Memories That Mean Something

“There’s no such thing as a long time ago. There’s only memories that mean something, and memories that don’t.”  –William, This is Us

This quote from last night in the network television show, This Is Us, really resonated with me. As a writer, I often reach back in time to those memories that mean something to me and I write about them.

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All of my books are based on true stories that are also treasured memories. When I wrote the original story of “The Button Box” in 2001, my intention was to write about my family’s button box so that my children would know about it and also know some of our family history. Little did I realize when I submitted it for the local community literary awards competition, that it would win first place in the “Personal Memoir” category and touch the hearts of so many people.

After “The Button Box” was printed in the Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper (in Kalamazoo, Michigan) on Christmas Day of 2001, people shared my story of my memories of our button box with family and friends across the country. One local shop owner loved it so much that she had a framed copy of the newspaper story in her antique store for years!

People wrote me letters and cards for four years after the story ran in the newspaper. Remember, this was back before everyone had personal computers and cell phones and when letter writing was still commonplace.

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They wrote in their letters about how my little story had made them remember special times with their own mothers and grandmothers. They told me how “The Button Box” evoked memories of looking through their family button boxes and how reading the story motivated them to talk with other family members about their memories. Many people encouraged me to turn my story into a book.

My second book, “Which Came First?” was written as a tribute to my maternal grandmother. She had passed away and writing about her was a part of my grieving process. I kept writing and writing as thoughts and memories of her flooded my heart and mind.

During the year that we worked on “Which Came First?”, illustrator Vicki Guess and I would meet and I would tell her about my grandmother and the farm. I painted word pictures for Vicki from my memories of my grandmother. From those word pictures, she was able to create illustrations for our second book which were not only fun, but included many details from my memories…those memories that meant something to me.

My new book, “The Day The Turkey Came To School”, is also based on my memories of something that really happened. This story is different from the others because it is about a more recent memory of something special that happened one day when my daughter was a little girl and I was driving her to school. While part of the story is fiction, my daughter and I both remember the day there actually was a turkey who came to school!

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Memories are powerful…especially the good ones. Perhaps that’s why we hold onto them for so long. I love that I have written stories which bring back memories for people and also give them the opportunity to create new ones with their children and grandchildren.

Author’s note:  Books may be ordered on my author website at janetseverhull.com

Be There For Others

A close friend of mine lost her mom today. Her mom lived in another state and I regret that I never had the privilege of meeting her. She passed this morning and I wish I had been able to thank her for rearing such an amazing daughter who is my friend.

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This has been a week of tremendous loss for many people. The flags are at half-staff everywhere and this is a constant reminder to us of the pain and grief that so many are experiencing. My heart aches for my dear friend, and it aches for those with family and friends who were hurt or killed at the music festival in Las Vegas.

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We’ve all experienced loss. Many of us have lost close family members and dear friends. We’ve grieved the loss of people we love whether it be from death or some other kind of separation. We know what it feels like to be on the inside of grief. We know the searing pain and the gaping hole left in our lives when a dear loved one is suddenly gone.

Right after a loss, many people don’t know what to do or to say to help. And really, we don’t need to say much other than, “I’m here” or “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m praying for you” or “I love you.” Simply showing that we care and acknowledging what people are going through is often what is most needed.

I remember after my brother died 11 years ago, friends came to my door. Sometimes they sat and had coffee with me whether we talked or not. They were a loving presence by my side.

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One friend showed up with flowers and said, “I know you are going through a hard time…I just want you to know I’m thinking about you.” Other friends sent cards or brought food. It didn’t matter what they did, but rather that they showed their love and understood what a difficult time it was for me.

Later after some time had passed, I was so grateful to the friends who asked me about my brother and would then listen no matter how long it took. It’s very healing to look back through the window of time and talk about our loved ones who have passed. Sharing stories about them helps to keep the memory of them alive.

