Beryl’s Blog

Brave Men and Strong Women

         Here’s stories of people I love:

         I always admired my grandmother and mother. They both embraced the lives they were dealt, each losing her husband to divorce at almost the same time. My mother had to change gears from missionary service to solo breadwinner as a teacher. My grandmother took in children to babysit. She depended on that income and annuities as long as I remember. Both of them, however, chose to be open-handed and generous. Grandmother offered her home to missionaries on furlough, and to various people in transition. They were both strong women, but they’d never admit it. My grandmother was strong in one other memorable way. She loved to give “adjustments,” crushing hugs meant to straighten your spine. We hated them!

       Lately, I’ve been thinking of other remarkable people in our family. My niece works long hours at Amazon and then returns home to care for her three men: husband, father and brother. She recently “put hubby through” as we used to call it, working so he could finish his degree. She logged many miles on her car driving back and forth between his campus and her dad’s home. She’s also come through a medical crisis with her dad this past year.

       Then, there are my sons. The older one owned a music store in a trendy area. When the pandemic hit and commerce closed down, it looked like he’d lose his business. But immediately he made plans to cut expenses and eventually found a new shop space. Four months of hard work, mostly alone, involved clearing out the old building, going online to sell his stock, then renting a new space. remodeling and moving in. All is completed now. His customers are returning.  Check out (a shameless plug).

       Younger son has shown himself brave and loyal, the way he’s always been since he was a boy. His job entails working with a lot of tribal elders and he does that with dignity. He’s a good listener, and willing to let the knowledge-keepers be recognized for their unique information. He’s stood up for racial justice, too, as he pointed out to the private library he works for. That library and archive contains the papers on only one Black American anthropologist in their system.

       My husband ranks as a brave man for learning a new, complex job recently and mastering a containerload of technology as a second (volunteer) career. Taking me on many years ago showed fortitude, as well!

       Acts of courage, perseverance and generosity of spirit are not the sole province of “The Great Generation” or any other generation. It’s wonderful to me to see younger people rise up with selfless values and integrity in the face of difficulty.

Bravo, my dears.

Polyphonic Paradise

             When Christmas season came to Tbilisi, our group thought we should celebrate the season by singing carols in an art cooperative with common mall area. The building had historically been a roadhouse along a once-famous trade route. Stores and workshops encircled a large gathering place with vaulted ceilings. It should be perfect for singing. The group practiced several times, amateur singers all. Some had strong voices, some wavering, but we all banded together to spread joy and cheer.

            On the appointed day, we formed an eager choir, with carols copied and ready. As we broke into song, people noticed and stopped to listen. After a couple of songs, effortlessly but seemingly planned, a number of men stepped forward. All in one breath, their barrel chests filled and out came the most amazing harmonies I have ever heard. Full, loud and rich, the chords flooded the area, bouncing off the tiled floors and rising to the heights of the rafters. Over and over, the resonant sounds evoked the reverence of cathedrals, but the intimacy of an opera scene.

            Countries of the Caucasus abound in this kind of music. Christianity came early to the country of Georgia (337 AD), but vocal polyphony developed before that. Georgia has both eastern and western styles within their small country, with fifteen identified varieties. Eastern Georgian features two embellished melodic lines developing rhythmically freely with the background of the drone. Western Georgian music features a type of local yodel, called a krimanchuli, full of contrapuntal rhythms.

            Georgian polyphony has been classified as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Use this link for a sample of Georgian polyphonic music:

How to Love the Pandemic - Well, Almost

           I must admit that I didn’t have time in my life for the current health crisis. I had a full complement of social obligations. We had a long pleasure trip planned with friends. I enjoyed my busy life. Or so I thought.

            Fear of infection, however, made me withdraw to a much-reduced schedule. I only ventured out to the grocery store and pharmacy, as recommended. Fear of losing control glued me to the TV watching statistics and sad anecdotes about victims. Fear of the unknown produced despair and, later, restlessness and irritability. After the initial wave of sadness, I thought perhaps we could re-claim our lives, not quite in the same old way, but substantially and with just a few add-ons, like masks and social distancing.

            Now the second wave is rising and about to crash on the beach.  Have you felt the panic, the malaise, the quick anger or sudden tears? Our level of anxiety lurks just below the surface of our lives. What do we do to live sanely and move ahead?

            I’m not here fully engage that question, but to say a few things I’ve observed and decided recently.

            One: I can turn to my faith. Psalm 94:19 says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation has been my joy.” God is bigger than any problem I will encounter, even this microscopic menace. I almost forgot that.

