“Morning Joe”, acrylic on scrap wood,

“Morning Joe”, acrylic on scrap wood, painted some time in the late 1990s. http://ow.ly/i/nRAxR

The Sakker 21 Day Challenge

I wonder how well I’d do at this challenge. I wonder if I could get my family to go along with it. What about you?

Sakker Family

Hello everyone (Roy typing here),

Our family (Roy 47 yrs.; Ashley 38 yrs.; Sophia 6 yrs.; Caleb 4 yrs.) has decided to create a 21 day challenge. The challenge, which we started on April 20th, is to refrain from saying anything negative about a person, place or thing. We have individual mason jars and a big bag of marbles to track our transgressions. Ashley and I are using the honor system when off on our own.

Day one brought marbles and insight. We all had multiple marbles in our jars, except for Sophia, who only had one. Sophia, widely considered the most genuinely sweet person in this family, is a consensus favorite to earn the least marbles over the course of this challenge.

Day one insight began before the first marble landed in my mason jar. From the very start of the day, I was conscious of my thoughts and processing these thoughts before…

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Ode to an Ark

This one is still a little rough….

Ode to an Ark

My son walks a path both familiar and foreign.

I lay out the golden stones then watch him vanish.

Gone in a yawning, swampy place, dark with peril.

And then

Noah builds an ark.

And two by two by four by four by five by five by OCD by Asperger’s by ADHD by GHD by genius IQ,

it lifts my son with love.

That love that is a balm for the loneliness of oddness, the pain of childhood’s shifting loyalties, that tidal swell that lifts me too.

And no one needs a mushroom boat to reach this island where

teen love says

you’re like normal people when they’re on drugs

and typico neuro

mushroom boats alight to sit on hotel floors watching Pee Wee Herman, asking Are you seeing what I’m seeing?


It’s where we live.

With talking trees and brownies no one else can see.

And I can spy a child from where I stand,

more sensible than most.

She is not alone, and

also built this ark.

This ark of families, of Pauls, of summer’s riding a swelling

wave of love that lifts us from the swamp,

that steadies my son’s journey,

that steers us to the Vast Blue Ocean –

It’s big enough a place for

all of us to


First Gen Students and Assumptions of Classlessness.

“There’s no mention here of real institutional barriers like rising tuition and decimated financial aid (it’s mentioned only in passing that one student is working three jobs).”

Education and Class

creative commons licensed ( BY )flickr photo shared by kevin dooley

My campus has a new Equity and Inclusion Facebook group. This morning, I noticed that a colleague who has an excellent reputation for work in education and social justice had posted a link (without comment) to an article from the Cal Berkeley’s Alum publication: The Struggle to Be First: First-Gen Students May Be Torn Between College and Home.

It’s a relatively long piece for an alum publication, and author Alina Tugend has talked to authors who have done research about First Generation students and contacted programs in other places.  I believe that she set out to write a comprehensive and empathetic piece.

And still, I’ve read and reread the article multiple times and cannot find a single reference to any strengths that First Generation  — or their families — bring to the college experience beyond mention that one young woman…

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Some Books

I have read many books along with Son 1, and enjoyed them immensely.  Here are a few of these books:

1) The Wings of Fire Series by Tui T. Sutherland.  These books are surprisingly intense.  My favorite thing about them is that they are each told from a different character’s point of view.  Sutherland wrote at least one Animorphs books as well…and lots of others that look good.

2) “Dragonrider” by Cornelia Funke.  This is a sweet book with a kind of intimacy that is appropriate and comforting.  This is a good book for an early reader with advanced skills.  Funke is also the author of Inkheart.

3) The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  I assume I don’t need to tell you about these!

4) The Fraser Brothers series (known to us as the Jason & Edward books) by Jane Cutler.  Like Dragonrider, these books are fine for younger readers.  They are sweet, easy, humorous reads.  They are out of print, but can still be found at the usual places (Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, alibris.com) on-line.  It looks like Ms. Cutler wrote a lot of other books, but we haven’t  read them so I can’t say anything about them.

5) The first 4 to um, 40 Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne. These are great read-aloud books or easy readers to get kids into chapter books.  They do get a bit formulaic after the first 10 or so, but my son probably hit book 47 in this series before that phased him.  These are educational too.

