Cures for the Human Condition

For a read-aloud of this post, check out https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Cures-for-the-Human-Condition-e1ariog

“Samuel Stupp didn’t expect many surprises inside his lab after a 40-year career as a scientist. But something magical happened recently: His research team at Northwestern University developed an injection that seemed to prevent mice with spinal cord injuries from becoming paralyzed… Furthermore, it signaled the body to produce blood vessels, which are necessary for cells to repair themselves.”

https://news.yahoo.com/injection-dancing-molecules-could-prevent-130000651.html

I am constantly astonished at how much great good human beings are capable of doing—if we put our minds to it. What we put our minds to being the keywords.

My eldest daughter received a degree in Chemistry last May and started interviewing for jobs right away. She soon started working for a laboratory in St. Louis that studies human sleep cycles, deciphering human genetics from fruit flies, of all things. As someone who occasionally suffers from disturbed sleep, I’m keen to find sleep aides that don’t involve drugs. I learned long ago the price people pay for “relaxing” aids in various forms and have chosen to do without. Strangely enough, I have discovered that when I am awake tossing and turning, there is usually a good reason. Something in my life I need to process. A problem I must face. A decision to make. The very discomfort I endure speaks to me—teaches me. And it’s best I don’t fall asleep before I deal with it.

Pain, suffering, and crippling realities speak to the human condition. And we need to find aids, remedies, and cures. It is a wonderful testament to the human race that a man like Samuel Stupp can do the research and develop a therapy to assist people in such trying circumstances. How many sleepless nights did he endure in the process?

In our world of pandemics, rising cancer rates, horrifying health conditions, I have to wonder when we are curing and when we are escaping from the remedy we really need. In the case of spinal cord injuries, the situation is pretty obvious, and Stupp’s brilliance lights the path to hope and healing.

But how many tragic conditions today result from putting our minds and our bodies in damaging places?

I recently learned from an experienced nurse that certain people have a predisposition toward weak livers and that those people are at a higher risk for liver breakdown. For them even a bit of alcohol and drugs are the fast track to destruction. In my own life, I know that television shows, movies, and music can play a large part in my mental and emotional outlook on a given day. The darker the storyline, the more chaotic the music, the grittier my world view. Treats and sweets in the form of drinks and desserts are fun and a wonderful way to gather people for a festive party, but cavities and diabetes last longer.

Last year at this time, I reduced my online presence in order to detox from negativity swirling through its forums. Though I have reestablished contacts, I have realized, more than ever, the need to constantly evaluate where I am putting my mind, my body, and my soul. If I can’t sleep at night, I need to figure out why and deal with it—not override it.

Writing short stories has been a healthy avenue for me to traverse the mountain ranges of our human condition. I may not discover a remedy, but I reach an understanding that helps me direct my footsteps once again on the path toward wholeness. In my story, It Might Have Been, a man slides from his present life into a version of hell he did not really want but had chosen. How many times do we slip and slide into a life we don’t want, we rail against, but in truth, we chose for ourselves?

I wish there were cures for paralyzed spirits, the tragedy of getting stuck in hate mode, pointing fingers like gripers and complainers, becoming people who are certain-sure of our own rightness and everyone else’s wrongness. Maybe someday, a researcher will apply brilliant insight from mice to men, leading destructive behavior toward constructive lives. But until then, we must decide where we put ourselves rather than longing for a cure that may never come.

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey.

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/author/akfrailey

It Might Have BeenAnd Other Stories

https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Photo https://pixabay.com/illustrations/research-virus-corona-coronavirus-5297028/

Rise Above

For a read-aloud of this post, check out https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Rise-Above-e1aiog2

“SpaceX’s successfully launched four astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Nov. 10, 2021. They will arrive at the station Thursday evening. 

Known as Crew-3, the mission will mark SpaceX’s fourth crewed spaceflight and will ferry NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and European Space Agency Matthias Maurer on a six-month mission to the space station.”

I find it rather startling that anyone would want to get into a space ship, blast off Earth, and live on a space station for any length of time. Isn’t life precarious enough? Don’t we have problems a-plenty that need to be solved right here?

Yet that has never been the human trajectory. Rather like a seed that is not content to stay under ground, we must break through the soil of our ordinary lives and reach for stars and the possibility of alien life in a reality we can’t fully comprehend.

As I deal with the most recent trial in the form of my father’s death, I have to face the fact that part of me would like to take a ride to a far-off uncertainty than deal with complex, often unpleasant, experiences here on Earth.

Perhaps that is why I enjoy writing science fiction and enter a different world with problems that aren’t mine. It is also why I enjoy writing poetry. A poem can get to the heart of human experience without any actual bloodshed. It wiggles between the barbs of misunderstanding, flounces right past correct judgment, and digs deep into shared truth.

