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A Whole New World, In the Old World

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In January, our daughter went off to do a full semester of study abroad in London, England.  It was hard leaving her at the airport and waiting to hear from her when she finally landed on the other side of the pond.  But today’s technology made her physical absence easier to handle.  We used WhatsApp for texting and Skype to talk face-to-face.  And it was great hearing about the places she went.

Then, we came into a little more money than we were expecting and my wife and I actually got to travel to England in April.  We never dreamed we would ever be able to have such a wonderful experience.  We saw the things we had only heard about:  Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the River Thames, etc.  We even got to spend a couple of days in Dublin.  It was exciting to see places that have existed for 800 years or more.  And yet, it was all so new to us.

Even so, that was not the wonderful experience we had.  That came in watching our 20-year-old daughter guide us through one of the largest cities in the world as if she had always lived there.  She had only been in London for about three months, but we followed her lead at every step.  Our little girl was now a woman.  It was a whole new world for us, and it all took place in the old world of Europe.

To say the least, traveling in London City is confusing.  There was one bus stop after another with sometimes three double decker buses lined up.  We not only had to find the correct bus number, but also the correct stop to be at to catch that bus.  The underground, or The Tube, was often a maze of tunnels that led to who knows where.

And we had to stay out of the way.  Native Londoners walk fast, when they are not running.  I’m sure we were called bloody Americans more than once, but that’s okay.  We hardly noticed.  Our attention was on our daughter who was tracking our route through meandering underground tunnels and winding city streets that were crowded with pedestrians, little cars zipping along, bicycles, red buses, and black cabs.  We were amazed and proud of how our daughter had adapted and conquered this new, old place all on her own.  Not only had she mastered London, she also travelled to several destinations in Europe (France, Norway, Germany, Italy, Greece, and other countries), sometimes alone.  We have no doubt she can conquer any place she desires, new world or old.

So I take my hat off to her.  All I can do is hope I can guide you through my stories as well as she led us through the streets of London.

 

 

The Right Path

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Sometimes I wonder if I’m on the right path.

There are lots of different paths I follow, most of the time simultaneously.  I have my family path, my career path, my path to retirement, my spiritual path, etc.  Sometimes these paths cross; sometimes they run in parallel; sometimes in opposite directions.  How do I know if I’m not only on the right path at the right time, or going in the right direction even if I’m on the right path?  Right or wrong, I suppose I’m always moving, and most of the time I don’t know if I’m moving in the right direction until that specific journey is over (or nearly over).

For instance, yesterday I followed my political path.  I voted.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I don’t think it can be said too many times.  Voting is so important.  It may not seem like it, but it is.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t vote for the person who wins the election.  What matters is that you speak your mind when you vote.  It doesn’t matter if you think no one hears you.  Your vote counts, even in the electoral system that we have.

Voting is not a selfish thing; or it shouldn’t be.  When election day nears, I try to keep in mind some of the great things that have been spoken in the past.  Like when John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”  Too often, all we do is think about ourselves.  We ask, “Well, what am I getting for my tax dollars?”  Or, “How is my tax dollars benefiting me?”  Often it is, “What do I get out of this?”  Instead, we should be asking, “How can my tax dollars benefit my country?”  We need to support people who want to do what is best for our country, even if it is not what is best for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can be as selfish and self-serving as the next person.  I believe people who are truly selfless are few and far between.  When I vote for someone, I try to pick the person who is the least selfish of the bunch AND can get the most accomplished for the country.  If a candidate is someone that can get a lot accomplished, will that candidate get the most accomplished for the country as a whole or for just a privileged few or, even worse, just for the candidate.  It’s getting more and more difficult to make that choice these days.  It takes a lot of research to make that choice.  That means taking the time to learn more about candidates than what they say about themselves or about each other.  Self-praise means nothing.  Bashing the opposing candidate means nothing.  Not only researching the facts is important, but also believing what you find.  Too many times, people will not believe the facts, only the perceptions.

