About Game of Thrones….

In general, I don’t watch graphically violent shows, but there are exceptions. Although I don’t do vampires or zombies, “Game of Thrones” is one of my exceptions.  A neighbor actually read all the books and was very excited when HBO created the series. He’s the one who urged us to watch it and the show is well-crafted. Unless you’ve seen it from early on though or have someone who can explain the concept, it’s quite confusing. There are Seven Kingdoms, all with houses and allies, and pretty much constant warring since Season Two as to who will be the ultimate ruler. Alliances shift back and forth and betrayals are commonplace. In addition to the human mayhem, there is the fantasy element of creatures determined to wipe out humans (or maybe just kill a lot of them) that has become a growing threat. Oh, and there are dragons. The dragons don’t always behave so when you see them you’re never quite sure of what they’ll be up to.

The biggest caution, aside from trying to keep the characters straight, is to resist becoming attached to any particular character because the odds are he or she will end up being killed. In fact, not long after we started watching, our neighbor brought us Fire and Ice which is the first book in the 7 (or maybe 8) volume series. I thought the show was bloody and was stunned to discover the book was worse. There were also even more characters and it didn’t take long for us to determine it was more complicated than we wanted to bother with. I guess the things for true fans though is the author, George R.R. Martin, has not finished the final book and they aren’t sure of what he intends as an end resolution. He is, however, part of the HBO team and one would think he isn’t straying too far from what he plans in the final book. Or maybe he is so readers will really be surprised.

Anyway, the new season started last week and we’ll see who makes to the end this time.

 

A Different Kind of Motorcycle Place….

Okay, not travel-related precisely, but I do think I have a few motorcycle followers who might travel this direction. Here’s the deal and it’s seriously cool. K&G Cycles opened a few months ago in Florida City. (http://www.kandgcycles.com) It’s more than 3,000 square feet of space selling all sorts of parts and accessories and a state-of-the-art service center. The motorcycles there are a mix of vintage and other, but “Dr. G” doesn’t actually sell motorcycles.

You can read the entire history on his website, but loving motorcycles led him into a fascination with vintage motorcycle restoration. More than merely tinkering, however, he’s won multiple national awards. His enjoyment wasn’t limited to vintage machines though and in 2006, he established K and G Cycles as a customer-friendly on-line business. He carefully selected the right kind of people for his staff and spent more than a year in creating the website to be as responsive as he envisioned. From that initial beginning, he  expanded their motorcycle parts and accessories offerings to more than 500,000 items and represents products from over 700 manufacturers as well as all major motorcycle parts and accessories wholesalers.

There were a lot of calls asking if he was going to have a full-service store in addition to the website. Although his staff had also posed the question, making the leap from on-line to a store was not a decision to be taken lightly. Two major elements came into play. As any realtor will tell you, “location, location, location” is key. The “where” was an ideal piece of property in Florida City. One of the representatives of a major supplier added this to the mix. “If you open a store, you know you’ll be the only one between Cutler Ridge and Key West.”

“Dr. G” knew if he was going to step onto this path, it would be with the people he trusted. He gathered them for a discussion and to ask for their input about the store’s design and function. He developed the drawing, turned to a builder he had used for other projects, and by Spring 2017, K and G Cycles Motorcycle Service Supercenter opened their doors to eager customers. Service, retail, and the impressive on-line offerings enable him to confidently say, “If you can’t get it from K and G Cycles, it’s probably going to be really hard to find.”

And, as icing on the cake,  if you read the post a few weeks ago, Joe’s Famous Burgers food truck us set up in the parking lot. Okay, maybe the middle of summer isn’t when you want to eat outside. You can do take-out though.

A Character Morphing…..

There are times in writing when the term “characters take on a life of their own” is used. That can be interpreted in various ways and I’ve mentioned before how I too sometimes significantly alter a character for different reasons. In this case, I had a character who was quite minor, but as I got deeper into the plot, I realized the minor character could be given a larger role in order to have a better flow for an event I needed. I didn’t care too much about him initially – think of it as an actor with a walk-on part in TV or film who is suddenly given lines instead. So, my minor character who really had only a name and profession and a slight relationship to a victim suddenly had to have more depth. In fleshing him out with a place of origin and why he relocated to the Florida Keys, I decided a little twist would be in order, too. It was fun and at least this time, I didn’t have to kill him off to make the story work. I left him alive and well and while he probably won’t make an appearance in another book, he might come in handy for the future. I’ll explain more later.

Well, There Was That One Time……

If you’ve been on my website, you may have looked at the speaker’s section. I have several topics I regularly present and can tailor a few more. Yesterday, I did a pretty short-notice presentation to the Rotary Club, but since it was about my military time and then into my writing, it was one I can do with about an hour’s warning. The title of, “An Inadvertent Pioneer” is something I’ve mentioned before. After I gave my talk and went into  questions, one gentleman asked me to give an example of an “obstacle” I encountered because I was female. Not wanting to get into anything too gritty (didn’t have many of those anyway), I went for something that was ultimately amusing. For those who know this, bear with me as I explain for those who don’t. In the Army, as in some of the other services, there are officers, enlisted, and warrant officers. Warrant officers  are highly skilled technicians in their chosen field. Senior warrant officers are as grizzled, opinionated, often prickly, and outspoken as one can ask for. So, here I was, a very junior second lieutenant, the first female officer ever assigned to the 19th Maintenance Battalion in Giessen, Germany.