Poetry is in a class by itself, bucking the system from the get-go. Though not always considered classy, rhyming poems offer me more than common-everyday prose. I like their feel and sound. I enjoy the challenge of finding words to fit a theme. But most importantly, I like how poems mean something even when they appear to be hanging upside down from a tree branch. In a poem, I can’t really be wrong or out of style, stupid or ignorant. I’m simply seeing. Feeling. Living through words. Becoming more than just me in a we-centered communion.

Perhaps that is how astronauts feel while circling the Earth. They literally are “above it all.” They fly hi and see what they can see. Learn what they can learn. Like explorers of old, they take the human imagination into new territory. Writers attempt much the same. Reaching up on our tiptoes and then taking a leap into the air, which can’t possibly sustain us, we move from certainty into the “what if?” unknown. Though we can’t touch the sun or—as of yet—an alien hand, for a brief moment, we can see ourselves, our earthly existence, from a new perspective.

So, though I’m not heading out into space myself, I get it. Precarious as our lives may be, full of troubles aplenty, we’re also an amazingly strong, brave, inventive, creative, determined race of beings who can—on occasion—rise above.

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/author/akfrailey

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems 2nd Edition

https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

https://www.space.com/news/live/spacex-crew-dragon-mission-updates

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/astronaut-astronomy-satellite-moon-1849401/

Inside and Outside Time

For a read-aloud of this post, check out https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Inside-and-Outside-Time-e1a7kcd

“Time is not absolute, and time has no direction.” I get this discombobulating bit of news from the New Scientist, who base their conclusions on no less than Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In another step forward—or backward—scientists from Australia suggest that they have proven, at least theoretically, that time travel is possible. Okay, so here we go!

A time traveler from 2714 posted in August warning that aliens were due to arrive “tomorrow.” His timing was off apparently as none of his predictions panned out. So far. Another time traveler from 3036 (Live Your Lie—spelled creatively) warns that we’re going to have a power outage lasting five years on account of “terrors” and pretty much nothing on earth will be the same. Well, without washing machines, I’d expect so. And a time traveler from 2582 suggests that humanity will experience three days of darkness at some point in our future.  

So where does all this leave me, someone who has trouble managing a one-hour switcheroo involving Daylight Savings Time?

I know for certain that when I am tired and I have a bunch of stuff to do, time drags unmercifully, but when I’ve settled down with a good book in a comfortable chair, hours zip by faster than the speed of light. So, my internal measurement of time is certainly unreliable and perhaps was never meant to be trusted as an absolute value.

I’m just pondering here—but might it be that our human experience of time is not so important in the measurement of a determined number of hours, days, and years, but rather the experience that occurs within that loosy-goosy framework?

My father passed away recently at the age of 92 on November 5th, 2021. My brother passed away at the age of 58 on January 15th, 2021. And my husband passed away at the age of 53 on December 15th, 2013. My husband was the father of eight kids, the youngest barely five years old when he died. My brother was a much-loved pastor of a large parish when he passed away. And my dad had lost the grandeur of his academic abilities long before he passed. All lived for a time, experienced a great deal, and died without anyone clicking a stopwatch to say, “time’s up.” Their “Earthly timeout” appeared random and untimely.

We humans like to control things. Our lives especially. Makes a great deal of sense to me. Out-of-control lives conjure images of chaos and the inherited hell of undisciplined excess—the lie that we can manage ourselves no matter what. But time itself has never really been within our grasp. Only, as Tolkien says through the character of Gandalf, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

In my book My Road Goes Ever On, A Timeless Journey, I reflect on my life in the context of “my personal time”—minutes, hours, days, years given to me to use as I decide. When waiting in a traffic snarl or dealing with a long-talker, I may complain that my time has been “stolen,” but really, I own my time as I do my life.

Over the years, I have become ever more impressed by the boundlessness of time. My ancestors undoubtedly fretted over much the same stuff that keeps me awake at night, though they may have used different terminology to color their meaning.

Why am I here?

Do I matter?

How long will I have here?

Questions are a form of caring. And my careful or careless life and the use of my time say everything about who I am and what my life on Earth means—yesterday, today, and into tomorrow’s forever.

I believe in eternity—an outside-of-time reality. I don’t understand it nor can I encompass it here on our spinning Earth. But it makes a great deal of sense if Einstein and our modern-day scientists are right. Time is all around us—yet beyond us. We exist within its confines but are not confined by it.

Will aliens arrive tomorrow? Will darkness surround us for three days? Will technology cease to light our homes for five years? God knows. Which is to say, I don’t know. In much the same way that God is within, and yet, beyond me, so I accept my limitations in a boundless existence.