Something that still helps me all these years later, is that my niece, Jessica…my brother’s daughter…always remembers her dad on the important days. On my brother’s birthday last week, she took her own daughter…his granddaughter…with her to decorate his grave. She wants her to know about the grandfather she never met.  Jessica sent me a picture because she knew I was thinking of him on his birthday too. We don’t forget those we love even when they are no longer physically with us.

I asked several friends who have lost people close to them, what they think helped them the most during the time right afterward. One friend who lost her sister said: “I’m not really sure except for the caring and love and hugs and the support from the church community around us. Talking about how special she was or telling funny stories and remembering memories of her helped too.” She continued by saying that her sister (who had been a teacher and a reading specialist) had a library named for her and it helped a lot to be able to honor her memory that way.

Another friend who lost his wife, said he remembered all the love and support from family and friends and from people at his church. They brought meals and invited him to dinner so he didn’t have to worry about mundane things like food for quite a while. Feeling the love and support from other people was what got him through that difficult time.

A friend who lost her adult daughter said it helped her so much when her daughter’s friends would call or write and keep in touch. It warmed her heart to receive pictures of her daughter that she hadn’t seen previously and it was especially poignant when her daughter’s friends would call her on her daughter’s birthday because they knew the day was still special.

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When someone you know loses a family member or friend, you can be there for them and let them know you care. If you knew their loved one too, it’s really special to be able to share memories and stories. That’s what people will remember…it’s your presence and the love you show that is lasting.

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Be Still And Know

We moved recently to a new house without any trees in the backyard. There’s just a rectangle of green grass and the shed my husband built to store our yard tools. I intend to plant a beautiful garden there next spring but for now, the space remains bare and uneventful except for the sprinklers that pop up in the early morning hours.

However, for the past week, I’ve been obsessed with what is happening in our almost empty backyard. We hung a hummingbird feeder in the grass beside our covered porch last month. It had been out for several weeks before we saw any action and now we have a regular guest.

He or she shows up multiple times a day to eat and to rest on our feeder. At times he will sit atop the star hook and look around the yard. No matter what I might be doing in the house, I find my eyes are constantly drawn to the window to see if my new little friend is visiting.

Sometimes I go outside to my patio to sit quietly and wait. After a few minutes, my waiting is usually rewarded by a visit from a tiny and amazing “hummer” as they are called. At those times, I always think of my favorite Bible verse from Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The older I get, the more I appreciate the value of a few moments of stillness in my day…whether it is for the time to pray, to think about the people in my life, to plan my time, or simply to watch the fluttering wings of a little hummingbird.

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The world we live in is full of quiet noise even when there is no actual sound involved. We can place our phones on mute, but we are still bombarded with calls and texts and messages and emails to the point where it is difficult to find a break from the general clamor.

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One of my friends asked on Facebook today, “Tell me, where is your quiet place?” As I thought about her question, I remembered how as a girl, I would climb to the top of a tall apple tree in my grandparent’s apple orchard. I would sit on the highest branch looking up into the sky and out over the farm. All of these years later, I still remember the peaceful feeling that came with that wonderful stillness in the top of the apple tree.

Someday, I hope my place to “be still” will be a pretty spot overlooking the water. But for now, it’s in my writing room or on my patio waiting for a little visitor to appear.

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Tell me, where is your quiet place?

Doing What We Love

This past week, I did a fun giveaway of my new book, “The Day The Turkey Came To School” on Facebook.  The idea was to like and share my post about the book, and for every person who liked and shared it, I put their name in my cowgirl hat (after all, I do live in Texas) for a drawing.  I said that if I got 50 shares, I would draw two names instead of one, for a copy of my book.

There were 60 shares in the past week, so this morning, my husband, Jeff, drew the two names.  One name drawn was that of a dear friend in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  The other was a Texas Facebook friend I met through my membership in the Texas State Button Society.  Both ladies are grandmothers so I know they will have someone to read the book to or to give it to as a gift.  I was delighted to ship both of their books to them today.

One of the best parts of being a writer, is being able to share my stories with others in a tangible form.  I think true writers write because we must…we are driven by some innate force which compels us to tell our stories or other people’s stories.  Writers don’t write for money or recognition, although those kinds of rewards are certainly the icing on the cake. We write because we must write in order to be happy.

