The Year of the Barbarian, by Elizabeth Ann Boyles

Cover image credit: Amazon.com

This well-researched historical novel totally drew me in. Sumi, a samurai’s daughter in the mid-19th century, respects her culture’s traditional Japanese ways, yet finds them too restrictive. She has dreams beyond needlework and flower arranging–dreams that shock most of her relatives.

In The Year of the Barbarian, Boyles paints a lovely portrait of a girl who is curious about and intrigued by the Americans who are starting to work in her city–but at the same time, bewildered and even scandalized by their strange manners. Her curiosity and open-mindedness threaten her safety more than once. Worse, they could cause trouble for her family.

I highly recommend this book as a Great Weekend Read. And don’t miss Dragonfly Wings, the next in the trilogy.

You can get acquainted with the author at her website by clicking here.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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Guest Post: William Patrick

Let’s Rise to the Challenge of Decency

Photo courtesy of William Patrick

This column by William Patrick first appeared in the Palestine [Texas] Herald-Press on March 18, 2020. I’m sharing it with the kind permission of Mr. Patrick and the Herald-Press.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Americans have a history of standing together in times of adversity.

On December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, recruiters had to turn crowds away. The response was that great.

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, firefighters, first-responders, and ordinary people traveled to New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania to lend a hand in rescue and recovery efforts.

We Americans have a history of uniting in times of adversity – when that adversity has a face. COVID-19, a viral disease caused by the Wuhan coronavirus originating in China, has progressed to a pandemic in less than a month.

Friday, President Trump declared a national state of emergency. Reported fatality rates for COVID-19 range from less than 1 percent to 8 percent. People are confused, frightened, and panicked.

With no Axis Power to curse or terrorist regime to vilify, our panic has made every man for himself.

Retail outlets nationwide are running out of hand sanitizer, disinfectant, paper towels, and toilet paper. The Palestine Walmart, which stocks multiple brands of toilet paper, had nothing but bare shelves Friday. Frenzied customers even grabbed bathroom tissue off the pallets. Online entrepreneurs started hawking $2 bottles of disinfectant for $30. Hydrogen peroxide, typically under a buck, is going for $10 or more.

We Americans weren’t always like this.

My father told stories of growing up during the Great Depression and World War II. He’d talk about victory gardens, where people grew fresh produce for the community; he’d tell us about the rationing of basic items like sugar, butter, and gasoline. It was for the war. It was for our troops overseas. It was our duty.

Never did he speak of fistfights for toilet paper, or price-gouging for hand-wash. In his stories, Americans stood united.

The difference, I believe, is the evil in his stories had a face; it had an identity. Daddy wasn’t home, because he was overseas fighting the “bad guys.”

Today, social media spreads information and misinformation instantly across the globe. That goes double for panic. When my parents were kids, “social media” was water-cooler conversation and back-fence gossip. Now, without an identifiable enemy or reliable information, panic and hoarding have become the new normal. We want ours – never mind the elderly and infirm who may need the same.

Sure, times are scary. I have two toddler boys who attend daycare; my wife is an “at risk” cancer survivor. I’ve worried incessantly since this mess began.

But despite our fears, we must remain decent.

I want to tell my children how the community banded together during a troubled time; how we took care of one another, because that’s what neighbors do.

Today, I saw a social media post that offered aid to children without food while school is out. A local grass-roots organization, “Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” attracted more than 40 community volunteers who check on elderly and infirm neighbors.

These efforts, and the people behind them, set the bar for how we should all behave. In this pandemic panic, we have an opportunity to show the world, and ourselves, just how decent and caring Americans can be.

Like our grandparents, let’s rise to the challenge.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Me again–

As near as I can figure, an inspiring piece like this is a breath of fresh air that can blow away some of our fear and ground us in a determination to do what’s right.

Thanks for reading,

Jan 

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I’m Back, Y’all!

Ages ago, when last I posted, I vowed to rid my blog of ads before I published even one more post. I decided on an upgraded blog plan, but got sidetracked trying to acquire a personalized domain name (instead of tacking my name on in front of “…wordpress.com”). I thought that was a requirement for an upgraded plan. I also thought I had to pick a new theme / background / layout, and have the whole Cinderella-in-the-ashes-esque thing spiffed up and ready for the prince’s ball, before I could use the new plan.

I got so wrapped up worrying about hosting and domain registrars and security and what the heck are allllll these acronyms about, that I became paralyzed and basically hid in my office, working on my biography project and doing Sudoku puzzles.

That, and the occasional bike ride.

Okay, maybe more than just occasional.

Anyway, with the help of D. Greg Scott, my IT genius friend and novelist, I gained the courage to invest in a domain name. That done, I gleefully hustled back to WordPress to upgrade to an ad-free plan. Then I spent an hour wading through the instructions for attaching the new domain name to my existing blog. I got the steps done, but then found out it can take a couple of days for the connection to be complete. Great. Now I can’t post anything until the domain finds its way home, or whatever. So I spent another hour looking at different layouts.

Finally, the light dawned on me.

My upgraded plan has already rendered my blog ad-free.

The light of dawn is a beautiful thing.

I can post any time I please, thank you, with NO ads and without dressing the blog up all fancy-like. Who knew? I feel like I’ve been trying for months to knit some incredibly intricate new dress out of gossamer and mermaid hair… when all I had to do was toss the old one in the washer.

