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book review: "Ashley's War'....

Wednesday, May 25, 2016
...by Gayle Lemmon. The subtitle is the 'Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield'. This is the same author who wrote another book I recently read  (The Dressmaker of Khar Khana) and reported on about a family living in Kabul who taught themselves to sew, and turned their skills into a cottage industry. Siblings who began making clothing to support themselves and extended family. They were forced by the authorities to stay at home, could not continue with education, or be employed outside the home, not allowed to hold jobs, but  hidden from view when the Taliban came into power. True and amazing story of resilience, creativity, ingenuity and perseverance.

This newest book is one I heard the author talking about at an event at the Infantry Museum several weeks ago. I requested the book from the library and found the one about the Afghan family, so read it first. Just received "Ashley's War" the end of last week and finished it yesterday. Lemmon has done in depth personal interviews and research, and written a very readable, well documented story. I knew things would end badly, as Ashley is one of the first women to be killed in the Afghan war.

But her story is one that really resonates. Reading about Ashley and other young women who volunteer for the Army, in the Guard or Reserves or active duty. Then volunteer to undergo rigorous training to master necessary skills to be deployed with Special Forces on night raids trying to locate and capture insurgents. The women were  trained at Ft. Bragg in NC as members of a new concept: Cultural Support Team. Designed to go with SpecOps teams and SEALS into villages and homes of local citizens in search of information, explosives, and Taliban supporters.

The Army realized they were not able to investigate, interact with half the population when the men on the SpecOps teams could not meet with or talk to the women in the villages. And over time realized what a vital source those families could be if they could question the women in the compounds they were searching. They developed the program and plan to train capable, battle ready females to accompany the teams, along with interpreters who could help question and gain intel. to help find insurgents and keep soldiers safe.

Ashley was killed on a night raid, by an IED. The story leading up to her death tells about what an amazing woman she was, and what a huge impact her life made on family, fellow soldiers, other women in the CST program. There was almost no information provided to the American public about this CST program before her death, so even her parent were not aware of what she was doing. But her death brought the program out into the open, and caused the Army and DOD to provide details about how these young female soldiers were having such a huge impact in the War on Terrorism.

a little volunteer project...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
... I seem to have backed into involving Girl Scouts. I know these events can get off to a slow start, and gain momentum. Which will hopefully happen in the next day or so, as there were more adults at the event this evening than there were little scouts. Plus a bit of misinformation about the schedule caused me to be an hour early, devoting considerable time to standing around waiting....

I'd offered to assist, and expected some type summer fun was in the offing. But had requested plenty of lead time to get the event on my calendar and allow some wiggle room around work schedule. Sadly I got the notice on Friday that it would be starting on Monday afternoon. A 'Twilight Camp' from six to eight in the evening. As much of this seems sort of spontaneous to me, we might all encounter surprises as things evolve, with about six girls registered and four that showed up on Monday.

We started with the pledge and promise, made name tags (always a good project to kill thirty minutes), then went outdoors for an archery lesson. I was lured in to the event as the facilitator of all things crafty, so my field of 'expertise' would have been the wrapping of colored yard around craft sticks to make a 'god's eye'. With only marginal success: meaning two of the four turned out well, the other two looking like a tangle of yard suitable for bird nesting material.

It was all good fun, and enjoyed by the attendees - girls of elementary school age. I understand a couple of others are registered to start today, so hopefully the number of kids will increase as the week progresses. I was not responsible for any of the planning, so every day will certainly offer new opportunities for forging ahead into uncharted territory....

blooming agapanthus...

Monday, May 23, 2016
...in  my yard, in the narrow little bed between the front wall of the house and the concrete apron of the driveway. Glorious agapanthus, also know generically as Lily of the Nile. I can't say why, have not done any research, other than to guess that multiple blooms high on a long stem above the narrow strap-like leaves look sort of like papyrus that grows in Egypt.

I dug the bulbs/corms up from the yard at 1209 N. Court street, some years ago. Naturally, I will always think of the man who first planted them at his house every time I see them being so happy and prolific here with multiple beautiful blue blooms, when I pull up in the driveway. They have grown well there in the bright sun, multiplied and spread. I have divided and put some in other places around in different beds, but none do as well as the original planting right out by the front door.

And some Easter Lily plants I have put out in the leaf mulch are starting to open up. There are some up near the street,, visible to passing traffic. And others out on the north side of the house, across the lawn, where I can see them from the table as I sit and type. Loaded with buds, ready to pop open with  multiple white, trumpet shaped flowers.

unbidden opportunities...

Saturday, May 21, 2016
...for animal rescue seem to come into my line of vision, cross  my path at unexpected times. There is a long history of stopping to rescue turtles when those slow moving reptiles are inching across a roadway, dangerously close to becoming small greasy spots. A two thousand pound vehicle traveling at seventy mph makes short work of a supposedly impenetrable turtle shell. If I can stop and pull over or make a U turn I will assist the terrapins in crossing the road, though knowing they will likely turn right around and go back where they came from. Family members have seen me do this over the years, and there has been more than one report here from the Turtle Rescue Squad.

Today: there was a wee mockingbird baby without flight feather. Sitting in all it's downy glory on the asphalt driveway. A comedy of errors ensued, but with a (hopefully) happy ending. We moved it to a sheltered safe spot, so naturally it moved itself back (though we thought it to be not mobile) out into the wide open spaces. Where it could be easily found and eaten by any number of predators who would enjoy a tasty morsel. Info. was gathered (yes, of course we googled!) about how humans could best assist the hapless bird. Even though the parents were nearby and raucous, they were only frantic and not at all helpful.

