Catching up with Hugh’s Charity Christmas Topper Challenge

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The Overlord headed home yesterday with his mini John Deere ride-on tractor, fish puzzle, and toddler drum set. Naturally, his favorite finds were a cardboard wrapping-paper tube (his didgeridoo) and a cardboard box (the perfect size for an Overlord Jack-in-the-Box).

I’m in holiday recovery mode. I drifted into dreamland around 6 pm last night and climbed from bed well after dawn. I might dismantle our little tree today, but not before catching up on Hugh’s Charity Christmas Topper Photo Challenge!

100_1025The Overlord was part of the decorating team this year, so prior to the event, I sorted our ornaments into 2 piles: “kid-proof” and “not this year.” We went with a small tree, no garlands, zero tinsel, and minimal lights. Without power, I couldn’t check the strands to see if they worked … When the power finally came on, only the top half of the tree lit up. Oops.

For this year’s tree topper, I risked a porcelain angel after the Overlord was tucked in bed. She survived, though she needs a bit of glue prior to next year.

100_0144Power finally returned on Christmas about 1:30 in the morning. It came with a coverlet of snow – a rare pleasure here in the rain forest and perfect for Christmas morning.

Christmas and New Years are times when my wishes for peace are ever present in my thoughts. Hugh’s Photo Challenge is a lovely way for me to partake in something kind-hearted. Thank you, Hugh, for making it so very easy 🙂

This post is part of Hugh’s Charity Christmas Topper Photo Challenge. Hugh will donate £1 to The Dogs Trust for every Christmas Tree Topper photo, up to a maximum of £250.  The challenge is open until Tuesday, January 5th, 2016, and he will publish a post on Twelfth Night, January 6th, showcasing everybody who participated in the challenge and letting us know how much we all managed to raise.

If you want to participate and help Hugh raise £250 for The Dogs Trust, here’s how:

1. Take a photo of what sits on top of your Christmas tree.
2. Create a new post on your blog entitled “Hugh’s Charity Christmas Tree Topper Challenge.”
3. Add the photo(s) you have taken to the post and tell us a little about what them.
4. Create a pingback to his original post or leave a link to your post in the comments section of his original post so that other participants can view your post.

It’s just one more wonderful way to celebrate this Blogland Community.

Ice Moon

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The dawn of between-time rises gray and slick with ice. Sheets of rain turn to sleet, to snow and back to rain, the cold raw and penetrating. The first of the winter moons rims the shunting clouds in silver, the ice moon, when the world requires far less effort.

When I started writing fantasy, I found myself contemplating worlds without the modern convenience of electricity, worlds without light switches and clocks, furnaces and gas ranges. Logistics needed to be attended to, and I paid attention to the way the moon and stars lit the forest’s night sky, the way the cloud cover blocked or magnified light.

I began taking short lightless walks at night (despite the cougars and coyotes). There were nights when the woolen darkness was so thick I couldn’t see the ends of my fingertips and nights when the luminous moon cast long blue shadows. I began writing with greater attention to the seasons, the phases of the moon, the natural rhythms of the wilderness that were integral to my characters’ lives.

In the Dragon Soul Trilogy, the Ice Moon begins with the full moon’s appearance in the early winter sky. Here in Oregon, the Ice Moon bares her full face on Christmas.

My blog’s green summery background has been irking me a bit lately, so I thought for a year I would follow the moons through my fantasy world. Welcome to the Ice Moon. Happy solstice.

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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Image from wikimedia

Image from wikimedia

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
~Charles A. Dana

The Overlord’s parents decided to be truthful about the existence of Santa Claus. He’s 2 years old, mind you.

“You don’t believe in Santa?” I asked my daughter, aghast at the notion.

“We don’t want to mislead him or lie to him,” she said.

“How do you know there’s no Santa?” I asked, sensing her ambivalence. “How do you know there’s no such thing as magic?”

Her mother writes fantasy. What did she expect?

This conversation got me thinking about how little I actually “know.” I’m fairly certain I know my thoughts and feelings and perhaps a glimmer of what I perceive with my senses. But that’s about it. I drew a pie chart to demonstrate:

Pie Chart

Figure 1. Pie Chart of Ignorance

There are various things we humans agree upon and, therefore, have decided are “true.” For example, many of us believe gold is valuable when, if you think about it, it’s really just rock. Collectively, we ascribe values to all sorts of tangible items, and we conform to these “realities.” Move into the realm of thought and the tendency is no different.

