Monday, July 30, 2012

RIP Sally Ride

When I heard the news last week that Sally Ride had died, my first thought was, how sad. She was so young. Then I stopped and thought about the impact her life and her achievements had on women, young and old.

Sally Ride communicates with ground controllers from the flight deck during the six day mission in Challenger, 1983.
Much was made of her venture into space as an astronaut in 1983. She joined NASA in 1978 and, at the age of 32, became the first American woman to enter into low Earth orbit. I can remember watching the newscasts over several nights as she completed the space mission, thinking how exciting it was to see a woman taking on such an important role. How many young women did she inspire to dream big and work hard to achieve that dream?

As how many young women did she encourage to pursue an education in science through her Sally Ride Science company. In 2001, she co-founded the company in an effort to make the study of science and engineering appealing to young people. The company creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. Ride also wrote, or co-wrote, five books on space aimed at children, with the goal of encouraging children to study science.

In 1987, she left NASA to work at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control. She served on the investigation panels for two space shuttle disasters, Challenger and Columbia, the only person to serve on both. Ride remains the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space.

I decided to write about Sally Ride today after reading a comment in the newspaper by Amy Mainzer, an astrophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was quoted in the Los Angeles Times: "The impact of Sally Ride and women like her cannot be overestimated. She proved that it was possible to work in space physics and as a space scientist and be female at the same time. What she did was prove that you could make it all the way to the top and accomplish amazing things in these fields - and still have a pair of ovaries."

The world needs more strong women like Sally Ride.

Picture thanks to Wikipedia

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Review - Through Rushing Water by Catherine Richmond

 Through Rushing Water
Catherine Richmond
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (July 3, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595549250
ISBN-13: 978-1595549259

This is another wonderful historical offering from the gifted writer who debuted with Spring for Susannah.  This new inspirational novel fictionalizes the true events experienced by the Indians on the Ponca  Reservation of Dakota Territory when they were forced to relocate in the middle of the winter. It is true to the details of the broken promises and the horrible way the Indians were treated and brings forward one of our most embarrassing times as a nation. Greed and prejudice drove so many who had the power to make decisions that impacted a whole group of people in such horrible ways.

The central character, Sophia Makinoff, is strong, self-assured and planning to marry a  US Congressman. She has just finished college and is making her plans for a life in Washington DC, when said congressman proposes to her roommate. Heartbroken and anxious to escape the talk about being jilted, she signs up with the Board of Foreign Missions, hoping to go to someplace like China. Instead, she is assigned to the Ponca Indian Agency in Dakota Territory.

There she meets Willoughby Dunn, a man who touches her heart and her soul and teaches her the ways of the Indians and the ways of faith.Together, they try to improve the conditions of the Indians and fight for their right to stay on the land that was given to them in the initial treaty. They also forge a bond that is so solid, it carries them through the many challenges they face.

For people not familiar with what happened to the Ponca Indians, this is a sometimes harsh introduction to what they experienced at the hands of the white man. But it also gives an insight into the pride and dignity and willingness of those Indians to try to assimilate, while still hanging on to their land and their birthright.

I am not normally a huge fan of inspirational fiction as sometimes the message is delivered with a hand that is too heavy, but Ms. Richmond has managed to give that message of faith and hope without being preachy. The key to that I think is that the faith is so much a part of the characterization that it rings true. The romance is handled with the same deft hand and has the classic feel of great romances like Gone With the Wind and Casablanca, with many layers of intimacy that do not involve sex. I am not a prude, and in some stories the bedroom scenes are necessary, but a book like this proves that it is possible to portray a deep love without putting the characters in bed together.

I thoroughly enjoyed Spring for Susannah and am so glad I had the opportunity to read this book.

