Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Healthy Oatmeal Cookie

Embedded Recipe Image (Unsupported on IE 7 and earlier)
Oatmeal Cookie

Sugar-free, Dairy-free


  1. 1/3 C chunky almond butter
  2. 2 ripe bananas
  3. 1 tsp vanilla
  4. 2 Tbsp soy milk
  5. 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  6. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  7. 2 1/2 C rolled oats
  8. 1 egg
  9. dash cinnamon
  10. dash cloves
  11. 1/4 C flour
  12. 1/2 C raisons


  1. In a large bowl, mash bananas with fork until smooth.
  2. Add almond butter, soy milk, vanilla and maple syrup and mix well. Add remaining ingredients, except raisons, and stir until well combined.
  3. Mix in raisons.
  4. Drop spoonful of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes, or until done.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Essence of Christmas

Is this the picture of Christmas that you embrace?
Yes, it's Christmastime! Year after year I hear people lament about wanting to slow down and enjoy what Christmas is all about. However, despite the slow economy, I see people packed into the malls and big box centers looking for gifts... and maybe that little gift for yourself (it's on sale after all). The closer it gets to Christmas, the more crowded and hectic it gets. How can we enjoy Christmas when we feel obligated to buy someone a gift, even though we have no idea what they would want.

This is when I am thankful for my upbringing. We never had much in the way of gifts growing up. Being a family of six kids, it was enough to keep us fed and in clothes. Christmas developed into a time with family. As adults, we have never exchanged gifts. Instead we get together to eat, play games and visit.

Now that mom is no longer with us, there are only three generations that gather. This year we plan to check our smart phones and iPads at the door. That will avoid the familiar scene of a room full of people all looking down at their personal devices, fingers flying. We saw that dastardly picture at Thanksgiving. Even seventeen-month-old Cyrus locked his attention onto an iPhone.

Do you feel the essence of Christmas? Revisiting the nativity story when the God of the universe became a helpless baby in a humble manger. Putting into motion His plan to bring redemption to a lost and waiting world. Have you taken the time to stop and embrace the peace and calm of resting in the Christ child? It's your choice.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Post Pitch Ponder

Enjoying lunch next door at Ironside Restaurant (Denise Aspinall with me).
The windshield wipers swished and clunked all the way there... and all the way home. But despite weather, the long drive and stand-still traffic, our time at Chronicle Books proved a well spent day. We milled around in the reception area, which serves as a bookstore, chatting and meeting others arriving to make their project pitch. I met photographer, Jane Paradise, who hoped to get her photo essay noticed, and a few others. It was a wonderful mix of anxious, creative people eager to pitch their project.

Once we received our time slot, we settled in to practice our pitches. They arranged the room with tables and chairs assigned to areas of publishing at Chronicle books, such as Lifestyle, Art & Design, Stationary and Children. There were one or two editors at each area with a large clock displaying the time. We had ten minutes to pitch and get feedback.

Denise had the first slot and received an "interested" response for her book Dogspirations—a book of inspirational short stories about her two dogs, Sammy and Benji. They asked her for a book proposal—Yay!

Trying to keep the manuscript dry
I went next and got a lukewarm response to The Prisoner of Carrot Castle primarily due to the length of my manuscript (900 words). After licking my wounds, I have regrouped and started working on revising/cutting my manuscript. I'll submit again once I've re-polished it.
E. Marie, me and Stephanie
Stephanie Huang Porter had a good reception of her delightful picture book Dinnertime at My House. The editor reviewing her story suggested some tightening and the addition of page layout marks before sending in for another review. Inspire writer, E. Marie Brierley, showed up to present her picture book, Stinger.

It was a fun day, but also a time that steels the mind of a writer to head back to the keyboard, revise and move-on. What is my top take-away from this experience? It's been whirling around in my head—I want to develop an iPad app of a picture book. Well, I am now focused on making The Prisoner of Carrot Castle into an iPad app. It'll be fun. I have a developer who will do the programming. I just need an illustrator. Do you know of anyone who wants to do the art for an iPad picture book app?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Making a Pitch to Chronicle Books

Wednesday, December 8th, we embark on a road trip to San Francisco to pitch our book projects to Chronicle Books. "We" includes Beth Thompson, our fearless leader and all-around encourager for Inspire Christian WritersDee Aspinall, fellow dog lover and contributing author in The Dog Next Door; and Stephanie Porter, picture book writer and new to Inspire.