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I believe this same drive is what propels everyone to do what we love to do, regardless of our individual passions.  My dear friend and favorite illustrator, Vicki Guess, is an artist.

In addition to illustrating books, Vicki is inspired and loves to paint in various mediums.  Whenever I’m with her, it’s fun to see the projects she has been working on.  Here is one of her latest paintings done in pastel.

Vicki’s pastel painting is currently in a national juried art show in Grapevine, Texas.  For any of you who live in North Texas and would like to see Vicki’s painting in person, here is the information on where to see it.

Thank you to all of you who support the work of writers and artists.  Without you, we wouldn’t be able to continue doing this work that fuels us and that we love so much!

How Much Asking Is Enough?

Sunday evening, we met friends at a local restaurant for dinner. The dinner and the company were both wonderful. When the waitress came to bring our checks, she asked if we might like to add a dollar to our check for them to donate to a charity. The couple we were with immediately said “yes” and I immediately felt annoyed by the request.

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One of my pet peeves is being hit up at the businesses where I trade, to donate to THEIR chosen charities. I’ve been asked to give in restaurants, grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations and drive-through lines over and over again.

You might say, well then just say “no”. But who wants to say no when someone asks you to help. I would simply like to be able to enjoy an evening out or a trip to the store without being asked to give my (limited) money for a charity I know or care nothing about.

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We live in a very altruistic and charitable nation. According to the Giving USA website, (givingusa.org) in the year 2015, Americans donated an estimated 373 billion dollars to charities. This number includes donations from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations.

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According to the Philanthropy Roundtable website, (philanthropyroundtable.org) this is how charitable giving in America is targeted:

40% to religious organizations

19% to educational organizations

15% to human services

10% to health organizations

6% to arts organizations

5% to charities overseas

4% to nature preservation

This total adds up to only 99%, so I’m not sure where the other 1% of charitable giving is directed.

Like many of you, I have charitable organizations I have supported for over 20 years because of the work they do. I believe in giving, but also in giving to organizations whose mission and purpose I want to support.

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Over the last 40 years, I’ve donated many, many hours of my time for school, church and community volunteer work, and many, many dollars to charitable organizations. I also regularly donate my books to public libraries and to elementary schools.

This week, I donated 10% of my Labor Day Weekend book sales to One America Appeal. (Oneamericaappeal.org) This is a new, 501 (c)(3) charitable organization established by all five-living former American Presidents…Carter, Clinton, Bush, Bush, and Obama to support the recovery efforts for those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

What I like about this organization (besides the fact that our former presidents from different political parties all came together to help) is that every penny donated goes immediately to help those in need.

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We are all bombarded on a daily basis with opportunities to give online and in person. For most of us, money is not an unlimited resource and we must choose wisely how we allocate what we have to give.

I suspect I am not alone in wanting to be able to leave my house without being asked for money every single time. Oh, and yes, we did give $1.00 to the restaurant’s chosen charity. I’d love to hear how you feel about and handle these types of situations?

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Journey To Publication

Many times I get asked how I began writing and publishing children’s books in my 50’s.  I have told bits and pieces in the past, but now that my third book has just been released, I thought I would share the entire story.

In July of 2012, I lost my job when the small electric company I worked for in Denton, Texas was sold to a larger company in Houston. I was recently divorced and hadn’t lived in Texas for long and really didn’t know very many people.

I applied for a few jobs in the area without much luck. I also applied for unemployment for the first time in my life. It barely covered the mortgage payment but it helped.

By Christmas, I was still unemployed and living off of savings but not working gave me the chance to enjoy having all of my children home for the holiday. I remember that December vividly because I was worried about running out of money and I sold some of my good jewelry to help pay for Christmas presents.

Over the holiday, my two sons asked me what I intended to do for an income and I told them I didn’t know. I was still applying for jobs and while I had been one of the top two applicants for two different jobs, each time they had picked the other candidate. One of my sons casually suggested that perhaps the time had come for my writing hobby to become a profession.