I also want to mention that my humorous short story, SAHM, I Am, is free for the rest of today for Kindle readers. If you don't have a Kindle, there are Kindle apps for many other electronic devices. Here is what one reviewer said about the story: "Light as a soufflé and goes down just as easily. Every woman who's been told -- by her loving DH, maybe? lol -- how she could run her house better, faster, more efficiently, will identify. I know I did. Just kick back and enjoy"

Friday, July 27, 2012

It's All About the Olympics

In honor of the London Games starting tonight - USA time - I will devote this post to the Olympics and dedicate it to the athletes from around the world who are gathering to compete and bring honor to their countries.

The Olympics have always thrilled me. I love everything about the opening and closing ceremonies, the games, the individual events, and I even watch things I normally would not, like basketball. The only events I don't watch are the boxing matches. Never could get my mind around two people punching each other and calling it sport. 

A long time ago I wrote a column about how the Olympics brings the world together in a special way that the idealist in me wishes could happen all the time. Why are so many countries "friends" every four years, then enemies the rest of the time?

No matter your thoughts about that, or your take on boxing, I know that many other people share my excitement about the Summer Games starting and will be watching as much as possible. If you would like to follow the games online, here is a link to the official London Games site.

I like the fact that I can go online and follow the equestrian events. They do not get much prime time coverage as more people are interested in the gymnastics, swimming, track and field, and diving. But   I am a real horse-lover, and even though I have never done show jumping or dressage, I love to watch it. I found this cute graphic on the London Games site.
 Here is a picture of my horse. He doesn't do dressage, or jump, or anything else of much interest, but he is a good pasture ornament.

Since I often close my Friday posts with a joke, I thought I would share this Peanuts strip I saw in yesterday's newspaper. I thought it quite fitting for today. In the first panel Charlie Brown and Snoopy are looking out the front door. Charlie Brown says, "If it doesn't stop raining, I won't be able to go out and get your dog dish."

In the second panel, Snoopy is giving Charlie Brown that look that pets can do so well. Charlie Brown says,  "So, I'll make the supreme sacrifice... I'll put on my rain outfit and brave the elements."

In the final panel, Snoopy is watching Charlie Brown walk out into the rain. Snoopy says, "Afterwards we can have the awarding of medals."

Will you be watching all the events? Which ones are your favorites?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday's Guest - Slim Randles

This week's offering from Slim is a little on the serious side. In his nationally syndicated column, Home Country, he is sometimes serious, often funny, and completely entertaining. His columns have been compiled into a book that is handy to have around. I just love that old truck on the cover. What a story it could tell.
We all know that someone will find Jenkins's cabin. Someday. Oh, it's up there in those hills somewhere.

We all know that.

It's become a friendly object of conjecture and speculation. No one living has seen it, as far as we know. Jenkins himself died quietly when he was on one of his infrequent trips to town for supplies. Funny guy, that Jenkins.

He worked in the city for years, mostly as a night watchman in a factory that made diapers. Didn't really enjoy people much, and told us many times how nice it was to just be in the huge factory when it was quiet. Then one day he decided to move to the mountains and make pretty things out of leather. Once in a while he'd have his coffee at the counter at the Mule Barn, but often as not, he'd camp out on the edge of town for the two or three days it took him to sell his crafts and buy supplies. He'd smile and wave from his campsite, then he'd be gone one morning. We wouldn't see him again for months.

Now and then someone would ask him where his cabin was, and he'd just point toward the mountains and say, "Up there."

How far up there? "A ways."

What was his cabin like? "Not too big."

And so we came to regard the little cabin as an intriguing mystery, an object of local legend. After he died, several of the fellows tried to backtrack him to find the place, but Jenkins evidently didn't take the same trail each time, as though he wanted his quiet times protected from even a friendly visit from one of us. During his lifetime, we respected his wishes. In this country, a man has a perfect right to be a little strange. And, truth be known, we hold a certain admiration for those of us who hear different instructions. But there is something in the human spirit, also, that begs to have its mysteries solved.

So now, several times each year, one or two of us will use the mystery of the lost cabin as an excuse to poke our noses into the nuances and seclusions of these hills. We play off our curiosity against our wishes to respect a man's privacy, even when he's gone.

