Sunday, June 9, 2013

Abolish the IRS

On one hand The Battle for the Book of Good Deeds is an action/adventure/fantasy for readers age 8 to 12, but on a deeper level it’s a commentary -- and a warning -- for adults about the dangerous path our nation has chosen.

Our book is a fictional adventure laced with historical facts that has proven to be eerily prophetic.  In a scene (page 47) that could have been ripped from current headlines, non-profit organizations are targeted with government audits that require years of back records.  Those many charities failing the strenuous tests are closed.  Sounds like the news about the IRS targeting conservative groups, doesn’t it?

We commend Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for taking a firm stand on this issue.  Here’s his video -- short, factual and straight to the point.  We hope you’ll join us in signing his petition to abolish the IRS and replace it with a fair and simple tax code.  Click here to sign the petition.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chickens for Christmas

Grandma and Grandad never had much money, even by rural Oklahoma standards, but they had enough.  Their bills were always paid and paid on time. Their tiny home was neat and clean.  I remember Grandad’s meticulous garden.  The rows were perfectly straight, with Grandma’s bright zinnias blooming across the front.  A cool, dark closet in the bedroom was stocked full of home canned corn, beans and other vegetables, and beneath the straw on the dirt floor in one of the outbuildings, potatoes would last through the winter. 

At Christmas the family would gather around the wood stove that practically filled their small living room, leaving no room for a Christmas tree.  Every year Grandad would cut a cedar from his 60-acre property and put it in the bedroom.

Gifts they gave were practical and appreciated.  One time my cousins and I each received a pint jar filled with wheat and lead pennies they had saved during the 1940s.   (I still have mine.) Another year they had a beef butchered, processed and frozen then divided it among their three children’s families (my mother, my aunt and my uncle).

During the gift exchange one year, Grandma and Grandad  slipped away from the festivities.  Strange rustling sounds came from the bedroom.  A cold draft whipped though the house.  What was going on?  Was something wrong?  In a few moments Grandma and Grandad emerged from the bedroom carrying chicken coops and gave them to me and my two cousins.  Inside each was a Bantam rooster and two hens!

They had hidden the coops behind the bed and Grandad had gone out to the henhouse, gathered the chickens and handed them in through an open window to Grandma, who put them in the coops Grandad had made.  They had purchased the colorful miniature fowl from a neighbor.

What fun I had for many, many years with those chickens and their descendants!  And what valuable lessons I learned from watching the roosters care for their hens and the hens care for their chicks.  Banties are such affectionate and smart creatures.  I trained some of the roosters to do tricks – one would even play dead.

You might call this the “gift that kept on giving.”  By the end of that next summer, we had over 30 chickens!  Without a doubt, this was one of the best Christmas presents ever! 

Janet's maternal grandparents, Claud and Minta Englert.
Just a couple notes:

“Grandad” is not a misspelling.  He simply never saw the need for an additional “d” like most “Granddads” use in their name.

The World War I ring pictured on the back cover of our book, The Battle for the Book of Good Deeds, belonged to Grandad.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Thank You, Minneola!

Our thanks to Mary Kay McGuire, Director of the Minneola Schoolhouse Libary, the Friends of the Minneola Library and a very special note of appreciation to all of you who came out on this rainy Florida morning to attend the Book Talk! It was a full house.  (A "full house" at this restored 1885 schoolhouse being about a dozen.)  We hope everyone enjoyed themselves as much as we did.  Once again, thank you!  And don't forget the Local Authors' Showcase next Saturday, the 15th, at the Leesburg Public Library.  For more information on the Showcase, please click the EVENTS tab.

Though he is only a minor character in the book, this little fellow was a major participant today at the Minneola Library Book Talk.

In our story, he doesn't have a name, so for personal appearances he goes by "F.S." for, that's right, "Flying Squirrel."
(The creator of this marvelously realistic puppet is Folkmanis.)

Michael with Timmy the pigeon and Silas the owl.

Janet, ready for the Book Talk, at the Minneola Schoolhouse Library.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What would Ben Franklin do?

As Michael and I work on the sequel to The Battle for the Book of Good Deeds, we’re researching the lives of our nation’s Founding Fathers.  We’re also preparing for a couple upcoming book events at local libraries and loaded pictures into a new digital photo frame to display a slide show of our Walker adventures.  As these two activities intersected I felt a weight of responsibility descend onto my shoulders.  What would Ben Franklin and others, such as Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, and Thomas Paine do in today’s circumstances with all the wonderful technology and communication devices we have at our fingertips?  Even though I have less computer expertise than an average 8 to 12 year old, I hope I will handle these blessings of liberty and technology wisely.  How about you?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Commemorating 9/11 the RIGHT Way

Gordon Dawson, our dear friend and mentor to whom our book is dedicated, posted the following message on his Facebook page on September 8th:

"Due to "lack of room", NYC Police Officers, Port Authority Police Officers and FDNY Firefighters are not "invited" to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero.  Funny -they weren't invited on that day in 2001, either -they just "showed up" and became our heroes.  Please re-post if you think they belong MORE than the politicians who are invited"

We, along with Gordon and legions of partiotic Americans, were outraged!