I had over 20 years of writing on my computer…short stories, essays, newsletter articles and even some very bad poetry. I thought about my son’s words and in January of 2013, I emailed several regional publications to see if they were hiring writers. I secured a job writing feature articles for Lifestyles of Denton County Magazine and I also decided to see if I could figure out how to turn my short story, The Button Box, into a book.

The Button Box had been published previously in the Kalamazoo Gazette on Christmas day of 2001 as the winner of the “personal memoir” category of the Community Literary Awards.  After it was published, many people encouraged me to turn my story into a book.  At the time, I was too busy to consider it but the idea had been knocking around in the back of my mind for years.

In April of 2013, I attended the North Texas Book Festival to see if I could meet some potential illustrators for the book I wanted to publish. One of the authors there, Danna Walters, gave me the name of one of her artist friends who she thought might be interested in illustrating a book.When I got home that day, I called her friend…a woman named Vicki Guess.

I learned that Vicki was a middle school art teacher at a private Christian school in Grapevine, Texas. Vicki had recently written and illustrated a picture book for her grandchildren but she hadn’t made it available for sale. I told Vicki about the story I wanted to turn into a book and I asked her if she might be interested in illustrating it. She told me she was interested but she would have to read my story before she could give me an answer.

Vicki read The Button Box and called me that same weekend and told me how much she loved my story. She said she was definitely interested in illustrating it and we arranged to meet at a restaurant halfway between our homes.

We met and hit it off immediately. I told Vicki about my vision for the book and she listened intently and added ideas of her own. I was honest with her when I said I didn’t know how to self-publish a book but that I intended to learn. I also told Vicki about the graphic designer named Crystal Wood who I had met at the North Texas Book Festival. Crystal had said she could help me navigate the publishing process.

Vicki and I didn’t know what we were doing when we started working on our first book. All we knew was that we liked one another, we worked well together, and we wanted to create something really special.

We worked on The Button Box for over a year. At one point early in the process, I gave Vicki a small box of Crayola Crayons and told her I saw the pictures for my story in the basic crayon colors. Vicki said she understood and she created the beautiful, realistic pictures for The Button Box. I emailed her acrylic painting of the actual button box to one of my sons and he responded asking me if it was a photograph.

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Because The Button Box was based on a sentimental true story from my own life, I wanted it to be perfect. The quilt that is pictured in the book is a painting from a picture of a quilt my mother made for me when I was a teenager. I still treasure it today…40 years later.

Crystal did the graphic design of the book and it was her idea to use the  checked background.   We looked at yellow and blue before we settled on the tan check, which I loved.

The Button Box was published in August of 2014 and I prayed that I would find a way to sell books. In November of 2016, our little book was named a finalist in the 2016 national Best Book Awards. Last month, we had our second printing.

After The Button Box was published, I asked Vicki if she would like to work on another book together. She said she did and so I sent her two more stories and told her to pick the one she wanted to illustrate next.

She chose Which Came First?, the story I had written about gathering the eggs on my grandparents farm when I was a little girl and being terrified of the chickens and the rooster named Pretty Boy.  Vicky liked the fact that the story was about me and she asked for a picture of me as a little girl.

As we began work on Which Came First?, we were more knowledgeable and we were able to refine our work process. Vicki suggested that the pictures for this book be less realistic and more kid friendly. She told me she would water down her paint so that it looked almost like water colors.

The use of a bandana in the story was deliberate because as a girl, I always wore one around my neck, in my hair, or around my wrist or leg.  Crystal had the idea of adding the strip of bandana at the bottom of each page as an accent and I loved it!

I told Vicki about my grandparent’s farm and all the things I remembered such as the old-fashioned clothesline, the tractor tire flower garden, the birdfeeders and the barn with all of the animals and the various items on the walls.

