Summer reading tips

There appears to be some confusion over getting books over the summer break that are assigned reading.  Here are some insights to make it easier.

Assume that you will not be able to renew a book that you have to have for summer reading. Three weeks is plenty of time if you actually dedicate yourself to it. This means you can’t play video games for three hours every day. It might mean you have to take it on vacation with you. Take the number of pages and divide them by the amount of time the book is checked out. That way you know how many pages you have to read every day. Go ahead and exert the discipline on yourself and read it.

There are other people who are waiting for it. There may be 500 kids who have to read that book for the summer but the library can only afford 200 copies. This means you have to share. Do not wait until two weeks before classes resume in the fall to request your book. You will not get it. When school lets out at the beginning of summer go ahead and request the book.

When you get it, take notes so that you can remember the book later when school starts. If you’re someone who likes to take notes in books, don’t do so in a library book. Consider buying a copy at a bookstore or online if you need to have it longer than three weeks or want to write in it.

Just getting the book and reading it is part of the assignment. This prepares you for the future when you have a job. You can’t say that you weren’t able to do your assignment. There are no excuses other than you have died. It is not fair to the other people who are waiting for the book for you to keep it longer than three weeks. It is not the library’s fault if you don’t have your book in time in order to read it. This too is part of the test.

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The cuckoo

They studied the population carefully. Select only the isolated ones, the weak ones as hosts. Select the ones who have low self-esteem, who feel grateful for any attention, even if it was from an “other”, an alien, an outsider. Humans need attention from others like flowers need rain. Not enough and they fail to bloom.

They watched large wild cats too, saw how they would select the weakest of the herd, separate it out from the pack. This was who they would feed on – not the strongest. No, that was dangerous. It was too much risk, too much effort. Playing this invasion on the quiet was the best course, they realized – no need to show your hand. You might get shown the door, and in this case it meant not just homeless but planet-less.

This was a one-way trip for the Xohni, and they knew it from the beginning. Outnumbered and running low on resources, they left their dying planet decades ago. The invaders let some go voluntarily into the transport ships, packed together like sardines, feet to head, barely room enough to scratch an itch. Some were given up by their own kinsman – the misfits, the outlaws, the ne’er-do-wells, to be sold at auction like so much cattle. However they ended up on Earth – voluntarily or not, they had to adapt to their greatly reduced circumstances. They had to breed, and fast. They barely had enough resources to shelter and feed themselves, however. There was no room on the ships to bring more than the basics for even those who went willingly. Those who were given up by their kinsman had less than that.

There was no time to set up homes with nurseries, no time to raise their offspring. If they’d taken the time, they wouldn’t stand a chance of recovering their home world. Many held out hope that they could return, somehow, some when, and rebuild their smoking husks of cities, razed to the ground by the invaders. They needed to breed, to create troops from their own flesh, to be able to do this.

So the men found the softhearted ones, the quiet ones. The ones who were a little or a lot overweight. The poor ones, the less than clever ones. The host didn’t matter. Their DNA would not contribute in the slightest to this process. They were unknowingly broodmares, surrogates only. They would carry a child in their bodies but it would not be theirs. The alien men would mate with one of their own women before this event, and like the seahorse, would carry the fertilized eggs. Up to a year could go by before they had to find a cow, as they call the unsuspecting human women. Meanwhile, the embryo waited, not dividing, not growing, in their father’s womb sacs.

Once a cow was located, it was quick work to charm her enough to take her to bed and deposit his precious cargo inside her. Pregnancy was guaranteed. It didn’t matter if she was ovulating or not, on the pill or not. Her fertility was not in question because her eggs never came into the equation. What was deposited in her womb was already fertilized, already alive, and already stronger than anything she might have provided. These alien offspring were engineered to grow faster and larger than any human baby ever did. They were more aggressive, louder, more belligerent too. There was no debate that they were different, for sure. Everyone knew it, but none were willing to talk about it openly.

Teachers and pediatricians chalked the differences up to the fact that they were raised by single mothers, because they all were. The alien fathers never stayed around to raise their children. That would slow them down, take up too much time, and require resources they didn’t have. They left town the same day they talked their sad targets into spreading their legs for them. Once fertilization was over, they had no need of them. It was time to find another cow.

In this way, it was all too easy to double their population in a matter of a few years after landfall. Sure, the offspring were young, but they were strong. Native Xohni customarily went into the army at age 12 anyway. It was their coming-of-age ritual. While some cultures would have a party or give the child a new name to mark the crossing of the threshold of maturity, the Xohni went to the battlefield, and did so joyfully. Violence was as much a part of them as hair or eye color. It wasn’t a choice. Those who tried to suppress their violence by attempting to continue their education or by choosing to marry a cow were shamed by their family and peers.