Time will tell…

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/A.-K.-Frailey/e/B006WQTQCE  

Photo https://pixabay.com/illustrations/clock-time-management-time-3222267/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2166665-why-now-doesnt-exist-and-other-strange-facts-about-time/ .

general theory of relativity 

https://www.ladbible.com/news/technology-scientists-claim-theyve-proven-time-travel-is-mathematically-possible-20200930

https://www.ladbible.com/news/news-aliens-to-arrive-on-earth-tomorrow-to-start-war-says-time-traveller-20210810

https://www.ladbible.com/news/viral-time-traveller-from-3036-makes-chilling-warning-about-future-20210628

https://www.ladbible.com/news/weird-time-traveler-claims-world-is-about-to-enter-three-days-of-darkness-20210502

Fact and Fiction Live In the Twilight Zone

For a read-aloud of this post, check out https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Fact-and-Fiction-Live-In-the-Twilight-Zone-e19s0sa

As a child, I wanted to know who the “good guys” were as opposed to the “bad guys.” Angels and devils jostled for position while I searched for my place in the world. The irony is that the bedrock of my identity, despite far more mechanized systems and the honest recognition of hidden realities, is clearer to me now than ever.

Growing up, robots were a part of the fiction genre. Though from the 1960s into the 1990s some form of “robots” did exist, they certainly weren’t a measurable influence in my daily life. I never thought of them or considered them “real.” Today, I can hardly live without them. Since bots typically imitate or replace human behavior and more than half of all web traffic is generated by bots, I depend upon them in innumerable ways on any given day. From bot managers that protect my website to chatbots, social bots, shopbots, web crawlers, and others, I wouldn’t even be able to get the answers I “need” from the Google Universe if they didn’t exist.

Does my world now sit on a bot fulcrum? Good bots assist my search needs, but bad bots hijack human credibility and try to steal my credit card info. Bots are a fact of life, a fiction story that has come true.

Once upon a time, “facts” seemed measurable and trustworthy. Robots were controllable. We knew where they began and we ended. Or where we began and they ended. Or… But now there are days when I answer the phone, ask a question online, or interact on social media, and I wonder—Who am I talking to? What am I talking to?

Is it any wonder that human beings stumble over who—and what—we are in response to this brave new world of ours?

I’ve never considered myself a mere human being existing in a natural world. Perhaps it is my Catholic upbringing which, though not particularly well-informed, nevertheless kept my head tilted in the up position—staring at the stars for a glimpse of the beyond, the life I could not see and didn’t expect to truly comprehend. I have always believed that I am part of a supernatural reality. My existence here on Earth feels more like a temporary exile than a home-sweet-home.

 When television shows offered science fiction stories like the Twilight Zone, I was okay with that. As far as I was concerned, life here has always been a twilight zone. We see but a veiled reality, flashes of truth, splintered fragments of each other’s wholeness.

Before you cart me off to the nearest Shady Side for the Mentally Unmoored, allow me to say that I am at peace with bots as well. I find it ironically amusing that we have created mechanical assistants who like angels and devils assist or haunt every step we take.

Truth, for me, is not found on Google. Certainty does not revolve around my limited human identity. I started writing about my human journey in a series of posts as my husband faced the end of his earthly existence, dying from Leukemia in his early 50s, and while I raised my young kids as a single mom. My Road Goes Ever On, Spiritual Being, Human Journey is not simply a plaintive catalog listing, “Boy, life sure is confusing as heck!” examples, but rather the tentative steps of a person attempting to find her identity, her purpose of existence, her value as a human being—and something more—in a world ever more dependent on unfeeling, non-human, mechanized systems.        

During the years I wrote those posts, I experienced a great deal of pain and joy, disaster and triumph, but the person that made me, me, remained much the same. Now, I see that as a good thing.

I have gotten to know myself on deeper levels and learned to trust my intuition and judgment. I am a better informed, perhaps a more completely formed, version of myself. And happily, I accept our bot-run reality as just another facet of our current twilight zone existence. If anything, it shows, ever more honestly, that there is more to life than facts, and fiction tells the truth in a world that we cannot fully see.

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/A.-K.-Frailey/e/B006WQTQCE

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/landscape-fantasy-fantasy-landscape-3128819/

Go Where No Man Has Gone Before and End up Lost in Space?

For a read-aloud of this post go to https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Go-Where-No-Man-Has-Gone-Before-and-End-up-Lost-in-Space-e19g6dq

I loved Star Trek as a child. I definitely wanted to go where no man had gone before and leave behind all that was scary and dreadful on Earth. The idea that humanity could overcome its worst self and evolve beyond war, poverty, and even family disfunction, enticed me into an imaginary world that I clung to with every fiber of my being.

Interestingly enough, one of the writers who set the stage for Star Trek’s success was Isaac Asimov, a prolific writer who wrote many of his most famous works in the mid-1960s. He is especially known for his robot books and the three laws of robotics: “First, a robot shall not harm a human or by inaction allow a human to come to harm. Second, a robot shall obey any instruction given to it by a human. Third, a robot shall avoid actions or situations that could cause it to come to harm itself.”

