Sunday, March 24, 2019

Saturday Eats - Ultra Dark Chocolate Cake

If you eat it on your "cheat day" which for us is "Faturday" calories don't count (or you do an extra hour on the punching bag this week.)

Ultra Dark Chocolate Cake

For the cake

2/3 cup dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder to get that deep dark color)
1 cup hot strong brewed coffee
1 pinch cayenne
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
Butter for greasing the pans
Two parchment circles, cut the size of the bottom of your cake pans
Cocoa for dusting the pans

For the Frosting:

1 cup dark cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa to get that deep dark color)
4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ sticks butter, softened
½ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

To Prepare the Cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, dissolve cocoa powder and cayenne with hot brewed coffee and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream oil and sugar until well combined.
4. Add eggs and beat until light and creamy, about 1-2 minutes. This process beats air into the mixture. Scrape paddle and bowl and beat once.
5. Slowly add in coffee/cocoa mixture, buttermilk, and vanilla and beat until batter is smooth. Scrape paddle and bowl and beat once.
6. In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet and beat on low speed to incorporate. Scrape down the bowl and mix just until all ingredients are combined, do not over mix once the flour is in.
7. Butter the bottom and sides of two 9-inch cake pans and place a round parchment circle in each. Butter the top of the parchment then sprinkle the whole inside of the parchment and pan with cocoa powder, shaking out excess. Pour batter evenly between two pans and place in the center of oven. (note, aluminum baking pans are by far, the best for baking cakes. Non-stick and dark colored pans can change the cake by browning it more than it needs to)
8. Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Depending on your oven, you may need to rotate cake pans halfway through. During our baking, one cake was done in 30 minutes and the second in 32 minutes. Do not over bake.
9. Cool pans on wire racks for ten minutes then carefully invert out of the pan onto the rack to cool further.

To Prepare the Frosting;

1. Sift cocoa powder with confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and cocoa powder mixture along with buttermilk and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Add additional buttermilk or whole milk if frosting is too thick.
2. Place a small dollop of frosting on a cake dish to hold the cake from sliding and place one cake on the frosting. Frost the top of that layer. Place the second cake on the first and frost the entire cake, top and sides.

Friday, March 22, 2019

On Strength


I remember the day well.  I was cleaning out a storage unit that I had rented when I sold my last house, with the last of the lightweight gear loaded in the truck, tied together and down by strands of paracord. Like baling twine to a farmer, it's the thread of life for someone bent on surviving. Shelter building, gear repair, snares, and traps, securing gear either to yourself or your truck so if you and thick brush do the tango it doesn't come loose. The inside strands can make a fishing net. Hanging food out of reach of animals, makeshift clothesline, a sling, multiple uses for something that coils quietly like a snake in the dark of my pack.

550 cord has its name due to its strength capacity. Each of the 7 strands is rated at 50-foot lbs. It's good to know that info if you need to use the individual strands. Knowing the strength of the individual is as important as knowing the strength of the group and it might save your life sometimes.


Each strand, 50 pounds. With the empty sheath rated at 200 pounds. I think you could flatten that out and use it to temporarily replace a fan belt if you had to (though you might need an overhand knot every so often to keep it from slipping).

It's hard to describe the sort of predicament that paracord could get you out of, but if you've ever ridden into one, you will know.

Yet, it's a common item that gives outdoor survival some substance, a reminder of doing with what you have, what you need to do to survive. Holding it in your hand, it becomes second nature, what hands and fingers are for, the dexterity of your fingers, the willful outcome of your intentions, formed into something useful. Something that can hold life together.


I'm not any sort of expert in anything outdoors. I'm never going to have my own reality show (and note to those that do, please actually HAVE some fishing and shooting acumen before you try and pass yourself off as someone that does). But in addition to basic camping and hiking, I've been survival trained by a couple of employers and if it hasn't given me definitive skills, it's taught me how to THINK about surviving.

