YEAH!! The final book of the Nine Jewels series is available on Amazon now.
It’s the exciting conclusion to Gideon’s and Ashton’s search for jewels that disappeared from Akbar’s court hundreds of years ago. The stakes have gone up—and the treasure hunt has become deadly. They can’t afford any distractions, but they’re not willing to let a good friend down in his time of need. The Finder’s secrets will finally be revealed.
There’s unicorns, a pale diplomat with spectacles, and a serious misunderstanding.
Come with me on a whirlwind tour of several countries: India, Russia, Iran and Ireland (I seem to have a predilection for countries that begin with the letter “I”) and learn some fascinating history along the way. By the way... All the jewels are REAL.
What are early readers saying?
“I love it!”
“exciting and engaging”
“This book was a welcome respite.”
And the expert?
”Your writing is excellent. The dialogue is great—authentic and crisp. I like all the references to real historical people and events. It’s remarkable how you’ve based so much of this story on fact.”
Taking care of a person afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease is a brutal job. I’m not exactly sure how they bathe my mother, but I do know that she has mutiny in her eye when they finish. Dressing her requires patience, stamina and the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast. Mom’s mood changes are unpredictable. She once removed a cushion from the sofa she was sitting on and swung it at another woman. (The other woman retaliated by grabbing another cushion and the whole affair escalated into a pillow fight involving multiple residents)
I want her to drink plenty of water to prevent her from getting a urinary tract infection, a condition similar to demonic possession. She prefers to tip her water glass and drizzle the contents over her dinner plate—like she’s adding a fine Béarnaise sauce to her meatloaf. I’d like to see her eat a vegetable. “Just take one bite, Mom.” But she’s grown suspicious of anything green, and once the dessert is on the table, the game is over. I reassure myself that chocolate cake does have a lot of the major food groups.
June 20th was this year’s summer solstice, the day with the most sunlight of the year. Advocates for Alzheimer’s come together on that day to fight the darkness that is Alzheimer’s by doing fundraising to support recognition and research.
To me, The Longest Day has another meaning too. It’s a reminder to recognize all the family members, aides and helpers that take care of these Alzheimer’s patients. Their work never ends.
The last time I spoke to my mom by video chat, she grew weepy. Her aide spontaneously threw her arms around my mother’s shoulders. “Do you feel that Judith? Susan is giving you a big hug.” My mom nodded and smiled weakly. I could’ve kissed that woman.
Our world is tumultuous lately and it’s hard to remember there is good stuff happening too. Mister Roger’s used to say: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you for all the Alzheimer’s helpers out there.
I’m releasing another book, and it’s not for everyone. It’s a memoir about my mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease and it encompasses the: frustration, guilt, fear, resentment and discouragement a daughter (me) experiences when she watches her mother’s decline. It’s also about dancing.
Mother started dancing as her inhibitions diminished with her disease. Her caretakers have been known to call her the Dancing Queen! Did you know that dancing releases endorphins, the ‘feel good’ chemicals in our body? Dancing has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, something we could all benefit from, right? I’m not saying she’s ready for the stage, but you’d be impressed by her shimmy.
My mother is one of 5 million Americans living with this disease. If you’re like me, that number means nothing to you. My mother, on the other hand, means everything to me. This is our story. It was difficult to write and “our song” continues to play. The memory care she lives in is on lockdown from the Corona virus.
Do you know what a virtual hug looks like?
An aide arranged a video chat for us. When Mom saw me on the screen, her eyes filled with tears, she reached for the phone, and then pulled it to her chest. I could almost touch the individual cotton fibers of her shirt. Next the phone traveled upward, allowing me a close-up of the parchment-thin skin on her neck and the lavender-colored veins running under its surface. She held me against her neck for some time, murmuring words that didn’t make any sense. It didn’t matter if I didn’t know what she said…I felt the love.
Dance with Me is available on Amazon.
If you are interested in the book, would you write a review? If you have a loved one with Alzheimers, include any tips you have for staying connected to someone who is disappearing before your eyes. I’d appreciate any ideas. Truly.