The concept of intelligent and morally directed “better beings” who would serve humanity, do no harm, yet be strong enough to survive in a dangerous world was also embodied, as it were, in the character of Mr. Spock, played so well by Leonard Nimoy. Vulcans had evolved beyond the messy emotionality of fear and the seven deadly sins. What I find fascinating half a century later is the situation we find ourselves in today. In the developing quandary of “Who am I?” seems to rise a “What am I?” confusion. Beyond the basic man/woman divide has leaked a host of messy alternatives. In a world of plug-ins and technological interactions, what defines us as humans?

Lost in Space, another 1960s cult classic, focused on a family that explored the edges of the known universe and got sucked into an unknown realm. Though no spaceship has (as of yet) been literally lost in space, the concept sounds eerily familiar in the first quarter of our current century.

Unlike Spock, Isaac Asimov, and a host of science fiction writers, I do not have a utopian view of humanity’s future. In Last of Her Kind, humanity plays a definite part in social and world breakdowns. More than one problem plagues us at a time, and solutions are never one-size-fits-all. But as the Newearth world develops from the remanent during the “lost years” on Lux, humanity is given a period of time to take a long look at who we are as a species of beings.

That reflective moment, lasting nearly a generational span, sets the stage for true growth, a “New Earth” where humans and aliens share the planet, though aliens have the upper hand. Strangely enough, humans seem to thrive under pressure, contemplate the bigger picture only when forced to, and learn the humility necessary for clear thinking after being knocked to the ground or while being utterly bewildered in space.

It would be pleasant to envision a time where humanity has shuffled off the old coils of monstrous pride, dehumanizing lust, outrageous gluttony, despicable greed, repulsive sloth, misdirected wrath, and blinding envy. But time and experience do not point to a character revolution where we all become as good as Vulcans (or even well-programmed robots) and lead the moral universe into a bright future.

The cohesive force that held the family together in Lost in Space was their mutual love. In Star Trek, deep and abiding friendship kept Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy and others moving forward despite every sort of trial and tribulation. Robots, no matter how well programmed, just aren’t there yet.

Newearth Justine Awakens, a novel about a cyborg—both human and robot—isn’t a story about a perfect world and evolved human beings. It’s about humans and aliens who, despite the hells of deep hurt, still dare to care and risk their security and happiness for others strengthened by something beyond the logic of pure reason.

Perhaps getting knocked down, lost in space, and having an identity crisis aren’t the best that humanity can do, but it is part of what makes us better than our worst selves or soulless robots. After all, we don’t have to stay down. And when we do get to our feet again, we may stand a little taller.

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/A.-K.-Frailey/e/B006WQTQCE

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/spaceship-science-fiction-forward-3628969/

Science Fiction Asks Awesome Questions 

A read aloud of this post is found at https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Science-Fiction-Asks-Awesome-Questions-e196vto

Dreams are as natural to human beings as breathing. We need to dream to stay sane. Occasionally allowing our minds to wander into the distant universe allows us to wrestle with some pretty awesome questions.

How does science fiction fit into our natural tendency to dream or imagine? Perhaps more than any other genre in recent history, science fiction has altered humanity’s trajectory. For good or for ill is not for me to say.

Let’s visit three early science fiction works and consider serious societal issues in light of their meaning.

Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein in 1818. The book centers on a doctor, Victor Frankenstein, who creates new life in the form of what he later considers his monster. Frankenstein’s initial excitement, obsession even, with his work is based on the fact that he is doing what no one has ever done before. His mind is filled with glorious possibilities. The consequential reality is something much more poignant and tragic, however, as innocent lives are destroyed by his monster creation.

The point of Shelly’s work stands as tall as the mountains that readers cross throughout the journey. Science in general and medical science, in particular, bear a moral responsibility to be careful and not turn a blind eye to unintentional consequences in the face of wondrous possibilities. Today, the US works under the auspices of the FDA, in which the approval of most drugs and medical advancements must be considered under the scrutiny of many eyes, various experiences, and the glaring light of time.

It is a leap to state that the FDA or any medical oversight came about because of a science fiction book. And that would never be my claim. But it would, perhaps, be fair to say that the same forces that impelled Mary Shelly to write her science fiction novel and those who subsequently read it did create an environment where the FDA could be successfully created.

H. G. Wells first serialized War of the Worlds in 1897. In his story, aliens are taken very seriously and met with complete bewilderment by humanity. It’s a look at what “might be” in terms of the universe and how humans don’t know what we don’t know. There is almost a sneering undertone in the book as to our naiveté. The most remarkable aspect of the book, for me, is not the storyline but the fact that readers latched onto the concept of aliens so absolutely. By the late 1800s and into the 1900s, humanity was learning at a faster rate than ever before, peering into a vast universe that held innumerable secrets. This love affair with alien life, albeit with fear and trembling, has sustained many space exploration programs and created an exploding genre of fiction. Would the whole chain of events leading to William Shatner taking a ride into space on Blue Origen in October 2021 have happened if sci-fi writers hadn’t started imagining who might be “out there” back in 1897?

