving is not a *Consumerism Trojan Horse.

Number One: Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to think about and be thankful for the graces in our lives, not the purchases we and our loved ones, friends, acquaintances, employees, employers, etcetera, will be making.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Until next time,
Yep.Shopping has commenced.
(I am not immune to it all, either.
 I really enjoy giving gifts to my loved ones.)
Be Good to Yourself.

*Metaphorically, the Trojan Horse is the invasion of something insidious into your life. Think about it: “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” and decorations filling the stores by Halloween. Black Friday. This year Black Friday is every Friday in November.  Cyber Monday. Consumerism run rampant - it just sucks us in -the tail wagging the dog. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thoughts about Prince Seven Months Later

I had my i-pod on shuffle the other day while riding my bike when a Prince tune came on. His song, Let’s Go Crazy, is so prophetic that it gave me chills. I listened to it twice in a row.
The song starts with Prince talking, giving sort of a eulogy.
Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called ‘life’

Prince. Courtesy of Google Images.
Electric word, life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here to tell you
There's something else

The afterworld
(Harp music here)
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night…”
Then he sings about how to get through life.
“Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the afterworld
In this life
You're on your own…”

“If you don't like
The world you're living in
Take a look around
At least you got friends…”

Little Richard. Courtesy of Google Images.
He sings about the elevator. WHAT? You say? The elevator? Yep. The elevator. What if the elevator is death? Is the elevator death?
“We’re all excited
But we don’t’ know why
Maybe it’s cause
We’re all gonna die

And when we do (When we do)
What’s it all for (What’s it all for)
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door

Tell me, are we gonna let de-elevator bring us down?
Oh, no let’s go!...”

Prince is (was) pretty avant-garde, but I think he was also a musical genius. This is probably why I didn’t “get” some of his work.
Rick James. Courtesy of Google Images.
But this song got me thinking of some what ifs..

What if Prince did not die in his elevator, but instead instructed his people, his handlers, to announce that, upon his death, they should say it took place in the elevator? That kind of thing sounds like a Prince move to me.

I think Prince could be considered a healthy mix of the flamboyance of Little Richard, the funk of Rick James, the sexuality of Elvis (remember his hip gyrations?), and the fashion sense of Michael Jackson.

Elvis. Courtesy of Google Images.
What if Prince didn’t die from a similar drug O.D. as Michael Jackson? Maybe he was sick and didn’t want people to know. That seems like a Prince move, too.

I read that Prince had started writing his autobiography and it was to be published in 2017.
It’s also weird to me that Paisley Park, Prince’s home in the suburbs of Minneapolis, has already opened as a museum, much like Elvis’s Graceland. In fact, they’re both managed by the same company.

How could a product as big as Prince get a museum opening off the ground just six months after his death? Maybe the deal was done by Prince himself far before his death on April 21, 2016.

Michael Jackson.
 Courtesy of Google Images.
I think Prince had total control of every aspect of his life. Perhaps even right down to how his death would be played out.

I know this post is not exactly “timely,” in fact, Prince’s death is probably considered old news by now, but Let’s Go Crazy prompted me to write this. And as you may know, I like song lyrics.

Until next time,
Be Good to Yourself,


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Veterans Day 2016

This Friday is Veterans Day. November 11, 2016.

My grandfather served in WWI and WWII.
My dad served in the Korean War. My uncles Terry and Jerry served in Viet Nam. (All of my dad’s four brothers served in the military.)
When my generation of young men and women were of “going to war age,” the U.S. had relative peace- no wars to fight.
Veterans Day dislplay at the LeClaire
Community Library
My nephew, Jake served in Afghanistan, where he earned a Purple Heart. My son-in-law Phil, still active duty, served in Afghanistan, too. My son, Nate, and nephew-in-law, Corey, serve on the front lines right here in Iowa.

God bless those who are willing to confront the bad in order to protect the good.

On that same note to honor and pay tribute, I created a Veterans Day book display at work (The LeClaire Community Library.) I chose books that gave first-hand accounts of events… Also Known As: When shit goes down.
The summaries of the following books are courtesy of Goodreads.

FLYBOYS: A True Story of Courage by James D. Bradley
This acclaimed bestseller brilliantly illuminates a hidden piece of World War II history as it tells the harrowing true story of nine American airmen shot down in the Pacific. One of them, George H. W. Bush, was miraculously rescued. What happened to the other eight remained a secret for almost 60 years. 

LONE SURVIVOR: The Eyewittness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell, Patrick Robinson
On a clear night in late June 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs left their base in northern Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission was to capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader known to be ensconced in a Taliban stronghold surrounded by a small but heavily armed force. Less then twenty-four hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs remained alive. 