Let me tell you that writing a scene can be tough. Describing characters. Building tension. Reaching that happy ending and my favorite…finding a hook that keeps you interested in reading the next book.
Do you know what is also hard? Everything else associated with writing.
It’s the minor details.
Each time I write a new book, I load it on various sites. Goodreads, for an example. I add the details: my name, title, length of book, etc. and I wait.
Typically, it will inform me that the book "cannot be found" or the "author is unknown". Ouch.
But with Akbar’s Diamond, the book loaded immediately. It did the same on Bookbub.
Next, I tried to raise the book rank on Amazon. There are millions of books on Amazon so getting a book noticed is difficult. I went to Facebook and asked my friends and family to order the book. I did an interview with Book Drive for Kids. I reminded everyone when the book was released and it happened!
Akbar’s Diamond reached #15 in new releases of Dragon, Unicorn and Mythical Stories and #19 in Children’s Fantasy (I saw my book on the same page as Rick Riordan’s. I can die happy now.)
I want to say a big thank you for everyone who has:
Ordered a book
Beta read a book and pointed out errors
Encouraged me to keep writing
Took the time to write a review
Read the book for FUN.
I appreciate ALL of you more than I can say.
I was taking a yoga class before the world shut down. I chose yoga to increase my flexibility and within weeks I could bend at the waist and plant my palms on the floor. I wanted to be stronger, improve my balance, and I was starting to see improvements.
During class I realized that my goals were side benefits to what they were trying to teach me. The instructors kept emphasizing the importance of breathing. I’ve been breathing for a long time, and I’ve never paid attention to it, but they urged us to feel the texture of our breath and let our breath flow in and out of our bodies like a tide. As I inhaled and exhaled, I focused on the movement of my breath until ….
The instructor called out positions that were difficult to hold, required more strength or balance than I was capable of. Before I could maneuver my arms and legs in the right position, the instructor announced the next pose. Their recommendation to anchor myself with my breath seemed ludicrous.
The class was cancelled, but I didn’t forget the lessons. I’m doing the Downward dog and the Mountain pose. Struggling with the warrior poses. I’m keeping flexible and working on my balance.
What about the breathing you ask?
I keep coming back to that in my head. Wondering why breathing was the center of the attention. Breathing centers us. Focusing on breathing enables us to rise above our primitive responses and take control of our emotional responses. What if the positions and one-legged stances are purposeful distractions? What if we’re supposed to learn to remain committed to our breath, despite what is happening around us and to us?
And then I looked at it from a bigger perspective. Life forces you into difficult positions, pulls from you more strength than you believe you have, and it throws you off balance. It’s happening right now. So what can you do when the world turns you upside down?
My husband and I were talking this morning about the impact of the Corona virus on our society. He’s an optimist and actively seeks to find the positive in situations that appear pretty dire at first glance.
He travels extensively and believes that this virus will reframe his business. Vendors and buyers will adapt to conducting more business online. It will decrease our carbon footprint, and he won’t have to spend as much time on the road.
My first thought, selfishly, was finding a way to store more toilet paper— I didn’t plan this well.
More restaurants, he says, will deliver or offer curb side pick-up, and families will eat at their own tables. People, who rarely left their houses in the past, are craving walks outside and they’re meeting their neighbors for the first time. Families and communities will both benefit.
My second thought was salad. Fresh vegetables don’t last long in the refrigerator and we aren’t going to the store as often as we used to. My supply line has been threatened. I’m planning a garden with herbs, tomatoes, lettuce.
Fashion will take a hit. Your hair/clothing/shoes/purse lose their importance when no one else sees them.
Parents will get a close up view of their child’s study habits and will be part of of their child’s academic support network—instead of expecting the teacher to take sole responsibility.
I’ve been thinking about the importance of our money. (it’s not as self-centered as you’re thinking) Our retirement savings took a hit, but so did everyone’s. I meant that I’m spending our money more thoughtfully. What I choose to have for dinner tonight, for instance, can have an impact on a local business. It’s always been that way, but I have to admit, I didn’t sense the gravity until now. Buy Local has taken on a whole new meaning.