That was also in the day when we had Officer’s Clubs and we younger folks hung together at one end of the bar and the senior warrant officers tended to be at the other end. It didn’t usually take long for this one guy, “Mr. J” I’ll call him to begin to make loud comments about how the Army was changing, especially the idea that women could be more than nurses and clerks. It wasn’t as if anyone could miss what he was saying, but it also wasn’t worth a public challenge and I simply blew it off for what it was. This went on for the entire two years I was assigned to the unit. Then in my last few days before being reassigned back to the States, I was at the Club one evening and Mr J wandered over. He gruffly said something along the lines of, “Lieutenant, you know I don’t much like the way the Army is changing.” “Yes, Mr. J, I know.” “And I don’t know why they think women should be anything other than nurses and admin (administrative), but you’re okay in my book.” I wasn’t the only one who was astonished to hear him say this in public and we parted if not as friends, then at least with having an understanding.

Swimming Lessons…..

When the kids were here last December, our granddaughter was 18 months old. She was immediately attracted to the pool, although was also willing to respect an invisible border we set for her. Not that I think she would have left to her own devices, but of course she was never unattended around it. We were able to get in the pool her first two full days here and the few times her face got in the water, she shook it off and wanted to play more. The temperature dropped too much though and their last couple of days she reluctantly accepted our exaggerated display of, “Brrr, shiver, shiver” as reason not to go in.

I’ve asked the kids to see if they can find someone to teach her to swim this summer because I’m certain this coming December will be entirely different. She is almost up to reasoned sentences and will no doubt employ every bit of two-and-a-half year old logic to explain why she ought to go in the water no matter the temperature. If we’re lucky, we’ll have plenty of warm sunshine and it won’t be an issue. If not, the simple fact is the water won’t be so cold as to worry about hypothermia, but might be uncomfortable for an adult. If she can swim, I’ll be fine watching out for her in case of a problem. If they haven’t been able to get her lessons, I suppose a wet suit might be in order and I’ll keep moving while we’re in. They make toddler size tops and if some sort of flotation device is needed, that will adequately layer her. I don’t want to get her anything too early though since children do tend to change sizes pretty rapidly with those growth spurts.

I always encourage parents to have their children taught to swim as early as possible. Even if you don’t live near the water or have regular access to a pool, it’s still important because you never know when a situation might come up to be around water.

As American As…..

Released 2017

I’m not sure who first used the phrase, “As American as baseball and apple pie,” but it is particularly apt for this post considering it’s the Fourth of July. Some followers are aware I am behind in publishing my regular books. After having spent a lot of effort in co-authoring Mystery of the Last Olympian, the book about HMHS Britannic, a sister ship to RMS Titanic, that also met with tragedy, I would ordinarily have returned to one of my mysteries and the fourth in the Small Town quilting cozy series. However, I was drawn into a project to co-author the memoirs of baseball catcher Benito Santiago, who played in Major League Baseball from 1986-2005. Since neither Hubby nor I follow baseball, the project required far more research time than I originally anticipated. Combine that with the many activities I am involved with and being pulled back into writing for the community newspaper and the result was a shifting of priorities. Benito is from Puerto Rico so I did have a clear understanding of the small towns he grew up in and the background where so many boys dream of making it into “The Big Leagues”. During the 2-plus years we were on the island, we often went through those towns and the love of baseball is seen everywhere.

The book, Benito Santiago Behind the Mask: My Life of Baseball, is only out in book format right now and will be on e-book in about a month. The Spanish version will be released later since having a book translated turned out to be far more difficult than I expected and it isn’t finished yet. It has been quite the experience, but if you are a baseball fan, there will be some behind-the-scenes stories you should enjoy.

Happy Fourth to everyone!

Some Local History…..

Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum (Opened 1917)

The week has been extra busy as one of the boards I am involved with is the Historic Homestead Town Hall Museum. We put together a small reception for our Centennial yesterday and it also marked the retirement of the founder and director who recently celebrated her 97th birthday. (There is some question as to the precise number, but that’s close if not exact). She actually came here in the closing years of WW II and later married into one of the town’s pioneering families. She always worked which was a bit unusual in the 1940s and 1950s. She owned a couple of different businesses and thus became involved in local politics. As the first female Vice-Mayor, she had an impact in several areas. She was well-known around town and the surrounding communities. The Town Hall, which was the first municipal building opened after the town incorporated, was originally the Town Hall, Fire Station and Police Station. In the way these things happen, as the town grew and eventually built a new Fire Station, Police Station and Town Hall, there were  people who held no sentimental value for the original building. With a 5-2 vote to tear it down and create more parking, this lady stood firm at her approximate five feet tall and rallied like-minded citizens.

