Friday, September 30, 2016

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The Elite, a book review

Continuing the story of America, Aspen, and Maxon started in The Selection, KieraCass does a wonderful job of making us care even more about America in The Elite.  We see how America makes her way through the difficulties of palace life and being part of the selection. It's an enjoyable tale and easy, quick read. I finished it in one insomniac night.

This book is youth fiction and appropriate for older teens and adults who want to enjoy a love story without dealing with the characters getting hot and heavy. I wouldn't let my twelve year-old read it, though, because some of the subject matter really is for more mature audiences. She might have the opportunity when she's fifteen or sixteen.

Have you already read it? What did you think? If you read it after finding out about it here, let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

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learning to burn part 4

Please begin at the beginning!

My sisters, your mother and another two aunts you never met, were all very much like our father. They angered quickly and flamed fast and brightly when they did. It almost always began around their eyes, spread to their whole head, and then encompassed their bodies. They all first ignited in anger, not knowing they were on fire. I think it's because of this that they never really got good control of their flames.

Your Mother. Did you know her name is Amenze?” Ofonode shakes his head.

One meaning of this name is 'always bring calm and brings order into chaotic situations.' She fulfilled the first part of her name, but not the last. It may be that calm arose around her because others feared to see the flame rise in her. It was well-known that she was not well in control of her fire.

I digress. Amenze and our other sisters often fought. It became a problem once they were alight because they did what we are not supposed to do: they used their flame against one another.”

Oh, no! My mother did that?!”

Yes.”

Does this story have anything to do with how she died?”

If you would like it to stretch that far, it can.”

Yes. Please tell me if you are finally willing.”

Your mother was married to your father very young. They became pregnant with you almost immediately. They were so excited to welcome you into this world, even with the difficulties they experienced here. They definitely loved you long before you were ever born.”

Ofonode smiles softly, a dreamy expression on his face. Trying to remember what his parents looked like. He cannot see their faces in his mind any longer. He can only see them as if a strong light is shining on them from behind.

You were still within your mother when she told me the prophecy she'd learned when she was off the plateau, before she and your father married. A woman she didn't know stopped her in a large town to the north and told her that either she or her child would live too long. The woman was disturbed and tried to convince your mother to ever after stay away from her home, our village.

She did return here and soon met your father. When she heard the prophecy, she didn't know the whole truth about Ughegbe. She told me that if she'd known, she might not have returned. She was afraid of what it meant, given what she'd so recently learned about the safety of our home.

Anger was constant in her, it seemed. Her fire never fully subsided after she returned from the cities of the north. Most of us were really amazed that she was able to get pregnant and carry you the full length of gestation.

One day, when you were only a little more than two years old, she and one of our other sisters began to argue. Their flames came up quickly. The other sisters joined verbally and their fires just got bigger and hotter. Your father saw his wife begin to strike two of her sisters and attempted to stop her. Instead he fell dead from her strike. The strike was so great that all of my sisters, except your mother, fell dead. 
 
Your mother was filled with grief and mourned herself to death. Her fire went out within a few days of the incident and she died the next day.”

My… my mother killed my father!?”

Basically, yet. But not on purpose. I'm certain she wasn't trying to kill anyone. She just wanted to make her point. The problem was, though, that she'd never gained good control of her flame.”

You tell me this now to warm me. Don't you, Auntie? You're worried that I will hurt others because my fire has ignited in anger.”

Yes, my nephew. I do feel concern over this possibility. Do you know the other reason I related this story now?”

I'm not sure. But I think it's because you might think that I'm going to take Ughegbe's place?”

It's not what I think that matters. That is what the prophecy would seem to indicate. What you think about it matters most.”

I guess it's possible. I mean, you've always taught me that we grow toward that which we despise. Isn't that so?”

Indeed.”

So because I have wrongly despised Ughegbe, I should rightly take his place and earn another young boy's dislike, regardless of how unfair.”

That does seem pretty likely. Do you want to take his place? Are you willing to do it?”

I don't think so. I mean, if it's what I'm meant to do, I know I will be unable to escape my duty. But if I could choose to do something else, I think I would.”

My dear one, you may not have learned as much as you think. You do have a choice. Ughegbe will be supported and enlivened by the counsel's fire until someone takes his place of their own accord. No one can or will be forced to accept such an unending responsibility as his is!”

So, you think I don't have to do it? Even with that prophecy?”

That's right. Prophecy gives us an idea. It does not demand us give up our agency. I believe our God knows us so well that when a prophecy is given accurately, he is just speaking through a human to communicate what he knows about us here on earth.”

So, if this prophecy is accurate, it's just expressing what I will some day willingly do of my own accord?”