For fun, we decided that kids would enjoy finding a little mouse in each of the outside illustrations. (Adults seem to enjoy this too!) As a surprise for me, Vicki painted the button box and the quilt in the living room picture in Which Came First?  The clock on the wall of the kitchen in the book is a painting of the clock my family had all the years my brothers and I were growing up.  I have it now.

We did not have a cover concept for Which Came First? until the very last minute. During one of our final monthly meetings, it suddenly dawned on me…we needed a barn on the cover…after all it was a farm story! I was hoping that Crystal could add some kind of chicken wire to the book and she did not disappoint. It’s there in all the right places.

Which Came First? was published in April of 2016 and in April of 2017, it was named Best Children’s Book at the North Texas Book Festival. As soon as Which Came First? was published, we began planning and working on our third book together, The Day The Turkey Came To School.

The Day The Turkey Came To School was published less than a week ago. It’s a fun story about an unexpected event involving a turkey that happened one November morning. Crystal did the graphic design once again and found a fun way to add turkey tracks to the book!

Vicki painted the school in the story from pictures of the actual elementary school my three children attended in Portage, Michigan. Thank you to my friend, Galyn, for taking those pictures!

Vicki also painted both of our grandchildren in the illustrations in this book. The heroine of the story, Miss Thompson, is based on my daughter-in-law, Paige Thompson Sever.

The Button Box and Which Came First? are both true stories from my childhood and I wrote each of them in the very personal first-person point of view.

The Day The Turkey Came To School is a fictionalized version of something that really happened when my daughter, Anna, was a little girl.  It’s written in the third-person point of view and was the first story I wrote after I moved to Texas.

One of the things our books are known for are the factual sections we include after the stories. From “A Short History of Buttons” to “Fun Facts About Chickens and Funny Chicken Sayings” to “Turkey Trivia”, we wanted to add a little more content and to also make our books extra fun for kids, parents and grandparents to read.

Writing and publishing books is a dream come true and some days I have to pinch myself to believe that I really get to do this work. I’m honored to be able to tell my stories and if you have the chance to read my books, I hope you will see all of the time and effort and love put into them by Crystal and Vicki and me.

 

Love For Texas

Long after the flood waters have receded and the television news cameras have moved on to the next big story, the state of Texas will continue healing from the ravages of Hurricane Harvey. According to the experts, it will take years.

During the seven and a half years that I’ve called Texas my home, I’ve grown to love my adopted state and the big-hearted people who live here. It’s been heart-wrenching to watch the news and see the devastation in Houston and in the other South Texas Coastal Communities.

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Living in North Texas where it’s completely dry and our only inconvenience is a shortage of gasoline, I feel half guilty getting into my bed at night when so many have lost and are displaced from, their homes.

On the NBC News last night, they said that the internet and social media have been a huge help in finding people who were stranded and needed to be rescued. The internet and social media are also providing a lot of ways to help the residents who have been directly affected by Hurricane Harvey.

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Many of us want to help but aren’t sure how best to do this. We all help in our own ways and all of it is a positive contribution to the whole. Whether you are donating or gathering items to be sent to the hurricane area, opening your home to people, cooking food for volunteers and shelter residents, sending money, donating airline points, volunteering in South Texas, or praying, your help is important.

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I have a friend who is driving to the Houston area to volunteer and to help rescue and care for pets that have been separated from their families. Other friends are helping to organize relief items to be sent to the shelters where people are staying. Many of us are contributing whatever amount of money we are able to send.

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And if you aren’t in a position to help right now, perhaps you will have an opportunity to do so down the road. The relief effort will be ongoing for a very long time. Whatever you can do…it all adds up, and counts, and helps.

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Author’s note: There is a website at charitynavigator.org where you can check out charitable organizations before you donate money to them. According to the website, they have a list of charitable organizations that “execute their missions in a fiscally responsible way while adhering to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities.”

Don’t Throw That Away!

I grew up in a close-knit family with grandparents who lived during the Great Depression. For those of you who are foggy on the subject, the Great Depression was a severe, worldwide economic downturn that began in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930’s. It was the longest and most widespread depression of the 20th Century.