It was supposed to be a day hike, though I had a lightweight sleeping bag (OK, it's only rated at 30 degrees, but at 3 pounds and it being summer, always worth toting along). Plus I had a tarp for a tent just in case I got running behind. Friends knew I'd be back no later than the next morning and if I failed to appear, where to come looking for me, my route laid out ahead of time. The weather was forecast to be good, I was in good health. Then, like something out of a Stooges movie, I stumbled in some loose rock putting a big gouge in my knee. It was deep enough to hurt, not to hobble, but it slowed me down. Enough to know as I headed back I was unlikely to make my truck before dark. Pushing it in the near dark was only going to get me lost.

I figured I best set up for the night near the trail. I had food, water, a way to build a small fire, stuff for a makeshift tent. As I set up my camp for the night, a sound crashed out of the brush, rising up and away, a parabolic curve of sound as a large deer sped away. I could only watch, my head turned to pace his invisible flight, in the wan light, watching the shadow flee into the spellbound woods beyond. And it dawned on me. I'm not the only one out here. This is bear country, not grizzly, but bears nonetheless, though frankly, in all the times I'd hiked up here I'd never seen one. Still, they are here. I needed to sleep upwind of my food, and where I prepared it. And I needed my food up off the ground. The trees were tall, I climb about as well as a carp. What to use?

Paracord. I only had a little, Lesson learned, you can NEVER have too much duct tape or paracord. But I did have enough if I separated it out into strands. So I cut off a good piece., leaving enough for other uses. Normally, I'd burn the ends with a lighter so the individual strands didn't come out (be careful on this, Dante's Inferno has nothing on melted 550 cord that drips on bare skin). But this time I needed those strands. Tying each one to each other with a simple square knot and I was able to lift up my gear. Food, breath mints (bears like the smell of some minty toiletries and it wasn't like I was going to meet Mr. Right out here), the shirt and shorts I prepared my food in. All well out of Mr. Bear's reach, about twelve feet off the ground and four feet away from the truck. It wasn't a lot of weight for just a day hike but it was up and safe as I would be for the night, with just a little planning ahead.

I thought about it that day when I was putting away the last load from the truck.  I think about it as I hang up the coat I wear outdoors to the range, I find a single round. A live round, not tarnished or touched, the primer embedded firmly into its form. Not much longer than a match, it's large enough to contain a life. Someday it might have to.

Tools are all around us, simple things, necessary things. Learn how to use them. You can sit home, enveloping yourself in the smoke of useless and perpetual passivity, that you can almost smell on a person. Or you can learn. Learn to recognize fear, often as lost on the very young as love and passion.


Then one day, when you stand still with the taste of brass there in a mouth gone dry, a knot in your stomach, you know it's time to use those tools you have to survive. You feel it, in blood, bone, skin, awareness rising out of experience. Be it a city street, the protracted shade of undying woods, or simply face to face with someone who wishes to steal something within you are not ready to give, you reach into your pocket, into yourself and unleash those threads that bind you to passivity.

There's strength in even the small things that are causes for wonder.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog

This is Abby's "Elvis face".  This is the little lip curl, sometimes tongue out, she does when she is annoyed with me because I'm too slow getting the treats, or yogurt, or walkies, taking a picture instead of getting her what she wants.

But it made me smile as on one of my last visits out to my Dad before he went in Assisted Living, we went to the grocers.  He likes to flirt with the ladies in the flower section and just generally wander around and say hi to people (it's a small town, everyone around the neighborhood knows Dad).

One day though, the check out lines were slow and I could see my 98-year-old Dad was getting a bit bored.  When the clerk's back was turned helping yet another shopper with "how to use a chip card", Dad picked up the mic they call for assistance or price checks with and with a perfect Elvis imitation said (where it boomed out to the entire store):

"The is Elvis - open up the bakery".

You can get away with that stuff when they're old, or furry.  :-)

Bacon Blueberry Pancakes

Bacon Deprived Abby Lab

Bacon Blueberry Pancakes.

