Friday, October 28, 2016

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The Winner's Curse, a book review

Kestrel a bird of prey and also our main character in The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski, is the daughter of the Valorian emperor's favorite general. She is wealthy and beautiful and has everything she could want. Yet still she has pain and difficulty.

Kestrel struggles within herself and with her father over the strictures of her culture. She purchases a slave, against her own moral compass.

Eventually, she struggles for her life in a storm.

Kestrel loves to play games. The question: will she always win in the most important plays?

I enjoyed this book maybe more than I would if I'd read it before the second and third parts of the trilogy. I enjoyed knowing how things brought up (loose ends, if you will) in this part reappear and/or tie up and conclude in the second and third parts. I didn't mean to do it that way. However, I think it's a testament to the good storytelling of Rutkoski that the story of this book is enjoyable even when the rest of the trilogy has already been enjoyed.

This is youth to young adult fiction. It is enjoyable to read and has only a few steamy scenes, though not graphic at all. I will wait to allow my now twelve year old to read this until she's at least sixteen more because the inter-relations of characters and the internal goings-on is of a mature nature and tone.

What do you think of The Winner's Curse? What did you like about it?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

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learning to burn part 8

Please begin at the BEGINNING.

Osaretin, tapping his tail against the stone pillar, felt growing agitation. He walked over to the boy again and found that he was stirring, finally. He stood near Ofonode's face and waited.

The boy's eyes opened a little and then so wide Osaretin thought his upper lids might flip around the back of his eyes and out the bottom. He jumped back to avoid Ofonode's flailing arms as the boy rushed out of the tent.

“I've been waiting on you to wake up. We really should get going. The path down will take most of the day to descend.” Osaretin finished saying as he stepped carefully out of the tent.

I… I… I thought you were a figment of my imagination… or a dream or something. You're… you're really here. An invisian! Does anyone else know?”

I'm not sure. The elders of your village prayed the Father of us all send someone to accompany you since you wouldn't accept anyone in the village. I happened to hear their request. And then I got word from above that I should answer the call. So, here I am.”

You talk to God, too?”

Of course. Just because I don't look like you now doesn't mean this, of that of the dragon, are my only forms. My people are from another planet and we are also His children.”

Really?! I'd never heard such a thing! That's amazing! How are you able to change forms?”

I'm not sure. I think those who began must have known how they did it, but for me and those alive now… well, it may as well be magic. Actually, magic really is only unexplained… there is basis for it in our understanding, we just can't quite explain it because we don't know what we don't know. So, until we know what knowledge we lack, it seems inexplicable.”

I'm not sure I completely followed that. Basically, though, you don't know how shape-changing started among your people, right?”

Yes. Exactly so. Now, we must pack up and go!”

What should I call you? Invisian?” Ofonode starts packing the tent. It's small and easy to return to its tight packaging.

I have a name. You can call me Os. My full name is Osaretin.”

Os. That's easy. Okay. I'm basically ready, but hungry.”

Eat on the way. We must depart.”

You sure are in a rush today.”

Getting down the path in light of day is very important Ofonode. Please, get something out that you can easily carry and eat while you walk.”

Ofonode does as directed and the two begin walking down the path. It's easy going at first. Ofonode finishes his food rather quickly. Almost as soon as the two complete the descent as far as Ifueko showed Ofonode, the path gets increasingly difficult and the going slows dramatically. Ofonode finds himself daydreaming periodically. He realizes his loss of focus each time because he slips. He feels angry with himself and before he's fully calm from the time before it happens again and he just gets angrier still. Before he drifts off into a daydream for the fifth time, he realizes he can see the glow of his flame on the side of the plateau he's now climbing down. As he looks down the path he sees quite clearly that he must not fall because there is nothing to catch him for a good hundred feet. So, he focuses his breathing and thoughts, but finds it almost impossible to stop the angry thoughts completely. So the side of the stone he's moving against looks more orange than normal.

Briefly he remembers that Ifueko controlled her flame by singing. So Ofonode tries singing. His flame doesn't seem to respond in any way at all. More anger at himself sneaks into his mind and heart and the flames dance more wildly, but don't seem to grow.

Osaretin is watching the boy. He can see quite plainly that the boy is struggling internally, which is making the climb down take more time. He wonders if there is some way he can help the boy. It's so much easier for him to climb down in this small lizard form. Since he doesn't have to focus carefully in his climb, he sets himself to thinking about how he might help his young companion learn to control his fire.


The yellow sun is setting as the two reach the lower earth. Ofonode's arms and legs are shaking and feel exceedingly wobbly. Os is at ease. Tired, but not nearly as tired as Ofonode. Even though it's been ages since he took his humanoid form, he shifts easily and helps Ofonode out of the pack. Because he knows the boy is very tired, he sets up the tent and finds some food for him.

Ofonode eats silently and then, “Thank you, Os. You're a really interesting looking alien.” he says as he moves into the tent. “I like the way you look, I think.”

Well, thanks. You're okay, too, Ofonode.”

I have so many questions for you…”

We travel together, so you will have plenty of time to ask them. Sleep now.”

Yes. Yes, I need...” And he falls asleep before he can even finish acknowledging that he needs to sleep.

Osaretin smiles to himself and shifts into the lizard form Ofonode first met. It's small and hunger is less of an issue. He hunts and fills his belly which will be plenty in this form for the next few days. No need for water since he just ate. He'll have to worry about that tomorrow. And for Ofonode as well. His water supply was used up while still on the side of the plateau.


Os. Os.” Shaking the small lizard, Ofonode tries again to wake the alien. “Osaretin.” he wakes immediately with the use of his full name.

