Audiobooks Chapters 22 and 23, book 3!

Here are two more chapters! Not having school today let me get a little work done. However, since we’re in the path of a little storm called Ian, due to come over us tonight, it might be a little while until I get another chapter uploaded. Maybe we’ll lose power and internet, or maybe we’ll just get tons of rain and it will be a big nothing burger, and I can get another chapter done tomorrow.

The red circle and arrow show where we live and work.

We are well prepared, so no worries there. (Plenty of flashlights, water, chocolate, Crumbl cookies, and Dr. Pepper.) I just don’t enjoy the suspense of waiting to see what’s next . . . (So I record chapters in my closet which contain suspense of what happens next.)

Audiobook Chapter 16 Book 3 is here!

This chapter took a long time to record, and coincidentally on the same weekend as one session I chaperoned our high school’s homecoming dance.

Not the same. At all.

But sadly, still lots of believers of cleavage. (And the way teenage girls dance? I was worried about parts of anatomy escaping their flimsy coverings. Fortunately there were no disasters, but I have seen a couple in the past. I didn’t want to.)

Audiobook Chapters 14 and 15 of “The Mansions of Idumea” here!

Here’s the truth about life: nothing will ever change except we, as individuals, decide to change it.

Waiting for the government to make things right will never happen. (Governments are notorious for making things wrong in the first place.)

Waiting for someone else to step up and lead usually means we sit wasting time.

Waiting for someone to order you to do fix something only leaves us feeling resentful at being told what to do.

The ONLY thing that changes the world are individuals who decide, on their own (and inspired by Above, I believe) to do something for someone else.

Help that person who is suffering. Quietly donate more cash to that family or victim or grieving person than is comfortable for you, because they are in greater discomfort than you. Take the time to listen, to fix, to make, to love.

Stop thinking about yourself, and lose yourself in the service of others.

(Does anyone really believe any government can do any of that?)

Audiobooks Chapter 12 and 13 of “The Mansions of Idumea” are here

“Giving a little to those in need engenders a sense of gratitude and loyalty; giving too much, however, creates a sense of entitlement.

And after that attitude has been placed, you have a spoiled child who throws a fit whenever he’s not given every last thing he wants. He’s no longer devoted to his benefactors, but he’ll quickly follow whoever promises to give him more.”

Ironically, I recorded this chapter the day the White House announced their plan to erase $10k of student loan debt for each “poor” person. (If they can actually do that remains to be seen.)

I will uncomfortably confess that complete erasure of student loan debt would be an enormous gift to me, personally.

For more than 20 years we’ve been paying pittance on a student loan, money going only to interest. What we started with in 1997 has now quadrupled. We owe hundreds of thousands because the US Govt. has charged us 8.25% interest, compounding every second.

And although we’re in Income Based Repayment, the fine print of it means we’re not going to see “forgiveness” for many, many years still. For a school teacher and her husband who is a manager of a small store, earning a combined income of barely $100k (for about twenty years we earned only $55,000), that spells continued financial disaster.

I wish could just pay the original debt; that, we’d have a chance at conquering.

Not the nearly $200,000 in interest that’s been tacked on to it. There’s definitely room to rethink and readjust a very damning system.

HOWEVER, I see a much more massive disaster for the entire country if all student loan debt was “wiped away,” meaning shoved off on to everyone else.

The insatiability of many citizens to be handed more and more “freebies” is astonishing. And this unconscionable overreach of unearned handouts will turn us all into immature children, and just as incapable of doing anything of good.

It’s going to lead to the downfall of this country.

(For interest, read Isaiah 19 and when he writes “Egypt” replace it with “America.”)

Audiobook chapters 10 and 11 of Book 3, “The Mansions of Idumea”

Leadership doesn’t want us to think.

They wants us to be preoccupied by possessions, money, and status.

As long as we’re distracted, they can manipulate us in ways that benefit their hierarchy. If we think, they no longer get to be leaders.

To believe that the “higher-ups” care for the rest of us is naive hope, which we ultimately learn the painful way was misplaced hope.

I feel that lesson is going to become much more acute and clear in the coming months and years.

Audiobook Book 3, Chapter 3 here!

I’m so sorry it’s taken so long to get another chapter up. The past two months I’ve been in transition, leaving our rental house in one state, couch surfing with family and friends for six weeks, until my daughter and I could move 3,000 to our new rental house deep in the south of the US. (Last cross country move was 3,100 miles, from Maine to Utah, so this one was slightly shorter.)
I’m now “settled” and have a walk-in closet again, so I’m finally recording.

Heavy on my mind, as it likely is on yours, is the fact that our country–and world, really–is facing crises unlike any we’ve faced before, and a lot of people just aren’t noticing. Crops are failing, fertilizer is non-existent, droughts are rampant, even locusts have made a comeback.