Cook 6 slices of bacon, blot with a paper towel and chop. Thaw 1 cup of frozen blueberries, rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

In small bowl mix 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of milk and 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs) Let sit for a few minutes.

In aother bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking powder (I use Hain sodium free) and a pinch of Cardammom (or nutmeg if you don't have Cardamom).

To milk mixture add a splash of vanilla, 1 egg whisked and 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons of melted butter (add in very slowly while whisking).

Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing JUST until combined then gently fold in blueberries and bacon. Cook on a hot griddle. (or better yet, get your spouse or partner to cook for you).

Abby can't do grains but she did get a piece of bacon so she is quite happy.

Friday, March 15, 2019

INSERT LINA AND OLE JOKES HERE

There was a little gathering for a meal with some work folks today, a  casual pot luck we do every so often after finishing up a big project.  I was to bring dessert, a small pan of brownies.  Then the call came in.  Unit Z is back from Albonia!!! There's extra people!.

Something was needed that would feed more than a small handful of folks.

My Mom was Swedish/Norwegian,  myStepmom Norwegian. My Dad's Mom was Scot/Irish and a Hoosier from Indiana as well.  If there's anything a "Scandahoovian"  woman can do, it's whip something tasty of the baked goods variety for the oven up out of nothing.

So what to make?   In the cupboard there is breakfast stuff, almonds and steel cut oats, in the fridge, few fresh berries, a couple jars of Scandahoovian jams (you could substitute your favorites) and basic baking ingredients.

May I present -

Scandahoovian Double Berry Streusal Bars . With a tender, crumbly, oh so buttery cookie base topped with tart, but not too tart, fruit and a sweet/spicy (shhhh, it's Cardamon) streusal topping, they vanished faster than the normally snarfed up brownies.  I had to stealth ninja steal three from the plate at the end of supper so I could have one later and maybe share a couple with cookie deprived friends.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Still Life with Reloading

I took 3 weeks off to finish Book #5.  In past years, I'd spend that time with Dad, but I'm going out again in just a couple of months for his 99th birthday, so he told me to just hunker down and finish it as he wants to read it before he is gone.  It's about flying, not specific details about my career or the specifics of any other job but just the lure and call of the sky, including his experiences in the 8th Air Force in World War II.

But now it's time to return to work, hours of travel, the groan and rumble of an airplane, the vibration felt from the yoke to my bones, the cadence and sorrow of air rushing past, left behind in the wake of strained metal. There are hotels in the city, waking to the staccato bursts of sound from the street, cars, shouted curses, and horns. Even where I used to live, in a subdivision with cookie cutter homes with enough insulation to drown out the sound of brushing your teeth, there was no such thing as real quiet. There's the neighbors' lawnmower at 9 pm, dogs barking or a shouting match off in the distance between people caged too long, living eight feet at away from the next house.

You either adapt to it, or you get away. I voted for the getting away part of the reason I sold the original "Range".  A four-lane addition to the road from a less than good part of the city to the north end of our little town brought with it gang graffiti and crime. Properly values were crashing. We had our first rape. A woman was beaten to death with a claw hammer. There were a number of break-ins and smash and grab burglaries in my neighborhood, kids, the cops said, taking small electronics, cash, and booze, but it worried me. I realized that I was close enough in that if there was trouble, I wouldn't be able to defend the place too long even with back up. I wanted to be further out. If not full time, at least a place for the weekends and holidays. Not so far out that when I go walk along the creek I hear the sound of a banjo, but far enough to be away from the major roads and cities in the event of a disaster where the unprepared come to loot the prepared. So I made the decision to sell the place before prices dropped even more, and save for a chunk of land.
Someone said, "you're going to get your own Walden Pond?" I've read Thoreau, who chronicles his life off the grid in his writings. I found his words moving but found little in common with a middle-aged man who probably couldn't field dress a deer if he had to. But there was one thing he wrote of that I have always identified with. He talked of judging the cost of something but how much life you had to expend to get it. I left a relationship long ago for that reason because in terms of cost to my being for what I got from it, it violated my sense of thrift. It's the same reason I got rid of a huge house of space I didn't need any longer and unnecessary possessions. Things are precious when they are few and carefully selected. If you squander yourself on things that give you nothing back, someday, when you need that part of yourself to survive, you may find yourself bankrupt.