Yes. In fact, I believe such a responsibility would necessitate that you take it over rather forcefully. Ughegbe would be glad to be relieved of it, but he also loves us and feels a great responsibility for us… much like a parent would. So, he will not allow anyone to just SAY they want to take over for him.”

Oh. That's… um… interesting. Well, right now I cannot imagine being so determined to take over that I would force him to give me that job!”

That's it for the story for now.  Check back in a week for more... or better yet, subscribe so you know when it posts!

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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observations: kids' reactions to me, an older lady

I don't know quite when it happened, but I'm officially a "ma'am" now.  And what's more... I've been asked if I'm my children's Grama.  Yep.  I've decided that's not so much because I actually look like a Grama in general, but because I have a good bunch of gray hair.  You know... in our culture it's not really acceptable to have gray hair unless you're quite old.  But then again, my Mom became a Grama for the first time when she was only eight years older than me.  The only way that could happen in my life is if Ria somehow has a baby at twenty.  It's definitely possible, but I'm hoping she'll be a bit older.

The child who asked if I was the Grama to my group was around ten.

Children who are about 14 and younger generally don't speak to me.  Even when I speak to them.  In the children's section of the library, this is very different.  Sometimes, in the general public, children in this range will smile.  But just as often as some do, others don't.

Youth might speak to me.  If they are on their own, they are more likely to, but it's still pretty rare.  I was blessed to experience a really neat synchronicity and met three really cool teenagers one Friday while I was writing late at Whataburger.  We had a potentially life-changing visit.  I've seen one of them since our initial meeting.

That second meeting was particularly interesting.  And very similar to another interaction I had with a completely different teenage fella I met while at the library.  Both guys greeted me in a particular way that showed that they recognized me and wanted to know if I remembered them.  I did, in both cases.  They both seemed gratified by my remembrance.

Which has led me to wonder if they were glad because of the disconnection in our culture.  I know I have gone through periods during which I yearn for meaningful connections.  I am blessed to have siblings and parents I both admire and enjoy communicating with, so such connections have always been only a text or phone call away.  More recently I've been blessed with some really wonderful friends.  So now I have even more options for meaningful connecting.  Do the youth have as many opportunities, I wonder.

Another time I initiated a conversation with a lovely twenty-something young lady.  I rarely initiate conversations with non-Whataburger employees while writing at Whataburger.  I felt like I couldn't help myself in this case, though.  She set up in so much the same way as me that I wondered if she was a writer.  I wasn't going to ask, but felt compelled.  She wasn't at Whataburger to write, but instead to work on school stuff (college).

We have crossed paths a few times since and had some really enjoyable interactions.  I think we might become friends.  I find it especially interesting because she seems so much like me about 20 years ago.  She is almost twenty years my junior!

If you're an older person (late thirties, early forties), have you had any such experiences?

If you're a youth or young adult, do you feel like you lack and/or seek meaningful connections?


Friday, September 23, 2016

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Michael Vey, The Prisoner of Cell 25, a book review


 Michael Vey is mentioned in at least the Cap'N Hugh "Strongback" Golly YouTube in which he reads When I Was a Chef, I Had a Pirate Crew.  If you've seen that and hadn't already read Michael Vey, maybe you followed the link included there and have already read the book which is the subject of this review.  If you found it through that YouTube, let me know!  If this is the first time you've heard of it, let me know that, too.  I love to know when I'm able to direct folks toward new and enjoyable reads!

This is an enjoyable read, for sure.  Michael Vey, The Prinsoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans.  I believe the author had youth around 15 or 16 years old and older in mind as his target audience when he wrote this book.  I did allow my eldest daughter to read it a few years ago when she was nine and didn't regret it.  Though the intended audience may be teenagers, I did enjoy it.

A story about youth who are burdened with extra-ordinary abilities, this first book in the series follows Michael Vey as he works to manage his powers while also figuring out how to free some people he loves.

It is well written and an easy read.  The chapters are often very short, which lends to the feeling of moving quickly through the story.  It is the first in a series.  The sixth of which will be available Fall of 2016.  My two eldest and I await the release of the sixth in the series with great anticipation.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

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learning to burn part 3


Please begin at the beginning!

As Kokofeko began to wake Ofonode, she watched him closely. She was sure she'd seen him beginning to flare when he was frustrated and annoyed. If he was flaming in anger, she needed to know so she could help him gain control of his burn and direct it for good.

Very gently, at first, she called his name, but he didn't stir at all. After nudging him and calling his name, she pulled the sheet off with a jerk. He'd been holding it, so when she moved the fabric from his grasp, it pulled his arms and awakened him with a start.

He was, as she'd hoped, very agitated and she watched as sparks flared from his eyes and his skin began to look warm. She soothingly spoke his name and told him it was time to rise. “I've been trying to wake you for five minutes, Ofonode. Does your stomach hurt now?”