Yes. What is it Ofonde?”

We need to go. I had a dream. I think we are in danger here.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

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observations: late night brings out the weird

It's not a new realization.  Much in life is really repeating the same lessons... hopefully at levels of greater understanding rather than the same one over and over again.  I've certainly experienced loads of paradigm shifts, so I'm pretty sure I'm climbing the  mountain rather than endlessly circling the base!

The time I've spent working to build this blog and my other author-focused social networking outlets has provided me with confirmation of the truth that the later the hour, the stranger the peeps.  Well... until around 3am.  By then, at least where I am, I'm pretty much the only customer.  The only other people in my Whataburger are the employees.  Those are usually my most productive hours... between 3am and 5am.

I do recognize that I am among those strange folks so am one of them.  I'm working through a season of chaos before the onset of greater order.  I have a lot of thoughts about that lately.  Watch for a post in the future!

Often enough, the weirdness I observe is due to alcohol.  Sometimes, though, those out late are just other folks like me.  Maybe they, too, have a touch of insomnia for one reason or another.  Maybe their job is a third shift thing and they need to keep on their schedule even on their days off.  We can't know unless we ask... and I'm here to work, so I haven't asked.

Watching folks sure is interesting.  Especially when they are a bit weird.  What makes them weird?  Basically, behaving in ways that are not generally accepted by society is pretty weird.

For instance, one particular Friday night at my Whataburger found me watching one guy in one corner yell to a woman in the other.  They went back and forth.  No fighting, mind you.  In fact, I think they may have been flirting.  It was crude and I was rushing to put my ear buds in to listen to something less gross.  I'd say that's definitely weird.  They were inebriated.

At another time, a guy was tossing ice from the drink machine down a main isle... like he thought he was in a bowling alley.  *sigh*  I was worried about someone slipping on the melted ice, so I leaned out of my corner booth and very quietly asked him to stop.  He was very meek and did.  That was refreshing.  I'm pretty sure he was also drunk.

Earlier yet, a guy sitting in the middle of the dining room spoke to me about GrA.  For me to hear him, he had to speak loudly.  That's kind weird.

A group of guys let a drunk lady take their picture.  The drunk lady... well, she was drunk.  But those guys were kinda weird... I mean, they didn't know her and who knows where that picture will end up now.  That's weird to me.

Do you think late night hours bring out the weird?  What have you observed?

Friday, October 21, 2016

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The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda, a book review

This is a good book. It's a good story. It is an adventure/action driven tale. The main characters are a boy and girl, so it can readily be attractive to both tween guys and girls.

By reading this book, I learned (or re-learned) that I tend to prefer relationship (particularly romantic relationship) driven stories. It was rather difficult for me to get “into” The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda because it isn't driven by a romantic relationship. I mention this in hopes of conveying how my review is skewed.

My two oldest children really enjoyed this story. My eldest urged me to read it. She is twelve at this writing, so I think she's a better gauge of whether children would enjoy it. I think they will because she adores it.

I like that there is obvious character development through the course of the story. I rather dislike that a good portion of that happens most obviously when the characters get new clothes.

Some of the lesser characters are silly but enjoyable with good character development.

The end of the story does leave room for continuation, but not in a cliff-hanger sort of way. I'm sure my two eldest daughters will look for more by Emily Rodda when we return to the library.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

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learning to burn part 7

Please begin at the BEGINNING.

Kokofeko was asleep when he arrived home. Ofonode wasn't surprised. She'd been working very hard to prepare his pack and just generally make him ready for his journey. He still had an hour or so of sunlight, so he went immediately to work on the garden. He was surprised at how overgrown it became after only a few days of less attention from his Aunt.

Ofonode reflected on the many garden analogies his Aunt shared. Most often, they pertained to his mind, but sometimes she compared the garden to his heart. What was it she said about neglect and weeds… Something about neglecting to control thoughts enabled weeds of discontent and unhappiness to gain root and grow strong. His favorite, by far because it also told his favorite history story, was the lesson in which she compared the anger in his heart to the fire thistle in her garden.
She said almost the same thing every time so Ofonode knew it by heart. He imagined her teaching him again as he worked in the garden, “Some have suggested that fire thistle is the reason the people of the village burned in the way they do today. Our people glowed and sometimes flamed when they first settled here, of course. That's why they left where they were to find a new place. They were just too different and others were persecuting them for the obvious differences.

Initially the fire thistle was a wild leggy, prolific, edible plant that had a strange spiciness which the early settlers of the village grew to love because they could eat all of the plant with no harmful effects. They used the tubers as whole meals and dried them to make unleavened breads. The leaves were sauteed up with other spicy roots and served next to the tubers. They could also be boiled with beans and a bone to make a really filling and tasty soup.
Those first settlers may have eaten more of it than they should. And after a couple generations, the people had eaten most of the wild fire thistle. Times were tough in settling this land and they ate what was readily available until it was almost gone.

They didn't know that the plant was of alien origin. We never would have known, either, if not for the Chemistry class one I grew up with took through a distance learning university. The microscope revealed the other-worldiness of the fire thistle.

The fire in it was not seen until the red dwarf came near our planet. And, of course you know, that happened and caused the quakes that Ughegbe saved our village from and formed this plateau. Only at that time could one readily see that this plant had a fire all its own.

Perhaps the most alarming thing about the fire of the plant is the way it glows quietly when both suns shine, but flames angry and wild when the yellow sun sets. My grandparents told us it was beautiful, but if they touched the fire thistle when the yellow sun was set, they would be burned very painfully and very quickly.

