Friday, March 31, 2017

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A Chair For Always by Vera B. Williams, a book review

A Chair for Always by Vera B. Williams is a picture book about a chair. I believe this is another children's picture book whose author is also illustrator.

Rosa loves the chair. It's a big deal because it's the first piece of furniture she and her Mom got after a fire. Even when the chair gets old and worn, she doesn't want to change it or improve it because it's perfect to her just the way it is.

The story is good. I especially love that homebirth is mentioned within the context of the story and the importance of the chair. The illustrations are sweet. The characters, when shown in any perspective other than straight on, look a bit strange. Distorted. I like the illustrations, overall. I love the watercolor framing of many of the pages.

Have you read A Chair for Always by Vera B. Williams? What did you think?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

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learning to burn, part 28

Please begin at the beginning!  And remember first draft crazy, notes and all!  Still, I love to hear what you think.

The two, with Os on Ofonode's shoulder begin to walk along the road, which is obviously the primary thoroughfare when Shabred calls out to them, “Let me help yous three. I aint got a lot, but me mum knows people, she do. I aint never seen yous 'round here before so yous probly needs some help gettin' along here, yous do. Let me help, you will.”
Eminghare and Ofonode look at each other, 'I think he will be a valuable assistance, don't you,' Eminghare thinks to Ofonode. He nods in reply.
“Thank you, Shabred,” Ofonode says to the very tall man. “We appreciate your help. We need to find work to get provisions so that we can continue our journey as quickly as possible.”
“Me mum can help you find work, she can. Evening time is the most difficult for her, it is. Let me take you to a family with many children where you can help make dinner and they'll give you a place to sleep for the night, they will. The mum there is very kind, she is, and needs help most days, she do. In the morning I'll take you to me mum, I will. It's me day off tomorrow, it is, so it works out quite right and tidy, it do.”
“Lead on, Shabred. Thank you for your help.” Eminghare replies.
The three follow the tall man down a side street to a house that looks like one side of it is the wall. Shabred knocks on the door. It opens and a child shorter than Eminghare looks at the small group for a moment and then runs off leaving the door open.
“She'll get her mum, she will. We should step up, close the door, and wait for her, we will.”
A moment later a lovely woman almost as tall as Shabred walks up. She looks perfectly put together and even noble. “Oh, Shabred. You've brought me help for the evening meal, I see. Some wanderers. And they are kind. I'm so glad they have been good to you. You of all deserve kindness.” The lovely lady smiles down on the three and they feel warmed by her regard. “Will you sleep here one night only, little ones?”
“I think so. Shabred was going to take us to his mum tomorrow to find work. We really need to get along on our journey, but must earn enough for provisions first.”
“I see. Well, let's see how this evening goes along and Shabred will come for you in the morning. Perhaps he will only show you around our city. He so enjoys visitors and is a very good guide. Of course, if you can make the time to spend with him, that is.”
'I can't explain why, but I think making friends with Shabred is probably the absolutely best thing we can do in this town… so spending time with him tomorrow is an investment of sorts. I don't know how it will turn out, but I think we should do exactly that. Is that okay, Ofonode?' Eminghare thinks at him.
'I completely agree with you.' he responds via thought alone.
“Good. It's settled.” Ofonode and Eminghare look with confusion at one another. The lovely lady continues, “Come back in the morning, dear Shabred, and make sure to come hungry. We will all eat together before you leave with our new friends to wander the city.”
“Thankee Lady Gracey, I do. I knew you'd see what I see, I did. See you little 'uns in the morning, I will. Sleep well, now, tomorrow will be fun, it will.”
“Bye Shabred,” Eminghare and Ofonode chorus.
“What will I call you, other than friends, I mean? You can call me Grace. Shabred calls people what he wants to call us and we love him so we let him. But you three must surely have names you prefer over 'little ones'!” Lady Grace smiles a smile full of delight.
“Yes. I prefer to be called Ofonode. My lizard friend is Oseratin and this is Eminghare.”
“Ofonode… Eminghare. Yes. Perfect names for you both. Oseratin. I'm sure it's perfect for you, too. Though in your current form I can't see quite as well as… Won't you show me your bipedal self?” Eminghare and Ofonode suck in a big breath of shock. Grace continues, “It is ever so much easier to see completely when there is more to see. If you prefer, you may take the fiercer form.”
Oseratin jumps from Ofonode's shoulder and shifts in flight to land in his humanoid form crouched on the floor. He looks up into the face of Grace.
“Yes. Oseratin is, indeed, a fitting name for you. Stand, my friend. You will help these work so that you all may continue on your way more swiftly. And will your female friend remove her cloak and share her name? I would prefer to know all who stay in my home. And be known by them.”
Binia removes her cloak and appears, right where Lady Grace is looking, next to Eminghare. “Bineenia. Oh, what a pleasure to meet you here. I am so glad to know you are, in fact, alive! I'd heard it whispered, but didn't dare hope.”
Oseratin stands slowly and at his full height is slightly shorter than Lady Grace. “It seems, my Lady, that you know us far better than we know you. As such, you are at an advantage. I cannot speak for Bineenia, but as for myself, I feel a great disquietude.”
“As so I.” Binia says simply.
“Yes, of course. I am Bineenia's half sister. We of THE NAME OF THE TOWN are descendants of Trake and Shandy. Felandore and Eliandore found mates of this planet and the three families established this place. We have always welcomed travelers and many have stayed over the years.”
“Our… our mother is here?”
“She was. She and my father, Trake, left in hopes of finding you and Oseratin as well as a few others. They did not return. We have sent some to find them, but though all have returned, they did not find them or word of them.
“It… it is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Grace.”
“No. Grace. You are greater than I. I know who your father was. My father was wonderful, but could not compare.”
“Trake was always diligent to do right. That is all any of us can ever do and the best we can be. My father was no better.”
“You are humble. But I know. Our mother loved… loves my father. But she knew the truth and spoke it so that I would know that I should and how I should honor you if I was privileged and blessed to meet you some day.”
Binia inclined her head softly. Grace curtsied slightly. “Will you rest in the parlour while we prepare dinner, Bineenia?”
“I would rather be with my friends and do what they do. We would like to participate here as Shabred told us we would.”
“As you would have it, then. Please come this way to the kitchen.”

