Archive for the ‘#mondayblog’ Tag

On the Potter’s Wheel   1 comment

What Life Events Shaped You Into Who You Are?

If you could think about all the events that unfolded in your life, which ones shaped you into who you are now?

ALL of the events? How about just the highlights? I suspect I am shaped even by the minute interactions I have with people in the grocery store line … I’m just unaware of it.

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When I was six years old, Fairbanks Alaska experienced a 100-year flood. It’s such a big deal here that people still date things as pre-Flood and post-Flood. A lot of us spent a couple of weeks living out of the backs of cars and eating WW2 K-rations salvaged from the flooded bomb shelters. My parents struggled with housing after that due to a string of rental houses with ruined furnaces and I ended up spending the winter with a friend of theirs who had a bunch of kids and a working heating system.

Image result for image clay on potters wheelThat experience taught me a lot about being tough to get through something because the water will eventually go down and your parents will eventually stop moving and you’ll get to live in a house with a bedroom again. But it also taught me to not really trust that this reality will be permanent and good. It won’t be. Rivers can raise again. Don’t get too comfortable. Keep some food in reserve and be ready to move what you care about to higher floors. Borrowing from a blog hop post a couple of weeks ago … winter is coming. Be prepared.

When I was 11, a teacher made me write a story for a class assignment. I HATED it. It was way too regimented for my tastes. But it set something off in me that made me the writer I am today. It certainly didn’t turn me off writing. It made me want to do a better job. Maybe I would have become a writer anyway, but I count that as a formative event.

My dad died when I was 12 and my mother promptly remarried her ex-husband. Earl had always been around. He was my brother’s father and Fairbanks was a small town. My dad tolerated his woman’s ex. I have a photo of them sitting on the bleachers at a baseball game. I guess they were friends … sort of. My brother says my dad was his model for being a stepfather … not bad considering he never lived with us. Earl had just moved back to town and happened to have his trailer parked in our back yard when my dad died of a stroke at a young age. He was supportive during a tough time. He still loved my mom. She may have felt she needed a man in her life. He wasn’t a bad guy … mostly. But I swore to myself that I would never be as faithless as my mother had been. I didn’t hate my mom for her decision. I didn’t hate Earl. I simply didn’t agree with their actions in that area and that meant that I have been much more careful in my relationships than they were. I noted their path and have tried very hard not to walk it.

When I was 16, I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life. It wasn’t something we did as a family. I started going to church on my own and my parents thought I’d lost my mind when I tried to tell them about it. More than anything else, this changed my perspective on the world and my life choices. I’ve skipped a lot of rough roads that were options for me because I would pause often and ask if this was something a Christian ought to be doing. It has shaped many of my choices in my adult life.

I chose to work my way through college rather than take out student loans. My parents came from a debt-adverse generation. My father turned 16 the year the Great Depression started. My mother was six. They were careful with their money and only took on debt for houses and even then, the longest mortgage they ever took out was 10 years. They saved a little bit for me to go college, but I had to pay 75% of it. When the high school counselor was talking about student loans, I felt this big lump in my chest … like a lead weight threatening to drag me to the bottom of a deep, dark ocean. I decided to get a job and work my butt off to pay for college. I had help from Pell grants, but mostly, I paid my own way, either working while I was in school or working 2 or 3 jobs seasonally so I could concentrate on school during the winter. Except for two years when my daughter was little, I’ve been gainful employed since I was 14 years old, sometimes with more than one job. There is a great deal to be said about paying your own way and understanding your own value. It has a lot to do with why I view the world as I do.

I married Brad when I was 25. He makes me laugh until I can’t breathe and almost wet my pants. He has also made me cry … a lot. When our daughter was little, her dad and I went through a very rough time in our marriage when we decided it would not end in divorce, but we were separated for a while. I learned that you can’t change someone, but you can change your response to them so that, if they want to be with you, they will (sometimes) choose to change themselves. And if they don’t, then the choices you make won’t be fun, but God will be with you even then.

My life is not a field of clover today. Life will always hand you challenges. My daughter is a gypsy bluegrass musician who appears to be hiking through Canada with low-lives. It’s not my choice and I wish I could step in and intervene, but my own past teaches me that I can’t. People have to learn on their own and a long walk through Canada is maybe just what my little vagabond needs to grow up. She needs her own formative experiences. I have to trust God that He has a plan in all of this and I’ll understand it next year or a decade from now. Or maybe Bri will in 30 years.