Many have suggested, since we learned of the alien nature of the plant, that it's alien parts changed the first settlers DNA enough to encourage the increase of fire in our bodies. And that eating it still continues to change us.

Currently fire thistle is only available to us in our gardens and we work hard to propagate what is left, for we love the flavor above any other vegetable. Perhaps they are right who say it has changed us. Maybe it is why the original glow and rare flame of the first settlers has become, in almost everyone, the ability to steadily burn and even direct fire from our bodies.

You anger, Ofonode, like the fire thistle. It burns invisible and then something goes down and you might become dangerous in anger. Please work to control your thoughts, my nephew. It is in thoughts that our feelings will be tamed or allowed to rage wild.”

'That was before she saw me actually flame,' Ofonode realized as he thought. He finished weeding the garden in silence and then went to bed. Tomorrow he would depart. Everything was ready. There was no good reason to delay.


Thank you for all the work you've done for me, Auntie. You have been really wonderful and supportive. I know I couldn't have done such a good job on my own. I'm sure my journey will be successful if the packing and planning impact it at all.”

My hope… I do want your success, my nephew. Please take care. Ifueko repeated many times how she lived her name during her journey and since. She learned the value of taking things slowly and being careful. Please be careful.”

I will. Thank you, again, for helping me.”

Kokofeko simply nods her head. She's had a premonition that she will die while he is away. Her eyes fill with tears at the thought of never seeing him again and she hopes with great energy of heart that she's wrong, just this once. Ofonode has begun to walk away from her. She catches up with him and grabs him up, pack and all, to hug him so tight he lifts off the ground. “I love you, nephew. I am grateful to have been able to teach you and raise you as if you were my son. I wish you could have had your parents for your sake, but for mine… I'm glad I've had you.”

I love you, too, Auntie Kokofeko! I'll see you when I return and we will live together happily again, I'm sure.”

That would be wonderful to me, my nephew. Travel in peace and safety. Be careful and control your thoughts.”

Yes, Auntie.”

Ofonode turns away and walks again. This time Kokofeko doesn't chase his down, but only slowly follows because she doesn't want him to see the tears pouring down her cheeks. She suddenly feels every year of her age and feels even more certain she won't see his return. She stands at the back of the group assembled to wish Ofonode good travel. Many, perhaps even most, of the villagers have turned out to give Ofonode protective wishes and bright hope for success.

Ifueko sends Ofonode a bright packet of energy that Kokofeko can tell is shielding. She is worried about him, too. Because she feels an ache of concern for her dear nephew, the only family she has left, she reaches into the depths of her being and sends Ofonode a small packet of tight white light. As soon as it reaches him, it spreads over him and he glows. Kokofeko smiles. Surely the Creator of all will see how she loves this boy and protect him for her. She must have faith that it will be so because no matter how much energy she might try to send him, it could never be enough if The One is not on his side.


As the rain begins to fall before Ofonode has even reached the entrance of the path, he wonders if he should have waited another day afterall. Rain, auspicious as it is because of its rarity, just isn't pleasant to walk in. Ofonode feels the chill of the drops even though the sun still beats down hot. The air is now twice as heavy as before because of the humidity hanging about. The ground has become thick mud and each step feels increasingly difficult and heavy.

'Surely I can make it to the path and down. Surely. This is ridiculous. I can't believe I'm having such a difficult time and I'm still on the plateau. I'm not a weak boy! I can do this.'

Ofonode doesn't realize it, but he's glowing with anger. The anger in him grows as the rain continues to fall and the mud of the ground grows deeper.

Pulling each foot up with a slurp, he takes slow step after slow step. Finally the rain stops. Ofonode decides it's worse without the rain now that the air is so thick and the sun is beating down with an intensity that doesn't seem appropriate or normal at all. 'Does even the sun want to prevent me from taking this journey? Is it so bad that I want to leave the plateau? This is ridiculous, for real! I mean, it never rains here, but it does today. Why? Because I want to leave here? Just ridiculous!'
As his thoughts spin faster, the anger within him grows and his fire spreads from the mask across his eyes to his hair and lifts the ends of it. The fire lights down his spine. Not realizing he is almost fully ignited, Ofonode continues to think angry thoughts.

The fire on his back stretches down the backs of his legs and then engulf his feet and race up the front of him. As his whole body is swamped by flame, Ofonode sees himself light up. He feels happiness race around the edges of the crackling anger within such that he feels a strange sort of power. And then concern and maybe a tinge of fear. 'Is this why my Mother and her sisters couldn't seem to control their fire? Because of this feeling? I better do something about it. But what?'
A split second after asking himself the question, he sees his Auntie sitting in meditation. 'Meditate? Well, why not! It sure couldn't hurt'

Ofonode sits and lets the pack fall from his back, folding his legs wide. He rubs the palms of his hands together quickly and begins to chant the opening phrases. As soon as the open is complete he begins his favorite kriya. Kirtan Kriya. He spends five minutes moving through the mudra and repeating the mantra at each of the first two volumes which represent the voice of man and the voice of spirit. Then ten minutes at the volume representative of the voice of God, then back to spirit and finish with man. Sitting in silence for a minute, he feels peaceful. He stretches and then closes the meditation.

Before he opens his eyes, he feels completely peaceful. He hopes he will not see any flames around himself when he opens his eyes, but believes he will still feel peace if he does see them. Surely they are not hot, if they are still dancing.

As he opens his eyes, he looks down and finds that his body is just his body. No flames dance eagerly around him. He releases the breath he didn't realize he was holding. It is definitely a relief not to be on fire. He didn't know what he'd do if he was still flaming.

He stands, picking his pack up as he does. Once again he begins walking. The ground is still very wet and goopy around his feet. Yet he feels peaceful and even content. 'This is the beginning of my journey, so be it.'

