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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My first book club, and second book!

I actually published my first book before I ever attended my first book club.

Last week my mom's book club in Charlotte invited me to attend their annual luncheon.  Though they meet monthly to discuss a book, once a year they do something a little special.  This May they all read A Chameleon, A Boy, and A Quest and asked me to come as their guest.  This was a peek into the gracious  world of Southern hospitality: a decorator-lovely home, welcoming women, artful salads and sandwiches, deep kindness.  Though they are not exactly my target age range of 8 to 15 year olds . . .they are actually my audience I realized, because they are the ones who BUY books for the 8 to 15 year olds.  I was able to explain a little about our life, how I came to write the four Rwendigo Tales books for my own children and why.  And in the process I got to meet my mom's friends and thank them for their time in reading my book.  The only thing missing was Acacia, to hear how much they liked the illustrations!  My sister sat through the whole thing patiently and took those photos for me, for which I am also grateful.

This week I got the excellent news that the second book in the series, A Bird, A Girl, and A Rescue, is now available for pre-order at a slight discount from New Growth Press.

I won't be in the USA when this book comes out in September, though I'm not sure I did much in promotions this year anyway.  I did quite a number of radio call-in shows, where I sat alone in a room with the door closed and the phone cord stretched under it at my aunt's house in town, and answered questions from cheerful big-voiced radio-show people.  When I went to the book club I realized it was the first time I was really talking about my book to actual people whom I could see and did not know.  Which was a little uncomfortable.  Being an author must be a little like being a model (or things less savory)--you are exposed, you are putting your heart and ideas and words out for people to like or not like, to judge.  It's a little easier to hide behind the virtual interfaces.  So I guess I'm a bit of a whimp for my one experience being in the epicenter of politeness, but it was a good way to start.

Keep reading!

Monday, May 09, 2016


Thursday marked the 40th day since Easter, which give or take a couple millennia was the day Jesus left for Heaven.  And since that event stretches over the same weekend as many graduations, one might look for the parallels.

There were the disciples, thinking that against all odds they had made it, that their teacher and friend and loved one had SURVIVED and that everything was going to be OK. Things were looking up, ushering in decades of living and working together.  They were ready.  But just when they thought they had arrived, Jesus ascended to glory.  One day he was there, and then next thing they knew it was clouds and distance and obscurity. 

Which is a lot like a graduation for us parents.  You can’t believe it all worked out, that those exams and papers and late nights and dangerous drivers and bureaucratic snafus (and for some of us, those accidents and illnesses and wars and heartaches) are all behind us now.  Your niece or your son, someone you care deeply about, made it.  They came through the challenge and they passed the test and now they are ready to live a life of creativity and service.  Honored.  Prepared.  YES!  Only just as the diploma is handed over, the reality ascends.  For most of us, this milestone means more distance.  We Myhres have been at this goodbye-kids thing for 8 years now.  Graduation means separation.  Into the clouds, literally, for many flying off to new homes or jobs or training.

But the primary idea tied to Jesus’ ascension in Scripture is the victory of a King who rules in ways never before possible, for our good.  The Spirit’s coming was promised that day, and fulfilled about ten days later.  The one whose form was marred now stands in dazzling wounded glory, a sure victor.  And sends us help, presence, guidance, gifts.  Love, joy, peace.  The intangibles that make life rich, the very things for which we long.

OK, I know I’d rather have all four of my kids at arm’s length, and Jesus in the living room too. 

But that’s not the way it works.  We’re all working together and loving each other, and we all get glimpses of the final goal, and sometimes we can revel in each other’s tangible form.  But most of life plods on out in that time when those we love most are also following their calling from God in their own spheres.  We are not alone.  The Holy Spirit and group texts keep reminding us of that truth.  But there’s still a fracturing of the heart that Mary was warned about, and since it’s also Mother’s Day, that seems to be a good place to end.  Birth begins the gradual graduation of another being, a separation that is good and necessary, that we work towards and affirm.  And yet mourn.  Birth, death, ascension, Mary felt her heart tear those three times, as we all do in the uncountable micro-sorrows that mar our days as well as in the milestones of independence that we celebrate with photos and parties.  But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Pink Month, or the beauty of Dirt

March was the yellow month:  daffodils and forsythia which we glimpsed between trips.  April then seeped in with pink, azaleas and dogwood and tulips, again glimpsed between trips.  As our own burst of pink drew butterflies, we had a couple of stretches in Sago.  Hikes through the woods, more trail work, nailing the snow-destroyed gutters back up, work under the house putting up a vapor barrier. . . . the tinkering to settle in a home that is more than a century old never ceases.  Late snows notwithstanding, we noticed the garden work starting to go on around us.  Nearly every home, be it a trailer or a cabin or an old farmhouse, has a vegetable garden.  It's the mountain way.

