Tuesday, November 29, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

my thoughts: on seasons in life

The circle of life... sorta.  I mean, the seasons are like circles.  The seasons of life are rather similar to the seasons of weather on our planet.  Although, at least for me, the seasons of life seem a bit more erratic.  But, then again, folks everywhere are talking about how the weather is out of kilter for their area.  So, maybe my personal seasons are a lot more like the weather seasons than I thought before sitting down to write.

Regardless of that, I've come to a deeper realization I want to share with you.  It's this: for me, chaos is an integral part of spiraling up my mountain, as it were.  The mountain being life... improvement... growth.  You know, the big stuff.

It makes perfect sense, of course, since darkness is likened to chaos and it has it's assigned part of the day.  So, too, then it makes perfect sense that chaos must have it's time in my personal/mental/emotional life, too.

Lately, I've been thinking that my time in chaos usually comes after my babies are born.  Usually it seems to start around the time they are three months old and lasts different lengths of time with each babe.  I'm pretty sure the differences are, at least, partially due to nutrition and sleep.  Unfortunately, this time of chaos includes varying degrees of insomnia.

Thankfully, chaos passes.  Like in labor, when I don't fight the times of contracting/chaos, this time is far less painful.

As with goals in THIS TEDx talk, focusing on the rough stuff makes it far too easy to feel every bit of roughness.  Strange, since Reggie Rivers is explaining why focusing on goals causes us to NOT accomplish them.  Instead we should focus on behaviors.  That's true for getting through the seasons of chaos, too.

In my life, as I focus on my behavior, rather than the rough stuff, I'm able to feel more control and authority, rather than less.  Yeay for that!

Friday, November 25, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

Bear Can Dance by Suzanne Bloom

Another very quick and easy read by Suzanne Bloom. Bear Can Dance is also most intended for very young ones or early readers.  This is another author illustrator!

Bear wants to fly. He can't. Maybe there's something he is able to do that's almost as good.

My children enjoyed this picture book. It is very quick, easy read.

What do you think of Bear Can Dance by Suzanne Bloom?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

learning to burn part 12

Start at the beginning.