“You have many children, Lady Grace.”

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

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writing life: writing as a mom

When I was a bit younger and before I had children, I wrote by the muse and couldn't imagine writing otherwise.

Basically, if you read between the lines… for me that means that I wrote only here and there when the fancy or pressing need urged me. I still strive to write at those times, of course.

Yet now, I work hard to sit down even if the fancy doesn't strike and even if the mood doesn't hit… in other words, when the muse is absent. It is increasingly important for me to write in the moments I can marshall together because the rest of my time is so very consumed by my greatest and most important calling: Mamahood!

So, what does that look like? Writing as a Mom looks a lot different than it used to, that's for sure. For one, it's far more difficult to put more than ten minutes together to write, many days. For me, ten minutes is about what it takes for me to enter the world of whatever story I'm working on. They are so very different from my own, doncha know!

I knew it would be nigh on impossible for me to sit to write for a while after my most recent babe “woke up” somewhere around 3 months old. So, I planned accordingly. I wrote as much as I could, making use of the primary and secondary insomnia that hit at the end of my pregnancy with him and in the days between when he was born and when he woke up. I did pretty well, if I may say so myself. I measure my effort as good by the fact that I only missed one week of installments of Learning to Burn between those I scheduled before he woke up and adding more once he was awake.

My efforts to write anything were very sporadic due to the needs of my nursling and all else I needed to do to manage my family life. My husband found and started working what we hope will be his work “home” for years to come. He had been mostly unemployed for about two years. During that unemployed time, I spent a good deal of time working in town (especially after GrA was born) to start and hopefully somewhat establish my author platform.

Well, the platform is doing poorly, but at least this blog has been pretty well maintained!

Come back next week to hear some more specifics about how writing works (and sometimes doesn't) for me.

Do you write? Do you have children? How does that work for you?

Monday, March 27, 2017

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The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel, a book review

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel was a bit of a disappointment. One reason is based solely on the book and storytelling. The other is completely personal and probably has more to do with my own life than the book itself.

My first experience with Earth's Children was Valley of the Horses. I saw Clan of the Cave Bear as a movie and thought it was interesting. I imagine that if I'd read the book upon which the movie was based, I would have preferred the book. Now, though, I might not.

The reason I felt disappointed that pertains solely to the book itself is the redundancies. I realize, upon reflection, that this is part of the author's style. I'm not sure if it's purposeful or a result of the author forgetting what she'd previously written and therefore reminding herself about it as she's writing. That's what it seems like is happening. Another point of disappointment is the contradiction within the story. For instance, at one point The First decides to wait for the group to finish touring through the difficult part of a long cave, but as we read through the tour of that part, The First is with them and thinks to herself that she has to do it because it's probably the last time she'll be there. This was not the only example of this kind of contradiction.

I felt impatient with the extreme detail used to describe many aspects of the story. In a few places the story seemed to become an herbalist's field guide more than a story about Ayla and Jondolar. In a couple of other places the effort to describe the caves seems like an effort to prove how much research time Auel spent in familiarizing herself with art from prehistoric times. As a result of these two, I did not enjoy this book as much as I have the preceding books in the series. However, that may be in large part because I have grown in knowledge and experience so very much from the time I read Valley of Horses.

Given my own life experiences, I can't help but wonder if Auel has ever lived a homestead-type life with all the work entailed in starting from scratch. I wonder because she writes about such with rather rose-colored glasses and in such as way as to make such very attractive. In some ways, I'm glad she did. If she hadn't done so in Valley of the Horses, I may not have ever been willing to move to Texas the way we did. It is because of my experience, though that I know how very rose-colored Auel's glasses are.

Skimming or skipping paragraphs in a novel is usually detrimental to one's understanding of the action of the story. Have you ever done it? I rarely do, in all honesty, however, I found myself doing it pretty regularly once I made it to about page 350 in The Land of Painted Caves. I'm relatively certain I didn't miss anything pertinent to the story line. That, in itself, seems to me another confirmation that she and/or her editor didn't perform as much cutting as they could and probably should have.

Have you read The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel? If you have, what did you think of it?

Friday, March 24, 2017

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Goldfish and Chrysanthemums by Andrea Cheng, a book review

In Goldfish and Chrysanthemums by Andrea Cheng, a little girl is inspired by a letter her grandmother received from her brother in China. Perhaps Nancy hears the sorrow in her grandmother over the loss of a family property that was so treasured. Room must be made for apartment buildings, so a place she remembers with much fondness is being overtaken.

This Chinese grandmother, Nini, lives with her grandchildren and their parents. Nancy decides to create a garden like the one her grandmother has lost. She does an admirable job with her limited skill set and no expenditure. Her parents allow it, and a neighbor helps, but the little girl does most of the work. She invites her brother to join in the project of finishing the surprise for their grandmother.

Potentially a good story to help children see that they are able to do things to help if they think creatively and are willing to put in some work. Others want to help those who are working hard to make things happen.

Michelle Chang does a good job illustrating this story. The colors are muted, so they didn't hold the attention of my three and five year olds. Still, the rest of my children enjoyed it.  My seven year old especially enjoyed it.  She asked me to review it.  So, here we are.

Have you read Goldfish and Chrysanthemums by Andrea Cheng?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

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learning to burn, part 27

Please start at the beginning.  And remember the craziness of first-draftiness!  heheeh