One of those outraged was Glenn Beck. During the premiere of his new program on the GBTV network yesterday September 12th, he presented a moving tribute commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11. His special guests included First Responders and clergymen (who were also EXCLUDED from the official ceremonies). Thank you, Glenn! You got it RIGHT!

This entire program can be viewed on demand at GBTV. A 14-day free trial subscription is currently being offered. We signed up in June when the new network was first announced and couldn’t be happier with what we have seen so far.

Michael and I believe Glenn’s new endeavors will create a legacy reminiscent of Walt Disney’s in its far-reaching and enduring influence. Pay no attention to any naysayers. Remember, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was once called “Disney’s Folly.”

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Kindness of a Cowboy ------------ My Connection to Will Rogers

Boqué McSpadden’s famous uncle, Will Rogers
(Photo courtesy of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum)

A song written by Sharon Vaughn and made famous by Willie Nelson begins, “My heroes have always been cowboys.”  For me, that line is certainly true.  From the time I cut my teeth on the silver bullet of a masked Texas Ranger of the Old West until Michael and I wrote about a modern-day Texas Ranger, I have always held, and continue to hold, cowboys in the highest esteem.

While the TV cowboys from that golden era of the Western influenced me greatly, there came a time in my life when I desperately needed more than a fictional hero.  I needed a true friend.

I think Junior High, now called Middle School, is an awkward time for most kids, but for me it was more than awkward; it was AWFUL.  I wore corrective shoes -- those hideous black and white saddle oxfords that were jeeringly referred to as “clod-hoppers.”  During the national physical fitness tests in the sixties, the school principal told me I should be ashamed for taking so long to run the course, even though each step of the race was painful.   My overbite was so bad I could not close my lips over my buck teeth.  One of my grandmothers repeatedly told me the braces made my teeth look rotten.  The icing on the cake was a case of acne so severe kids would not sit next to me on the bus and one teacher even tried to send me home from school insisting I had chicken pox.

Then into my life rode a real live cowboy hero.  His name was Boqué McSpadden and he became my friend.  Well, he didn’t exactly ride in.  He actually drove.  He owned a big ivory-colored Ford Galaxie with a horn that didn’t honk, but bellowed like a Brahma bull.

Boqué was a nephew of Will Rogers and worked with my father at the Veterans Administration Regional Office in Muskogee, Oklahoma.  His real name was Maurice Rogers McSpadden, but he always went by “Boqué.”  I never asked him how he got the nickname or what it meant.

When I met Boqué around 1966 he was nearing retirement.  He and his wife lived in a residential neighborhood in Muskogee, but how he looked forward to the day when he could leave the desk job behind and move to his ranch at Chelsea, Oklahoma.

Boqué spent a lot of precious time with me.  He bought me a lariat and taught me to rope a bale of hay.  His Christmas gift to me was a beautiful leather halter and lead strap fit for a show horse, though my mount was only a cow pony.  We would sit for hours in his study and he’d tell me of the early days when he worked on the Tecolote Ranch in California.  He said “tecolote” meant “little ground owl” in Spanish and he showed me his spurs with ornate silver owl heads on them.  (Suppose that’s where the silver owl head adorning the cover of The Book of Good Deeds might have come from? ;-)  He loved Western art and told me about the artist Charles M. Russell.  A Russell print he gave me hangs in our foyer today.  And he gave me books, LOTS of books, about the West.  He took Mama, Daddy and me to the roundup at his ranch and to the Woolaroc Museum in Bartlesville.

Of course, he shared memories of his famous uncle. Through Boqué I almost felt as if I had known Will Rogers.  When Mama, Daddy and I went with him to the Will Rogers Memorial, Boqué took us into the back rooms and we saw things only a privileged few were allowed to view.

“Ghost Riders in the Sky” was Boqué’s favorite song.  He said whoever wrote it truly understood the heart of a cowboy.  Mama bought the sheet music and I tried to play it for him on my accordion.  I played terribly, but Boqué applauded anyway.