So last week, when we have five whole days at home, while Scott was productive with more skilled projects and Serge supervision work, I set out to reclaim the two flower beds my kids did for me as gifts last Fall from a springtime surge of weeds.  Once the weeds were gone, they looked pretty empty, so a trip to Lowe's later and I had new flowers to set out.  Feeling ambitious, I added a small herb patch around the corner.

But I still really wanted a vegetable garden.  Scott pointed out that we now had tickets to fly back to Kenya in 68 days, and the minimum time-to-harvest on my seed packets was 60-80 days.  So why plant?  I'm not sure what compelled me.  A dream of making a home.  A lifetime missionary habit of "when in Rome".  A way of saying that we are investing in this ground not just for ourselves, but for our children when they have time to visit.  An affirmation of our daughter's environmental major and love of growing things.  More than two decades of living in Africa where I always had so many other people to help me garden and I was stuck in a hospital.  Good old stubbornness?  

It was a rainy week, the ground was soft, Scott had a full day of meetings, and I decided about 11 am that it was now or never.  Our house is up on a rock, and so it made sense to locate the garden down off the ledge in the green grass over the septic field.  I began.
I was lacking in technology and expertise, but I figured I had a shovel and time.  So I measured out two hoe-lengths as a radius of about 9 feet, and started removing sod in a circle.  Piece by piece.  Filling a wheel barrow, shaking off the dirt, carrying the grass plugs to a weedy leafy area on the other side of the driveway, a transplanted carpet.  It was slow going.
About an hour and a half later, I had a ring, and started moving in.  Wow, this was taking a LONG time.  Hmm.  250 square feet, and probably 4 struggling shovel attacks per square foot, could I last for a thousand repetitions?  When what should I behold but Scott in between meetings, using mechanized brilliance:

It was trickier than it might look to scrape up a thin layer of sod with a tractor bucket and not remove too much dirt . . . and to deal with the heavy folding patches of grass he lifted up.  In 20 minutes he made more progress than I did in two hours.  But then he had to go back to meetings and I kept plugging on by hand.

The day was slipping towards evening faster than I thought.  About 4 I removed the last of the grass and scott reappeared to help me loosen up the ground that was left with a shovel, incorporating a barrow full of compost from the pile we'd been collecting all winter.  
And just then, the first in a series of very helpful events occurred.  Our neighbor pulled by in his truck, and I ran out into the road and waved him down.  Do you have a rota-tiller, I asked?  Sure, let me run home and get it, he said. Frankly just what you need after 5 hours of back-straining work is a 20-something young man with a machine he knows how to use.  He returned and I kid you not in ten minutes or less, my rough clods were soft plowed garden-like earth.

Sometimes angels look very much like this.

And just in time, because as he loaded his tiller back up (he said it was older than I am), the clouds let loose.  Another perfect timing, all that tilled soil turned pliable, sopping wet.

The rain stopped, and I quickly hoed my circle into my dream of a sun-burst pattern.  

Sunflowers in the center.  A ring of corn around that.  Then spokes of tomatoes, beans, lettuces, and herbs.  All surrounded by a rim of wild flowers.  Well, none of that may actually happen, but in my mind that's what I'm hoping comes up!

A messy muddy day, but we were done.  

Except for one problem:  every garden in WV has to fight the encroaching hunger of the deer.  We routinely see a handful, or even a flock of 8 or 9 moseying through our yard from one section of forest to another.  The two main pass-times of Sago are hunting deer, and devising ways to keep deer out of your garden.  The third is talking about the first two.  

So in closing, here is the 7-foot fence we wrapped around that circle the next day:

I'm not sure why this project made me so happy, but it did.  If anyone I love gets to eat a tomato, I'll be even happier. 

I think it is the ultimate picture of redemption that draws us back.  Dirt becomes food.  Barren ground brings out nourishment.  Seeds break open to birth beauty.  Something dies, so we can live.  The ground was cursed, but we sweat to fight back and transform this patch into a New Creation.