For the first time ever Chronicle is holding a Pitch for Charity. We pitch our books and toss a donation to Habitat for Humanity. Good deal for everyone. The children's publishing group will be reviewing picture books only. Good for me and Stephanie who have PB's to pitch.

I will be pitching The Veggie Chronicles: The Prisoner of Carrot Castle. Like a typical kid, Aiden didn't like veggies and his overactive imagination often transported him from dinner table to far away places. On one occasion he found himself a prisoner in Carrot Castle. Dazed and confused, he made a startling discovery. This fun story follows Aiden as he attempts to escape before he has to face the angry king of Carrot of Castle. Will the ugly, scary guard chain Aiden to the prison cell wall? Does he get found out as he hides from guards searching for him in the castle? Will Aiden have to face the angry King? Does Aiden eat his vegetables?

Those of us who labor at writing know it's not often we get an opportunity to submit our work to publishers much less get a one-on-one chance to pitch a book project to an editor. I'm practicing my pitch and hoping for success for our intrepid band of writers. Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks

Thanksgiving Day is a special tradition for most people—family, food, fun... and football. A celebration started by the early settlers to the New World, they gave thanks for the freedom and bounty they found in the beautiful land across the seas. Curious that we make little of the fact that giving thanks implies an offer to someone—a free transfer of something to someone. If thanks is the "something" than who is the "someone?"

The object of the pilgrims thanks was God and He is the receiver of the thanks I feel. I am thankful for so many things in my life, naming a few:

  • I thank God for my husband
  • I thank God for my sons (Nur and David)
  • I thank God for my daughter-in-law Tonya and my grandkids, Caeli, Riley and Declan
  • I thank God for my siblings, their spouses, their kids and grandkids
  • I thank God for Bob's mom and dad
  • I thank God my mom and sister are in heaven.
Sure I thank God for the roof over my head and the food I have to eat, but the focus of my thanks is family. There is nothing more important to me. I spend more time with family than any other people in my life and I love it!

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; 
make known among the nations what he has done.
1 Chronicles 16: 8

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Going to the Dogs

For my dog lover followers, here's another clever video from the group Ok Go—the guys who brought us the choreographed treadmill video. Here they are in their new video with their rescue dog friends performing White Knuckles.

Look at this! Amazon is already advertising The Dog Next Door. You can pre-buy the book. Release date is June 1, 2011. Make sure you get your copy so you can read my story inside.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Sad Goodbye

Greg sitting on the steps of the Little Brown Church,
which plays a part in his novel, Saving Grace
This week we said a sad goodbye to fellow writer and author Greg Cochran. Within a month of his fiftieth birthday, Greg passed away suddenly, leaving a grieving wife and teenage son and daughter.

I met Greg at one of the critique groups sponsored by Inspire Christian Writers. The group had been critiquing his work in progress, a tender story of a Great Lady and a mysterious child in her court, taking place in medieval times. The economy had taken its toll on the Cochran family since Greg lost his job in the pharmaceutical industry earlier in the year. Besides writing, Greg had turned his frustrations toward training the many young athletes he was responsible for coaching at Bradshaw Christian School.

Greg had made an obvious impression on the kids he coached as evidenced by the large number attending his funeral. I remember Greg speaking of his "kids," how they enjoyed reading his novel, Saving Grace, and found it hard to picture Greg as the author.

Saving Grace developed a fan base since its debut in 2008. In fact book sales started to pick up this past summer as word spread about this intriguing novel of angels and time travel. Greg talked about fans who made trips to Pacifica, California and snapped photos in front of landmarks that play a part in the book.

Greg's best friend would say he was a steadfast guy who trusted God. Though large in stature, he projected a gentleness of heart and quiet spirit that calmed the room he occupied. Indeed, his favorite verse laid the foundation for a life which evokes the question, "Why does God take all the good ones?"

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
                                                                        Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Article in Clubhouse Jr. Magazine

I know I have been slow to come back into the flow of daily life and writing. The October issue of Clubhouse Jr. magazine, with the article I wrote, came in the mail during the time my mother passed away.

That being said... it's better late than never... Tah... Dah! Lunch box in hand… er, paw… Charlie, a golden retriever leaves for work everyday eager to bring home the bacon. Wait… not exactly! But Charlie does have a job—a job that makes him happy because he was born to do it. All dogs do.

