Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Mother's View of Rugby

I am forever in awe of grandparents who love to go to their grandkids' games. I have always felt like I paid my dues as a parent. Luckily, I had more musicians than athletes, though sometimes listening to a 5th grade string ensemble play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is as bad as sitting in the rain watching a second grader who hasn't a clue where the ball is at any particular moment. Both are painful.

But, I did my dutiful duty in both the musical and athletic arena. When Clay finished high school football, I  thought I was done with sitting in the elements, watching my son's potential for injury rise in direct proportion to my inability to understand what had happened on the field.

However, last fall Clay enrolled in the Thunderbird School of Global Management and took up rugby. Yesterday we travelled to Flagstaff to watch him play in a tournament.

Now, I'm married to a football enthusiast, and I have tried mightily to understand the game. And I do, somewhat. I understand downs, off-sides, touchbacks, two-point conversions, offense, defense, most of the basic stuff. I also understand that the last two minutes of a game can take forever. It's a really intense game, but in short spurts.

But rugby! Now, there's an intense game in loooonnng spurts.  I knew very little about the game before yesterday, but here's what I love about it, as opposed to football: The players never have to say die.  Say the ball carrier is halfway down the field and goes down. Even though he's down, he can toss it to someone else who can toss it to someone else who can get buried under a pile. As soon as there's daylight, he can toss it to someone else or someone can get it from him and head on out. The forward motion doesn't stop for anything except a foul.

Also, in the aforementioned pile, it's fair for the opposing team to haul people off, toss them to the side, and go after the ball. Having secured it, they take off for their end zone (not called that, I'm sure).

Also, in throwing the ball in, the players grab their forwards by the shorts and hold them up to get greater height. It's pretty awesome to see those guys catch those flung-high balls.

They have a thing called a ruck where one or more players who are on their feet and in contact, close around the ball on the ground. Once a ruck has been formed, players can't use their hands to get the ball. They have to use their feet. I think that's what's happening in the picture to the left. I think.

And the scrum! That's a sight to see.  Well, I'll tell you the sight to see. It's someone who has burns along the sides of their face from the friction of those beside him in the scrum. The scrum is used to restart play after an infraction. What the players do is bend over, one row behind the other--both teams with 2 rows--and push against each other to see who gets the ball.

Derrill and I sat on the sidelines yesterday and watched as Clay made a couple of brilliant tackles. Then one time, right in front of us, I watched as he picked a guy up off a pile, tossed him aside, grabbed the ball and ran with it. Was that my sweet little boy? I've added the photo to the left because something like that had just happened, though the ball is back out in play when this pic was taken.

A few players wear what they call scrum caps to help prevent the head abraisions. Other than that, no protective gear is worn in the game, and this is a full contact sport.  I begged Clay to at least wear a scrum cap.  As a poor student, he couldn't afford one. I thought about crocheting him one, but figured he wouldn't wear it, though the're about that substantial. However, he found one in the equipment room and has been wearing it to humor me. He's the one in the front in the blue jersey and lime green shoes.

All in all it was a great day. I was particularly grateful for the two EMTs that were standing beside their parked ambulance during the tournament.

This is a postscript.  Clay just sent me a video of the tourney. He's in the first game. Tall, beard, scrum cap & green shoes--that's him in the middle of the photo above. But, enjoy for the glimpses of the game, though glimpses of Clay are enjoyable too. There's a really good shot of a scrum, and you can see how the players in the scrum have to get the ball out with their feet, and one of the non-scrum guys picks up the ball and runs with it.  With any luck, by clicking here you can see the video.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Talk Like a Pirate Day, 2012

My brother, always the whimsical one, tuned me in to “Talk Like a Pirate Day” shortly after it began in 2002.  (You can read about the beginnings of the day on the official Talk Like a Pirate Day web site at ) I always intended to remember and wish him a happy day, but when he’d call me and say, “How arrrrr you, matie?” I’d know I’d missed it again.

However, in the last three years, I’ve had a reminder from one of my colleagues. Here’s how it happened.
I’ve been working with Ted Ritter for almost ten years now. He’s laser-focused in his scheduling and project management work, but very laid back in most other areas. You could not say that his company has any sort of a corporate feel to it. In fact, he resists even having business cards.

However, when he finally decided that Ritter Project Management, Inc. needed a web site, he also agreed to corporate business cards and brochures. We suggested sending Christmas cards to clients each year, but he opted instead for Talk Like a Pirate Day greetings.

I’m posting the picture that came with this year’s greetings. That's Ted with the eye patch. Andreas Aalhus is in the striped shirt and Jeff Anderson is in the puffy shirt.To see other Talk Like a Pirate Day pics, visit the Ritter web site at

And a happy Talk Like a Pirate Day to you!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Middle School Magic, A Review of Braden Bell's THE KINDLING

A pair of headlights drove around the corner, piercing the darkness. “Okay, there’s my mom,” Melanie said.

As the car turned fully, the lights caught a man standing in the middle of the street halfway down the block. His black cape flapped, while the wind whipped and blew his long hair.

“Mel—look at that guy!” Lexa grabbed Melanie’s arm and shivered as something like a swarm of ants with frozen cleats ran up and down her skin.

The darkness seemed thicker and heavier near him, as if the light from the car was scared to get too close. “Creepy! Where did he come from?” Melanie said as her mother pulled into the driveway. She shivered, too. “Glad we don’t have to wait out here anymore. Bye, Lexa!”