We are the sum total of our experiences. God is the Master Potter Who has tossed me on His wheel and is shaping me to His purposes. “A potter has the right to do what he wants to with his clay, doesn’t he? He can make something for a special occasion or something for ordinary use from the same lump of clay.” Romans 9:21

Tapping Into Nature   7 comments

This week’s blog hop is “What Would You Love To Learn How To Do? Share pictures and what you’d like to learn, then go out and try that thing. Share an update of your experience with your followers.”
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One of the things I love about the modern age is that learning things is so much easier than it used to be. I tried to explain this to my son a while back … we actually had to go to the library to access reference material back when I was in school. He thinks we were so deprived back in the day.
I more or less agree with him. I’m constantly learning new stuff these days because it’s so accessible via the Internet.

So what would I like to learn to do?

Image result for image of tapping birch trees in alaskaI can think of a lot of things I want to learn to do, but this spring, I actually have something I’m planning to learn — How to tap birch trees for syrup.

Did you know you could make a great tasting syrup from birch tree sap? I grew up here and didn’t know about this until about 10 years ago when a friend gave us a pint. Birch syrup is a truly unique Alaska flavor and quite rare. At this time the only commercial production of birch syrup I can find in the world is in the Matanuska Valley, but here in Fairbanks, there’s a newly-formed cooperative that is making use of a commercial kitchen at the University of Alaska to evaporate members sap into syrup.

The sap, containing only 1-1.5 percent sugar, looks and tastes like sweet water right out of the tree. Concentrating the sugar to 67 percent by evaporation gives the syrup its color and distinctive flavor. It’s sort of a spicy sweet flavor. The Alaska paper birch starts in early April in Matanuska, but here in Fairbanks we’re just figuring out the best time. Most of us think it will be May 1 or thereabouts. The season lasts 2-3 weeks, until the trees bud. Each tree will produce approximately 3/4 to 1 gallon of sap per day. We have 20 trees in our yard, so we anticipate 200-300 gallons of sap.  It takes an average of 100 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of birch syrup. (Maple syrup, by comparison, averages 40:1). So we might get three gallons of syrup, but we’re donating three quarters of it back to the cooperative an exchange for the evaporating, so we’ll get a 2-3 quarts.

Brad has attended the classes discussing how to tap the birch and set the spouts. I’ll be his assistant. We’re just using the trees in our yard this year.

 

 

Posted April 17, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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What’s Relaxing?   7 comments

The topic on the Open Book Blog Hop this week is “What’s Your Go-To Relaxation?”

Alaskans live a pretty active lifestyle, so of course, my go-to relaxation is a bit … uh, active.

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1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

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My go-to relaxation always includes water, preferably hot water and low light. If I just want to relax for an evening, I fill up the bathtub and soak my cares away.

But my all-time relaxation strategy involves more than just sitting in hot water.

Image result for image of northern lights

If I have my perfect plan for relaxation, it involves some sort of exercise … hiking from Angel Rocks trailhead to Chena Hot Spring Resort (about 15 miles) along treeless ridgelines is my favorite, but that can only be done in warm weather. In winter, we drive the 60 road miles to Chena Hot Springs Resort, which is sort of an athletic feat because of the cold and the moose and caribou occasionally crossing the road.

When we go to Chena Hot Springs Resort, we plan several hours of ‘bathing’. There is something so relaxing about shedding the layers of clothing necessary to stay warm on the trip out there. Gloves, hat, coat, sweater, boots, socks, pants, undershirt … it’s one step at a time that just leaves the world back home in the locker.

The only gear you need at Chena Hot Springs Resort is a bathing suit and a towel and if your feet are sensitive — flip-flops or water socks. I leave my cell phone in the locker. My watch. Everything.

My first stop is one of the two indoor Jacuzzi tubs. Heating with hot springs water, they usually take a couple of minutes to get used to so I can slide down into the water. If I’m lucky, nobody but my husband joins me, but usually there are people already there. You can tell the old hands. They don’t talk. They sit with their eyes closed with bubbling water up to their shoulders. The newcomers feel the obligation to chit-chat … except the Japanese tourists. Even if they speak English, they also understand the importance of silence in the hot springs.

