Saturday, December 28, 2013

What to spend your gift cards on...

As many of you are aware, I LOVE to read. I would prefer to write, but my life doesn't allow me that opportunity just now, so instead I read. I recently reviewed this anthology at the request of author, Heather B. Moore. I enjoy her writing so I was happy to participate. Here is what I have to say....

 The beauty of a volume like this is each story is just long enough to be an escape from the pressures of your everyday life. An excellent gift for anyone with a cramped lifestyle that doesn’t allow for long periods of un-interrupted reading. ie; everyone I know.

In “A hound dog named Elvis” by Heather Horrocks you will follow the love story of Lindsey Taylor and Joshua Moore. She pursued her career instead of him but their twin dachshunds, Elvis and Priscilla will have them reconsidering their match.

“Eye for an Eye” by Stephanie Black is a mystery that has Darian Thomas attempting to care for and protect a college student, Mallory Ingram, who he comes to know from her predawn janitorial shift at his office. Her life seems to unravel when she receives a text message that says, “Nelson Sanders is dead.”

“First Heist” by Heather Moore lets you get to know Omar Zagouri and Mia, both undercover agents in Jerusalem. You can’t help but smile when you read Omar’s advice to Mia….”Relax, the impact will break fewer bones if you’re relaxed.” Mia is searching for those responsible for a car bomb and Omar is recovering Olympian artifacts when they discover they work very well as a team. And if you love this short story you will also enjoy, “Finding Sheba”.

Some things are just meant to be as you will discover when reading “Letter for Two” by Sarah M. Eden. A Phoenix bungalow, converted into 2 apartments are the homes of Sophia Davis and Ethan Williams who make a habit of returning each other’s mail at the end of the day. Until they receive a letter postmarked in 1953 that belongs to neither of them but takes them on a journey to granting the wish of their hearts.

“Silver Cascade Secrets” by Rachelle J. Christensen has you getting your hands dirty with Jill Warren as she plants bulbs in the Silver Cascade City Park. Misplaced car keys provide the opportunity for her to meet Travis Banner and together they look for clues to the murder of Travis’s brother-in-law Craig. This novella has the added bonus of recipes you can try.

Next comes, “Chocolate Obsessed” by Annette Lyon. Whitney is chagrined to share time in the chocolate booth at the New York Chocolate Show with her rival Stephen of Snow View Lodge. Anything with chocolate in the title has to be good right? With the beautiful and interesting backdrop of Central Park and Ellis Island Whitney with the help of her rival Stephen, evades Jeremy Stoddard whose threatening emails have advanced to physical threats.

By tasting small novels by each of these authors you may find a new favorite. And then you can advance from appetizers to larger entrees with their regular novels.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Being the "Matriarch"

As I consider the ebb and flow of my life, I watch some tides roll in and others roll out. My mother's mother's extended family participate in a family newsletter twice a year. I was pulled down the rabbit hole and started contributing a number of years ago because my grandmother was queen of the guilt.
She has been gone for more than 3 years now and I still feel some connection to my second and third cousin and sometimes the genealogy is just to convoluted to make the family connection. Just suffice it to say that I share news of my family with people in most states of the U.S. as well as some other continents. Somewhere along the line we share a common ancestor.
This is a picture taken of my mother and my youngest daughter on the day of my middle daughter's wedding. Mom has been gone for more than a year now. Not a week goes by that one of my daughter's doesn't mention how much they miss their grandmother. I miss her too. With her passing she left a vacancy in our family. She was the matriarch, our go-to person with all the wisdom, experience and answers. She anchored the family traditions and gave me a sense of permanence. If I could just talk it over with mom we could find the answer. My response from her cousin to the most recent family newsletter made me realize that I should be the anchor now. Her brothers and sisters aren't quite sure what to do with me now that she is gone. I'm an adult child that is now motherless and they make attempts to somehow plug that hole but my relationship with my mother was forged in the fires of experience. Some good, some not so good but all of them contributed to the relationship we had. It feels funny to realize that she has now passed the baton to me and I must be the one that has the wisdom, experience and answers and the future of family traditions is under my direction. I wonder if my mom really had all the answers or if she was faking them the way I'm sure I will have to. Fortunately, I have smart, strong-willed, independent daughters that are pretty good at finding the answers they need. And even more fortunate for me is that they still include me.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cleaning house and removing cobwebs