George Orwell wrote and published 1984 in 1949. The basic premise behind his best seller involved the power of a government to manipulate the meaning of words and control whole populations. I won’t go down the political and societal rabbit hole by conjecturing on just how embedded the power of word manipulation has changed our culture today. Just consider the vast amounts of money and the huge influence of lobbyists who use particularly powerful trigger words: reason, choice, honesty, freedom, news…and more. I am not qualified to discern the manipulation of certain words over others, but clearly, words are used in media to push emotional buttons. Click bate, anyone? With bots often directing the merry-go-around, power words beget more power words, not necessarily reason, choice, honesty, or freedom.

In my book, Last of Her Kind published on 2017, the characters reel from a host of challenges. Primarily, humans inability to conceive new life and subsequent world challenges. Humanity must prioritize medical advances and consider—not how did this happen and who do we blame—but how do we handle extinction staring us in the face? Unintentional realities happen. Now what?

Anther major aspect of LOHK relates to the watching alien world that comes into the clearest focus through Cerulean, an alien from Lux who has fallen in love with Anne, the last woman to conceive a child on Earth. Lux has its own problems, as does Cerulean. No matter how different aliens may be from humans, family conflicts beset us all.

Throughout LOHK, news reports, blog posts, international events, family reactions, neighbors’ reflections, marriage fractures, and every imaginable human form of communication lies the corruption of the message. The fact that even when a human being speaks as honestly as he or she can, there is an element of incompleteness. We do not know ourselves. Thus, it makes it impossible to know anyone else completely.

The interaction between humans and Luxonians creates an “illuminating” juxtaposition. As a writer, I had to get outside my own skin and attempt to see the human race from a higher perspective. How might we appear if someone from another planet took a long look at us? We are loveable, certainly, but are we admirable?

Science fiction, in a way, embodies all genres and adds a fresh perspective. That’s why I find it has such power in the human imagination. We see, we act, and then—we look up and dream about the biggest question of all—Who am I?

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/A.-K.-Frailey/e/B006WQTQCE

My Part to Play

Audio of this post https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/My-Part-to-Play-e17g8md

Autumn is just about here, and I am grateful beyond words for so many things. Even as local and world upheavals distress my soul, so I breathe a prayer and turn my gaze to tasks at hand.

What is my part to play in this maelstrom we call life with all its guts and glory?

I wear a number of hats throughout my day: mom, teacher, homemaker, mistress of a critter kingdom that ebbs and flows with old age, sickness, and new life. Two kittens, Cheddar and Bradley, have taken over the house, completely flummoxing our perpetual pup, Misty, who honestly believed she owned the domain. Surprise! There’s always room for one or two more, and she didn’t get a vote. I keep the peace by making sure that all are well fed and housed, though gluttony and sloth serve no one.

I also keep track of the bodies buried at our cemetery and track down gravesites for interested family members when possible. Sometimes, it’s mission impossible. That’s an unpleasant reality. We don’t always get questions answered to our satisfaction. Especially if there are imperfect records and no tombstones. Families beware, if you want great-grandkids to visit your grave, leave a tombstone and a map so future generations can find it.

Tutoring adult GED has been an unexpected pleasure. It’s a fairly straightforward task—helping someone learn the basics that they missed, for whatever reason, along the way. Makes a big difference in self-esteem and job opportunities. An act of kindness that echoes back long after algebra 101 fades into the mist.

I am still writing, publishing, and recently added podcasting to my regular daily do. Since I have managed a challenging schedule for much of the year, I am going to slow production in October. I will continue with Kindle Vella Homestead episodes and podcasting content, but I plan to revamp and, perhaps, reinvent my media approach, praying to God to make it a bit more effective. Marketing has never been my forte, so I am working with someone this time. We’ll see how it works out. Optimism is a tough choice, but the alternative doesn’t appeal much.

I finished writing the fifth novel in my OldEarth series, OldEarth Melchior Encounter this week and have sent it off to my editor and proofreaders. My goal is to get it published with live links before Thanksgiving. The operative word here is goal.

Rain is pouring from a grey sky, shivering the yellow leaves on the cherry trees, while our hyperactive kittens pounce on each other and attack my knitting. Though there is a great deal wrong in the world, there is also a great deal that is right. Focusing my daily goals toward what is good and beautiful, becoming less self-absorbed, and releasing anger and pent-up frustrations in healthy rambles and friend-centered conversations makes for a quality life. After all, despair doesn’t want a helping hand but hope does.

Blessings, Everyone.

A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.

Make the most of life’s journey. 

For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/A.-K.-Frailey/e/B006WQTQCE

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/fall-fog-forest-tree-trunks-path-3193305/

Homestead Parts 15 and 16

Audio of this post https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Homestead-Parts-15-and-16-e17g8me

It Was Not to Be

July decided that it wanted to make a name for itself before August elbowed its way to the front of the line, so the temperatures sky-rocketed in the latter half of July. It was weird to see empty fields where rows of corn and beans used to dominate the summer landscape.