Ofonode wakes earlier than usual. “I think we need to leave today, Os. I dislike giving Estie such short notice, but I feel like we know what we need to know now.”
Yes. I agree.” Os shifts into his humanoid form and begins gathering their things.
Someone might see you, Os!”
No. you awakened before any of them males ever do. I'm fine.” He finishes packing their bag and shifts back into lizard form. “Let's go. I'm sure Estie is already in the kitchen.”
The two make their way down to the kitchen. Os was right. Estie is sitting on a high stool working on some papers at one of the counters.
Oh! Hello Tin. I thought you might leave today or tomorrow. I kept you away from Florabell as long as I could. I just knew she'd know what you needed. I'm sorry to see you go. Pollyanna will be sorry, too. She really likes you.”
I like her, too. She a sweet, kind, and beautiful girl. It's just that… I'm not supposed to stay here. I have to try to finish what I started. When I come through again, I'm pretty sure I won't stay then either. Please tell Polly. I mean… I like her, but she's just...”
Yes. She's not who you're meant to find. I know. She'll be sad, but she is meant to stay here, so she'll just have to find someone who will stay with her.”
That's right. I hope you know I'm leaving so suddenly simply because I did learn what I need to know from Florabell. Thank you for sending me to her yesterday. Especially in light of the fact that you thought I would leave soon afterward.”
You're welcome. You're a good worker, Ofonode. If you need to stop here for a few days on your way back to your village, you can come here for work.” Estie slides down from the stool, “I also want to make sure you are able to travel well. Put your pack on the table and open it.” She walks away as Ofonode does as she's directed.
When she returns, she puts her armload of supplies on the counter next to his pack and begins loading them into it. “This should last you a couple days… or more if you eat very little. You should really eat as much as you need to feel satisfied at the very least, though. Your friend, too. You have to keep up your strength when traveling. This will definitely last you long enough to get to Crossroads. It's a small town, but they have enough travelers through their town that they have extra to help travelers along.” Estie finishes packing his bag and turns to him smiling. “You better share some stories when you return. I've always wondered what it would be like to travel a long way away. I thought I might last year. But then my parents died and Ram showed up… I like my life, don't get me wrong. You can pay me for all this stuff by telling me stories of your travels. That's what I'm trying to say.”
Ofonode nods his head vigorously. “I'll be happy to tell you all about it, Estie.”
Good.” She rests her hands on her hips. “Oh! I almost forgot!” She turns away and almost runs to a less used part of the kitchen. When she returns, she hands Ofonode a large container. “Your small container for water will not be enough for two days. I believe two days is the longest you'll have to go between towns. If you go beyond Riverton, you might need more. I've never known anyone who traveled through the mountains or along Mountain River. All I know if from here to Riverton and from here to Peninan. I don't even know what you'd need if you were trying to go to Flindernan. I hope you're not going that way just because I don't know how to help you make it there.”
We are heading to the mountains as you guessed. Thank you for all your help, Estie!”
This container… it's special. I don't know how they did it, but if you push this thing here on the bottom...” she pushes the space she's indicated and large wheels pop out of each corner of the container. “Your friend could probably right on it while you pull. It'll be way easier to carry the water you need this way. I know the aqueduct goes most of the way, but I don't know how people get water from it. Anyway, I just want to make sure you have plenty of water and food to start your journey. I'm sure you'll be able to figure things out as you go.”
You're going to make a great Mom, Estie.”
She blushes and ducks her head, “Thanks, Tin. I mean, Ofonode. I appreciate it. I do worry sometimes. She turns away and takes a few steps. When she returns she has two meat pies. “Breakfast on the go. It's really good. I know you haven't tried them yet.”
Yeah. I heard they were a favorite among your customers and didn't want to cause you to be short by eating any myself.”
That's really thoughtful, Ofonode. Well, we won't run short. Enjoy them. I hope your friend does, too!”
Thanks again, Estie.”
Travel well, Ofonode. You too lizard.”
I call him Os.”
Okay. You too Os.” Estie smiles. Ram joins her as Ofonode and Os reach the back door out of the kitchen. Ofonode turns and waves. The two wave back.
Making his way out of the city after filling his water containers, is easy enough. He just follows the aqueduct. Knowing what to do when he reaches Spring Lake isn't quite as easy to see.
I didn't realize they had a wall up almost all the way around Spring Lake, Os. How are we supposed to get out?”
Osaretin looks around, “Why don't you go to that small building there?” The lizard points.
I didn't see that. I can barely see it now. You think someone is there?”
Absolutely. Even if they can't directly help us, I'm sure someone is there. They'd want to watch this entry to their city just like the other one. Wouldn't you?”
Yeah. Now that you put it that way. Definitely.”
The two make their way to the small building. It's actually built up into the wall with steps leading up to it. Ofonode takes a couple steps, but stops when a man calls out, “Yes, yes. I'm coming. I'll be down in a minute. Just wait at the bottom, there, would you?”
Ofonode turns around and shrugs at the lizard waiting on the rolling water container as he steps back down.
The tall, slightly pudgy older man is down the steps a few minutes later. “I meant to be ready and waiting for you, but I didn't wake up as early as I meant to. They said you'd be here early. You surely are!” The man walks toward the water, “You'll want to get across, of course. Walking around the city would add a whole day to your journey, even if you took the shorter way. We don't want that. No reason to make things more difficult than they're going to be on their own. Right?”
I agree with that, for sure.” Ofonde smiles in case the man decides to turn and look at him.
Okay. You'll have to pick that container up to get in on the barge here.” Just as the man says it, Ofonode sees a flat boat at the edge of the water. He wonders how he didn't see it before. “Things we don't know are there somehow seem to disappear until someone tells us about them. Remember that, boy. If you can try to see what you don't know is there, you'll encounter far fewer surprises as your travel. And if your friend there can help you, even better. I hear lizards can see farther than we can. Anyway… more eyes are better than just your own as long as they are friendly, of course.”
How did you know I would be here today?”
Well, I didn't know for sure it would be today. I thought you might wait until tomorrow if you likes Polly as much as I hear she likes you. Poor girl. She's a catch, though. I'm sure she'll find a wonderful young man to take over when her father decides to step down.”
I do like her...”
Just not enough to stay. Yes. I thought it might be that way. At least, that's what it seemed like when I heard you kept asking questions every day you were here. Most travelers let go of questions after their third or fourth day in Trebukenan. It's just a really good city.”
I think so, too. I just need to work harder to finish what I set out to do. I told someone I would and I want to return knowing I did my best.”
That's very good, boy. You'll find what you're looking for with that attitude, for sure. I hope you'll tell us the story on your way back to your home.”
Ofonode just nods his head, wondering how it is that the people here are so confident he'll find what he's looking for when he's not nearly so sure.
Okay. Now that we're all loaded, let's get going. Just stand with your legs wide apart and bend your knees a bit. With your big container in the middle, this should be a cinch.”
The man pushes off and the raft-like barge slides over the water of the small lake easily.
Is it very deep?”
No. Spring Lake isn't deep at all. The only reason we have enough water is that the spring is very strong. Once I get a few more feet it'll be too deep for me to reach and push, but the flow of the spring will catch us and push us far enough that I can push the rest of the way to the shore.”
How will you get back?”
Oh, we have a good rope system along the wall. I'll pull myself some of the way, and push with my pole the rest of the way. The flow of the spring won't push me at the edge. I've done it plenty of times. I'll be fine. Don't worry about me none.”
Nodding his head, Ofonode watches as the shore grows larger more quickly. He realizes they must have met the flow of the spring.
With a bump, they reach the shore. “Unload carefully. It's a bit deep, so you don't want to step in the water here or you'll be in to your chest. That's no way to start traveling. Wet clothes, wet food… it's no good traveling wet.”
Ofonode tosses his water container off the barge, hoping it'll land and stay whole. Then he steps off carefully carrying their bag on his back and Os lying across his shoulders. He turns back toward the man, “Thank you for helping us across. I hope you have a great day!”
You, too. Keep your eyes open for what you don't expect, boy. Be willing to see what you don't know. You'll be okay so long as you keep going even if it gets difficult.”
I will. Thanks again.” Os jumps down to the rolling container and Ofonode waves and turns away, picking up the handle of the water container and pulling. It's still very heavy, so he feels hopeful that it's completely intact.
The aqueduct is much higher out of Trebukenan than in it. Ofonode is very glad to have his two water containers now that he sees how high the aqueduct is away from his path.
#
Still almost a full day of traveling left, Ofonode feels more tired than he thinks he should. “Are you feeling better yet, Os?”
What do you mean?”
Well, it seems like you needed the whole time we were in Trebukenan to recover from flying me away from that thing. We never did talk about that, either. Do you know anything about it?”
One thing at a time. It did take me a while to recover, but not the whole time we were there. After I recovered, I was resting more than necessary to prepare for this leg of our journey. Never can tell what we'll encounter. Especially with what we've already been through.”
Yeah. What was that thing, anyway??”
That was one of my people.”
An invisian? But it was horrible! It was trying to hurt both of us, wasn't it?”
Yes. Yes it was. Most of my people are not trustworthy, Ofonode. At least, not to your kind. They are angry that we lost the ability to leave and take their anger out on your people.”
Why was it trying to hurt you, too, though?”
I am a traitor to those who hate it here. I could live the rest of my days on the fringes of your village and feel happy simply watching over all of you and observing. That's not a common feeling among those who are physically like me. Before the land changed so drastically, we still had our last ship and even then we were not welcome among your people. It is natural for beings to distrust what they don't understand.”
If your kind were welcome to live among mine, would they be happier?”
I don't know any more. Their desires may have changed. It has been many many years since I have been among them. There are very few like me who enjoy being unknown. Invisians are, by their nature, a bit of attention hounds. Those who do not like it here may have changed their primary desire since they've felt trapped so long.”
I guess there's no way to deal with that right now anyway.” Ofonode wishes there was something he could do to help the invisians who resent his people.
You're right. I think we'll come to the town Crossroads soon. Why don't we have a break for food so we can feel at our ease as we enter the town and deal with people there.”
That's a great idea, Os. Let's eat under the aqueduct by that leg there. There'll be a little shade for us to rest in, I think.”
The two head to the larger leg ahead of them. Most of the supports for the aqueduct are about half its size, so provide little shade from the hot sun. He thinks it shouldn't be nearly so hot as it is already. But then again, he's never been on the surface, so maybe his understanding of the temperature of the day is all wrong given his limited experience.
I'm really grateful for all the food Estie packed for us. She was really generous.” Ofonode feels a sort of missingness as he eats a meatpie she packed. Wishing he could have stayed in Trebukenan he thinks aloud, “Polly was a really kind girl. And so sweet and beautiful.”
Ofonode, you are right to continue your journey. Polly is a kind and sweet girl, but you really don't know her very well. You have known very few girls. Perhaps you will learn which character traits you desire in your future sweetheart as you travel more.”
I guess. That is possible. Especially since I've got a way still to go. How long do you think it'll take?”
That depends on how long we stop in each town. We will have to figure out a way to restock. Since we don't have money, you'll probably have to work in exchange for provisions. So, it could take a few weeks, given that. We could get lucky, of course, and the people might want something we can give. That could cut days off our stay. I don't know how to find that out, though.”
Okay. Well, we should probably get going. I feel so tired, Os. I think I feel more tired than I should. I mean, it's not like our journey has been very difficult. Has it?”
No. It's been pretty easy so far. We should be grateful nothing exciting has happened. Why do you think you're so tired?”
I have no idea. I slept hard last night. So I think I should feel way more energetic than I do.”
Let's get going. It's not a good idea to nap here. Not with the sun as hot and strong as it is here on the surface.”
The two drink long from the small canteen and Ofonode refills it from the large container. “It's getting very empty, Os. I'm worried we might not make it to Crossroads before we run out.”
Don't get upset Ofonode. I'm sure we'll figure something out if the need arises.”
#

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

observations: materialism is pervasive

Materialism as in: focus on the material, rather than belief that matter is all there is.

Pervasive... the very first definition.

I often think of myself as a really low maintenance kind of chick.  I don't wear makeup (for many reasons).  One of my many reasons is not wanting to be sorta addicted to something that runs out and must be replaced.  I have enough health-maintenance stuff that has that problem.  I don't want to also have appearance maintenance stuff, too!

My husband and I choose to live very simply to reduce financial burdens that would otherwise have crushed us, especially given how things have played out during 2016!

As it is, some things have come together to show me just how much I rely on THINGS. 