Work and Wag (by yours truly), about jobs that dogs do, occupies spread 6/7 in Clubhouse Jr. magazine with a cute intro at the bottom corner of page 5. Beautiful photos spotlight each dog and their job. If you have kids or grandkids that are 4 to 8 years old, you ought to subscribe to Clubhouse Jr. It's wonderful. Packed with age-appropriate puzzles, activities and stories they will enjoy. The Members Only pages highlight the readers of Clubhouse Jr. showing submitted letters, photos of smiling faces and colorful pictures.

I can't wait to see the drawings readers are sure to send in of their dog doing the job that makes it happy. Do you know what your dog's job is? And chasing your cat does not count.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Mother's Legacy

Monica J. Getchel
4/17/1929 - 9/27/2010
My mother went to be with the LORD last week. Her agonizing slide into nothingness is now over. What a wonderful surprise it must have been when my little sister Patti greeted her at the gates of heaven. Mom died within a week of Patti's one-year anniversary of passing. They last saw each other in January 2009 when Patti drove five-hours from her home in Oregon to see Mom one more time while she still had the energy. Even then it seemed Mom could not grasp it was her daughter.
Patti's Visit 2009
Born to Leona and Bernard Kelly in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on April 17, 1929, Monica Jean grew up with four siblings. On June 3, 1948, she married Robert Getchel and two years later the first of six children arrived—yours truly. In 1956, the growing family (two girls, one boy and one on the way) moved to Ontario in Southern California. The family eventually grew to six (three girls and three boys).

In 1980, after a divorce, Mom moved to Cameron Park, California. She worked as a cashier for Good Chevrolet in Sacramento and later became one of the first employees at Intel in Folsom. Soon her children and their families began moving to the area. We moved to El Dorado Hills in 1989 when our son, Nur, was seven.
Mom's Children with Spouses and Grandkids
Cameron Park Lake, 1989
When Mom's father died in 1990, she found out her Aunt Connie was actually her older sister born to her mother out of wedlock. Instantly the Kelly siblings grew from five to six and we gained five more first-cousins.

By 1997 the last of Mom's children moved to the area. She proudly declared five of her children and their families now lived in El Dorado County within 12 miles of one another.

As a family we seized any occasion to hold a BBQ or dinner, enjoying lively conversations while the kids played. We enacted our own version of Pictionary, and evening games became legendary among friends who may have experienced a game or two. As soon as the kids could read and draw, they played Pictionary with the adults. Now we play us against our adult children. Guess who usually wins that match?

Meeting for coffee every Saturday became another family tradition that put a few coffee shops in the area "on the map." Unless we are out of town or at some function, we are at coffee on Saturday. In addition to family matters, we often discuss the condition and direction of our country and how it affects our lives. Six of Mom's nine grandchildren are now married—four have children—but all who can, are at Saturday coffee.

Mom occupied the center of all these family gatherings. Following her diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, we sold her car and moved her into assisted living. That action tore at our very beings and broke our hearts. Did we do the right thing? Should we have let her stay in her own place longer? Time assured us we did the right thing. Mom got picked up for coffee every Saturday until she could no longer walk and became confined to a wheelchair.
Family Reunion Cruise
December 2005
That first year in assisted living was 2005 and marked the start of a new family tradition. Family cruises. Eighteen family members spanning three generations from Wisconsin and California embarked on a Family Reunion Cruise of the Western Caribbean with ports of call in Cayman Islands, Balize and Cozumel, Mexico. Since that cruise there have been four more cruises—one cruise topped out at twenty-nine in our group.

Mom's legacy not only includes a happy, close-knit family that loves being together and doing fun things, but friends who wanted to be her child and even called her "Mom." To which she replied, "Greg (or other name inserted here), my favorite son!" No one could resist my mom's infectious love, warmth and wit. Indeed Mom left a legacy that few could duplicate.
Coffee at Gold Country Health Center with Mom
Christmas 2009
When Mom moved into nursing care we brought coffee to her, taking over the dining room at Gold Country Health Center between breakfast and lunch. It afforded a perfect playground for the great-grandkids. Squeals of delight pealed through the dining room as we pushed the kids around on wheeled chairs. Even though Mom seemed distant, the great-grandkids brought a spark to her life. Not able to put two words together to talk to us didn't stop Mom from communicating with her great-grandkids.
Mark and grandson Bean at Great-Grandma's
"Hi, Great-Grandma!" said two-year old Owen, my sister's grandchild. "Hi, sweetheart. What have you got there?" looking at the toy clutched in his hand. From the deepest recesses of the diseased mind come childlike responses that defy the best of science. Perhaps it is only a child that can penetrate the Alzheimer's mind which has faded into years long gone.