I can only imagine what some of the discussions must have been and yet, those who wanted to preserve the local history prevailed. The building was saved and then the effort was launched to turn the ground floor into a museum. Who better then to be the Director?  As I think I have mentioned in previous posts, this area has a young history because climate and topography prevented development until the late 1880s. In one sense though, that also means if the history can be preserved, there is a good chance it can be an uninterrupted history. Our museum has limited resources and only the single paid employee which means the volunteers do quite a few tasks. We’re entering a new era and will have to see how things unfold.

Bits of the Past….

During the visit with my friend earlier this month, she asked why I hadn’t written my own memoirs about my time in the Army. As I’ve explained in the blog, I’m not ready to do that yet. Occasionally, certain things do pop up that remind me of particular incidents I don’t mind relating and that happened as I am trying to work my schedule for a trip to Louisiana. Fort Campbell, Kentucky is home to the 101st Airborne Division (The Screaming Eagles) that played prominently in WW II. They later converted from Airborne to Air Assault which has to do with the use of helicopters. It is a huge post with lots of different military units and when I was assigned there, not a large percent of women. I was not in the division, but with a major unit that provided logistical support (maintenance, supplies, fuel, etc.) Because of an oddity of timing in my first assignment to Germany, I held a couple of positions no female had previously held and in fact, worked a level above my lieutenant rank.

Anyway, my first assignment at Fort Campbell was in a position where there had been some problems and I helped get things back on track. There was a regular rotation system for younger officers and as the Battalion Commander (Lieutenant Colonel) was discussing the moves, my name came up as potential for a position no female had ever held. He wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a woman being in that role and said I could have a similar role which would have been okay. I wasn’t surprised when I was given the news. Unknown to me, however, my Captain commander went back and stood up for me. In the meantime, I was talking to my dad on the phone and when I described the complexity and responsibility of the position I really wanted and why I wasn’t going to get it, his response was, “Well, I can’t blame him. I’m not sure I’d put a woman in charge of that either.” Sigh, it was the context of the times. I won’t go into the details of what happened, but I did get the more challenging job and was in fact the first female in the history of Fort Campbell to hold a position of that type. I can’t say I didn’t make some mistakes during my tenure, but all-in-all, everything worked out.

A New Non Profit……

There is certainly no shortage of worthy non-profit organizations to give to. A few years ago I did a post about how at some point we all have to choose to not give to some we might want to, because we simply can’t add another one to our list. As an aside, a friend of mine once made the comment that she had stopped giving to any of the “big” charities because she was involved in local causes where she could see the direct result of what she was helping with. At any rate, in the writing I do for our community newspaper, one of my primary focuses is the many area non-profits and the heart-warming stories of what they do. (And yes, some of the people they help can come with heart-breaking stories)

When I was recently contacted about a new group, Brightseasons Foundation, I was a little unclear as to their goals and during the interview for the piece for the South Dade News Leader, I was delighted to learn about them. The article ran in yesterday’s (well, Thursday’s) paper although it isn’t posted on-line yet. Their website is http://brightseasons.org and they are just getting established as a group. There are 27 women on the board (yes, guys are also volunteers) and their purpose is to give a “hand-up” in situations where other assistance might not be available. There are examples on the website, so I won’t steal their thunder and do invite you to check them out if you want to have one of those “feel good” moments.

If you’re local, you might know someone who needs help, and if you’re not local, you may know of similar groups.

4:00 A.M.Musings…..

I haven’t gone on-line yet to look it up, but the past few mornings have been worse than usual with my insomnia. For quite some time now, when that 3:00 a.m. hits and I can’t get back to sleep, I move to the love seat where I stretch out, and turn a show on with something not overly stimulating at a low volume. This generally causes me to drift back to sleep with half an hour. Not so yesterday and I didn’t think it would be much better this morning. As a note of interest, there would be several misspelled words here, but they are being caught by the little “red underline” that apparently doesn’t require sleep. Anyway, maybe I am cycling through where I can actually function with five hours for a short time. I am having a cup of herbal tea rather than put the coffee on yet. See, 4:00 a.m. doesn’t bother me much a couple of mornings a week. As most people who know me are aware, I am normally up between 5:00-5:30. Therefore, 4:00 isn’t that much earlier. The 3:00 though, that’s different. I do have one of those combined sleep aide/pain relief things that seems to work, but I don’t like to take them every night. I realize they claim they are not habit-forming and perhaps not. I simply don’t like to take pills other than basic vitamins and supplements.

It’s possible I will be able to fit in a nap, which will help. That didn’t actually work yesterday though which is why I thought for sure I’d sleep longer this morning. Ah well, what’s done is done and my guess is I’m up for the day. On the other hand, during the time when my son didn’t consistently sleep through the night until he was four years old, the idea of sleeping five straight hours was blissful. I suppose I should keep that perspective.