Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Christmas in September

Yep, I'm Christmas shopping. Not because I'm an early shopper. I've never started before December - ever in my life. And not because I like to shop - I don't. With a passion.

I'm motivated this year because my middle son is in Bulgaria serving a church mission and if I don't get it in the mail soon he won't receive it in time to open Christmas morning. I would feel terrible if he didn't get a package from his family for Christmas so . . .

What do you buy a just-turned 21-year old who is not currently reading novels or magazines and not playing computer games or sports? And it has to fit into a large padded envelope and not weigh more than 4-5 pounds. Tough assignment!

Inspirational music CD's
Hot cocoa for those rainy, chilly Bulgarian winters
Christmas candy (he requested Hershey's strawberry nuggets and Cookies n'Creme candy bars)
Cards from all of us with news from home and jokes and drawings
A homemade tape with all of us being goofy and singing Christmas carols and talking since we only get to talk to him a couple times a year by phone
Extra vitamins and chewable Vitamin C
Beef jerky
A new journal
(He got wool socks last Christmas)

He had his birthday on 9/11 last week and hit his one year mark in Bulgaria on September 15. One year down. One to go. I sent him a birthday cake to bake and it exploded before it arrived dusting everything in cake mix. A curse of crossing the Atlantic. Turned out, the other missionaries and people he knows there (he's currently on the Black Sea coast) gave him a surprise birthday party with lots of great Bulgarian food. He was completely delighted.

And told me in his weekly email that I need to learn how to cook Bulgarian food. He says it's the best!

I think I know what I'm asking Santa for Christmas now.

Sunshine Anecdote

It’s 93 degrees here, way above the normal of about 83, and with a passive solar house that means it’s HOT! Lots of people ask me, "What is a passive solar house???"

Passive means we have no “active” solar panels or water pumping systems, etc. Every day you do nothing – and the sun warms the house.

Here's how it works: We built our house facing the south with lots of windows to catch the solar rays. Sunshine comes in - house heats up.

One key ingredient during building: Use adobe walls and tile floors to absorb the heat during the day’s sunshine hours. At nighttime, the adobe and tile slowly released the heat as the temperature falls, but it helps to keep the house at a fairly even temperature. No huge swings.

During the winter months (October – March basically) the sun’s angle is lower on the horizon which means the rays come directly through your windows. Perfect. Even in January when it’s in the low teens my house will be 75 degrees inside – without any heat on at all! It’s fabulous. I can sit on the adobe bench in my kitchen soaking up the sun and staying toasty warm.

What happens during April/May through September you might wonder – those hot summer months? Well, the sun begins to move higher on the horizon, reaching its full zenith overhead in June. By late May the sun does not shine directly through the windows at all, hence no solar “gain”.

You can observe the patch of the sun’s light movement on the tile floor – literally – as it changes during the weeks of May and September. A few inches, a foot, two feet, three feet, etc. as the sun is changing into it’s winter position - or out of it - as the case may be.

We’re roasting at the moment because I’ve been watching the inches of sun grow to three feet coming in now across my floors (it will eventually grow to about ten feet in December/January!) and yet our temperatures are way above normal. Hence, a very warm house. And the swamp cooler broke yesterday. Sigh.

Native American tribes used the sun to heat their adobe houses and cave dwellings a thousand years ago here in the Southwest. Very smart people!

The Southwest is the perfect climate to a solar home because we have more sunny days than cloudy days. It can be 12 degrees outside in January and even blustery, but the sun will be shining. I love it! Why wouldn’t everyone build a solar house like this? It didn’t cost us more to build. You just direct the main rooms of your house facing south, put in lots of big windows and let the sun pour in.

When we moved to New Mexico and heard about this type of house we thought it was foolish NOT to build a house like this. But very few people actually do. We save a lot of money on our electric bill plus I have a warmer house than most other people do. Cool!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Advice from my Son

So I showed my new blog to my 23-year-old son, and he had lots of advice for me. He also showed me the dozens of blogs he keeps up with. He is a D&D addict! So he likes to read the usual gaming sites, personal opinions and advice columns on gaming, but in this family we also like to read political opinions and columnists like from and talk about them. My son says "flame wars" can be fun. Yikes. Too stressful. He just laughed.

Son's advice:
Give your readers something more than a journal or a diary.
Give your readers something to think about, something to chew on.
Be controversial.
Express opinions.
Invite dialogue.
Be relevant to other people's lives and interests.

Sounds like good advice for a blogger. And good advice for a writer of children's books, too.

Sixteen years ago in November, 1989, I heard Richard Peck, the Newbery winning novelist, give a talk at a writing conference in Santa Fe (before he was a Newbery winning novelist). The conference was called, "The Courage To Write For Children." Peck said that the book you are attempting to write should not be about you. Your story should be about your reader. Kids don't want to read about you - the boring *old* grown-up. (There's that word *old* again - sheesh!). Kids want to read about themselves - or they want to read about their friends. Their life is the interesting one, the one they care about the most. You're just the author, some name on the jacket cover. A nobody to a teenager.

There you go , all you bloggers and writers. Good advice - from my son and Richard. Take it or leave it. And have a good one.

I'm off to finish rewriting, The Healing Spell, one of my latest projects, and eat some chocolate.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Teenagers Old and New

Oh my gosh, I'm blogging! I think I'll welcome myself to the 21st century. I'm sort of feeling like a teenager today. Who'd have thought I'd be writing an online journal? I've come a long way from scribbling each night in my cloth-covered flowered little diary with the gold lock in 5th grade. (Which I still have!) When I was a kid, personal computers were something far in the future and the internet - who could have imagined? Heck, we didn't even have calculators back then. My dad was a civil engineer and used a slide rule. They used slide rules to go to the moon! Isn't that a scary thought? The 60s and 70s are starting to feel like the Dark Ages. Gulp. No, I did NOT say that! I'm not getting older! I REFUSE to get older . . .(stamps foot). Is it obvious I'm a 40-something fighting middle age? I think I read that middle age has been pushed to 60 now. Sounds good to me.

Yes, I do still feel like a teenager, even with teenage kids of my own. And it becomes even more apparent to me when I'm with the 14-16 year olds in my class in the early morning hour. They're funny, sometimes goofy, shy, extroverted, smart, silly, sleepy, grumpy, sometimes annoying, but mostly great kids. Inside, they're just like teenagers were thirty years ago. The angst. The uncertainty. The hopefulness. The girls giggling with the boys in the hall and coming to class late. (This morning, ahem.) The basic problems with friends and family and schoolwork and schedules. Some things never change. The outside appearance does, but what's on the inside - I don't think so.

And I like that.



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Time travel, war, love, rattlesnakes, magic . . .

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