Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Autumn Leaves and Nathaniel Hawthorne

The month of November began with a chill in the air and crisp autumn leaves softly floating to lay at our feet. This time of year reminds me of the American Notebooks.  

"I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”~ Nathaniel Hawthorne [Notebook, Oct. 10, 1842]”

Our go-to destination this time of year is typically Mallard LakeIt has an observation deck on the west shore that provides views of the ducks which frequent the lake.
It also has a unique, interactive nature center and there are over fifty miles of trails that the dogs and I enjoy hiking.

I’ve often thought if I didn’t live in the midwest I would want to move where my family lives in the New England states but much of it reminds me of here.

Both locations are a mix of old school and progressive and I love that both have villages where you can step back in time and enjoy the natural settings.

Around harvest time, I can drive down the road surrounded by cattle in the fields and go on wagon rides and through corn mazes and pick pumpkins.

The weather did surprise us with a snowfall this past weekend, reminding us we'll soon see more of the white stuff. So, I expect I'll soon be spending more time inside reading.

Today audience is from the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Ukraine, France, Russia, India, Canada, and Unknown Region.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Author Spotlight Patrick Burns, Far Away And Further Back

After his first overseas assignment to the USA in 1975 – just twenty-three with a suitcase and a guitar – corporate nomad, Patrick Burns, kept on moving from country to country rarely declining a fresh challenge in a new location. In these stories from four decades of living and working around the world, he relives some of his most memorable experiences: from dangerous pyrotechnic liaisons in the Algerian desert to a quest to find the Archbishop of Rangoon after a chance meeting in an English village church. The locations and circumstances run the gamut of the quotidian to the exotic; context and time are less relevant than who is met, what transpires and how the experience says something about the human condition. This exploration of the personal landscape of expatriate life is interwoven with a navigation of some of the ties that have bound his unusual Anglo-German family during the past century; a mixture of hardcore Yorkshire eccentricity (including a grandfather whose obsession with installing indoor toilets inadvertently led to a twenty-five year family rift) and a liberal academic, Hanoverian heritage disoriented by Hitler, the events of 1939-45 and Cold War detente.

Far Away And Further Back
Patrick Burns
Paperback: 194 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 3, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1986213870
ISBN-13: 978-1986213875

My Thoughts
This lovely collection is placed together by historic events. Burns tells us readers, "History is constantly being created and new manifestations will eventually be looked at with the same sentimentality and wistfulness as those that happened to precede them."  With this in mind, Burns relays his adventures. As we tag along, we're reminded that ever-changing human growth happens in the blink of an eye.  
We begin this read in a land known for its biodiverse rainforest. Here, we find two people, with the same employer, are looking over a sentimental timepiece. From there we descend and ascend. Each movement is of a refreshing and complex structure with evocative descriptions that stir excitement for a time both Far Away and Further Back.

Patrick Burns

In 2009, after more than thirty-five years of climbing, clinging onto, and occasionally sliding down the corporate ladder, Patrick Burns retired from an international business career in Human Resources. An opportunity to work on regional and global projects led to an early specialization in international HR and the chance to live and work all over the world. This included four assignments to Asia, where he spent a total of eighteen years, as well as other regional roles covering Europe-Africa, the Middle East and North and South America. Patrick was born in Yorkshire in the UK and now lives just outside San Francisco. He is married with four children
Patrick graciously agreed to allow me to bombard him with questions regarding his years abroad.

How did you come about the concept of writing Far and Away And Further Back?

The idea for writing a book came gradually from realizing that, with hindsight, I’d probably retired from corporate life too soon and too quickly. I struggled with not having responsibilities and with the absence of a sense of self-worth – status definers that I had taken completely for granted for many years and too casually given up.
Writing for publication seemed like a possible substitute. Since I'd had a lot business experience in that part of the world, I first tried my hand at writing a book on how best to set up an HR function in Asia but it was dull and I couldn't find a way forward that was engaging or relevant.
Casting around for other ideas I had a go at writing a story about a memorable incident that happened early in my expatriate life: a curious event that occurred when I worked in the oil industry and found myself helping with a pipeline pressure-testing job deep in the Algerian desert. My colleague and I were standing in the shade of a water tank in the blistering heat, waiting for the test to complete. We gradually became aware of a large black bird repeatedly flapping up from behind a nearby sand dune and then dropping down again out of view. Our curiosity got the better of us so we went to see what was happening and this led to a remarkable discovery and a very frightening experience…
I won’t give any more away but the point was that I enjoyed putting this down on paper and it didn't take me long to realize I had a number of other potentially interesting tales arising from where my work took me and from my family history - enough to make a kind of travel memoir. The topics and the style of writing I adopted gave me the voice I’d been searching for and a formula for writing that was fulfilling – one that allowed me to shake off the dissatisfaction I still felt from dropping out of corporate life so suddenly and terminally…

Can you speak to the different dynamics of living abroad?

