Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First Chapter

 Summer ended two days ago, home-grown sweet corn is but a memory, and shorts are for die-hards. October is just around the corner, and that means my new book The Bargain is available! You can read the first page right now. Enjoy!

“When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it.”

—Amelia Earhart quoted in Betsie’s journal
Monday evening, May 3, 1971

     Betsie Troyer reined in her horse as she reached the outskirts of Plain City. A tear trickled down

her cheek as she tried to pretend she was on a normal errand, but grim reminders were


     As Judith trotted around the corner of Ohio 42, Betsie was barely aware of her parents on

the seat beside her. They were silent as the buggy passed the filling station on State Route 161,

where the English paid twenty-nine cents a gallon to fuel their fancy cars. Cookie-cutter English

houses on postage-stamp lots rubbed elbows with imposing English churches topped with showy

bells and steeples. A row of red-brick storefronts marched proudly along West Main Street. The

glare of shop lights was absent, but Betsie could almost hear the evil crackle of electricity as it

surged through the ugly wires overhead.

     A red traffic light commanded a stop. Betsie glanced at the Seth Thomas clock

ensconced in the white cupola in the center of town: ten past six on a Monday morning. She

gritted her teeth and faced front so that her bonnet served as blinders to block out the English

world as much as possible. Common sense reminded her it was much too early for the lazy

English to shop for their store-bought goods—the English, who already had everything they had

ever desired, anyway. Ach, they weren’t going to get her parents, too.

     “Dat, please don’t you and Mem leave the Amish,” she burst out. “How can you ignore

what you promised on your knees before the church, long before I was born?”

     “Betsie, Betsie.” Her father’s grizzled beard dragged against his suspenders as he shook

his head. “Now that we know the truth and hold it dear in our hearts, Mem and I will follow

Jesus wherever He leads. He knows how sorry we are that we didn’t follow Him sooner.” Dat

sighed. “I pray you and Sadie will follow Him, too. Come with us to Belle Center, Dechder.”

     “Never.” The buggy rolled onto Railroad Street. The train depot loomed ahead, and in

front of it steamed the black beast that would carry her parents away forever.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Every Face Tells a Story at the Old Ball Game

This photo ran in the Columbus Dispatch this morning after the All-Star Game last night. It's by photographer Mike Ransdell for the Kansas City Star . Thanks for capturing such an awesome moment, Mike!

Look at the faces! There's something about a hard leather baseball coming at you that strips away all reserve. I know--there was a high pop-up foul headed our way when we were at a Columbus Clippers game recently. I had a feeling of impending doom that the ball was going to come down squarely on my head, even though it landed a few rows ahead of us, just in front of the dugout. Depth perception fooled me, like some of these people. The hopeful wristwatch hands at the bottom right, the guy in the blue shirt and white cap at the top--they don't have a prayer. The guy on the far right with his sunglasses on his hat, right hand up and left hand obscured by somebody else's elbow looks like a lifelong fan. You can see in his eyes that he's dreamed of catching a homerun ball.

The dude with the backwards cap, scruffy beard, and shades--yeah,  even he is not too super-cool to lunge for it. I feel sorry for the scrawny kid in the cap and wristband at the bottom center. The ball's coming right for him--he's got his eyes closed and his hand up to block the impact. I hope the one who caught the ball gave it to him.

There's so much more to see and although I could spend all day making up these stories, I have other stories to write. So let's cut to the chase and get to the two people with the best chance. On the left. broad-shouldered, sweaty guy in the gray KC t-shirt--let's call him Stretch--is using The Force to will the ball into his hand. His eyes are closed and he's straining for it for all he's worth. He's played a few ball games in his day. Stretch may be Scrawny Kid's dad. If so, he has a special reason to snag the ball, no? He'd be the hero who saved his kid from getting beaned and also he'd proudly present the ball to his son. What a memory!

But my favorite, to the right, and I hope he caught the ball, is the former rocker with the Bon Jovi hair and shades. He's wearing a sky-blue polo because it's the closest he had to royal blue--he doesn't own any team gear. He hasn't played baseball since he was the last one picked in junior high. Shortly after that he formed a garage band which played a few high school dances in its day, and this guy wrote the songs. He won tickets to the game on a radio call-in show and decided to go since it was free. He's sitting there, not really caring who wins, just drinking in the experience and watching people, when oh, no, the ball's coming straight at him! He stands and reaches with both hands, guitar-wiry fingers splayed, hoping against hope that for once, Stretch's muscular pinky gives way on impact and the ball plops into The Dreamer's hands.

So who do you think caught the ball?


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

License to Drive

It's almost my birthday! But that's not the most important detail.

I was cleaning out my wallet today in preparation for a trip. I took out all the cards: library, gift, National Weather Service Severe Weather Spotter, driver's license...

