Rise Above It All

Up! Up! And Away!

Have you ever wanted to just get up in the air, away from all the clutter, and see the big picture?

One item on my personal “bucket list” is a ride in a hot-air balloon. I’ll need to be a paying passenger: balloon pilots are not among my friends.

Now which one looks the best? The hippo has a certain charm. Then again, the bees on the honeycomb make a statement. Fierce like the dragon? Perhaps the goose laying the golden egg. A mushroom? Snowman? Pig or sheep?

Any one, with the right pilot and weather conditions, would help you “rise above it all” for a brief time.

Until then — I’ll enjoy the puzzle.

Memorable Fiction

Did you read my blog entry for January 7? That was last Friday, in case you tend to lose track of time like I do.

If you did, you learned my most memorable non-fiction read of 2021 was a Civil War trilogy.

My fiction reads are more numerous than non-fiction — which makes selection of “most memorable” more difficult. So I’m going to mention two. They are both romance. (No surprise to those who know me.) And both happen to be written by women of color. I suppose this can be traced to a conscious effort to read more books by people who are not part of my demographic.

Basketball and knitting (actually running a knitting supply shop brothers have inherited) may not look connected. But the characters are intriguing and the plot kept me turning pages. And that little deflated feeling common to the end of a good book made each of them memorable 2021 reads.

I wonder what 2022 will bring. Have you started a new book for the New Year?

Age Unknown

Once upon a time, a tree sprouted in St. Louis County. The plant grew, and grew. Through the years it hosted birds and squirrels. Shade provided relief from summer heat to rabbits, chipmunks, and other creatures. Through the years it stretched upward. Spread branches in an enlarging circle.

And then…

Branches turned dry and brittle. Needles changed from green to brown. Less and less wind became necessary for an impromptu prune.

Experts arrived. Hydraulic arms lifted a man up high. A chainsaw whirred.

After the sawdust settled and the wooden corpse was hauled away, this remains. How many years did the pine tree live? No rings. The ruler in the photo is twelve inches — so my guess is a multiple of the twenty years I lived across a narrow walkway.

If this were an animated movie — Ms. Squirrel could gather the neighbors and regal them with a “stump” speech.

Memorable Non-Fiction

According to my reading record on a popular website, I completed 80 books in 2021.

Wow! A surprise even to me. I guess that habit of always having a book in progress adds up. Since the year is new — I’ll try to say a few words about favorites from 2021 reading.

In the non-fiction category — I’ll select Shelby Foote’s three volume set of The Civil War.

Even though I’ve read other books about the United States’ civil war, fiction and non-fiction, I learned a lot in these three volumes. Starting with profiles of Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln until Davis’ death, in December 1889, the events of these tumultuous are put into context. I gained a new appreciation and understanding of the multiple fronts, army movements, and political battles often taking place at the same time in different regions.

Definitely a reference resource I’ll keep within reach. Certainly the most memorable non-fiction read in 2021.

Learning Limits

Have you made and kept a New Years resolution for 2022?

Have you set one or more goals?

The experts (I have no idea how you get to be an expert in these sorts of things.) counsel a person to set goals that are attainable. That’s right — if it’s impossible and you know it — don’t bother to claim it as a goal. You’re only setting yourself up to fail.

Not sure about you — but I don’t need to go looking for more failure.

Sometimes, a person doesn’t realize the goal is unattainable — you know, you think you can, you give it your best effort, and …ooops. Flat on your face.

Like thousands of other people — I reconnected with assembling jigsaw puzzles during the pandemic.

Most of them have worked out fine. More pieces usually means more days to complete. My table is 19″ wide so I’ve learned to check dimensions before starting. However, this one was a puzzle too far — or too dark. After just over two weeks of working during TV news, football games, and drama re-runs, I decided to let the puzzle win. It came from the library and they always include a slip of paper asking if pieces are missing. I’m sure I don’t know — perhaps the next patron will be more patient, or have better eyesight.

Have I learned a lesson? Well, the next puzzle I assembled had bright colors.

When setting goals — ask — Can I actually do this? I’d hate to see all your plans turn into a “puzzle too far.”

2021 — The Year That Was…

Farewell, 2021! Here’s hoping the New Year brings improvement for each and every one of my readers!

(No reason to waste a good imitation of a grave in my front yard. Sort of a summary of the year. [Actual reason for mound of dirt was repair of a water main break.] Yes, I expect some of you can imagine items other than large diameter PVC pipe below the turned earth.)

So I say to fellow- writers: Turn the imagination loose and write the story that goes with the photo.

Readers: Try something new in 2022 — a new genre, a new author, a new format.

More than One Day!

Happy Holidays!!!

Yes, more than one. Christmas Day 2021 is in the rear-view mirror as this post goes “live”. But the celebration does not need to end. New Years is only a few days away. Friends and relatives still have birthdays — birthday cake among the cookies & candy?

Long ago, when I was a child, the days between Christmas and New Years were busy. All the normal chores. New toys, games, and gadgets to try. People to visit while they still had their tree up — everyone I knew used a real tree and they had a limited life span.

So draw a deep breath. Pull courage up from your toes. And keep the holiday spirit in your heart for days — and weeks — to come.

Frosty peeks around the tree to greet you and wish you Happy Holidays. He’s smiling because: a) he has a cardinal on his hat? b) the presents are for him? c) 2021 is drawing to a close?

Holiday Wishes

May your Christmas Holiday be Bright and Merry.

Wishing your gifts include books — small ones, large ones, funny ones, serious ones, those filled with pictures and pages and pages of words arranged in new and interesting ways.

Light, Please!

Today, in the Northern Hemisphere, is the shortest day of the year.

Well, the actual day still has 24 hours, or 1440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds — however, the hours of daylight (between official sunrise and sunset) are the least they will be until the next winter solstice.

So I say “Hurrah” for the people who: captured fire and started to use the light, candle and lamp inventors, electric light inventors, and all the clever people who distribute and supply artificial light.

When I was a child, I lived far enough north, that it was common to go to work in the dark and return home in the dark for several weeks. One of my relatives spent a few years even farther north — where daylight lasted two or three hours at this time of year.

On the flip side — this might be a great day to visit any of the great stone circles in England or other solar calendars left for us by prior civilizations.

As for me? I’ll flip on the electric light, ignore the outside world after sunset, and snuggle deep under the covers tonight.

Why Romance?

“My name is Ellen Parker and I write romance.” This is how I started a short presentation at a library event a few years ago.

Romance? People wave it off as insignificant. Or they titter behind their hands.

I ask you to wait a minute. Have you thought about the definition — yes, popular fiction genres do have definitions and readers have expectations when they see the labels.

Romance (in my definition) is a piece of fiction with a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending of “Happily Ever After” or “Happy For Now”.

A radio announcer once described the genre as “optimistic”. I considered his words a compliment.

Perhaps the world needs a little optimism. Within a romance, the path to the happy ending is not smooth. A well-written story presents characters with problems, (sometimes of their own making) living in the real world (or a historical world, or a future world, or a paranormal world) and presents one way the challenge is met and conquered.

Skeptical? Try one before you knock it.

This trio is set in small-town Wisconsin and keeps the bedroom door closed.

Check out the back cover copy by clicking on the title tab at the top of the page.

Happy reading in 2022!