Take for instance a cell phone.  How does one function in this world for long without a phone... cell phone is taking the phone thing to the max... but even just a regular handset phone that has only a certain range from its base. 

A week I can do.  Beyond that and I start to feel anxiety... and think something is going to happen and I'm not going to be able to hack it because I don't have a phone of any sort.  Why even think such things?  I mean, that really doesn't help things at all.  But that is definitely my most constant battlefield: my thoughts.

It doesn't feel good to realize my degree of materialism is higher than I've been working for it to be.  Very disappointing.  And, of course, there are good parts in the bad.  Good realizations... good to know ways I need to change my thoughts.

Now... to change them!

Friday, November 18, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski, a book review

The final book in the trilogy, The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski, is an easy and good read. Kestrel has played well in the previous books, yet finds herself in the fight of her life for her life, her identity, and what she believes is important. Will she win?

Again, there are a couple steamy scenes and I will allow my twelve year old to read the conclusion after the other two when she's sixteen at the earliest. More because of the mature subjects broached than the intimate scenes.

Kestrel faces new challenges.  Will she lose her mind?  Will she ever see Arin or her father again?  And what about her fiance?

I like this book and the story as a whole.

What do you think of this story? What about the whole trilogy?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

learning to burn part 11

Be sure to start at the beginning!

Over the course of a week, Ofonode learns the layout of the city. It is very simple in design and makes perfect sense, yet he finds himself getting lost each time he sets out to investigate and learn the city. If he didn't have Os with him, he would have to ask for help to return to Estie's place each time he leaves.
Each time Ofonode asks if she needs anything from the city, Estie finds something for him to get for her. He thinks she understands his need to learn about the city and beyond because he's pretty sure a few of the times she sends him on errands, she's stretching to find something she can have him do that isn't completely pointless.
Today's errand is to pick up a load of roses from the flower shop. Os accompanies him and quickly falls asleep on his shoulders. Ofonode is pretty sure the invisian is still recovering from their alarming experience and near escape their first morning on the surface.
The florist's shop is obvious from the main square, but finding its back entrance is a more difficult task. Ofonode feels confused and frustrated aftertwenty minutes of searching the area on the building around where the door should be. He plops himself down on a sturdy-looking crate, jarring Os awake.
I'll find it, Ofonode.” The lizard hops down and runs off. Because he was asleep during all of Ofonode's search, the boy is flabbergasted when the changeling returns only moments later and tells Ofonode to follow him. Os leads him directly to a dirty nondescript door that looks like the others in the alley, except there's no sign on it.
How do you know this is the right one, Os?”
I can smell flowers, of course. Go ahead. Knock. If it's the wrong one, you can ask where the flower shop door is.” As he finishes making his suggestion, he steps up onto the hand Ofonode holds out for him and climbs to his shoulder and perches there, a bit like
That's true.” Ofonode knocks on the door.
A thin frail-looking lady opens the door, “Yes.” the woman says in a strong silky voice that doesn't look at all like it fits in her body, “What can I do for you, boy?”
I… well, I've come for the roses. Estie sent me.”
Yes. I've been expecting you. Come in young man.” She moves to the side with a sweep of her hand as if she's inviting him in to a castle. “Everyone calls me Florabell. What's your name?”
Ofonode.”
I see. Good name. What would you like to ask me?” Florabell walks next to Ofonode and guides him down the hall toward a brightly lit large room.
Ofonode and Os look at each other, “How do you...”
This may seem like a big city to you, Ofonode. And I guess we are in some ways. But here in Trebukenan we are also very isolated. So, when a strange boy who works at Estie's goes around asking about how to travel away from here… combine that with the fact that most strangers get here and want to stay and do... Well, that makes a stranger wanting more information about travel a sort of curiosity, you see… that sort of thing gets around really fast and makes you particularly interesting. You've given us something new and unusual to gum about with each other. That's a gift around here. So ask me what you want to know.”
I mean… if you already know, why not just tell me what you know I've been asking about?”
Although that would seem the more efficient way to do things, it doesn't make as much sense as you think. You see, the words you use to ask me the questions you have will help me know what you really want. I've only heard what others think you want so far.” The two stop walking as they enter a workroom off to the right of the brightly lit large room, which is the main display area of the shop.
Are the two really so very different?”
Perhaps. Maybe not. I'll only know after you ask me what you want to know. So…” Florabell moves away from Ofonode, gathering roses from various bouquets sitting on three different worktables in the room strewn with flowers of all sorts.
Well, I was asking about the city, but I think I understand how it's laid out now. Currently, I just need to figure out how to travel… and where I should go. So far I believe I've learned that there are two main cities to the northeast. I think I understand that there are four towns linked by aqueducts fed by Spring Lake to the southeast. It seems like no one's really sure what's beyond the town on Mountain River because of the mountain range folks seems to believe is infested with bandits. I don't really know about the west at all.”
Florabell returns to Ofonode holding a wide and long open basket full of roses. A tinkling sound comes from the large display room. Sounding a bit anxious Florabell says, “You don't ask questions well, boy. So far you've told me what you think you know, not what you want to know. You'll have to return tonight when you're finished working at Estie's Place. Try to figure out what questions to ask between now and then. Won't you? I'll be able to answer questions if they are prepared, but I won't be fit for a long conversation. My bed calls quickly when my work is done.”
Feeling confused, Ofonode takes the basket Florabell is holding out to him. “I… uh… well… okay. It might be pretty late tonight.”
Yes, I know.” Florabell turns away and walks out toward the main shop, “You can leave through the front door. It'll be easier for you to find your way back to Estie's. Come back tonight that way, too. I won't have you wandering about in the alleyway after dark.”
Oh. Okay. Thank you!”
Hello, Jansellia, I'll be with you in just a moment.” Florabell acknowledges the woman looking around her shop. She holds the door open for Ofonode and quietly says, “See you tonight. Remember to figure out what questions you want to ask.”
I will. Thank you.” Ofonode feels slightly confused and bemused as he turns away from the flower shop and hears Florabell's big voice, “Now what can I do for you, today, sweetheart?”
Very interesting woman. I like her.” Os, spread behind Ofonode's neck and resting on both of his shoulders, in his favorite position, is smiling.
Yeah. I like her, too. She seems to know a lot, doesn't she?”
Most of the shop owners know a lot, Ofononde. They have to so they know how to stock their places.”
I guess so. But she seems to know a lot in a different way. I can't quite put my finger on it. I guess it could be partially due to the way her voice seems like it doesn't fit her body… but it's something else, too. Like maybe she hasn't always been here. I just have a feeling that if I can manage to ask her the right questions, I'll know what I need to do when I leave Trebukenan.
#
Work passes easily as Ofonode considers what questions he should ask Florabell. When Pollyanna comes by to pick up the orders for her customers, she is as friendly as ever. Ofonode notices, but doesn't pay her as much attention as he has during the other meals since he's arrived.
After the meal, Ofonode, with Os across his shoulders, looks for Polly as he has after every other meal. He doesn't find her readily and figures it's for the best because he really must get back to talk to Florabell. He rushes through eating and makes his way across the plaza.
Ofonode knocks and then tests the door. It's unlocked, so he pulls it open and hears the light tinkling he heard when he was in the shop earlier and someone came in. The main display room is very dimly lit now. He waits by the door, hoping Florabell will reveal her location before he wanders around the store.
A moment after the wish, she seems to materialize next to him, “Have you clarified your questions, boy?”
Nodding his head, “Yes, ma'am. I think so.”
Florabell flips something on the door, “Good. Follow me Ofonode.”
She leads him to the room across from the workroom she took him to earlier in the day. It's about the same size as the workroom, but this room's only flowers are in finished bouquets places artfully on stands and tables. This room is appointed for comfort. He imagines this is where Florabell helps people plan how to use her flowers at their functions. In addition to a comfortable-looking sofa and chairs, there is a large desk set across a far corner of the room.
Sit where you like, boy. I'm going to rest at my desk because my poor tootsies are very sore tonight.” She sits behind her desk, puts her feet up on it and leans back in her chair. Ofonode decides on one of the large overstuffed chairs and sinks into it. Os climbs to the top of the backrest which is well above Ofonode's head and stretches out. “Whenever you're ready, go ahead and ask a question. I need to get on to bed as soon as we're finished.”
Do you think I need to worry about what's to the west?”
That depends on what you're trying to find.”
Well, I'm looking for a village a friend of mine once visited. The people of the village are unusual. I'm not exactly sure how. I forgot to ask what made them so unusual, but I'm pretty sure anyone that lives near them would know.”
From all I know of Flindernan, it's people are pretty normal. Just to clarify, there isn't a city to the west. Flindernan is to the southwest. It would be a long journey to get there because you cannot travel through the Wasteland unless you are very well equipped. You travel light, so you'd have to take the really long way there. I don't think you need to try.”
What about the two cities to the north? Have you heard of any unusual peoples there?”
No. No, I haven't.”
So that leaves the towns to the southeast. Have you heard anything about unusual people from there?”
No. I haven't.”
His line of questioning exhausted, “I don't know what else to ask!”
Perhaps do not ask such specific questions. If you can ask a more general question….”
Can't you tell me what to ask?”
I cannot do that, my boy.”
Sitting still and silent, Ofonode tries to think of a question that is more general.”
You can ask your friend to help you, Ofonode.”
The boy sits up straight, his eyes a little too wide. “Wh-what do you mean? Lizards don't talk.”
If that was just a lizard, you'd be right. But I'm pretty sure you know, just as well as I do, that he's not just a lizard.”
When Ofonode looks back, he sees Os transforming into his humanoid form. “How did you know me, madame?”
I didn't know for sure. But I've never seen a real lizard so friendly with anyone. So, I guessed you might be invisian. There are many old stories of the friendships between us and invisians. It is good to see you!” Florabell is smiling widely, still resting back in her chair. “You are a handsome fella, aren't you! What's your name?”
Osaretin.”
Is that why Estie calls him Tin?”
Perhaps.” Os says.
Ofonode is feeling slightly confused and very interested in hearing more.
Why don't you help the boy ask me what he wants to know. I'm sure you know what he seeks.”
Given what you know he seeks, in what direction should he travel from here and why?”
Yes. That's a good question. I knew you'd be able to help him! I would suggest traveling southeast through the small towns' trade route. Once you reach the largest and last, you will cross Mountain River and then you'll be a day's travel from Bandits Mountain Range. Make your way to the mountains by heading southeast. There is a trail, but it is faint these days I'm sure. Going through the mountains will be easier than you think. Once you've passed through the range, you'll see the Crystal Mountain. I believe the people you seek are there.”
Crystal Mountain? I haven't heard anything about that. Why do you think they are there?”
I have information that most here wouldn't have a way to know. You can try trusting me. Or not. It's totally up to you. I'm just telling you what I know.”
We thank you, Florabell.” Os says and his voice rings with sincerity. “I'm sure we will do as you say.”
Florabell nods as she stands. “Your secret is safe with me, Oseratin. I wouldn't want anyone to give you any problems. And the boy needs to find those folks. He'll need you with him. I must get to my bed now. You two can find your way out. The door will lock behind you.” She has come out from behind her desk as she says it.
Os becomes a lizard once more and climbs to Ofonode's shoulders. The boy makes his way to the door and turns, surprised to find Florabell right behind him. “Thank you for your help. I do appreciate it.”
She nods her head and gestures for him to keep walking. Ofonode walks through the main door, Florabell no longer behind them, and hears a different sort of click as it closes behind them.
Half-way across the plaza, Ofonode stops at the fountain and sits. “You really thing we should make our way to the Crystal Mountain, Os?”
Yes. Of course.”
But why? No one else has even mentioned a crystal mountain, much less a place with that name.”
I don't know how she knew me, but you said it yourself… there's something different about Florabell. She knows things. You felt trusting of her before we spoke to her tonight. Why not now?”
Maybe it's because she seemed to know you're invisian. I guess that has me feeling sorta spooked.”
And that's why I trust her. Only people who know beyond knowing can recognize one of my kind. I think it's likely she has traveled extensively and that's how she knows about the Crystal Mountain. But even if she found out about it some other way, I think we should do as she suggests.”
Trusting you hasn't done me any harm so far. We'll go that way just because you think it's a good idea.” Ofonode says, looking toward Spring Lake, admiring the aqueduct that brings the water to the fountain.
#

