If you’re a blogger , a friend of a blogger or someone who values the wealth of information, joy and encouragement made possible by this relatively new option that people have to engage and connect with one another, please consider the points in this blog and start commenting more often. I know tons of folks who would appreciate it, including yours truly. We’re not anonymous or unavailable, we’re right here, hoping to interact with you.
It’s easy to read a post and move on, andeven easier to like a blog post without reading it.
But stop and think for a moment. How much more valuable to the writer, and other readers, if you actually bothered to respond. Isn’t that what you’d hope for when writing your next blog post? Nobody wants to invest time in writing something that people are just going to skim over.
Not only that, but you will gain more from the post and from the interaction with others than you realise.
You might gain new ideas or perspectives, or you might just end up feeling a little better about life.
It doesn’t have to be a long or complicated post. Even just saying “thank you” or “I liked this!” does the trick.
However, commenting on a blog post is more useful than just propping up the ego of some blogger who…
Save the date: Sat. Aug. 3. noon Eastern, and join the authors of Tell-it-to-the-Marketing for an exciting and fun afternoon. Bring your favorite summer beverage and settle in and meet some of the finest indie authors around.
There’s a new “Author of the Week” series over at Campbell’s World, and the first featured author is Sally Cronin. Sally runs the Smorgasbord blog, which truly has something for everyone. Enjoy this candid and engaging look into the life and times of an excellent writer and a remarkable and wonderful woman.
June, the month that straddles the summer solstice, is in the rear-view mirror. Summer has hit us with a vengeance. Before I lay the powerful and magical month of June to rest, though, I’d like to share some of my favorite memories. There’ll be no weddings or graduations here; this is about the awesome natural world that surrounds and sustains us here in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains.
“No, you go first,” says one of the baby squirrels peering out of the duck house high above Hills’ pond: photo by Rich Hill.
As May was coming to an end, we were inundated with rain, much like we had been for over a year. Everyone who had outside work to do had long since grown bone-wearingly sick of it. Then, one day at the end of May, Rich spotted a doe with her newborn fawn. The next day, another deer Mama showed up with … triplets? Even in this little rural patch of Pennsylvania where the deer are at least a third again bigger than those around the Philadelphia area where we used to live, that’s super rare.
As I write, I am happy to say that she still has all three of them, though I fear Rich’s new photos won’t be in my possession in time for this post.
Amphibians: Endangered Species? Maybe not Here
One of the best things about our seventeen acres of heaven is the pond. I think it’s a half acre, but don’t quote me on that. Anyway, instead of dumping that blue dyed stuff that costs a fortune into it to curb the algae, we gave that job to the carp family. Koi, comets and minnows keep it clean for us. We love to feed them in the spring.
We have a pond shelter, which Rich designed and built prior to neuro Lyme disease. From the outside, it looks like a gingerbread house – Navaho red with a steep white roof and an arched door with a scalloped arch above it. When you go in, however, you quickly realize that the whole thing is more of an open porch. There’s a gorgeous Victorian balustrade facing the water with a set of wind chimes in the center. Along the side wall is a cupboard for fish food. Doves nest in the rafters.
The shelter, which you can see on my WordPress homepage, was built into a hill above the pond. It’s floor, therefore, is only resting upon a few supports. When you stomp your feet on it, it booms and groans, echoing across the pond. Pretty soon, the fish show up in droves, including our remaining four adult koi, who are two feet long and brilliantly colored.
Frogs, Frogs, and the secret, Sexy World of the American Toad!
Most of the frogs bury themselves in the mud at the bottom of the pond in the fall and wait for warmer weather. Other amphibians, including the American toad and the tiny spring peepers migrate from the woods. The peepers show up in March and herald the arrival of the season of amphibians with their high-pitched and extremely loud peeps. Then, a couple large and very old bullfrogs start with their slow, deep and measured comments on the situation.
An American toad with his neck swollen up is singing his haunting song: photo by Rich Hill.
The American toads sing a haunting song that sounds to me like a flying saucer, or someone trying to hum and whistle at the same time. Toads come to the pond to find love, and their ritual is wonderful. They gather in the pond, treading water and talking to one another. Though some are always doing their haunting song, others speak in a far quieter voice that I can only describe as sweet jabbering.
The toad tadpoles go through their miraculous transformation in the pond. One day, when they have left their tadpole bodies – with the gills that enabled them to breathe under water – behind, they will migrate en masse up the banks through the grass and into the woods. Our neighbor’s pond is uphill from us. Their toads come down to our driveway, where they are dangerously visible. Rich says the grass waves as they hop away.
After the Toads
After the toads, the pond begins to swell with a chorus of bullfrogs. They all must get their two cents in. Then, they fall silent until one of the members of this assembly thinks of something else to say. Within two weeks, those old bullfrogs, who started so quietly, have had enough of the youngsters. They pack up and leave. We hear them at our neighbor’s pond, and we can report that we’ve noticed this peculiar behavior for years.