I’m trying to be like my husband and take this as a pivot point in my life. I’m focusing on my breathing (doing more yoga), giving thanks for my family and friends, getting creative with the items in my pantry and trying to live each day like it was my last. Just in case it is.
What’s your pivot?
When you make a major move, things go missing. You have to expect it. In my case it was random items--two cutting boards, all of my socks, my mom's scissors (I went into a panic but after days of searching, I found them) and the bottle of Spray 'n Wash. I went to Wal-mart to stock on on cleaners and was picking this off the shelf when I heard a voice from behind me.
"Does this smell bad to you?"
I gotta say, I closed my eyes and winced. It's been my experience that if someone asks that question, you both already know the answer. I was wrong.
She held a bottle of fabric refreshener and wrinkle remover and she tilted it in my direction. It smelled pretty good.
"Some of them smell awful." She waved her arm toward the shelves and then explained. "Not everyone has the luxury of washing their clothes whenever they like. I like to use this in between so that my clothes smell fresh."
She didn't have the luxury of getting her hair professionally done either. I could see remnants of the hair dye she'd used earlier that day on her temples.
She didn't ask for money. She was earnestly trying to find the right product. I've been to a laundromat, and it can be quite expensive to wash and dry your clothes, but I'd forgotten that until she reminded me.
I guess this was God's reminder to me of how fortunate I am. All of my appliances work. I stay warm when it's cold, the dishes are clean when I take them out of the dishwasher and I'm able to wash and dry my clothes any time that I want. I may grumble when I have to make another trip to the grocery store, but I can afford the food.
Outside of the all the material things, I have a wonderful family and incredible friends. Chances are, if you're reading this, you fall into one of those lists.
Thanks for being in my life.
It’s been 98 years since the race riots in Tulsa. (You can read about them in my last blog here)
What has changed?
In 1996, the Greenwood Cultural Center was opened. Their goal is to recreate, renovate and revitalize the Greenwood district that was destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre (called the Black Wall street by author Booker T Washington). The website refers to the event as a massacre instead of the more common title of “riot”. The goal of the center is the education of Oklahomans and Americans—remembering both the victims and the survivors.
In 2016, an article in Tulsa World (95 years later), said there was still room for improvement. Marq Lewis (head of We the People Oklahoma) said the “historic African-American areas are desolate. They need economic improvement, more school improvement, more grocery stores... “ He concluded by saying “Tulsa is a city divided by races that do not commingle.”
In 2018, for the first time, Tulsa schools added education about the event to their curriculum.
Now, let me tell you about a guy.
George Kaiser, according to Wiki, is the Chairman of BOK Financial and one of 100 richest people in the world. His parents left Germany due to the Nazi occupation and they settled in Tulsa and started Kaiser Frances Oil together with other Jewish refugees. Along with being one of the richest men in the world, Kaiser has a reputation for being a philanthropist on the level of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. He’s committed to giving half of his money away in a “Giving Pledge”. His special interest is childhood poverty and education, but what I wanted to tell you about is a playground.
The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma is a 66 acre park with playgrounds, parks, skateparks, concert venues and restaurants. It’s ADA compliant and it has desensitization areas for people who have autism and get overwhelmed.
And it’s all free.
The park was Kaiser’s idea. He wanted to turn the waterfront area into a site where Tulsans could get together. His dream turned into the largest private gift to a public park in the US history. The Gathering Place provides safe areas for children to play, adults to meet for coffee, and families to enjoy music or fireworks.
But perhaps the best part of all is the diversity of people that gather together to enjoy the new park. Maybe healing doesn’t begin with talk…maybe it begins with play.
Do you remember Tiananmen Square?
Let me remind you of the 1989 incident. Chinese students became frustrated by inflation, corruption and political restrictions so they started protesting and conducting a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square.
In response, the government declared martial law. They sent the military to Beijing—soldiers with machine guns and assault rifles. They attempted to clear the crowds, but protesters responded with shouts and projectiles. Violence from both sides escalated until the army opened fire and began killing both protestors and bystanders.
