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On Christmas

I Guess I’m just old-fashioned.

In an age where saying “Merry Christmas” is considered a political act, and Christmas for many is just the holiday after Black Friday, I still enjoy this time with my family, a real Christmas tree and candlelight in church and home.

My son, Robert with his fiancee, Carol. In the middle is my son James and on the right is my wife Lorraine. I'm the old guy in the back.

Where we live, in the Pacific Northwest, we often don’t have snow on Christmas, but it is cold. This is a time to stay inside, read a good book or the good book, and put another log on the fire, but most of all this is the to remember and reflect upon the birth of Christ.

The day after Christmas I’ll be back at my desk writing, but between now and then I’m taking as much time as possible to be with family and friends.

For all of my readers, I wish a very Merry Christmas and blessings in the New Year.


Click on the following links to read my author bio, or to read more about my faith.

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Dorky Glasses and the Eclipse

 

What is it about an eclipse that brings out the child in us?

I know it was a rare event, the last one like it occurred in 1918, but several of my friends traveled hundreds of miles and camped out in farm fields just to experience the eclipse totality.

As the eclipse begins.

We read in the local paper that the recent solar eclipse would reach ninety-six percent of totality in this area so; I purchased dorky glasses and invited our sons over to watch from the backyard.

If I made a habit of sitting in the backyard, wearing paper sunglasses and staring up into the sky I think my wife might have my head examined, but on this day she joined me, along with the boys, and we looked like a rather eccentric family having a backyard picnic.

The backyard at ninety-six percent of totality

At first, as the moon moved across the sun, we didn’t notice any change. Even when half of the sun had been blocked we couldn’t tell any difference in the day. Only when the moon blocked the vast majority of the sun did the sky take on the deep blue of evening. As we continued to watch a cool breeze blew.

Still, it amazed me that with ninety-six percent of the sun blocked, it wasn’t even close to dark.

Then the moon moved out of the way, and the hot and bright summer sun shone once again and we returned to the house. What am I going to do with the dorky glasses?


Click on the following links to read my author bio, life in Lewis County or more about my life on the farm.

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Working hard, so I can rest

I decided to build a patio on a shady knoll beside my home. However, due to my writing schedule and other commitments, it took a couple of months to gather all the materials and find the time to construct it. Finally, on the evening of July 2nd, I had everything I needed.

Stiff and sore, but trying to relax (click to enlarge)

After breakfast the next morning I began construction. It occurred to me that it would be nice if the family could use the patio on Independence Day, but that would mean all the work had to be completed that day.

I worked hard, very hard, on July 3rd. 

July 4th was a lovely warm day here in the northwest. The blue skies were welcome after a long rainy winter and spring. Also, as you can see from the picture, my family and I did enjoy the patio. My relaxation that day was tempered by many stiff and sore muscles. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the patio even more after I’ve recovered from building it.


Click on the following links to read my author bio, life in Lewis County or more about my life on the farm.

To receive a weekly digest of blogposts delivered to your inbox click Follow me

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Book Credits

How many people does it take to create a novel?  

Braving the Storms, by Kyle Pratt

Recently I watched X-Men Apocalypse with one of my sons. At the end of the action we waited to see if there were any post-credit scenes (there is). As we watched the endless scroll of credits we discussed how many people were involved in the production of my last novel, Braving the Storms.

Over the next few days I jotted down names of people who either worked for me on the novel, or volunteered their time. I hope I didn’t forget to include someone on the list below.

Author:                 Kyle Pratt

Editor:                  Barbara Blakey

Copy Editor:         Joyce Scott

Line Editor:           Lorraine Pratt

Cover Design:       Micah Hansen

Critique Group:     Robert Hansen

                               Debby Lee

                               Kristie Kandoll

                               Carolyn Bickel

eBook Format:       Amit Dey

Audiobook:            Kevin Pierce

Beta Reader:          William Childress

Office Manager:      Lorraine Pratt

Accounting:            Robert Pratt, CPA

Legal:                      Christopher Vandenberg, JD

This doesn’t include people working for distributors such as, Amazon, Nook and iTunes, or the numerous bloggers and reviewers that I speak with on a regular basis.

While my list isn’t nearly as long as the movie credits, it still includes a lot of people, and I’m grateful to every one of them.

Double Vision

Recently my son, Robert, discovered himself

Robert Pratt finds Robert Pratt

Robert earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Saint Martin’s University in 2012, and quickly found a job as an auditor for the Washington state. During his time at the University someone took a picture of him as part of a promotion for the School of Business.

Recently, Saint Martin’s University held a job fair and the auditor’s office had a booth. Robert stopped by to visit with coworkers and discovered they are still using his picture.

I can see why they still use it. Nice picture, Robert.

Mysteries

Like most people, I like a good mystery.

I don’t write traditional mysteries, but often my stories contain a secret that the characters have to solve. While I enjoy both reading and writing such novels, sometimes I enjoy real-life mysteries. I say sometimes because when it comes to, “why can’t I remember where the car is parked” or, “why politicians are such liars,” the answer is just annoying.

Recently, my son Robert sent me the one panel comic from the website XKCD, by Randall Munroe, former NASA roboticist and current webcomic writer with a cult following.

I found his “What IF” section particularly amusing. If you have a weird sense of humor, and an interest in science, check out his website

The Trip IV

The Trip (Part 4)

(Part Four)

The Bethel sky was clear and the sun shining on Sunday morning as I carefully walked across the ice covered tarmac and up the stairs to the plane.

Normally Alaska Airlines flies Boeing 737-400 combi aircraft to Bethel. These carry freight in the front and passengers in the back. However, this plane was a regular 737 and every seat was filled before we lifted off for the 56 minute flight to Anchorage.