Green and the less common leopard frogs begin to participate in the discussion, and then the gray tree frogs weigh in. I love to walk down to the shelter around midnight and listen to them singing, jumping after bugs and minnows and issuing forth with an occasional burp. Rich says that the frogs sit very still, and when they leap for something, it is so fast that you can’t see it.
If we walk around the pond, we will hear them leaping into the water from their hiding places among the reeds. The green frogs give a distinct, high-pitched warning to their fellows about the potential danger we bring.
Audio Player: Green, Leopard & Bullfrogs
Audio Player: Hills Pond at Midnight in Early June
Do you remember your first Florida vacation? Mine was a bit of a saga for an old homebody. The result, however, was a wonderful trip with the love of my life and a new song, which led to an opportunity to create lasting memories with my father and sister.
The Back Story: Vacation Planning at its Best
Donna Standing with her second guide dog, Curly Connor, inspiration for his namesake in The Heart of Applebutter Hill
In 1988, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day weekend happened simultaneously. Any reasonable person would know that getting from Philadelphia to Miami at the last minute, for a Florida vacation, was going to be nigh onto impossible. Rich had driven down earlier that week to drop his parents off at his aunt’s to spend the winter.
I, however, planned to take Amtrak. Not that I could have gone with them. They were in Rich’s old Chevy Cavalier. One more person, my guide dog and enough luggage to get us through a two-week trip wasn’t going to fit. Besides, I had a school assembly that Thursday in the Philadelphia area. You don’t cancel school assemblies; they’re too hard to come by.
I’ve always loved trains. I had enjoyed several long trips in the ‘70s. When I learned that Amtrak was booked up, flying reared its ugly head as the most reasonable option. There was one seat left on a Friday flight to Miami, and it was in first class. “Hmm,” I thought, “that doesn’t sound so bad.”
Getting Out of Glenside
The assembly went well. The school kids loved my guide dog Curly Connor. He was a solid black Golden-Lab cross with long thick wavy fur and the sweetest look you ever saw. What’s not to like?
Then, it started to snow. I needed to get to Philadelphia’s Suburban Station on Friday morning to catch the Airport shuttle. I was initially planning to walk to the Glenside train station with my big JanSport backpack with the sturdy hip frame while carrying another bag. Fortunately, the daughter of my dear neighbor was in town and offered me a ride.
The Flight to Miami: a Methodist Minister & an Unexpected Song
First class was wonderful. Curly Connor and I shared a seat with Rev. William Sharp, a retired Methodist minister on his way to a convention, which was a cruise to the Bahamas. We had a nice conversation. Eventually, he took a nap, while I took in the experience. A new tune bubbled up from my subconscious with enough words to hold it together long enough to make it to my tape recorder that evening.
When we arrived in Miami, I told Curly Connor, “Go find your Daddy.” He hesitated as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding, right? I’ve never been here before.” Then, he started barreling down a long tunnel where he did, indeed, find his Daddy.
The next thing we knew, we were in the Everglades. It was bright and sunny, and I had enough vision left to see the form of an anhinga. We had a glorious time on Sanibel Island, puttering north through Florida and eventually made it home.
Stones from the Jordan: The Bible Story Behind the Song
This song is based upon Joshua 4:1-24. It’s the account of how the Lord held back the Jordan river, allowing the children of Israel, led by Joshua, to cross on dry ground. The Lord tells Joshua to send one man from each tribe back to where priests stood holding the Ark of the Covenant in the midst of the dry river.
They each took one stone. Joshua would build a monument at Gilgal where they would camp that evening. He explained that in the future when the children asked them what the monument meant; they were to explain what God had done.
Somewhere, I got the idea that there was something important about the fact that they weren’t to carve the stones. I realized that river rocks would be smooth and rounded, unlike the jagged rocks on land. I’m sure that would have interested the children. In the third verse, I talk about the significance of this story nowadays. God gives us souvenirs (memories, blessings and achievements) to remind us of His power in our lives.
Donald Weiss lived out his entire life in Easton, Pennsylvania in the Lehigh Valley. He was a singer from the get-go. He had a beautiful tenor voice despite years of smoking. He sang on the radio for milk, performed in community theater and entertained friends on hayrides. My mother said they called him “the poor man’s Frank Sinatra.” He was a volunteer fireman and one of the founding members of the Easton Suburban Rescue Company.
After high school and a short stint at Lafayette College, he worked at Bethlehem Steel, where he met my mother, Dorothy, who was a meter reader. He joined the Army in WWII. During training in Texas, he sang in a group with other soldiers. A benefactor paid for them to record a few songs. I have the 78 RPM records they made and hope to digitize them someday.
