Time to Read!

Time to Read!

It’s hard to avoid the down side of being homebound, but today, let’s look at the silver lining. We can easily find up sides, too.

For me, house arrest means extra time to write. (Just wait ’til you meet the Daughters of Destiny!)  It also means more time than ever to read, and, like most inveterate readers, I have a tall TBR pile awaiting my attention. I’ve recently read some very good books which I’d like to share with you.

Americans were horrified by the kidnapping of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in June of 2002 and astonished at her return nine months later. Where There’s Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up does not detail that nine-month ordeal of brutal horror, although some parts of her experience are woven in. She covered the details in My Story. For this book, she has interviewed a number of other people who have also suffered trauma, some in a harrowing few minutes, others over much of a lifetime, to discover the common threads that help people not only survive, but thrive and put the horror behind them. Her book offers clues for healing and hope at any time, but seems especially insightful now. I recommend it highly.

Also highly powerful is Stay, a new book from Catherine Ryan Hyde. Most readers first came to know her when her book, Pay It Forward, was made into a movie. I’ve now read a number of her books and they almost all carry those same themes of reaching out and connecting with others. Stay deals with the ultimate existential question, the same one voiced by Hamlet: “To be or not to be.” I found it highly insightful, uplifting, and life-affirming.

As these stories suggest, I too am interested in survivors. I have them all around me. My hometown is only a few miles from Paradise, California, which burned to the ground in a dramatic conflagration in November, 2018. What was it like to be in Paradise six months later? That’s what Sunny Ray wants to know when she drives into the Sierra Nevada foothills. Her intention is to document survivor stories for her graduate studies. Almost everyone is cooperative except Deputy Sheriff Evan Ray.

As their work forces them together, they make a few powerful discoveries of their own. When can tragedy give way to healing, and maybe even, to love? Join Sunny and Evan to find out.

Sunny’s Summer, Book 2 in the Seasons of Destiny series, is on sale for only 99c this week. Pop over and have a look! Then read, find joy in the moment, and stay happy, sheltered, and safe.

Escaping House Arrest

Escaping House Arrest

It’s redbud time here in NorCal, and jasmine time, and wisteria time, and a few fortunate people even have lilacs. (When did lilacs fall out of fashion?) Here, as in the rest of the state, we are grounded, told by our governor to stay inside and away from others. Yet a quiet drive does not violate the standard and does allow us to break up the monotony of house arrest.

Observing the beauty in our natural surroundings still nurtures me, helping me to feel at peace with the world even in uncertain times. On this particular drive, I looked for signs of spring. They are everywhere. We live in one of five places on earth that enjoy a Mediterranean climate: the Med basin, California, central Chile, southern and southeastern Australia, and the cape of South Africa. That brings us early and lovely spring seasons, and a welcome escape from house arrest.

Another way to get out without danger is a nice walk in our park. Our city boasts one of the largest municipal parks in the nation. It’s huge. Part looks like forest, but sits in the middle of town. Part is wildland where bears, bobcats, and mountain lions reign. It’s also amazingly beautiful, built around a lovely creek with swimming holes eroded into the black basalt of the canyon the water has forged.

On a recent afternoon, Roger and I took a long walk in the park, waving at walkers on the other side of the roadway, some ten or twelve feet from us. Even when we greeted people we knew well, we maintained social distancing as we chatted.

Of course, fiction is always a great escape. This week, March 23-30, the first book in the Seasons of Destiny series is on sale for just 99 cents. You can take a vacation in Destiny, California inexpensively. Tell your friends!

Compared with much of America, we have it easy. Many folks we know are suddenly tasked with home schooling while trying to work from home. They’re struggling, but making it work. Unusual situations call forth our common humanity and necessary creativity.  Considering the circumstances, we’re doing very well. Stay safe this spring!

World closed for business

World closed for business

How has your life changed since the world closed its doors? For Roger and me, the differences are small. He is fully retired and can afford to wait it out. I’m still working, but as a novelist, I’m accustomed to a solitary, work-from-home existence. I play with my imaginary friends and observe the world through my office window. Yet I can fully appreciate how crazy life must be for many of you.

In decades past, it would have been full-on chaos for us. With two full-time careers (his as a newspaper reporter; mine teaching at the state university nearby), we’d have been crazy enough. Add in children in three schools, two soccer leagues, various clubs and church groups, not to mention school sports, band, plays, and choir, and …well, you get the picture. Some of you are probably living it. If so, you have my full sympathy.

We have people there, too. I recently spoke with our daughter whose children are ages 2 to 12. A normal day is spent largely in the car driving kids to school, lessons, practice, clubs, church, and play dates. Now she is struggling to keep them all occupied without any of their usual activities. Our sons’ families are in similar situations, and all of our employed folks are trying to  maintain their jobs and income without going to work. It’s not easy.

We’re seeing other changes as well. A grandson planned to enlist in the National Guard at the end of this school term. Now, with all his classes online, he has no reason to postpone. A college student granddaughter will be traveling across several states to wait out the crisis with her family while finishing classes via computer. We all our trying to “be there” for one another (virtually; no contamination involved) while keeping our lives as normal and healthy as possible.

We humans are resilient. Our ancestors survived the Spanish flu and two world wars. Afterward, they built the world we inherited. No doubt we can do as well. My hope is that we’ll get through this quickly, with as little damage as possible, and, when we reach the other side, we’ll reach out to serve those hardest hit and to lift one another. In the meantime, we’ll lift our collective chin and wash our hands. Frequently.

Along the way, should you feel the need to while away some time, I know where you can find some good books. 😉

Stay well, my friends!

Strong gals; #womenstrong

Strong gals; #womenstrong

March 8, International Women’s Day, began a week celebrating women. A local church group, anticipating the day, decided that the full 2020 year would be a good time to demonstrate women’s strength. How better to do that than to show the community the power of committed women?

Let’s make 2020 Women’s Year.

They organized under the banner #400womenstrong. Since there were nowhere near 400 in their group, the first task was to recruit others. To join, one did not have to be a member of their faith or of any faith. All one needed was two X chromosomes and a desire to serve.

They reasoned it’s a good time for this effort. We’ve had so much divisiveness lately. Families and friends have split over political differences or social positions. Now, with the threat of coronavirus, some folks are even fearful to be around others.

Yet we’ve also had beautiful examples of our common humanity. During the Camp Fire that destroyed the neighboring town of Paradise, one woman drove her pickup alongside the road, shouting “Get in!” to anyone on foot. She didn’t ask how they’d voted in the last election. She simply saved desperate people from the flames.

Why can’t we reach out to serve one another when we aren’t facing a calamity? This group believes we can. One small sub-group is making tiny beanies for infants born prematurely at our local hospital. Another group is creating knit or crochet scarves to hand out at homeless shelters next winter.

One woman is photographing headstones in local cemeteries and uploading them to the BillionGraves website. Her efforts will help people who are seeking  their ancestors. Another bakes holiday treats for the men in a shelter for homeless veterans. All are logging their time with a goal to reach 20,000 hours of community service this year. They logged 1800 hours in the first two months, a good start.

My challenge today is to encourage any who read this blog to organize in your own communities. Odds are you are already doing helpful things for others around you. As you gather with like-minded people and organize, you too can show the world what women (and men) can do and, in the process, help to rebuild the links that connect us to one another. It’s a great way to celebrate women…and all humankind.