We determined the best option was to take it to the local zoo, to give to people who were familiar with rescue and willing to stay up all night feeding it 'round the clock. So with the parents hopping from limb to limb and cursing us for our good intentions, we put it in a box and transported it to the zoo. Fortuitously, thankfully relieving us of the weighty responsibility of bird parenting. I once raised a fuzzy, lost squirrel with a baby-doll bottle and canned milk. I have no desire to take on a tiny, unfledged bird that has no more weight than that of a soul.

We would have put it back in a nest, but there was nothing nearby. No apparent place it would have fallen from, so no possibility of returning it to the safe haven where parents could nourish it into maturity. Hopefully it will receive kindness, care, feeding and be set 'free as a bird' when it grows the feathers needed to travel as they are designed to do.

book review: "A Walk Across the Sun"...

... written by Corban Addison, copyright 2012, Regulus Books.  Not for the squeamish. (Which most definitely includes me, the person who recently got up five minutes into a too intense movie and asked for a refund.  I should have known better, as one of the lead characters is so distasteful I would never have lasted all the way through to the credits at the end.)

The book was about two young Indian sisters, who suddenly become orphans, as a result of a tsunami in the south Pacific Ocean.  They had been schooled by nuns, and raised in a life of what the western world would consider 'middle class' privilege. Amenities many on the subcontinent will never see or enjoy. A comfortable lifestyle provided by educated working parents. Then suddenly with a tree height wave of rushing sea water, everything is changed.

As they attempt to make their way to the school and safety of church compound, they accept help from strangers, who sell them into the sex trade. They are taken to a brothel and locked in a hidden room. It is a worrisome, heart-wrenching tale. Written as fiction, but probably with much more truth and accuracy than we would like to admit or believe.

The sisters are held captive in a whorehouse. Poorly fed, carelessly housed, lives managed by an older woman who runs the house of ill repute, on a street lined with similar establishments. The older girl, barely past adolescence, is repeatedly used, raped, sold, and becomes pregnant, likely by the owner/pimps' son, but is rescued in a raid on the brothel in the slums of Bombay.

Her younger sister is sold, and taken away. Used to ferry drugs in her stomach, when she is forced into a sham marriage and taken to Paris on a false passport, supposedly on 'honeymoon' with the man who purchased her from the brothel owner. Sold again, used as slave labor in Paris. Sold again, taken to the US on a false passport. Sold again, taken to Atlanta, and sold again in a internet porn. scheme. And finally, rescued due to internet tracking and intervention by Interpol, US Justice and FBI. With the ongoing story thread of a US attorney who was working for an NGO in Bombay, while trying to reunite with his estranged, native Indian wife.

Lots of anxious moments, where each twist and turn in the plot has you on edge, continually hoping for the best, while envisioning the worst in human trafficking/child porn/sex trade industry. A great read. Interesting, very well researched, more information than you want to know about underage sex trafficking in the US as well as developing countries. Definitely a story/plot line for a great movie.

a friend has a calendar...

Friday, May 20, 2016
... family gives her each year with photos of grandkids. Lots of cute children, doing fun things together with their grandma. Vacations to Disneyworld, Christmas, birthday parties, winter ski trips, and all those sweet mundane daily things in between the highlights. Those ordinary events like picnics in the park,  swimming in the summer, as well as family gatherings that used to be deliberate 'photo ops' before everyone had a camera in every phone in each  pocket.

I noticed her calendar a couple of weeks ago, and commented on it. Telling her that I too have a neat calendar that has fun memories attached. One of my favorite people, who is 'guilty as charged', with cell phone constantly within arms' reach has a snapfish calendar made for a Christmas gift each December. With photos from travels, fun and funny things we have done together.

The one currently on the wall in my kitchen has lots of pictures from the trip we made last August to Washington State. With memories attached to each page of beautiful photos: bonsai garden, driving up through the forest to Mt. Rainier, mountain wildflowers with glaciers in the background, Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR., sunset at Haystack Rock on the Pacific Ocean, Rose test garden in Portland. The mighty, vast Columbia River flowing from the Rockies into the sea. And the view from the dock of a little lake house east of Seattle where we spent a couple of nights, generously hosted by friends who live in WA. I enjoy thinking of those people and places every time I look at the photos, and reminiscing of great amusement with family and friends.

The thing about photos people take every day: they might get shared on facebook, or sent as an electronic attachment. But rarely printed and practically never put out for repeated viewing. So having them printed where I can look at them, enjoy remembering, and smiling with memory is a real treat.

it appears to be...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016
...another of those weeks where this part-timer will be as close of Full as one can get without tipping the scale. Inching up on forty, and it's only Wednesday. So it is a safe assumption that the past weekend was another that had too many too long days of tired feets in it.

I just came back from the Wed. night community group, where we are watching a series of taped talks by Andy Stanley from Atlanta.  The overall topic is 'Defining Moments', and the subject for tonight was Nicodemus. A recurring character in the New Testament story. Really interesting how Andy tied it all together.

Though it is relatively superficial compared to the lesson from tonight's Bible Study, thinking about the topic of the series made me think about my feet. And an incident recently that could be considered as a 'defining moment' in my work life. I was so weary, barely hobbling, after putting in a excessively long day. Constantly in motion, steadily working, standing for hours and hours on the concrete floor. It might have been that recent holiday weekend when eight hours stretched into twelve or thirteen.

Late in the day, so ready to go home and prop my feet up, give my tired legs a rest. And saw a woman in a wheel chair at the checkout who had no feet. If that don't make you thankful for tired feet I don't know what will...