Kokofeko would be proud. She was constantly speaking to him about acceptance of that which is not changeable. Now he understood a little better what she was talking about.


When he saw the stone pillars in the distance, he felt excitement and hope. 'Maybe I will reach the bottom of the path before it's completely dark, afterall.'

Almost as if someone was standing next to him Ofonode heard, “Do you not remember Ifueko advised that you not attempt to leave the plateau unless you arrived here quite early?”

Ofonode looked around. No one was there, but he felt sure he'd just heard someone remind him of Ifueko's words. 'How would anyone know what she said?' He was alone with her when they talked about his journey, so Ofonode felt very confused.

He arrived at the pillared entrance to the path that would bring him to the lower earth. He was so excited to see new places and experience new things. He touched a pillar, stepping as if he would begin the climb down.

No. You sleep here. It will be dark before you're down even a quarter of the way. Ifueko knows what she's talking about.”

Out loud in hopes of feeling less crazy, Ofonode says, “Who is there? Who is speaking to me?” He looks around and jumps as the lizard appears, sticking to the side of the pillar near his hand.

I am, of course.”

Oh. Okay. And who are you?”

I am Osaretin, an invisian.”

Laughing, “No. You can't be!”

But I am. Why can I not be what I am?”

Invisian. They are myth."
Nope. Definitely not. You can see me, can't you? You can hear me because you're talking to me. So why must I be myth?”

Because… well, because you're supposed to be.”

I'm not.”


The stare at each other in silence for a few minutes. Osaretin breaks the silence, “Why don't you set up the tent right over there. I do dislike sleeping in the open night. Waking to dew on your skin is even more uncomfortable than walking in the rain.”

Ofonode continues to stare.

Osaretin disappears and Ofonode jumps, almost as if waking from a dream. 'I knew there wasn't anything there. What a strange daydream!' He steps into the space between the two pillars. Suddenly, standing in front of and slightly below him on the path is a giant dragon. Ofonode jumps back out of between the two pillars as he squeals like a scared baby. The dragon jumps over the pillars and Ofonode and lands softly near where the daydream indicated he should set up his tent.
With the same voice as the invisian, the dragon speaks, “Are you going to set up the tent, or not? I'd really like a snack and some rest in some semblance of a shelter. Do be a good fellow and set the thing up now.”

Ofonode begins to giggle. He feels giddy and goofy with the strain of the journey thus far. He believes he is actually gone bonkers.

Not crazy. I'm real. Pitch the tent. You'll see me first thing tomorrow, too.”

Moving stiffly, Ofonode lays his pack down and sets up the tent. He decides that if he's so tired he's daydreaming this vividly, he must need to sleep earlier than normal. As soon as the tent is fully up and has eaten a few bites from one of the meal packets his Auntie prepared for him, he looks around surreptitiously for the dragon or invisian. He sees neither. He gets comfortable in the tent and falls asleep quickly while the sky is still bright from the setting sun.


Osaretin, tapping his tail against the stone pillar, felt growing agitation. He walked over to the boy again and found that he was stirring, finally. He stood near Ofonode's face and waited.
His eyes opened a little and then opened so wide Osaretin thought they might flip around the back and out the bottom.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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my thoughts: on family

What a great training-ground, right?  I mean, for real... what better way to pass on important knowledge, both spiritual and temporal?  Can you think of one?  Most of the institutions established for much the same purpose really do a barely adequate job.

I believe that the family has been ordained and organized by God.  Among his innumerable purposes for families, I believe we are meant to learn all the important lessons about God and his plan... the purpose for our lives.  He wants us to have folks we care about with whom to practice the most important functions of a society.

Hopefully we learn about honesty being the best policy without lying and having to rebuild lost trust.  We learn about consequences, both natural and imposed by parents who are our very first authority figures.  We learn about leaders and how to lead and how important our example may be.  We learn about love, like, joy, happiness, faith, hope, and so many other positives and their opposite.

As a tale from Tori... when I was about 24, I thought I had improved dramatically in patience.  I just really didn't get angry much or easily.  By the time I'd been married for a year or two, I realized how impatient I yet was.  Another couple years, and our first child, proved to me in wholly new and amazing ways how far I had to go to become truly patient.  Each additional child has revealed to me how sorely lacking in patience I really have been all along!  So... as an example that is also true of many other things, family provides growth opportunities.  Family enables us, when we are willing, to see into ourselves more fully... as if shining a light into the corners we didn't pay attention to before.  It is revealing and ripe with potential for transformation.

Our family of origin as well as the family we form when we marry, potentially provide us with more opportunities of this sort than any other single relationship.  Trial and blessing all in one... as must needs be since opposition is necessary to true and deep understanding.

Friday, October 14, 2016

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The One, a book review

Continuing the story of America, Aspen, and Maxon Kiera Cass started in The Selection and continued in Elite, Ms. Cass winds up the tale in The One. America continues to make her way through the difficulties of palace life and being past of the selection as one of the elite while also making her final choice while also awaiting to learn Aspen's and Maxon's final choices!  

This is, as with the first two, an enjoyable story. It is super easy to read. Once you start, if you're like me, you'll want to keep going until you're done. I started it one Sunday and read for a few hours. Finished it up by staying up late that night.  (I have a difficult time sleeping as a result of postpartum hormone re-normalization, so might as well spend the time doing something productive or enjoyable.)

This book, as with the first two, is youth fiction and appropriate for older teens and adults who want to enjoy a love story without dealing with characters who get too hot and heavy. As with the other two in the series, I won't let my twelve year-old read it because some of the subject matter really is for more mature audiences. My twelve year old girl might have the opportunity to read this series 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, October 13, 2016

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learning to burn part 6

Please begin at the beginning.