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

my thoughts: on motivation revealed

So, last time I really only shared what someone else thought about motivation.  I thought I would do it differently, but when I was typing it up, I felt like I should just share what someone else said and ask if you agree.  Many thanks to those who replied.  I appreciate your time and thoughts very much!

As for me, I believe that the three motivations shared in the last installment of my thoughts is really pessimistic and not really accurate, anyway.  Perhaps I'm overly optimistic.  I just believe that if I had to limit folks' motivation to three it would be: love, security, and legacy.  Probably in that order, too.

What to you think of my three?  Am I overly optimistic?

Friday, November 11, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski, a book review

The Valorian Kestrel, in The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski, struggles in the heart of the empire: Valoria. She is a member of the emperor's house now, engaged to his despised son. Kestrel's soft heart finds good in the young man and the two become friends.

Intrigue surrounds her and follows her like a stench one cannot bathe away. She is working diligently to play the 'game' she has set in motion. Will she win?

I enjoyed this second book in the trilogy. I accidentally read it first.

Most authors include many, perhaps most, details from their preceding books in each subsequent book. Rutkoski did include many and the major ones, of course, but when I read the first book, I learned many details barely, if at all, alluded to in the second or third books. I like this because it shows a sort of confidence in the author. Confidence that each part of her story is worthwhile and if you want to know the whole story, you better read all of it.

This is young adult fiction. I might let my eldest daughter, currently twelve, read it when she's sixteen. There are only a couple steamy scenes which are not graphic. However, the whole book is riddled with inter-relational thoughts I'd rather my children not consider until they are a little older.

Have you read The Winner's Crime? What did you think?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

learning to burn part 10

Please begin at the BEGINNING.

Ram stays busy preparing soups and plates of cornbread for a good long while as a steady stream of young women with trays walk by and remove bowls of soup. Most of them also take a plate of cornbread, but not all. When the stream slows, Ram seems to relax and Ofonode dares to whisper, “Who was the first girl with a tray? She only came by that one time.”

That is the daughter of the One.”

Oh. What does that mean?”

The One.”

I do not know who the One is… I'm very new here.”

The One is the city owner.”

The city has an owner?” It was such a fantastic idea to Ofonode. How could anyone own a city?