Sure, families had planted gardens, but they were tiny compared to what I was used to seeing. What the winter would look like, no one could tell. I shuddered to think about the spring. Few people had supplies to last that long.

My zucchini was all but done, and only one giant sunflower lifted its head against the bright blue sky. The lettuce had bolted, though I pulled the last few tough leaves off the thick stems to add garnish to every meal. All the potatoes and onions had been pulled and hauled inside. I was rather proud of the cardboard boxes layered with my homegrown produce. I shifted the boxes onto a dark shelf in the basement where they were sure to stay dry. I planned to use lots of white onions when I made salsa. Just waiting for the tomatoes to do their thing and ripen in a big bunch to make a canning day worth the effort.

Feeling a tad lonesome, I let the oldest cat, Earl, into the house where he slept on the chair in the living room most days. His rickety old body could hardly jump the distance, and I knew there’d be a day when he’d fall back to the floor in cat disbelief. But for now, he was someone to talk to. Even if I knew full well that he was dreaming his last days away.

With the high humidity and heat, I didn’t feel terribly hungry mid-week. I had spent most of the day clearing out the back shed in the expectation that when Liam and the kids did make it home, we’d have to think seriously of getting a couple of cows and expanding our chicken run. We’d have to store hay for the winter and figure out how to grow our own feed grain. Other people were making adaptions—necessitating the use of every old barn and shed in the county. Wood and metal for roofing were going for a premium price. I had to make the most of what I had. And that meant clearing out the dusty space and shoring up the frame so it wouldn’t collapse over the winter.

Hot, sticky, and fearing the revenge the spiders would perpetrate on me for wiping out their webs, I trudged into the kitchen planning on nothing more than tomato slices and a glass of water for dinner.

I nearly had a heart attack when I saw a man sitting at my kitchen table. My first thought was that Liam had finally made it home, but then I realized that this guy was much too young.

“Jared?”

He stood up and faced me, not a hint of a smile on his face. “I’ve got bad news, Mrs. Oxley.” I swallowed and gripped the kitchen counter. I didn’t want him to tell me…

I Had a Spirit

Early August

The temperatures continued to zig-zag right into August, but a storm front promised cooler temperatures soon. At least, that’s what Ben said when he returned with Dana and Juan following at his heels like lost puppies.

I was too depressed to care if an arctic winter was in the forecast. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I’d never see Liam again. That I had missed his last days, his last moments. His burial.

The tomatoes and peppers had ripened nicely, and with the pile of onions I had stored away, I had enough fresh ingredients, with bartered cilantro from a family in town, to make a decent batch of salsa. Luckily, I had stocked up on vinegar last year. The extra gallon came in handy with all the pickling and canning I was doing.

After washing the five gallon’s worth of tomatoes, I sat on the hardwood bench at the kitchen table and cut off the bad parts, and sliced the juicy red goodness into tiny pieces. Next, I worked on the pile of bright red and green peppers, and finally, I faced the dreaded onions. I didn’t need a reason to cry. I had plenty.

Flies swarmed the pots and dove into my face, adding to my frustrations. Hot and sticky with a storm front pushing the humidity into the unbearable zone, I worked mechanically. Focusing on one step at a time.

Grab an onion by the tail

Slice one side.

Peel.

Chop into rings.

Turn and chop into cubes.

Drop the pile into the pot.

Wipe my stinging eyes.

Repeat.

“You want some help?”

I looked up. There was Dana reaching for a knife and settling across from me at the table. Guess I didn’t need to answer. She could read my mind. Or so she thought.

I sniffed back stinging tears and lost my rhythm. I was supposed to be cubing, but I went to the sink and splashed water on my face instead.

After patting my eyes dry with a towel, I looked at my daughter. Why was I so angry at her? She hadn’t done anything wrong. In fact, she had done everything right. Found her brother. Made her way home. Gone off and looked for her dad. And found him. And buried him.

“Mom? You okay?”

I stared at the onions. I wanted to hate them. But I couldn’t. “No. Not okay.”

Dana stopped chopping. “Me neither.” She had dropped her head onto her chest and I could tell by the heaving action that she was either sobbing silently or about to throw up. Or both. Maternal instinct to the rescue, I ran over and…

For more of these episodes and others, check out Kindle Vella Homestead or

for other books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/A.-K.-Frailey/e/B006WQTQCE

Homestead Parts 13 and 14

Podcast https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Homestead-Parts-13-and-14-e174jbl

It’s a Deal

What did Liam mean in his letters? And what about Josh? Did the aliens get him? Were the kids okay? And what about Ben—yeah, what about Ben…

Five o’clock on a mid-July evening, and I was ready to spontaneously combust. Too many questions and not nearly enough answers. I invited Linda over for supper, and we slapped flies away as we ate egg salad sandwiches. No chips, of course. Pickles, though. I had finally gotten enough cucumbers to make a decent batch. Vinegar, garlic, a dash of sugar and salt, and lots of dill made us pucker up big time, but they went well with the meal. I even made a blackberry cobbler for dessert. If the flies didn’t eat it all first.