The council was surprisingly supportive of Ofonode's plan. They did attempt to assign a travel companion, but when Ughegbe urged them to allow the boy to go alone, they argued their desire no more.
Kokofeko's normal productive activities picked up as she began to gather things for Ofonode's journey. He was relieved that she was thinking for him because her efforts were more productive and efficient than his would have been. She included things in the pack she prepared that he wouldn't have thought to bring.

How will I leave the plateau, Auntie?”

That and your return, I believe, will be the most arduous of your journey. I want you to speak with Ifueko. She left the plateau when she was about your age and returned safely. She is the only one to do so with as few problems as she experienced. I think you can learn much from her.”

Do I know her, Auntie? I don't recognize the name.”

Perhaps not. She is a mother of many children and stays very busy caring for them. She will welcome you. I've already asked her to speak with you.”

Oh? When am I supposed to talk with her?”

Tomorrow evening. You should arrive to her dwelling just at sunset. She may still be busy putting her children to bed. She asked that you sit on the bench near the front door. If she's finished early, she will wait for you there.”

Okay. That sounds good.”


The next day passed slowly for Ofonode. His pack was full and he couldn't think of anything else to do in preparation for his journey. There were only a couple days until the day he planned to leave. He wondered if his conversation with Ifueko would change anything.


Ifueko was not waiting for him when he arrived, so he sat quietly as she'd told his aunt he should do. Ofonode daydreamed about finding the village of Ughegbe's wife. He thought he would surely find it pretty quickly because he was sure this was the path the Great Planner had in mind for him.

His hostess sat down and said his name before he realized she had joined him. “Yes. I am here.”
I see that. And deep in thought. Would you rather talk with me at another time?”

No. Now is best. I will depart in only another couple days. If I try to reschedule it may not happen and my aunt believes you may be able to help me return safely.

Yes. We all hope you will have success and return safely. Well, I guess the main and most important thing I have to tell you is that you must first travel away from the edge nearest us to find the easiest descent. It is definitely counter-intuitive because it seems you are making your journey longer. But, you see, before I left to visit the outer-land, I spoke with the three men who had departed our plateau and returned. They all fared poorly in their departure and sustained injuries. One of them found the path I urge you to take when he was returning to the village. The entrance was still there as of a month ago, so I believe the full way is intact.”

You visit the entrance?”

Sometimes a mother needs to run away. Not for good. And not so far that it takes too long to return. I have found that if I run away every so often, I am able to handle my life far better than if I try to just stay here all the time. So, I take a day trip every so often. Last month I took a trip to the entrance and down a bit. The distance I traveled, there and back, took only a day. I've been a better mother for taking that time away from my duties here.”

That does make sense, I guess. I mean, I don't really know, of course.”

Yes. One cannot truly understand what you have not lived. That is why our Savior lived in a tabernacle of clay.”

That's true! I've heard that before. It must be so.”

Do you think I will be able to make it all the way down the path in one day if I leave early in the morning?”

Perhaps. It took me two days to find it because the man who told me about it wasn't sure which direction it was in. So, I started out the wrong way. You definitely have an advantage in that I've been there so recently. Before you leave tonight, may I share the images with you?

Oh! Do you mean you are able to show me from your mind to mine?”

Yes, Ofonode. That's exactly what I mean.”

I have not heard of anyone alive in our village who can do that… I thought it was a myth. Is that something I should keep safe, also?”

No. The elders are aware of this among my gifts. If there is a need, you are more than welcome to tell someone I am able.”

I am very grateful you will show me how to get to this place, Ifueko. Is there anything else you would tell me that might enable me to return more safely?”

Yes. Your aunt told me that you do not have your fire under control. I believe I understand. She does not know what I'm about to tell you. Very few do. So, please keep my words safe in your mind-heart and share them only if you believe they will enable you to bless someone else to have an easier time in their path.”

Your words are safe with me.”

Thank you. I believe I can count on you.

I could not burn when I left for my journey, Ofonode. I didn't even accidentally burn as you do. I thought I was not meant to be here because of it. I was sure I did not belong. This is why I left. While I was away, I began to burn in anger and on accident as you do. I didn't know it, of course. Your aunt told me about you, so I know you understand this.”

Yes! How did you ever get it under control?”

Well, I was taken to a place the people called a jail. They felt it necessary to contain the fire they saw on me. I angered more by a great degree. It is then, there in the dark room of the jail, that I saw that I was on fire. I wanted to be happy and rejoice, but I was so angry that I only felt angrier that they'd put me there because of this thing I wanted so very much.

It was in the middle of a great storm of flames that I knew I would die soon if I did not control my flames. So I began to sing. And the flames moved with my song. As I grew calm, the flames disappeared.

I was able to convince the people that I would leave their village and not return again. They wanted me to promise that I would not grow bright with fire again while near their homes. It was easy to make such an agreement. And they released me.

So, my way is song. Your way, the method by which you gain control of your flames may not be song, though, Ofonode. Each of us have a different kind of fire and the way we burn is impacted by many variables. I do not understand it. I think only our great Creator truly understands the magic of our hearts and minds. I do know because I have asked many questions of many people, that even though it may seem to us that those who seem to have such easy control of their flames do so in their minds, it is not always so.”

Really? Do you know others who sing for control?”

No. But many with whom I've communicated about control have revealed that their control is in their heart… some control their flames with their mind, but this form of control really seems to be the minority. I have not asked everyone in the village, of course. Of those I have asked, there is one who controls his flame with his words. Another controls hers by the way she breaths. I'm sure there are many other ways flames can be controlled. You will find your way, Ofonode.”