“Eminghare, he's really probably right. I would like to lay it all out for you right now, but if you know, your expectation of the worst, because you often do think the worst, would bring it to pass far more quickly if you know the details.”
“Oh. Do I? Really? I didn't realize. I don't what to think the worst. How can I stop?”
“Let us not worry with that question in this moment. We will have opportunities to discuss it soon. We must finish here and get going.”
The group finishes eating quietly and Oseratin adjusts the pack from which the food came. “I think this one is lightest, so I would like Eminghare to wear it. I am simply going to carry her now. Binia and Ofonode, you two can run abreast, yes?”
The two look at each other. Binia shrugs her shoulders and the two nod.
Binia lifts each pack and then picks one up and hands it to Oseratin, “You carry this. It's the next lightest. You're already carrying more than either of us. It's only right.”
“Okay. Thank you. I appreciate the thought.”
Oseratin lifts Eminghare and the group sets off again. They run steadily in silence for a few hours before they see the wall of THE NAME OF THE TOWN and slow to a walk.
“I didn't see any outlying farms...” Ofonode feels confused by the abruptness with which they've come in sight of the TOWN'S NAME.
“No. It's too dry here. What farms they have will be along THE RIVER NAME. I imagine, though, that they will have few farms. Most of their goods will come from the river and by way of other ships from the NAME OF LARGE SEA.”
“So, this place is not made of producers as much as servants?” Ofonode had heard there were such places, but had never seen one. “I'm excited to see how it is different from the other places we've been.”
“Maybe not too different. There will still be producers, though fewer.”
“Still. I'm excited to see NAME OF THE TOWN.”
“I would like to stop and discuss how we will enter.” Binia stops walking. Ofonode and Oseratin turn back.
“Yes. Let us. I think Eminghare will be fine to walk from here. Maybe you should cloak and I will enter in my smallest form.”
“I'm glad we are in agreement, Oseratin. Yes. We should let the young ones enter as if alone. In truth, we do not know what this place is like.”
Os puts Eminghare down carefully. “Since you wore your pack on your front, I think you could carry this one on your back, but you might prefer to have its straps directly on your shoulders because it is a bit heavier.”
“I wouldn't have even thought of that. Thank you, Oseratin.”
Ofonode has put both his pack and Binia's on as Eminghare makes the switch. Binia has already disappeared when Os shifts into his small lizard form.
“We should agree on our story before we enter here. I think it would be best if we speak only truth and simply leave out the information we would rather others not know. That's how I've been traveling so far and it has served me well.”
“I agree. I learned early it is unwise to try to tell stories because I couldn't remember what details I'd told and where. Truth is definitely easiest.”
“So, we are good friends traveling together and need work so we can continue our journey.”
“Yes. I think I will defer to you and pretend to be shy.”
“Would it be so much pretense?”
“Maybe not now. I used to think of myself as outgoing, but my time away from my people has taught me that I know so little that now I worry about everything I might say.”
“I've definitely experienced that first-hand.” The two laugh a little.
They hear a little chirrup and look down to see Os tapping one of his long nails. He pointedly looks in the direction of THE NAME OF THE TOWN and begins walking.
“I guess we better get on our way, then,” Ofonode says and the two burst into laughter.
Os climbs to Ofonode's shoulder as they approach the gate of THE NAME OF THE TOWN just before the sun begins to set into the horizon. Eminghare and Ofonode look at one another as they step close to the wall, “It's unusually tall, isn't it, Eminghare,” Ofonode says. She nods her head and then he hails, “Anyone there?”
A small door in the gate opens high up and a head pops through. The company of three look up in time to see the man as he says, “You've made it just in time, you have! Closed 'er up, we did. Figured all thems whose gon pass through had done, we did. Give 'er a minute to open it up and step back a ways, you must.”
The man pulls back and the small door high in the gate closes. The three step back from the gate, which opens only far enough for them to slip in. As they step up onto the cobble street of THE NAME OF THE TOWN the man whose head they saw, says, “No need to open 'er up all the way, me thinks. You three are awfully small, yous is. Figured you could slip right in, I did. I's right again, I is.”
Eminghare and Ofonode look up at the man. They realize they must look small to him because he must have had to stoop a little to put his head into the hold in the gate. “Is everyone here as tall as you?”
“Mostly so, though, we do have some small ones, we do. They come from away yonder, like yous. But they love it here, they do. So they stay and we think they are mighty happy, we do. We enjoy the Master's variety, we do. That's why we welcome alls who wants to come through and why wes lets em stay if they wants to, we do.”
“The Master's variety. Do you mean God?”
“Course. What other Master is there, I wants to know? None, I says. Only one Master… though He has two bodies. One for the Father and another for the Son... and an extra Spirit sort of body to witness His ways and truth, He do.”
“Yes! We believe the same as you. Isn't that wonderful?”
“It is. It's amazing and marvelous that truth is found in all the world. We are glad to be here. What's your name, kind sir?”
“Mine? Oh, well… no oneses asks my name…. You did, though, so I tells it to you: my name be Shabred. I be the keeper of the gate, I am. There only be me and the one who works my days off, there be. This were the only ocapation me mum could find for me, it were. She tried her hardest to find something good for me sos I could make my own way in the world, she did. But I aint as smart as the rest of my bruvers and sisters, I aint. But she's mighty proud of me, just the same, she is. She's an angel, me mum is… yes she is!”
“She sounds really wonderful,” Eminghare says. “Well, it's been a pleasure to meet you, Shabred.”

“The pleasure has been all mine, it has.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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my thoughts: on bullying

For the most part, I really and truly think that many really blow this issue out of proportion. Truly. However, I recently heard from a Mama whose son had truly experienced bullying of a horrendous nature. He was beat up on the bus. His head was beat against the bus window repeatedly, his body was stomped upon repeatedly, and then the bus diver let him off the bus well before his own stop and he walked home. His mother (and I with her) was glad the made it home, but he immediately collapsed and she couldn't get him to wake up. They rushed to the emergency room and he was okay by a couple days later.

But seriously? I mean, another kid did this to another kid! Perhaps this struck me so very painfully because I know someone who was attacked by a group of other men and beaten to a pulp. He ended up in intensive care for many days. He was unrecognizable. After that experience, he became unrecognizable as a person as well. Since that time, he has walked through the valley of the shadow of death. It has been exceedingly painful to witness.

Still, he was an adult. At least he had a relatively happy childhood by all accounts.

After learning about this little boy's experience, I almost immediately monologued to my children. In my verbal explosion of feelings brought on by learning about this little boy's experience of bullying, I basically my own children that they must DO something if they were ever witness to something of this nature, whether physical or verbal.

I believe the man I mentioned above is only alive because his friend realized what was happening to him and covered the man's body with his own. Such an act of self-sacrifice and love! We should all be so brave… but so many are not. Am I that kind of brave? I honestly don't know. I've told people to stop gossiping to me, but mostly I just change the subject.