The red doors. Abandoned project #1

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And tomorrow I will go into the smaller door, the lesser door. Always and forever the grand door, the steps leading upwards, but not to the light, no, never that. You’d think so, with the wide entrance, the columns and the arch. You’d think so, but you’d be wrong. That is the way that leads to the world. This world, the world of doing, of broken promises and prom dates and first kisses and grandparents who die. The whole ball of wax is there for the taking. But the other door? The plain one, the one you can’t see in until you’d reached the top step, the landing? It isn’t for nothing that you have to take eight steps to get there. Too high for anybody in the room too peer in. It is the best kept secret after all. Door not locked, not even there, even. Not even any hinges for the door. Never were. And that light! Warm and low, like a late afternoon in September, when the skies are clear and the summer heat is a memory. No, that doorway you only go through once, because there’s no coming back, no backtracking – not as far as anyone knew. There could be a mind wipe, a re-cycling, an up-cycling, but we’d never know. Yes, tomorrow it shall be.

 

(Photo from Pinterest. Bramham House, England. Copyright belongs to the photographer.)

The Donor

Jane had no reason to suspect Craig was the reason she was always sick. He was her joy. He cheered her up when she was down. He bought her flowers and turned them towards her saying she was the sunshine that they fed on. He noticed when she paused over a piece of art and bought it months later as a surprise. To be honest, she’d never had such a kind and considerate boyfriend her entire life.

He never minded that she was often cranky because of the pain. The chronic feeling of un-wellness kept her up at night, made it hard to spend time with friends. Often all she wanted at the end of the day was to curl up on the sofa with a book and let her mind escape into the pages. At least there she could forget the dull but ever-present pain that ruled her days.

She drank anti-inflammatory tea by the gallon, did everything her therapist suggested, and still she had no relief. She had come to believe that pain was part of who she was, just as much as her bunions and her curly hair. She could no longer remember a time she wasn’t at least a little achy, since a little had been a lot for so long.

It had started when she was in college, the year she met Craig. Under hypnotism much later she realized it was the very night she’d first seen him at a frat party that the aches had begun. They were mild at first, like the ache from being hung over. Then it continued, like she was getting a summer cold. Then it never left.

She had been dating someone else then, but Craig caught her eye and they had chatted. It was a few months later before she ran into him again, and by then she was single. The last relationship had left her a little sour on the idea of dating again anytime soon, and she had told Craig so when he inquired. He understood and respected her space. There had been no question about it, he honestly and sincerely accepted her feelings. There was no hidden agenda of pretending to wait just so he could date her later. It was the first time in her life she’d ever felt like a potential suitor actually cared about what she wanted.

She’d decided to date him after six months, after she’d had enough “me” time and wanted “we” time again. Maybe it was the lack of pressure. Maybe the pain was wearing her down. Or maybe the hex sign he’d sketched out between her shoulder blades had done it.

She’d never noticed at the time, how could she? That evening had been a little fuzzy, what with the kamikaze she’d consumed. It had tasted so good on that hot summer afternoon, sitting on the front porch of the frat house. Her friend Fish, a resident of the house, had mixed it for her and it was a little stronger than she liked. So when Craig offered to give her a back rub when she mentioned how her shoulders ached, she thought nothing about how he warmed up with some delicate tracery on the bare skin between her shoulder blades. She didn’t know he had traced a sigil. She didn’t know it was a sigil of marketing, of ownership. She didn’t know that his attitude of indifference was just an act. In that moment, she was tied to him for as long as he desired, and that was for as long as she was useful to him.

He had been born normal, like any other child of the Midwest. Nothing exceptional had happened that would have raised any red flags. No one would have ever suspected a thing until Bebhinn saw them together years later. She was a friend of a friend, really, not connected to either one. This made her objective, like a reporter. She was a curious about them as a couple since she’d noticed them at the Yule party three years ago. Sure, they had been at other parties before then, but this was the one where she had finally seen them, seeing the energy between them, and it wasn’t good.

Electric blue lines streamed from Jane to Craig, but none the other way. Bebhinn had seen that only once before, and it was in her native Ireland. A man had drained his wife’s life from her, bit by bit at first and then more and more as he grew hungrier and she grew weaker. The less she was able to give, the more he wanted until there was nothing left.

The town priest, quietly an exorcist even though the official church standing was that such things were fiction and not in keeping with the rites and canons of a post Vatican 2 faith, named the cause of the poor woman’s death, having seen it many times before in other guises in his native Nigeria.

The dire priest shortage in Ireland had meant that he’d had to transfer to this backwoods village a long decade ago. Bebhinn wasn’t pleased with the change in accent most of all, finding his heavily accented sing-song voice at odds with the native lyricism of her people, but what other option was there? So many parishes had closed or merged when their priest had finally died and not been replaced, so she should be grateful their doors were still open, even if the doorkeeper was almost unintelligible to them. For a while she decided to pretend that the mass was in Latin again, and just let it wash over her. After a few months she started to make some headway in understanding him and decided to try to befriend him, on the pretext of making him feel at home in this wild, wet land, so different from everything he knew.

