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Book Five–Finished at last!

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It has taken longer than I expected, but this week I will be sending The Handy Helpers, No Burping! No Slurping! to my publisher.

In Book Five, Laura is challenged by her teacher to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Ghandi) With the help of Beth Anne, she attempts to make friends with the new cafeteria worker who seems to be stressed and on edge in her new job. While the girls are successful in getting Mrs. Meniere to lighten up, the results of their efforts go far beyond what they ever expected.

Here are a few of the other things that happen in Book Five:

  • The Handy Helpers start fifth grade. Unfortunately, they are slit up, but they manage.
  • Rachel goes to an actual school for the first time. Of course Trisha is there to help her figure it out.
  • Daniel struggles with Tourette’s as he begins fourth grade. But this becomes easier when he makes new friends.
  • Jeremiah continues his relationship with Melody now that they are both seniors in high school.
  • Laura experiences frustration over being a middle child who is taken for granted. Amber is there to help her through it.
  • Laura’s little sisters, Molly and Taylor, have an adventure involving stolen kittens.
  • Spike reluctantly makes a new friend when Wylie Tanner moves to Bluesky.
  • The Handy Helpers become official.
  • Beth Anne finds out reg’lar class can be a challenge–that is until she meeting Eldon.
  • The book ends with a big event you won’t want to miss.

My readers who are fans of the Cole children will be very happy as their relationship with Gus continues to grow.  As you can see, a lot happens in Book Five.  I’ll let you know as soon as it is available.

 

 

 

 

. . . And so life goes on.

For the past five years my life has been filled with caring for my husband Craig who had dementia. On December 12, 2018, he departed this life. His passing was a beautiful experience for me. He was able to remain at home as I prayed he would.  Although people from hospice came every day, Craig and I had lots of time together. I will always cherish those special moments.

As you can imagine, this has left a huge hole in my life. As I have thought about what I want to do now, I came to realize that there are two dichotomous paths I could take–neither of which would be the way to go. I could simply do nothing. After all, I’ve earned a rest. For five years, I have put my life on hold. The other path would be to try to do everything. Every day I see more opportunities and possibilities. But I realize I must be careful not to take on too much as a way to fill the void. And so I am proceeding with caution and prayer, seeking to discover what I am really being called to do.

One thing I know for sure, I will keep writing the Handy Helpers books. I finished book five in November, but the manuscript is still in my computer. Now I’m ready to publish it and get to work on book six. I am toying with the idea of writing a book about my experiences as a caregiver. I plan to do a little research to see if the world really needs another book on that subject. I’ll let you know what I find out.

I am also recommitting myself to writing this blog. I have sadly neglected it over the past year. It is my intention to have a new post each week.

Yesterday, I wore a pair of boots I hadn’t worn for a while.  The laces of the left boot had been tied into a dozen tiny knots. Stuffed in the toe I found one of Craig’s Megablocks.  As I struggled to untie the knots, it occurred to me that I would never again find this shoe in that condition. For a moment I considered leaving the knots and wearing something else. Then I remembered that every day I am surrounded by hundreds of reminders of Craig.  He is still with me in so many ways and he always will be.

Hiking Spree 2018

The Highlands Center for Natural History began offering the Hiking Spree in 2008. In recognition for ten years of hiking, this year’s spree includes ten hikes from previous years and two new hikes. Maps for all eleven hiking sprees are available on the Highlands Center website.

One of the new hikes is in an area called Storm Ranch.  Like the Constellation Trail, Storm Ranch is a large loop trail with smaller loops within it. It is accessed from the Peavine Trail, which you may already be familiar with. The parking lot for the Peavine Trail is off of Prescott Lakes Parkway on Sundog Ranch Road. Once you reach the Peavine Trailhead, hike north for about two miles to Boulder Creek. If you have a bike, you can ride it to the Storm Ranch area and lock it in the bike rack. The Boulder Creek Trail will be on your right (not the lake side of the trail).

Boulder Creek is usually dry, but two days before my hike we received quite a bit of rain from Huricane Rosa. It was delightful to hike along a gurgling stream—a rare experience in Arizona.