Gossip is verbal bullying behind the victim's back… so that's why I mention it. So, what have I done, then… waited a few minutes while watching the attack and then redirecting the attackers attentions elsewhere. #sigh#

Have you stood up for someone? I would like to hear about physical and verbal interventions. What did you do? Would you do something different next time?
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my thoughts: contentment versus complacency

So, I've been working through this for some time now. I have at least one pretty big issue with Paul, so reading his words from when he wrote/taught the Philippians about contentment was a little difficult. I understand the words and see their validity, but because it was Paul… I'm not sure I can adequately explain my issue.

Anyway… I've felt confused about the difference between contentment and complacency for a while. Mostly because we are told to be content, but NOT complacent. The first definition found via google for each are as follows:
contentment – a state of happiness and satisfaction
complacent – showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements

While those are the given definitions, my understanding of the two words has been more like:
contentment – accepting what is without motivation to pursue more
complacency – ignorance of need for improvement or exceeding laziness of character which stagnates an individual where they are such that they do not move forward or changeable

Based on common usage, I think the actual definition of complacency is very much a combination of my understanding and the definition cited. However, I think the second part of my definition for complacency is the more accurate one based on usage I've heard and read.

So, given all that, I can completely understand how and why we would be advised against complacency. While, especially in the way Paul uses it, I really even still have a tough time with contentment. I do believe we should choose to be happy in whatsoever circumstances we find ourselves. However, if we do so, how do we feel motivated to improve our circumstances? I'm still troubling over this, in fact. I guess if I come to a point where I understand it fully, I'll share what I come up with. Until then, tell me what YOU think! I seriously would love some help with this and reading your perspective could be just what I need! Thank you in advance if you take some time to help me figure this out!

Monday, March 20, 2017

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Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen, a book review

While Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen fits easily in women's fiction, I think almost any adult would enjoy it. Those who enjoy and are familiar with Poe's works would probably enjoy it even more than a more general adult audience. I enjoyed the novel.

As an English major, I was already familiar with Poe, but didn't find him as fascinating as many folks I've known found him. For me, Lynn Cullen brought him to life through Mrs. Osborne's eyes and experiences in such a way as to make him far more interesting to me than he ever was on his own!

The notes at the end of the book are extremely interesting as well. In my experience of the novel, those note add relevance and 'meat' to the fictional story preceding them. Perhaps especially the notes about what pre and post dated the events reported within the novel.

I enjoyed the novel and the experience of Poe coming to life for me in a way that none of my university studies and classroom discussions about him and his work ever made him. I appreciate the treatment of the one love scene presented.

My girls will have to wait until they are in their late teens to read Mrs. Poe. This is a novel intended for adults and deals with subjects appropriate to such. I strive to present adult material to my children carefully. The material that would not be appropriate for my youngsters pertains to sex/sexuality, abortion, and faithfulness (or lack thereof).

Have you read Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen? What did you think of it?

Friday, March 17, 2017

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A Leprechaun's St. Patrick's Day by Sarah Kirwan Blazek

A Leprechaun's St. Patrick's Day by Sarah Kirwan Blazek is lovely for a few reasons. First, it starts out with a particular rhyme pattern and keeps it going through the whole book. Second, there are some Gaelic words and phrases used and their definitions are very easily seen and understood on the same page in which the word or phrase appears. Third, the illustrations work really well to inform and support the verbal part of the story.

My eldest daughter recognized the illustrator by his work. James Rice has a distinctive style and has illustrated at least one other book we've enjoyed.

If you're like me and want to have a few sweet family traditions, you could use this for one. Buy a copy for your closet and pull it out ONLY on St. Patty's Day to read with your little Leprechauns. Make sure to make it a special thing that you're pulling it out and they'll be sure to look forward to its appearance once a year.

My five eldest children and I enjoyed this book and recommend it. What do you think of it?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

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writing life: what I do in town

Two or three days a week, most weeks, I go to town to do some work online. This is particularly enjoyable for me because I very much dislike really hot weather. Sitting in air conditioning to work, is easier, for sure.

Most of the time, I work at the Library (which is in the mall) or Whataburger. The latter being somewhat easier some of the time because I'm able to have water there. It's difficult for a nursing Mama to be without water for very long.

GrA is with me when I go to town on my own, which is one or two days each week, most weeks. I prefer going at night because he's getting older and it's more difficult to work while caring for him. When he was younger (and I started going to town to work on writerly stuff when he was two months old), it was pretty easy because he just slept and nursed. Now, though, he wants a great deal more interaction. He does sleep well through the night, so going to town during the night I'm able to get more done than if I try to work through the day.

So, one or two days a week I go to town anywhere from 2pm until sometime in the wee hours of the next morning. Some days I've stayed as late at 7am. Those are days when my arrival is considerably later the night before. Usually, I leave between 5 and 6am.

What do I do online? Well, I usually have a few things to cut and paste and upload. Sometimes I copy and paste writing (like this, actually) in to my blog. Often, I have videos of GrA and other YouTube things to upload. When I was first learning to use the video editing software I use, I watched “How To” YouTubes as I did it because I couldn't figure it out on my own. YouTube is awesome!

The free picture editing tools online are better than any I have, so I do that in town. I also search for free pictures and clipart to prepare various things for different purposes. For instance, pictures may be used for a thumbnail for YouTube, a meme for Facebook, and potentially for my blog as well. If there's no picture for each blog entry, it's not very Pinnable, doncha know!

For the most part, I don't write much while in town. Sometimes I edit when I wasn't able to finish that at home for something that needs to be posted or scheduled. I prefer to get things scheduled rather than just saved as drafts because if it's a draft I still have to think about it. Whereas, if it's scheduled, it's ready to go. I like having things fully ready!

In addition to all that, I also prepare posts for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I've started working in Goodreads a little here and there.

Getting things scheduled out, is very important and helpful to me. As a Mama of six, I simply refuse to allow my work life to be a last-minute sort of situation. Knowing myself as I do, that would cause me tremendous anxiety. So, I schedule posts out as far in advance as I'm able.

Before I ever began this effort and venture, I'd read about other bloggers who have their whole calendar fully scheduled for six months in advance. I'm sure there are times where it gets a little less and even some when they have their blog ready for more than that. That makes absolute and perfect sense to me. And since I have so many social media outlets I'm working to build, I attempt to schedule out as much as I can manage.

It's definitely a progression and building process!