We are dealing with future issues on biblical proportions, because the God of the Bible is trying to wake us up and get us to notice. These problems aren’t a result of global climate change (the climate has been changing for thousands of years), but because society has forgotten God. He’s trying to remind us before it’s all too late.

There are signs. Are we paying attention? Are we comparing to The Writings which we have? We need to. We can’t change the world, but we can each be ready for what the world is about to face.

Audiobook Chapter 2, Book 3–“The Mansions of Idumea” (yep, I’m finally recording again)

Ah-HA! I can record in my car with my laptop! Took me only months to discover that. (Gee, does anyone else sit in their cars and make recordings?) However, the sound is slightly different, and I accidentally muffled my microphone a few times–sorry. I’ll try to do better next time I hide out in a remote part of a parking lot, hoping motorcycles won’t keep riding by.

Mahrree says one of my all-time favorite lines in this chapter which, over the years since I’ve written it, has disturbingly become even more accurate:

When I see how often people have ignored the reality of a situation before them, and instead trust the media and the government for all the answers, I feel like sitting next to Mahrree to pound my head against a tree.

Six Steps to Surviving COVID-19 (Most require acting like grownups)

I had several readers contact me about the descriptions in my book series of the Pox and how it mirrors much of what we’re seeing with COVID-19. While I based my “plague” on a genetically-vulnerable version of small pox, and the Spanish Flu of 1918, much of what I learned while researching and writing applies to now.

Here’s what I think we should be doing:

1) Stop complaining. All of us are suffering—every last person. Universally, we’re universally disappointed. I’ve had students and friends tearfully tell me that dances, graduations, weddings, and events are being postponed or cancelled. Well, mine too. Money and hours I’ve personally put toward an event may never come to fruition, and here’s the thing—EVERYONE is suffering from extreme disappointment. And there’s always someone suffering far worse than you. So let’s get past it and start being useful.

Jaytsy hid her face in her hands, feeling betrayed by everything in the world. “It’s not right!” came her muffled cry. “It’s just not fair!”

(Book Four, The Falcon in the Barn)

2) Check on your neighbors and friends, especially the elderly, those receiving cancer treatments, or otherwise dealing with compromised immune systems. Many of us find we now have extra time. Perfect! Knock on the doors of your neighbors, take several steps back to keep a safe distance, then ask, “Do you need me to pick up your groceries and drop them on your front step for the next few weeks? Do you need your dog walked? My kids are home from school, they can help. I see you have chickens. Can we gather the eggs for you? It’s going to snow tomorrow—can we clear your sidewalks later?” Take care of each other. There’s never been a better time.

Perrin pointed at him. “Remember this moment when you first realized that the government can’t properly take care of people. In fact, that’s never been their responsibility. They’re supposed to keep our borders safe so that we can live as we wish. It’s our responsibility—yours and mine and Zenos’s and everyone else’s—to take care of each other.”

(Book 4, The Falcon in the Barn)

3) If you get sick, STAY HOME and keep everyone home with you. We know what to do: binge watch TV, surf the internet, or—best of all—read a book and get some sleep until you’re better. We know what to look for: fevers, aches and chills, coughing, and runny noses. You or your family come down with those symptoms, stay home. Do NOT run to the hospital. There’s nothing they will do for you because it’s a VIRUS. Antibiotics don’t work. Your body will fight it off in time. Treat the symptoms with over-the-counter drugs, and rest, rest, rest. So when do you run to the hospital? See #4.

About two hours later, after half the neighborhood consisting of Hycymum’s old sewing club had come to her Cottage, assured Mahrree they would prepare her mother for burial, and gave her wet kisses, Mahrree finally accepted a ride home.

(SPOILER: this outpouring of kisses proves to be a bad strategy for old ladies. Book Four: The Falcon in the Barn.)

4) IF you find yourself unable to breathe, that means pneumonia is settling in, and that’s when—and ONLY when—you need to go to the hospital. Pneumonia’s the real problem, which very, very few people develop. So for 98% of us who might get sick, don’t even bother the doctors or hospitals. You’ve weathered nasty colds before. Just deal with another one. You’ll be fine.

Mahrree remembered something. “Wait a minute—you’ve been here the entire time I’ve been ill? What about the fort?”

He looked into her eyes. “The fort can function without me for a while. I had some leave coming anyway. I belong by your side.”

Mahrree blinked. “Four days? You’ve never been away that long without being unconscious or seriously injured.”

He shrugged. “Shem kept an eye on things for me. So did Jon Offra. Whatever Thorne may have changed in my absence, I’ll just right again.”

(Book Four, The Falcon in the Barn)

5) When all of this is over, realize that the bigger problem will be coming. “Wait a minute,” I hear you saying, “the danger of illness is over—all is great again, right?” No, it won’t be. Look at all the businesses closing, the massive amounts of revenue being lost to canceled events, the shortages we’re facing because of fear. Generosity of companies now (providing free internet or paid leave of absence, etc.) means they’ll have to make up those losses later. The financial cushions companies have built up will dry up in a few weeks, maybe months. Unless they find ways to recoup those losses, their employees won’t be paid and companies may collapse.