Melanie ran to the minivan, and a moment later, she and her mother drove away.

Lexa turned to go inside her house, but she couldn’t. Some kind of power radiated out from the man, drawing her to him, even though she wanted to look away. He made her spirit feel sick to its stomach, but she was frozen.

Braden Bell is king of the inventive simile and he proves this over and over in his latest book, The Kindling.

The word “kindle’ refers to the process where a teenager who has a dormant, unknown, exceptional power finds out that the power has become active. This story is about three teens, twins Connor and Lexie and their friend Melanie, who ‘kindle’ and are thus marked by the dark powers for extinction. This book is about how they fight on the side of the power of light, along with music teacher, Dr. Timberi, English teacher, Mrs. Grant, and other deceptively familiar people.

Braden Bell is not only king of the original simile, but he also is inventive in crafting his action sequences. One fairly decisive battle takes place in the Small World ride at Disney World. It’s mayhem in the Magic Kingdom.

I don’t read a lot of middle grade books. This book did not convert me to the genre. But I love words, I like the way Braden Bell strings them together, and I’d certainly read another Braden Bell book.

Here’s the website for the book:  You can find out more about it there and see some scenes from the book.
I was given a digital copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it with the understanding that my review would be unbiased.

~~~~~~~~~~~ I'd love to have you follow my blog. I'm back in the saddle now after moving south 1000 miles. Look for more reviews, recipes and random thoughts.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Peach Days Surprise

Between my last post and this, we took a vacation to Southern Utah, decided to relocate, put our house on the market, bought a home in Kanab, Utah, and moved. It took a 45-foot van trailer plus a trailer behind the pickup to get everything down here, but we made it. We’re still getting used to blue sky every morning, but I think we’ll manage.

In the midst of stumbling over boxes and trying to find places to put things, my husband, Derrill, joined the local orchestra. He’s a former trombone player, trying to get muscles—both embouchure and slide-operating ones—to remember long-forgotten tensions, and he practices innumerable hours out in his shop.

Kanab has a population of about 4000. It’s not like the small communities in the Pacific Northwest, where they have large populations on 5- and 10-acre plots in surrounding unincorporated areas. Kanab’s surrounding territory is beautifully, ruggedly, colorfully empty. So, 4000 is about what you can count on. That a population of that size would have sustained an orchestra since 1984 is due to the tenacity, drive, and love of music of local pharmacist Kortney Stirland.   The Symphony of the Canyons performs several times a year, one of the performances being at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Another is at Peach Days, a local celebration in Hurricane, UT, a small town about an hour away from Kanab. That performance was yesterday. Derrill was sweating it, but felt better when they said there would be another trombonist playing with the orchestra in Hurricane.

I have to digress now and tell you about the Dallas Brass. I meant to blog about the concert we went to last fall where we heard this marvelous group. Their performance model is to go to school districts, give master classes to their middle- and high-school musicians, and have a performance where they play with the students. It’s a win-win-win situation, for the kids, for the Dallas Brass and for the audience.

As I said, the Dallas Brass came to Skagit County and performed, and two of our grandchildren, Vaughn and Kjaisa, got to play with them. The house was packed, and you could tell it was a musical high for the kids. It was for the audience, too.

So, fast forward to Peach Days. Derrill prays for a rain-out situation all the way to Hurricane, but though there are rain clouds in the sky, they’re to the west. He has to perform.

The other trombone shows up, and who is it? Only D. J. Barraclough of the Dallas Brass. Derrill says if he had known who the other trombone was going to be, he wouldn’t have had the courage to come. As it was, he enjoyed playing second trombone with the master.

The icing on the cake was that our grandson, Vaughn, a great percussionist, was staying with us this August before heading off to college. The orchestra needed another person in that section, so Vaughn jumped in to help out with the Peach Days performance. So, he got to play with D. J. Barraclough again.

I think the smiles in the picture say it all.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Winner of Connie Sokol's Motherhood Matters is . . .

. . .  Bethany!  I know who you are, Sedromom, so I'll get the book off to you. 

    Stay tuned. I'm going to do another book giveaway the end of May so check back.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Liz is giving away a copy of Connie E. Sokol's Motherhood Matters

I promised to do this on the 21st, and I've been feeling good that I was so on top of this, that I was right on schedule. Then I thought, no, wait--I taught a writing class at the Upper Skagit Library on the 21st, and that was yesterday.  Today is the 22nd.

But that doesn't matter, does it?  What matters is that you get a chance to get a copy of Connie Sokol's gem of a book just in time to give it to someone for Mother's Day. 

I'll press Jens into service again and we'll do the drawing Thursday the 26th.  That's not very long, so get your name in the pot--and I speak literally, because I use an old chamber pot for the drawing.

All you have to do is become a follower of this blog and leave a comment to say you've done so and you want your name entered. If you're already a follower, then let me know.

To read my review of Motherhood Matters, scroll down past my UFO sighting and Jens drawing the name for the Caller ID giveaway, and you'll find it.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My UFO Sighting

Notice I didn’t call this my ET sighting. I don’t necessarily think extra-terrestrials had anything to do with what I saw in the sky back in 1959, but I do know that I had never seen anything like it before.