I’m not going to say who I voted for in the presidential race (or any other).  I’m still not going to endorse a specific candidate.  However, I believe I would be on the right path if I did.  We enjoy freedom of speech in this country, and I am free to voice my opinion.  Of course, I have to accept the consequences if I do voice my opinion.  You are not forced to agree with, or listen to, my opinion.  You don’t even have to respect my opinion.  However, you do not have the right to censure my opinion just because you don’t agree with it.  Nor can I censure you opinion.

That right is guaranteed in our Constitution.  Along with all the other rights.  You may not respect my opinion, but you have to respect my right to voice that opinion.  In the same way, you have to respect my right to own a gun, my right to worship God in the way I so choose, my right to privacy within my home, my right to life, liberty, and due process of law, my right to a just defense and a speedy trial if accused of a crime, and every other right afforded to me by our Constitution regardless of my race, color, or creed.  You must respect my rights as a citizen of the United States of America regardless of my sex, my gender, or even my gender identification.  I am an individual and I am a human being.  I have rights, and you will respect them as long as they are within the confines of the law.  You don’t get to cherry-pick which rights to respect.  You either respect every right, or you respect none of them.  It is all or nothing.

I take issue with people who call themselves “patriots”, but they choose to respect only certain rights, only the rights they agree with or only when those rights pertain to them.  You are not a patriot if you do not respect all rights for all people.  You are just a selfish, self-serving, petty person if you only care about your rights and no one else’s.  Don’t sully the word “patriot” by belittling the people who fought and died for all of our freedoms listed in our Bill of Rights.

I apologize for the soap-box moment.  I’m far from being perfect.  When people say we need to take back our country then I agree; just not in the same way they usually mean.  Who are we taking our country back from?  Greedy politicians?  I’m all for that.  From people who are not white?  Definitely NOT.  (I can say that.  I’m a pasty-white male from the South!)

All I can do is to caution everyone to make sure the path you are on doesn’t lead to a place you can’t get out of.  You may come to regret it.

Pitfalls: Part 2

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In the Lions and Lambs Saga, Jacob Trimble emerges as a leader in a post-apocalyptic world where all survivors are no older than twenty years old.  In fact, he is only fifteen when the world he knows comes to an end.  He doesn’t know how to handle the situation, so he has to make up a plan of action as he goes.

Over time, Jacob hits pitfalls similar to the ones I described in my previous post.  He is afraid, angry, and resentful.  He encounters these same emotions in the people he is trying to lead.  Fear and anger turn into hatred in some and it infects other people like a disease.  All he can do is react.

And his reactions result in people dying.  It is a tough lesson to learn, but he must learn from it in order to lead more effectively.

So Jacob becomes more and more proactive.  He starts feeling better about his ability to govern his small community.  People like him — and he likes being liked.  They trust him — he begins to think he can handle just about anything.  Until strangers show up and threaten to destroy what he has built.

Even so, Jacob still believes he can handle this new boy who calls himself the Marauder and the gang who follows him.  This leads to a new pitfall:  arrogance.  Little does he know that the situation will again lead to chaos and more death; this time to someone he loves.  Jacob does figure out how to deal with this threat, but at a great price.

Jacob Trimble is a human being with many flaws.  He learns from his mistakes, but that doesn’t keep him from making new ones.  Pitfalls line the road of his life.  No matter how hard he tries, he can’t avoid them all.

In the third book of the series, A War of Lions and Lambs, Jacob becomes even more vigilant, taking total control over the life of the community.  He becomes hard and cold, but that doesn’t help him with the next pit that is as wide as the road he travels.  Jacob finds out how easy it is to allow fear and hatred creep into his life.

I hope to have this third book finished by the end of this year.  The first two books can be found at the following:

A Gathering of Lions and Lambs at Amazon
A Reckoning of Lions and Lambs at Amazon

A Gathering of Lions and Lambs at Smashwords
A Reckoning of Lions and Lambs at Smashwords

The books are also available at Barnes & Noble and Apple iStore.