Through a twist of fate, he broke an ankle playing tennis and couldn’t join his fellow soldiers when they left for officer training. They all died. He went to Okinawa just after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When he returned, Dorothy married him, and they started a family. He was never baptized until he joined the Lutheran church, around 1964, when my sister Lisa was born. From then on, he sang in the church choir.
The Weiss Family in October, 1964 – Mom, Daddy, Donna, Jeff and baby Lisa: photo courtesy of Lisa Weiss Robinson.
He got a job with the railroad post office – a route between New York City and Pittsburgh. He was away six days in a row and then home for eight. They bought a house. Mom got a job at Magnetic Windings. When they closed the railroad post office, I was in high school. He started working at what was then the new Lehigh Valley Post Office in management.
Lisa & Dad in June, 1967 Around the Time of Donna’s High School Graduation
When he retired, he joined more choral groups, including a Barbershop chorus. At one time he was in five groups. He participated in many Barbershop competitions. He also started driving school bus – the kindergarten route.
Harvest: Faith Songs & a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity
My Dad and I didn’t always get along. After he pulled federal jury duty and spent a week with me at my Germantown (Philadelphia) apartment, things changed for the better. We went down to Penn’s Landing one evening and enjoyed a big band. He stopped to listen to me do my street singing thing in Suburban Station. He told me that he finally understood why I did it.
Donald Weiss & His Three Children: Donna, Jeff and Lisa, 1980: photo courtesy of Lisa Weiss Robinson.
Rainbow Colors, my first album, came out in 1983 just after my first guide dog, Simba, passed away at thirteen. For the next one, I was determined to do a compilation of songs about faith. “Stones from the Jordan” was high on the list of candidates, and the chorus was crying out for harmony.
I invited my sister Lisa and my father to accompany me on it. I had found a small studio, Kennedy Music and Recording, owned by fellow Glensider Dave Kennedy. Dave and I, along with keyboardist Gene Galligan, and other members of the Johnston Brothers, whom I had worked with on Rainbow Colors, laid down the instrumental tracks first, and then the singing began. Here it is, along with the lyrics, for your listening and reading pleasure.
STONES FROM THE JORDAN: Words & Music by Donna Weiss (Hill)
Moses led Israel from Egypt to Canaan,
And they wandered in the wilderness for forty long years.
Then Joshua took over, and on that special day,
he said, ”Get ready, you’re goin’ home, and dry away your tears.”
(They took) stones from the Jordan, when the Lord held back the water,
And they walked across the river to the promised land.
They took stones from the Jordan, when the Lord held back the water,
And we walked across the river to the promised land.
North of Jerusalem in the town of Gil gal,
build an altar to the Lord made of 12 smooth stones.
When your children stop to wonder who rounded off the corners,
that’s the time to tell them of the grace that you’ve been shown.
Mighty rivers flow through the lives of each believer,
and the only way over is with help from above.
The memories and blessings and the things that we’ve achieved
are evidence and souvenirs of victory in love.
Not sure I have seen children heading off to school with such enthusiasm.. but I expect if they got to play with their friends all day in the woods they might do.. this guy has a great job.. thanks to The Oregonian
Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed.. Sally.
If you aren’t familiar with author Amy Krout-Horn, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. I gave My Father’s Blood five stars on Amazon, because there weren’t ten. Amy’s Lakota ancestry – Native American – and the type 1 diabetes that runs in her family figure prominently in this beautiful book.
My Father’s Blood by Amy Krout-Horn: book cover, courtesy Amy Krout-Horn.
A Review of My Father’s Blood
What is it about Krout-Horn’s writing? Something sets her autobiographical novel, My Father’s Blood(All Things That Matter Press 2011), apart from other excellent books I’ve read. Yes, she has a riveting story to tell. Yes, she has parsed that story out in ways that captivate the reader. But, I could say that about other books. It’s her use of language. It’s stunning without being flowery, raw without being hopeless. It is a beautiful platform that lifts the story in love.
Amy Krout-Horn, author of My Father’s Blood outside at Boca Ciega Bay, Florida: photo by Gabriel Horn.
This is the story of a family, a community and a nation, seen through the eyes of a child. It is mainly set in Iowa, where she grew up with both sets of grandparents nearby. We also get a look at other areas of the Midwest, including Minnesota and South Dakota. We also see a wonderful bit of Florida as well.
Amy is keenly observant even as a child in her mother’s arms. She has a pure spirituality and is at one with nature. The imagery Krout-Horn presents, the Arora Borealis, the elm tree, the lone tree, beaded moccasins and the Lakota family of her dreams – like the title – have multiple meanings. They stick with the reader for their beauty as well as the hunch that they are signposts inviting us to go deeper.