Luckily, I wasn’t alone. In fact, my companion, my then-roommate, Roberta Uzelac (now Nelson), asked me just a few months ago if I remembered the incident. The hair stood up on the back of my neck just thinking about it. Yes, I remembered.

Highway between Kanab UT and Page AZ

We were on our way to Page, Arizona from Provo, Utah. It must have been a Friday night, probably about eleven o’clock. I don’t know why my brother Ron wasn’t with us. Usually we’d have him and a couple other people in the car, but this time it was just Roberta and I.

We had talked ourselves out long before we reached the Cock’s Comb, a sandstone formation between Kanab, UT and Page, AZ. Coming through the cut in the hill, we looked forward to the last leg: a flat, relatively straight, uninhabited, fifty-mile stretch of two-lane highway. A dark, sparsely traveled, lonely . . . you get the idea.

It wasn’t long after the Cock’s Comb that we noticed a large, bright light in the sky. It traveled from right to left in front of us. Years later, when my husband was flying out of general aviation airports, I thought that landing lights on small planes as they were coming straight at you were similar to that light we saw in the sky. Only it wasn’t coming straight at us. It was crossing in front of us. Even at that, one could have made the case that what we saw was a light on a general aviation aircraft, except that its last maneuver was something no aircraft I ever saw could do.

The light had crossed in front of us, as I said, from right to left, going at a speed that we could ascribe to a known aircraft. Suddenly it changed directions, zipping up and to the right, crossing in front of us again, in an arc so fast that it seemed it must be a shooting star. And then, like a shooting star, it disappeared.

We were left in the dark, alone, on that uninhabited road with fifty miles still to go before we reached the cozy safety of my house and my daddy’s protection. My knuckles were still white when we got there.

I was so grateful that I had my roommate with me to corroborate my story. However, a few years later when I mentioned the sighting to Addy, our neighbor across the street, she said she had seen something very similar on that same stretch of road late at night.

Here’s how she described it to me a month or so ago when I asked her about it again:

In the early 70's, I was driving with a friend one night from Kanab, Utah to Page, Arizona on a lonely strip of highway in the high desert. As I reached the top of a hill I saw a large glowing ball hovering over the desert to my left. The light could be described as hot pink or light red. My passenger and I both exclaimed, "What is that?" We watched for several seconds and then it quickly disappeared. We wondered if it could have been an oncoming car's headlights, but there was no road in that vicinity and it definitely was the wrong color of light. I still remember it vividly, though it remains a mystery.

So, there you have it. I still hear the Twilight Zone theme song deedle-deedle-ing in my mind when I think about it. It was over 50 years ago. My hair is gray now, and I didn’t want to leave this world without documenting it—my gift to UFO research.

~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Winner of Rachelle Christensen's Caller ID

My grandson Jens obliged me by drawing the winning name to receive a copy of Rachelle Christensen's book Caller ID.   You can see from the second picture that the winner is Bonnie. Congratulations!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Motherhood Matters by Connie E. Sokol, a Review

The blurb on the back cover of Motherhood Matters says, "This delightful little volume, filled with wit and wisdom, presents a straightforward look at the divinity, reality, and rewards of being a mother. With clarity and concision, Connie E. Sokol shares inspirational messages that will fit families everywhere on the road to a better way of life."

Well, I'm in my senior years, with active mothering growing smaller in the rearview mirror, and I thought, as I picked up the book, what is this book going to tell ME about divinity, reality and rewards?

Quite a little bit, actually.

I shouldn't have been surprised. I saw a clip of Connie Sokol doing an interview on a TV show, and I was amazed at how her warmth and assurance reached out over the internet and grabbed me. She has a persuasiveness about her that exists in her prose as well as her persona. When she says mothering is divine, you believe her.  She gives you opportunities to connect in every section of her book.  She doesn't preach, she reminds you of what you knew already.

This would be a great Mother's Day present for a mother figure in your life.  It's not sticky sweet. More like warm bread, or a thoughtful surprise that no one else would have remembered.

You can find Motherhood Matters at Amazon. To find out more about the author, go to Connie Sokol's web site.

I'll be posting a contest to win a copy of Motherhood Matters a little closer to Mother's Day. I'll post it on April 21 and award it on April 26, so stay tuned.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Caller ID by Rachelle J. Christensen, a Review

All right, Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m pulling you into Rachelle Christensen’s blog tour for her new release, Caller ID. I’ll tell you how you can win a copy here on my blog in a minute.

Here’s a blurb from the publisher:

From the author who brought you Wrong Number comes another story featuring Agent Jason Edwards that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

When twenty-three-year-old Courtney Beckham is abducted near her home, the search turns up more than just a kidnapping crime. FBI agent Jason Edwards investigates the ten-million-dollar ransom and stumbles upon something he wasn’t meant to find. And when Courtney catches a glimpse of the caller ID in her kidnapper’s home, what she sees turns her world upside down.

I didn’t read Rachelle’s first Jason Edwards book, but not to worry if you didn’t either. This book stands alone. In fact, you will probably be as invested in Courtney as you are in Jason Edwards, so it won’t matter that you haven’t met him in another book.

Before I review this book, I need to state that I received a free copy from the publisher. However, that had no bearing on the kind of  review I gave.

What worked for me: Rachelle has a nice plot going for her in this book, with several twists that I didn't see coming. She does such a good job of portraying Utah in high summer that she had me reaching for the chapstick and trying to stay hydrated. Courtney is likeable, as is Jason, and the villain even has flashes that signal ‘redeemable.’