We have yet to discover Jenkins's lost cabin. Maybe we never will. Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing, either.
Brought to you by Home Country, a book of the best columns from the first five years, at

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Drama Camp

I'm back and glad to be back to my normal routine, although normal may start tomorrow and a nap may happen later today.

The two-week summer Drama Camp concluded this weekend with two performances, one Saturday evening and one Sunday afternoon. Then we had the cast party, followed by a quick meeting to debrief with all the camp leaders and make some plans for next year. Yes, we start thinking about next year right away.

Here are a few pictures from the show. We had some incredibly talented young people who did make-up and parents and grandparents who came up with amazing costumes.
L-R: Mother Nature, Pacha, Alligator and Tree
A Rapping Elephant and a Valley Girl Parrot
El Tigre and Elephant

Some of the Festival Kids

One of the biggest thrills for me during the camp was seeing some of the young people who have been with the Young Players for years who were able to step up to leadership roles as stage managers. Wow. For the first time in seven years, I did not have to be in the back herding kids on and off stage.

It was also so neat to see some of the more reluctant players really shine on stage. The young lady who played the tree had a real breakthrough in this production and played her role superbly.  She had some very funny lines that she delivered with great comedic timing and she was the most believable tree I have seen on stage. I had been working with her for years to get her to understand what "being in character" means, and the proverbial light-bulb went off during the camp. I am so proud of her.

I'm also so proud of the rest of the cast who all did such a great job. The audiences loved the show and there was a lot of magic in Winnsboro this weekend. Kudos to all the kids and the young man who led the camp and directed the show.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Jokes for Friday

Some more jokes from Jokes For Kids

Why do elephants never forget?
Because nobody ever tells them anything!

What do you get when you cross a parrot with a centipede?
A walkie talkie!

What is the strongest animal?
A snail. He carries his house on his back!

What has six eyes but cannot see?
Three blind mice!

Why is a hen sitting on a fence like a cent?
It has it's head on one side and it's tail on the other!

What does a kitten become after it's three days old?
Four days old!

What do you call a gorilla wearing earmuffs?
Anything you like, it can't hear you!

What happened to the cat that swallowed a ball of wool?
She had mittens!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday's Guest - Tracy Farr

Tracy Farr is another writer friend who has a terrific sense of humor. He has a great new website for sharing his humor and his cartoons.  The Farr Place - check it out if you get a chance.   Tracy has always shared his humor with me and gave me permission to use it, but since Blogger does not appreciate us taking an entire post from another blog, I snagged just part of this one: 

Pinterest Alternatives

I’m really not interested in "finding" my favorite things and pinning them onto some digital board via Pinterest. But I might give THESE a second look:

Bunterest – Dedicated to your favorite sticky buns, cinnamon rolls, donuts, and whatnot. And I'll have a small coffee with that, thank you very much.

Finterest – It's all about the fish you like to catch, skin, filet and devour. But watch out for the bones.

Ginterest – Got a favorite drink? Well, pin the recipe to your Ginterest Board. Not limited to just gin-induced concoctions.

Henterest – For all those chicken farmers out there. And can I borrow a few eggs? Thanks.

Linterest – See what kind of animals you can make out of clothes dryer lint. Great fun for the entire family.

Pinterest – As in "Give me another pint, barkeep, and keep 'em comin.'" For beer lovers, of course.

Sinterest – There are seven deadly sins to choose from. Maybe even more. C'mon, we know you want to share YOUR sins with the rest of us. Don't be bashful.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Jokes

 More fun from Jokes for Kids   Did I mention that a lot of these are submitted by kids. They are so clever.

What kind of pet just lays around the house?
A car-pet!

Where would you find a cat with no legs?Exactly where you left it!

Why do hens lay eggs?
Because if they dropped them, they would break!

Why are penguins so popular on the Internet?Because they have Web feet!

Why did the turtle cross the road?To get to the Shell station!
What do you call a turtle that flies?A shell-icopter!