My stomach? No. No. It doesn't hurt anymore. I'm okay. I was having a good dream about my parents and was snatched out of it. I'm sorry if I reacted poorly or was difficult to waken.”

It is just as I suspected, my nephew. You are just like my Father and his father before him. I did not know your father well, but my sister… well, she was very much like our father. Have I ever told you how she began to burn?”

No. I guess you haven't. I've heard the story of my dad's first flares. You never told me about those, either, though.”

Well, the subject of greater interest now is your mother's burning. I believe you are like her in this, Ofonode.”

I don't really know what you mean.”

Well, I have a story to tell and then you might begin to see.”

Okay. You know I like stories.”

So let us gather our breakfast and sit together and I will tell you this story.”




Kokofeko left his room and he dressed quickly and joined his Aunt in the main living space in the dwelling they shared. She had already gathered almost everything. All that was left to do was get the cups from the simple open shelves above the bowl sink and fill them with water. As he pulled down the cups, he checked the water pitcher. It was completely empty. He looked into the larger water vessel and it, too, was empty. He felt anger rise within as his Aunt told him she would finish the food preparation if he would fetch their water.


Kokofeko watched as sparks flew from Ofonode's eyes. His skin was such a pleasant light shade of orange. She felt sure that when he fully ignited it would be a consuming blaze. She wondered if he had any clue at all.

When Ofonode looked at his Aunt, she was watching him very closely. Although she'd been watching him in this same way a lot lately, he felt really annoyed by it today. He lifted the empty pitcher, “Yes, Auntie. I will.”

She watched as the sparks from his eyes grew into flames that seemed to form a mask across the top of his face. As she watched him carefully, she decided he didn't know he was already igniting partially. Now, to determine how she would help him understand what she could plainly see.
Ofonode felt like he hadn't slept at all and wondered why. He definitely went to bed early enough to get plenty of rest through the night. He felt annoyed and frustrated about filling the water before he'd even had a bite to eat. As he filled the water pitcher, he was focused internally. He didn't see the people around him watching him carefully.

Upon returning to their dwelling, Kokofeko observed the way the tips of Ofonode's hair were beginning to float behind him. She could also plainly see that he hadn't looked into the well. Surely he would have seen what she could see if he were present in the moment rather than thinking of something else.

Ofonode, please pour the water into the vessel. I need you to return to the well and fill the pitcher again, please.”

Hunger added to the anger gnawing at Ofonode's belly and he snorted, “May I eat something first?”
No. We need more water immediately, my nephew.”

Yes, Auntie.” His tone was measured, but Kokofeko could easily see Ofonode was getting angrier as flames encompassed his head, but remained very close to his skin. He wasn't really angry yet. What a blaze he would produce, she wondered.

This time, Ofonode felt just angry enough to want to argue with someone. Everyone who was up and about seemed to give him a great deal more room than normal. Most everyone who looked him looked away quickly. He couldn't look in the face of anyone and hold their eyes, they turned away as soon as they glanced his way.

Arriving at the well, Ofonode felt confused as well as frustration verging on anger and dipped the pitcher in the water as he looked down at what he did. He stopped with the pitcher submerged, wondering if he'd seen fire near him, he looked around to see if anyone alight was around him. No one. When he looked back down into the water, the disturbance he'd caused was calm and he could easily see himself around his hand in the water.

Shocked, he dropped the pitcher and stepped back. The old man of the well didn't miss a beat. He fished the pitcher out and held it out for Ofonode, but wouldn't look him in the face.

Do you see, Egose? Can you see me?” Ofonode was almost afraid to look into the well again. Though he wasn't sure if he was afraid he would see… or that he wouldn't see flames crawling over the skin of his face.

Plain as day. I see.”

But am I alight? Egose, Did you see flames on me?”

I'm an old man. Not an idiot. Or blind. Of course I did.”

Quickly, tell me, are they gone now?”

Diminished, but still dancing. Ofonode, your Aunt is waiting.”

Ofonode stepped to the well again and looked in. Even though he was expecting it this time, he was surprised to see small flames dancing on his skin and lifting the ends of his hair. He took the full pitcher and walked as quickly as he could to his dwelling.

Auntie. Auntie! I was on fire. Just my head, but it was quite a lot when I first saw myself in the water of the well. Can you believe it? I wasn't even trying! All those practices and I still haven't done it, but I was just now on fire!”

Yes. I can believe it. I'm glad you've finally seen it. This is why I want to tell you a story about your mother. Please. Come and sit with me.” As soon as Ofonode sets the water pitcher down on the table, Kokofeko grasps his hands and guides him to sit next to her.