From the beginning, I had a plan. It has changed and grown along the way. I think and hope it's all for the better. I'd love to hear what you think of what you've seen!

Can you see how I've been building? Can you tell where I've started? What I've focused on first? I'm curious, if you've been following since I've made this effort public, if you can tell what I've been doing and where it looks to you like I'm going! Do tell!

Monday, March 13, 2017

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The Fog Diver by Joel Ross, a book review

The Fog Diver by Joel Ross immediately reveals very little, yet caught this reader firmly. I had to force myself to stop to go to sleep when I felt tired.

Chess is the main character of this future fiction. A future in which Elvis Presley is a constellation and Star Wars and Star Trek have become one crazy story. A time when nanites have cleaned the earth and turned on their creators.

This is an awesome story. My two eldest daughters and I have adopted some of the phrases from the story in our communications (to be silly and to sorta make our own family language). It's the purplest! Seriously. You should read this book so you can join in!

Have you read The Fog Diver by Joel Ross? What did you think of it?

Friday, March 10, 2017

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The Pitiful Pirates by Jane Arlington, a book review

My children read The Pitiful Pirates by Jane Arlington before I did. Very soon after they read it, they put it in front of me telling me I absolutely had to read it. They were so excited as I began it, that I couldn't help wondering what was so great about the story. It's not a rhyming story (which I definitely prefer in children's picture books), so I was waiting to realize why they were so excited for me to read it.

When I read the part of the story in which the storm kicks up, I did find it pretty funny. Of course, given our Cap'N Hugh “Strongback” Golly, this book would be pretty appropriate and enjoyable to all of us. Lydian, the little girl in the story, made a suggestion to the pirates after observing their difficulty with the storm. That is why my children were so tickled and excited for me to read this book. It's pretty perfect for us if you think of my very first children's book!

Meredeth Johnson illustrated this picture book. The illustrations are really perfect for the story. The portrayal of Lydia in the illustrations is completely believable and adorable. The other characters are equally fitting and fun.

We liked this children's picture book! Have you read The Pitiful Pirates by Jane Arlington? What did you think?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my eldest daughter!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

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learning to burn, part 26

Please start at the beginning.  And remember this is the very first draft, goofy notes to myself and all.

“So, that funny saying my Auntie loved 'Man plans, God laughs,' should really only happen frequently if we don't seek His blessing on our plans and goals?”
Oseratin passes out the bowls of mash, “I believe so and that very fact has played out in my life. Of course, there are other people, so sometimes even when we receive confirmation, we must remain flexible because someone else's agency can cause necessary changes in what we would strive to accomplish. Eminghare, please bless the food.” She does so.
“What will we do with this female?” Eminghare asks.
Oseratin moves her so that she rests next to the rocks of the outcropping and returns to where the others sit watching him. “We will leave her as she is. No harm will come to her and she will wake in a day or so. She will seek the others of her Order.” Os returns to eating his food and the others follow suit.
Right before all have finished their food Binia says, “We will stay on the road. Unless we have a problem with others of your kind, we will pass easily. It is important for us to move quickly, perhaps even jog and run until we make it to THE NAME OF THE CITY.”
“That makes it sound like you know something we don't.” Eminghare says to Binia.
“Yes. I will share as we go. Let us ready ourselves.”
The group gathers their things and settles the packs on their backs. “I will be last this time.” Oseratin says.
Ofonode says, “I'll run just before him. Maybe you two could run side by side so I can hear Binia?”
“That sounds good. Do you mind running at my pace, Binia?”
“Not at all. Let's go.” The group sets off and Binia begins to relate her experiences.
“What I know that you don't is this: the Drack Order has begun to gather their members. There were at least ten when they had me. Plus that female. They now know some of my strength. I did not have to reveal all, but they will be much better prepared. Thankfully they know almost nothing of Oseratin outside menspar. So, we still have advantage there, but they will hunt us. Oseratin and I are a tremendous hindrance to them. They have been seeking the destruction of all the members of the Holy Order since we arrive on your planet. Even Os and I don't know how many of us are left. Perhaps we are the only ones. So, they will hunt us and anyone with whom we are associated. They will assume you know our purpose and work with us to accomplish it. Nevermind that it isn't true. The truth never really gets in their way, you must understand. They don't care about it. They believe they know best at all times and will seek to fulfill their own will and advance their own understanding whatever the cost.
“So, I stopped along the way yesterday to relieve myself. I should have stopped everyone, but I wanted to be alone for just a moment. I have always enjoyed my time alone. It is probably one of my greatest difficulties… my desire to be alone. Still, I do need some time to myself… I will just make sure to communicate my need and we will figure out how to make it work from here on out.
“I returned to the road and was easily catching you when the Dracks overtook me. I didn't even hear them on the road. They may have been flying. However, I believe they were only able to catch me because they have a ship. That's the most alarming part of the whole ordeal yesterday. We thought our craft were all destroyed. We were wrong. So, the fact that they have even one ship is an advantage to them. But since we know about it now, we will be able to defend against it, thankfully.”
“You did not tell me of the ship, Binia.” Oseratin sounds shocked and displeased.
“I was very tired. It was not the most important thing in my mind. Please forgive me, Oseratin.”
“All is forgiven, of course. We will speak more of what you know of the ship they have constructed later.”
“Yes. So, they attempted to hold me. Obviously they succeeded somewhat. But they knew they would not be able to keep me long. Fortunately for me and us, they misjudged my strengths and abilities and did not guard their conversations well, though they did not speak out loud at all. I guess my time away from all other invisians and attempting to commune with another species has strengthened my ability to hear what is not said. So, I listened carefully while I worked myself out of their hold. Thus the information I have already shared.”
“And you're sure they didn't allow you to overhear it as a means of setting a trap?” Eminghare asks what the rest are thinking.
“I am as sure as I can be. It wasn't simple to hear them and some of the comments they made led me to believe they thought I couldn't possibly understand them. I'm sure they would have been able to catch us by now since they do have that air ship. Yet, they have not. This is, to me, an additional confirmation that they did not know I could understand them.”
Oseratin says, “We have, it seems, both guessed wrongly about the other. Let us assume they are laying a trap and hope Ofonode's foretelling dreams will warn us if we are in danger. If we assume danger is ahead and we encounter none, we are no worse for the wariness.”
Breathing heavily, Ofonode says, “How were they holding you? And how did you get free?”
“To explain both would require a lesson in physics that I am not prepared to give as we run along the road. If, at some point in the future, it seems we have the time and there is need for you to know the intricacies of a branch of science you have no studied at all, I will attempt to help you. For now, suffice it to say that I did.”
“I know we've only been running a short time, but I need to slow down for a while.” Eminghare's voice sounds weak to Ofonode. He slows immediately, as do Binia and Os. Though the pace is significantly reduced, Eminghare visibly struggles to keep up.
“Shall I carry you again, my dear?”
“I hate to ask you to, Oseratin, but if you could….”
“Of course.” Os jumps forward and smoothly lifts the girl into his arms.
I wish I was as strong as Os, Ofonode thinks. Eminghare looks over at him and smiles. Ofonode realizes she's heard him and a hot blush rises to his cheeks and his hair begins to float out behind him.
Os looks over at Ofonode and winks with a big grin on his face.
The group runs unmolested for the rest of the morning. They stop for lunch when they reach a cleared area with a large black circle lined with rocks and a secondary circle of logs outside the rocks. To one side of the circle is a low box and in the opposite direction is a table with benches. It is a well-used spot and the group is relieved to find it.
Os puts Eminghare down on a log and the rest of them put their packs down on logs near her. Ofonode opens the box and finds logs, kindling, and a fire starter in it. On the underside of the box is written a message that those who choose to use what lies within should either replace in kind or leave some form of payment as a maintenance fee. Ofonode closes the lid without removing anything.
“Will we have a fire here?”
“I think it unnecessary, my boy. Eminghare requires rest and food. It need not be hot food, though. It is best if we are on our way as soon as possible.” Binia is standing next to Os digging through the pack with the most food and nods her head.
“You look like you're doing okay. How do you feel?” Ofonode asks.
“I still feel weaker than I have for the whole of my journey so far. I don't understand it. It seems like I should be stronger since I've been on the road so long, but exactly the opposite is happening.
Binia and Os look at one another.
“What? I see the way you two are looking at each other. What's that all about?”
Oseratin shakes his head. Binia scrunches her eyes into slits and nods her head one time before she speaks, “You must return to your people as quickly as possible.” She immediately returns to moving things around in the pack and starts to take a few things out here and there.
“Yes. That's what I'm trying to do. I can't really help it that all sorts of things are causing delays. Can I? What does returning to my people have to do with the way I can't seem to run and feel so weak and tired after so little exertion?”
Binia looks up and is about to speak when Oseratin puts his hand on Binia's arm and says, “My concern is that if you know the details of the problem, the knowing may compound the problem exponentially.”
Os takes the food from Binia and passes it around to everyone. All but Eminghare begin to eat.
“So, what. You two… is it Ofonode, too? You three know there's something wrong with me and haven't told me?” She takes an angry bite and chew, but not enough, swallows too much, and begins to cough. Binia gently rubs her back and looks pleadingly at Oseratin.
“No, not at all, my dear.” Os says to Eminghare, “We did wonder if your genes carried the sickness. We had no way to know if it would trouble you. We did not know something was truly amiss until just now. Your words have revealed the trouble. We thoughts yesterday was only an isolated occurrence and had no idea you've been feeling an overall weakness and lethargy as we see you must have been, now. Lest you think poorly of Ofonode, I must tell you that he has not had even the beginning of a clue about what we are speaking.”
“You've said I'm sick? But I don't feel sick.”
“It's not an illness of the body, per se. It just appears as an illness after exertion… the body simply shows symptoms so that you will return to your people and be renewed.”
Eminghare sits quietly eating for a moment, “Renewed… my mother spoke of that. When she did, though, it had something to do with going to our worship meetings each week. What does it have to do with needing to return home?”
“Just so. Exactly that. You know all there is to know, my dear.”
Eminghare looks completely confused and Binia says, “She does, but she doesn't. Surely it would do no harm for me to explain it to her explicitly?”