What is “real” and “true” for me changes over time as I gain experience and ask the what-if and why questions that rattle around in my pea-brain. I imagine scientists also ponder imaginative possibilities. Otherwise, discoveries would only occur by accident. For scientists, theories become fact when proven. Yet how often are “truths” revised as more evidence surfaces, as our knowledge grows? All the time.

So, just because something can’t be proved using our limited senses and machinery, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because we can’t discover or measure it now, doesn’t mean we won’t in the future.

I enjoy this uncertainty. I like living with fathomless possibilities. This is where the heart of faith and spirit lies. For me, this is the realm of ghosts and angels, a sentient symbiotic planet, karma and destiny, aliens and gods. I can believe in our ability to manifest the universe through our choices, that words can change a life, that thoughts have tactile power, that love can be sent through the air like an arrow or a wave, that our understanding/categorizing/defining/ values may be flawed because we see only a minute sliver of the whole picture.

So, I’m open to the possibility of everything, to the existence of magic … and the presence of Santa Claus.

Happy Holidays.

Instructions for a Bad Day

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It’s one of those days when the blogging brain is still in bed. The Overlord stayed over last night (without his mom and dad), and it’s like sleeping with a bandaid, his little body stuck to me all night.

So, today my sleepy head offers up a spoken word poem by Shane Koyczan entitled Instructions for a Bad Day. Not that I’m having a bad day at all – we’re going to make “dirt soup” in the garden and feed the ducks from the fish deck. Yet all humans have those days at some point, don’t we? And there are times when the world weighs a little heavy on the heart.

This is one of those inspiring treasures, perfect for any day.  I recommend a listen. It’s worth every second.

Credit: A compilation of worldwide YouTube content, the crowd-sourced documentary “Life in a Day” by Kevin Macdonald, and local footage by Jon Goodgion. Audio is the spoken word poem “Instructions For a Bad Day” by Shane Koyczan.

For the Grimdark Fantasy Reader

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pixabay.com

The point of her shovel chips the ground where she drops it. She presses her foot on the blade’s flat rim and pushes. Clods of dirt break free, tossed aside to tumble and slide down the slope. Rimma presses her lips behind her teeth and digs into our bone wall alone. Her shovel has gouged a well nearly a foot deep when she hits something hard. She widens the hole’s edges, digging around the thing until she can lever it up. On her knees, she reaches in and pulls from the soil, the first long, pitted, ivory bone.

More shovels join in the excavation, the exhumed grave widening and deepening until shovels aren’t required, the bones resting on bones like loose gravel, bones nestled in bones in pockets of air, a tomb built of millions upon millions of bones. They rise from the top of the wall one at a time, in handfuls, in bouquets of rib bones, the thick-clubbed remains of arms and legs, blades of the back and hips, butterfly bones of the spine, hollow-eyed grinning skulls, the delicate twigs of fingers and toes.

The People watch with sober faces as we unearth their past, our past. I wonder if they’ve clawed into these walls before, if this vision is as fresh and tormenting to them as it is to us. The bone wall extends for miles. How far and how long will Rimma dig? I don’t believe she can stop.

“That’s enough, Rimma,” I say, squatting beside her. “Peace, Sister.”

She sits back on her heels, eyes closed, a tiny skull in her lap no larger than her clasped hands, an unborn child perhaps. She raises it over the open pit, and when her fingers open, it drops clattering back in, the toothless jaw snapping off. I believe that if I didn’t stand there, at the rim of her experience, at the edge of the gaping hole in the bone wall, she would have leaned forward and fallen into the grave herself. Without a word or glance, she rises to her feet, and with the shovel over her shoulder, trudges back up the spoke to Heaven.

~The Bone Wall

Yep, a little promotion 🙂

Peace

Flood Update: We are safe and dry and have lights as of late last night. Thank you for all the kind thoughts and comments. All is well.

Two Fast-Paced Reads for the Holidays

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I purchased a couple books written by bloggers whom I’ve followed for a while now. Who said that blogging doesn’t sell books?

The gurus of the book-blogging world advise us to skip the “Buy my Book” spiel and they’re spot on. I’ll attest to the importance of an occasional reminder that there actually IS a book to celebrate and sell, yet I’ve learned that this whole blogging thing is really about relationships. The sale of a book (through blogging) is mostly a result of the genuine interest that grows out of engagement.