In his whole life, Boqué had never gone fishin’.  There was a pond on his ranch and he thought he might give it a try after he retired so I bought him a rod and Zebco spinning reel. We went down to the pond in our pasture one day so I could show him how to cast, but Boqué didn’t seem to be quite himself.  He suggested we drive his Ford the mere quarter mile instead of walking.  As so many people did then before the dangers of tobacco were fully known, Boqué smoked.  Soon we learned he had lung cancer and it was in the advanced stages.

The Lord called Boqué home on April 25, 1968.  He never got to retire or move to his ranch.  He did, however, go fishing one more time.  I miss him still and will be forever grateful for the good deeds he unselfishly showered on me.

In tribute to Boqué, Michael and I named the kindly Western novelist in our “Code of the West” episode of Walker, Texas Ranger “Judge McSpadden.”

I have kept this print titled “Reflections” by
Keith Avery since the late 1960s when I tore
it from a Western Horseman calendar
because it reminded me of Boqué McSpadden
and his favorite song “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”

Sadly, I have not a single photo of Boqué, but I hold his memory fresh and dear in my heart.  I have scoured the Internet for one, but found only a picture of his gravestone.  What a lesson this has taught me about the importance of taking pictures of those dear to you!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A book that lives up to the hype – MICHAEL VEY: Prisoner of Cell 25

See FOOTNOTE for copyright information.
I’ll admit that when I first heard about MICHAEL VEY: Prisoner of Cell 25 written by Richard Paul Evans (author of The Christmas Box), it did not seem to be the type of story I’m usually drawn to, but because this was the debut offering of Mercury Ink, Glenn Beck’s new publishing company, I definitely wanted to check it out.

This book is nothing less than superb!  It’s enthralling, it’s intelligent, it’s decent and, yes, it’s dark, even to the point of being downright terrorizing at times, but it has HEART.  You immediately empathize with the protagonist, Michael Vey, who is trapped in his unique plight.  Richard Paul Evans has created an authentically principled character whose deep love for his mother is especially touching.

For you writers out there, I really liked the way Mr. Evans seamlessly switched between first person and third person narratives.

The book is classified as “young adult,” but I highly recommend it to grownups as well as teens old enough to handle the emotional issues and scary scenes.   I’m certainly looking forward to the next installment in the series!

FOOTNOTE:  This image is copyrighted.  It is believed that this use of this image for identification and critical commentary qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Don't keep all your eggs in one basket...

…keep some in a can!

Like Ida Mae McCann in our book, I’ve been stockpiling nonperishable food products for quite some time now in case of a hurricane or other disaster.  And like our character, Pastor J.C. McCann, who thought his wife was a little paranoid, Michael thinks I am, too.  But he patiently tolerates my obsession with preparedness and it has served us well on a few occasions.

Several weeks ago while I was baking a cake I smugly thought how I have plenty of baking products like flour and sugar squirreled away.  Why, I even have a supply of powdered milk!  Then it dawned on me.  What would I do if I couldn’t get fresh eggs?  There’d be no cakes or a lot of other things we enjoy!  (And we don’t have chickens like we did when I was a kid.)

Evidently I was one of the last ones to think of this because everywhere I checked on the Internet powdered eggs were out of stock.  I signed up for a waiting list with Honeyville Farms and a couple weeks ago they notified me that the eggs are now back in stock.

If you’d like to keep some on hand, you know, “just in case,” click here: HONEYVILLE FARMS to go to their Web site.  I haven’t opened the cans or used any of the product, but, according to the label, if the unopened can is kept cool and dry it should last from 5 to 10 years and up to a year after opening.  I was pleased how quickly Honeyville Farms shipped.  They also have several other dehydrated foods besides eggs.

It’s a good idea to regularly check the expiration dates on your emergency food inventory.  You can donate anything that won’t be used by that date to your local food pantry.  In these tough times, you know it will be appreciated!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back 2 School Bash

For the second year in a row, First Christian Church in Leesburg, Florida, with the help of many local businesses, sponsored a Back 2 School Bash today.  Free backpacks filled with school supplies were given to area children.  Food, fun and, above all, a lot of God’s love was shared. Thanks to all of you who attended and to everyone who worked and contributed to make this event a success!

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll simply post some photos and let the smiling faces tell the story.

School supplies are also being sent to Joplin, MO.

IDs were offered by local law enforcement.

What kid doesn't want to grow up to be a fireman?

Some kids just never grow up!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Joy in a Shoebox

The joy in a shoebox comes not from the fashionable footwear you take out and put on, but from all the love you cram into the box for a needy child that otherwise might receive nothing at all for Christmas.

This video is an update from 2012 when the 100 millionth shoebox was delivered.