You are definitely right. Since the idea for this journey occurred to me, I have felt that it was important for me to take it to learn to control my flames.”

That makes perfect sense to me. May you have swift success in your efforts to that end and in searching for the village of Ughegbe's wife.”

Thank you! I hope for that also.”

Just remember that worthwhile things that turn out to be very difficult are worth doing until they are complete. And I'm certain you are capable of doing difficult things.”

Why do you think so?”

Because your mother and father were. They were striving to be good. I was very sad when I learned they had died.”

Did you know them well?”

As a very early teacher. So, perhaps not. But I could see strength in each of them. I never knew them together, but knowing them apart, I'm sure they were even stronger together.”

It is really nice to know your perspective. My Auntie never really talks about them. I only just learned a few days ago how they died.”

Does the how change things for you, Ofonode?”

I don't know. I've been preparing for this journey and haven't spent any time thinking about it, really.”

When you return and you have come to a conclusion, come speak to me and tell me what you decided.”

Okay.” Rising, Ofonode decides he needs to get to bed, “Thank you for meeting with me. I really need to get to sleep.”

May I touch your hand? It is easier for me to transfer information when I am in direct contact with whomever I want to receive it.”

Uh, okay. Sure. That's fine.”

Ifueko holds her hand up and waits for Ofonode to place one of his there. When he does, he feels a warmth that is deeper and more heart-encompassing than the temperature of the skin or air. He feels her smile in his mind before her lips move. Without words spoken from her mouth or even in his mind, he knows she is asking if he's ready for the information she wants to share with him. He is, but doesn't get to nod his head before he sees a still imagine in his mind.

Stillness turns to movement as he feels himself move into the image. He feels as if he is walking along the edge of the plateau near his dwelling, heading around the village and walking at the edge of the plateau. The eyes through which he looks refocus on the village during the walk. The moving image stops and a frozen moment reveals a path he knows well. He recognizes this as Ifueko's way of showing him where to begin his journey.

Movement resumes and he is walking along the path. He's not walked it very far before, so quickly he is surrounded by new landmarks. The path begins in from and stretches farther in and away from the edge of the plateau, but is always within sight of the edge. After walking for a while, Ifueko shows him another frozen moment. He sees that the path ends at a large rock. Movement begins and he watches carefully. Frozen moments occur much more frequently as Ifueko shows him landmarks he will use to get to the path.

He wonders for a moment why he doesn't just walk the edge of the plateau. The eyes turn toward the edge and he realizes there is a dense forest there. Of course there is. That's one reason he's never walked this path before. The forest is very useful to the village for plants and animals upon which they live, but it is a fearsome place to most of the villagers. So much so that they would rather build with earth than cut even one tree from the edge of the forest.

Ifueko continues to show him the way to the path with frozen images interspersed with moving ones. The path itself, when he comes to it, is very easy to see. It's almost as if it was built by hands that cut the path into the stone on purpose. She shows him all of the path she traveled so recently and then the vision sharing ends as she releases his hand.

That's amazing! Thank you so much for sharing all that information. I'm sorry I forgot about the forest. That was really ridiculous of me.”

No problem. I'm glad it came up in the sharing so that you didn't try it and make your journey longer than it need be right from the start.”

Ofonode nods his head and notices that the sun hasn't moved at all. “Were we long in the sharing?”

No. It feels like it takes a while, I know. I think the way we experience time may change when in a sharing.”

Wow! Time distortion… do you think it's completely perception based?”

I have no way of knowing. I guess all time is merely perception, right? They say, time is a man-made construct. So, in that case, yes. Definitely.”

I guess that's true. I don't really believe it, though. That'll be one of the questions I want to know the answer to after this life is through.”

My thoughts and prayers will be frequently with you, Ofonode. Take care on your journey. That is my final advice. Do not take chances that you can avoid.”

Thank you, again, Ifueko!” Ofonode walks away, his thoughts newly turned to meanderings about time. To such a degree that he arrives at his dwelling more quickly than he expected.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

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observations: discomfort with being watched

I've noticed lately... or maybe I'm just seeing more clearly?  Anyway, I've observed how many and even most people seem very uncomfy with being watched for any length of time.  I know I am... especially if the watcher is male.

Altogether unintentionally, I have found myself staring at people now and again as I sit in Whataburger and do my writerly stuff.  You know, working hard to schedule blog posts, Facebook posts on my author page, research and study to improve my ability with the social media outlets, sometimes just trying to figuring some things out, learn new programs (steep learning curve for me in some regards!), and sometimes actually get some writing in.

Often, I catch myself staring at the employees as they go about their jobs in the dining room.  I don't mean to, really, but I have to tell you something I've realized about myself... I feel more relaxed while watching my Whataburger employees working around me.  Is that totally weird?  You do know, of course, it's not really "MY" Whataburger.  I just sit in here and write frequently.

July 15, 2016 a sweet elder lady named Shirley asked, "Do you live here?"  I'm pretty sure she was joking... but she has seen me here really often.  And with GrA and the wraps, I'm pretty recognizable. We've also interacted a few times.

The few times I've caught myself staring at other folks just here to eat, I realize they think I'm staring at them because of the way they keep looking at me and away.  It's almost as if they desire to say, with their eyes, "Please look away from me... this direction is good."  When I re-enter the present (rather than focusing on whatever writerly work I was doing in my head), I look away quickly.  Interestingly, I often look out the window.  That's safe, right?  Well, not so much if I sit on one side of the building because then I might just be staring into someone's car!