How do you think such magnificent walls were built? The One built them with those who lead the city and we consider the city's elite. They are not where they are because they are silken wimps.  They have led by example. That's why this city is so great! If you shake their hands, you feel the wear or hard work on them, even still.”

So, that first young woman is his daughter… She is lovely.”

Yes. And protected. Her father is a big burly man who protected his elder daughter, not nearly so pretty, from strangers only five years ago. He only just allowed her to marry the guy she'd loved for years because her father thought he was too soft. He was. It's only in the last two years that he started truly working. He has strong hands now.”

By strong, I guess you mean his hands are now hard with callouses.”

Yes, of course.” Ram looks at Ofonode carefully and then grabs his wrists.

Wha...”

You have strong hands. You have grown food and done hard work, especially with ropes. Why do you ask like having callouses is a bad thing? You have them.”

I guess it's just different in different places. My callouses were not prized where I grew up. Artists and musicians do not have hands like mine. They are the prize or… as you say, the elite, in my village. Though everyone's contribution is appreciated, my hands would not be seen as something to strive for. That's all. I mean no offense, Ram.”

No. You're right. Not everywhere is as good as here. I've met enough strangers come friends to know that.”

Have you ever met anyone who came from elsewhere and left after a visit?”

No. I work hard, so I do not meet many strangers. But all I have met who have come from elsewhere… they stay. This is a good city. It was built on hard work and no matter what work you do, toughened hands are a badge of honor here.”

I can understand why folks stay.”

But you will leave?”

Why do you ask?”

There's something in the way you said that. It sounds like you wish you could be like them, but must go.”

That's true. I think it would be nice to stay here. It would be nice to live in a place where my hands are seen as strong and prized. I left my village, though, hoping to find something… really, someone. And I've barely started to even try. I have to keep trying at least for a few months.”

The girls have stopped coming, we consolidate the soups into one pot. These will be served from first at dinner. You will make a new pot of each while I work on dishes and two more pans of cornbread. They loved the cornbread today! I'm glad you made another pan.”

What now?” Ofonode asks as soon as the soups are rearranged and dirty dishes brought to the sinks.

We find Estie and eat together.”

The two walked into the dining area. Most of the other kitchen workers were seated at a long table. Estie smiled as Ram approached. She stood and walked over to him. He reached his hand around her waist and gave her a sideways hug. His smile was enormous and he looked very proud that she came to him as she did.

She stopped him with a hand on his chest and put her hands on his shoulders as if to pull him down. His cheeks turned rosey as he bent toward her and she kissed him firmly on the mouth. Looking him in the face she said, “I love you, husband.” He smiled and nodded and then hid his face in her hair as he hugged her close.

Ofonode felt a wave of peaceful happiness radiate from the two. Ram pulled away from Estie, his face all pink now, smiling bashfully.

Estie pulled him with her hand around his big arm. Ofonode, not knowing what else to do, followed them. As he passed, the daughter of the One pulled his arm. He looked, anger flaring slightly, and found himself almost drowning in the clearest lightest blue eyes he'd ever seen in another person. He felt like he was looking at his own eyes, though the shape of hers was a bit different, the color was almost exactly the same.

She inhaled sharply and let go of his arm. He calmed immediately as he stared at her. Her lips turned in a smile and she sighed as she reached for his arm again, “Won't you sit with me? I have plenty to share.”

Yes. I… well… I'm hungry. I also have a friend in the kitchen I need to feed. May I save some to bring to my friend?”

Sure. There's more than enough. Estie is very generous with food. She wants us strong to work hard for her. Plenty of food and sleep enable us to work our best for her, she says.”

It's true. I'm grateful she's such a good employer.”

She's not even the best, though she would definitely disagree with that! My Daddy wouldn't have had me get a job here if he thought she was the best. She's definitely among the hardest, which is exactly why my Daddy wouldn't let me work anywhere else.”

I met her at the fountain this morning. I'm new.”

Of course you are. But you won't be forever. This city grows on everyone who comes here. It's almost impossible to leave. Only the farmers really even leave the walls.”

I'm a farmer, really. More than anything else.”

Is that right? Farmers are a treasure around here. Do you want to be a farmer here?”

Well, not right now. I won't be able to stay for good. I left my village for a purpose and I need to work harder in hopes of accomplishing my goal.”

Oh. You'll leave, then?”

Yes.” Ofonode feels sad to tell the most beautiful young lady he's ever seen that he has to leave when he's only just seen her and she's pulled him to sit and eat with her.

Oh well. You could return after you try whatever you need to try. And if you like it here well enough, maybe you won't leave after-all.”

I… there are innumerable possibilities for the future.” Ofonode felt shocked as he heard his Auntie's oft spoken words pass his lips.
 
That's true! Innumerable possibilities! And isn't it wonderful?”

Ofonode just nodded his head in response.
 
The two eat in silence for a few minutes. Ofonode wants to talk to the beauty next to him, but doesn't have a clue what to say. Finally, he thinks of something and blurts out, “I don't know your name. Will you tell me?”

My Daddy calls me one thing, but Estie calls me Contessa. So everyone else calls me that now. I kinda like it. And I know she doesn't mean anything cruel, so you can call me Contessa, too.”

I will, if you like. What name does your father call you?”

Pollyanna. Sometimes Polly or Anna for short. But mostly Pollyanna. He says the name brings good memories, so he likes to hear the whole thing as often as he can. He might be sad since he hasn't seen me in a few weeks. But he wants me to work into strong hands. So, I'm working as hard as I'm able.”

That's a really pretty name. I've never heard anything like it.”

Yeah. It's really old. My Mom really liked it too. She died a long time ago, though, so mostly I only know anything about her at all because my Daddy has told me.”

I'm sorry your Mom died. My parents died when I was really young, so I kinda understand. I don't really even remember them now.”

Oh! Wow. I'm sorry!”

Yeah. It's okay. I mean… I kinda like who I am and losing them is part of me. So, I guess it's okay.”
That's wonderful! I never thought of it that way. Honestly, I've never really thought about whether I like myself or not!”

It's wonderful to realize your inherent worth, no matter what you've done or not done and then realize your worth liking. I encourage you to think about it and realize that for yourself. There's no feeling like it in the whole world! I'm pretty sure thinking about it is the only way to really understand.”

I'm sure you're right. I guess I should do that.”

Ram is walking toward Ofonode when he looks up from his food. “Go ahead and take the whole plate. I'm finished. Thank you for eating with me. Oh! I don't know what to call YOU!”

Estie said Tin.”

But your real name….”

I'll tell you later.”

You better.” Pollyanna says as Ofonode rushes to catch up with Ram.

I didn't know you were Estie's husband,” Ofonode says as the two reach the cooking corner. Ofonode passes it to bring the plate to Os who is stretching in his sleep. He puts the pate down without waking the lizard.

It doesn't make a difference to the job.”

That's true, I guess.”

You take really good care of that lizard.”

Yes. He's a very good friend.”

I've never heard of anyone having a lizard for a friend.”

Well, not everything is as it seems.”

Boy, is that true! I've never seen Contessa take to anyone as quickly as she did to you. You must be more than you seem. She's a very picky little lady.”

Ofonode feels himself blush hottly. “Do you know her real name, Ram?”

Most of the people in the kitchen don't know each others' real names. I'd have to think hard to remember mine.”

Is Estie your wife's real name?”

