Doing Our Part

I feel really guilty admitting this, but up until today, the last time I donated money to the American Red Cross was after 9/11. I was working as a full-time staffer for the Weekender then, and my editor, Thomas Ritchie, suggested we all pitch in and (to my knowledge) all of us gladly helped out.

As anyone who’s ever donated knows, after that you’ll occasionally get some literature from the Red Cross asking for further donations. They don’t send them very often, though after looking at what’s happened with the tsunamis it’s a shame they don’t. I got those requests, yet they always seemed to arrive at a time when there was something or another that needed my financial attention. I did donate blood, but looking back now I know I could have done more.

It’s so easy for us to think if we can’t donate $50 or $100 or something halfway substantial, it won’t really make a difference anyway. It will. The Red Cross’s online website allows donors to give as little as $5. Think about how fast that can add up. Or how fast $10 adds up.

In addition to the Red Cross, CNN has an online list of relief organizations dedicated to helping the victims of Sunday’s tragedy. There’s Doctors Without Borders, CARE and UNICEF just to name a few. We’re all in this together.

I know what one of my New Year’s Resolutions will be.


A Christmas Poem (to my Family 2004)

I got an unexpected, heartfelt Christmas gift from my sister Lori this year. She gave the same gift to my brother as well as our other two sisters. Lori is the middle sister — the one we always called “tattletale” — and her gift made me realize some things I hadn’t thought about before:

1) Lori doesn’t take her family — or where she came from — for granted.

2) Lori doesn’t yet realize how talented she is.

The gift was a framed poem she had written herself. She called it “A Christmas Poem (to my Family 2004),” had it printed on parchment paper with holly in the corners, and signed it — I Love You, Lori — at the bottom beneath the date.

This isn’t the first time Lori has written poems for us. She wrote one after our father was killed and it read like a personal letter she’d written to him. She told him all the things she wished she’d said before he died. That was the first time I realized my sister’s talent as a writer.

I plan to hang her Christmas poem on my office wall, and thought I’d share it here. If you’ve got family, I’m sure you can relate.

The Christmas Poem by Lori Mathes

If you’re unable to view the image above, I’ve included the words below.

A Christmas Poem (to my Family 2004)

I wish you Merry Christmas, this poem’s my “Gift” to you

I’m sure that won’t surprise you . . . cuz my poems are nothing new.

So often life goes by too fast, that no-one figures out

Why they were put together or what family’s all about.

We’re not a family by some “chance”, there’s nothing that needs fixed

We each were chosen carefully . . . each adding to the mix.

He knew we each held something — A quality we had

One we would seek, and pass along . . . some trait of Mom and Dad.

We take these traits they gave us and spread out on this earth

But never really think about the miracle of birth.

A birth is how we carry on, the traits we each possess,

The special gifts God gave us, all each different from the rest.

That’s why there IS a Christmas . . . A special day each year,

To celebrate the ONE, whose birth gave ALL that you hold dear.

I think what was intended . . . is we each would do our part,

To take time for each other, which is the families HEART.

So this is why I want to say, and know there is no test

I’m glad he placed me in this group, among the very Best!!

There’s not another Family I would choose to call my own,

I feel so very lucky and there’s just – “NO PLACE LIKE HOME.”

I’m proud to be a part of you, I’m proud to call you mine,

And with you all around me I am blessed at Christmas time.

Merry Christmas!

(Copyright 2004 by Lori Mathes)

Thanks, Lori. Me, too.


Riding a Blue Horse Back to Bookstore Shelves

I just finished reading a terrific book. Actually, “terrific” doesn’t do it justice; this novel is incredible, outstanding, exceptional, and if Blogger had a thesaurus, I’d probably be adding a few more adjectives.