Over a month ago a glimpse of genius inspired us to have a BBQ at my brother's and arrange for a wheelchair transport to take Mom out of the nursing home for one last time. The past year Mom endured two trips to emergency and another two illnesses. Noting that her heart showed a marked slowing, her doctor placed her in hospice care. We felt her struggle with the disease that stole her life away would soon be over. That Saturday with Mom—family surrounding her—will remain a sweet remembrance.

Goodbye for now, sweet Mom! You live on in the legacy you left behind.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cheese Dogs

Thursday we flew into Portland, Oregon in advance of my niece's wedding in Corvallis on Saturday. We toured the Willamette Valley, tasting wines and taking in the bucolic landscape of the region. For a change of pace, a visit to the Willamette Valley Cheese Company seemed fitting. We passed the milking shed as we drove down the access road to the tasting room. Once out of the car, a trio of dogs—two labs and an australian shepherd—greeted us.

While others tasted cheese, I talked to the dogs... obviously needing my dog fix. I called them Chocolate, Licorice and Salt & Pepper. Chocolate looked remarkably like our Brandy. What is it about chocolate labs? They all seem to look and act alike. Gave him a pet on the head and he muzzled into my crotch wanting more.

Now Licorice was friendly, but she seemed to be distracted. She sat facing the road with a longing look. Perhaps her master was away and she waited for his return.

Then there was Salt and Pepper. Being the herder in the group, she bounced around from person to person, grabbed a toy, dropped the toy, competed for attention or simply rolled on her back as if to beg for a tummy rub.

As our group headed back to the car, a cow stuck her head through the milking shed fence and barked like a dog. It caused us to pause and look while she did it again. We laughed as we puzzled over why she would do such a strange thing ...or how she would make such a strange sound? Maybe she thought she was just another cheese dog.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Children: The Spark of Life

The Tire Swing Crew: 
sister Steph, brother Mark and husband Bob

My mother is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease and confined to a wheelchair. The one thing that brings a spark to her life is having her great grandkids around. She comes alive with smiles and giggles, finding words to say... even complete sentences, albiet short ones.

"Aren't they cute!" Mom would say as she watched Drew (3) and Kenan (2) greet each other with a hug.

Our traditional Saturday morning coffee extends three generations now with many of our kids married and having their own children. One Saturday a month, we pick up our coffee drinks and breakfast of choice and meet at the nursing home where Mom lives. Since breakfast for the nursing residents is done, we wheel Mom to the dining room and have it all to ourselves.

Drew and Kenan Enjoying a Swing on the Tire

Last weekend we arranged for a medi-van to transport Mom to my brother's for a family BBQ. It had been two years since Mom left the nursing home except for trips by ambulance to the hospital. Her five children, six of her eight grandchildren (all adults), and five of her great grandkids were there to spark up her life.

The highlight of the day and the delight of Mom centered on the installation and enjoyment of a tire swing. Imagine Mom's amusement as she watched her kids and great grandkids tackle the tire swing.

Feeding Grass to Dolly, the Miniature Horse Next Door

Enjoy the humorous videos and photos of the afternoon. Although the memory for Mom likely won't "stick," it made for a memorable event for the rest of us.
Feeding the Fish in the Backyard Fountain

Monday, August 16, 2010

Children's Action Song: Cabin by the Woods

This summer at Vacation Bible School we learned a fun action song the kids loved to sing and act out. I call it Cabin by the Woods. Watch the video and see why the kids asked to sing it everyday. Here are the words and actions so you can learn it too:

In a Cabin by the Woods
In a cabin by the woods, (draw a square in the air)
Little man by the window stood. (shade eyes and scan around)
Saw a rabbit hopping by (make paws and hop across)
Knocking at my door. (knocking gesture)
"Help me! Help me, sir!" he said (throw arms up in the air)
"Or the hunter will BOP me on the head." (slap end of fist)
"Come along and live with me."("come here" motion)
"Happy we will be." (make rabbit ears and stroke forearm)

Now comes the fun part. Sing the song again dropping the words from the first line—only do the actions. Keep dropping a line each time through, doing only the actions until you get to the last line. Then sing the last line with actions, drawing it out for a perfect ending.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why I Write for Children

I am passionate about writing for children. They are our future. It is our job to nurture them to become independent, caring and productive adults. Writing books for children is one way I can have an impact on the growth and character of children.