What do you get when you cross a dinosaur with a pig?Jurassic pork!

Why can't penguins fly?They can't afford plane tickets!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday's Jokes

More fun from Jokes for Kids       Enjoy....

Why wasn’t Cinderella any good at soccer?
She kept running away from the ball!

Why couldn't they play cards on the ark?
Noah was sitting on the deck!

What's green and purple and goes up and down?
Barney in an elevator!

How many ears does Davy Crockett have?
Three: a left ear, a right ear, and a wild frontier!

Why did Captain Kirk go into the Ladies?
He wanted to go where no man had gone before!

What do you call James Bond in the bath?
Bubble 07!

Why didn't Superman know he could fly?
Because he didn't know his Cape Abilities!

What do you get if Batman and Robin get smashed by a steam roller?
Flatman and Ribbon!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wednesday's Guest - Slim Randles

Some cowboy humor from my friend, Slim Randles. Enjoy.....

When Harley Jacobsen came into Doc’s office the other day for his physical - you know, the one his wife, Gladys, insists on from time to time - it was a treat for Doc.

Harley is one of Doc’s favorite people. Harley is a farmer. Not a young farmer, but a solid farmer. A 24/7 farmer. It is said in coffee-drinking circles – and we have several here – that ol’ Harley can make hair grow on a bald head and wheat grow on rocks.

When he’d been thumped and bumped and listened to and pumped up and partially drained, Harley asked Doc for the verdict.

“Not bad at all for someone your age, Harley,” Doc said, grinning. “But you look tired. My advice is to take some time off and go fishing or take Gladys to the beach. Something fun. Relaxing.”

“Can’t right now, Doc,” Harley said. “Plowing summer fallow.”

“Well, how about later on?”

“There’s harvest you know, and the trees will have to be pruned before winter, and then the winter wheat will go in. Have to overhaul the wheel tractor this winter and add on to the equipment shed, and then it’ll be time to plant.”

“Harley, I want to see you get some rest,” Doc said. “You need two weeks with nothing to do. Get someone to help with the farm and go do something fun.”

“For two weeks?” Harley asked.

“Two full weeks, Harley.”

“Doc, I just can’t do the job in two weeks. Took 60 years of farming to get this tired.”
Brought to you by the now national-award-winning book “A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right.” Read a sample at

Monday, July 09, 2012

Jokes For Monday

For the next two weeks while I am busy with the Youth Drama Camp, I decided to share some jokes on Mondays and Fridays, with Wednesday being my guest day.

Because I will be focused on kids - lots of kids - I thought it would be fun to share some jokes by and for kids. I found this neat website Jokes For Kids   and right away I knew I was going to like it. Here is a quote prominently featured on the home page:

"The best way to make children good is to make them happy."
 Oscar Wilde

Here now are a few short  jokes. Share them with anyone who might enjoy a chuckle or two.  

What did Mickey say when Minnie asked if he was listening?
I'm all ears!

How can you make seven even?
Remove the "S".

Did you hear about the two silkworms who had a race?
It ended in a tie!

What does a tree do when he is ready to go home?
He leaves!

What did one ear say to the other ear?
Between us we have brains!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Book Review - Darker Than Any Shadow by Tina Whittle

Thanks to Carl Brookins for another helpful review.

Darker Than Any Shadow    

By Tina Whittle
ISBN: 9781590585467
2011 release from Poisoned Pen Press
HC, 291 pages

Darker Than Any Shadow: A Tai Randolph Mystery (Tai Randolph Mysteries)The second entry in the author’s intriguing series featuring a gun shop owner and a corporate security officer is a winner. Heavily populated with interesting characters, the turbulent love affair between the protagonist informs and leavens what could otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill mystery. Indeed, the identity of the killer, while important to the story, was, to this reader, not as compelling as the characters, and the milieu.