The government expelled foreign journalists and sought to control coverage of the event in domestic newspapers. As a result the true death count is unknown, but according to estimates from various sources, the figure could be anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand.
I remember when it happened and my first thought was that something like that could never happen here.
But it did.
Last Monday, scientists and forensic anthropologist started searching for mass graves in Tulsa, a result of a race riot that occurred almost 100 years ago. I didn’t remember learning about this episode in US history, so I did some reading.
According to Wikipedia, it happened like this…
Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting a 17 year old white elevator operator. No written account of her statement has been found. She did not press charges and the police did not feel it was an actual assault. However…
A local sensationalist newspaper released a story titled “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in an Elevator” and they implied that Rowland may be lynched (killed, usually by hanging).
White people showed up at the courthouse. The sheriff organized his staff and took steps to keep Rowland safe. Three white men entered the courthouse and demanded that the police turn over Rowland. The sheriff refused.
The black community were worried about Rowland’s safety. They took up rifles and shotguns and also went to the courthouse. Seeing the armed black people, more whites went home for their weapons. The police and local ministers tried to de-escalate the crowd but they failed. A gunfight took place killing several white and black men.
Gunfights continued through the night. Fires were set in the Greenwood district, also known as “Black Wall Street”. Privately owned aircraft, possibly carrying law enforcement, dropped firebombs on buildings and fleeing residents.
The National Guard declared martial law and were successful in stopping the violence.
Here’s where the details get fuzzy. Newspapers covering the event had wildly different accounts of the casualties. Typically both whites and black deaths were listed between 10-25. The Red Cross mentioned up to 300 dead but some now believe thousands of blacks died.
Also lost were almost 200 businesses, several churches, and over a thousand houses which left 10,000 black people homeless.
Six thousand black people were arrested but no whites were prosecuted for their actions during the riot and decades went by with no acknowledgement of the incident. As late as 1970’s, local newspapers were still refusing to publish articles regarding the riots.
Maybe that’s why I’d never heard of this before....
You can watch a short clip about it here.
The Avett Brother's said it well...
I've been to every state and seen shore to shore
The still open wounds of the Civil War
Watched blind hatred bounce back and forth
Seen vile prejudice both in the south and the north
And accountability is hard to impose
On ghosts of ancestors haunting the halls of our conscience
But the path of grace and goodwill is still here
For those of us who may be considered among the living
from the Avett Brother’s album: “Closer Than Together”
Ragnar is an artist whose work is installed in the Dallas Museum of Art. His last name is patronymic. (I didn’t know what that meant either) A patronym is when you incorporate a portion of your father’s name into your own name. Like Johnson, for “son of John”. So I think the second portion of his name means “son of Kjartan”. According to Wikipedia, it’s not actually his family name. Interesting.
Wikipedia says he does video installations and “collective emotion is a hallmark of his practice.”
Nine screens are suspended in a dark hallway in the DMA. Each screen is shot within a different location of the same house. A musician may be sitting at a piano in an elaborate living room or strumming on a guitar in a masculine study filled with books with similar colored spines. A group is gathered on the porch in another video, singing behind a disinterested man beneath an umbrella.
It’s easy to get distracted by the scenes that unfolds in front of you.
I wondered if the man playing a guitar partially submerged in his bubble bath would ruin the instrument. I questioned why some rooms appeared extravagant and in others, the paint was chipping. And what was that man doing in front of the porch…was he symbolic of something?
It takes a moment to realize that each musician is wearing headphones and is creating the music I am listening to. Without seeing each other, or even being in the same area, the melody rises up, drifts back down again, in perfect unison.
It’s beautiful. Haunting.
You should definitely go see it.
What’s the lesson? In the beginning, I was caught up in the visuals. The superficials. I worried about insignificant details and didn’t recognize what was happening.
Ragnar allows you to be a part of the emotional experience of the music. It’s a sensory experience unlike anything I’ve ever done.
You should definitely go see it. (It’s free!)