For the Joy of Books

My boys were on spring break this week so my days were filled with activities with them and revisions on Storm in the Mountains.

Monday, I woke early and crept quietly into the living room, curled on the couch, and continued to devour Written in Red. Gideon, the 6 year old, woke up first, grabbed his own book and joined me. Soon, we were a threesome when Wash came bearing his own book. We sat, snuggled together, reading, for over an hour. My boys bring me joy all the time, but the quiet peace of that morning was perfect.

This week, I was able to introduce my boys to one of the wonderful things about vacation: Buying new books for a trip. It took some convincing to get Gideon not to start reading his new books the very moment they arrived. I ended up hiding the books for the trip.

I remember hauling around stacks of books on vacation, even as a kid. My family drove everywhere, they still do, and I used those hours in the car to read.

Vacation packing is different now that I have a kindle, but I still need a handful of options for every trip. Here are some of my options, not all, for this trip:

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The Trouble With Magic by Patricia Rice

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle

Have a lovely week. I am going to have my nose in a book.

Fly Me To the Mountains

I recently went on a family trip to Keystone, Colorado. I grew up going to Colorado for summer camping vacations. Sometimes, there are places where you know you belong. My soul belongs in the jagged peaks of the rocky mountains. I have lived at sea level in sweltering heat my entire life, but I have always known this was not where I belonged. When I sat down to write a story with characters who needed a wild and beautiful place, there was no question where it would be. I chose a fictional Colorado mountain town called Turning Creek.

The skyline in Keystone, Colorado.

The skyline in Keystone, Colorado.

Turning Creek, in my mind, is outside the mineral belt of Colorado, somewhere west of Leadville. Some of the mountains have similar names to other peaks in Colorado. Pikus Peak is a play on Pike’s Peak, one of the fourteeners. Silvercliff is a Christian camp my church takes our youth group to every year. It is a place I have found peace and joy as I watch young people I love find peace and understanding with the Lord.

Silvercliff is named for the silver white rock face shown here.

Silvercliff is named for the silver white rock face shown here.

It was a singular joy to go to Keystone this past week and see real, honest to goodness, road-closing snow for the first time in my life. We went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming three years ago and while there was plenty of snow, very little of it fell during our trip. I know some of my readers from the great white north are laughing, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen real snow. I have also never seen real fall leaves, but I digress.

This post is about the mountains and what I did there not how deprived of seasons this southern girl might be.

Everyone went skiing, except me. I am horrible at it and am not too fond of the endeavor so I sat for two days and consumed more caffeine than is recommended at a delightful place called Inxpot. As an unexpected bonus, Inxpot serves Mules, a colonial era drink featuring ale or ginger beer, alcohol, and lime. I had one with ginger beer, honey whiskey, and lime. It was wonderful. In case you were wondering, and I know you were, I researched Mules and a drink called Flip for Letters in the Snow, a Turning Creek novella featuring Iris, which comes out this summer. Flip was the drink that got Paul Revere drunk on his overnight ride to warn the militia.

Inxpot: excellent coffee and treats, plus books for sale!

Inxpot: excellent coffee and treats, plus books for sale!

I sat, drank coffee, and wrote the first couple chapters of Plagues of the Heart, the third Turning Creek book, featuring Dora. I walked around quite a bit breathing deeply and remembering all the reasons I love the mountains. Did you know that mountain streams smell different than other moving bodies of water? They do and it is a fabulous smell.

Mostly it was an amazing  trip because it has been a very long time since I was able to go on a family vacation with my boys.

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I wish all of you a place of joy in your life, where your soul feels at home and where there are people with which to share the view and a good drink.

 

 

Now Showing

Now showing on a TechSource Blog near you… little me, again!

TechSource was my first real writing gig and I am fabulously happy to be back writing for them again. My first post will go up tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled, lovely readers!

Other fun things happening:

I finished most of the work I have been doing on a book for Information Today, Inc. This means I can actually write other things now, in this space and for TechSource. I am very glad about having that mostly done. There will be more information about the book, Mob Rule Learning, in the coming months.

The Bairn Rochester is in pre-school twice a week which means, besides a quiet hours for a few hours, I can sit down and write without yelling things like, “That is not a toy!” or “Stop trying to sit on the dog’s head!” or “Calm down!” or “What are you doing?” Pure bliss, I tell you and worth every penny.

The Bairn Rochester will be joined by another wee one in March. I will have to think of something fun to call it here, since Bairn is already taken.

–Jane, busy bee

I Usually Have No Idea What I Am Doing Here

The Wee Bairn is running around the house unsupervised so that I may share this flowchart with you. I have a few family members who would benefit from owning a printout of this comic.