The depression began after a major fall in stock prices in the United States in September of 1929. On October 29, 1929 (known as Black Tuesday) the stock market crashed in this country and the depression was felt world-wide.

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To give you an idea of the scope of the Great Depression, let’s compare it to the recent Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 when so many of us lost money and where the world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell about 1%. (The GDP is the total value of goods produced and services provided during one year.)

Between the years of 1929 and 1932, the GDP fell by an estimated 15%. International trade plunged by 50% and everything dropped…profits, tax revenues, and personal income.

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During the depression years, unemployment in this country rose to 25% and people did whatever they could to get by. In some countries, the unemployment level went as high as 33%.

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One of my great-grandmothers and grandmothers (who was a little girl at the time) sold flowers from their garden at home to help make ends meet during the Great Depression.

My grandparents on the other side were farmers so they at least had food to eat during those difficult years. All of my grandparents had big vegetable gardens every year even into old age. One of my favorite pictures of my mother’s father was taken when he was around 80 years old and was using his roto-tiller to get his garden ready for spring planting.

People who lived through the Great Depression tended to be frugal for the rest of their lives. Some didn’t trust the banks with their money and would keep it hidden somewhere at home such as under their mattress. All of them saved everything, some to the point of hoarding. When one has lived for years and had to do without, it’s just not something a person wants to experience again.

When I was growing up, I loved nothing more than time with my grandparents. But I also knew better than to throw anything away at their houses. Before anything was thrown in the trash, it was looked at to see if it could be repaired or repurposed. When they all died, their homes were full of lots of interesting saved items that made their children and grandchildren smile.

One of the things I remember most vividly about my farm grandparents was that they even saved the envelopes from their bills in the mail and would reuse them to make grocery and to do lists. As a child, I used to think this was a very funny habit, but what a smart thing to do if one couldn’t buy paper!

Today, I picked up over 1000 books at Taylor Printing in Dallas. It’s the second printing of my book, “The Button Box”. I think all four of my grandparents would be delighted that I wrote a book about our family button box and that early form of recycling where buttons were removed from worn out clothes to be reused on new clothing.

I didn’t live during the Great Depression, but I did learn a lot from others who did. I’m especially good at repurposing leftovers into a fun second meal. I don’t save everything like my grandparents and to some extent, my parents, but I don’t just throw things away because they are old or because I no longer have a use for them.

My current non-writing project is to restore two 50-year-old chairs given to me recently by my parents. If you read my blog regularly, you will recall them from my post, “The Golden Chairs” published on June 7th of this year. I’ve finished stripping the very old varnish off the legs and plan to re-stain them this week before I take the chairs to the upholsterer to be dressed in their new fabric.

One of the things I really like about our modern computer age, is that we have websites like nextdoor.com and freecycle.org and craigslist.com where we can find new homes for our castoff items so they don’t add to the modern trash heap. If you have items you no longer want, you can sell them online or list them in the “free” section of the online classifieds.  As the old adage goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Or woman’s…

The Great American Eclipse

My husband tells a story about a day in the summer of 1968 when he was just seven years old. He was with his mother in the Pine Bluff National Bank in Whitehall, Arkansas.

The bank was sponsoring a community fund drive for the U.S. Space Program’s race to the moon, and he decided to donate his entire life savings…$8.00…to NASA. He says from that moment on, astronauts were his heroes and he felt as if he had a part in helping the space program move forward.

Eight Dollars

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Many of us in my generation remember watching live on television the night of July 20, 1969 when the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon. For more on that, see my blog post from February 15, 2017:

http://www.walkdownthelane.com/look-up

Next Monday in this country, we will be looking up once again as the skies show us the first solar eclipse since 1918. Called the “Great American Eclipse” this eclipse is special because the path of totality will sweep from coast to coast over several hours in the United States.

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The path of totality means the path across the country where the moon will totally cover the sun and create a shadow that is approximately 100 miles wide. This stunning celestial sight will appear from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. People outside the path of totality (such as those of us in Texas) will see a partial solar eclipse where the moon will cover only part of the sun, but that should be spectacular too!