After maybe 10 minutes, we shift over to the “cool” pool. This is a shallow swimming pool where there are usually kids playing and splashing. We would skip it entirely except that it gets us ready for going outside. It is also heated by the hot springs water, tempered with cold water and the water runs about body temperature, which feels cool when you’ve been in the Jacuzzi. By bringing your core temperature back to normal, the outside air doesn’t seem quite so brutal.

Understand. We don’t go to Chena Hot Springs in the winter unless it’s below freezing, probably below zero. But the true relaxation zone is outside. Children are not permitted out there. Outside, you have a choice of a large Jacuzzi or the rock pool. We usually turn to the outdoor Jacuzzi first.

Image result for image of chena hot springs rock pool

Depending on the time of evening we get there and a whole lot of other variables, the northern lights will come out. We sit in the tub along with our fellow relaxers and watch these ribbons of color dance across the sky. If the aurora is active, we might spend hours in this tub. Sometimes we’ll stand up to cool off. Once we hung out there for four hours watching the lights.

Then there’s the rock pool, which is my ultimate relaxation spot. It never gets deeper than about four feet, so you have to squat a little. It’s a “natural” pool — it was created by the resort owner, but the water flows off the hot springs with just a tiny bit of tempering. There is snow on the huge rocks that surround the pool. When you get too hot, you can climb out on the rocks and cool down.

My favorite thing to do is go to an area where there are no other people and just float on my back. The fog from the rock pool prevents me from seeing the aurora, but the warm water and quiet chat of my fellow bathers just takes me into a zone where I could almost fall asleep (not recommended in hot water).

And then there’s the drive home, which oddly enough is also relaxing. We stay well below the speed limit, watch for moose and maybe listen to some classical music … once we regain radio reception.

Posted February 20, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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What’s On My MP3?   4 comments

This week’s blog hop topic is “What’s your favorite song? Provide background information.”

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I have a lot of songs I like and some are my “favorite” for short periods of time. Currently, I can get jiggy with Luke Bryan’s “Kick the Dust Up.” The white-lightning reference aside, it describes the sort of casual fun Alaskans have … just exchange the cornfield for a bonfire. The main reason, though, is I like songs with that sort of beat. In a year, I probably won’t even remember that I liked it, and because I don’t listen to country music very often, I won’t remember Luke Bryant exists.

Image result for image of amazing graceIn a similar style, Christian group Superchick’s “Pure” has been a favorite for a long time. Here are the lyrics so you understand what I like about it, but really, you have to hear them together to truly understand the attraction. I heard the song the first time after a really rough day at work and that song on the radio at lunch kept me from calling in sick for the afternoon and possibly resigning my job. It still has that effect on me.

But this post is about our FAVORITE song and why. I actually have two songs that I would want sung at my memorial service. Yeah, when you hit your mid-50s, you start thinking about stuff like that … even though my mother’s family routinely lives into their 80s and 90s.

The runner-up for “Favorite” (but would still be at my memorial service) is “Because He Lives” by the Gaithers. I actually heard Bill and Gloria Gaither sing it in a Baptist student conference in the 1980s. It was a pretty intimate setting, only a few hundred people. Gloria explained that they’d written what is now the 2nd verse for the birth of their first child, never expecting anyone to ask for it again, but so many people loved it that they had to write the other two verses and the refrain to go with it. It’s that refrain – “because He lives, I can face tomorrow … all fear is gone ….” that speaks to me. I remember the flip side of that and so it is very poignant for me.

Image result for image of amazing graceBut my all-time Favorite Song is “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. I suspect every Baptist in the world would name John Newton’s song as their favorite if they were pressed because the overwhelming message is redemption available to anyone.

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.John Newton started his career as an English sailor at a young age. He was impressed into the Royal Navy at 18. After the captain had him flogged and humiliated, he transformed to a slave ship bound for West Africa, but he didn’t get along with the crew so was left in West Africa with a slave trader named Amos Clowe, who gave him to his wife, an African tribal princess. She abused Newton as if he were any other slave. He was 23 when rescued and returned to England. On the voyage for home, the ship near foundered and Newton, terrified, called out to God. The cargo shifted, blocking the hole in the hull and the ship made it to port.