What didn’t work: Hmm. I’m ambivalent about the multiple points of view Rachelle used, though I don’t know that she could have unfolded the plot without them.  I think I feel that I would have had a stronger bond with either Courtney or Jason if I saw the whole thing through only one pair of eyes. But, I'm ready to be convinced otherwise. What do you think?

In any event, don’t let that deter you from trying this book. It would be a great light summer read.

You can win a copy of Caller ID here on my blog. Become a follower by clicking on the ‘join this blog’ button on the left and leave me a comment that says you’ve done so. If you’re already a follower, leave a comment saying that.

The thing is, giving away the book is a shameless bid for followers. We all acknowledge that. Followers who leave a comment here on my blog will be entered in a drawing. On Monday, April 9, I’ll have my grandson Jens draw from the hundreds of comments I’ve received—or from the three or four—and I’ll announce the award of the book on that day and make arrangements for getting contact information so I can send it out.

Okay. That’s taken care of.

Now, on to Rachelle’s contest. She’s offering an awesome prize. Here’s what the announcement says:

To celebrate the release of CALLER ID, Rachelle is hosting a contest for a new Ultra Flip Video Camcorder (4GB memory, Records 120 minutes Value $149.99) and other great prizes. You can enter to win between now and April 14, 2012. Winners will be announced and notified April 16, 2012.

Click on this link to enter for the Ultra Flip Video Camcorder.

Rachelle’s website is  You can purchase Caller ID at Amazon.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Return to Silver Creek by Chuck Tyrell, a Review

Chuck Tyrell is a great western writer. He knows the country, and he lets the reader see the vistas, smell the wood smoke, hear the creak of leather, and feel the grit of sand in the beans. He tells stories of hard people in a hard land, and he lets you feel the bite of the wind as the world slides into winter with only a couple layers’ protection against the cold.

I live in and love the Pacific Northwest, but dang, his book Return to Silver Creek made me homesick for the high desert.

Return to Silver Creek is the story of Garet Havelock and his new bride, Laura, and the aftermath of an attack on her at their cabin on their homestead. It’s also the story of the eternal conflict in the west between cattlemen and sheepmen, between old settlers and new, and between those who have water and those who want it.

Chuck Tyrell turns a nice phrase, too. Listen as he tells about Laura’s state of mind as she takes refuge with neighbors at their hacienda,

Laura dreaded ever having to leave her room at the Pilar hacienda. The unyielding walls, the dim interior, and the solid oak bar across the door made her feel safe, or as safe as any violated woman could ever feel.

Her ears had become as sensitive as a fox’s. She heard murmuring voices from distant parts of the sprawling hacienda, the click of boots on the stone floors, the brush of clothing against the walls. She thought she could hear spiders spinning webs in the rafters at night.

Garet Havelock sets out to find out who did this to his wife. It takes him months to do so, and in the meanwhile he has several other near-death adventures and rights a few wrongs along the way. He’s not a man of steel. He has an old war wound that necessitates him wearing an iron brace on his knee—and mounting a horse on the off side. That is a bit of a metaphor for Garet Havelock. He has his own way of doing things, but he gets ‘em done.

If you like a good adventure. If you like westerns. If you like strong, flawed heroes. If you like writing where the setting is like another character, then you’ll like Chuck Tyrell’s Return to Silver Creek. It is available in Kindle edition at Amazon . At $3.99, it's a bargain.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bonnie Harris is Giving Away a Copy of COLD RIVER

My forgetter is working overtime, and even though I've got post it notes all over the house, I keep forgetting to mention that Bonnie Harris is giving away a copy of COLD RIVER on her blog tomorrow.

One of the things you have to do to get your name in the pot is to follow my blog, so you might as well click on the 'Join This Blog' button on the left side bar before you hop over to her blog.

Here's the link to Bonnie's blog:

Good luck!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Poems by Marie Fischer and Eunice J. Miles

I was recently going through my mother's scrapbook, and I found two poems that I thought I'd like to share. I don't know how much exposure these two poets had during their lifetimes, but I'd like to extend their reach a bit.

The first was published in the Salt Lake Tribune, I would guess in the late 1950's.  I know why my mother kept it, as it reminds me of my grandmother and tugs at my heart reading it now.

by Eunice J. Miles

This lace-trimmed, printed apron,
With a pocket and a bow,
Was made for me by Mother
From a bit of calico.
She fashioned it so neatly,
Her smile, as always, cheery,
I could not know her heartbreak,
Nor guess herr feet were weary.
I took the gift so carelessly,
As if it were my due.
That it would prove a final one
From her, I never knew.
Now Mother's hands are quiet.
They can no longer sew
A dainty lace-trimmed apron
Of printed calico.

The second poem is one my mother typed out.  I love the character the old manual typewriters gave to the printing. They were like fingerprints, as no two typewriters printed the letters exactly the same. On this one, the lower case o doesn't print on the bottom of the arc. You can see it in the picture at the bottom.

Before I begin, I need to define the word samite as it's used in the second stanza.  According to Wikipedia, Samite was a luxurious and heavy silk fabric worn in the Middle Ages, of a twill- type weave, often including gold or silver thread. I didn't know the word before today.

By Marie Fischer

The pines are reeling galleons
Tossed on windy nights,
Their singing masts strung with stars
For swinging signal lights.

The pines are phantom galleons
Adrift through samite mists,
Their wriath-like sails the floating clouds
By ghostly moonbeams kissed.

The pines are pirate galleon,
Their chant a weird rune;
Their treasure-holds with silver filled
Stolen from the moon.

The pines are cargoed galleon