The Hiking Spree hike included a half-mile of the Boulder Creek Trail and three-fourths of a mile through a section named Easter Island because the rock formations look like statues.  I decided to explore some of the additional trails. So I continued through Dino Canyon to the Bedrock City Trail. I never saw any dinosaurs, but that doesn’t mean they were never there.

As I was running out of time, I took the Pebbles Trail as a shortcut back. (Further up was BamBam Trail, another shortcut.) This led me to Quartz Canyon. I was at a loss to understand how it got that name as all I was seeing was granite. Then I noticed a ribbon of quartz running through the granite and decided that was what the trail was named for. Boy! was I wrong! Suddenly I found myself in an area full of quartz–large and small.  From there, I reached the Easter Island Trail that would take me back to the Peavine.

I hope to go back again and try some of the other trails I didn’t get to on this hike, and new ones as they are completed. By the time I finished my hike, I had covered about six miles. It took me a while to recover from the strenuous hike, but it took me even longer to get the Flinstones theme song out of my head.

Becoming Unoffendable

Recently, I heard someone on the radio talking about being unoffendable. I hadn’t considered what it means to be unoffendable, but it gave me something to think about. Two incidents I was involved in recently made me think that becoming unoffendable was worth pursuing.

The first incident occurred while I was driving on the highway. I found myself in the fast lane, sandwiched between a driver who was contented to go the speed limit and one who wanted to go much faster–making this known to me by riding close to my bumper. We continued our little caravan as we passed a highway patrolman. Since we were going an appropriate speed, I was sure that the driver behind me was spared a ticket. He must not have seen it that way, because when I pulled over into the right lane, he felt the necessity to honk as he passed me. “Why are you honking at me?” I shouted, even knowing he couldn’t hear me. Indignation boiled up in me as I considered the unfairness of it all.

The second incident occurred in church of all places. At the beginning of mass, I got a tickle in my throat and I coughed. The person on my left apparently used that data to diagnose me with a cold. When it was time for the sign of peace, she refused to shake my hand. This would have been fine with me, but she must have felt driven to tell me why. That too was okay until she decided to tell me a second time in case I misunderstood her the first time. Now I was offended. Perhaps, neither of us should have gone to communion–certainly I shouldn’t have. But, alas, we both did. When I came back to the pew, I moved down as far away from her as possible–a childish act for sure.

In light of what we see on the news, we all need to work on becoming unoffendable. I recently saw a woman who was on her way to prison because a road-rage incident had led her to shoot and kill the person she was upset with. She was filled with remorse and struggled to understand how she could have gotten so out of hand. Her victim’s family was outraged and calling for more than a prison sentence.

This situation was the extreme, but we all find ourselves in circumstances that could potentially be dangerous, especially when we are driving. Being unoffendable is not about being weak, or being a victim. It is about taking the high ground–having self-restraint and not letting someone else’s behavior determine ours. Being offended is allowing our egos to rule the day. To be unoffendable, we must keep our feelings in check in order to make decisions we will not regret later.

As for me, I plan to work toward becoming unoffendable in minor incidents like the two I related here.  In that way, hopefully I will have the skills to remain calm under extreme circumstances should I ever have to face them.

 

A fitting memorial to the nineteen who died.

I had been wanting to hike the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Trail and finally, in April, I was able to go there with my granddaughter, Brenna. We didn’t get an early start, and it was a fairly warm day, So I had only planned to hike to the memorial which would be five miles round trip. To reach the trailhead, we drove through Yarnell and started down the windy road toward Congress. The parking lot is about halfway down. It is small, but we were fortunate enough to get the last parking space. There is a shuttle that runs 7 days a week from the Arrowhead Bar and Grill in Congress. That is a good alternative if the parking lot is full.

The first two miles of the hike are pretty rugged and mostly up hill. Fortunately, along the way there are nineteen plaques inserted into large boulders. These provided plenty of opportunities to stop and rest while reading the plaques.

Once we reached the summit, we were treated to a 360 degree view that was nothing less than spectacular.

Hiking down the back side toward the memorial, below us we could see the actual site where they died. That was when I began to amend my plans. I was pretty certain that once I reached the memorial, I would not be able to turn around without finishing the hike to the bottom.

The canyon where the hot shots were trapped was now fully visible and we could see its proximity to homes in the small valley.