I got up and draped a towel over the deep dish. Then I slumped with Monday weariness onto my chair and took another bite of dinner, crunching on the garden lettuce I had added for body since I didn’t have many eggs. I glanced at Linda.

She was eating, a good sign. But the dark lines under her eyes, glazed expression, and slow motions bespoke depression’s tenacious hold.

“So, have any of your tomatoes ripened yet?” A pertinent question, considering the need for healthy food to be packed away for the long winter. I tried not to think of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s version of the Long Winter. Where they nearly starved to death.

Linda dragged her gaze from the flower-rimmed plate and met my gaze. It seemed to take a minute for the question to process. “Oh, no. Not yet. They’re getting big though. All the rain. Just hope they don’t rot.”

Setting that pleasant image aside, I opened my mouth to try again, when she interrupted me—her brows scrunched in concentration.

“What about Liam’s letters. You never told me. What did he say?”

I sighed. How much to share? Or how little? A strong desire to make something up—something truly interesting—washed over me like a cool bath. It would be fun to imagine that he had spent the last weeks frantically busy, heroically saving the Pacific coast. But no.

“They weren’t terribly fact-filled. The first was ridiculous; he was in complete denial that technology had let him down, let us all down. He insisted that it was some kind of prank. Though by the end of the letter, he seemed to be considering the idea that it might be a nefarious attack by a group of villainous hackers. His words, not mine.”

“The letters were from was early on and just got to you now?”

Mail had been traveling in spurts and drips. All his letters, at least the three that I received, were written in the early days. The second seemed to take the situation more seriously, but he was still convinced that the “snafus” would be cleared up quickly. He made a joke of the fact that everyone in the hotel was swapping medications to manage their various conditions. I cringed at the thought of him trying to substitute something for his daily prednisone. Not the kind of medicine that you want to play merry-go-round with.

I studied Linda, knew she had bared her soul about Jared and had to tell the truth. “Liam spent the first two letters telling me that the whole thing wasn’t really happening. But by the third, he had faced some version of reality. He spent that letter telling me that he loved me and the kids.”

Linda clasped my hand and squeezed. We both tried not to cry.

I would have failed miserably had it not been for a sudden squawking outside the door. Linda ran into me as we both rushed for the door. Bouncing off each other like school kids racing outside for recess, we managed to make it to the door, disheveled, but—

Humans Among Us

Linda and I returned to our repast and did an amazing job finishing off the egg salad and an embarrassing amount of the cobbler. Though it was still mid-summer, the days weren’t getting longer but slowly shortening with lingering evenings being the best part of the day.

We decided to sit out on the front porch as the sun set and the sky turned from pink and yellow into a fiery red. If I had any wine on hand, I would’ve offered her some. The trees across the road rippled in a gentle breeze, and birds twittered from the electrical lines. I wondered what would happen to those ubiquitous black wires? Would they surge with energy once again someday? Or become useless like dead snakes and drop to the ground in imitation of some dystopian novel?

I glanced aside and saw a tear slip down Linda’s face. For the first time, really, I cared about her. Not the usual, “Hope you’re doing well” that we send in quick messages or the “How’s everything?” in passing, but the heart-wrenching sensation you get when you feel another person’s pain. I rubbed her back. “Josh and Jared will be okay.” It was an ignorant comment. I knew it, and she knew it.

She swallowed, gulping sobs, and clasped her hands, shaking with pent-up tension. She slid her gaze my way. “You don’t know, do you?”

I attempted an easy nonchalance and shrugged. “Tell me.”

“Jared wasn’t crazy. There are aliens.”

That was enough. I didn’t want to go any further, but yet, I had to know. Either everyone was going mad or I was way out of the loop. “Aliens? Seriously?”

She snorted, should’ve had a whisky to belt back. “Yeah. They’ve been here a long time. Since humanity got started, I think.”

Whoa! This was a new take on an old theme. “They’ve been watching us since—when?”

Linda straightened, rubbed her listless arms, and exhaled a long breath. A weary pedagogue having to go round ten with a recalcitrant student. “Not watching. They’ve been raised with us. Look, I don’t know the whole story, but I get the general drift. When life first started on this planet, for a time, everything was just at animal level—you know, fish and birds, creepy crawly things, and then mammals and more adaptable critters. At some point, I have no clue when, there was a divide. Actually, from what I understand, there were several splits. Some of the more intelligent or adaptable animals, pre-human-kind survived while others fell by the wayside. Was there warfare, a genocide of sorts? Can’t say if they were capable of comprehending that sort of thing. But it happened nonetheless.”