            Two: I can find contentment in the everyday, ordinary rhythms of life. Without multiple obligations to distract me, I can finish a few quilts, get rid of clutter, get all the gardening done. This year I noticed the azaleas bloomed exceptionally large and long. The blue sky, when it showed itself, was bluer, and the air fresh.

            Three: I resolve not to immerse myself in media gossip, conspiracy theories and doomsaying. I will fight back with gratefulness. I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving. There are still beautiful things in the world and precious relationships. Recent research has confirmed what we already sense: gratefulness helps us feel better. We shift our concern from ourselves to others. And, If I have faith, I can thank God for all his good gifts and benefits.

            I admit I’ve had some rough times: discouragement and big dips of sadness, a couple of near-panic episodes and longing for this all to go away. I guess we each need to take care of ourselves, pay attention to what we’re feeling and find ways to get past the hard times. And help each other. Endurance is a long road, but we can do it.

            One day at a time, friends.

Just Imagine Addie's Story

        Buena Vista is a small graveyard at Port Gamble, situated on a knoll, with a fine view of the bay. A lichen-mottled marker there says “Addie May Wright” died in 1888 at age twenty. As I gazed at it, I wondered about her story. What did she do in those few years? What was her everyday life like in Port Gamble?

            In my research, I found Port Gamble was a major lumber mill town for almost 150 years. It was isolated. No doubt her father worked long hours at one of the two mills. Was there space for a girl to dream, to plan her future? Did she experience great joy as well as deep sadness?

           Milling lumber was a dirty, dangerous business. The mills whined twenty-four hours a day and sawdust hovered in a cloud over the town. The saws caused many injuries and a few deaths. Supplies came into town by steam ship. Roads were few to the outside world, scratched through the forests. Virgin fir and cedar clogged the landscape, so walking anywhere was arduous. Diphtheria, scarlet fever and malaria found their way into the community, as well. Conditions could be harsh, and rain drizzled much of the year.

           Pope and Talbot, the owners, did a lot to keep the men happy. They encouraged workers to bring their families. They started baseball teams, horn societies, book clubs and talent nights. They built a school and a church. The owners discouraged disorderly behavior by banning alcohol and gambling from town.  Taverns opened on the outskirts, though.

            All this pondering led me to build a character named Addie May Murray Reagan and imagine her world for my new historical mystery, Trouble at Port Gamble. The time is Winter 1889, Port Gamble, Washington Territory. More about my research later. Have you ever created a character in your mind and watched her grow and fill a story? It’s great fun.

Kate Garchinsky, Author, Illustrator and Daughter-in-law

Let me tell you about our wonderful daughter-in-law, Kate.   Our son Brian and Kate married in 2016.  They live near Philadelphia where Brian is the Curator of the Native American Collection of the American Philosophical Society, no apoligy for the shameless brag about him too ;-).  Kate has kept her maiden name, Garchinsky, as she is a published illustrator.  You know her as the creator of the covers of my novels.  Her web site is

A theme running through this Blog is “Story”.  How we love the stories she brings to life with her illustrations.

Joining forces with renown author Laurence Pringle she has illustrated the first two volumes of his “Secret Life of . . . “ series.

The Secret Life of the Red Fox 

2018 Outstanding Sicence Trade Book by the National Science Teacher’s Association

Sample of Amazon reviews: 

“. . . narrative non-fiction at its best . . . perfectly matched with Ms. Garchinsky’s beautiful pastel illustrations. . . .”

“. . . beautiful realistic illustrations.  Each page is worthy of being framed.”

“Kate Garchinsky’s light-filled, movement-filled drawings joyfully illuminate the pages."

The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat

Sample Amazon Reviews:

“Laurence Pringle is a well recognized name in the genre of narrative nonfiction. . . the illustrations throughout the book support details in the text . . . a lovely spread shows Otis as he ‘zigs and zags, flutters and dives, hovers and swoops, dips and swerves.”

Kate has also illustrated Belle’s Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight, by Rob Bierregaard

Sample Amazon Reviews:

“This is a story of an osprey’s first migration from Martha’s Vineyard to Brazil and back, brought to life in prose and illustrations . . . (that) it must be said, are absolutely stunning.”

“The youthful and whimsical illustrations by Kate Garchinsky perfectly match the tone and drama that the author has built for the reader. . . .”

“. . . the illustrator who’s adventuresome and stunning paintings and drawings bring the whole kit and kaboodle to life! . . .  Rob and Kate . . . have set a very high bar. . . an ‘heirloom’ children’s book to savor and then save…."

“. . . Dr. Bierregaard writes in an entertaining style. . . the illustrations are excellent and are equally fascinating.”