REALLY?!? I missed blogging in the whole month of September? How is that even possible? Especially since August wasn't that great either. It's gotten a little dusty here at my blogspot. My life really got in the way of my writing, it's part of the ebb and flow of priorities. October is the challenge month when you are supposed to renew your enthusiasm for writing and post every day. My life however is just one big deviation with so little that stays constant from day to day.
Why did I miss all of September and most of August. In a word? Emily.
Emily had her heart stolen so she married the man of her dreams August 31. I couldn't post in August because I was preparing my backyard for a reception and I couldn't post in September because I was recovering from having a reception in my backyard. As with any family event we had the usual dramas and chaos and most times our organization plan resembled "herding cats".
But the day turned out beautiful, the bride wore the dress that made her feel like a princess and we all oohed and awwed at the appropriate times. 
 We are very happy to have another son in our family and we welcome DJ with our whole hearts. As I post they have already celebrated one month of wedded bliss.
Since my last remaining unwed child is only 13, I should have sufficient time to recover before the next family wedding.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Review of "Finding Sheba" by H.B. Moore

I took a rare opportunity to read and review a book that is not yet published. I have read a number of books by H.B. Moore as well as her other pen name of Heather Moore. She claims to write under H.B. Moore so that men will read her written words and under Heather to draw a female audience.
Her current work of fiction is "Finding Sheba".
I think she could have used either pen name as this story is full of mystery and intrigue, as well as a healthy dose of romance. She carefully crafts a story that begins in Southern Arabia in 964 B.C. that shifts through the sands of time to include modern day Brown University student, Jade researching her thesis on the Queen of Sheba.  Many nations seek to claim the Queen of Sheba as their own and will use many nefarious means to stifle information that could allow other nations to claim her burial site.
Israeli Intelligence officer Omar Zagouri is undercover trying to locate her final resting place before the evidence can be looted or destroyed. Dr. Lyon a renowned historian is believed to have found a new map but turns up murdered before he can share information, leaving Jade to skeptically trust Dr. Luca Morel.
Each page you turn leads to one more question, bullets fly, people are abducted and rescued at every turn.  As Omar and Mia act out their undercover work, neither fully trusting the other, it's difficult to identify their allegiance.  The book is fast paced, interesting, and difficult to put down. There are many twists and turns and suspicions that keep you guessing throughout the novel.The story is written with exacting detail that describes the rich culture of the Middle East.
I would definitely recommend this book, just be sure you have plenty of time because you won't want to put it down until you discover the answers to all of your questions.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lessons learned in China

It's important in all of your travels and experiences that you take away a message from the universe that leaves you that much wiser, if not wiser, that much more cautious and if not cautious at least makes you pause when you revisit the same kind of experience.
Now you may wonder about my photo selection for this post...this is how overly exposed I felt. Many of my own "pink" parts were exposed in a most unattractive fashion. This post is concerning my massage in China. There are some things you should know about Chinese massages, they are NOT like the massages I've had in the past. I requested that my tour guide book me a hand and foot massage. It should be safe right?
The massage would take place in the safety of my hotel room, so little room for blushing there, right? I invited Kathy to come visit with me since I didn't want to be  alone in my hotel with a stranger. There are many things you should not try with a language barrier, at the top of my list is a massage. I should have known things were not going as I planned when she held up a robe and indicated through pantomine that I should remove my clothing and get into it. Like a lamb to slaughter, I did what she asked. Having had hand and feet massages in the states I figured this was so she could have better access to my neck and shoulders. It's best not to assume things in a foreign country.
So I'm laid out on my bed conversing away with Kathy (someone I have only met on this trip) when my masseuse leans forward undoes my robe belt and flashes all my parts at Kathy, while I am screaming, "Kathy, turn your eyes away or you'll be blinded." Out pops my right arm, shoulder and everything else on the right side from my clavicle to my hip bone. Yikes, this is a very thorough hand and foot massage.
The massage proceeds exposing more and more skin, I now have a sheet draped over my robe to provide some kind of modesty and to keep my white skin parts from blushing bright pink from embarrassment. We proceed to the foot portion of the event. My feet are wrapped in garbage sacks filled with hot water from my bathroom, rubbed, massaged etc. At this point, my skin is literally itching to get some kind of undergarment on. So I break and put my bottoms on, thinking that that area of my body has seen all the rubbing it needs.
While I am grateful for the clothing, it did not fit with the rest of the event. I return to laying on my bed, my feet facing the masseuse when she proceeds to flip my legs up over my head, multiple times. While I am not the most modest of persons I can promise you I would have been mortified to be doing that in the raw. So now you can see why I chose a picture of those little pink pigs all exposed. So after the laughing and crying over this event, I am that much wiser and much more cautious about language barriers, exposed skin and hotel rooms. It's not a good mix.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Visiting the Terracotta Army