So I gave away to those in need or sold half my possessions, rooms of furniture, all the useless decorative clutter, keeping only the art that I truly liked, my books, the furniture that's handcrafted and comfortable and the tools of my life that I really need. Some said I was foolish, as a woman alone, there's safety in a busy town, a steady finality in the noise of a large neighborhood. So there is, as well, in the sound of the scrape of metal against a pine box. These are the people who also tell me that I shouldn't have a gun, the police will take care of me; those that speak imperiously and loudly, not hesitant of argument, simply impotent to conceive either.


I bought a "fixer upper" on the water on a couple of acres.  It allowed me to save a bit of money and it was in a safer area, further from the city but close to where I can get into work. There would be my time alone, walks out, firearm on my hip, lest I encounter a mob of chipmunks. There would be my times to just sit, out on a felled log. Time to stop, without schedule as I watched the sky turn from the subtle grey of an unpainted church to the deep purple darkness of a priest's robe, the stars impenetrable and invisible, as if waiting for us before they showed themselves.

Barkley would be sitting by my side, hoping we're under a dog biscuit tree, soon to shed its fruit. We would wait, serene and still, the moon shining on nibbled shadow, content to just sit underneath the starry sigh of heaven. The only other lights were as far off and distant as memories of shame or pride or loss, barely remembered like the smell of decay, sensed only in the instant of its knowledge and then fading to dim memory as you move away from it. Dark and far away, as such things should remain for as long as possible.
From where we sat, an owl would call, the sound unintelligible amongst the vernal branches. As a satellite tracked the sky, the owl called again, a call to go home. And within, there would be an old Victrola, a ham radio, lots of books and some board games for when I have those I love to stay with us. There would be my little computer to write and communicate. In much of the daily breath, I drew there would be noise, but it would be the sound of a blade striking wood, the sun shimmering off of the blade like silver. It would be the crack of a rifle shooting on a range just a few miles away, the tool I would use for provision and protection. It would be the hum of machinery as the shop took shape, room for more tools, room for more freedom. There would be voices, but they would be those of reasoned discourse among friends, as though many of us lived in a time of rural living, we were not so naive to think it doesn't deeply impact us, our safety and our liberty, keeping us wary and watchful

It would be a life of still, dense sound; the sound of freedom. A life of remote quiet, the world outside spinning slowly into green smoke. It would be a life on my terms as best as is possible, walking the uncertain spaces that open before me in the deepening fields, walking out into the constant trees, alone when I need to be, but not forlorn, intractable and accountable. Walking on forward, rhythmic steps into the hushed, secret shade of life off the grid.
Now that I'm back in a big city, no regrets as it brought me to a life with my best friend,  who has his dream job here, back to a quiet hushed bungalow that's as old as time on two lots in the city,  full of 100-year old trees. Something happened between the night of my previous life and the dawn of my new one but I could not be happier, even if living in Mordor.  I may have more laws, corrupt politicians, and burning cold, but I still have my freedom and love to keep me grounded.

When it's time for both of us to retire - we will leave this place, back to that Trinity of space that is earth, God, and nature.  But until then, I'll savor the sound of a hundred-year-old home, the twitter of birds outside, and the sound of a reloading press in the shop, making our elements of freedom.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

To the Bridge and Back

There are some of you that visit here, that know Barkley and my shared history and how his book came to be. There are others, dog lovers like us, some brand new visitors from the blog hops, that probably wonder how "The Book of Barkley came to be.