No one’s saying it but I will: We’re looking at a future financial crisis, likely globally, that will take months, if not years, to recover from. This, I believe, is when the real trouble will begin. People will become greedy. They’ll want “compensation” of some sort for their suffering (although ALL of us have suffered). They won’t accept that suffering is a part of life, but will panic when they feel they’ve “lost” experiences, possessions, or people that won’t return. That’s when #6 will become vital.

“Once that numbness wears off, it will turn to pain. And no one seems to think that pain is part of the human condition; they seem to think they should be compensated for it.”

(Book 3, The Mansions of Idumea)

6) Realize that we are a resilient species, that physical and financial losses in one area always mean emerging opportunities in others. When this is all over, we’ll have choices to make: Will we a) graciously acknowledge that life is hard but we are creative and can cope, or will we b) crumple like spoiled children, demand someone to make everything better, and throw violent tantrums if they don’t? We’ll be a lot happier and more satisfied if we follow the first route rather than the second.

In my books I speculate about people looting and rioting to be compensated for their losses. The fact that they lived through the illness wasn’t “reward” enough. Greed and fear take over. In a way, that’s already happening. (I don’t know why people stock up on TP and water. I was stocking up on chocolate, and I made sure there was plenty left for others.)

Mahrree looked out the dark window. “They’re just like animals,” she decided. “No. Worse than animals. We may no longer debate but we’ve retained our ability to rationalize away logic and compassion. We can be so great, or be so terrible. It seems we’re content to just be terrible.”

(Book Four: The Falcon in the Barn)

There’s little we can do about the events already set in motion; we need to seclude ourselves, take care of others, and ride out the virus. It’s after COVID-19 has gone, when we try to make sense of what we have left, especially financially, that we need cool heads, calm hearts, and reminders that we’ve come through far worse. 

“Yes, the world’s unfair, Nature’s unfair, because the Creator is allowing us the opportunity to resolve that, as part of our Test. We can choose to bring balance. We can choose to fix those inequalities . . .

“I believe the Creator intends for us to use our surplus to help those in need. He’s giving us an opportunity to do something good for others, not take a reward just for surviving.”

(Book Four, The Falcon in the Barn)

All of us had ancestors who survived multiple bouts of the Black Plague. (If they didn’t, you wouldn’t be here.) Our species has also survived massive volcanic explosions, world wars, tsunamis, and financial disasters. We’ll survive this, and quite well, too, with the right attitudes. Faith over fear, every time. 

Help everyone around you remember that as well. 

“We realize that we’re asking you to put a great deal of faith in us, but I promise—you’ll be glad you did.”

(Book Four, The Falcon in the Barn)COVID 19

(And by the way, I have been blogging every week, just not here. If you’re at all interested in AP Lit, here’s what we’ve been doing this semester. This has taken a great deal of my time, and seeing as how our school will likely sometime follow suit and go online with all of our classes, it’ll take even more.)

 

Optimism, Gratitude, and Grit can together defeat fear

One of my favorite writings assignments I give my 10th graders is the “Optimism, Gratitude, and Grit” write-up. We’re reading a holocaust memoir, and we talk about the qualities the survivors had in common:
1) the ability to maintain hope and optimism;
2) a feeling of gratitude, no matter the circumstances; and
3) grit and perseverance to never give up.
I then read out loud the chapters in All But My Life detailing the Death March to Volary, Czechoslovakia, and have my students mark the novel with sticky notes whenever they encounter someone demonstrating those traits. Then they type up the lines and label each with what trait it demonstrates.

I tell them later that this was practice for their upcoming research papers, reading a text for specific details.

But I really hope it’s practice for life. They can endure nearly any trial and succeed in nearly any endeavor if they’re hopeful, grateful, and gritty. I have them take online quizzes evaluating their current levels, and explain that each of these traits can be learned and improved.

I love hearing the quiet rustles of paper as they mark another part of the text as I read, love seeing their lists and their labels, and I silently pray, “Let this leak into their brains! They’re going to need it all!”

In many parts of the country, teenagers and college students are becoming fearful snowflakes who melt at the slightest breath of trouble.

Most of my downeast Mainer kids, however, I think are a little tougher. They’re more like snowballs–packed firm and ready to fly.

Some of my students have shrugged at the book, claiming they can’t get into it because they “can’t relate.” I sincerely hope that they never do, but I worry that someday they will, too much.

And it’s then that I pray they’ll remember to always have hope, always be grateful, and never, ever give up. (That’s a much better lesson to remember than how to write a research paper.)

fear and success

Get the Forest at the Edge series here.