Those of you who follow my blog will remember my grand-nephew Drew. I featured Drew in my post Precious Moments of Independence. His mom recently bought him "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. After a few readings by mom and dad, Drew could read for himself... with a smidge of help. Drew is a very bright four-year-old despite his autism. A diagnosis of autism does not preclude a child from learning. Check out his "reading" skills on the video.

Reading to children is the best way to get your child to be a good reader. It opens up new worlds and experiences for their growing minds to soak up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FREE Online Conference for Children's Writers

Everyone Is Talking About WriteOnCon
If you haven't heard, there will be a FREE online conference called WriteOnCon for those of us who write for children. Yes... you heard right. A FREE conference on Tuesday, August 12 - Thursday, August 14, 2010. That's in two weeks!

There are a number of authors, editors and agents involved in this effort. It will be an interactive experience designed to give attendees similar features to a live conference, but in an online environment. The conference promises to be informative as well as entertaining.

With an eager intent to pay it forward, the founders of WriteOnCon have put together what looks to be a great online conference. So what are you waiting for? Go to WriteOnCon and register. Click on the Forums button at the top then click Register to get started.

I hope you'll look for me there.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It's Summertime Fun

Its summertime! Who wants to go to the beach? This dog day at the beach should get you going. Enjoy! ...and tell me you aren't exhausted with all that fun at the beach.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Precious Moments of Independence

On the Fourth of July we celebrate the July 4th, 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence. It marked our separation from England following a period of struggle with the British monarchy of King George III.

We celebrated the 4th of July with a BBQ and a viewing of fireworks in our suburban community of El Dorado Hills (population 35,000). This was the first fireworks event for El Dorado Hills and it turned out to be spectacular. Emergency agencies estimated attendance to be 20,000!

After a short walk from where we parked, we settled into the perfect viewing spot on a hill overlooking the fireworks staging area. The entourage from our BBQ included my brother Mark and his extended family—Scott and Sara with their kids, Drew and Bean.

Four-year-old Drew has autism, a developmental disability that strikes 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. Drew had no trouble cozying up to a grandmotherly woman sitting next to him on the hill. A complete stranger.

“Hi,” Drew said wiggling onto her padded seat on the ground.

"Well... Hi there," she politely replied.

Drew chattered on about the fireworks and very quickly a bond was made. She produced Drew's favorite "toy," an iPhone, and trustingly handed it to him. I watched in amazement as this sweet stranger interacted with Drew.

"I don't have very many games," she said while Drew deftly searched her apps.

When the lights shut off, Drew got excited. "Ready?" he shouted. "Are you ready?"

As the fireworks filled the air in front of us, the woman asked, "Which one is your favorite?"

Drew waited and watched. Several splashes of color later he shouted, "That's my favorite! ... and that's my favorite!"

At one point in the precious display of independence, I heard the woman say in response to Drew, "I don't have any children so I don't have any grandchildren."

It touched my heart to know how special this interchange must have been. How a fearless, autistic child feels no boundaries about approaching a perfect stranger to make a friend. That evening as Drew jumped up and down yelling "Bye" to his new friend, I couldn't help think the gentlewoman left richer because of a child's moment of independence.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Overview of Children's Book Categories

In one of my writing groups, we are studying Nancy Lamb's book "The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children." Taking one chapter at a time, we discuss it through our group blog called Wruffed Writers (writers getting buffed as we work to build our craft).

The first four chapters have been led by Sue Tornai and she has done a marvelous job. Chapter three outlines the children's book categories. You'll want to bookmark From ABC to YA: An Overview to size up your children's book manuscripts. Thank you, Sue, for doing a terrific job.

And if you want all the detail for yourself written in a very engaging style with lots of book samples listed, pick up "The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children." This book delivers.