Laden with sweet spices;
The God of the trees built them so
And launched with beauty thrice--

With music, fragrance, form,
Pine galleons ride the storm.

I can almost hear my mother reading each of these poems, even though she's been gone over twenty years.

~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eldred Atkinson's Essay about Working in Africa with Building Solid Foundations

Library dedication at ABC Methodist School
 In sending out announcements about the book launch party for Cold River, I included a distant cousin I hadn't contacted on eight or ten years. Bless his heart, he responded, read the book, and we've been corresponding ever since. I sent him a link to SWAN, the charitable foundation I work with, and he told me about the work he does in Africa with Building Solid Foundations. (  )
I asked him to write about his experiences as he traveled to africa to drill water wells for remote villages. This organization is a wonderful example of what can happen when just plain people get toether to try to make the world a better place.  The pictures are from the web site. I encourage you to check it out.

Here is Eldred's (aka Ackie) essay: 


           In the middle of the night in September 2006, twenty-two of us, all with different preconceptions but same goals, were 31,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Africa. Eighteen of us were going to the hospital in Apam, Ghana, and four of us were going into villages to drill water wells.
            I turned to Dr. Bob and said, “If you want some special entertainment, stroll to the rear of the plane and look at the Africans. Some are sitting on seats with blankets pulled up around their heads like a bib, and are sound asleep; some are stretched out over two or three seats, and they sure are dressed strangely.” I said this because some of the women were wearing long multi-colored dresses with designs of brown, green, drab orange and red.
            Dr. Bob said, “Those people in the back are saying, ‘If you want some special entertainment, stroll to the front of the plane and look at those white folks. Some are sitting on seats with blankets pulled up around their heads like a bib, and are sound asleep; some are stretched out over two or three seats, and they sure are dressed strangely.’”
            Soon—a word that the Ghanaians use so that time frames take on different meanings—we could see the sun rising in the East. It was the most beautiful one that I had ever seen, not because of the red-orange-yellow coloration, but because I viewed it from 31,000 feet and I could see the entire curvature of the earth.
            We landed in Ban Jul, Gambia to refuel. Since it was raining, we did not disembark, but stayed on the plane and took pictures though the windows. I wandered to the cockpit and asked the pilot if I could take pictures of the panel. He said sure, allowed me to sit in the captain’s seat, and gave me his hat to wear for a photo session.  The pilots, the stewardesses, the stewards and the passengers were all fabulous. This is where my love for Africa and the Africans began.
            A stewardess said, “ I must leave for a few moments to take care of the UMs.”
            In my ignorance, I asked, “What is a UM?”
            “A UM is an Unaccompanied Minor.”
            “I think I am an UM. No, I am an AWD, an Accompanied Well Driller.”
            A couple of hours later we were back in the friendly skies, and five hours later, we landed at KOTOA International Airport in Accra, Ghana, Africa. By this time I think I was starting to get saddle sores. 
The stewardess announced, “The time here is “Zulu Time!” I didn’t know if she was jerking my chain or not, but I did find that the Ghanaians had a sense of humor, although we were not always on the same page.
            On the wall was a sign with these words, “AKWAABA”, which meant “WELCOME.” It is a warm greeting with which the Ghanaians welcome you to their country.
            After receiving our luggage and going through customs, we met Joseph Ntiamoah, the driver of the bus and Christina Maudie Pomary, our tour director. Christina was of a culture called Ashanti. She spoke Fanti, English, and later learned German.
I asked Christina,  “Will we have trouble with the language?”
She laughed and replied, “Oh, no, the national language is English, so you can always find someone to translate for you.”
            Outside of Accra, at the little seaport of Nungua, Joseph turned into the gated area of the beautiful Nshonaa Dutchotel. It gave me a strange feeling to be stopped at the gate by a security guard who had to check us to see if we were OK. We passed the test and everyone was wonderful to us, greeting us with open arms. One of the first things they did was give us bottled water, which is a custom of theirs.
            My roommate, Ken Wood, owned a well drilling outfit in Maryland. I actually believe that he could walk on water, as he has done so much for the people of Ghana. This was his first trip, but since then has made dozens.
 Sara, my wife, was to go to the hospital with sixteen others in the morning. The well drilling crew would stay in this village for a couple of days until we could get our equipment off the docks.
After a wonderful buffet of rice, fish, spaghetti, and vegetables, we went to a gazebo outside to relax. Pam, one of our nurses, said, “ Ackie, I have to show you the beach!”
She took me by the hand and we walked down the steps. What a beautiful setting: a calm, mild late-summer night, a full moon shinning over the waters of the Atlantic, the melodious sounds of the waves breaking over the beach, and a very good-looking blonde nurse walking hand-in hand with me onto the beach. Walking about 10-feet onto the sand, I was appalled. I had never seen anything like this.
No one, not even Christina, told me that over most of Ghana, and I assume much of Africa, is “open sewage.” I never got accustomed to it.  A beautiful hotel and a polluted beach! When it rained, the water cascaded through the dump, bringing down body waste, old tangled fish nets, and junk in general. High tide flushed the beach, much as we do when we flush our commodes. Periodically, the hotel cleaned the beach, but next high tide, or next rain, brought more waste material.
            The next day, the medical team departed for Apam, a fishing village of about 22,000 people. The hospital was to be our headquarters for many years to come. The well-drilling team stayed at the hotel so we could retrieve our equipment off the docks and start our own fantastic experiences.