At any rate, I’m happy to report that I’m back, same old blog layout and all. And I have a guest post and some stories to share in the very near future. Thanks to all of you who have hung in with me and encouraged me.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

PS: If you see even ONE ad, please tell me.

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UNDER CONSTRUCTION

See those big rocks the builder had to remove before pouring the foundation?
I also need to root out something from my blog…

I owe a deep apology to my readers. You see, I knew WordPress placed ads in my posts as compensation for my free blog site. But I saw my posts only when I was logged in. Each post looks just the way I set it up, with one bit of text added near the bottom:

Occasionally, some of your visitors may see an advertisement here,
as well as a Privacy & Cookies banner at the bottom of the page…

By “an advertisement…” I assumed they meant ONE ad, maybe a nice little ad for cute dresses or a charming vacation spot.

I assumed that right up until a month ago, when I visited this blog without logging in first, to see it as my readers do.

Yikes. Will you look at alllllll those ads! The page was riddled with them. A banner at the top, flashing ones between my lovely (or goofy) photos, jumping ads that spring to different locations as you scroll, so you can’t get away from them.

Different users see different ads, but I found myself looking at gross cartoons representing gut bacteria.

Animated gut bacteria.

By the time I reached the end of the post, I realized
“I would NEVER subscribe to this blog with all these hideous ads!”

All that to say, I’m in the process of ending the abuse by upgrading to an ad-free plan.

Why am I just now telling you this, if I saw the problem a month ago?

I’m glad you asked.

Frankly, I was hoping to upgrade quickly and move on, barely missing a beat. But it turns out the process is more complicated than I thought. And I’ll have a different web address, which I’d better figure out how to connect to my existing content, besides letting everyone know how to find me.

So. All that to say, I’m truly sorry for flashing you with hundreds of ads. I’ll be back when I can give you ad-free content. I hope to accomplish that within the next month. Like the house in the photo, my blog is Under Construction, only without the Port-a-John.

Meanwhile, I’ve started a handful of new posts that I’m eager to share. Bicycles, appliances, travel, hometown adventures… what fun!

Thanks for reading and for bearing with me,
Jan

Posted in I Remember When... (my OWN stories) | 8 Comments

Ankles Aweigh!

One Sunday last month we had plans to visit our friends’ church in north Dallas, then go to lunch with them. I put on my dressy black pants with a pretty-but-not-too-fussy blouse and blingy earrings.

Since I was going to make pancakes before church and also do a good bit of walking after, I decided not to put on my black leather shoes just yet. They’re low heeled, but don’t have a comfy wide toe area like my customary canvas Toms. I’d wear a pair of Toms now, and change when it was time to leave.

Afraid I might forget to change shoes, I slipped on my fuzzy, super comfy, multi-color striped ones. They look hideous with black dress pants. No way I wouldn’t notice them and remember to change.

For added insurance, I told Brent, “Don’t let me leave the house in these shoes, okay?”

“Okay.”

After pancakes, juice, and coffee, it was time to finish getting ready.

The church is about a 40-minute drive away. When we’d parked and I started to get out of the car, I looked down for my purse.

Imagine my surprise when I saw…

Great.

Bad enough I was wearing fuzzy Toms. My bootcut dress pants would have at least partly obscured the shoes. But no–today I’d put on the ankle pants that I rarely wear.

This compounded the error, giving me a general air of nursing-home chic.

If Daisy Duck wore fuzzy slippers…

I gotta hand it to Brent… he made valiant efforts not to laugh.
“Oh well,” I said. “No sense being self-conscious about this. It’s not like they’re coming here to criticize my shoes.”

That being said, we went into the lobby where I tried not to think about my much-too-comfortable shoes. If anyone was judging my feet, they didn’t say anything to me about it.

When our friends approached, I casually maneuvered my feet behind a trash can and maintained eye contact with them. Equally casual, I…

  • Brought up the rear going into the worship center.
  • Breathed a sigh of relief when the main lights went down.
  • Kept my feet under the seat in front of me.

Other than that, I never gave a thought to my fashion faux pas.

Actually, I wasn’t nearly as embarrassed as you might think. By the time we went to lunch, I really did put it out of my mind and just enjoyed the meal and company. I guess I’d learned, years earlier when I started back to college as a middle-aged grownup person, that

no one is looking at your clothes.

Surely you, too, have a fashion faux pas! Do tell! There’s space for you in the “Your turn: comments welcome here” box below.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

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Virus Bomb, by D. Greg Scott

Image credit: Amazon.com

 

What a wild ride!

IT genius Jerry Barkley gets no respect. When he investigates a security leak for a client and gets a whiff of an impending terrorist attack on the US, he tries to warn the authorities.

It doesn’t go well.

He finally gets released from jail and rushes headlong into trying to track down the culprits before disaster strikes.

What I like best about the book is Jerry’s attitude. He has, well… attitude. Reminds me a little of Captain Kirk. But he also has compassion and empathy toward certain characters who have every reason to be angry. Also, the suspense ramps up throughout the story.

Fasten your seat belt for a Great Weekend Read.

Oh, and you might pack a parachute as well.

Find it on Amazon by clicking here.

Thanks for reading,

Jan

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