It’s called “Riding a Blue Horse,” by Carter Elliott. You may not have heard too much about it because it was published by Carroll & Graf, a (former) imprint of Avalon Publishing Group. The two parted ways shortly after the book’s publication, and Carter lost the publicist with whom he had been working. As many of you know, a publicist is to “their books” as parents are to “their children.” You watch them take shape, encourage their growth, then do everything possible to send them into a world where they’ll flourish and (hopefully) become wildly successful.

So….I’m temporarily removing my writer’s hat to don that of publicist pro tem. (And no, Carter is not paying me to write this. He knows a bit about bribes and the law.) In fact, he knows more than just a bit: he used to work for the CIA and had a second career in federal law enforcement. The former special agent also has his masters degree in clinical psychology, so I know — as a law-abiding volunteer prison counselor — he wouldn’t use psy-ops on me to surreptitiously get me to write this blog.

Riding a Blue Horse is the story of 14-year-old (and over the hill) Molly Small — who’s making her way to a West Virginia remote mountain county that headquarters a ring of kiddie-porn operators — and Molly’s unlikely protector, a lumbering, simpleminded 18-year-old the locals have nicknamed “Stupe.” (If you’ve never visited the Appalachian mountains, you will feel like you have before you finish the book.)

Carter brings to life the dialect and the folkways of one West Virginia community in a page-turning crime novel that snakes up snow-covered Sad Mother Mountain and skids down Dumb John’s Mountain with its words skating by faster than a car hitting ice on a hairpin curve.

Molly’s unexpected appearance in Shawnee turns out to be but the first in a series of unusual events facing God-fearing state trooper Roscoe Bragg and young postal inspector Rens Vandermeer. The day after she arrives, a small private plane crashes into Dumb John’s Mountain, leaving the pilot dead, and — huddled in the snowy wreckage, a terrified, helpless, illegally adopted six-year-old boy. There’s more surprises in store when, much to his astonishment, Stupe discovers the heavy leaf bag doesn’t contain the dead fawn his daddy said he’d hit and wanted Stupe to bury.

…..(pretend this is a few days later)…..

Now that you’ve got the book in hand, go get your comfy warm blanket and curl up in your favorite place to read. If it isn’t snowing there yet, just wait. You might want to crank your thermostat up a notch or two. If you don’t have a bookstore close by, it’s available on

P.S. Have a Merry Christmas.

$10,000 Reward for Danny’s Safe Return

About two years ago I did an article for the Weekender on, the online site conceived by Ron Hornbaker where people register books, release them “into the wild,” and then track the books’ journeys and the lives they happen to touch. In the front of each book, former owners place a sticker that says “I’m not lost!” to ensure that whoever finds the book will know it now belongs to them.

BookCrossing now has one of its own members lost. Twenty-nine-year-old Dan Clune — BookCrossing’s lead programmer since April of this year — has been missing for one full month. Dan Clune was last seen by a group of friends around 2 a.m. Nov. 6 at Long Bridge Bar and Grill outside Sandpoint, Idaho. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his safe return, and his family has established a website — — with more detailed information.

I can’t imagine anything worse than having one’s child go missing. I decided to post this on my blog in an effort to help get the word out. I admire Ron Hornbaker for what he’s done in creating a worldwide book community, and his dedication to help find Danny Clune.

Anyone with information about Danny’s disappearance should call the Sandpoint Police Department at (208) 265-1482 or Bonner County Central Dispatch at (208) 265-5525.

Welcome to my weblog

Well, it took me a little while researching all these blogging options, but I finally settled on Blogger to use for my new weblog. I owe the author/techie/endlessly patient Max Barry a big Thank You for all his help and suggestions.

Here, I plan to give updates on a (hopefully) regular basis on those things that mean most to me right now. Other musings, of course, surely will find their way to these pages.

The rain has finally let up. Bear and Cocoa (our four-footed boys) have come to lie beside me. I think they’re trying to tell me something.

P.S. If you haven’t yet read one of Max’s books — Syrup or Jennifer Government — you’re really missing out.