            The four of us, Ken, Steve, Jim, and myself, took in the local culture and learned some of African customs, such as never take pictures of police while you are riding in the back seat of a troe troe (Taxi). That was one of several police stories we added to our memoirs.  
We saw people cooking meals over open fires. We saw vendors carrying pans on their heads, scurrying about selling very salty hard-boiled eggs in the shell, bread and small baggies of water. Some of the kids and young adults sat along the road, breaking stones into gravel that they would put into bags and sell. A couple of sows were rooting through the trash, with goats and chickens roaming everywhere.
 I asked Joseph, our official guide for the day, “Do you have hogs running loose in your village?”
”Oh, yes, and chickens, goats and sheep, too. We, also, have alligators.”
“Do you eat the alligators?”
He was appalled that I would ask a question like that. He stood erect, rocked back on his heels, and very sternly answered, ”Oh, no, we worship them. We feed them dead chickens and put our hands in the mouths of the alligators, for they will not hurt you.”
Was he jerking my chain? I never knew, but I imagine they have a lot if one-armed people in their culture.
            I asked Joseph, “Have you ever had Malaria?”
            “Oh, yes, everyone gets malaria. I have had it three times.”
            “Do you know anyone that has had the Guinea Worm Disease?”
            “I know lot of people that have had it, including myself.” With that he pulled up his trouser legs, and showed me the scars. He continued, ”That is where the Guinea worms were. It is very painful and feels like a red-hot knife. You have to ease out the worm very slowly. ”
            I told him, “That is one reason we are in Ghana, to drill for clean water to help eradicate the Guinea Worm and other water borne carriers.”
            We went to the outback village of Dalikorpe and met the rest of our well-drilling team, six Ghanaians. It was a fantastic bonding, even though everything went wrong. The drive shaft on our water support truck twisted, we missed two wells before we hit the third, an idol was set up for us, it rained and flooded the village, the truck became stuck in the sand, and we had trouble with two of the locals who had been drinking swamp water. Eventually, all worked out better than could be expected.
This was my favorite village. Ye Ye wanted to be my wife. She offered me a goat and a cow. The chief offered to give me a plot of land if I would drill water on the land, and he wanted to make Sara, my wife, his queen. It is difficult to pass up offers like that, but I did. It was there I met my first young red-headed African girl. She was treated differently because she was a gift from God. 
When many of the Ghanaians are born, the name that is given to them is the name of the day of the week upon which they were born. It seems strange, because one set of names applies to females, while another applies to males. Eight days later, you are given a first name of someone that is well respected, thus many have biblical names. My Ghanaian name became Eldred Kwasi Atkinson, because I was born on Sunday. Later, because I am so old, my African co-workers named me “Papa Ackie”, because they are my sons and daughters.
I loved roaming through the villages, mingling with people of all ages, working, dancing, singing and even playing the Talking Drums, (I did not make them talk, only a lot of BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.) We mingled with the school children, and one I time led them to school like the pied piper, doing the goose-step and playing a pretend kazoo. “Soon” the kids were doing the same, but we did manage to get to school. As they entered their classroom, we gave them a pencil. When you have nothing, a pencil is a big deal.
The stories here, all true, were indelibly written in my memory
            Over a period of time, Ken separated from our group and formed his own Non Government Organization and has drilled close to 800 water wells. He now drills in Ghana and in Tanzania. He has asked me to go to Tanzania with him, but I haven’t done that, yet 
Our group formed Building Solid Foundations and we are doing projects that are amazing. Our aim is to make the fishing village of Apam into a model city.  We return to the hospital for two weeks every year in September. This September 2012 will be our seventh trip.
            Each year we plant a vegetable garden consisting of six 100-foot rows of vegetables at the Apam High School, and we plan to form an Ag Ed course at the school. We dedicated libraries at the ABC Methodist School, at St. Jude’s Catholic School, and at The Salvation Army School, and we will go to at least two other schools in the area. All the schools are now increasing their education scores. We have enough equipment to help other schools in the outlying villages, but for many reasons, we cannot ship them all at once.
Eldred (kneeling in front) and well drilling crew.
            We installed 2300 foot of pipe and four sludge tanks at the hospital, and it has the capabilities of being monitored in Williamsport, PA. We are bringing water and electricity into Apam. We have a large building in Apam that will be made into a fast-freeze plant and cold storage plant, and will make ice for the fishing boats. We are bringing in a small water filtration pod.
In six 9-day periods, our surgeons have completed more than 1,100 surgeries, and the hospital has grown from a small, very poor hospital into a very nice, highly-rated one. We have trained nurses and teachers in the community. We are trying to get one of our local colleges to allow some of their students do half of their student-teaching in Apam, and the other half near their college.
Our construction team has been there to help in all areas, but our agreement says “We will do it with you, but not for you.”
            Why did I fall in love with Africa? Love is a feeling like you have never felt before. Walk hand-in-hand or in the footsteps of the Africans and you, too, will fall in love with the people in this mysterious land.
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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Retirement Quest, Make Better Decisions by John Hauserman

  Retirement Quest, Make Better Decisions is a valuable book.