My Big Brother, an ex-submariner, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Esophageal cancer in 2013.  He and I were adopted together as small children, though I only found out very recently that we weren't biological siblings. But we were closer than a lot of siblings, though our careers often kept us thousands of miles apart when he was under the water, and I was piloting airplane miles above the earth.

He finished with chemo and radiation, dropping 100 pounds on his six foot two frame.  He moved in with our widowed Dad so they could support one another, and to get out of his house, as he couldn't hold on to it,  having lost his job as a Navy Contractor.  I lived 1500 miles away and had a job that had me living out of the suitcase too often, but I visited them as often as I could, during all of my vacations, and on every long weekend.
He held his own, even if towards the end, everything he ate got smashed in a blender.  Pretty much all he could get down was some protein shakes. (I thought he was joking when he said he'd put my leftover cheese omelet I brought back from a restaurant with some leftovers, in there with the juice, fruit and ice cream but he said it was tasty except "I don't think the hash browns were such a good idea".

But we had some time, to do some grieving, for the loss of some older family members, including our Step-Mom who stepped to the plate after our Mom died fairly young from cancer.  We also had some time to do some laughing, especially as now he could share all the embarrassing childhood stories with my new husband who met him for the first time.  But we also  had a lot of time alone, up late, talking about our Dad, about growing up (or our inherent refusal to),  He told me more than once "you're a good writer, you need to put this down in a book" and I'd just laugh and say, "maybe after I retire".  He said, " we don't always get to retire, do it now".
At that point, I realized that the one  thing I am glad I did not hear from him in his end days was, "I wish I'd. . ."

I've heard so many people say "I'll do that when I'm older, when I lose 20 pounds, when I'm retired". We got through life saying "I would, but it probably wouldn't work out" or " I'd like to but. . ." We too often base our actions on an artificial future, painting a life picture based on an expectancy that time is more than sweat, tears, heat and mirage.

You can't count on anything. For out of the blue, fate can come calling. Barkley was in fine spirits at my wedding, weeks later limping; a few weeks after that--gone to the Rainbow Bridge.  In a flash, life robbed even of the power to grieve for what is ending. I think back to when my brother and I were kids, going down a turbulent little river with little more than an inner tube and youth, risking rocks and rapids and earth, just to see what was around the bend of that forest we'd already mapped out like Lewis and Clark. The water was black and silver, fading swirls of deep current rising to the surface like a slap, fleeting and gravely significant, as if something stirred beneath, unhappy to be disturbed from its slumber, making its presence known.  A fish, perhaps or simply fate. 

I was in the paint section of a hardware store the other weekend, looking for a brick colored paint to paint a backdrop in the kitchen. I noticed the yellows, a color I painted my room as a teen. I noticed the greens, so many of them, some resembling the green of my parent's house in the sixties and seventies, yet not being exactly the same color. The original was one that you'd not see in a landscape, only in a kitchen with avocado appliances, while my Mom sang as she made cookies. I remember Big Bro and I race through the house, one of us soldier, one of us spy, friends forever, stopping only long enough for some of those cookies, still warm. Holding that funky green paint sample I can see it as if it were yesterday.  Memories only hinted at, held there in small squares of color.
What is it about things from the past that evoke such responses? A favorite photo, for some, a piece of clothing worn to a special event, a particular meal, things that carry with them the sheer impossible quality of perfection that has not been achieved since. Things that somehow trigger in us a response, of wanting to go back to that time and place when you were safe and all was well. But even as you try and recapture it, it eludes you, caught in a point in your mind between immobility and motion, the taste of the empty air, the color of the wind

Today is a memory that months from now, could be one of those times.  You may look back and see this day, the person you were with, the smile on your face, the simple household tasks you were doing together. Things, so basic in their form, as to, at this time, be simply another chore, cleaning, painting, another ordinary day, while the kids played outside and the dog barked merrily along with them. It might be a day in which you didn't even capture it on film, no small squares of color left to retain what you felt there as you worked and laughed together, in those small strokes of color, those small brushes of longing.