It was during their weekly lunches together that he confided to her that he could see spirits. She was the only parishioner he’d told and the only one he would ever tell. He knew, with the same sort of knowing that had led him into this clandestine club, that she had the same ability. Over the years he taught her all he could – all that was safe to teach a layperson. It was these skills that Bebhinn used now.

Jane had stopped going to church when she entered college, the same as many young people. Unlike them, she still had an interest in God, but didn’t have the time. Most quit because they were finally free of their parents and no longer had to go as a prerequisite for free room and board. If she had continued to attend, her pastor might’ve seen the changes in her – the rings around her eyes, the light slowly leaving. There wasn’t a spring in her step or song in her heart anymore.  The change had come on so slowly that it would’ve been impossible for anyone to have noticed if they’d seen her daily.

Craig had been draining Jane for years before Bebhinn noticed her at that party. He was sly about it, withdrawing only tiny bits of energy at a time. He had to be sly – otherwise she might notice and leave, and then he’d have to groom another donor. For that’s what she, and 100 other women before her were – donors. Unwilling, unwitting, but donors nonetheless. They’d not signed a card or registered with any agency, but their essence was being siphoned off nonetheless.

 

How many books?

A friend recently asked me how many more books I have in me – on a rough count 8 are already to be assembled / edited.

– the short stories “Short and Strange”

– secular poetry

– a novella called “The Visitors” – speculative fiction.

– a book on creativity, to inspire other people to create

– women’s issues/rights

– other short stories inspired by ephemera

– yet more short stories – no particular theme

– Bible study (yes, there is some in Free Range Faith, but other stuff, and just Bible study – no essays)

There are probably more. These are what I can think of right now, based on what is already written. I have written a lot of material in the five years since I started my blog. I have slowed down on creating and producing new material and am assembling books with what I wrote. I might assemble a book based on my “Invisible House” musings. This will include pictures.

I will also write a book using the pictures my husband and I have taken using the Doctor Who action figures as models – a story based on those characters. Just taking them has been fun.

“Images of God” is now available!

My 6th book, “Images of God” is now available on Amazon. It is a collection of inspirational poetry and photographs. I have published it in two versions – black and white (seen above) and color.

Here is a link to the black and white version –

https://www.amazon.com/Images-black-white-Betsy-Nelson/dp/1548191027/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1498665462&sr=8-2&keywords=images+of+God+betsy+nelson

The color version is more expensive due to the publishing process that has to be used.

Here is a link to it –

“Images of God” photographs

These are the color images of the photographs in my newest book, Images of God.  The color version of the book is expensive to produce, so I have also produced it as a black and white version.  This page serves as a supplement to that version.  All images are owned by me and cannot be used for any purpose by anyone unless specific permission is granted by me in writing.

 

p.1 Grandfather Mountain waves. Waves of mountains, like the sea.  Grandfather Mtn, NC.  Fall 2015, while taking my Father’s ashes to scatter.

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p.7  Autumn tree.  Taken in October 2016 in Old Hickory, TN, at the Old Hickory Church of Christ. I photographed this tree several times a week for the months necessary to document the change from summer to autumn.

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p.14  Japanese lantern.  Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  Summer 2015, on the trip to retrieve the ashes of my grandparents and father.

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p.18  Tree in snow.  Winter 2016.  Hermitage TN.  A Bradford Pear – white in winter, white in Spring.  A study in colorlessness.

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p.24  Bricks.  Lewisburg, TN.  On the side of a Presbyterian church on the main square, downtown.  Old and new bricks, two different colors, working together to build this building. Thanksgiving, 2015.

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p.33  Mary at Calvary.  Taken at Calvary Cemetery, Nashville, October 2016.  This is a Catholic-only cemetery, with many graves of people who were born in Ireland.

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p.39  DuBose.  Dubose Conference Center, near Sewanee, TN.  (University of the South).  An Episcopal retreat center.  Probably Spring 2013.  The trees in the courtyard had been cut down since the last time I was there, at Cursillo.

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p.44  Lantern and tea house. Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  Summer 2015.

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p.49.   Mercy Door.  Spring 2015, probably.  Mercy convent, Donelson TN.  Not to be confused with the Mercy Doors that opened in 2016 on order of Pope Francis to grant a plenary indulgence.  This door is to the sunroom for retreatants at this retirement center for Sisters of Mercy.

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p.54    Grandparent’s home.  Birmingham, AL Summer 2015.  Mountain Brook area. When I knew it, it was just white, and the privet gave privacy to the front porch. My grandfather painted one side of the house white every year, rotating around.  Simple and efficient. This looks difficult to maintain.  Here, I said a prayer for this new family, that they not be haunted by the ghost of my father, who died here.

