Archive for May, 2012

The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water. Together, these items weighed between 15 and 20 pounds, depending upon a man’s habits or rate of metabolism. Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations; he was especially fond of canned peaches in heavy syrup over pound cake. Dave Jensen, who practiced field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap he’d stolen on R&R in Sydney, Australia. Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe in mid-April. By necessity, and because it was SOP, they all carried steel helmets that weighed 5 pounds including the liner and camouflage cover. They carried the standard fatigue jackets and trousers. Very few carried underwear. On their feet they carried jungle boots – 2.1 pounds – and Dave Jensen carried three pairs of socks and a can of Dr. Scholl’s foot powder as a precaution against trench foot.

Until he was shot, Ted Lavender carried 6 or 7 ounces of premium dope, which for him was a necessity. Mitchell Sanders, the RTO, carried condoms. Norman Bowker carried a diary. Rat Kiley carried comic books. Kiowa, a devout Baptist, carried an illustrated New Testament that had been presented to him by his father, who taught Sunday school in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As a hedge against bad times, however, Kiowa also carried his grandmother’s distrust of the white man, his grandfather’s old hunting hatchet. Necessity dictated. Because the land was mined and booby-trapped, it was SOP for each man to carry steel-centered, nylon-covered flak jacket, which weighed 6.7 pounds, but which on hot days seemed much heavier. Because you could die so quickly, each man carried at least one large compress bandage, usually in the helmet band for easy access. Because the nights were cold, and because the monsoons were wet, each carried a green plastic poncho that could be used as a raincoat or groundsheet or makeshift tent. With its quilted liner, the poncho weighed almost 2 pounds, but it was worth every ounce. In April, for instance, when Ted Lavender was shot, they used his poncho to wrap him up, then to carry him across the paddy, then to lift him into the chopper that took him away.


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My book’s rank is rising!  I’ve been inside of the top 50 since May 19–a great wedding anniversary gift.

I’ve written three books, all realistic teen stories with a Christian theme.  I tried writing them not to proselytize, but to provide an example of how a person in a relationship with Christ would react to the events in the story.  I teach students from all over the world.  They often ask questions that tell me they want to know more about how Christians behave and how they make the choices they make.  I tried to write with this audience in mind.

If you have time on this peaceful Memorial Day weekend, I’d be grateful if you could have a look.  I’d be especially grateful if your teenage daughter could have a look.  If you create an account you can leave feedback to help me improve the book.

I currently have sixty ‘backers.’  This means that 60 members of the site have decided to ‘shelve’ or support my book.  If you like my book, please consider creating an account and then placing my book on your shelf.

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“My” POW

Each year as Memorial Day approaches, I remember one combatant in particular.  His name is Lt. Commander Michael Christian.

I grew up on military bases in the late sixties and early seventies.  We seldom had the clothes or shoes our civilian counterparts wore, but one ‘must-have’ accessory for us in our early teens was the POW bracelet.  Mine bore the name of Michael Christian.  I grew close to “my” POW and prayed regularly for his safe return.  I will never forget the feeling of watching him descend the steps of the plane that returned him to US soil.  I put my finger against the screen and tracked his movement across the television screen.

Many years later, as an adult with an internet connection, I googled the name of “my” POW.

I wish I could tell you that I found him and sent him a letter expressing my humble gratitude for his service.

But I can’t.  Michael Christian, clearly one of the bravest warriors in the world’s messiest war, had died.  And I learned about it from one of his cell-mates in the Hanoi Hilton, one Senator John McCain.

I send my humblest thanks to every American who has defended my many freedoms.  We often forget how fortunate we are.  This weekend, I remember.

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I spend my days with middle-school students, and it’s impossible to miss how uncomfortable they are with themselves.  Durng these early teen years, they begin sprouting all sorts of unfamiliar body hair, they begin to struggle with pimples, and they worry about their appearance in ways we grown folk can no longer remember.  They are embarrassed by everything, but seldom notice their own body odor.  And that’s just the boys.

I realize when I’m with them how comfortable I am in my own skin.  I am the size I am.  I have the face I have.  My opinions are my own.  I can be interested in what others think.  And acknowledging my shortcomings doesn’t make me feel the least bit inferior or ‘less than.’  It is, in fact, almost fun to discover an area for improvement because it keeps my mind sharp.

But when did this happen?  When did I make the leap from self-conscious, perpetually embarrassed thirteen-year-old to confident and comfortable woman?  Did it happen when I became a wife?  After I’d had some success at work?  Or was it becoming a parent that helped me make the switch?

What do you think?  When did you leave your uncomfortable persona behind??  When did you become who you are?

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A little PR

One of the things writers must learn to do is to publicize their work.  Every published writer I’ve been lucky enough to know has told me that it’s a strange new world for them.  Can you imagine?  Writers are people who enjoy sitting alone typing.  Yet we must tell everyone we know about our secret typing activity, and on top of that, we have to let them read what we’ve typed!!  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather sit in my recliner and tap on the keyboard.

I uploaded a newly revised version of my book to Authonomy.com today because it’s my turn to be reviewed for two weeks by one of the crit groups I’ve joined.  A crit group is like a college creative writing workshop:  it’s a group of people who have written books and have agreed to read yours in exchange for you reading theirs.  This particular group focuses on one book each fortnight.  (I love the word ‘fortnight.’  So much more useful than ‘two weeks.’)

I’ve written a YA book about two Christian teens.  I’m told the category is “CTF” or Christian Teen Fiction.  I think of it as Realistic YA Christian because it explores realistic, modern themes and how they might be handled by people who happen to be Christian.  My concern is that it’s “too Christian” for mainstream publishers and “too realistic” for Christian publishers.  I’d love to know what you think.

Anyway, the latest and greatest is now posted, and I’d be honored if you would have a look.

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Today marks the anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, a volcano in Western Washington.  Here’s a video (no sound) that gives you an idea what the landscape looked like at Washington State University in Pullman in the days following the eruption.  Most colleges closed early or allowed students to go home as we had no idea what the ash might do to us.

You can find more footage of the eruption here.

And I got a free T-shirt from a guy who was organizing the first “Non-Polluter Commuter Week” in the Spokane area.  It was scheduled to start May 18, 1980.  The shirt was a great conversation starter.


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Finally!  A WordPress Daily Post that speaks to me!  I’m talking about the one by Darryl Houston that asks how I feel about swearing in my writing.

I don’t need it.  And I’m not trying to make any particular statement.  I just believe we can communicate without swearing.  And given that I’ve written a YA Christian book, I think swearing might put off some of my readers.

On the other hand, when I’m in the classroom reading another writer’s work aloud to my students, I read it as written.  I never cover up swear words or change a written word to something more palatable.  (One exception: I don’t read a particular word found in Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.  I’ll say ‘N-word.’  I’ve heard ELL students use the word without realize it’s offensive, and believe it’s more important to help them understand that it’s a word that shouldn’t be used.)

What do you think of the amount of swearing in books?  If you’re a writer, how do you decide how much to use?  If you’re a reader, what do you think of foul language??

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