The trip went smoothly and seemed even shorter than normal. The stewards hardly finished serving drinks before they prepared the plane for landing. But that only allowed my mind to stay focused on my next problem—how to get home before Christmas morning.

It was early Sunday afternoon when I stepped off the jet bridge and into Anchorage terminal. On the way to baggage claim I glimpsed the Alaska Airlines customer service lines that wrapped around like a TSA checkpoint at rush hour. I continued on and collected my bag. After walking just a few feet from the carousal I stopped. Where was I going? What was I doing? Did I want to get a hotel room or join the long line I had just passed and see if there is a seat available on a flight, any flight, heading to Seattle tonight? I walked back and forth and then in a circle before I stopped near the center of the large room. With a sigh of determination I turned and joined the lengthy customer service line.

When you are in a slow moving line you can stand silent and alone in your own universe or you can meet people. I got to know a Bering Sea fisherman, half a dozen students from an Alaskan military academy and a several families just trying to get home for Christmas.

An hour later it was my turn to talk to the customer service agent. She leaned forward, one elbow resting on the counter. Her hair was slightly disheveled. I could imagine her day—I was a small part of it. I leaned on the counter with her and said, “I’m not sure where to begin. Maybe with this.” I handed her my scrap paper ticket.

Without blinking an eye she started typing on her keyboard. “How many changes of itinerary have you had?”

“Ah…I’m not sure.”

“Why did they cancel your Christmas Eve flight and put you on this later one?”

“It’s all blurring together at this point.”

She continued to type.

“I’d like to get home sooner if possible.”

“I understand.” For nearly a minute she stared at the screen and punched keys. “I can get you on the 9:40 flight tonight.”

“What?”

“They scheduled a larger plane for that flight,” she said handing me a boarding pass. “You can only check your bag four hours before the flight, so you’ll have to come back in two hours for that.”

“Thank you. Merry Christmas,” I said walking away with my new boarding pass.

I bought a news magazine and ate a burger and fries for supper. At exactly 5:40 I checked my bag and then joined the TSA line. I arrived at the gate long before the flight appeared on the board.

As I read my magazine in the nearly empty waiting area a woman approached me. “Is this the gate for the 9:40 flight to Seattle?”

“Yes.”

She sighed and sat down near me.

I’m not sure who spoke first, but we were soon talking. She worked for the Lower Yukon School District, just north of my district, and like many others was trying to get home. She wanted to get to Seattle and then try and catch a flight east to Chicago. We talked off and on until the flight boarded and then were surprised to discover we were seated together. I was in 7C, she was in 7B.

The flight from Anchorage to Seattle is normally just over three hours. As we landed, just before two in the morning, the pilot announced that tailwinds shortened our flight. I wouldn’t have known; I slept most of the trip.

I walked briskly to baggage claim, confident that I was nearly done with airports, at least for a while. My son Robert sat dozing near the carousel. He spotted me as I approached and we embraced. We stood together as the bags tumbled onto the carousel. My luggage has never been one of the first to appear, but it has frequently been one of the last. That morning was no exception. Two lone individuals stood on opposite sides of the carousel as we walked away. 

Kyle Pratt, finally home for Christmas

The drive home from SeaTac Airport takes about an hour and a half. We caught up on family events and the news of the world for most of the way home.

As Robert turned in the driveway I knew that many of my fellow teachers were still struggling to get to their destination, but for me the journey that began with a failed attempt to leave Eek on Friday afternoon was ending. I looked at the dashboard clock. It was 4:10 a.m. on Monday morning. We were home.

A Tribute to Nikki

My friend and companion of ten years died today. 

Nikki was my dog, or perhaps I was her human.  Actually, I’m certain that it doesn’t matter.  She grew from a tiny puppy on our farm in Washington State.  These last few years work has taken me away from the farm more than I would like, but if I was there she was nearby.  Whoever was doing the most interesting task, from her perspective, that was who she was with, but she was always close.     

Kyle Pratt and Nikki at a better time, Christmas 2009

When it was time for me to wake in the morning, she would wander into the room and lick my face.  Then someone, usually my wife, would take her on a morning walk around the farm and nearby woods.  I guess Nikki needed to be sure that nothing had ventured onto her farm.  There would always be several more patrols as the day went on.  As the sun was sitting she was usually on the grass near the front porch watching.

 

In her younger years she would chase the shadows of swallows as they flew to and from their nests in the nearby trees.  She also loved to snatch Frisbees or balls from the air.  These last few years those things seemed to have moved faster though.    

 

Intruders, such as raccoons, deer and postmen were never welcome on Nikki’s farm.  The chickens would walk right up to her in the barnyard while she merely watched, but predators never ventured there.  Deer never ate in the orchard because Nikki was on the watch.  I never worried about the house when we were gone.  Nikki was there.    

 

She was always there for us, but I’m sad to say that in the end I was not there for her.  Both my wife and I are up in Alaska right now at the village where I teach.  On Friday, my youngest son, Robert, told us that Nikki was in pain and after a thorough examination we were informed it was probably cancer. Robert said we would know more soon, but it looked grim.  That night I sent him this message;

Robert,

If it is necessary to put Nikki down tomorrow I want you to remember that she was loved every day of her life, that she had room to roam and explore, plenty to eat and a warm and comfortable place to sleep. As dogs go, that is just about a perfect life. She has no concept of personal death so she is not afraid of it. Remember the good times we had with her and do what needs to done to make the rest of her life (however long that will be) as good as it can be. If you do that, you have done everything you can for her. Thanks for being there for her.

Dad

I am thankful that Robert was with Nikki when she breathed her last.  I’m grateful that the last thing my faithful dog saw was a loving friend.  As painful as it would have been, I wish I could have been there to share the burden that they both had to endure today.

Goodbye Nikki, old friend, I miss you already.