The setting is Atlanta, Georgia, during the run-up to a major poetry slam competition. Some of the characters have known each other from childhood and others seem to have uncertain, even mysterious backgrounds. It’s hot in Atlanta, and gun shop owner Tai Randolph is mentoring her long-time friend, rising poet, Rico. There are teams of competing poets as well as individual efforts and a surplus of egos swirling around as participants prepare.  Then murder intrudes.

The relationship developing between our principal “investigator,” amateur though she is, Tai Randolph and her lover, Trey Seaver, is much more than casually interesting to observe. Seaver is a former cop with a high level of crisis and SWAT training, excellent skills and more than a little rigidity as regards the rules of life and the law. The almost constant battles between the lovers as they try to accommodate each other is a fascinating piece of this very entertaining novel. I recommend it strongly.

Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, July 06, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

I decided to stay away from the news most of this week, therefore I have nothing snarky to say about anything going on in politics or otherwise. Kind of a nice change of pace for me, and certainly better for my blood pressure.

Most of this week was devoted to family. As I said Monday, we all usually gather for the Fourth of July out here in the country, and everyone came, except our middle son and his family. They were in Seattle on the Fourth and built a snowman on Mt. Rainer. How cool is that? I mean really. It was nice and cool for them while the rest of the nation has been sweltering. That family lives in Austin, so it was a real treat for the kids to play in the snow and throw snowballs at Dad and Mom.

Back home on the ranch, the rest of the kids, their spouses, and one grandson were here for the cook-out and fireworks. Some of them came early in the week, and almost everyone stayed until late in the day yesterday. It sure was fun having them all here.

We are in the one small section of East Texas that has had enough rain we are not in a drought zone. I'm sure that could change any time if we don't get rain soon, but we did manage to have a small fireworks show, which is what our son-in-law and one of our sons are usually in charge of. This year our grandson was invited to help them, and his mother said he had been waiting for years to be able to join the uncles in this yearly ritual.

Here are a few shots from this year.
This was one of those accidental shots that actually turned out pretty nice. 

This was one of those close to the ground fireworks. The center got too bright to catch the detail
I liked this shot best. Looks like feathers.
This looks a little like confetti.
On Monday the annual Youth Drama Camp starts and runs for two weeks. I may not be posting much or even visiting the blog very often until after it is finished. The camp is all day, every day, with performances the final weekend. There is always a lot to do during the hours the kids are there, as well as later in the day and evening preparing for the performances, so that keeps me very busy.

On another note, my romantic suspense novel, One Small Victory, is one of  four finalists for Book of the Month at It was chosen by the book club membership out of all the submissions, and I was quite thrilled to be selected as a finalist. I am also very excited to see that the book is staying at the top in the number of votes. Voting is not restricted to members of the club, so if you would like to help me stay at the top, here is a link to vote.  Voting runs through July 17th.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me, The USA and Terrance Dean Jr.

Photo courtesy of The Dallas Morning News
I was considering what to write about this July 4th since I've written about it before and don't want to bore readers with the same ol' same ol'. Then I read about this amazing 10-year-old, Terrance Dean Jr. and discovered his birthday is today, too. 

In addition to sharing my birthday with the good old U.S.A, I share it with some pretty famous people: Neil Simon, Mitch Miller, Eva Marie Saint, Gina Lollobrigida, Malia Obama, and many others. Pretty soon when you do a Google search for "famous July 4th birthdays" the list will include Terrance Dean Jr.

This young man attends the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in Dallas, and is an incredible orator. On a Sunday evening in March he gave an impromptu speech during a rally for Trayvon Martin, the young teen killed in Florida. He captivated the audience of hundreds and spoke with the eloquence of seasoned speakers.

Terrance has been speaking and/or singing in church since he was six and has a gift for both. His grandmother, a music teacher, says sometimes she had no idea where the things come from that come out of his mouth. He is a frequent speaker at many churches and civic organizations, and is a youth choir leader at his church. He also performs in the theatre program at the Black Academy.