I think you first have to make a distinction between going to another country for a couple of years to work then returning home and spending the vast majority of your life away from where you were born and grew up. The first can change you and broaden your view of the world; the second - which is what I did - changes you far more radically. 
The biggest impact is on the way you see your home country. It increasingly becomes an abstract concept and the idea of actually having a 'home country' gradually disappears. You become what the French call deraciné. I was born in the UK but have finally settled in the USA. The reasons for settling there are largely practical and pragmatic. It's wasn't an emotional or sentimental decision. I still enjoy visiting the UK but I no longer feel I have any strong ties with the country.
It sounds a bit pompous, and also a bit of a cliché, but living nomadically around the world does give you a more global mindset and outlook. That's a positive in some ways since I think you can often keep a more open mind about things like politics and how the world should be. It can also be negative in the sense that you don't develop deep roots and relationships in a community. The sense of belonging - a valuable commodity - is largely lost. 
Family relationships are often made stronger through expatriation but they can also suffer. I'd say my relationship with Alison, my wife, and my four children has definitely been strengthened by the life we have led. We are a very close-knit family unit and we go to great lengths to get together as often as we can. However, I've seen an uncomfortable number of separations and problems with children along the expatriate route I've traveled. I always say to people don't expect a spell overseas to help a marriage if it's already ailing. The chances are it will get worse. 

There appears to be a strong influence of family in your writing did you ever have the feeling of not belonging?

Not at all. I try to convey in my writing the strong attachment I have to both the family I come from and the one that Alison and I created. My nomadic life is in some ways in my DNA -, especially on my mother's side. The Löwensen tribe, her family, wandered from Scandinavia to Germany in the 17th century. She made the difficult move in 1947 from Germany to England as a post-war bride. As a family, we traveled all over Europe in the fifties and early sixties. In later life, after my father died, my mother traveled everywhere on her own. We were in fact bound together by this sense of comfort in experiencing what different countries have to offer. 

What advice would you have for parents educating their children overseas?

Always put their needs first but don't be overprotective in terms of insisting that they only experience one education system - especially when they are younger. 

I think we were very lucky in that we often had employers who subsidized schooling costs. The two older children bore the brunt of several country changes in their early years. Holly, the eldest, had been to seven schools in six different countries by the time she was eight. That was probably too much and with the expectation that our peripatetic life would continue, we made the decision when she was eleven to send her to boarding school in UK. That was very difficult but she survived and thrived and did brilliantly educationally and with life generally. Tom, our second eldest was very similar and also went to boarding school where he really came into his own. 

The two younger children, twins, started secondary school when we were in a much more settled period in Singapore and part of the decision to find another, more locally-based job in that country was so that we could stay for a few more years and they would be able to finish school locally at the excellent United World College there.

Our children's needs were paramount but we were not averse to them experiencing different schooling systems - especially when they were younger. We tried to adjust our plans so that each had the kind of education that best suited them but we didn't let it override everything we did. All of them benefited hugely from experiencing life in so many different cultures.

What’s it like returning “home” after a long stint?

Not easy is the short answer - and the fact that we never stayed very long when we tried underscores that!

We had three attempts at returning "home". The first was after an initial assignment to the US in 1978 and that lasted three years. The second was in 1986 for just six months and we were off again. The last was in 1993 and lasted two years. We still make annual visits but it's now twenty-three years since we last re-expatriated and the chances of us going home again are close to zero.

The biggest difficulty is obviously fitting in again. Old friends have lived their lives while you've been gone and they're generally content with what they've been doing. However hard you try, conversationally, not to be a "When I" (as in, for example, "When I went camping with the family in the Sahara Desert last Christmas...") it's often very difficult to have a social exchange where you don't sound like you're boasting - or just appear boring -  and their sense of contentment is somehow threatened. The points of reference change so much. 

It's also difficult to admit this but, when you're overseas, however hard you try not to be, you do see yourself as a bit different; somehow a little "out of the ordinary". Some people actually change their persona since the opportunity allows them to...Coming home ends all that; whatever your self-perception while in another country, you're like everybody else when you get back and it's not easy. Reverse culture shock on return can be more difficult to cope with than adjusting to a new culture when you go overseas. 

What skills do you need to become an expatriate?

The most obvious one relates to work. Unless you have unlimited money from a family trust fund you need to be able to offer work skills that are easily transferable or in short supply in other countries. This may sound like a statement of the obvious but many people don't appreciate this basic need.