Numbers 2 , 4 & 5 we read when Son 1 was much, much younger than he is now.  He absolutely devours books and I could write forever if I tried to list every one that we enjoyed. Right now, he’s reading my complete Jules Verne.  I am pretty excited to have a reading buddy here at home (and I’m shooting to raise two more 😀 ).  I have”The Water of Possibility” by Hiromi Goto & Janet Lunn on my list of books to read with him.  Have you read it?  I also think it’s time to introduce him to the Earthsea Books by Ursula LeGuin.  I remember them as fine reading for a 10 year old.  What do you think?

As for grown-up fiction, I recently loaned my favorite book, “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunne, to friends (a couple) and am looking forward to talking with them about it.  It’s probably time to re-read it.  It’s a different book for me every time.  I highly recommend it, though if you are faint of heart or stomach, the first go through may shock or upset you.  Still, it’s worth it.

I have also been thinking about re-reading “Lives of the Monster Dogs” by Kirsten Bakis.  My sister gave me this haunting book years ago.  Another book my sister gave me (ages ago) that is due for re-read is the “Forgotten Beasts of Eld” by Patricia McKillip.  There’s a line in it about life unraveling that stays with me. I wonder if that book would be considered YA fiction now?  Maybe even middle grade?

Not too long ago, I re-read “Sometimes After Sunset” by Tanith Lee and it still surprised me.  If you like science fiction or fantasy even a little and haven’t read Lee, you should give her work a go.  Her work is probably considered YA, and now that I think about it. I was probably a teen the first go-round.

I also humbly suggest you might like my novella, “The Pied Piper of St. May” too.

I can recommend “Zira’s Heart” by K Tempest Bradford.  I think it would also be considered YA.  It has the feel of a lost fairy tale from a lost culture, strange and familiar at the same time.  I have only read it once so far.  I am a fan of Ms. Bradford’s short stories too (you’ll see Elan Vital in my links o the left)  & enjoy an on-line friendship with her built over many years of (my) fandom.

Right now, I am reading “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn and it just took a shocking turn.  You probably know what I mean if you’ve read it or seen the movie.  I’m not done, so please no spoilers!  For once, I understand what the fuss is all about.

The links above are for your convenience.  Because I am in Colorado, I cannot benefit in any way from your actions, even from Amazon – except if you buy my book (of course!).

Do you have books you regularly re-read?  What is your goal when you do that, if you have one?  Do you have personal classics to recommend?  Any books you’ve especially enjoyed lately?

Gosh, but I do love to read!

The Picture Game #1

See prompt, picture, and rules here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/112330773424554218001/posts

Join me?

Here we go. Wheee….

He’s painting birds to life again, his glass trained to the star of Emros.  He wearing his stupid guitar necklace and the awful owl suit he says is a tribute to the power on-loan to him by God.  On-loan my aching egg-shaped behind.  Stolen, more like it.  And God?  Well, he knows full well the Emrosians aren’t God.  He stole the glass, the device he fashioned into the necklace, all of it.  And me.

But what am I to do? He keeps me tethered, attached to a bulb filled with silver and nitrogen-enriched air, and without that, I am nothing.  I am dead. I am gone.  I don’t want to be gone. So I dutifully refill his paint and bind my time, watching new, oddly unreal sparrows fly out the window as he paints and aims, paints and aims.

One day, the ship will return.  One day.  Or one day he’ll forget to put me in the case where he keeps me when I am not of use, or forget to keep the lid cranked tight.  If anyone found out about me, he’d claim he thought I was an automaton, a robot, unable to know fear and pain. But that too, would be a lie.

He knows.  He has to know.  Otherwise, why would he bother with the opening in the lid of the case?  Why would he bother to slip in the silver, the nitrogen, to keep me, his captive, going?

One of his birds eats its own shit behind me.  He claims creating them to do this means the balance is not upset.  And he looks so serene, painting and aiming.  But it’s a lie.  It’s all a lie.  He loves this power.  Loves it.

One day my family will come back. My Mom and Dad. I miss them so much.  They must be sick with grief.  They were travelling with the Emrosians as a lark.  A lark – ha ha – get it?  So friggin’ funny.  But I know they’ll come back.  They have to.  Or one day, he’ll forget to crank down the lid of the case when he releases the tether to put me inside.  It may be the last thing I do as my silver and nitrogen run out, but I will show him exactly what an Envarian is.  I will show him what I can do.  And I will wipe that serene smirk right off his face.