I know enough about my computer to brake it occasionally and then I can only fix it about half the time. Lucky for me, Mr. Rochester is better with the technical aspects of computer ownership aka he has almost infinite patience whereas I am ready to throw the offending machine or program out the window after 5 minutes. My lack of patience is the main reason I am terrible at learning programming.

I teach people how to use stuff; I do not make the stuff. I know what people like to see; I can not build what people like. I know my limitations.

–Jane, and knowing is half the battle

In Case of Zombies with a Side of Fisticuffs

A cautionary tale of how a family full of geeks can carry a thing too far.

On Saturday, my family got together to see the new Star Trek movie, eat homemade pizza, an enjoy the good company. Well, we really just wanted to talk about how cute our babies are, but who can blame us?

Star Trek was great. One of the first scenes is, naturally, a bar fight and I was thinking, “Fisticuffs! No movie is complete without a good bout of fisticuffs!” It made me think that fisticuffs is a wonderful word and highly underutilized. The movie really is great and I loved all the inside jokes for the Trekkies. I appreciated that it explained the universe for the uninitiated. Catch it while you can in the theater or before you get sidetracked by one of the many other great things coming out this summer.

Over delicious pizza, I brought up a very serious topic: What the family plan should be in case of a zombie attack/outbreak*. As soon as I mentioned it, my brother said in jubilation with hands in the air, “Thank you! It is about time someone brought this up!!” He was obviously relieved someone else has been as concerned as he as been. What followed was a detailed discussion on the pros and cons of various plans.

We think the safest place for our family would be the Lake a la Rochester, which is about 3 hours away. If we made it there, we could live out on my parents’ pontoon boat. Obviously, zombies can’t swim, so out on the water would be the best place to hide. We could take excursions to shore to gather supplies as needed.

The problem is that Mr. R and I live on the south side of Houston. I am concerned about getting across the city. Mr. R thinks we can do it if we circumvent some of the major road ways. I observed that, as in hurricane season (which is now upon us! already!) I need to keep the gas tank full in the car. No more getting down to Empty. You never know when you may have to escape a zombie horde. Or a hurricane.

My brother pronounced this plan sound and proceeded to discuss the kinds of shotguns he thinks we would need to repel an attack. While the family Rochester does own several guns among us, (sadly none at my domicile) not one of us has a cricket paddle which served Shaun so well. My brother thinks a double barrel, sawed-off shotgun would be a fun zombie weapon, but my dad countered that gun would only be good at short range. My brother wanted to argue the coolness factor though if you are running for your life from zombies perhaps cool is not the most important fact when choosing a gun.

The conversation went on and by the end I am almost certain that my mother, sister, and father thought the rest of us were crazy. Perhaps. But we will be prepared.

–Jane, we could always resort to fisticuffs

*Mr. Rochester and I started talking about escaping zombies after watching 28 Weeks Later. Not because the movie was good. On the contrary, it was horrible for so many reasons it is hard to describe them all in a way which makes sense because the movie itself is ridiculous and requires the absence of all sane logic and reason. The first movie, 28 Days Later was great. This one, not so much with the good.

With a Thankful Heart

It has been a banner year for thankfulness at the Rochester household. Some things I am thankful for are simple and some are more dear, more complex. Here is a list of things this year has brought me.

Good coffee with real cream – My mother-in-law always drinks real cream in her coffee, and after a recent vacation with her, I have realized that nothing quite beats the creamy goodness of cream in coffee. Foolishly, I have tried substitutions, but nothing beats the original. I recently discovered Peet’s coffee and I think this duo has made mornings a beautiful thing. Something has to make getting up around 5:30 a pleasure, besides the little smile and big blue eyes that greet me. The Wee Bairn wakes my heart and the coffee wakes my mind.

Good books and movies – While nursing the Wee Bairn, I have spent many hours reading and watching movies (Thank you for movies that come in the mail!). In the past few months, I have escaped as everything from a Spook to a dragon rider.

Family – The Rochester clan is large, noisy, opinionated, stubborn, and has a propensity to imbibe a bit too much at times, but I can not imagine going through the past year without them.

Mr. Rochester –With the crazy first wife in the attic business behind us, he is the most amazing man and the very best Dad.

The Wee Bairn – He had a rough start, my wee man, but he brings joy to my life everyday. I never knew that you could love in quite this way. I have come to realize that God must love us for the beauty that we hold in infancy and that is the image He keeps of us as we grow into headstrong adults.

Provisions for each day and the breath to enjoy it – I have all that I need and I am alive to see the sun each day. What a blessing!

–Jane, is thankful and wishes blessings upon her readers

Priorities

Life amuses me.