Beyond that, you really have to be ready to sacrifice a lot of stuff that you take for granted in the home country. There are obvious things like certain foods and material comforts but it's also the community that you've built up around yourself and the ties to family. (The latter is much easier to accommodate these days with the advent of social media and easy telecommunications. When I started you had to book an overseas telephone call and make sure you had enough money to pay for it.)

To be a successful expat, you also need to try to balance your interaction with fellow expatriates and with people from the host country. There are many expats who live exclusively in a bubble, associating only with other expatriates. (They also seem to be the ones who constantly complain about the locals and how rubbish life is in country xxxx...) Then there are others who try to go completely native and become frustrated both with their hosts and other expats. The best path is often to try to embrace both equally.

There are other fairly obvious things like a facility for languages, and patience, resilience and a sense of humour to manage the endless change in circumstances...and a basic curiosity to find about more about other cultures and mindsets.

Is there anything you'd like to tell readers?

While my book is written through my eyes, it not really about me in the way some biographies and memoirs are. My aim was to describe the unusual, even eccentric, people I came across on my travels (and within my own family) and the odd circumstances I sometimes found myself in. It was a conscious attempt not to be self-indulgent but rather to share the experience - possibly with a few observations and reflections thrown in for good measure. A couple of people have told me that reading the book was a bit like sitting in the pub with an old friend you haven't seen for a while and catching up on the more interesting news about what's been doing - and I like that description.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

This is a Cat, John P. Curtin, Jr.

This is a Cat [Print Replica] Kindle Edition

By John P. Curtin, Jr.

File Size: 16043 KB
Publisher: Brickyard Eagle Publishing, LLC; 1 edition (January 28, 2019)
Publication Date: January 28, 2019
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B07K2M736M


This is a wonderful story about a big fluffy grey cat named Mr. Huggle. The story is told through the eyes of his owner, recounting how this lovable cat gets into one thing after another. You will laugh and you will cringe, but most of all you will have lots of fun. It’s a delightful read with bright illustrations and some life lessons.

My Thoughts

I adore books that introduce children to the wonders of reading and writing with pictures. The concept of This is a Cat is wonderful. It opens with a dedication of being thankful for family. On the sofa is Mr. Huggle and above him, on the wall, you see portraits of his family, each one similar, yet unique.

This book is lively and engaging with cat expressions and pops of patterns. It shows children that Mr. Huggle deals with similar issues and frustrations, and it allows them too see relationships and develop generalizations. The simple rhyming text makes This is a Cat a fun and educational read that will appeal to pre-school and early primary school children.

I received this adorable ARC from Brickyard Eagle Publishing, LLC.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Features in Faith: Everyday People’s Experiences with God by Blake Sebring

  • Features in Faith
  • Blake Sebring
  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (October 14, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1728772575
  • ISBN-13: 978-1728772578
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches


Have you ever wondered how God works in practical ways in today’s world? Blake Sebring has spent 30 years telling stories about real people. He’s heard stories of courage, redemption, persistence and overcoming challenges. But the ones that have affected him the most were the stories of faith. 

In this book, you’ll find a collection of real-life testimonies from people of all walks and demographics of life — including teachers, police officers, former addicts, celebrities, nurses, veterans, children and parents — but most are athletes. Just like the rest of life, athletic competition is often about faith in yourself and your teammates … and why not also in your God, who allows you to do all things?

 Participation in athletics teaches many life lessons; sometimes these lessons are about spiritual belief. These stories examine the faith and experiences of world-renowned athletes like Olympians Lloy Ball, DeDee Nathan and Sharon Wichman-Jones; Pro Football Hall of Fame member Rod Woodson; and world soccer star DaMarcus Beasley. But they also show regular, next-door-type people sharing stories of how God inspires them — and how God can influence your life. 

Sebring’s accounts, while written from Fort Wayne, Ind., come from Anytown, U.S.A. They are events that could happen anywhere. Delivered in devotional-style short stories, they provide real-world examples that may answer a few of your questions and even inspire you to see faith at work in your own life.

My Thoughts

I don’t know about you but love stories where people and teams beat the odds and this compilation by Blake Sebring is a little bit about that but is more about the credit they give to how they ended up where they are.

Yes! There are so many inspirational stories which  Sebring coins his taps on the shoulder from God. The forward is by Don Wharton whose stepdad was Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman Len Wharton.

It would be honest to state that I've spent a fair amount of time in Fort Wayne which is what initially drew me to this read.

You’ll see sentences like, “He loves the game of hockey and he loves to play.”  And if you’re like me, you nod your head, because you know many people who feel that way.

The Psalms state that when the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their trouble. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

It's very possible that you may have watched the miracle on ice, met that Pro Hall of Famer or saw the world soccer star on television.  

Perhaps the book is more personal and you remember the child's birth or had fond conversations, over coffee, with the veteran. 