Is everything all right, Auntie? Isn't this good news?”

Igniting is always a blessing. I just need to tell you a story, my nephew. Eat the dodo, sinasir, and drink the groundnut milk I prepared for you.”

Looking at the food, Ofonode feels his stomach clench with hunger. He reaches for some food and begins to eat just as Kokofeko begins her story.

To continue reading, click HERE on December 1, 2016.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

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my thoughts: on love

Love is one of the primary purposes of life.  Both to learn to feel our Father's love and to give/feel it unselfishly and unconditionally.

Family is one way we are both able to feel and express love hopefully readily and often.  It's also an arena for practicing selfless and unconditional love.  How much more difficult is it to love someone who knows how to hurt you and does it?  It's all about opportunities!  Boy do I fall flat on my face... sometimes daily.  Thankfully most of my blunders and less extreme than flat on my face.  Thankfully!  

Through the more recent years, I've learned that our Heavenly Father loves me because I am unique among his daughters.  The funny-awesome thing is that the same is exactly just as true for you (though maybe as a son) as it is for me!!  Because we are fallible, we rarely love perfectly - even our children.  So, it might seem unlikely or even impossible that God loves you as much as I know he loves me.  Nonetheless, it is true and such a glorious and joyous truth!

No matter what I think of someone else's worth... because I look around me and see others doing far better than me!  I know that even though I struggle in visible ways with things I really should have mastered by now, our Father loves me just as much in my foibles as he does another better-performing daughter in her accomplishments!  How awesome is that!?  Well, I think it's spectacular!

Loving others completely unselfishly and unconditionally is not among my spiritual gifts.  Just so we're clear, you and me.  I know a lot of things I'm not necessarily wonderful at actively living on a daily basis.  I know, though, that as long as we don't stop trying we can never fail, we just keep on having opportunities to improve until the lesson is learned!

Although it may seem elementary to you, it took me until I was well in my 30s to realize that the feeling of like and the reality of love are not always companions.  I can love someone without liking them.  Just like I can love them without trusting them.    Love can (and should) continue even when other feelings move like tides.  Love, like joy, can be a solid rock beneath the changeable waters of the feeling sea of like.

Do you see love as a possible foundation stone, like joy?

Friday, September 16, 2016

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Nightmares, a book review

Nightmares, by Jason Segal and Kirsten Miller, is a pretty good book.

Before I share about the book specifically, I have to tell you about my experience of reading it.  I'm telling the absolute honest-to-goodness truth with absolutely no exaggeration, so... there's that.

So, I started reading Nightmares.  I was able to make myself put it down when I felt tired.  So, under normal circumstances I might not have resumed reading it right away.  However, that night, I had a nightmare.  I don't remember really anything about it as far as the dream itself goes.  I only remember waking in the dream and realizing I was dreaming and that it wasn't real, it was only a nightmare.  Then, instead of the thing ending, I felt like I was rerunning horrible parts over and over in my mind.

I literally had to stop myself and decide another subject on which to focus.  Even so, the nightmare kept trying to continue to play.  I had to almost completely wake up to get out of the loop.

Also, my two eldest girls had already either just started or finished it started to have bad dreams right around the time they started to read it.  Strangely, my husband and oldest son, who didn't start reading it, had some pretty bad dreams as well.  The bad dreams spread...  and if you've read the story, you know!

Call it a coinkydink if you want.  I won't.  I believe there are no coincidences.

So, Nightmares...is geared toward tweens and possibly young teens.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed it quite well.  The beginning was pretty scary to me.  Yes, I'm a woosey when it comes to scary stuff.

This story, as with my very favorite reads, points the reader to some strong and even profound truth... or maybe more than one.

Check it out and let me know what you think!  If you've already read it, without giving the story away, what did you think of it?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

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learning to burn part 2

Please begin at the BEGINNING.  There you will find definitions for some of the unusual words.
Ofonode wakes without waking. He dreams of watching himself become fire the way he has watched all the other adults in the village. He sees fire as it glows beneath his skin. Surely it must be warm. How can anyone stand it? The glow makes him bright with orange light. Just when it seems there isn't anything else, his hair flares around him at the moment that the glow ignites into a blaze. His body is now orange flecked with blue and his hair waves in the air mimicking the shape of the blaze as it rises into above him.

Surrounded by the other youth, he watches as he rises into the air and explodes in an outrageous burn like he's never seen come from anyone in the village and wakes, sitting straight up in bed, before he can see what else happens.

He rushes to his Aunt's room. She is has already left her bed. Ofonode rushes around the dwelling, but doesn't fine her. He races to the back yard and finds her sitting in the tall grass with her back to the dwelling. She could be meditating, but she isn't using any of her mantras or mudras. And she's definitely not burning. So he decides it's safe to speak to her, “Auntie Kokofeko… please Auntie. I need your help.”