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p.61   Church front.  Downtown Nashville TN.  Fall 2012.  On break from a Diversity in Dialogue class taken through work.  Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ.  The sign on the door said that it was open to all, but it was locked.

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p. 69. Nest. At a meeting place called Atmology, in Nashville TN.  Probably 2015, at a Compassionate Nashville coffeehouse event.  A sitting area near a window – all cushions and rugs.  No chairs.  Intimate and cozy.

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p.74   Mailboxes. Old Hickory, TN.  Fall 2016.  Rusted, anonymous.  More mailboxes than buildings to go to.

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p.79  Torii gate.  Birmingham Botanical Gardens.  Summer 2015.  A place of demarcation, a gate without a lock.  I was in Birmingham to retrieve the urns filled with the ashes of my paternal grandparents and my father – all dead over 20 years.  Time to bury or scatter – no longer in a niche, hidden away at the back of a funeral home, at the end of a corridor filled with filing cabinets. Since I was going to Birmingham, I chose to be a tourist to all the places my grandparents never took me. The Botanical Gardens are free, and have a lovely Japanese Garden section.

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p.86  Shell sanctuary.  A miniature Zen garden I created in my back yard.  Moss, rocks, a broken salvaged shell as the tea house.  Photo taken at a very low angle, very close.  Micro photography.  Summer 2015.

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p.90   Mary blue.  Taken at Mercy Convent, Donelson TN, perhaps fall of 2015.  Blue skies, downcast gaze.  She too is outside, in all weather, suffering with us.

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p.95  Door knocker.  At Palmas Verdes, Hermitage TN 37076.  Probably 2014.  This is the entrance to the Ladies’ restroom.  Such detail and beauty in such an in-elegant location.

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p.102  Mexican door.  Taken 2016, Hermitage TN at the Palmas Verdes Mexican restaurant.  I’d long admired this door with these lovely trees.  I’d planned to sketch it, but I was always in a hurry, or there was a car parked in the best spot in front of it, or the sky was overcast.  I took pictures so I could sketch it later when conditions improved.  In the meantime, they have cut down the trees and removed the beautiful hardware.

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p.106  Courtyard gate.  Entrance to the courtyard behind Rembrandt’s coffeehouse, Chattanooga TN.  Bluff View Arts District, maybe Fall 2015.  A hidden gem – easily overlooked with this unassuming, unpretentious, and yet somewhat forbidding gate.  Open, yet invisible, yet also warding off.

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p.113  Courtyard.  Behind Rembrandt’s coffeehouse, Chattanooga TN.  Bluff View Arts District.  One of my favorite hidden nooks. There are benches and a water fountain here.  Very serene.

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p.120  Window.  Detail of a stained-glass window at Mercy Convent, Donelson TN.  The colors speak to me.  When I see these windows, I know I’m there.  This is a motif throughout the building.

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p.126  Holy light.  St. Meinrad’s archabbey, St. Meinrad, IN, September 2015.   The light near the aumbry, where the reserved sacrament is kept (the communion wafers that have been blessed) denotes the Real Presence of Christ, according to Catholics.

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p.135  Church towers.  Downtown Nashville TN.  Fall 2012.  On break from a Diversity in Dialogue class taken through work.   Spires.  Belltower?

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p.140  Tree with knobs.  Near the Hermitage Public Library, on a lunchtime walk.  There is a small park with trees, a huge sundial made of airplane wings, and a stream.

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p.147 Spires at Calvary.  Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Nashville TN.  October 2016.  Dedicated to an Irishman who moved to Nashville in the 1800s.  A Holy Temple in miniature.

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p.151   Detail.  Detail of a small stained-glass window depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove.  At Mercy Convent, Donelson TN.  Probably Spring 2015.  The prism turns the light into rainbows.  The statue of Mary next to it is illuminated by this light.

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p.157  Rust map.  A trash bin, rusted, paint peeling.  It looks like a map of some city I’ll never find in this lifetime.  Hermitage TN recycling center, near the Goodwill and Big Lots and Hobby Lobby, perhaps Autumn of 2014.

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p.163  Communion.  The cut-glass dish for holding communion wafers at Mercy Convent, Donelson TN.  The image reveals the Star of David. The people taking communion would not see this because it normally would be covered by the wafers and/or held by the priest.

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p.167  Mary at St. Meinrads.  The images of Mary at the monastery of St. Meinrad’s (in St. Meinrad, IN) are in the woods.  She is not in the church.  She is outside, in the wilderness.  You have to look hard to find her. She is not on the map.

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p.172  Abandoned house. Across from Blu Fig restaurant in Nolensville, TN.  Possibly spring 2016.  This structure is no longer present. Presumably abandoned because of the nearby road construction.

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