Twenty years from now, you may look at yourself in the mirror, at the wrinkles formed from dust, time and tears around your eyes, at the grey in your hair and you will think back to this day, the trivial things that contain the sublime. On that day, so far beyond here, you may look around you, that person with you in your memory no longer present, and you want it all back. Want it as bad as the yearning for a color that is not found in nature, in the taste of something for which you search and ache, acting on the delusion that you can recreate it, those things that haunt the borders of almost knowing.

You touch the mirror, touch your face and wish you'd laughed more, cared less of what others thought, dove into those feelings that lapped at the safe little edges of your life, leaped into the astonishing uncertainty.

My brother spent years running silent and deep under the ocean, visiting places I can only guess at as he will not speak of it, a code about certain things I share with him.   But I knew the name.  Operation Ivy Bells.  He understands testing the boundaries of might and the deep, cold deep depths to which we travel in search of ourselves.

I too have had more than one day where I stood outside on a pale crescent of beaten earth and breathed deeply of the cold.  I am here, my wings long ago hung up, tools in hand because someone has died and with great violence.  On those days I felt every ache in my muscles, I felt my skin, hot under the sun, the savage, fecund smell of loss in the air, laying heavy in the loud silence. Somewhere in the distance would come a soft clap of thunder, overhead clouds strayed deliberately across the earth, disconnected from mechanical time. I'd rather be elsewhere; the smell simply that of kitchen and comfort, the sounds; only that of laughter. But I knew how lucky I was to simply be, in that moment and alive.  I also knew, how blessed I was that after such days, I came home to my furry, four-legged best friend Barkley, who was my Black Knight in somewhat shedding armor, the soft-coated Kleenex when I needed to cry.

You can't control fate, but you can make choices. You can continue your day and do nothing, standing in brooding and irretrievable calculation as if casting in a game already lost. Or you can seize the moment, the days, wringing every last drop from them. Tell the ones you love that you love them. Hug your family, forgive an enemy (but remember the bastards name), salute your flag, and always, give the dog an extra biscuit. Then step outside into the sharp and unbending import of Spring, a dying Winter flaring up like fading flame, one last taste, one last memory, never knowing how long it will remain.
I said goodbye to my brother that last time, neither of us were certain as to what the future would hold. Had I known that just weeks later, my beloved Barkley would be gone to an aggressive bone cancer, followed just weeks later by my only brother, I might have held him longer, but I wouldn't have played the days out any differently.   For one thing we both agreed on, today is that memory, go out and make everything you can of it.

The Book of Barkley is that memory--for Barkley, for my brother, for all the laughter we wrapped around each other in the end days, to be carried on forward like held breath, in the airless days ahead.

-Brigid

Monday, March 4, 2019

Time for a Toast

Book #5 goes to publication tomorrow.  I started it in August and spent the last 3 weeks honing it and editing it with my beta readers and two friends who are in the university academic world, now or recently retired, who are my official editors.

I am going to take the rest of the week off to chill and will be back with more blog posts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

On Editing

Got 20 more chapters edited today.   Hope to have the new book to the publisher by next Monday.  Thanks for your patience - Brigid

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Another Day of Novel Editing

And a huge shout out to my beta readers!!!  (by the way, that's a Chip McCormick Power Mag for a Springfield 1911 with extended tips, 8 round).  The "THIS is a knife" is in case of feral squirrel attack.

Sunday Eats - Swedish Waffles

Einkorn flour is an ancient grain and the only flour in the US that is not genetically modified. Most people with gluten sensitivity (like me, not Celiac, just don't digest flour well) can eat it.

This is a great waffle recipe. In a bowl mix

1 cup Young Living Einkorn Flour (there are other brands available online but this one is moderately priced)
1 tsp. sodium free Hain Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon, low sodium salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Cardamon
1 Tablespoon sugar

In another bowl mix
1 cup of buttermilk (or make your own by replacing a tablespoon of regular milk with lemon juice and letting it sit a few minutes
a dash of vanilla
2 and 1/2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 egg whisked.