I didn't realize how valuable at first, because my eyes glazed over in the beginning chapters. I began to wonder why I had been asked to read it, as it seemed to have been written for the monetarily initiated, people already conversent with financial planning. In fact, John Hauserman states in Chapter 5, "This book is intended for mature readers who have already achieved a reasonable level of financial security and responsibility, and for younger people who are in a wealth building mode."

However, my eyes unglazed when I hit Chapter 6, where Hauserman began explaining the basics of financial instruments, how they work, and the strengths and weakenesses of each.  I didn't know, for example, about bonds and coupon rates, and how one of the primary determinants of a bond's coupon rate is the creditworthiness of the bond issuer.  As Hauserman says, "This is a very significant factor, and responsible money management therefore generally dictates that one not necessarily choose the highest-yielding bond." Who knew?

The book is full of lots of sound information. Throughout, Hauserman preaches the gospel of diversification--even in your cash holdings. If you are wondering how you can diversify cash, read the book. He also stresses the need for discipline and regularly rebalancing, which he explains on page 54.

Hauserman points out that younger people need to step up to shoulder the responsibility for their own retirement, for, by law,"once the [Social Security] trust fund is exhausted--it is anticipated that this will happen around the year 2030--the benefit formula is to be rewritten based upon the economics of the program at that time. In simple terms, this means that we shouild expect, if all goes well, that around the year 2030 we will experience a benefit cut of about 50%."
Hauserman also makes the point that this is a way citizens can not only serve themselves but can serve their country, for the republic's economic well being is tied to the economic health of its citizens.  He quotes John F. Kennedy's "Ask not what you can do for your Country" speech in this context.

This book is thoughtful, building on a solid philosophy. The writing is clear, but as I said, for someone like me, or for a young person in 'wealth building mode', I suggest starting at Chapter 6, reading to the end, and then going back to read Chapters 1-5.

You can order the book by clicking here.  John Hausman's web site is at

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Steps Carved by Father Escalante at Crossing of the Fathers

In 1776-1777 Father Dominguez and Father Escalante were sent by the Catholic Church to find a direct route from the mission settlement in Santa Fe, NM to the one in Monterrey, CA. They intended to head due west to make the connection, but instead, they made a huge, 2000-mile circle, ending up back at Santa Fe. It took them 6 ½ months.

Father Escalante and his comrads didn’t reach their stated goal, but they chronicled their journey and that has survived. They almost perished from cold and hunger several times, and when they got to the Colorado River at what is now Lee’s Ferry, they found they could not cross at that point.

They then searched upriver, and two weeks later, they found Padre Creek. There the river was wider and shallow enough to ford, and the canyon walls sloped down. However, this slope was what is known as “slick rock,” and with good reason. The picture below is of me and my friend Nayna Judd Christensen sitting on the slick rock as it slopes down to the river. Getting horses down without incident was a problem, but this was the only way to cross they had found thus far, so they cut steps in the rock so the horses could get footing.

These steps survived for almost 200 years. In fact, they’re probably still there, except that now they’re covered by Lake Powell, the lake that backs up behind the Glen Canyon Dam. My dad worked on that project, and one Easter weekend in the early 1960s we made the dirt-road drive out to see them.

These images surfaced a couple weeks ago when I was having my son sort pictures for me. Wondering if they might be historically valuable, I made an internet search. Though I found several pictures of early expeditions to the Crossing of the Fathers in the early 20th century, I didn’t find any of the steps Father Escalante cut into the rock. So, if you’ll pardon the intrusion of a younger me in the picture, I’m posting this for posterity.

You can read a good description of the Escalante-Dominguez expedition at:

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Family By Design by Heather Justesen - Blog Tour

Liz Sez is a stop on Heather Justesen's blog tour for her new book Family by Design. I'll start out by posting the blurb from the back of the book and then give my mini-review.

Keep reading because I'll tell you about some giveaways Heather is sponsoring on her blog in conjunction with this tour. I'll also list the other stops on the tour so you can check them out.

Cover Blurb
Before he could think better of it, he blurted out, “I understand your concerns. I’m going to speak to my commander about getting an early discharge. My girlfriend, Rena, and I have talked about getting married. There just hasn’t been any rush.”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he wondered what he was thinking. Yes, they had discussed marriage, but not to each other! He and Rena had never even dated.

Tucker’s on his way to the biggest challenge of his life. Rena already has it all—except a family of her own. But neither one expected their friendship would take such a dramatic turn.

When Tucker becomes the guardian of his newly orphaned niece and nephew, he knows he can’t handle them alone, not when he might be shipped out with the Marines at any moment.

Desperate, he turns to Rena for a major favor. His marriage proposal would give her everything she wants, but can she learn to live without the romance she’s always dreamed of?

As time, prayer, and a life-changing kiss work a little magic in her heart, Rena wonders if someone up there has a plan for her that’s better than anything she could’ve come up with on her own. And though it seems crazy at first, this could become her chance for a marriage that will last for eternity.

My thoughts:

Family by Design is a book with a sweet premise and a clever title. The premise: can it be a good thing when two best friends marry for expedience? The title is clever because the main character, Rena, is an interior designer by profession, and her family came by design rather than the usual way.