NO EASY DAY: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen, Kevin Maurer
No Easy Day puts readers alongside Owen, of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group--commonly known as SEAL Team Six, and the other handpicked members of the twenty-four-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives. The blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen's life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death, is an essential piece of modern history.
BAND OF BROTHERS: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest by Stephen E. Ambrose
As good a rifle company as any, Easy Company, 506th Airborne Division, US Army, kept getting tough assignments--responsible for everything from parachuting into France early DDay morning to the capture of Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. In "Band of Brothers," Ambrose tells of the men in this brave unit who fought, went hungry, froze & died, a company that took 150% casualties & considered the Purple Heart a badge of office. Drawing on hours of interviews with survivors as well as the soldiers' journals & letters, Stephen Ambrose recounts the stories, often in the men's own words, of these American heroes.
FLAG OF OUR FATHERS By James D. Bradley, Ron Powers
In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima—and into history. Through a hail of machine-gun and mortar fire that left the beaches strewn with comrades, they battled to the island’s highest peak. And after climbing through a landscape of hell itself, they raised a flag.
Now the son of one of the flagraisers has written a powerful account of six very different young men who came together in a moment that will live forever.

It was the last-chance moment of the war. In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq. He called it the surge. “Many listening tonight will ask why this effort will succeed when previous operations to secure Baghdad did not. Well, here are the differences,” he told a skeptical nation. Among those listening were the young, optimistic army infantry soldiers of the 2-16, the battalion nicknamed the Rangers. About to head to a vicious area of Baghdad, they decided the difference would be them.

UNBROKEN: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

ELEPHANT COMPANY: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Constantine Croke
Billy Williams came to colonial Burma in 1920, fresh from service in World War I, to a job as a “forest man” for a British teak company. Mesmerized by the intelligence, character, and even humor of the great animals who hauled logs through the remote jungles, he became a gifted “elephant wallah.”  
When Imperial Japanese forces invaded Burma in 1942, Williams joined the elite Force 136, the British dirty tricks department, operating behind enemy lines. …In a Hollywood-worthy climax, Elephant Company, cornered by the enemy, attempted a desperate escape: a risky trek over the mountainous border to India, with a bedraggled group of refugees in tow. Elephant Bill’s exploits would earn him top military honors and the praise of famed Field Marshal Sir William Slim.

People, I challenge you to read at least one of these books. Use your hard-earned American freedom to read whatever you want! I’ve read Unbroken already. It was not an easy read and because of that, I still cannot watch the Unbroken movie. I’m going to start at the top of this list and read Flyboys next. My dad was an Air Force man and my son-in-law still is.

Until next time,

Thank A Veteran.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Review: The Red Thread by Ann Hood

Last week I talked about how life events show up in my writing, and how I like watching for the unusual or quirky behaviors in people because these are the things that make a character believable. Makes them imperfect. Makes them come to life.

Then, I found a novel with a title that hits directly at the heart of my novel. I HAD to read that book!

Courtesy of Google Images
The Red Thread, by Ann Hood was written in 2010. It is a story of six American couples, each who want to adopt a baby girl from China. It’s also the story of six Chinese parents who, because of China’s One Child Family Planning Law, are forced to give up their baby girls.

The six American couples have complicated and sometimes overwhelming ordeals in their quest to build a family.  But the Chinese mothers’ stories just broke my heart.

**Spoiler Alert!**
Courtesy of Google Images
One young mother tried to keep her child hidden from the community because she already had a nine year old daughter. She would have been able to keep the second child had it been a son. (This part of the story is not fiction, but LAW!) She was tricked into helping another family member and left the sleeping baby unattended for a moment. Her husband when in the bedroom and took the baby away.

A teenage girl got pregnant and her boyfriend took off when he found out. When the baby girl was born, the teen had to sneak to the park with her newborn and abandon it there- hoping that she would be found before it was too late.

Courtesy of Google Images
Another mother had twins. Like the mom with a second child, she could have kept both if one had been a boy and one a girl, but since both twins were girls, she had to make a decision on which one to keep and which one to let go. (Talk about Sophie’s Choice!)

There are three more stories like this, each one devastating.
The American parents have their own regrets and pasts to work through in order to adopt a baby from China. It’s a soul wrenching story that, I believe, people who have never experienced adoption could completely understand. This story gives us a glimpse of that emotional upheaval.

The epilogue is eloquent torture. Ann Hood puts the words together in emotional beauty and my only regret in this story is that it seemed to end fairly abruptly.

Courtesy of Google Images
I wished I could have known more about why some of the characters made the decisions that they made. Did Sophie ever forgive Theo, and why is she staying with him? Nell, a powerful business woman, does everything she can to have a baby. Why did she think she needed a baby in her life anyway, and why did she realize she was making a big mistake only after she was on the flight to China? Did Maya ever forgive herself? Could she trust herself with a child?

I guess a good story gives you food for thought, huh?

Courtesy of Google Images
In the acknowledgements Ann Hood shares with us that she lost a baby daughter and that she and her family went through the adoption process for a baby girl from China. This fact blew me away! I don’t know how this woman, this mother, this author-lady could even write a story like this! She’s a super hero in my book.

Courtesy of Google Images
Ann Hood has written several adult novels, her newest, The Book That Matters Most, released in August 2016, is getting good reviews. I know that I’ll be reading it, along with all her others.

I send my love to all adoptive families. And to my favorite “baby”, David, I’m so blessed to have you in my life.

Until next time,

Be Good to Yourself.