For about the past 4 months I have agonized over my lack of time to do a few things:

    Clean the entire house at once. It is now done in batches.
    Read my RSS feeds on library news or any news for that matter.
    Check my email everyday.
    Write in this space or any space.
    Take naps.

I worry that you are all wasting away for lack of posts here, in this space, though I know the world goes on without me and that is hard as well. (Ironically, as I type this, the reason for my compressed schedule has awoken with an expressed need for me and so I will continue this later.)

(days later, it turns out) When I used to talk about technology in libraries, people would often ask where they were supposed to find the time for these new things. Time for the learning curve. Time in the daily routine. Simple Time. My reply was always the same. If it is important, you make time. You trim the things that have become less important. It was true then and it will always be true.

You spend time on the things you value. Where you spend your time, there your heart is also. (paraphrased Luke 12:34)

I have decided to stop beating myself up about my lack of posts here. I will post when I can and feel good about it when I do. I will stop being sad about not writing more and simply be happy when I do find time and have something to say. Rest assured this space will not go away, I just will not be as prolific as I have been in the past. I hope you will keep this in your feed readers so that every other week or so you can still get a dose of Jane.

I think as the Wee Bairn gets a little older my time will free up in different ways.

In this season of my life, my family is more important than anything else. The Wee Bairn only gets one Mom and I only get one shot at this Mom thing for him. I want to enjoy it and be free in that choice.

I will still be around in other ways. I am mentoring an Emerging Leaders group and I am working on a sweet unconference shindig with Meredith Farkas as part of Jim Rettig’s Presidential Initiatives. ALA Annual 2009 will be my first conference after a long hiatus.

–Jane, happy to have this written, finally

Jane’s Ike Adventure

All is well in the Rochester household, though we are still without cable and internet. A small loss, comparatively, but largely felt by all concerned. I have appropriated the Grandparents Eyre’s computer for a couple hours to go through my obese email inbox and type this missive.

When it became apparent two weeks ago that Hurricane Ike was indeed bearing down upon Houston, we started making plans about what we would do. We live in Evacuation Zone A, 3 miles from the Kemah boardwalk which I have been told was all over the national news. (Sadly, that gaudy strip is still there while the houses around it are in shambles.) Had the storm surge been the 18+ feet that was predicted, we likely would have had water in our house. As it was, God was watching over us, and our house, at least, was safe from the water.

We boarded up the front windows, the ones which were the most vulnerable and which were closest to the TV and stereo system. Priorities, you see. I put four bags of ice in our deep freezer and crossed my fingers that it would be enough. We packed our car with a few days clothes, our important documents, the Wee Bairn Rochester, the dog, and the sugar glider and headed north.

We landed on the north side of Houston proper, in an area called The Heights, where Mr. Rochester’s sister, brother-in-law, and parents live. Thursday night was uneventful. Friday dawned and we watched the sky and the trees as they started their windy dance.

We stayed up playing games and checking the news as the weather deteriorated. The lights flickered on and off all evening and they finally went out for good around 9:30. I always find it strange how quiet things are when we are not surrounded by the hum of our electronic lives. We continued playing cards by candlelight and went to bed after midnight.

The wind woke me up around 3:30. I remember Hurricane Alicia as a child, but I had forgotten that particular noise 110 mph wind makes as it whips everything in its path. A wind that fast can not even be called a howling wind; it is altogether something else. Every now and then a gust would come that would suck the air before it, as if it had to breathe in to achieve a Big Bad Wolf moment, and then it would roar past, rattling the windows and the walls ferociously.

We were in what I figured was a pretty strong house, having been newly built, so I was not worried about the roof caving in and I listened to the storm with awe instead of fear. Pullo, the Rochester dog, became restless sometime after 4, and would not quiet down. It occurred to me that I heard dripping coming from the floor above. I went to check it out and the ceiling was leaking in a couple places on that level. The whole house was roused and we quickly placed various containers for catching the water under the drips.

Minus the influx of water, which was minor, comparatively, we weathered the storm well. We sweltered away in the heat and humidity for a couple days. Without electricity, we were at the mercy of the slightest breeze and clouds for comfort. We had two crank radios with which we listened to for a few minutes every hour or so to try to hear what was going on in the world around us. We drank water from our water container we had filled before the storm and forwent showers.

The nights were hot. Unlike other places, Houston does not enjoy a cooling period at night in the summer. It remains hot and humid 24 hours a day. We drank warm beer and wine and played cards. One night, over poker and the last of the beer, I told Mr. Rochester that it felt like were in extras in the movie A Time to Kill, where they were always sweaty and drinking beer. Of course, the actors looked much better than we did. At least they had had showers before sweating profusely.