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Total solar eclipses occur every 18 months to two years, often in the middle of nowhere but this one is special because it’s the first time in 99 years that one has cut diagonally across the entire United States. For some, it’s a once in a lifetime occurrence because 2045 is the next time a total solar eclipse will cross the entire United States.

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During this eclipse, which will pass through your viewing location in about two and a half minutes, the sky will darken and temperatures will most likely drop. Nasa has created a special eclipse site which displays the locations of the path of totality across the country as well as some viewing safety tips.

https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety

It is suggested that people take safety precautions when viewing the eclipse because looking with unprotected eyes can cause permanent eye damage and even blindness. Sunglasses are not enough to protect your eyes!

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You can watch the eclipse happen live on NASA’s eclipse site or you can buy some inexpensive eclipse glasses or even make your own pinhole camera to use as an eclipse viewer. There are directions for making a pinhole camera out of cardboard and aluminum foil on the NASA site under the “Safety” tab.

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There are maps on the internet showing the best spots in the country to view the eclipse and people are planning trips to those places. The two locations in the country where the passing of these two celestial bodies will last the longest with a duration of two minutes and forty-one seconds, are Carbondale, Illinois and Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

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We have close friends who are traveling with their family to Wyoming to be in the path of totality during the eclipse. We will be here in Texas looking up but wherever you are on Monday, August 21st, be safe and enjoy the Great American Eclipse!

Bound By Books

Today is “National Book Lovers Day” and is a day for bibliophiles (a fancy name for book lovers) everywhere to celebrate their love of literature, reading and books. As an author and a self-professed lover of actual books with intriguing covers, paper pages and ink smells, I’m delighted that there is a day set aside to celebrate them!

The Gutenberg Bible which was printed in 1455, was the first major book that was printed. The printing press had been invented around 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg and this marked the entry of books into the modern age. Before the printing press, books were handwritten and copied by scribes for a price.

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Most of the early printed books were published in Latin. As the printing industry grew and libraries were established, books were chained to shelves to keep them from being stolen. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you have probably seen books on the show that were chained to shelves and displayed horizontally standing on the edge opposite their spines since this is how books were shelved for hundreds of years.

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According to the American Library Association website, (www.ala.org) there are 119,487 libraries of all kinds in the United States today. A sales report released by the Association of American Publishers on August 1, 2017, indicates that book publishers’ revenues ($2.33 billion for the first quarter of 2017) are up 4.9 percent compared to the first quarter of 2016. The book business is alive and well!

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And in case you are wondering, the Bible is still the best-selling book of all time in the world with over five billion copies sold. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is followed closely by Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung also known as the Little Red Book, and then the Qur’an.

Here are the top ten best-selling non-religious books and the year they were published:

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, 1605

2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, 1859

3. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1954-1955

4. Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 1943

5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling, 1997 (Published in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1998.)

6. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1937

7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, 1939

8. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin, 1754-1791

9. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, 1865

10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, 1950

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I’ve read most of the books on this list and even read The Little Prince in French in either high school or college. I may still have my copy around here somewhere… My favorite books are not on the top ten list but I’ll share them with you anyway.

My favorite novel of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and I make a habit of rereading it every few years. My favorite non-fiction book is Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. After I read it the first time, I bought it for everyone on my Christmas list that year. If you haven’t, you should.

The book that haunted me for weeks, maybe months after I read it, was Night by Elie Wiesel. It is a difficult read because of the subject matter even though it is not a long book…just 115 powerful pages. I think it should be required reading for every high school student.

Of course, my favorite children’s books would be The Button Box, Which Came First?, and the soon to be released, The Day the Turkey Came to School. For those of you who are waiting for the new book, it should be out in early September!

I hope you will find a few moments to read on this day to celebrate book lovers and reading and books. I wonder where I put my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird?

Author’s note: I’d love to hear your favorite book titles!

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