Several years ago, Donna, whose contagious love for kids has spawned many a worthwhile project at our church, suggested that the congregation participate in Operation Christmas Child (OCC), one of the ministries of the Samaritan’s Purse organization.   Last year over 8 million kids around the world received a shoebox filled with toys, school supplies, hygiene items, socks and T-shirts packed by generous folks across our great nation.

Believe me, filling a shoebox is FUN!  Every year Michael and I let our inner child loose in the toy department at Wal-Mart and Target.  It’s amazing how many things you can find that fit inside a shoebox!  One of our favorite items to include is a Slinky®. (They’re still made in the USA.)  And of course every kid needs a brand new box of Crayolas® .

With back-to-school sales in full swing, now is a great time to begin shopping.  (For you Florida residents, the annual Sales Tax Holiday on clothing and school supplies runs August 12th through 14th.) You can also find appropriate gifts at craft stores like Hobby Lobby, Michael’s and Jo-Ann’s – and use their 40% off coupons to boot. 

If you use the EZ Give option to pay the shipping fee by credit card online, your specific box will be tracked.  Last year on Christmas Eve we received an e-mail from Samaritan’s Purse with a video taken of the children in Ghana as they opened their gifts.  What special meaning those happy faces gave to our Christmas celebration!

We realize these are tough economic times and some people simply cannot participate, but if you are able, we hope you’ll consider filling a shoebox this year.

For more information please click HERE.

BTW, if you live near Leesburg, Florida, our church is the OCC Drop-off Location for north Lake County again this year:

First Christian Church
1701 Vine Street
Leesburg, FL 34748
(352) 787-2962 

Shoeboxes will be accepted during the week of November 14th through 21st.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Falling Skies

See FOOTNOTE  for copyright information.

Noah Wyle stars in an enthralling new TNT series called Falling Skies, which airs on Sundays at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  It follows a band of Americans left alive after a decimating alien invasion.   Entertainment Weekly magazine described the premiere episode as “…mercifully straightforward:  The only mission is survival.” 

We love it!  At the heart of Falling Skies is, well…HEART.  Ordinary people have been thrust into extraordinary circumstances and are struggling to live from one day to the next.  Everyone must make choices, often very difficult choices.  Some cling to their principles and are willing to do what is right no matter the personal cost.  Some choose to do what will benefit them today regardless of the consequences to others.  In many ways, that’s not unlike our polarized country today.

This is a show the whole family can enjoy together, though the realistic “skitter” aliens may be a bit too frightening for the very young.  There’s action, there are tender moments, and a lot of twists and surprises.  Rated TV-14, the episodes have so far been refreshingly free of sexual immorality and offensive crude humor.  Mild profanity has been used on occasions, usually when the characters are in grave peril.

The episode “Grace” ends as everyone shares a meager meal and reflects on why they are still blessed.  One by one they join hands as the character, Lourdes  (played by Seychelle Gabriel) begins to pray, “Heavenly Father, for everything you’ve given us and especially for our connection with each other, may we be truly thankful.  In the name of the Father, the Son and of theHoly Spirit, Amen.”  Soft “Amens” spontaneously echo around the lantern-lit dining hall of the abandoned school where they have taken refuge, then the end credits roll.

Falling Skies has offered some excellent lessons should we ever find ourselves in a similar situation.  No, I’m not suggesting an alien invasion might actually occur, but given the current weakened condition of our nation, a terrorist attack, an invasion by a foreign power or a complete economic collapse is not implausible and could plunge us into a situation similar to Falling Skies.

We feel TNT, the producers, directors, actors and crew have done a GOOD DEED by creating this show.  In addition to entertainment, it serves a higher purpose.  It causes us to ponder the unthinkable that might actually occur.

Click FALLING SKIES Video to watch full episodes you may have missed.

Be sure to check out Producer/Director Greg Beeman's blog titled "Beaming Beeman".  You'll find some very interesting posts about Falling Skies and cool behind the scenes pics.

08-15-2011 Note:  Falling Skies wrapped up its emotional first season on 08-07-2011 with Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) heading off to battle the aliens all alone -- oh, how we love  a lone, suffering hero!  According to Greg Beeman's blog, work has already begun on Season 2, scheduled to air next summer.  We're looking forward to it!  Hope Season 1 will soon be released on DVD.

FOOTNOTE:  This Falling Skies image is a screenshot of a copyrighted TV program.  It is believed that this use of this image for identification and critical commentary qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

We invite you to click on “Comments” below this post (or any of the other posts) and share about the good deeds of others that have touched your heart or made a difference in your life. 

We hope you'll visit often to read and comment as new posts are added!