Either way, Sebring is a great storyteller and he recognizes extraordinary events in the lives of people who've shared their features in faith. 


About the Author

A native of Fort Wayne, Blake Sebring covered the Fort Wayne Komets' beat for 28 seasons, covering more than 1,500 hockey games, and is one of only four men to cover the team over 60 years for The News-Sentinel. Besides legendary sports editor Bud Gallmeier's 35 years, no one in newspapers covered the Komets longer. 

"Features in Faith" is his 10th book. He is also the author of six sports nonfiction books, including ``Fort Wayne Sports History,'' ``Tales of the Komets," ``Legends of the Komets," ``Live From Radio Rinkside: The Bob Chase Story,'' ``The Greatest Mistake I Never Made" and ``On To The Show." His first novel was ``The Lake Effect,'' followed by "Homecoming Game" and then "Lethal Ghost.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark

  • Loves Music, Loves to Dance Mary Higgins Clark
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow/Children's (a Division of Random House; New Ed edition (April 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780099685005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099685005
  • ASIN: 0099685000


Erin and Darcy, answering personal ads as research for a TV show, discover a whole new New York sub-culture - adulterers, con men, the shy and frankly weird, all looking for love. And one man looking for something darker ...A serial killer who has just got away with murder for fifteen years, and has promised himself just two more ...

My Thoughts

I think the word focus for this book, Loves Music, Loves to Dance, is CREEPY!

Mom and I were recently discussing this. 

Mom said, “I don’t like this book. It’s CREEPY”

Best friends, Erin Kelley, jewelry designer, and Darcy Scot, decorator,  move to the city for their careers, and Darcy talks Erin into helping a friend, research for a TV documentary on the kind of people who place and answer personal ads.  

Then Erin comes up missing and her body is found in an abandoned pier in Manhattan. One foot has her normal shoe and the other a dancing slipper - high heeled at that. 

If you ask me this book dances around a bit with a slew of characters at the beginning and before long readers are aware that there's a serial murderer. 

It's not my favorite MHC read, but  I'll agree with Mom and call it CREEPY.

Friday, November 2, 2018

John Keats

John Keats
The Complete Poems of John Keats with an Introduction by Robert Bridges
  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Digireads.com Publishing (January 5, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781420951844
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420951844

Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats is considered one of the most important figures in the second generation of English Romantic poets. Born on Halloween in 1795, John Keats lived a very short life, dying at the age of twenty-five from tuberculosis. In 1814 John Keats began an apprenticeship with Thomas Hammond, a surgeon, and apothecary and by 1816 had achieved his apothecary’s license, which allowed him to practice medicine. However, Keats passion lied elsewhere and by the end of 1816, he was resolved to be a poet and not a surgeon. Despite his short life, Keats produced an immense volume of poetry; however, the esteem of his reputation rests primarily on the quality of his Odes, which are marked by their use of sensual imagery. Keats was not well-received during his lifetime and sensing his imminent death viewed himself as a failure as is evidenced by the following statement written in an 1820 letter to Fanny Brawne: “I have left no immortal work behind me—nothing to make my friends proud of my memory—but I have lov'd the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember’d.” History, of course, has remembered Keats differently, as one of the truly great poetic talents of all-time. This edition includes his complete poetical works, is printed on a premium acid-free paper and includes an introduction by Britain’s poet laureate Robert Bridges.

My Thoughts

This week, I was reminded of John Keats. So, I decided to recognize some of his work.

If you are not familiar with John Keats, his birthday was 0ctober 31. He was born back in 1795 and only would live 25 years after his birth. But during that short lifespan, he created  3 volumes and published fifty-four poems mostly between his 23-24 year. 

 Lyrically, I think his words sing off the pages. And, this is an excellent time of year to read Keats as 'To Autumn' is one of the most well-known poems about the autumn season in all of English literature. 

It is said that what people like best about Keats work is that his poems stimulate the imagination of his readers.

If you're not familiar with Keats,  there is a link to a podcast below that has some reciting's that are wonderful. Basically, they included discussions about his thinking about mortality and the arts but there's a selection from 'Bright Star' and 'Ode to a Grecian Urn'. ("Ode to a Nightingale," "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and "Ode on Melancholy", were all written in one month .)


Endymion would have to be near the top of my favorites. 

If you want to listen to a  Spenserian stanza -you might check out ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’.  

If you are into Greek religion or mythology you may wish to head in the direction of his poem  Lamia about Hermes’ search for a beautiful nymph. ( Lamia assists him in finding the nymph.) 

I also love to study letters, and T.S. Eliot said the Keats letters were,  "the most notable and the most important ever written by any English poet."They can be found at the link below.