I would say this book is in the Romance spectrum, though not a true romance. It doesn’t end with a trip to the altar, as many romances do, as the trip to the altar comes in the middle of the book. But there is a lot of interior dialogue as Rena second guesses her feelings and decisions, and that is very Romance-ish. There’s the tiniest bit of a mystery or puzzle added in to spice things up. Though most of the story is told from Rena’s point of view, we do occasionally see things through Tucker’s eyes.

What worked for me:

*The premise. I think the subject of this book is very timely. It seems there are lots of single people Rena’s age out there who are listening to their biological clocks ticking as they associate with their circle of friends and look for Mr. or Ms. Right, thinking, “Should I settle for this one, or should I wait for True Love?”

*Heather Justesen’s writing style. It’s clean and flows nicely, making an easy read.

*The conflict. The problems Rena faced both at work and as a newly-married, suddenly-single mom aren’t improbable. Well, possibly the newly-married, suddenly-single-mom thing is improbable, but just as soon as I would say it is, I’d read about someone just deployed to Afghanistan who left a new wife with her new step children, so I’m going to leave it be. Also, since I have a friend who is facing a problem a work similar to Rena’s, where a formerly friendly supervisor has become suddenly hostile, that rings true, too.

Things that didn’t work for me:

*There was a bit too much interior dithering by Rena. However, I think that’s a matter of taste, and people who are avid Romance readers tend to expect this.

Even with that, it was a pleasant read.

Wait a minute. I just noticed there’s a subtitle in very small caps. The complete title is Family by Design, But Subject to Change without Notice. There you go. How could you not pick up a book with a title like that?

As part of the Blog Tour, as a special promotion for anyone who buys Family By Design before January 31, you can get a free ebook for Heather Justesen’s companion novella, “Shear Luck.” Once you buy a copy of Family by Design, go here to get your free copy of “Shear Luck.”

Here are the stops on the blog tour. Be sure to read through to the end to get the information for the host of giveaways Heather is doing on her blog throughout the week.

Monday, Jan. 16 Danyelle Ferguson
Tuesday, Jan. 17 Kim Job
Wednesday, Jan. 18 Nichole Giles
Thursday, Jan. 19 Liz Adair
Friday, Jan. 20 Susan Dayley
Saturday, Jan. 21 Keith Fisher
Monday, Jan. 23 Robbin Peterson
Tuesday, Jan. 24 Julie Bellon
Wednesday, Jan. 25 Cindy Hogan
Thursday, Jan. 26 Rebecca Talley
Friday, Jan. 27 Kathleen Brebes
Saturday, Jan. 28 Debbie Davis
Monday, Jan. 30 Maria Hoaglund
Tuesday, Jan. 31 Tristi Pinkston
Wednesday, Feb. 1 Joann Arnold
Thursday, Feb. 2 Christine Bryant
Friday, Feb. 3 Rebecca Blevins
Saturday, Feb. 4 Mindy Holt

Click on the link below for Heather Justesen's giveaway in celebration of her new book:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 14, 2012

FDR's Fireside Chat after Pearl Harbor

My son is home on winter break, and because he's a poor graduate student, I've hired him to organize the trunks and boxes full of photos and momentos from three generations that are stacked in my office. I've found several things that I'd like to share.

The first is this map from The Daily Oklahoman, printed on Sunday, February 22, 1942. I was about three and a half months old, and it had been two and a half months since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

If you'll look at the picture, across the top it says: When the President Speaks Monday Night, 9 o'clock, Oklahoma Time, All stations, Use This Map.

This was before television, but the President spoke to the nation via radio. In this instance, he wanted to be able to have the populace realize the distances he was talking about, so these maps were provided in newspapers.

You can read the content of President Roosevelt's address by clicking here.

I'm impressed with how he laid it on the line to a country that must still have been reeling from Pearl Harbor. One of the things he said was:

This war is a new kind of war. It is different from all other wars of the past, not only in its methods and weapons but also in its geography. It is warfare in terms of every continent, every island, every sea, every air-lane in the world.

He also was blunt about the losses on December 7, 1941:

To pass from the realm of rumor and poison to the field of facts: the number of our officers and men killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December seventh was 2,340, and the number wounded was 940. Of all of the combatant ships based on Pearl Harbor -- battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines -- only three (were) are permanently put out of commission.

Very many of the ships of the Pacific Fleet were not even in Pearl Harbor. Some of those that were there were hit very slightly, and others that were damaged have either rejoined the Fleet by now or are still undergoing repairs. And when those repairs are completed, the ships will be more efficient fighting machines than they were before.

The report that we lost more than a thousand (air)planes at Pearl Harbor is as baseless as the other weird rumors. The Japanese do not know just how many planes they destroyed that day, and I am not going to tell them. But I can say that to date -- and including Pearl Harbor -- we have destroyed considerably more Japanese planes than they have destroyed of ours.

Then he called on Americans to join the war effort:

We are calling for new plants and additions -- additions to old plants. (and) We are calling for plant conversion to war needs. We are seeking more men and more women to run them.

At the time FDR gave this speech, my dad was running a dragline for the Bureau of Reclamation in Altus, Oklahoma. They must have listened to what he said, because before the year was out, my parents had moved to Vancouver, Washington. My dad was doing something on submarines and my mother worked building aircraft carriers. He worked days and she worked swing. By 1944, Dad was in Puerto Rico repairing subs that put in for repairs.

I'm grateful my mom saved that newspaper. It must have meant something to her. Surely, the next five years were turned upside down by the war, but I know she felt like she and dad had been in harness with the rest of America, pulling their weight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.