Book review –  Whispers from the Valley of the Yak  by Jaquelyn Lenox Tuxill

‘I knew from an early age that I didn’t fit in’, says author Jacquelyn Lenox Tuxill.  Born in Chengdu, China of missionary physician parents, the author came of age in post-World War II U.S. at a time of changing gender roles and racial upheaval.  “Whispers from the Valley of the Yak” is both a search for self within the context of a changing society and a travelogue written by a devoted journal-writer and environmentalist.

Part of understanding who we are is understanding where we came from.  Jacquelyn Lenox Tuxill retraces her parents’ 14-year China travels to come ‘full circle’ in her own life and shares this legacy with her adult children.  From ‘not fitting in’ to forgiveness, “Whispers from the Valley of the Yak” is a powerful journey.

A personal reflection from “Whispers from the Valley of the Yak”:  I could relate to the author’s difficult relationship with her mother.  I did as well.  Although the circumstances surrounding our upbringing differed, the author and I are from the same age cohort, as were our parents.  My mother always had help with cooking, keeping house and child care.  For both our mothers, the process of raising children was separated by caregivers and other focus areas – Jacqueline’s mother was a physician and mine was active in community and church affairs.  Friends of my parents would always tell me what a wonderful person my mother was:  the fact is, I never knew that person they were describing.  My mother died when I was a young adult with small children of my own.  To this day, I regret not being there for her as she passed away.  Her death meant we could never reconcile our relationship.   How fortunate Jacquelyn Tuxill was to have that time with her mother in her later years.   With patience and love, forgiveness is possible. 


A Noble Cunning by Patricia Bernstein

Book Review – A Noble Cunning: The Countess and the Tower by Patricia Bernstein

Within England’s Protestant post-Reformation power structure, persecution against Catholics was especially fierce.  Religious fervor permeated the broader society.  Catholics were forced to live secret lives.  Following Queen Anne’s death, the Protestant George of Hanover was chosen over multiple other candidates to become King George I.  This questionable succession ignited more violence and continued religious persecution.

Within this political turbulence, the Catholic heroine of A Noble Cunning, Bethan Carlisle Glentaggart, must navigate the impossible task of liberating her condemned husband from the Tower of London.  Based on a true story, author Patricia Bernstein has crafted an engaging historical novel whose careful period research flows smoothly within the narrative.  The reader stands beside Bethan as she ponders the possibility of escape after her husband, Gavin, the Earl of Clarencefield, is convicted of treason and the impact that success or failure will have on their family’s future.  The plan is risky – would it work?

Bethan is helped by a fellowship of women whose support and daring acting skills are integral parts of the plan.  Although A Noble Cunning is a novel based on a true event whose details are not recorded, the reader can’t help but believe that the original heroine must have embodied the same intelligence and bravery as Bethan.    In a dangerous political era, cunning can win the day.



Book Review: Life Dust: A Novel by Pam Webber

In this cynical media environment, it is pleasant to find a genuine story of hope and love. “Life Dust” is a book that restores faith.

Those who lived through the Vietnam era will appreciate the historical context immediately before and after the release of the Pentagon Papers, especially as it affected the push to identify the status of missing soldiers.   Andy’s attitude toward anti-war protests is a refreshing change from the cinematic angry “Rambo” characters:  he is clear on why he is serving his country and is prepared to perform at the best of his ability.  Nettie’s test of faith lies with empathetic care for patients.  Her story is one of giving meaning to a life cut short, symbolized by a ring and a garden and a legacy from an earlier war.

What is “life dust”? Faith, hope and love – not just in the present, but in our legacy to those who follow.  These qualities endure.


I write for a wonderful publication called FYI50+.   Press on this logo for good reading, great writing (me plus other fabulous scribblers) and some fun resources for you, your kids and your furry friends.

The FYI50+ website has been updated!

Check it out Click Here

Small Steps Forward—

A Tribute to Worry

All presentations are 45 minutes in length with time allowed afterward for questions.
Topics describe the history, the context and application and meaning for today.

The community provides a projector, screen and computer;  I will bring a flash drive and pertinent books for review. 

 THE GALVESTON HURRICANE OF 1900 – the worst-ever U.S. national disaster

  • September 8, 1900 marks the date of the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history.  The hurricane that slammed onto Galveston Island is a story of scientific hubris, weather technology, political history, and human resilience, bravery and creativity.  This event changed the course of Texas growth in the 20th century.


  • The man who conquered the air and became the first media superstar of the modern era.  Learn about Lindbergh’s life, his family, his impact on the aviation industry, as spokesman for America First, and how history remembers him.


  • Paul Revere was a skilled silversmith and a man known to get things done within Boston circles.  He is remembered chiefly for his ride to Lexington and Concord to warn residents “the Regulars are coming”.  In the era before the internet, what made Paul Revere successful within the context of Puritan society and the American Revolution? What made Revere emblematic of the American narrative before, during and after the Revolution? His story is more than one midnight ride: it is the story of the transition from colony to nation


  • How does a primitive Germanic language progress through invasions, occupations and political upheavals to become the worldwide language of today? The history of England in words.