Another must see spot when you visit China has to be the amazing Terracotta Warriors. It's mind-boggling to imagine that a ruler would require 700,000 people to work for over 36 years to create an army of over 7,000 soldiers to protect his tomb. Even more mind-boggling is that no two warriors are the same. They may share a rank as can be identified by their clothing as well as how their hair is done but each one carries a different face.
This is the obligate picture that proves I was there. The Terracotta Army was found by farmers that were digging a well in 1974. The warriors had been buried for over 2,200 years. They were created to defend Qin Shi Huangdi's tomb. His actual tomb is believed to be a mile west of the pits and has not been excavated yet. He was considered a tyrant during his reign. It is believed that 48 concubines were buried alive with the emperor as well as any worker that knew the location or design of his  tomb.
There are 3 known pits. This pit is Pit 1 and contains over 6,000 warriors as well as a few horse and the remains of chariots. Each soldier when buried was painted in vivid colors but exposure to air causes an almost immediate fading and discoloration. The earth-walled corridors were once roofed with wooden rafters. After the emperor died this pit and the others was looted and set on fire. Of all the warriors only one remained undamaged. It is the kneeling archer. All the other warriors have required some kind of repair.
I think of these as the "warrior zombies". The friend that I traveled with thought it looked more like resurrection morning with the warriors lined up to be made "whole" again. Each warrior is unique and there is a continuing effort today to painstakingly reassemble them.
This is the "front row" of infantry men. The first line of defense for the emperor in the after-life.
 Each warrior probably represented a real soldier. In the Chinese army each rank wore their hair in only one way. Truly, talented artisans must have created these amazing statues. If you ever choose to visit the warriors, pack a snack and plan on staying all day. It's the least you can do when you visit a wonder of the world.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

You can't visit China without visiting the wall...

So one of the sites that I most looked forward to as I prepared to travel to China, was the Great Wall of China. I guess I was not alone in this desire because this is what I first saw on the wall.
 The Great Wall is a series of earthen ramparts with a unifying wall that was completed somewhere about 221-210 B.C. Yes, it's really that old. I don't know why I thought I would get a private viewing but I couldn't imagine having to share it with so many people. It was a little unnerving.
After riding a tram from Bandaling to get to a less populated place, it was really shocking to rub shoulders, elbows, knees and hips with so many people I wasn't related to.
 With unscalable mountains on either side of the wall it was created to provide defense to the Chinese nation. It proved ineffective in the 13th century when it was breached by the Mongols. I admit, I'm not very good at Chinese history but it's difficult to imagine the Wall not even being in China, but Mongolia during the 13th century.
The Mongols were no fans of the wall and were instrumental in it's destruction. Many areas of the wall are crumbling ruin. The area I visited had been restored in the 1950's and 1980's.
The Great Wall served as early internet. It was a means of communication with each rampart watching for messages from either side. They used smoke, flares, drums and bells. Troops could rapidly move across the country moving from one tower to the next.  The towers provided living quarters and storerooms for provisions.
One thing I never quite got used to is how often my picture was taken by random Chinese people. My blond blue eyed daughter had warned me but until you are spied on, stalked and stared at like a bug in a jar, you don't really get it. If they were kind enough to request me in their picture I smiled, but if they put their cell phones on their shoulder and walked past, I would turn away. My daughter after experiencing this for five months, started making scary faces.
 Here's the team I traveled with. A great bunch of dental professionals and even better people.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All work and no play? Hardly!