My gaze strayed to the flowering Rose of Sharon bushes. Their starburst pink flowers with white centers sure looked beautiful. I didn’t want an anthropology lesson. I always figured that we could clog the Earth with what we didn’t know about our past, and our ever-changing hypothesis about our true origin should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt. “Anyway” Linda must’ve sensed my mood shift. She hurried on. “These alien beings came along and decided—

For the rest of these and other episodes visit Kindle Vella Homestead by A. K. Frailey

https://www.amazon.com/Homestead/dp/B094PVCT26/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=a.+K.+Frailey&qid=1626266332&s=falkor&sr=1-1

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Poetry

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

Photo https://pixabay.com/photos/fantasy-ufo-spaceship-future-hover-5025661/

Homestead Parts 11 and 12

https://anchor.fm/ann-frailey/episodes/Homestead-Parts-11-and-12-e16qdtf

Ponderations

Dana couldn’t stand still for a minute. Even perpetual motion machines of the world took notice.

I sat on the back steps letting a cool front work its magic. For the end of June, it was gorgeous. Cool sunny mornings, warm days with afternoon rainstorms, and blessedly chilly nights. “I wish this would last forever.”

Dana stopped pacing under the maple tree and stared at me. Glared really. But who am I to quibble? She had stayed longer than she intended, only because I threatened to get on my knees and beg.

“You’re okay without dad?”

I shook my head and tried to wave her comment into oblivion. “That’s not what I meant. I was talking about the weather.”

Her hands went to her hips. “It’s time we left. You’re not going to give us any trouble, right?”

Juan slipped out my bedroom door and stopped on the top porch step. I didn’t see him. But I didn’t need to. I knew the sound of my son’s footsteps as well as my own heartbeat.

I waited. Juan didn’t want to leave home. I knew that, but there was an unspoken understanding that he would go with Dana. He had to. She was going no matter what I said. But she couldn’t go alone. And I was hardly fit enough to traipse across an out-of-control country. I’d do better to keep the home fires burning. Literally.

I peered at Dana. She was the same woman who had driven to St. Louis weeks ago, but at the same time, she seemed so altered that I hardly felt comfortable in her presence. There was something she wasn’t telling me. And I was weary of not knowing—fighting off the horrors that raged in my mind. So, I countered with a question of my own, “You want to tell me about the aliens?” That threw her. I knew it would. The look that crossed her face when…

Into the Deep End

It was late by the time Ben left and the kids settled down for a good night’s rest before their adventure the next day.

To my everlasting gratitude, Ben offered to go with the kids. He didn’t start with that offer though. Ben is far wilier than I had realized. What comes across as boyish innocence masks a deceptively perceptive nature. He outfoxed Dana better than I ever could.

He spent the majority of the evening asking her advice, taking her lead. Even glancing her way when I suggested an early bedtime. Almost as if he and she had formed an inside club that knew better than color-in-the-lines-can’t-be-too-careful mom.

Juan sat back and luxuriated in someone else taking the burden of conversation off his shoulders. Though he did add texture to the stories, Ben got Dana to share details about their travels.

No one mentioned aliens.

I wished Ben had asked. For some reason, I thought he might be able to get away with that line of inquiry when it was clear, I’d be blown to smithereens for my efforts. Still, it was a great evening. A memory I could snuggle close to, comforting me through the ordeals ahead.

When I heard knocking on the kitchen door at six in the morning, I assumed it was Ben ready to roust the kids out of bed and hit the road for a fresh start before the sun climbed too high. I poured the last of the pancake batter into the frying pan and wiped my hands on a clean towel. “Coming, sir. Right in time for—”

Josh stared at me through eyes glossy with exhaustion, his body limp and his clothes filthy.

“Josh? What—?”

“Is he here?”

“Who? Ben? He’ll be coming along in a bit.”

Pushing past me, Josh stumbled into the house and landed on the kitchen bench, his whole body sagging. “No, Jared. Has he come by? Or said anything to you?”

I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the young man. Didn’t want to either. “No. Everything has been quiet here. Ben and the kids are heading out this morning—”

Josh wavered to his feet. “Don’t!”

I swallowed the fear lodging itself in my throat. “Why?”

This time the knock was followed by the door opening in quick succession. Ben swung into the room, his gaze locking on me. “You okay?” Footsteps pounded down the stairs, and Dana joined the coffee klatch though no coffee had been served yet, and I was as confused as…

For the rest of these episodes and others visit Kindle Vella Homestead by A. K. Frailey.

https://www.amazon.com/Homestead/dp/B094PVCT26/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=a.+K.+Frailey&qid=1626266332&s=falkor&sr=1-1

Books by A. K. Frailey

Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels

OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN

OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF

OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ

OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI

OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)

Science Fiction Novels

Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg

Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN

Short Stories

It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz

Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l

Inspirational Non-Fiction

My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll

The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S

Children’s Book

The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5

Poetry

Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems https://amzn.to/3cn22X8

Photo https://pixabay.com/de/photos/neuseeland-haus-heimat-h%c3%bctte-2609034/