“Later, certainly. Eminghare, you must know that we both have your best interests at heart. I feel concern that Binia may share overmuch with you because she has been traveling with you so long and loves you so dearly. While I, though I love you night as much as she, am a more objective observer, as it were. Please trust me.”

Monday, March 6, 2017

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The Door in the Lake by Nancy Butts, a book review

Nancy Butts caught me and my daughters well, solidly, and immediately in The Door in the Lake. The cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter are such that I neglected the chapter breaks a few times when I meant to stop reading to sleep. I started the book one afternoon and finished the next day, which isn't surprising because it's really not very long.

It is suspenseful without being heartpoundingly unnerving. I particularly enjoyed the imagery pertaining to the door itself. The way Nancy Butts treats time in the novel is perfect. I was imagining, the night after finishing it, what Joey's brother, parents, and others did in the time-line he left. Ripe for fan fiction opportunities me thinks.

My three eldest girls have read and enjoyed it. The youngest of those three being seven, almost eight. It is appropriate for all ages, thankfully!

Have you read The Door in the Lake by Nancy Butts? What did you think of it?

Nancy Butts caught me and my daughters well, solidly, and immediately in The Door in the Lake. The cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter are such that I neglected the chapter breaks a few times when I meant to stop reading to sleep. I started the book one afternoon and finished the next day, which isn't surprising because it's really not very long.

It is suspenseful without being heartpoundingly unnerving. I particularly enjoyed the imagery pertaining to the door itself. The way Nancy Butts treats time in the novel is perfect. I was imagining, the night after finishing it, what Joey's brother, parents, and others did in the time-line he left. Ripe for fan fiction opportunities me thinks.

My three eldest girls have read and enjoyed it. The youngest of those three being seven, almost eight. It is appropriate for all ages, thankfully!

Have you read The Door in the Lake by Nancy Butts? What did you think of it?

Friday, March 3, 2017

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Carousel Cat by Robert J. Blake, a book review

Apparently, I really like children's picture books in which the author is also illustrator! Carousel Cat is written and illustrated by Robert J. Blake.

The illustrations in this book were not nearly so captivating to me as in previous author/illustrator books I've reviewed. My children really enjoyed them, though. How do I know? If they don't enjoy the pictures, they get up when I'm reading and the quiet erupts into their noisier play. So, I'm pleased with the art for its ability to keep my children's attention.