Less you all think that I slaved away every day while visiting China, it's time to reveal some of the "other" stuff I did. Before leaving Xi'an and flying to Beijing we spent the morning exploring the old city wall. Xi'an"s city wall is still intact, forming a 9 mile long rectangle around the city center. The wall was built in 1370 during the reign of Hongwu, the first Ming emperor. It was built on the foundations of the Tang imperial palace. One thing I found interesting about their building methods is for mortar they used a glutinous rice extract. But enough history, here are the pictures.
 So there are a couple options on how to explore the wall. On foot, (9 miles in the hot dry smog, no thanks). On golf cart with the ambulatory impaired, nope that's why I'm exploring China before all my hairs are gray. Or aboard a bicycle, I confess to some trepidation because I have seen many bikes in China that did not look transportation worthy. But here I am picking one out that should go the distance. It might be prudent to mention that Summer, who is selecting a bike behind me had to repeatedly replace her bike chain for 9 miles, so my fears were not without merit.

 Bet you can't surmise that 2013 is the year of the snake, right?
 Around much of the City wall is a moat, no floating crocodiles though, just water.
 Taking a break, with as many miles ahead of me as I have already biked. It might be nice to mention that the pavement of  1370 is not smooth, but more cobble stone in nature where it still exists and if it doesn't exist, those are pot holes. Having seriously injured my neck years ago, I can hear my husbands admonitions on my poor choice. But I will never pass this way again, and I want the full experience. Besides that is what Motrin is for.
 A view from the top as to how we would enter and leave the city center. Interesting to note that cabs are fined if they leave or enter the city during peak hours. This may explain some of our difficulty in hailing a cab while trying to get to dinner with the other dentists.

In a country so desperate for space, it's interesting to see what remains in the old city.
It's market time in the morning inside the city wall. During our adventure with the dentists we visited a beautiful Asian Mosque inside the city wall. It was very calm and peaceful there, but somewhat neglected as I found most of China to be.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Drifting or flexible, you tell me....

So I've been wondering about all the different paths that my life takes lately. Wondering about whether or not I'm in control of any of it or like flotsam in the ocean I'm just following the tide and the path of least resistance to my present outcome. I justify that by saying I'm flexible, but maybe that's code for lazy because I'm not blazing my own trail.
I think that's how I found myself in China being a dental assistant without any dental training.

 Here is the welcome that greeted us each morning when our bus pulled up to the dental clinic.
It also showed it in Chinese but I can't do the translation. By profession I'm a registered nurse and had planned to recover oral surgery cases like cleft palate when I made my initial deposit to go to China.
 When the oral surgeon was no longer available I joined a group of dentist that had come from all over Michigan, Montana, Washington State, Utah, Wyoming and Arizona.
 Here we are with an actual patient, (photo shop cleaned up some of the bib, don't look too closely at the dentists gloves) This is Dr. Todd Hillyard, a pedidontist. We did some minor sedation so I was handy for protecting airways and before the week was out I could hand him an assortment of tools, some that he had requested, make cement and select crowns.
Here is one of our patients/victims. I've always considered dentistry to be somewhat barbaric. My only previous experience being from the other side of the chair. Now having had this experience it has only confirmed my opinion. Dentistry is barbaric. So brush and floss everyday, at least the teeth that you want to keep.
Here is Dr. Todd, Dr. Brian, myself and Patty. We saw all the children that came for free services at the Little White Rabbit Dental Clinic.
Some more (victims) patients. We had a retired dentist with us from Arizona that was quite proficient with balloon animals. They required no interpretation.

Some of the better trained dental assistants and I. The Chinese people loved to have their picture taken with us.
So back to my question, am I flexible? or am I drifting? And is the proof in the lessons I learn and the opportunities I take advantage of?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dinner and a show in Xi'an

So one evening after our humanitarian service at "Little White Rabbit" dental clinic we had dinner and a show. There was dancing and music and as always lots of food. This evening we ate and ate and ate 18 different kinds of dumplings. A specialty in Xi'an.
 This was the appetizers. Don't let the forks fool you. After more than a week in China, I'm getting pretty good with the chop sticks. Most everything can be stabbed. What I lack for in technique I make up for in ingenuity.
 These are "fish" dumplings. You can tell by their shape and they came with sub titles from the server. It's very prestigious in China to have an "english" speaking job. The Chinese language is based on tones and sounds. Each character in their language is either a root sound or syllable or a picture from which they gain information. It's the blend of the syllables that create their spoken language. That is why many Chinese appear to speak "broken" english. They give each syllable it's own importance. We say vegetable. They say Veg-Et-A-Ble.
 Patty and I sat right up front next to the stage.
I dare you to identify and name any of the musical instruments used here. In Hong Kong, we came upon an open mike event with paid singers. No offense to the talented person at the microphone but it sounded like a bag of cats being dragged down the chalkboard. My western ears did not find much pleasure in the sounds the singer could produce.