Mix wet and dry ingredients and drop 1/3 cup into a Swedish Waffle iron. Serve with Young Living Ningxia Berry Syrup (a blend of blueberry, plum, sweet cherry, pomegranate and wolf (goji) berry with lemon and orange essential oil (SOOOO tasty and also a great pork glaze with a pat of melted butter, a clove of garlic, and some rosemary) and whipped cream. To order YL retail visit: https://www.youngliving.com/vo/…

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Calling All Authors


Calling all authors. I'm 95% done with the manuscript for my 5th book but I need some beta readers to alert me to any major plot holes or obvious typos (before it goes to my editor - the awesome Stephanie Martin). The book is about the philosophy and life lessons from being a pilot (Mr. B. that is a Clue by Four). If you are a long time reader or commenter and have time to do this before next weekend (when my rough draft is due to the publisher) please send your email via "do not post" comment or my google email if you have it. It's 71,000 words so not a super long read. If you do this I will make sure you get a free autographed copy when it is published in May and a link and shout out on the blog.


Sorry, but if you have never commented and ask for a copy and I don't know who you are I am not going to send, I've had people publish my previous books online in violation of copyright - trying to get others to subscribe to a service that provides illegal copies of hijacked works with no pay to the author.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Sea That Never Freezes - Last Chapter

I've started in on my 5th book "Compass Course". I don't write with an outline or even a plan - I do the opening chapter and the last and then fill in the middle. I can't complain - I've had two books hit #1 on Amazon and the other two in the top ten and have won 3 literary awards.  All the proceeds have gone to animal rescue and no one ever asks for my autograph, but the thanks from readers who have loved it have lifted my heart through some hard times of family loss.

I posted the first chapter of Compass Course a few months ago - then took a long break as Dad's house had to be sold and cleaned out and work was crazy. But I have 3 weeks of leave and I'm using it to write full time. I haven't had a real vacation in 28 years so why start now :-) Here is the last chapter (unedited).
--------------------------
Last night saw the city and most of the surrounding small towns come to a grinding halt.  Wind chills in the single digits and heavy, drifting and blowing snow resulted in a suspension of most casual traffic, only those that have to make the trek for employment and first responders and LE braving the ice and the drifts. Out in the small towns, there is little movement, but there are those hardy souls that won't let frostbite and politicians tell them what to do.

I had the blinds and all curtains closed against the cold, this new construction rental about as tight from the elements as gauze. Even with the little heater next to the desk, the chill eddy of cold licks in at my skin, as I go to get a warmer sweater and some thicker wool socks.

One needs to be prepared for such things. A few days ago it was in the upper 40's,  another sleight of hand from the greatest of magicians, Mother Nature. Machiavellians stroke on the part of that foe, a new battle towards which it channels ancient wounds, inflicting its grievance upon the land. It will likely arrive to do battle when you least expect it when the prolonged blow of the dark and ice sinks through the skull and lays its claim deep on the bones of the winter landscape. It will not be a day and night safe for man nor beast.
Other than the scrape of a blade in the driveway, a neighbor keeping my drive clear, in case the bat phone goes off. No birds, no clattering of cars starting up. Just the sound of the incessant wind, a  long, broad hum, as if through wires. There was to be a wedding at the local church, I wondered if that had been called off. There is little noise or movement, but the whine of a snow blower, maybe a half block away, the sound sticking to the cold air as if snow on a branch.

It's funny, I'm perfectly fine holing up at home for days with nothing but books, a kitchen, and some tools.  But tell me I can't drive to the store or run to the library, and I suddenly get cabin fever, peering out the window every so often, like a bird from a cage that fidgets with feathered annoyance.
I also noticed something else, something a little nicer.  My knee does not hurt.  After the fall that tore out my meniscus and the resultant surgery and physical therapy, my knee still hurt.  After six months, it was bearable but always there, a twinge,  much worse in cold weather.  Now, two years post-injury, with extra physical conditioning of the muscles that support it and dropping the extra pounds I had put on when I hit 40, I sit here and realize, it doesn't hurt.