Yes.”

That's weird.”

Why would she give herself a nickname? She gives us nicknames to make it easier to remember us. She can remember her own name.”

Yes, of course. No offense intended.”

Okay. I'm going to get the dishes banged out. You do the soups and cornbread. Do you remember how?”

Yes, sir.”

Ram just nods and walks away.

Once the soups are simmering away and the cornbread is in the oven, Ofonode gathers the now empty plate near Os and brings it to the sinks.

Dry those and then get the cornbread out.”

Ofonode does and finds the cornbread is perfectly baked. He wonders how Ram could time it so perfectly when he didn't really know for sure when it went in the oven.

Pollyanna stops by three times to pick up soups. She smiles at Ofonode each time and winks at him once. Ram sees it and looks at Ofonode in awe and surprise.

When dinner is finished, Ram and Ofonode clean their workspace. Ofonode gathers Os and carries him to the dish area, putting him gently under another counter. Ram and Ofonode wash all of the dishes. As soon as it's all finished, they go to the cold room.

Estie is waiting at the door, sitting on a stool looking very tired and a little ill. Ram moves to her side and lifts her into his arms. “No, no. I'm okay. You need to eat. I'll eat some more with you and be just fine.”

Are you sure?”

Yes. Put me down you wonderful man. I want you to eat and keep up your strength. A new day in the morning and all that.”

He doesn't say anything, but puts her down. Estie goes in and comes out with four meat pies, three large and one small as well as two bowls full of fruit. “These are for you and your friend, Tin.” She hands Ofonode one large and one small meat pie and a bowl. Ram takes the other food and the two walk to the dining room.

Thank you! Ofonode calls after them.”

She smiles over her shoulder. Ram has his arm around her and she's leaning on him.
#

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

observations: we humans don't like to leave our comfort zone

What makes a zone comfortable, anyway?  I've come to believe it's a combination of time and ease.

Beings prefer ease.  Even plants.  We humans are no different than the rest of this planet full of beings.  And when we've stayed in a way... sometimes uncomfy... we get comfy in it... so it becomes the comfort zone.  In some ways, this zone can be and probably often is heavily influenced by generational curses.

In myself and my marriage, I observe financial struggle cycle.  In the past, the problem times were often caused, at least in large part, by my own choices.  As I've grown, the cycle continues as a result of circumstances.  Thus, I'm left to believe that it's deeply a generational thing. 

I've been working out how to end the curses because I believe I agreed to do just that. 

It's a difficult process for me... a bit like feeling around in the dark for a light switch I believe is there... I just don't know WHERE and I can't discern how large the space is in which I must search for a possible switch!

Generally, I've observed similar sorts of things in others.

I wonder frequently if we'll be surprised to learn how deeply and broadly our lives have been influenced by choices our predecessors made.


Friday, November 4, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

Who's Got Game? The Ant of the Grasshopper? By Toni and Slade Morrison, a book review

I love children's books with good rhyme. I love the way it flows off the tongue and the way images come to mind with the rhyme… even if there are no pictures in the book. Of course, I love pictures in picture books. The rhyme in Who's Got Game? The Ant of the Grasshoppper? by Toni and Slade Morrison is not the kind I prefer.

When a children's picture book starts out seeming to have rhyme, I want it to flow through the whole story. The rhyme of this story is stilted and spare. It doesn't steadily flow through the whole.

I kept asking myself, “What's the point of the story? What does the title mean?” Those two questions kept me reading. If not for them, I would have put the book down in aggravation because of the unsteadiness of the rhyme.

Reading the whole story so that I could understand the message of it is worth the frustration I felt about the rhyme. I like that the story ends with a question, rather than telling the audience which choice has the greatest value. In all honesty, the greatest import lies in what a person values most highly.

Presented in comic strip style, the illustrations by Pascal Lemaitre do support the story very well. In fact, they sometimes helped me figure out what the text (odd font) was supposed to say as I read it aloud to my children. And my children enjoy looking at the pages as I read, too, which is helpful to the peaceful environment I'm working to cultivate during our reading times.

If you've read it, tell me what you think of the story AND whether you've already read it already or do after reading this review, tell me which you are more like… the ant or the grasshopper?

As for me… I guess I'm a bit more like the grasshopper, though… working like the ant at it!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

cope='itemscope' itemtype='http://schema.org/BlogPosting'

learning to burn part 9

Please begin at the BEGINNING.

Os shifts into his humanoid form as Ofonode blinks his eyes and the alien is immediately packing the tent and lifting the pack. “Should we run, Ofonode?”

I… I'm not sure. I can't really remember the dream, actually. I just remember feeling scared and that we needed to leave here right away or it would come to pass.” Ofonode feels worried and even more fearful than he thinks he should because he can't remember any of the details.

So, let us run. Should we avoid any particular direction? Think carefully. Even if you cannot remember the dream, if you think about a direction, you will know if we should avoid it. I'm sure of it. Think quickly.”

Ofonode does and decides there is something about being close to the plateau that is dangerous. “We should head out there, Os. I just know… I don't know how, that we need to get into the light of day. And since the yellow sun rises over there, we need to move away from the rise of the plateau and into the land where the light from the rising will hit sooner. I don't really know which way to choose because I can't think straight right now. I keep thinking we should go there.” Ofonode points off to his left.

That seems like a good choice,” Os says as he starts walking quickly, carrying the pack. “The other way would put us in the shadow of the length of the plateau and straight out away from it would keep us in the shadow of it for half of the day.

You believe me?” Ofonode asks, slightly out of breath as he almost runs to keep up with Os.
Of course I do. I have no reason to disbelieve you. You have to understand, I've been a part of your village for years. I know you are a good boy.”

Really? Why didn't you ever show yourself? Or talk to anyone?”

Who said I didn't? I just haven't shared as many details with anyone else. Ughegbe is a good friend of mine. Never mind that he thinks he's gone a bit crazy as a result. He's a good man. I hope all of the boys in the village will grow to be half the man he is. To do so would be a tremendous accomplishment.”

So, you think really highly of Ughegbe, too, huh?”

Yes, of course. When we get to know others, to truly learn their hearts, we can't help but love them. Even those who seem the most unlovable are also divine. And, as a result, even they become truly lovable when we come to understand their inherent worth and get to know them from their own perspective.”

Ofonode keeps looking back toward their camping spot. Os feels waves of concern tinged by fear radiating from Ofonode, so he speeds his pace. He is lightly running while carrying the pack. Ofonode keeps up even though he begins huffing to do so. The two fall silent as they focus on their run.

While still in the fading darkness of the plateau's shadow, Os realizes that he's been hearing a scraping sound coming from the direction they are now running away from. He looks back for the first time and sees a giant slithering dragon. Knowing exactly what he sees, he slips the pack off his back, and within what would've been a few steps he shifts into his dragon form, still holding the pack he lifts off the ground and picks Ofonode up in his hind legs. Os puts all his energy into climbing into the sky straight up as fast as he can.

The breath rushes out of Ofonode as he feels himself lifted up. Staring at the ground he watches as the slithering dragon races forward slithering into the space they were just running. A split second later, the slithering monster rises from the ground as well.

Surely they are goners! The monsterous dragon snake climbs into the sky behind them, seeming to cover way too much distance with each flap of it's small wings.

You're a lot heavier than you look. You're a bit of a porker, Ofonode. How can one be so fat on so little food?”