Feel free to sign up for a feed or email subscription to Wruffed Writers. Come follow along and learn with us.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day: We Remember

Flag flying over the Arizona Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii
Fire up the BBQ and bring out the picnic gear—it's Memorial Day weekend. As you enjoy the hotdogs, hamburgers and potato salad, remember this great American pastimes is made possible because many died to bring us freedom. Plan to attend a parade or event that honors those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Last year we attended an event at the Veterans Memorial at Mount Vernon Cemetery in Fair Oaks. Amid rows and rows of American flags wafting in the wind, masses of people converged on the cemetery to see a military flyover, watch sky divers glide to earth and hear moving speeches from uniformed personnel. It moved us to see so many people there, honoring and offering words of thanks to those who served.

The most emotional moment of the day occurred when a woman sitting next to us began to weep as she remembered her brother who gave his life. My husband turned and gave her a hug. No words were needed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The AMGEN Tour of California and the iPad

I'm going to expose myself here... Okay... yes, I am a techno geek. I love technology, but I am not so starstruck to believe it has made our lives easier. On the contrary, it makes life more complicated. BUT... it opens up a world of way cool stuff and things we can do that could not be done before.

My husband, Bob, got me the iPad 3G for Mother's Day. The idea is to develop some apps (short for applications) of children's books I'm writing. But Bob wants to play with it too. Right out of the box, he loaded his extensive music library from his iTunes. Ah-huh Mother's Day gift... yeah sure.

The iPad 3G is a new version that provides internet via the cellular system. Sooooo... we took a short vacation and followed the first four stages of the AMGEN Tour of California. For each stage we mapped out several locations where we could stake out a spot to watch the riders come by then jump in the car and get to the next spot. Twice we skipped a location because we couldn't make it in time. Those guys are fast!

Lance Armstrong (left) and Jani Brajkovic of RadioShack climbing
the grueling Oakville Grade in Napa County

Just pure luck... I got several shots of Lance Armstrong. I held out my Sony Cyper-shot and pressed the shutter several times as they whizzed by. It was difficult to pick out anybody as they flew by in a blur.

Lance Armstrong following three Team Garmin-Transitions
riders at the sprint in Livermore

The iPad proved invaluable in mapping our location and route, making it much easier to race from one spot to the next. I have a love of maps and this is the ultimate techno-map. It uses Google Earth and a moving pin to indicate our location along the route. Seeing the terrain and buildings of the area really helps. I am so ready to throw Jeri (the name for our Garmin GPS device) off a high cliff—she got us lost more than once.

We used our Slingbox to stream the Versus sports channel to the iPad so we could watch the AMGEN coverage live on the course each day. The Slingbox technology allows you to watch and control your home TV from virtually anywhere—now that is super way cool. We had a crowd around us watching wherever we could get a signal.

The experience exhausted us after four days of running around Northern California. It was a blast. We logged 520 miles on the road and 15 hours in the car.

Having technology along made our trip more doable. We knew where we were in relation to the riders virtually the whole time, feeling connected to them via technology. Otherwise we could have gotten lost and/or missed the riders at the next spot. Next year we'll do it again... technology in tow.

Any closet techno geeks out there who want to share how you've used technology to do cool things?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Non-Fiction Short Story: Lava For Breakfast

This short story follows a thrilling lava-viewing, ocean adventure on the Big Island of Hawaii. Relax and enjoy a front row seat to creation in process.
Lava For Breakfast
by Chris Pedersen

It was dark and raining when we arrived at our meeting location. Rain pounded the roof as we waited in the car and peered out the windows into the blackness of the parking lot. It was 4:30 a.m. As headlights came into view, I studied each vehicle… No boat. Not him.

On a Hawaiian vacation to the Big Island with friends, Dave and Lu, we booked a once in a lifetime excursion to see lava flow into the sea from the Pu’u ‘O’o crater of Kilauea volcano. Family members took the trip two years earlier and highly recommended it.

We stayed in Kona and were scheduled to rendezvous with the boat skipper, Shane, at 4:30 a.m. in Pahoa on the other side of the island. The meeting time required that we leave Kona at midnight. Ugh!

“Do you think he’ll call and cancel the trip?” wondered Dave.

“I doubt he’s willing to give up the steep fee he charges. No, he’ll be here.” My husband, Bob, saw things with a fiscal savvy.