In our culture, looking long into someone's vehicle whilst they are in it is generally really not a good thing.  Have you ever noticed that?  We folks in the U.S. really don't like people watching us.  Is this true the world over, I wonder!

Friday, October 7, 2016

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Big Black Bear, a book review

Big Black Bear by Wong Herbert Yee, the author, writer, and illustrator is he!

A story that's fun, 
within a rhyme spun.

The pictures have lots of color but are rather plain, 
yet my children's interest they did maintain.

I have to say,
even my baby GrA!

Reading the rhyme
was really sublime.

The content of the story
was as good as “Finding Dory.”*

Without the questionable parts,
I give this children's book FIVE hearts.

                                                              There's even a bit of a lesson within.
                                                              I tell ya, it's totally win-win!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

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learning to burn part 5

Please begin at the BEGINNING.

I keep practicing, Auntie. I do. But nothing works. I only even begin to flame when I feel angry. How can I ever control my flame if I can't even get it to start?”

Perhaps, because you have begun to ignite differently than many, you should practice differently, too.”

I have no idea what you just said means!”
You believe you cannot begin your flame at will. And perhaps that is so given the circumstances. Maybe it would be wise to make your practice about controlling the flame once it arises rather than focusing on what you believe you cannot do and haven't yet succeeded at doing.”

Oh! Well, what am I supposed to do instead of the practice I've been doing, Auntie?”

There are many things to do here, my nephew. I will make some suggestions, but they are not all there is. You could help me in the garden, keep the water vessel full, prepare some of our meals, visit with someone who might enjoy the company. There are always many things we can do to be productive. We simply must be willing to see how we can be useful.”

Checking the water level in the vessel and picking up the pitcher almost at the same time, Ofonode walks to the well thinking about how wise his Aunt is. After filling the vessel completely, he decides to visit Ughegbe because it's now in the hottest part of the day and he really would rather not work in the hot sun.

Ughegbe sits in the shade of his dwelling. Ofonode puzzles over his dwelling as he does almost every time he sees it. The dwelling is taller and an entirely different sort of building from the groupings of earthen domes most of the rest of the villagers have built for a semblance of comfort in the heat of their plateau. He wonders why Ughegbe's dwelling has such tall and straight walls with a peaked roof that greatly overhangs the walls. He decides he will ask Ughegbe about it during his visit.

Ofonode!” Ughegbe calls to him. “It is good to see you today. What brings you to the edge of our village?”

You. I've come to visit with you, if you would like the company.”

What a pleasure. I rarely have visitors! Most of my conversation happens as others pass by. And that's very rare. Thank you for coming to visit me. To what do I owe the pleasure?”


Yes. Of course and always. If you speak only truth, you need not remember what you've said.”

Well, I have a struggle. I cannot seem to purposefully begin to burn. It only begins as a result of frustrations, annoyance, and anger. My Auntie and I have come up with a new plan, but now I have a great deal of time I was spending in practice. So, I am doing other things. She suggested I visit others that might enjoy company. I thought of you, so here I am.”

It is kind of you to think of me. Company is a great gift and pleasure to me at my age. Most of my family is long gone. Friends of my youth died many years ago. So, you are very welcome. Any time.”
Ofonode sits near Ughegbe on the bench that entirely circles his dwelling and is very heavily shaded, at least when sitting opposite the sun. They sit in silence. Ofonode, uncomfortably. Ughegbe looks completely peaceful to Ofonode. He wonders how the older man can feel such peace when he is always being drained in his work to support their plateau.

Why is your dwelling so different from the rest, Ughegbe?”

Did you know I traveled when I was just a little older than you?”

No. I didn't. That's interesting. Was it as rare when the village was at the same elevation as the rest of the land around?”

Yes. Our people are rare in the outlying places. To burn as we do, without dying and able to control the flame, is considered, by many in the world outside our village, an evil. They do not understand. Many fear what they do not know. This is why our people rarely leave. I believed I could find something different than I'd heard was there.”

Did you?”

Yes. And pretty much yes. But I thought not at the time.”

Please tell me more.”

Well, you almost always find that for which you are looking. I didn't realize everything I sought. In fact, I thought I was only looking for what I was aware of. That's rarely the case.”

So you knew you were trying to find people who would accept us and what we are. But you mostly found people who reject and think evil of us. Is that what you mean?”

I did find a community of differently gifted people. They are also rejected and have become a bit reclusive. They welcomed me readily, even though my gift was so very different from their own. It was refreshing. I would find them again, if I could.”

Why would you want to find them again?”

To invite them to unite with our people. If they relocated to our plateau, we could all benefit. I wanted to suggest to the elders that we welcome their village to live much nearer our own, but almost as soon as I returned the great quakes began.”

And so you were never able to suggest it. Would you have stayed here if they said no?”

Probably not. There was a young lady… It is no use. Her time is long past.”

I'm sorry Ughegbe. You never had a family, then?”

Actually, I don't know.”

What do you mean?”

The young lady I mentioned… she was afraid to come among my people. But we married while I was among her people. We were very happy for a very short time together. I thought we would be even happier if our two people came together. When she suggested a child might join us… well, I told her I would ask the elders to allow their village to join ours. I asked her to come with me, but she wouldn't. I have often mourned my loss of her and the life we could have had if I'd stayed.”
Do you think her village made it through the quakes?”

I'm not sure. If I'd been there, though….'

If you'd been there you would not have been here. Our village would have surely been lost. Thank you for returning, Ughegbe. I hope your other village had someone like you.”

That is possible. I hadn't considered it. It is almost a greater torture to have this tiny hope renewed because I cannot find out for myself.”