 

 

 

 

Pitfalls

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It is Easter Sunday!

As I mentioned before, I am a Christian and Easter is like the Super Bowl of the Christian year.  It is a reminder of many things, but I like to reflect on how we are supposed to relate our faith to life in general.  I can’t help but be disturbed by the trend of blending religion and politics.  I believe the writers of the Constitution warned us about keeping religion and the state separated.  I believe government should stay out of religion and religion should stay out of government.

Now that doesn’t mean government employees should ignore their faith, whatever that faith is, but I don’t like it when politicians use religion to justify what they want to do as public officials.  I know that is not what this country’s founders intended, and I know that is not what Christianity is about.  Followers of Christ are to love God, love their neighbors, and love their enemies.  That’s right; love, not hate.  We can defend ourselves and others without abandoning the love we have pledged to feel for others, even our enemies.  We are not to attack others out of fear or hatred.  We can defend against injustice without being unjust.  Unfortunately, today’s politicians try to get votes by playing off our fears and want us to act out hatred.  Don’t be fooled by these people.  They are not following the teachings of Christ.

Many evil things have been done throughout history in the name of religion.  The extreme terrorists are doing it in the name of Islam.  Our politicians are doing it in the name of Christianity.  The degree of wrongness may be different, but they are still both wrong.  We have to stand up and let the politicians know this is not what we want.  If we say nothing, we will get nothing.  If we stand with evil, we will get evil.  If we live and lead by love, we will get love.

Yes, I sound like I’m preaching, but I do believe this.  Love is more powerful than hate.  It always has been and always will be.  The politicians who preach hate believe love is weakness.  That is the pitfall they have fallen into.  Let’s not join them there.

I think it is the other way around.  Love is strength.

 

Political Pop Stars

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I’m back again.

I think I’ve said this before and you’ve probably noticed:  I like to observe people.  One thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to do a lot of the same stuff most of the time.  We call it our “Routine”.  I definitely have my weekday routine.  I get flustered if something interrupts it because then I can’t rely on my body to go through the motions of getting through the day without having to think about it too much.

Maybe that’s why this year’s presidential campaign is so interesting.  We have had so many politicians going through the same tired routine of campaigning that we only half listen to what they say because they have all said it before.  John McCain tried to mix it up some by enlisting Sarah Palin.  She made it interesting for a short time until we all figured out that she really didn’t know much about anything that mattered.  This time around there are certainly some interesting characters.

The Republican side has more than its fair share.  You know the ones I mean.  I’m glad these candidates are shaking things up, but that side of the political stage disturbs me.  The top polling candidates are determined to get attention by shouting over each other.  It feels like the campaign has become an episode of Survivor.  We can’t wait to find out who gets voted off the island next.  Maybe it’s because there is a “reality” show pop star in the mix.  He has brought “reality” show drama into mainstream politics.  I find it sad because people are responding to it.

And the candidates who want to ignore the parts of the constitution that guarantee human rights are being thrust forward by these same people.  The Republicans proclaim that our freedoms are in jeopardy, but some of them are endangering our freedom of speech and freedom of religion put forth by the constitution.  I am a Christian, but the last thing I want is for Christianity to become the “state” religion.  If we squash the rights of people who follow a different religion then how long will it be before the government decides to dictate what Christians can and cannot believe.  That’s scary.  Please, let’s not do that to ourselves.

Then there is the Democrat side.  We have a moderate candidate who isn’t doing as well as everyone thought because she is boring.  The other choice is so much more colorful and fun to watch.  It doesn’t matter that he goes to the opposite extreme of the spectrum.  He’s entertaining.  We fear extremists when it comes to terrorism.  Why don’t we fear extremist political pop stars?

(Insert sigh here.)