Newton marked that experience as the beginning of his conversion to evangelical Christianity. He later described it as a mult-stage process. He began to read the Bible and other religious literature. It marked a huge change in his life style, though he continued to work the slave trade. That’s hard for us to take today, but in Newton’s era, slavery was considered normal. He was bothered by how slaves were treated, but he didn’t immediately come to the conclusion that the slave trade itself was wrong until many years later. He expressed his struggle with that in his later writings.

Image result for image of amazing graceHe suffered a stroke at 29 that caused him to leave the seafaring trade. A year later, he took a job as a tax collection in Liverpool, and began to spend his spare time studying Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. Around 1757, he began to apply to various Christian groups for ordination.  He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1764, but he remained friendly with evangelicals as well. His preaching was quite popular, and this was how William Wilberforce came to know him.

In 1788, 34 years after he retired from the slave trade, Newton published a pamphlet “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade” in which he described the horrific conditions of the slave ships. He sent copies to every MP. He and Wilberforce allied to abolish the African slave trade.

Image result for image of amazing graceEvery saint has a past and every sinner has a future and that portal between sinner to saint was exemplified by Newton’s life and expressed in his song. I’ve lived the journey myself, which is probably why it speaks to me so deeply. Newton’s “stages of conversion” reminds me greatly of my once-in-a-lifetime salvation experience, followed by years-later bending my will to God, followed by periodic stages of growth. It wasn’t that he was not a Christian in those years between, but that God had a lot of work to do with him.

I chose the Celtic version of the original song because I just love how it sounds, but it’s a song that’s been redone more than just about any other and multiple verses added to the original verses over the years. I’ve heard great rock, jazz, bluegrass, and hip hop versions. I’ve even heard gypsy and South African versions. Chris Tomlin did a version that proclaims “Amazing Grace: My Chains Are Gone“. I can’t really pinpoint a version that would be my favorite, though I really love hearing the original song, posted below, sung a capella by a solo baritone.

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

 Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come.
’tis grace that brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
as long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
than when we first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

Read more: Gospel – Amazing Grace Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

A Death in Emmaus   4 comments

Welcome to the Blog Hop, where this week we are delving into the question –

How do you feel about the death of fictional characters? These can be your own or those of other authors. How would you do it? Do you have a criteria for who can die? Would you ever kill off a named character?

I wonder what my fellow writers think about this subject. Or tell us as readers think in the comments section of our posts.

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Image result for image of deathIf you read my books, you probably think I don’t have a problem killing named characters. My first book, The Willow Branch, I killed Prince Maryn in the first scene.  In the second book of Transformation Project (Objects in View), I killed about 100 people in a single incident. I’m racking up a high body count for someone who isn’t writing thrillers. And trust me, especially in Transformation Project, some main characters will eventually die because it’s an apocalyptic and dying is part of the landscape.

But this doesn’t mean I have no problem with killing off named characters. I miss my characters when they stop talking to me. So why do I kill them?

Well, generally it is because they don’t talk to me anymore. In other words, I don’t decide that they are going to die. They just do. When that occurs, it’s a good opportunity to retire the character in some bloody way. In an apocalyptic, death advances the narrative. It can change the leadership structure of a community, the mindset of those who loved the character, the feel of the series in general. It can also open opportunities for other characters to play a more active role in the story. My main criteria for the death of a character is that they no longer have a story to tell.

In the Medieval world of Daermad Cycle, death from sickness or war would be common. You can’t flinch from it. People are going to die and a novelist must deal with it.  I like cliff-hangers for the end of my books because I write series and you want people to desire to read the next book, so a little mystery — as if Tamys is going to survive a fall, or if Donyl will be eaten by the dragon — helps with that. But if your characters always survive the cliffhanger, the mystery goes away and the reader knows what to expect. So expect some of my characters not to survive.

It really comes down to this. Art imitates life and in real life, people die, so within the novel world, people must also die. Everyone in my books are subject to death, because that is the real world in which we live.

Posted October 17, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Stay Tuned for the Blog Hop   Leave a comment

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It’s a travel blog this week. Come check it out.

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Posted October 9, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Stay Tuned for the Blog Hop   1 comment

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This week the authors of the Open Book Blog Hop are talking about our earliest reading memories.

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Posted April 3, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in #openbook, Uncategorized

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