The memorial was a nice place to rest and have a snack. There were covered picnic tables.  The tribute wall was filled with tokens of appreciation left by previous hikers.

I was wishing that I had something to leave there, but alas I didn’t. If I ever have the opportunity again, I will certainly plan to leave a memento somewhere along the trail.

After a short rest, we began the mile hike down to the actual site. There we found the area surrounded by nineteen gabion baskets  connected by chains to signify the unity of the hotshot team. Inside the circle were crosses where each man fell. It is impossible to stand there and not feel the terrific loss that occurred, especially after reading the nineteen plaques along the way.

Since I didn’t bring anything to leave behind, I looked around for something I could place there. I found a rock that I thought looked like a thumbs up. I placed it on a large rock that was between two gabion baskets to say, “Job well done.”

 

 

I think my phone is mad at me.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how much I like my new iPhone, and I still do. But I guess the feeling isn’t mutual. Last Friday, I returned from a cruise (I’ll write about that a little later.). As I was driving away from the terminal, there was a sign straight ahead for the 710 Freeway. Since I wasn’t sure exactly where I needed to go, I pulled into a parking lot to get directions from my phone. For the past seven days, my phone had been on airplane mode. Apparently it was feeling ignored. That is the only way I can explain why it began acting like a spoiled child.

I was told to proceed onto Sea Shore Drive and then turn left on Ocean Boulevard. There wasn’t any Sea Shore Drive, but there was only one way out of the parking lot, so I went that way. I soon came to Ocean Boulevard and turned left. From there, my phone guided me through a messy construction area and then onto a tall bridge to the Long Beach pier. Semi trucks were being hooked up to trailers that had been downloaded from cargo ships. It was a very busy place.

At that point, my phone deserted me entirely, saying simply–“Proceed to the route.” Since I had no idea where I was, let alone what route I was to take, I continued on in the direction I was going. Eventually, I came to an area I couldn’t enter. At that point, I turned around and went back the way I came. I guess my phone decided I’d been punished enough and began giving me directions again.

Eventually, I did find Sea Shore Drive. That must have made my phone happy, because twenty-five minutes after I left the terminal, it directed me onto the 710 Freeway.

A Promise Kept

A few years ago, someone tweeted a plea to authors of children’s books. She asked if we would consider writing about  “Hug-a-tree” as a way to help parents learn how to keep their children safe when out in the wilderness. . At the time, I had just begun writing Not a Happy Camper. I responded to the tweet saying that I would use “Hug-a-tree” in my book. I kept that promise with the hope that it will be helpful to someone, someday in the future.

“When Mr. Rawlings had finished speaking, a large screen was set up in front of the audience. Everyone watched intently as a video showed a family on a camping trip. A young boy name Tim wanted to go exploring on his own. Before he left, his mother gave him a backpack with water, a few snacks, an orange trash bag with holes for his head and arms, and a whistle. Tim ran through the woods, having a great time exploring everywhere. He was so excited about what he was doing that he forgot to notice where he was going. After a while, he became confused and didn’t know which way to go back to camp. At first Tim panicked, running around yelling for help. Finally, he calmed down and began to remember what he was supposed to do. He found a tree and piled up pine needles for a place to rest. He drank some water and ate part of his food, saving the rest for later. He knew it might be a long time before he was rescued. He put on the trash bag over his jacket so he would stay dry if it rained. Also, the bright orange trash bag would be visible to his rescuers.

When Tim didn’t return to camp, his parents called for help. Soon, people were searching the woods calling his name. They searched until dark and started searching again at first light. Finally, Tim heard them calling his name. He began blowing the whistle. He knew that the sound of the whistle was louder than his voice. One of the searchers heard the whistle and found the boy. He was checked over by a paramedic, who said he was fine—just a little dehydrated. Tim had done a few things wrong, but he had done more things correctly, which was why he was rescued.

After the video, there was a brief discussion about what happened to the boy. Parents were given a flyer with important information about how to keep their children safe when camping or hiking. As the campers left the dining hall, they were given a whistle and an orange trash bag. ‘Carry these with you at all times,’ they were told, ‘just in case you need them.’”

You can learn more about the Hug-a-Tree program by visiting their website http://www.nasar.org/hug_a_tree_program