I’m not going to back any particular candidate in this post.  Whoever I vote for is my business.  I have the right to vote the way I want.  I have the right to vote privately.  I hope I get to keep those rights if the wrong person is elected to office.

Gone and Forgotten? I Hope Not!

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First, let me apologize for waiting so long in adding a new post to my blog.  I believe a blog should be kept active once it is started.  If it is neglected, then take it down.  I’ve been neglectful, and I’m sorry.

I’ve not done a lot of writing in the past few months.  I’m still working on the third installment of the Lions and Lamb Saga entitled A War of Lions and Lambs.  I have most of the story staged in my mind and I’m excited to get it written.  I’ve been busy, and I haven’t felt well.  I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia several months ago.  I tried a few different medications that either do nothing, or they numb my brain more than my pain.  My doctor hasn’t found a combination that really works yet, so I’m trying to stay active (physically and mentally) in order to stay on top of everything.  I’m not trying to garner sympathy. I don’t feel unjustly afflicted by a partially debilitating disease.  It is what it is. Like everything else in life, it is merely a part of the journey.

With that being said, I did write some last night — and it felt good.  As the words appear on the computer screen, I forget about the nagging aches in my wrists and shoulders.  I lose myself in the lives of my characters.  I suppose it is a little like therapy.  I can inflict my pain on them without causing anyone any real harm.  I can work out issues through them.  Even though each character is different, every one of them is me to a degree.  I draw on the personalities and traits of people I know and meet along the way to help create these characters, but in doing so, I see the same traits in myself.  This gives me a connection to all the people in my life.  By understanding my character’s loves and fears and failures and triumphs, then I better understand the people around me — and myself — better.

There are so many stories waiting to be told, so many characters to choose from.  I hope to allow myself more time to write them all down in a way that is memorable.  That is my goal.

Is the World Broken?

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I’ve been upset this week, and I haven’t been able to figure out why until today.  I live on the edge of a metropolitan area and have to wind my way towards downtown each weekday to my job.  Not far from my house is an elementary school.  The school zone speed limit when the little yellow light is blinking is 15 mph.  That’s okay.  I have no problem with that.  And it’s nice to see other people respecting that law.

For years, someone (either a local police officer or a school official) has been on the street directing traffic.  I didn’t like that because I thought it was unnecessary.  Except for people dropping off or picking up their kids, there wasn’t much other traffic.  Surely people were smart enough not to crash into each other or do donuts in the school parking lot.

Then it happened.  For the last three months, no one has been directing traffic.  We drivers were left to our own devices to keep the cars and SUVs moving in a safe and orderly fashion.  And it worked!  For a while.

After a couple of months, some people decided it was necessary to speed things along.  They began using two lanes instead of one to exit the school parking lot in the same direction, with two cars trying to turn onto a single lane street.  Obviously they thought if they passed up three whole cars and cut in front of a fourth then they would get to their destination so much faster.  There were no accidents.  I witnessed no unruly behavior.  I’m sure some people got irritated by these people’s actions, but nothing bad happened.

But it bothered me.  When our youngest daughter was in the third grade (a different school in a different town than where we now live), a boy riding a bicycle was accidently hit by a school bus turning into the school parking lot and was killed.  It was horrible.  The bus driver was not at fault.  The kid didn’t slow down at the entrance and didn’t look to see if anyone was coming.  It made everyone aware of how easy it is to end the life of a child.

A county police car began sitting near the entrance of the school parking lot that I now pass every weekday.  The officer does not direct traffic, but just being present makes a difference in all the drivers’ behavior.  I find that sad.  Why should we have to rely on a police officer to keep people from being jerks?  These are parents dropping off their children.  Do they not see how fragile they are?  Why does it have to take a horrible accident that takes the life of a child to make people do what they should be doing in the first place?

I heard someone say recently that the world is broken.  Well, if it is then we are the ones who broke it.  And we’re the only ones that can fix it.  We just have to be willing to do 15 mph in a school zone when that little yellow light is blinking.