She rises quickly and smoothly, especially for her size, and moves to put an arm around his shoulders, “Peace, my nephew, peace. Tell me how you would like me to assist.”

I had a dream and I need help understanding it. But it didn't finish. I woke up on accident. I didn't meant to wake. I really didn't!” Ofonode feels as though he might cry.

Be still. Perhaps you were not meant to see the end. Sometimes when we dream future dreams, which it seems you are worried you have, we do not see the conclusion because we need to choose for ourselves not knowing what the result will be.” Kokofeko runs her hand up and down his upper arm, “Now, breathe deeply three times and then tell me your dream.”

Ofonode takes the deep breaths, just the way his Aunt has taught him as long as he can remember. Kokofeko removes her arm and faces him. He feels calmer and relates the dream as quickly and completely as he can. “What do you think, Auntie?”

I think you are concerned without need. This, my ovbiokhan orhomwen, is not a future dream.”
But it felt so completely and totally real. How do you know it's not going to happen the way I saw it?”

Precisely because you saw it. You were not in it. This is a deception meant to cause you to spend your energy amiss and focus on fear.”

So because I watched myself, it wasn't actually me?”

Yes, exactly so.”

It felt so real, Auntie!”

Deceptions can feel very much like reality. You must work hard to develop discernment Ofonode. Have you recently requested our Father bless you with this most beneficial gift, the gift of discernment?”

No. I guess I haven't recently. You're right, Auntie. I need to do better. I will do better. What would you have me do for my studies today?”

The same as yesterday, dear one.”

What if it never works? I haven't been able to ignite all this time. Everyone in my age class has moved beyond igniting. They are all working on focusing their flares. What if I'm like Ughegbe?”  Ofonode hangs his head in shame. He knows his Aunt thinks well of him. Ofonode feels sure she will scold him.

Ughegbe is a good man. Why would you fear becoming like him?”

Surprised on the lack of a scolding and the question, Ofonode pauses as she shrugs his shoulders and kicks a rock.

I'm certain you know. Tell me.”

He glances at his Aunt. She doesn't look angry at all. She really just looks interested and peaceful. Ofonode starts in a rush, “Because he can't burn and he doesn't do anything important or helpful in the village.”

What is now has not always been.”

Is that supposed to comfort me? I don't even know what that means!”

Ughegbe does not ignite nor flare these days, it is true. And he is often seated and still, as is plain to see. But just because you do not see him actively doing, this does not mean he is of no benefit to our village.”

Feeling as if his Aunt knew a great deal that he didn't, Ofonode waited. Kokofeko didn't continue.  “Auntie, what do you know? It seems you are waiting to tell me something.”

Our village is precariously positioned on this plateau, you know this, yes?”

Yes, of course.”

Do you know how we came to be here, Ofonode?”

I guess not. I thought we just always were.”

No, dear one. No. We were not always as we are now.”

How does this have anything to do with Ughegbe?”

Hush now and let me tell you the story. I will ask questions, but they are only rhetorical from here on until I tell you I have reached the end.

I do not know the beginning of the people of aren, the people of fire. I do know that many generations before ours a group of aren folk seperated from the majority and found their home near this place. The land was very different then, before the red sun most recently passed our planet in its two-thousand year orbit. I have only seen our village as it is, but Ughegbe was a new flame when the change happened. He saved our village, Ofonode.

He used his flame to hold the plateau together as the earth shook and quaked. In fact, I believe he may have caused this plateau to rise as it is, above the shaking of the rest of the crust, so that our village would not be destroyed by the tumult. As you know, our flames, once ignited, only die when our spirit departs our temporal frame permanently.

So you wonder why Ughegbe doesn't flame now or as long as you've seen him and why he moves so little. Can you think of it? Do you see without the conclusion of the story?”

Even though he knows she asks only rhetorically, Ofonode is so totally engrossed in the story that he shakes his head to answer no to her questions.

He is perpetually on fire, my dear one. Hie flame still holds our plateau steady and strong.”

Shock rocks Ofonode and he falls to the ground. Sprawled awkwardly, he looks up at his Aunt. She smiles and reaches a hand. As he stands he asks, “Why can't we see his flame, then?”

Because it is apart from him.”

With knees shaking, he almost shouts, “No!”

Yes. It is extremely rare, that's true. But we have learned about others who could use their flame entirely apart from their body.”

I… I guess I just thought so little of him… I thought he was so much less than everyone else!”

And now you find out that he is an amazing being. Ofonode… for shame. We are each imbued with the same divine nature. We are beings created by the same God, every one of us. We must value each and every being around us, knowing this truth is absolute. And not just true for those who seem valuable in a visibly or outwardly measurable way.”