After taking six months to get through the 1,860 page Raven’s Shadow Trilogy, it was a total delight to scoop up a couple books that I couldn’t put down and ended up polishing off in about three evenings. This feat meant forgoing a bit of sleep, but what can a person do when the next chapter begs a reading?

The Seneca Scourge

The first book I picked up is Carrie Rubin’s thriller, The Seneca Scourge. It takes off on the first page as a viral contagion manifests on an international flight.

Not long after arriving in the US, the traveler shows up in a Boston Hospital and becomes a patient of Sydney McNight. She’s a resident doing an infectious disease fellowship and her life is going to quickly turn upside down.

Sydney’s supposed to be working under the renowned epidemiologist Casper Jones, but who has time for that? She’s right in the thick of an influenza epidemic that’s running rampant with a body count suggesting a worldwide plague.

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To complicate Sydney’s life, her relationship of convenience isn’t ending well, coworkers and friends are falling ill, and something is definitely not adding up about the secretive Casper Jones. Things get pretty crazy as Sydney slides in over her head – asking questions, breaking the rules, and trying to figure out who Casper is and what he’s hiding. All while time is running out.

I thought I had the plot figured out about a third of the way through – Not! This book has a great twist.

Rubin’s personal experience in the medical field adds authenticity to the hospital setting, protocols, and medical/physical details of an infectious disease. The story moves at breakneck speed, with believable characters, realistic action and a number of tough moments as Sydney’s own life hangs in the balance. The writing is sharp and engaging. I’d recommend this thriller to any readers who enjoy an exciting ride.

 

Death in a Red Canvas Chair: A Rhe Brewster Mystery

Noelle Granger’s Death in a Red Canvas Chair is a perfect book to pair up with Rubin’s Seneca Scourge. Both plot-driven books feature strong female protagonists and are fast-paced investigative reads.

Rhe Brewster is a mom, wife, and nurse with a penchant for crime-solving that she can’t resist. In this first of the Rhe Brewster series, she finds a dead body stinking up her son’s soccer game.

Her brother-in-law is the sheriff of her quaint Maine town, and she’s persistent enough to get involved in the investigation against her husband’s wishes. Her husband isn’t wrong to worry as Rhe is prone to taking dangerous risks.

emiliecarolnoellegranger-9-2The investigation leads from the soccer field to the local college where her husband works as a professor, to a Caribbean cruise ship outfit and a high-class brothel at a posh seaside estate. Granger intertwines all these threads with a shady operation at a mortuary that Rhe will discover after a close encounter with a freezer full of body parts. More bodies show up and things get tense before Rhe solves the riddle of the woman in the red canvas chair.

Rhe is a great character and her relationships with her husband and brother-in-law were complex adding to the interpersonal tension of the read. The story is well-structured and entertaining with plenty of action, touching moments, and suspenseful danger. A delightful book for readers who enjoy murder mysteries.

I had a wonderful time reading both books and can happily recommend these two talented writers. The reads have broad appeal and would make great gifts! Happy holidays 🙂

My Daughter Elopes Today

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Amber, 1 hour old, 1983

My daughter, Amber, elopes today.

How do I express how much this baby/girl/woman means to me? How I have loved her every moment of her life with the whole of my heart?

I remember the moment she was born, the unconditional love that flooded me with the certainty that I would cherish this tiny person for all my days. I remember looking ahead into her future, at the winding path she would follow, how I would be unable to protect her from the travails of love, from the valleys of life, from failure and disappointment, from loss and gray hair. It made me hold her closer.

We named Amber, after the stone of healing, altruism, and wisdom. The child of my heart has found her way, carving out a life as a loving mother and partner, a caring friend, sweet daughter, and unsurprisingly to me, as a healer.

At the young age of 32, she and her partner of nine years, Shawn, are tying the knot. Celebrations to follow.

LOVE

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Ambie and me

I love you,
Not only for who you are,
But for who I am
When I am with you.

Scan14 - CopyI love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.

Showtime

Showtime

I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things

Mother and daughter

Mother and daughter

That you can’t help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.

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Ambie and the Overlord

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple;
Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song…

Author Unknown

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The renewed family 12/5/2015