I will find out for you if you can tell me how to find it.”

The land has changed so much, Ofonode. I do not know how to tell you how I found them. It would be completely different now. It is a kind thought. Thank you for a willingness to do such a thing for me when you know me so little.”

Ofonode felt sad. He sat quietly with Ughegbe who periodically looked at him and smiled.

We should move. The sun will creep near as it sets. For some reason, I burn very easily now. Having burned toes is very painful, believe it or not.”

Gee! It's much later than I realized. I should return and do some of the other work my Aunt suggested. Before I leave, can you tell me why your dwelling looks the way it does?”

My story did not stay on track, did it. Please forgive me Ofonode. While I was traveling, I saw dwellings built in this manner. In fact, most of those in my wife's village were like this. I enjoyed them very much. When I realized I would not be able to return to my love and her village full of such dwellings, I decided to build my own. It took much longer than it really should have taken. I am not as strong as I once was. I am and have always been happy with it. I guess it's also a painful reminder of my Emwinghare. But I would not want to forget her or my time in her village. Sometimes it is difficult to remember things from my youth. So this place is good for me.”

I should go now. May I visit you again, Ughegbe?”

Please do. I have enjoyed your company very much, Ofonode.”


Ofonode returns to his dwelling, barely waving at his friends as they call to him when he passes through the village because he is deep in thought. He works in the garden, thinking. Then prepares an evening meal to share with his Aunt, still thinking about Ughegbe.

You have accomplished much today, Ofonode. I am pleased and proud with what I have seen you do. What did you do while you were away?”

I visited Ughegbe. Who would need company more than he?”

A good choice, my nephew. How did he receive you?”

He was pleased for the company and we had enjoyable conversation. Did you know he was married once?”

I did not. He and I have never really talked much. I once visited him. We sat silently together. I didn't know what to say and felt rather uncomfortable.”

Even though he may not have said much, based on what he said today, I'm sure he really appreciated your company.”


Well, he left his wife in her village and...” Ofonode is silent and Kokofeko waits expectantly. “Would you help me leave our village in hopes of finding his wife's village?”

Surely you must know that she is long dead now.”

Probably. I know that. But that's not why I want to go. You see, his wife might have had a baby on the way. And that's not all… the village was made up of people like us. They didn't burn and I don't actually know what their gift is… but Ughegbe was going to ask the elders to welcome their village to move close to us because we could benefit each other. We still could if they made it through the quakes. And if they really are like us, they could have someone among their people like Ughegbe who could keep them all safe. Also, there's a chance that his wife had a child and one of his descendants is still alive. I would like to find them for him.”

You would like to take a life-threatening journey away from the village in hopes of finding people that may have died two generations ago and others who may never have existed?”

Yes. Exactly.”

I… I guess I will help you. This is definitely not something I ever thought you would do. I thought you would stay in the village like almost all of us.”

So did I, Auntie. But I've been thinking about Ughegbe since I left him and I think someone should try to find out what we can for him. And why not me. I have not begun a work that is intrinsically necessary in the village as yet. So it would be pretty easy for me to be gone.”

This is true. I will definitely help you. When would you like to leave, Ofonode?”

I don't know. Maybe I should leave right away? I don't know. No… maybe a week from today? What do you think, Auntie?”

Rushing is often an indication of anxiety. In some cases, moving quickly is necessary. It seems likely to me, though, that little will change in a week. So, departing in a week would probably be a good.”
The two sit quietly thinking.

Will you tell the elders, Auntie?”

I don't know. I was just trying to decide if that would be a good idea or not. I haven't come to a decision.”

We could ask the council to meet together with Ughegbe and have him tell them about the other village and why it would be a good thing to invite them to our plateau. Of course, explaining that I'm going to leave the plateau in hopes of finding them.”

They might want to assign someone to travel with you.”

I will go alone. If this is something I'm supposed to do, and I believe it is, I believe I should do it alone.”

Surprisingly, I agree you should go alone, my nephew. Though that goes against every desire I have to protect you!”

Will you ask for the meeting, then?”

Yes. Your suggestion is a very good one. And if we have discussed it in council, if you find them, you can return with them rather than risk an additional journey away from the village.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

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my thoughts: on marriage

If you remember my thoughts on the purpose of life, you might recall that I believe one purpose of life is to marry and have children.  I believe marriage is a figurative house, spiritually built by three (the man, woman, and God) individuals who promise God before other humans that they will be faithful to each other and potential offspring.  I believe that the energy of creation of the marriage is an actual spiritual shield and provides a form of protection for the children that simply isn't there without marriage.

My life has provided some specific experiences through which I have felt the reality that marriage is not just an ephemeral idea or just a word.  It is a living, breathing house for those joined together and the children they bring into it.  It is a sort of being.  It is more than just those who began it, even if there are never children brought into it.  The time and energy put into the relationship between the two who began it actually build rooms and beautify the house that the marriage is or can be.  This is the exact thing that Proverbs 14:1 is referring to when it says, "Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands."

It is daunting to realize the problems in marriage.  Even more difficult to realize that the only person whose problems we can ever improve are our own.  I know, though, that as we improve ourselves, our spouse will improve, too.  That's a result of the truth in the Mandelbrot Set and the reality of our spirits being tied together.  There are exceptions, of course.  Those are very sad, especially when one partner wants to make it work and the other will not consider it.  In general, though, as we focus on fixing what we actually can (ourselves), our partner will improve basically all on their own.  How awesome is that?

Marriage.  Defined by God.  And created as an awesome vehicle for self improvement!  We realize how far we have to go when we unite with another person, don't we?  I know I sure did.

What do you think of marriage?