Whoa, back up the truck! That's right, in just another four days, my driver's license expires, so I'll be making a stop at my local long line driver's license bureau in the next couple of days.

In the town where I grew up, local newspaper columnist Dale Huffman used to remind readers quarterly to pull out their licenses and check the expiration date. That's what I'm doing for you--pull out your license, check the date, and if it expires soon, circle a date during the week before on your calendar. Don't get relegated to Chief Bell Ringer, as I was in the photo. Take the driver's seat.

And thanks for the birthday wishes.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Favorite Site Down? Useful Link

To carry over with the library theme, I keep a list of over 250 libraries on Twitter. Talk about smart people and tons of great tips!

So keeping it pretty plain and simple today--I saw (on Twitter) that a local fast food place was giving away free t-shirts to the first one hundred customers at noon today. Oh, yeah, I'm there! Scored my free tee and couldn't wait to tweet back to show my appreciation to the Twitter tipster.

BUT I couldn't log in to Twitter. Frustrating! I wondered if Twitter was down for everyone? Or just me?

And that's when I remembered a tip tweeted by a library. If you want to find out if a web site is down, check Down For Everyone Or Just Me? Great name, huh? Just enter the URL or name and find out in seconds whether technology has sent you back in time for a while.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Reading Club at Your Public Library--Join!

When I was a kid, I lived for books. I could not wait to go to the library. I mean, shelves upon shelves of free books? What a concept!

Before I had a magical library card, a friend loaned me a nickel so I could get a one-use card (thank you, Lori Deen). I finally got a real card and one day I tried to check out books with my National Jr. Honor Society card--quite embarassing!

When I was 18 in the late 70s, I got THE CALL and became an employee of the Dayton and Montgomery County Public Library, now called the Dayton Metropolitan Library. I worked there for nine years. Having unlimited access to books and making them available to our patrons was a dream come true. Often ours was the busiest branch in the system, and I was proud of that.

It's difficult to pick out what was the most fun, but I always loved the Summer Reading Club. It didn't matter if I was on the patron side of the desk, watching the librarian stamp each book-representing space on the folder, or if I was the one doing the stamping for some excited kids. The purpose of summer reading club was to keep kids reading after school was out, and to keep those books circulating, and I can tell you it worked like a charm.

We always held a kick-off free marionette show to get kids into the library. Supervisor and children's librarian Treva, LAII Cheryl, and I (LAI) would clamber up on a fold out table behind the Peppermint Palace Marionette Theater and work our magic. Treva's mantra: "Marionettes do not fly," meaning we were to walk their feet across the stage, not lift them. Cheryl and I often regaled our break room companions by floridly reciting the scripts, which were taken from classic picture books and recorded on cassette tapes.

The only title I recalled on my own is Tops and Bottoms, a trickster tale. The version I linked to isn't word for word, and there are a couple of pages missing on Google Books, but you'll get the idea. A random line from another script (Cheryl's favorite) haunted me the other day: "I no move!" I set out to find it. After a few minutes, I was pleased beyond belief to find that a teacher had posted the whole book online: The Gunniwolf . What a treasure!

Take your kids to join your local Summer Reading Club and participate in the free activities at your local library. I promise you they will remember it for the rest of their lives, and maybe they'll take it a step further and work in a library one day, or even write books like I do. Help them join the reading club.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Long May Our Land Be Bright

It's Flag Day!

"Our fathers' God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King."
America, by Samuel Francis Smith, 1831

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Testament in Deitsh

On March 31, we took a drive to Kenton, Ohio, home of a Swartzentruber Amish settlement. Someone at the Pfeiffer Station General Store advised us to swing by The Country Variety Store & Bakery on US 68 north of Bellefontaine. I had been to The Country Variety Store when we lived in Bellefontaine several years ago. I needed a special kind of chocolate to make candy for Valentine's Day school treats, but that's another post.

Anyway, the store was tended by Amish ladies, I suspect perhaps New Order Amish from nearby Belle Center. I didn't take their photos, but I did take a photo of a very interesting book. I was so excited that my hand wiggled and the photo is blurry, but it's the New Testament in Pennsylvania Deitsh! In fact, here's exactly what the cover says: Es Nei Teshtament Pennsylvania Deitsh Un English Mitt Di Psaltah un Shpricha.  The only other photo I could find online is here, but it's tiny.

The more I learned about the Amish, the more concerned I was about having a Bible available to them in their own language. English is a third language for many, and the Bible used in many worship services is in High German. What they speak at home, as I understand it, is Deitsh, and even that is spelled many different ways, since this is mostly a spoken, not written, language.

At any rate, I was excited and encouraged! Thanks, Lord!