Last month, Terrance had the honor of going to New York to speak and then introduce Ruby Dee who was the headliner that night. His mentor, Curtis King, founder and director of the Black Academy, arranged for the boy to go to the Apollo and wrote most of the speech Terrance delivered. Of the boy's ability to mesmerize an audience, King says, "There's something going on deep inside. It's like he's been here before."

King lists Terrance among the most exceptional youths he has worked with in 35 years with the academy and firmly believes the young man is "Destined to be a world leader."

It is always such a thrill to find a story like this that is celebrating such a special young person, so I am thrilled to share it with you.

So Happy Birthday to me - Happy Birthday to the United States - And Happy Birthday to Terrance.

To see some fireworks from the show my kids put on here at Grandma's Ranch, check out The Blood Red Pencil Blog, where I wrote another piece about the day and what it means to me.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Preserving the Past

Natalie Marshall, a junior at a Dallas high school, recently wrote a column for The Dallas Morning News about how precious memories are. She was inspired to write because her grandmother has Alzheimer's, and the old lady's memories are fading, but that wasn't the main point she wanted to make.

Because of the mental devastation of the disease, Natalie's grandmother's behavior is changing, and she is not the same loving, kind person she once was. Natalie wrote that the now is not how she wants to remember her grandmother. She would rather her memories be centered around the grandmother who laughed a lot, loved to sing, and was always active.

The stories of her grandmother's travels and her work with American Indian children in Colorado, and the special family times of laughter and singing are the stories that Natalie feels an urgency to preserve. "So that when our minds can't hold them, they live on."

Natalie mentions a book of family stories that her maternal grandfather wrote about growing up during the Depression, serving in combat in WWII and Korea, and raising his family. She wrote about how she treasures the stories because it keeps her connected to the grandfather who has since died, but there are other important reasons to write family histories."The courage drawn during hard times inspires the next generation to persevere. Each person is unique, and storytelling gives us a glimpse into someone's soul. Through stories you step into a person's shoes, into a time other than your own, and become immersed in his or her world."

Maybe Natalie will help her grandmother with a book of her history, before it is all lost in forgetfulness. That would truly be a gift to the whole family.

The important moments in history are just dry facts until they connect some way with someone in our family. The Depression is just history until a grandfather tells a grandchild how his family survived. VJ Day is just a date until a grandmother shares what it meant to go watch the celebratory parade.

Lets all be sure to capture our stories and preserve them for our children and grandchildren.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Book Review - Benchmarks: A Single Mother's Illustrated Journal

Benchmarks: A Single Mother's Illustrated Journal
Bodie Parkhurst
E-book and Paperback  2011

 This is a touching memoir of a single mother's journey with her son, Alex, from the time he first enters her life until he is ready to start a life of his own. All mothers will relate to the connectedness she has with her son through all those special, and not so special, moments that touched this journey, and single mothers especially will cheer for those times the many challenges were met and conquered.

Bodie acknowledges that her experience was not the same as many single mothers. She had a job that allowed her to work at home and still provide financially. She also had the support of family and friends. Things that not all single mothers can count on; but weight of the sole responsibility is the same. It is hard to parent when you are the only adult in the house day after day.

In the midst of all the work involved in raising a child, Bodie also recognized that "the shining moments that remind us that single or not, we love being mothers" are worth sharing.  She hopes that "reading about my moments will shine a light on the moments in your own life when the simple experience of looking at your child and recognizing the gift of joy that each child holds in his or her hands is enough."

The memoir is beautifully written with language as picturesque as the many illustrations. Bodie has certainly blended her artistic creativity well.  It is also frank and honest in her struggle with depression and the spiritual desert she finds herself in at times.

I smiled, I laughed, and I cried and I cheered as I read this book.

This little jewel deserves more attention. It's like those indie movies that don't get the push they deserve and are missed by too many people. I highly recommend this book.

Bodie Parkhurst has been writing and illustrating stories since third grade. She has worked as a reader, a tutor, a ranch hand, a mechanic, a truck driver, a dairy maid, a writer, an editor, a fine artist, an illustrator, and a designer.