Ofonode hangs his head. “I do know you have taught me these words many times. I have not learned the lesson, Auntie. I'm very sorry.”

Learn it. The importance of it is far greater than you can now understand.”

How old is Ughegbe? If you have always known the village as it is, he must be very old.”

So, I am now very old, Ofonode?”

He looks at his Aunt with concern, but sees a playful expression moving her features, “There are older, of course. But you are among the elders, aren't you Auntie?”

Yes, of course. You know I'm teasing you, dear one. My mother's mother was friends with Ughegbe before he ignited. So, yes. He is very old.”

But he doesn't look it. I thought he was the age my parents would be if… well, you know. Why does he look so young?”

The work he does is more than he could have sustained on his own these many years. The elders have always moved some of their flame into him a few times each year. The process enables him to do what none of us can do and causes him to look far younger than his many years.”

Will he ever die?”

He has let us know that it would be a relief to pass through the door into the next life. But he will continue to accept donations of flame from the elders until there is a way for the plateau to remain when he no longer supports it.”

So, basically, he's waiting for someone to take his place before he can die?”

Yes. That is exactly right.”

Wow. I don't know if I could do that. Could you, Auntie?”

One never knows what can be done and whether they would do it until the situation is actually before them. We can think about it all we want… we can even make a decision beforehand. That actually does help. But making a decision before the situation is not a guarantee that we are able to follow through. I hope I would be able to relieve him if I had the ability to do so. But I just don't know.”

I'm pretty sure I know. I know I couldn't do it. For one, I can't even ignite. But even if I could, I'm sure my flame is just like everyone else's. My parents didn't have special flames did they?”

Not that I'm aware of, but I didn't know your parents well, dear one.”

I remember.” Ofonode looks off into the distance, trying to remember his parents. Their faces have almost completely disappeared from his memory. He can barely see their outlines now. As if they are standing before a bright light and their faces are in darkness. A tear escapes Ofonode's eye. He wipes it away carefully. He knows Kokofeko will not mention it. If he wants to talk about his thoughts and feelings, he will have to start and he doesn't want to get into that kind of conversation.

Will you begin your igniting practice, Ofonode?”

Yes. I think it's a waste of time. But I will practice.”


For Definitions of the Edo/Bini words used herein, please see the first part of the story.
To continue the story, click HERE on November 1, 2016.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

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observations: peoples' reaction to my large family

My Mom has six children.  I'm the eldest of that bunch.  I honestly don't remember many comments about the size of our family.  I do remember some of my Mom's stories concerning the number of children she had.

She explained that when she had three or four, people sort of treated her like she was a little crazy.  Somewhere between three and five, though, the reactions seemed to become somewhat reverent... like somehow she'd suddenly become a saint.

I thought those stories were really interesting.  Although I've always wanted at least four children for as long as I can remember, I never really considered how others might react to the number of children I'd have.  Perhaps as a result of not considering it, or at least in part, I've been taken off-guard at times.

The children and I work hard to find the humor in others' reactions.  Our favorite, which happened in the first half of 2016, relatively soon after GrA was born, was at Lowes.  We'd gone to the restroom before shopping, which is pretty much a standard practice in most any store we frequent.  We were heading out into the store in our usual way, reverse birth order.  This puts the youngest closest to me with my eldest at the end.  Also, because of their heights, I can quickly see whether everyone is where they are supposed to be.

Well, there was a guy trying to get to the men's restroom right when we were coming around the corner and heading out into the store.  He stood and waited patiently.  I watched as my last two (two eldest daughters) came around the corner.  The fella did a bit of a double take and then looked around the corner.  I'm pretty certain he was looking to make sure the coast was clear and there weren't any more children coming around the corner.  The children and I laughed together over that.

The most regular reaction is the, "You've got your hands full," statement.  Sometimes this is said with genuine appreciation.  Others, it's full of shock.  Still other times, these same words are full of condemnation.  I often wonder if those folks mean to use those tones or if it's simply a sort of expression of the culture coming through them.  You know, the unfriendly-to-children-culture in whih we live.

Because we get this particular comment so very often, we've practiced a response.  We don't always get it in perfect harmony, but I think we're getting better.  When someone says this now, I turn to the children and they singsongy-sweet say, "Better full than empty!"

Friday, September 9, 2016

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The Selection, a book review

Hey yall! 

Another book review to share.  I heard about this one from a guy who was a really new missionary in my neck of the woods back in July (2016).  I'd just met him and asked if he was a reader.  He was!  Yeay!  When asked, he told me his fave genres.  Among them was romance.  Surprise! Right?  Well, I was a bit surprised.  Some girl will be very lucky in a couple.... maybe a few years.  And he's pretty cute... in a little boy sorta way.