My Lucky Year

I was physically ill for too much of 2014.  I developed and continued dealing with some serious health issues. And we lost my Step Dad in January.  These things were hard.  The last two are still hard.  But I also enjoyed what, to me, seemed like a long string of good fortune.

Here are some lucky things that happened to me in the past year:

1) The company I work for is in a tough spot, so we did not have a holiday party this year. We did have a nice catered lunch during the work-week with a drawing for Amex gift cards, and  I won a $50 card!  I promptly gave it to Darth, who promptly took it to Target, where he promptly spent it on pants for Son 1 and Son 2.  To me, this was an all-around win.  Except maybe for Son 3, but I bought him pants a few weeks earlier.

2) I attended MALCon with my sister in 2014. At first glance, it seemed like a convention for gamers only – but with nice folks checking us in, pretty T-Shirts with Chaz Kemp art on them, and a really, really nice vending room (truly incredible vendors!). But my sister would not let me shop, sigh, and leave.  She started dragging me into various panel rooms and I ended up sitting in on a writer’s panel that really needed a woman on it. And I got to be that woman. It was great fun and I met some lovely folks, among them the incredibly talented and truly nice Lou Berger.  If you like science fiction at all, you should go buy something with one of his stories in it NOW!  Seriously, do it now…I’ll wait. 🙂

3) At MALCon (yes, I just linked that again), I signed up to win some earrings from Purple Poodle Designs – one of the aforementioned high quality vendors. And I won them!  But…the notification went to my “other” box on Facebook. When I finally saw it, I sent a note to the artisan, and though it was too late for me to get the earrings, she sent me an awesome pterodactyl necklace that I like better than the earrings. Is that doubly lucky, or what?

4) I won a free download of an album by The Breaking Winds!  I listen to it at the start of almost every work day and it both calms and amuses me. If you are a fan of bassoons, a fan of classical music, and a fan of classical music jokesters, check them out.

5) And most recently, I won a small drawing of a triceratops from Tara Gildow. It came a few days ago and is already up on the wall.  It’s orange and I love it! The link on the artist’s name is to her website.  Here is a link to her etsy site: Rocket Penguins Works.

Historically, I would not have classified myself as “lucky”.  Not at all.  So I am blown away by this amazing good fortune!


And, of course, good things that were not about luck also happened:

1) Son 1 also made the most amazing best friend in 2014 – the kid is a gift from God.  His whole family is.

2) Son 2 started Kindergarten, and though we had a brief adoptee-anxiety issue about a month in, he is doing incredibly well. He’s well suited for school. It’s nice.

3) We all started learning Korean and Son 3 is learning Hangul and English equally, which is awesome, though I had to explain to his pre-school teacher that he’s not wrong when he thinks the symbol “E” is pronounced “t”, he’s just getting the alphabets mixed up. Hangul is an incredibly easy alphabet to learn and Korean is an elegant language. Though I am finding pronunciation and vocabulary challenging, I have high hopes for my sons, especially Son 3 (who is not the Korean son, btw).

4) Darth started working more…which I hope will lead to me working less in 2015. A lot less.

5) And last but far from least – I finished the 3rd draft of my early reader book!  I started off 2015 by submitting that book to a literary agency.  That was terrifying, though I can’t explain why.  It’s a good book, and either they want it or they don’t (and I’m not the sort of person who gives up on the first try either).  Still, I am keeping my fingers (and toes…and eyes) crossed in hope that my streak of luck holds out.

Who knows – maybe I’ll have good fortune for the duration.  My grandfather was the kind of man who often won things seemingly because he willed it so.  Maybe it’s my turn?  Happy Year of the Sheep (or Ram or Goat, if you prefer)!

How did your 2014 wrap up?  What do you think lies ahead?




Lazily re-blogging my own poetry on this snowy, snowy day.

db mcneill - Momsomniac

Another old one…circa 1992.  All of this is actually happened…



a poem by d.b. mcneill


I am on your doorstep

in my dream


if you can

disappoint me in the right direction


Under here


There is still more

but wordless


The magician spins

diamonds from her eyes

It’s only rain


Thunder breaks

I awake



there is a man

shouting shut up

at the sky


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