I like the story. It left me wondering if the happenings were based on real incidents. Are the characters based on real people? I haven't been curious enough to find out, but it's interesting to think that they could be.

The plot twist involving the cat is pretty fun. My children really enjoyed it.

Have you read Carousel Cat? What did you think?

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The Great Kettles, a Tale of Time by Dean Morrissey, a book review

The second following Ship of Dreams, Dean Morrissey as author and illustrator does an amazing job of story telling and illustrating in The Great Kettles, a Tale of Time. My children love these books. My five-year-old boy, in particular loves the paintings. He enjoys pointing out small details. Like the snakes in the train, the Sandman's ship in the sky, and the lantern at Joey's feet as just a few examples.

In this tale, Joey continues his adventure with mythical folk, primarily Father Time. He does come across The Sandman again briefly. He's once again rather stranded. Will he be able to get home?

The illustrations in this book are phenomenal. They are lovely and detailed and perfectly support the story. Morrissey started them in 1992 and finished them in 1996. The time he spent on them is obvious.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

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learning to burn, part 25

Please begin at the beginning!  And remember... first drafty-ness and all.  heeheehee

As he wonders to himself what she is doing to him, he realizes that the heaviness in his eyelids of a moment before is completely gone and he is sitting straight and feeling very strong. 'What's going on, Eminghare? I feel like I could run all night!'
Eminghare immediately moves her hands, 'Oh, good! I'm glad you mentioned it. I wasn't sure when to stop. I've just processed extra and pushed some energy into you.'
'Whaa? What does that mean?'
'You don't feel tired because I've fed you, in a manner of speaking. Imagine one of the times you were hungrier than any other time in your life. And then someone gives you an energy-snack. Like a dense protein shake or bar. Well, I did that for your spiritual body. I was hoping that's where your fire begins and I think my guess was right. You don't feel like you'll fall asleep now, right?'
'No! Like I said, I feel like I could run all night.'
'Good. Well, I don't think you'll have to keep this up that long. I have a feeling Ofonode is going to wake up before the sun goes down.' Eminghare returns to sit near Ofonode thinking that his movement from the menspar into consciousness might be physically difficult.
'I hope you're right. I don't know what we'll do if she's not bluffing!'
The two settle into an uncomfortable silence, both checking the movement of the sun far more often than necessary or helpful.
Red lights up the horizon and the sun is half hidden in it when Ofonode starts to shudder. Eminghare quickly moves his head in her lap, hoping it's more comfortable that the pebbly ground. The light shaking becomes gran mal seizing and Eminghare looks up at Ofonode with concern and even a little fear in her eyes.
Ofonode begins to argue with himself about whether to release the invader and decides to hold on because if he lets her go, they must deal with whatever her free presence would mean.
The seizures seem to calm and very quickly. Through all of it the female has been absolutely still. Ofonode feels her slump in his lap and looks over to Eminghare. He can't quite figure out what the expression on her face means.
'Can you lay her down without letting go?' she asks him in his mind.
'I'll try.' He succeeds and the two watch Os carefully. After long enough for the sun to almost completely settle under the horizon, Os opens his eyes and sits up straight.
“I am well pleased and mightily impressed that the liar was not able to fool you two. I thought for sure you'd let her go. It is good you did not. Good indeed!”
Eminghare and Ofonode release their breath gustily, neither realizing they'd been holding it!
“I'm so glad,” Eminghare looks over at Ofonode who nods, “we're so glad you're okay! I figured you would be. I mean, I was confident until the very end just a few minutes ago when you were seizing so wildly. Are you okay?”
Oseratin looks himself over briefly, then sits a moment as if trying to figure out the answer to her question, “Yes. Yes, my dear. I do believe I'm as well if not better than when I began. How long has it been, afterall?”
“You mean,” Ofonode asks with alarm, “You don't know how long you've been in menspar with her?”
“No idea. It could be the same day or a few for all I know. I'm hoping for only a day to have passed. But if longer than that, I have some congratulations to give you, Ofonode!”
“Why me? And no, it's the same day.”
“Well, well! I've done better than I could have expected! I guess living along has been a strengthening rather than a weakening experience for me. I wouldn't have guessed it could be so. Though I certainly am please to realize it!
“As for congratulations… I still think you deserve some! I'm certain you never would have agreed to your task if you knew it would take so long. And you've come through it marvelously.” Os looks at Ofonode carefully. “You don't look at all tired, my boy! You have done better than I ever would have expected!”
“I couldn't do it alone.” Ofonode looks at Eminghare who is shaking her head slightly. Oseratin catches the exchange.
“It's okay, my dear. I already know your people. Your mother will perhaps be shocked to see Binia and me again, but she will recognize me for sure. We helped your tribe, as they called themselves then, to stay their enemies before the surface changed.”
“Oh!” Eminghare wonders what other secrets this strange alien has that he is holding back from them.
If they'd been paying attention, Ofonode and Eminghare would have laughed to realize they were having the exact same thoughts separately.
“What will we do with her?” Ofonode asks, still holding tight to her upper arms.
“Yes. Well, you can release her now. She is not dead, but she will not wake again until I wake her.”
Ofonode finds it difficult to move his hands. Os moves, jerkily at first, to help Ofonode, “We're both a bit stiff in different ways, eh there, boy?”
Ofonode snuffles a laugh, “Yeah. My hands. Your body. Will we walk tonight? I know I can, but you and Eminghare might not be so full of energy.”
“We will wait the night. If we can rest, we should. I fully believe and feel confident that Binia will meet us here before the sun rises. You see, these others have become weak in their ease. They have been united, for the most part, while we of the Holy Order have been isolated from others of our Order. If my experience is the rule, which I think likely, isolation makes all us invisians strong. I believe those of the Holy Order are more likely to grow strong more quickly because of our Christ-centered worship. Light always trumps darkness. It's only a matter of time.”
Ofonode goes to a pack and fills his arms with some food. “Let's eat before we rest.”
“Sounds good to me.” Os says. Eminghare smiles and slightly nods her head.
The three eat quietly together. As Eminghare gathers the food packs together and begins to dig a hold for the trash, she asks, “Will we be safe through the night? Or should we take watches?”
“I'll sit up and watch. I couldn't sleep anyway.” Ofonode responds.