His cheeks flare bright pink and flames spark around his head and spread downward, enveloping his body.

Focus your mind, boy. Use those flames against the foe, not your friend.” The words come directly into his mind and he feels shocked and chastened and able to focus quickly like never before.
Without really trying, Ofonode looks down and allows his anger to move out of his eyes toward the snake-dragon. A tight flare of fire moves almost as a beam away from him and the snake-dragon writhes in mid-air as a gash of a wound appears along the side Ofonode was focusing on.
Another couple of flares burst from Ofonode's eyes as he focuses his anger at being hunted on the beast below. It is not climbing as quickly and is better able to avoid the blasts. Ofonode watches with concern as it continues to chase them into the sky. He also worries that Os, burdened as he is, won't be able to fly much higher. He realizes hie new friend will be hurt if not killed by this thing.
Rage bursts out in fire all around Ofonode at the thought and with the intention of protection, the fire all around him moves faster than a thought and appears as a ball of flames just before it bursts into the snake-dragon, knocking it from it's path. Its wings burst into flames and the snake-dragon falls from the sky. It hits the planet with such force that a giant cloud of dust rises up to where Os descends to fly until he can fly no more.

Although he thinks he will fall long before he does, Os drops Ofonode gently to the ground. As he falls, himself, he shifts to his small lizard form and lands hard and then rolls a few times. Ofonode is next to him immediately.

Thank you for making me angry. Are you able to speak directly into my mind, too?”

Shaking his head, he feels more tired than he has in decades, “We must continue.”

I'll carry you, Os.” Ofonode loads the pack onto his back and then gently picks up the small lizard. “Wow, you're really heavy!”

I'm dense.”

That's a nice way of putting it.” The boy giggles to himself. Os smiles, too, but isn't sure if the boy knows it or not. They continue in silence. “I'm really thirsty, Os. We need to find water really soon. I'm not sure how long I can keep going.”

Os looks around. He sees nothing helpful. “Put me on your head, Ofonode.” The boy does as directed. While there, Os shifts only his eyes and is able to see much farther. “If we continue straight ahead, we will reach walls by lunch time. We might find our way inside before the end of the day.”
You think walls mean water, I guess.”

Walls this size mean lots of people. And lots of people mean they have a way to drink, so yes. Just keep going.”

It takes a bit longer than Osaretin guessed, but they do reach the walls a bit after they eat the rest of the food Kokofeko packed. It takes the rest of the day for Ofonode to walk along the wall to find the gate that leads inside the city. As they approach, a couple guards walk up to them, “Whatcha want here, stranger?”

Ofonode looks as Os then speaks, “I'm hoping to find some water. And maybe food and a place to sleep.”

Why are you coming to the city at all I'm askin'?”

I'm looking for a village. But I don't know where it is. So, I don't really know where to go. I guess I'm hoping to talk to people and maybe get some more information. A city is a good place to talk to people, right?”

Yes. We definitely have many talking people here. Not many that we don't know, though. So make sure yer aware, we don't take no flack from strangers. You got that, Jack?”
 
Yes sir. My name is Ofonode. What's yours?”

I'm Sarin and this is Dart. We're brothers. Can ye tell?”

Looking more carefully at the two, Ofonode can definitely see a family resemblance. “Yes. Yes, I Think so. You have the same color eyes and very similar noses. Oh, and the way you smile is exactly the same!”

They nod their heads and their movements look very similar, too. “Yes, quite right.” Dart says, “That's what everyone says. He's a smart one, eh?” He says turning to Sarin. The two nod slightly and then move toward the gate.

We're going to let you in. Normally we don't like lizards to enter our city, but it looks like that one be a pet, eh?”

He's my friend. Yes.”

Then he be okay. We'll let it pass this time. Make sure he don't do no harm and you'll both be fine.”
Thank you, Dart and Sarin. I appreciate it. Would you suggest where I might start… I need a drink like crazy.”

Ye look like ye might. Follow this street until ye come to the center of the city. There be a fountain there. It is fed by an aquaduct from the spring on the other side of the city, so it is fresh and clean. Make sure ye use the side opposite the one you see first to clean yourself before ye try to drink. That fountain serves the whole city. Ye'll make folks angry if ye go getting it all dirty first thing in the city!”
Thank you! I will be sure to follow your instructions! Maybe I'll see you two later.”

Probably not. There be a great many people in the city. But ye never can tell, I suppose.” The two wave as Ofonode walks away.

As he passes through the gate, Ofonode feels overwhelmed by the commotion and noise. How did he not hear it from outside the wall? He looks back and realizes the wall is so thick it would easily contain all the noise.

He makes his way past what look like dwellings, but in a wholly different form from those in the village. These dwellings are even stranger than Ughegbe's dwelling. These are very tall and cast a shadow onto the street he's walking on so that it's pretty dark. He walks as quickly as he can while trying to stay out of the way of the many people crowding the street.

The dwelling places on the right seem, somehow nicer than those on the left. They are taller and seem bigger. Plants adorn step up to more ornate doors that are very colorful, especially compared to similar doors on his left.

As he passes a crossroad, he feels a shift in the air. The houses here are obviously much bigger. He realizes, upon closer inspection, that these are not just dwellings, but places people go to buy and sell. These dwelling places are also very tall and even more decorated with plants and colors. He smells and then sees the fountain. The air around it feels cooler and he almost forgets to walk around it to get to whatever it is the brothers were talking about where he can clean himself before drinking.

When he sees it, he feels some trepidation. It's a very small square structure made of wood. Wood. Surely it could've been made of something else!

He walks toward the structure and feels his heart speed up. A man stands at the door. “Make sure you stay to the right. The ladies don't like to find males in their side.”

Ofonode nods his head.

He stays to the right and enters a bath with even smaller rooms he figures must be there for people to evacuate. Just as he realizes it, he knows he must visit one of the tiny spaces first. Looking around the cramped space, he feels completely unprepared for life away from his village. What is he supposed to do with himself? Os was sleeping. Ofonode wakes him speaking his full name.

Yes. Did you find water?”

I did. We have to clean ourselves first. And I realized I must… you know… empty myself first. I'm in this room, but I don't know how to use it.”

Oh! It's been ages since I've been in one of these. You just sit right there. When you're finished the stuff you let go will just twirl away. It's almost magical.”

Giggling nervously, Ofonode sits where Os directed. When he stands a few minutes later, the stuff twirls away, just like Os said it would. Still, Ofonode feels slightly shocked and more than a little disturbed. “Where does it go?” he says almost reverently.

It goes to where they will dispose of it. It's an ingenious system used when many people share a small space. There are probably rooms like this in the larger houses and shared rooms between smaller houses.”

Oh. Now we must clean so we can get water to drink.”

Yes. I'm very thirsty now, Ofonode.”

Carrying the lizard, he moves to the edge of the pool and sets his friend down gently. He then removes the pack and sets it against the wall. The wall shakes. “You should move the pack away from the wall. These are not very sturdy structures.”

The two enter the pool. Os starts giggling, “You were supposed to remove your clothes, Ofonode. Well, at least they'll be a little cleaner now.”

Ofonode smiles bashfully, “How was I supposed to know. I've never been to such a place.”

True. Let's finish. I need to drink water, not live in it.”

The two finish up and go directly to the fountain.