We discussed how trusting we were to give our credit card information to a complete stranger who says he’ll meet us in a small town, in the middle of a rain forest, at an outrageous time. Not to mention, to do a crazy thing. It did feel a little unsettling.

It was 4:45 a.m. An attendant arrived at the gas station across the parking lot. Soon lights illuminated the station. He’s late!

At 5:02 headlights swooped into the parking lot… boat trailing. The truck and trailer pulled into the gas station. The driver jumped out and put gas in the truck. It was Skipper Shane.

We followed Shane to the launch sight at Isaac Hale Park and climbed into his 22-foot fishing boat with only a padded hatch cover to sit on. Crashing waves heard in the pitch dark stirred a twinge of fear as Dan, Shane’s deckhand, backed the trailer down the boat launch into the restless water. Shane started the engine as Dan jumped into the boat and the fishing vessel roared away from the tiny harbor, pushing through breaking waves. The boat heaved with the ocean swells and I felt my fingernails digging into the hatch cover. The rain lightly pelted us.

“By the way,” yelled Shane over the engine roar. “Life jackets are inside the hatch.” We exchanged uneasy looks and held on tight. Removing the cover to get life jackets would not be happening. Despite the easing storm, the rolling waves continued while the dim light of a pending sunrise shone in the East. It was 5:30 a.m.

Skipper Shane was a swashbuckling 28-year-old—“I’ve done this for twenty years" type. As we forged ahead on our adventure, I allowed my shoulders to relax, releasing the tension in my neck, and began to trust his ability to navigate the waters. We clipped along at 30 knots (about 35 miles per hour—56 km/hr) for 45 minutes through the swells—lurching and bumping—often crashing hard against the water.

The sun appeared above the horizon and I saw smoke trailing down the mountainside—lava burning up the jungle as it oozed its path to the ocean. We arrived at the first area where lava added land to the island—a front-row seat to creation in action. The skipper idled the engine and we floated along, edging closer and closer. We felt heat and smelled sulphur. Iridescent lava fingers reached over the land’s edge into the sea. Creating an eerie orange glow, steam swirled and drifted as the scorching liquid hissed into the water. The seesawing boat made it difficult to focus my camera for pictures and video.

The lava activity seemed to cover one-half mile of coastline. Bobbing thirty feet from the flowing lava, Shane encouraged us to dip our hand into the water. I reached in. Very warm. About 100 degrees—just like our spa back at home.

Shane steered the boat around and took us back past the scene one more time. Over the mountainside a rainbow appeared. Rising from a haze of steam, it arched high against a powder blue sky framed by billowing clouds of pale pink and soft gray and landed in the mountainside jungle. Beautiful!

As Dan put out fishing lines, I felt my body could no longer reconcile with the rocking boat. Trolling for fish on our way back would take ninety minutes. Oh boy! One and a half hours more of rocking. Over the side of the bouncing boat, I leaned and heaved. My husband, Bob (my hero), wrapped his arms around my waist, fearful that the next bump would pop me out of the boat. And as time wore on and on, others carried on pleasant conversations while I gazed longingly at the shore, watching waves crash against the black cliffs.

Finally near our destination, Skipper Shane maneuvered the boat to setup his approach. Little did we know, the beach here is a hot spot and the local surfers turned out for the ten to fifteen foot waves. Shane idled the boat for a moment and waited. Without warning he gunned the engine, caught a trough between waves and glided into shore. Facing aft, I saw a large wave too close behind us and wondered Is it going to break on top of us? Adding to the spectacle, a deft body boarder appeared on the crest as it swelled to a break. I saw the whites of the aged Hawaiian's eyes as he took the ride of his life—following a fishing boat at that. Suddenly we skidded right as the skipper cut the engine to make the harbor—a move required to avoid rocks or grounding the boat. Before any of us could react, we came to a restful stop, and Deckhand Dan leapt to the dock and fetched the truck and boat trailer.

I was relieved to be on land again and finally able to appreciate the sheer adventure of the trip, especially "surfing" into the harbor. In his best Disneyland-ride-operator-voice, Shane bid us farewell. “Thanks for your business and be sure to tell your friends you had a great time…” he hawked. That was one trip to tell the grandkids… But I’m not crazy enough to do that again.

It was 8:17 a.m. Time for breakfast.


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