It's not the pain that bothered me, I've dealt with pain.  It wasn't not being able to run, to jump to MOVE, quickly and without effort. It was crutches, then a cane.  It was sliding back in time, back to when I wasn't confident in my physical abilities when I was just a skinny, quiet little kid who was picked last for dodge ball, because frankly, I'd rather be inside reading a book that the teacher would think was inappropriate for someone my age.

It wasn't the pain, it wasn't an injury that in the grand scheme of things, wasn't very serious.  I realized at this point that what is dire profundity to the very young, is usually just "been there done that" to those of us in middle age, which is still preferable to the six-foot-deep and eighteen-foot square reality that faces us all eventually.
No,  it wasn't torn and missing cartilaginous tissue and the wobbly feeling I had every time I tried to use that leg.  It was losing a foothold I'd stretched so far and so hard for. It was realizing that we treat our bodies with a sense of entitlement we may eschew in other things as if breath was some plaything given to us just for our own pleasure. I look down on the small scars as if speaking to them. You will let me run, you will let me climb, you will let me explore and make mistakes and play. Now I can't walk up a flight of stairs. When our body fails us, it's like a personal betrayal

It's not just the knee - it's my heart.  It still gets enough blood pumping to get me out of bed every morning but it's cantankerous to the point I can't hold a pilot's medical any longer.  Sure, you can get a sports pilots license with a driver's license but not with a pre-existing condition that's been documented by your AME.  I have my scars but I have no regrets.  But it's tough getting old.

It's much as if seeing a beloved old building each and every day, an old church perhaps, the stones so study that time had not displaced it, could not ever displace it, not all of time could have.  Then one day you drive past and it's simply gone, razed and replaced by a shabbily built storefront that won't withstand a good wind.
I sat here in this spot during another storm, after I blew my knee out, the crutches up against the wall, the curtains drawn, as the pain in my body drove for an instant upon me, the thorns of slain flowers.  On that day, I wished to be anywhere but here. The sky was spilling snow, the only light there was laying low to the ground as if held down by the wind itself, unable to rise and move away. It was a day in which I could only sit immobile as the wind howled, dreaming in an Arctic landscape of a sea that never freezes and a landscape that is forever green.

It's easy to throw a pity party, and I was on the verge on that day I realized I was in a motorized scooter in WalMart, one place I swore I would never be.  But in that same moment, as my husband smiled down at me, his having been with me without fail since I got hurt, I realized all that I had. I also realized that putting the small end of the crutch out in front of me like a knight's lance, I could knock the Billy Bass out of the cart of the guy with no teeth.  Oh, sorry, accident, really. SCORE!
I am who I am through hurt and pain and failures and because of them.

Because of that, I know what is important. And that is all the endurance of which mind is capable, of which the flesh has an appetite for. That has kept me going on nights when all I could do was sit and hold a small faded photo, eyes, tightly shut, as if the light was diminished by its own grief, leaving only a lone huddled shadow upon the wall, pale and fading. That has kept me going when fate swiped a paw at me and I swiped back, harder, EPR's steady, left hand tight on the yoke, planting that craft on a piece of hard ground as small as my fear.
I get up from my chair and open the curtains up.  I'll have a higher heat bill, but for now, I want to look out, and up.  I look at the sun I've not seen in two days as the fierce wind hollowed the remaining light out of the sky, the light now holding a quality beyond heat and illumination.  I look up and see a flock of geese setting their own invisible contrails in the sky from a great yet gentle distance, their honk faint upon the wind, like thunder in a Spring sky.  It's a sky that will always be mine in my memory. I may not occupy it now but I will always own it.

In the distance the sound of a church bell, a deliberate note blowing free, like snow from a winter branch. Somewhere within, a priest lifts the Host in a series of shimmering gleams like warm rain that falls from the sky as vows are spoken, and what is broken is healed.