How To . . . Get Lost

When my dad turned 75, he went skydiving. He loved it so much that he decided to celebrate his 80th birthday the same way, deliberately jumping from a small plane 12,000 feet in the air. But this time, his preferred tandem partner, Peter, was in Puerto Rico that month. So dad went to Puerto Rico on his birthday to skydive with Peter. Dad doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish. He had reserved a motel room — the cheapest one he could find — on the internet. When he arrived in San Juan, he discovered that the motel was an hour’s drive outside of town. So he set off in his rental car through the mad, rush hour traffic of the city, lost much of the time, arriving well past dark.

The jump was scheduled for the next day at 10:00 in the morning. Dad left the motel early, sketchy directions in hand, and set out to find Peter and the plane.  After a very long drive down a lonely road, he began to believe he was lost, so he stopped at a rundown gas station and, using sign language and good humor, managed to learn where the road to the airport was. It turned out to be a dirt road, which stretched on for miles and miles into the wilderness of the island. He saw no sign of civilized life, just vast expanses of brown. It was 10:00. Then, just ahead on the right, he spied a small metal hangar and a short, packed-dirt runway. And Peter, waving a welcoming bandana. Dad loved his second jump even more than the first, perhaps because he willingly surrendered to the adventure of it all. He consented to get lost. Continue reading

Counseling for Beginners


“You’re doing what?” Chad asked.

“Counseling,” I repeated. “I’ve always wanted to go.”

Plus, at the price of “free,” why not? In the month between the first year of grad school and the start of my internship in Omaha, I had some flexibility in my schedule, and I decided to finally take the plunge and sign up for the university’s free counseling sessions. Growing up, I had seen first-hand how much counseling had helped one of my sisters and wanted to have a sounding board for my fears and frustrations. I felt a bit guilty taking up a spot that could go to someone in desperate need, but with it being spring term and fewer students on-campus requesting the service, I figured it was as good a time as any to start. Continue reading

Peculiar Treasures: Words, Coils, Wholes and Hearts


What’s in a word: A podcast on how our expectations change everything around us, a linguist considers the friction in daughter-mother conversations, and fourteen gorgeous untranslatable words from other languages, including my favourite, “gufra (arabic): the amount of water that can be held in a hand”.

This mortal coil: An exploration of the myth of “after” losing weight (there is one expletive in this post), a blind mother to be gets to see her unborn baby, some fun hand clapping games and the plans to finally get photos of Pluto’s shy little moons.

Being part of a whole: How a company’s search for oil cascaded into disaster one little decision at a time, the exclusive club Sheryl Sandberg (and millions of other women) finds herself in, how to stay Mormon when you’re tired of Mormons, and just how many possessions do you have?

Gladden the heart: on why old buildings matter, and a couple sees how they will look in 30, 50 and 70 years… a month before their wedding. (The way the man says “hello” to his fiancé every single time is incredible!)

This week’s First Draft Poetry is by Sandra, in response to the untranslatable words link:

sometimes you can’t quite

say what you might

words can’t reveal

what pictures can’t conceal

only art translates just right

What words do you wish existed? Have any First Draft Poetry to share? Have a great week!

2014 Whitneys: Speculative Fiction and Final Favorites

May has got me turned upside down and every which way, between recitals and plays and concerts and planning for the summer looming ahead before me, including my daughter’s Much Ado About Nothing in just a few short hours. Because of this, I’m going to condense two posts (Speculative Fiction and Final 2014 Favorites) into one. And, um, condense them further with Very Short Reviews. Here goes:

Speculative Fiction:
accidental apprenticeThe Accidental Apprentice: Rezdin the brilliant wizard becomes involved with intrigue between his own kingdom and master, Baron von Dappenshien, and his master’s political enemies who seek to penetrate a magic-proof zone. Along the way he takes on a new apprentice (hence the title). There were parts of this book I liked–I’m always up for a good fantasy, and I enjoyed the dynamic between Rezdin and his wizardly associate. The multiple points of view did feel jarring to me, and the title led me to expect more of an emphasis on the apprenticeship, which didn’t seem to be the main focus of the story.

Nameless: The Darkness Comes:
namelessLuna Masterson sees demons, and has her entire life, but she tries to avoid them if at all possible. When a demon endangers the niece she loves, and she becomes marked prey, she has to engage with an angel-haunter heroin addict and demons from her own past. I liked Luna’s voice in Nameless, and I liked the resonance of being haunted by demons who also channel Luna’s personal demons. Like the Accidental Apprentice it read more YA than adult speculative for me.

This Darkness Light:
darkThis is the story of John, who wakes up with no memory of who he is, but with the knowledge that he must save the world. He’s accompanied by Serafina, a compassionate nurse who saves his life, and hunted by Isaiah, a hired killer who has been blackmailed by Mr. Dominic–the personification of evil–into taking on this job. Along the way, death happens. Lots of death. Also monsters. I must tell you I am not typically a reader of horror, and it was hard for me to get through this book because I’m just not that into graphic mayhem. The end is redemptive, kind of, and I can respect the craftsmanship of this book without enjoying it personally.

Pretty Little Dead Girls:
deadBryony should have died, many times. Everyone who sees her knows she’s marked for death, and yet she manages to survive much more than you would think possible, given the fact that she looks like the sort of girl who gets murdered. As the title hints, this is a quirky, dark, whimsical book, that foretells disaster and yet somehow manages to deliver joy.

Words of Radiance:
radianceHow to condense over a thousand pages into a paragraph? In Words of Radiance, readers of The Way Of Kings go deeper into the world and characters Sanderson introduced us to: Kaladin, whose honorableness and powers get tested further; Shallan, whose powers of truth-telling deception develop as we come to know her terrible secrets; and Adolin, Shallan’s betrothed, who takes on the task of winning shardblades so his father can save the world from the coming terror. It’s fantastic stuff. With some speculative fiction books, I feel like the world is just smoke and mirrors: if I dig beneath the surface of the magic system, there’s nothing there. But with Sanderson, I know that’s not true. Everything he hints at now will be realized one day, every plot thread will be resolved. As a reader, I trust his books, and I can’t wait for the next installment.

And now (drumroll) Segullah’s 2014 Whitney Final Favorites: Continue reading

How To: Trail Ride

horse-free-wallpapers_w520Forgive me if you are tired of horse posts. I’m knee deep in a training program to become a therapeutic riding instructor, and besides my kids and my calling, horses are pretty much all I think about these days. As soon as I pass my test next month (or fail–could go either way) I might be able to live and breathe something else. For now, here is yet another lesson I’ve learned from the horses.

At the barn where I student teach, there are 3 places where a rider could have a lesson: The indoor arena, the outdoor arena, or on a trail ride.

The indoor arena is just what you think it is, a completely enclosed space where distractions are minimum, and, if every door and window is closed, completely cut off from the outside. This kind of space is helpful for a lot of reasons. First, it allows the barn to have lessons even in inclement weather—rain or shine, we can move forward (I would say snow, too, but Virginia is notoriously wussy when it comes to snow, so we don’t ask riders to come to the barn if it’s snowing. The horses still hang out in the dry indoor arena, though.).

Second, this space is one of the safest spaces to have a lesson. There are few distractions for the horses and the riders, which means less chance of a horse spooking and a rider taking a spill. One of the instructors there has a saying—people tend to overestimate a horse’s intelligence and underestimate a horse’s fear. People tend to think of horses like dogs–indeed, just recently I saw a person try to discipline a horse like a dog. He got right in the horse’s face, made eye contact, and said, “NO! NO!”, like you would say to a bad dog. Continue reading