“Okay. But you must wake me the moment you begin to feel tired. The energy you have received will fade more quickly than you can imagine. I do think having a watch is a very good idea, Eminghare.”
“So, it's okay for me to go to sleep, right? I feel more tired than I should and I'd like to get as much sleep as possible before my turn to watch.”
“Yes, please, my dear. Do. Rest deeply and well.”
“Thank you. Thank you for taking the first watch, Ofonode.”
He smiles and nods, feeling more pleased at her thanks than he thinks is reasonable.
Os lies down next to where Ofonode sits and seems to immediately fall asleep. Ofonode jumps a little off the ground when Os says, “I'm glad to see your connection to the girl. Make sure to be wary of your thoughts, my boy. It is still open and unless you ask her to close it, I think she will keep it open.”
“Oh? I did forget. Did she hear my thought after she thanked me?”
“Probably and that is not nor should it be a big deal. I just don't want you to feel embarrassed for something more if you forget again as I supposed you had just now. Of course, it could serve you well to forget… should you want more than friendship at some point in the future and don't know how to pursue it. Just remember for now.”
Ofonode blushes, embarrassed that his thoughts are so very apparent to his friend, “Thank you, Os. I will.”
Many hours later, Ofonode begins to feel as though he will need to fall asleep soon. He moves to wake Os and sees, out of the corner of his eye, movement near the road. How in the world can I see anything at all in the dark, he wonders to himself. He strains his eyes in the direction in which he thought he saw movement and sees nothing at all.
“I will appear in a moment, Ofonode.” Binia's voice comes out of nowhere and Ofonode shivers with fright just as she releases her invisibility, revealing that she is kneeling near him. “I'm sorry to startle you. I didn't expect anyone to be awake. Surely you must need to sleep?”
“Yes. I was just about to wake Os.”
“That is a good idea. Wake him and we will speak together before you go to sleep.”
Ofonode does so.
Oseratin rushes to Binia and embraces her. Ofonode thinks he hears him whisper to her before letting her go. Her smile is easy to see in the dark because her whole face is actually lit up and a faint glow surrounds her. Ofonode wonders if this is another manifestation of one of her skills.
“We were worried about you Binia,” Os says quietly.
“Very! We would have come back for you if Os thought we should after menspar with the other female who pretended to be you. He thought you would get free, though. How did you, anyway?”
“That is a story for when we are all awake together. Perhaps on the road after you have slept. You will not have long to sleep, so please take this time now.”
Ofonode lies down right where he is and almost immediately falls asleep.
Os and Binia sit quietly and watch him until they are certain he is sleeping. “They knew you would get free, but did they let you?”
“They knew I would be stronger than them, but they held out as long as they could. They will follow us, Oseratin. But they will gather more before they do so. Even as few as we are, we are much stronger together than they. I hope we will make it to the mountain before they are able to round up others of their Order. I need to rest or the confrontation will be much closer than if we are rested.”
“I am so sorry we lost you.”
“You are not to blame. I should have communicated my needs more completely. I thought taking a moment to relieve myself alone would come to no harm. My desire for privacy has caused difficulty again. It is I who must apologize. And give thanks. You broke your promise to never menspar for me. Thank you, my love. Please forgive me my desire to be alone at times. I will not do the same again.”
“I forgive you. I have come to realize that I would break every promise if I felt like doing so would enable me to keep you safe or bring you to safety!”
“Let us hope and plan that you will not need to so do.” Os nods and the two rest against each other, Os placing his arm tentatively around Binia's shoulders and hugging her closer.
“It is my turn to watch. Please sleep, my sweet Binia.”
She snuggles into him and closes her eyes. As she falls asleep she feels herself fall into herself more fully than she has felt since before they became separated and she sighs.
Ofonode wakes with a start, feeling completely disoriented, and looks around trying to remember where he is.
“Are we safe, Ofonode?” Os asks from his place by the fire where he is softening some of the hard biscuits for breakfast.
“I… I think so. I just couldn't remember where I was for a minute. Where are Binia and Eminghare?”
“Just behind the outcropping. They wanted to relieve themselves and wash a little before you woke. They have only been gone only a few minutes and should come back around momentarily. You did not dream any warnings, then?”
“No. I mean, yes. I did dream a warning. But it isn't about here and now and, honestly, it didn't make any sense at all.”
“Everything was different. And there was a crystal mountain somehow… I don't know how to describe it. It's like we were inside a crystal mountain and… well, I guess we were under attack. And we had to speed up. Something. We have to finishing something more quickly than we planned because if we didn't the mountain would crash down on us. I saw it happen… both ways this time. It was really upsetting, Os. I mean, I saw us all die. But somehow, even though I was in the mass of death, I also observed it. How can that be?”
“Perhaps it can be because you were not actually in it, but seeing a possible future. Let us remember and make it happen in the way that resulted in life after the mountain crashed.”
“You mean, you think there is such a mountain? I thought people just called it that… I mean… how could there be a crystal mountain?”
“Oh… says a boy who comes from a plateau held up by the will of one man! Limited thoughts limit. You must open your mind wider, Ofonode.”
“I guess so. Well, I look forward to seeing it for real. It was glorious in my dream!”
“We should get there within the month, I should think.”
“Why do you think it will take so long?”
“We must stop for a week or more in the next town so that we will have enough supplies to actually make it to the crystal mountain.”
“You're right. I just… I guess since I've seen it now, I want to just be there.”
“Let us accept the road as it is. There is rarely any good that comes from rushing our present in favor of the future. What may come is only potential, not promise.”
“Then why set goals and make plans?”
Eminghare and Binia come back to the fire and look between Os and Ofonode.

“Because of the potential therein. If we make no plans, it is highly likely that no good will be accomplished. Or, far less than we could have done with a little planning. Plans must often be changed because of that which comes to pass that we never planned, so it is important to remain mentally and emotionally flexible even when we make what seems to us the perfect plan or goal because we do not control all factors that create the future. Also, we must seek God's confirmation that our goals and plans are good or we will find that our plans and goals must change far more often than if we make sure what we think should happen is in line with His greater and more perfect plan.”