Part of the power of this book is the way in which it portrays the Indian experience, as one family, seemingly white and average, deals with the impact of assimilation over generations. Amy’s dreams and the glimpses of the Lakota world she encounters in her waking hours draw her toward a part of her heritage that others would have her deny.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age six, Amy follows her father down a treacherous road of being different, even without her Lakota heritage, as she deals with the complications, realities and social and emotional impacts of the disease. Krout-Horn does not portray her younger self as the stoic heroin insisting upon admiration or the pitiable, weak soul waiting for rescue.
Amy is a bright, inquisitive girl, displaying the full range of emotions and reactions befitting her situation. Krout-Horn is not reluctant to display bitterness, resentment or guilt in her young heroine. Her issues aren’t once and done. They resolve and reform as she matures. To survive, she must pick herself up again and again. The reader has the sense that we are getting the whole story, and her triumphs are even more inspirational for it.
Krout-Horn’s style is respectful of the reader, while bringing forth a sense of enlightenment that feels like it’s coming from the reader herself. I’ve read My Father’s Blood several times, and each time, it pulls me in, and I notice something I missed before. It truly is a magnificent masterpiece.
The following bio of Amy Krout-Horn is taken from Native Earth Words, the site she shares with her husband and occasional co-author, Gabriel Horn: http://nativeearthwords.com/amy/
Amy Krout-Horn, Oieihake Win (Last Word Woman) has resided in two worlds; the world of the sighted and the world of the blind. She has been a writer in both of them. Raised in a small northwest Iowa farm community, she was, at age six, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Early on, she discovered the wonderful escape books provide, and in their pages, found refuge from the discomforts of her chronic illness. Over the course of her youth, Krout-Horn’s love of literature proliferated into a passion for writing. At age eleven, recognizing a lack of stories that featured young people like her, she authored a book for diabetic children, which the Iowa affiliate of the American Diabetes Association produced and distributed. In her teens, she exercised her journalistic talents as a columnist and won an Iowa regional young fiction writer’s award.
The second leg of Krout-Horn’s journey began in 1991, while attending the University of Iowa. Within a six-month period, diabetic retinopathy attacked her eyesight, eventually leaving her totally blind. After graduating from BLIND Inc., a Minneapolis based adult rehabilitation training center which students affectionately refer to as “Boot Camp for the Blind,” she returned to college. She earned a bachelor’s degree in American Indian studies and psychology from the University of Minnesota. While enrolled, she became proficient in Dakota, an indigenous language with less than a hundred fluent speakers world-wide and worked as the American Indian studies department’s first blind teaching assistant. It was during this time that her Dakota mentor gave her the traditional name, Oieihake Win, (Last Word Woman).
A staunch advocate for social and environmental justice, she writes and lectures on native history and culture, diabetes and disability, and humanity’s connection and commitment to the natural world. Krout-Horn spent time in Washington DC as a political lobbyist for the disabled and has been a presenter at several seminars, lectures, and classroom workshops on blindness, writing, and cultural sensitivity. She has worked as a guest professorial assistant in the creative writing program at St. Petersburg College and, during the 2007 spring semester, helped create the curriculum for a Native American literature class at the University of South Florida, where she also served as a native language and culture liaison. In November 2008, Krout-Horn gave the opening address in honor of Native American Heritage month at St. Petersburg College.
Interviews with her have been featured on numerous radio programs, including Radio for Peace International’s Wolf Mountain Radio, Gia Scott’s Dawn of Shades, and KSOO Viewpoint University.
She is a regular contributor to Slate and Style magazine and was awarded the publication’s 2008 fiction prize for her short story, “War Pony.” The publication awarded her again in 2012 for “Trickster’s Daughter.” Her essays and stories have appeared in several magazines and journals, including Breath and Shadow, Talking Stick Native Arts Quarterly, and Independent Ink. Additional works are included in the anthologies, Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time: Indigenous Thoughts Concerning the Universe (Renegade Planets Publishing 2013) and When Spirits Visit (Renegade Planets Publishing 2016). She is the co-author of Transcendence (All Things That Matter Press 2009), which received the 2012 National Indie Excellence Award gold medal for visionary fiction, the autobiographical novel, My Father’s Blood (All Things That Matter Press 2011), and Dancing in Concrete Moccasins (All Things That Matter Press, 2016).
Whether she is swimming with dolphins, cuddling with her beloved animal companions, or body surfing in the Gulf of Mexico, Amy Krout-Horn embraces life with a tenacity of spirit she attributes to her Native American ancestry. She lives in south Florida, where she currently is at work on her fourth novel Sundogs and Sinners.
Here’s a great opportunity for my writing friends. Sally has a wonderful blog with something for everyone, and this is her latest invitation to fellow writers to write something for her to post. Let me know what you think.