Anyway... I asked if he had a favorite author and/or book.  He told me his favorite author was Kiera Cass and his fave book (series, really): The Selection.  So, I felt compelled to read it because of his recommendation.

I love it!  We just returned it to the library.  I was able to force myself to put it down after starting it.  The second time I picked it up, though, coincided with one of my hormone induced sleepless nights.  So, I read the rest of the book.  It's an easy read!

Imagine a cross between "The Bachelor" and Hunger Games, heavy on the former, and you've got the premise of this very cool read.  I'm excited to find out if the focus on the latter increases as the series progresses.

Let me know what you think if you check it out!  I'd love to tell this missionary that he's helped others find an awesome series and author.  Thank you, in advance.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

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learning to burn part 1

"It's a skill like any other. You have to practice much before you will begin and then you must practice more to become highly skilled."

"Kokofeko, you say that every day, but I just don't believe you now. BIG FIRE (another male youth) started yesterday and wasn't even trying. And a week ago the same thing happened with NATURAL (another female youth)."

"So, because you must work harder to begin your own, you think you can't do it because you haven't yet?"

"Yeah. That's exactly what I think."

"Well, that's the lazy way out of work. That's all there is to it."

"Yeah. I know you think I'm lazy. You've made that really clear my whole life!"

"Ofonode! That just cannot be true! I know you are capable and do good, hard work. Surely I have communicated to you this knowledge!?"

"I haven't heard that much, if at all. I have heard that you think I don't try hard enough and that you think I'm lazy."

"I hear your words and I believe I understand. What do you think, Ofonode?"

"I think you're about to try to turn this into something it's not. You're just trying to twist me all around so that I don't even know what I mean. You always do it with those questions! I'm not falling for it this time!"

"What would you like to do now, then?"

"Now? Well. Ummm. I think I'd like to go for a walk alone. Yeah, that's what I want to do now."

"Ok. Please tell me how long you intend to be gone and if you have a destination in mind."

"What? Just like that... you're going to let me leave and not work on starting my fire any more?"

"That's right."

"Why?! You've never done this before?"

"Why not?"

"Umm... okay.... Well, I will be gone until the sun sets and I'm going to Guwaloose's dwelling."

"Please arrive back before the sun is actually set. Otherwise, this is acceptable."

"Really, Kokofeko? Just like that?"

"Yes. Just like that."

Ofonode felt uneasy as he walked away from the dwelling he shared with his guide who was also his teacher for most subjects and his Aunt. It just wasn't like her to stop pushing him to keep working at something... especially something as important as his flame.

Why did I decide to go to Guwaloose's? He lives farther away than any of my friends'. Now I have to go there. Kokofeko will surely check to see if I'm doing what I said I would do. Dang it! Why did she let me go, anyway?

Lost in thought, he tripped on a root washed free of dirt in the last rain.

Laughter erupted behind him and along with it, Ofonode felt anger rise as a flame within him. He turned to face the one who mocked him, flames flaring from his eyes and a warm orange tint coloring his pale skin. As soon as he saw Biemose, the flames in his eyes immediately die and his skin returns to it's peaches and cream colors.

"My, my, Ofonode. You looked to be on fire for a moment! It becomes you very well."

"Really?! No. That's couldn't be. I'm sure you're mistaken."

"Mistaken? Why are you so sure? I am absolutely certain I saw sparks, if not a full flame, fly from your eyes just a moment ago."

"Maybe you've imagined it?"

"Why would I do such a thing? Really!? I was going to walk with you, but I dislike being called a liar, which you've now done repeatedly without using that word. I think I'm going to Kakaboeds's instead."

Biemose I'm sorry! I... I didn't mean... I wasn't trying to call you a...." But it was too late. She continued walking away from him smoothly, almost as if she was floating like an angel, with her head held high.

Ofonode turned his head in the direction of Guwaloose's dwelling and thought to himself:

Why do I do this to myself? I need to get control of my mouth... and anger. I almost said something really mean to Biemose just because I heard someone laughing at me. I'm sure I did look funny. I mean, I almost fell back there. And what did she mean about sparks and flames from my eyes... and the color of fire in my skin... or something like that? I was just angry. I don't know how to become fire. I'm probably going to become an adult and not be able to burn, just like Ughegbe. No one likes him and I definitely don't want to become him. I need to get myself under control.
To continue reading the story, click HERE on September 8, 2016 or later.