Monday, we decided to brave the roads and see what had become of our neighborhood. Everywhere along our route home there were buildings, awnings, and various things that had lost the battle between wind and rain. Most of the traffic lights were either out or completely gone. It is hard traveling home, not knowing what you will find.

We live in a newer neighborhood, so there are only small trees. As a result, there was very little damage in our area. Even roofs appeared intact. Amazingly, our house was exactly as we had left it. We even had electricity and all the meat in the freezer was still frozen. Even the sour cream in the fridgerator was good enough to eat. We had not been without power long. It was quite wonderful and I again felt blessed for the things I have been given.

Other neighborhoods did not fare so well. Areas with a lot of tree coverage had a lot more damage to power lines and structures. Driving to my grandparent’s and uncle’s houses was interesting. Piles of tree limbs and debris, larger than my car (I drive a large SUV), sat at the end of every driveway and yard. We went by Kemah on Sunday as we went to church and the piles of limbs were joined by the entire contents of houses and businesses as people tossed away lives that had been flooded in the surge.

Life is slowly getting back to normal. Many of our favorite places were flooded and will be closed for weeks or months. Activities that filled my week, like things at church, are still suspended as our efforts are given to others instead of ourselves. My in-laws still do not have power, almost two sweltering weeks later. The mosquitos, suddenly larger than normal (they could carry off small children in a pinch), are everywhere. We are without cable or the internet. I have been at the mercy of the local news (Lord, help me) and if it were not for NPR, I would have no idea what was transpiring outside of my region.

I will try to post intermittently when I can get online access, but we have no promise about when the cable issue will be fixed. It is a small one, but one that once fixed, will greatly help me feel like life is back to normal. I never realized how very much I am in love with my DVR.

In sum, the Rochesters are doing well. Thankful to have survived another storm in our lives with relatively little bruising and each other intact.

–Jane, feels blessed

Cones and Uncertainties

Ike is on his way and we are in the (cue ominous music) Cone of Uncertainty!!!!!!

I think this is a crazy name for the situation in which your house may or may not be battered by wind, rain, tornadoes, and storm surge, but I do not have a better label. The problem with uncertainty is that it is… uncertain. Outcomes are unpredictable.

You may remember, dear readers, that I live with two boys. One young and useless, except for his smiles, and one old and an engineer. This means all planning happens in my brain because to an engineer, uncertain is not certain, and until the formula equals out on both sides, i.e. Our City = Mandatory Evacuation, there is no planning to be done.

It makes me wish weather could me measured in formulas. At least then Mr. Rochester would be a little more wary of the storm. I myself only want to be prepared. I grew up in Houston and therefore have respect for hurricanes, having rode some out hunkered down in a bathroom, but I do not worry much. You can only prepare as you are able and then pray for the rest.

It occurs to me that many things in life are uncertain. There is only so much preparedness that can occur when your cone of uncertainty is so large. Whether you are expanding your family, hiring a new employee, launching a program or a website, or starting a new job. There is always a large amount of unknowns and it is how we deal with the unknown that shows our core.

I think it may help to know what our cones of uncertainty cover. In my life, cones of uncertainty cover the next 3 days (because Ike still has some directions to choose), how my now part-time writing and professional obligations fit into my new full time job of being a Mom, and if I will ever be able to sleep all the way through the night again. Ever. I would settle for 4-5 hours at a stretch really. I am not too greedy. I can not really plan for these things. I can plan for different scenarios and pray and that is about it.

Being prepared is the only thing we can ever really do about uncertainty. Preparing without worry, that is. I try not to worry, though I am not always successful. I at least rationally know it is a useless endeavor. Just do what you need to and let things happen. In that vein, I have a full tank of gas, in case of evacuation, a freezer full of ice, in case of power outage, and other things in case we are hunkered down for a few days.

Are you prepared for your cones of uncertainty?

–Jane, watching the storm

Thursday, packing

Today, I am packing up the car with animals, Wee Bairn, myself, and all the crap that must accompany us for a three day jaunt from home. Mr. Rochester will be following us later in the day. He has work and bachelor party festivities tonight. Sadly, I am fairly certain there will be no disreputable ladies in attendance. (I was not invited, you see.)

My baby brother is getting married.

Having the Wee Bairn and my brother getting married is making me feel like an old hag.

I am looking forward to the wedding and the surrounding festivities. My family, never one to back down from a party, beer, or other adult beverage, should be in fine form this weekend.

I have finally started to read some things here and there, catching up on things I have missed, but I have barely made a dent. I feel like I have been living at the bottom of a really long hole. Where is the shovel and rope when I need them?

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend.

–Jane, has used up all of the Wee Bairn’s patience in writing this bit of nothing