Now I won't get the story straight but these dancers represent the Tang Dynasty. It ended before Columbus "found" the Americas. It's a big deal to the people of Xi'an because at that time Xi'an was the capital of China. At that time Xi'an was the eastern end of the Silk Road and they traded as far as Europe.
Xi'an served as capital for about 4000 years until the end of the Tang Dynasty. Since the U.S. can't even claim 300 years of history it's difficult to imagine the deep sense of cultural pride that these people have.
The Chinese people have many western adaptations but they still believe in luck and superstition as guiding forces in their lives. As you can easily surmise we have many more freedoms.
One thing I found really interesting while in China is the Chinese people's perspective. Now first you must know that even today, there are random people walking about that their only job is to listen, especially to foreigners, to make sure that nothing is said that is unfavorable about the government.  So we discussed the last great war that China participated in. They call it the "Anti-Japanese" war. You and I studied it in school as World War II. This leads me to a question, if we were against the Japanese and China was against the Japanese, were we allies? You know the enemy of my enemy is my friend?  I'm not ready to rewrite high school history books to solve that one.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Planes, automobiles and Sketchy panel China

While visiting China I had plenty of opportunity to try out a number of transportation devices. Some of them quite common, others not so much. I had my first ride in a rickshaw and hopefully my last ride in a sketchy panel van.
 Here we are in the rickshaw. We are in Beijing, headed in to the "Hu-tahn". This a the traditional way that the chinese have lived for centuries, before the advent of huge high rise apartment complexes. Many of the people that live in the "Hu-tahn" never leave, all there needs are met here. They have fresh food groceries and health clinics and they live their entire lives within about 4 city blocks. They have running water in their "homes" but they share a communal bathroom. Puts a whole new spin on getting to know your neighbors.

Leaving one of the many airports that we visited and headed to yet another "sight-seeing" van.
 This is a common "3 seater" (count the number of heads). The pollution from the exhaust is not enough to prevent the drivers from smoking.
 A "two-seater", sharing the common road. The traffic is incredible in all the parts of China that I visited. As near as I could tell there are no rules, I saw no stop signs and very few traffic lights. Merging is based on guts and nerves of steel.
 Because of all the traffic in town, the speeds are limited to less than probably 40 miles per hour but still a scary prospect if you are on the three wheeler.
 I don't know what he could smell, but it may just have been "china". The scent is pervasive. It's a combination of body smells based on the multitude of people that live there, a healthy dose of smog with a hint of fish and collard greens. Yum!

 I think this guy is delivering the laundry, but who knows?
 After-school pick-up with a snack.
 You've heard of 2 guys and a van? Well this may be China's version.

You know those moments in time when you are so thankful to get to your destination and you know your family won't have to wonder what happened to you in a foreign country?

This van represents one of those times. There is no seating in the back of this van, just a carpet of questionable vintage and equally unknown cleanliness over the metal. To set this up, we were desperate. We (Patty and I) had left "clinic" early with Dr. Todd and Dr. Brian in search of the great goose pagoda. Instead, our taxi took us to the small goose pagoda. Common mistake considering the language barrier, so according to the guide book we were a mere 4 blocks away, even us un-fit americans could make that walk.  Except for the fact that it was more like 4 miles across freeways and trying to be a pedestrian in China is dangerous for one's health. Pedestrians have no right of way. A number of transportation devices of dupious natures had refused to transport us, until this "fine" gentleman came to our rescue. Now you remember that we had a fairly clear idea where we were going. The longer it took in the windowless back of this van the more creative my imagination became. Being a pre-op nurse, I started considering how to prep each of my van mates for organ donation. The longer it took, the more organs I figured we were donating. When we finally reached our destination, Patty jumped out to take this picture and then the driver proceeded to try to shake us down for 10 times the quoted price. When in China, like when you face a bear in the woods, it's not important to be the fastest runner, as long as you can stay ahead of at least one other person (appetizer).  Bet you can't wait for my retelling of my "chinese massage." (some things should be avoided when faced with a language barrier, I'm just saying.