Edo/Bini to English
Amenze: always brings calm and order into chaotic situation, a female name

Bie: born
Biemose, two words bie and mose found herein.
ede: grey hair

egbe: family

Eminghare: have faith and be prepared, also: end of situation appears to be in doubt, a unisex name
Ese oghe osa na khin: gift og God in this
feko: gently
Guwalo: find
Guwaloose, two words guwalo ose: found herein

hoen: hear

Ifueko: gentle, moderation, careful 

Itohan: mercy, a female name
kakabo: a lot, very
Kakaboede, two words kakabo and ede: found herein
Khien: become
koko: gather
Kokofeko, two words koko and feko: found herein
mose: beautiful

ne: the
Ofo Node: finish yesterday

Oghodua: God

ogie: laughter 
orhomwen: star
ose: friend
ovbiokhan: little
ughegbe: mirror
Yayi: believe

zee: speak

zobo: drink

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

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my thoughts: on the purpose of life

The ultimate purpose of life is to so live here that we may eternally live in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  This life is a time of learning.  Most importantly, learning to hear Him when we are surrounded by innumerable distractions, and then choosing to obey Him even when there may be other things we would rather do.

Among the things I believe He would have us learn:

To love selflessly and unconditionally.  I struggle.  I mean... I really struggle with this.  Perhaps not so much with new babies and young children, but generally I struggle.  How are you doing in learning to love unconditionally and selflessly?

To learn to enjoy working and do what must be done with a good attitude.  I'm doing so much better at this than I did when I was younger.  I've realized that choosing to find the good in, like, and maybe love what I'm doing, even if there's something I'd rather do, is a huge benefit to enjoying my work.  What has made working with a good attitude easier for you?

To give thanks in all things.  I had an experience years ago in which I prayed a thanksgiving prayer for something I really wasn't grateful for.  Immediately, I felt a dramatic and irrefutable lifting of the burden of that thing.  It was miraculous.  Giving thanks, even for that which we do not prefer, enables us to feel God's Peace and love.  His peace and love are always lifting!  I have so much room for improvement... I need to remember to do this.  I know it works.  I just don't always remember to do it!  Do you remember to give thanks in ALL things?

To serve joyfully and lovingly.  I guess this one is really tightly tied to the unconditional and selfless love.  Interestingly, though, I often do pretty okay with giving the right kind of service... you know, with my heart in the right place.  I'm nowhere near 100%, but I'm definitely not near 0%.  Do you enjoy performing service?

To marry and have a family (often including children).  God gave two commandments in the Garden of Eden.  One was broken.  The other never rescinded... so, we are commanded to procreate and replenish the earth.  We are also meant to be good stewards of our planet.  This planet is an amazing self-healing body, much like our own in some ways.  We are meant to be symbiots with her.  Currently, many humans are not.  But we still can be.  Even with six children, I'm pretty sure my little family currently leaves a smaller footprint than most in the western world.  We have not always been so.  Thus, I know all of us are able to change and become, at least, less harmful to our mother earth.

I'd love to know what other BIG purposes you've considered!
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The Grey

Friday, September 2, 2016

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Circus Ship, Children's Book Review


Chris Van Dusen, author AND illustrator of Circus Ship,  is a REALLY talented fella.  I have come to this conclusion because his children's picture book is so well written that my children and I read it easily... no fumbles or difficulty with his rhyme.  ON TOP OF THAT, he is also the illustrator and these pictures are awesome!

The five of my six children who are interested in books are relatively picky.  They are, at least in part, products of our very visual culture.  So when I tell you they LOVE this book's art... their love really means something. Read: high compliment to the artist!

I love it, too!  When I was studying art at the very beginning of my college years, I yearned to paint like this guy... or similarly.  Now I acknowledge that my style is totally different and way more abstract... but a part of me wishes I could paint such wonderful pieces as this book has on every page.

The formatting is terrific, too.  The words do not distract from the art.  They are not difficult to find, either... which is sometimes a trouble in picture books I've tried to read to my children before.

This is a book I want for my children's book library.  I rarely buy books for our library, but I hope to buy this one.  I even more rarely read a book twice these days (even children's books) because we have so many to choose from.  But I asked to read this one  to my children again before we returned it to the library.  It really is that good!

I hope you'll tell me what you think if you take time to see if my words hold any water!  (pun intended ^_^)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

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starting next week

Next week the first installment of my story Learning to Burn will begin posting!  It's a novel coming at yall in parts.  Some shorter, some longer, but all of it will eventually appear, right here.  One part per week!

One thing I want to tell you about this story: it is appearing here in it's first draft unedited state.  Why?  Because I want you to tell me what you like best... what doesn't work for you... what you would like to see changed.  Tell me where it's slow.  Tell me if you think a scene needs to go away.  You know, all that stuff!  Seriously, I want to know what you think!

So, make sure to come back here next week and see if you like the beginning!