  • New ways to explore something we take for granted: Time as the 4th Dimension, how time is measured and why, clocks and the importance of time zones.  Learn about the origin of Daylight Savings – yes, it actually was Benjamin Franklin.


  • Walk into any home and find similar components: construction, environmental control, organization, electricity, plumbing, furniture and a myriad of details that we overlook in daily life. How did we get to what makes a home today?  It isn’t that long ago when many conveniences didn’t exist.  Imagine life without ice or windows.  Some surprising facts in store.


Who were “the Separatists” – better known as the “Pilgrims”?  What was their impact on the settlement of North America?  Who were the leaders of the Separatist group and the Native Americans who helped them survive the first extremely cold winter?  What is the legacy of the Mayflower?  Each November we celebrate Thanksgiving – only one of the legacies of the original Pilgrim settlers.  Find out the rest of the story.  Their voices still speak to us today in cultural norms and traditions.

20 February 2022

With apologies to Mrs. Roberts who prompted my journey into the serious study of English, I just finished reading Moby Dick for the first time in 50+ years.  What a powerful book.  I understand now why certain English professors make it their key focus of study.  It is William Shakespeare in the American vernacular.

When I first read the book, the movie “Jaws” had not yet been filmed.  Now I understand why Quint sings the whaling chant about “Spanish Ladies”.   With all the traditional whaling songs available to choose from,  Steven Spielberg chose that particular one out of Moby Dick.

Moby Dick is a beacon for self-educated individuals.  Herman Melville dropped out of school in his teens, but read widely in adulthood.  His command of mythology, philosophy, history and geography are astonishing and provide a powerful argument for liberal arts study.

24 October 2019 

My house is filled with books.  It is not unusual for me to read 3 or 4 at once, with the books in different places within my home.
One of these books is the recently-published “Permanent Record” by Edward Snowden.  It is clear that this fellow is really smart, and an excellent writer on top of his obvious computer skills.  I am enjoying this book immensely.
I spoke with son Joe about Edward Snowden a few days ago.  They share the experience of a time when citizens could expect privacy in their lives.  From Generation X and older, before the advent of computers, the internet, GPS and cell phones, one’s life could be private.  Televisions were not interactive then and electronic devices were not gathering information about your movements.   There was a “then” and “now”.  The current  generations – Millennials and forward – aren’t aware of another reality.   there is no “then” – only “now”.
While in Germany recently, I spoke with a longtime internet expert who worked within the same NSA halls that Snowden did.  It is interesting to note that he regards Snowden as a traitor:  in the process of “whistleblowing” about surveillance, Snowden apparently disclosed some  NSA “sources and methods” that have made it more difficult for the Intelligence Community to keep tabs on U.S. enemies.  Within my new friend’s declaration, I noted that the outrage from disclosing “sources and methods” far outweighed any anger about the government monitoring all citizens’ private accounts.
More recently, another friend commented that the current generation no longer “expects privacy”.   A memorable comment.
What this says to me is that Edward Snowden is a tragic figure.  He performed an incredibly brave act in an incredibly smart way, but will never be appreciated for it.  No doubt the pervasive surveillance he uncovered derived from post-9/11 fears and has Dick Cheney’s fingerprints. The extent of secret mass surveillance was certainly more than the Patriot Act legislated.  No FISA warrants here.  The metadata was routinely collected on everyone.  So, Edward Snowden blew the whistle on these secret activities in a very public way … but, ironically,  the public wasn’t especially bothered by it.  There have been Civil Liberties Union lawsuits that have resulted in some protective legislation, but the enormous public ground swell was not the tidal wave that some expected.  So, Edward Snowden, armed with a laptop and his principles, is now an outcast in Moscow.  He shouted and there was not the megaphone-like public uprising.
Apart from judging whether Edward Snowden was right or wrong, I do understand his motives and can appreciate the care he took with the disclosure.  Sometimes you can do the right thing and receive no applause.  Those who make brave choices with eyes wide open about the consequences earn my respect.  Edward Snowden made a choice and “owned” it.
After what amounts to a 6-year layover,  I doubt he is ever pardoned, much less welcomed back to the U.S.  His passport revoked, he cannot leave Russia.   Perhaps he has found a home there.
“Permanent Record” is Snowden’s testament and I, for one, appreciate hearing it.

27 June 2019

Working on two new presentations on the Galveston Hurricane and the Dust Bowl.  So many stories to tell!

12 May 2019

Most of my writing is under other people’s names.  I pose as their person and speak with their voice.  My own material is still not copyrighted so this part of my web page will have to wait 🙂

If you want to report any of it, kindly cite the author (me!)

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