A young woman sitting on the edge, is using a long-handled bucket to scoop water out of the fountain. Ofonode looks around the edge of the fountain and sees a few more of the same sort of bucket. He walks over to one of them, holding Os with one arm, he pulls up a bucket. Feeling a little confused about what to do next, he sets the buck on the edge. The young woman walks over,
I was watching and since I've never seen you here, I figured I'd let you know that the cups anyone can use are in a shelf under the edge. They are kept very clean by the city crew. I hope you like it here. We don't have many visitors. Or, not many that actually leave. It's a wonderful city!” She begins to walk away as Ofonode pulls two cups from under the edge.


Thank you. May I ask you a few questions, miss?”
 
She stops walking away and turns toward him, “Sure. I can spare a couple minutes. Only a couple, though.”

How can I work for food? I don't have any left and my friend and I are hungry. We've had an interesting journey.”

I guess it's really provident that I saw you here. You can work for my faterio. It's one of the best in the city. And if you need a place to sleep, you can work for food and a room. I'm not sure if the lizard should stay with you in the room...”

That sounds great. He won't be a bother. I will make anything right if something goes amiss.”

Okay. Well, let's get going. I told you I could only spare a couple minutes. Even with your help, I might be a bit behind on preparing for the lunch rush.”

Will we be able to eat right away? Oh, and what's your name?”

You can eat while you work as long as you keep your fingers out of your mouth. My name is Estie.” She speeds ahead and Ofonode rushes to keep up.

They walk around and slightly behind the group of dwellings to the right of the fountain. She walks into a door that leads into the dwelling closest to the edge of the grouping. After taking a few steps into the dwelling, Ofonode is overwhelmed by the wonderful odors that fill his nose and mouth. A few others bustle about as they work to prepared foods.

Please wash your hands again. Make sure to use soap and then find me for your first work.”

Ofonode does as she's said. He finds her talking to another young lady, “...and please make sure to bake the pies until just barely golden brown. The men that choose my faterio do so because my pies are the best in the city. They could get some for less elsewhere. And if you bake them too dark they won't trust my work and will go elsewhere. Will you find a place to work easily? One that provides for all you need and gives you some spending money for the farm? I doubt it. Take care.” The young woman is nodding her head. She looks like she wants to please Estie.

What would you like me to do now, Estie?” Ofonode asks as soon as the she turns away from giving instructions to the other young woman.

Yes. Oh! I don't know what to call you. What is your name, anyway?”

Ofonode.”

That's interesting. Well, I don't normally call my people their given names anyway. What will I call you?” Estie looks Ofonode over and stops while looking at the lizard. “I'm going to call you Tin. Just make sure you answer when I call, even though it's new to you.”

Yes, ma'am. What would you like me to do now?”

Follow Ram. He'll teach you how to prepare my soups and corn bread. Tomorrow you'll work with Shell to learn the meat pies and the day after that… will you be here that long, Tin?”

Ofonode looks down at Os who nods his head and says, “I expect so.”

Okay, after Shell you'll work with Cam and the day after that me. Make sure you learn well because you'll work on your own after you work with me.”

Yes, ma'am.”

Please call me Estie. My Mom was ma'am. She's gone. Call me Estie.”

Yes, ma… I mean, Estie.”

She walks away shaking her head.

Looking down at Os, “Who do you think Ram is?” Oseratin looks pointedly over at the tall, broad young man working over a stove with numerous pots and fires under each. Ofonode walks over, “Are you Ram?”

Yes.”

Estie told me to work with you today. She wants me to learn soups and corn bread.”

Yes. Stay close. I won't tell you anything, so watch.”

Ofonode does exactly that.

After Ram fills one pot, he stops. “Now, you make the same soup in that pot.”

Ofonode starts doing what he remembers. Ram watches carefully and stops him just before he adds one item, “I put the lumpkin in before rampart. Make sure you follow my order exactly. It's a very specific process. It will not taste the same if we add ingredients in a different order. Trust me, you do not want it to taste different.”

Nodding his head, Ofonode adds the rampart before dumping in the lumpkin he'd already prepared. “I'm sorry. I completely forgot the rampart.”

Don't forget. Remember everything.”

Yes, sir.”

Ram looks over at Ofonode sharply. He simply nods his head and returns to work. The same process repeats with three more soups. After they are finished and simmering slowly, Ram makes a large pan of corn bread. Ofonode watches carefully and is ready when Ram tells him to make another when the one he was making is ready to go in the oven. Ofonode has made the additional three soups and now the corn bread perfectly. Ram just nods and directs him with a gesture to bring the pan to the oven.

While the corn bread bakes, the two guys clean in the area in which they prepared food and then move to the large sinks to the side of the huge kitchen. After a few dishes, Ofonode follows Ram back to the corner they were working in. Ram checks the corn bread and pulls them out. They look perfect. He's been so busy neither he nor Os have had anything to eat. Os is sleeping in a corner under a counter.

Ofonode's stomach complains loudly. Ram looks at him sharply again.

She told you to eat while cooking, didn't she?”

Yes. I just didn't want to miss anything and get it wrong. And my friend needs to eat, too.”

Ram cuts a huge chunk of corn bread and spoons out one large and one small bowl of the lumpkin soup and sets them on a bench just outside of the corner they've been working in. “I'll finish the dishes. You two eat. We need to make more cornbread now. Do that when you're finished eating. Come get me if I'm not here. I'll put it in the oven. You'll eat again later when we all eat together.”

Thank you, Ram!” Ofonode doesn't wait for a reaction, he scoops Os up and carefully rushes to the bench.

Os wakes only when Ofonode shakes him and says his full name. “Please forgive me, my friend. I haven't been any help at all. I am more tired than I realized.”

Nothing to forgive. Now eat with me.”

The two gobble up their food almost too quickly. As soon as Ofonode is done, he jumps up and begins on the corn bread. Os climbs down and lays himself on the ground under the bench and immediately falls back to sleep.

When the corn bread is ready for the oven, Ofonode gathers the dishes he and Os ate from and brings them over to the sinks, “Ram, the corn bread is ready.”

He looks up a bit startled, “Have you baked it?”

No! You said you wanted to put it in the oven.”

Good. You wash. I'll take care of that.”

Yes, sir.”

As before, Ram's head jerks as he looks over at Ofonode and again he nods his head. Ofonode wonders for a moment why Ram reacts that way every time he answers him using 'sir', but focuses on the dishes without thinking about it for long.

Ram returns looking relaxed, “Good job, Ofonode. You are a hard worker. Estie will be pleased.”
Thank you.”

Ram takes up a dish, dries it, and puts it away. “We will finish these after the group lunch. Would you rather make soup or do dishes?”

Make soups, honestly. But I'll do whatever you tell me to do, Ram.”

Yes. I believe you. Make soups. It will help you remember.”

Thank you!” The two work in silence, finishing as many dishes as possible until Estie rings a bell.
Ram rushes over to the soups, pulls the corn bread out, cuts the cool pan and puts the hot one near a window. He rushes around gathering bowls and gets six full, two of each of the three types of soup as well as a few plates with hunks of cornbread on them.

A lovely young woman, younger than all the others Ofonode had seen working in the kitchen walks by with a tray and takes two different soups and a plate of cornbread away. Ofonode starts to ask Ram who she is, but he glares at him. Another young woman walks by and picks up another two soups and a plate of cornbread.