UP DATE:   More by Lawrence Pringle (Author), 

                                      and Kate Garchinsky (Illustrator)

1999 Release:

                            The Secret Life of the Skunk  

The third in the Secret Life series finds a mother skunk and her five kits.  Excellent reading for young readers discovering how the kits discover their world and survive the threat of predators.  Full of true science information about how these interesting creatures live and Kate’s beautiful illustrations draw the reader into the secret world.

Coming out in 2020:   The Secret Life of the Sloth  

I’m looking forward to the release soon (writing in July 2020).  Not really sure what Sloths do all day.  We will see!

Savor the flavor

A happy home is a place of hospitality and an abundant table promotes a wonderful sense of deep satisfaction and joy. Spanish cooking tends to be savory, and exalts everyday ingredients into something special. I hope you like this recipe: 


Marinated Olives

½ tsp. coriander seeds

½ tsp. fennel seeds

1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tb. sherry vinegar

2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil

2/3 cup each, black and green olives

Crush coriander and fennel seeds. Mix with rest of ingredients. Pour mixture over olives. Cover and chill in refrigerator up to 1 week.


Makes 1-1/2 cups


Make the following recipe and you have two tapas ready for guests.

Salted almonds

1/8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)

2 Tb. sea salt

2 Tb. butter

4 Tb. olive oil

1-1/4 cups blanched almonds

Melt butter and oil in a small fry pan. Add almonds and fry gently, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until almonds are golden all over. Add them to the mixture of cayenne and sea salt. Toss till coated. Let them cool, then store in a jar for up to 1 weeks

Makes 1-1/4 cu

Photos by Robert Carpenter (my husband, who is also the web designer and I can’t stop him from inserting photos of me eating).  Above: at a tapas bar enjoying Gambas ajillo (shrimp broiled in garlic and olive oil}.  Below: Churros and Chocolate (Spanish hot chocolate is really thick).  Anyone want those recipes?


I Love Yummy Food

My niece, Miriam, says this is my favorite saying. Home makes me think of food. And I always have in my mind how I want something to taste. Over the years I’ve found recipes that meet the criteria.

Some of them are “secret family recipes.” This is a code phrase for recipes I’ve found on boxes or jars of name brand products. And they are delicious recipes. My pecan pie recipe is one of those, and for years I hid it from Miriam that it appeared on the corn syrup bottle.


Home is the place where hospitality prevails. So do full stomachs and a sense of abundance. When I first saw Babette’s Feast many years ago, that foreign film depicting the pinched existence of a Danish religious community swept me away. How could one meal, prepared by a servant (formerly a Parisian chef) bring healing to a religious community torn by long-standing strife? But, that is what happened. The woman spent all her money won in the lottery on a very special meal—abundance and the best of ingredients—and it led to laughter and healing. It felt sacramental.

Above:  appetizer course in a Spanish home on Noche Buena, 24 Dec 2009.  A typical Spanish feast, we ate from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.   

Below:  Host Norberto offering samples to family, and guests including Beryl.  [Photos by Robert Carpenter]


Our friend Del was a real-life example of hospitality. He believed in abundance. "Don’t skimp on the snacks, put them all out! Load the bowls with candy. Pile the brownies high." When he catered a meal, he made the best, too. He made beef tenderloin as if the president was coming to dinner. And the best Caesar salad. His dressing recipe was a true secret family recipe. At his funeral, I was touched by the number of people who cherished his hospitality, generously bestowed.

What’s for dinner? A meal made with love will do just fine.

When Doves Laughed

     The saga of Sara Elena continues in When Doves Laughed to be published in Fall, 2017.


     In Far From a Pleasant Land Sara and her family find their lives disrupted by the tumult in Spain in 1492.  The eve of a voyage of discovery coincided with the expulsion of Jews from Spain ordered by Ferdinand and Isabella. In Toward a Dark Horizon Sara and Juan separate and travel in opposite directions toward unknown shores and an unknown future.

     We cannot tell you here how each one’s struggle resolves, or even IF it will resolve   (at least not necessarily the way many readers hope for).  

     The long-standing goal for Sara is to have a home and family.  Will this happen?  If so, where? When?  How?

     At this time the final chapters are being written.  Experience tells us that weeks of editing will follow so please be patient.   

    Update:   It took more than just weeks!   Today is November 18, 2017 and in a few hours I will have my first book launch event.  The volumes arrived two days ago!  I am sorry for the delay but my work on the book was somewhat delayed by missions trips in March to Cuba, in July to China (my 7th trip) and in October to Germany.  BJC


Scrooge vs. Marley et al

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        We attended a performance at Taproot Theatre* entitled The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge.           

        The Charles Dickens’ novel ends, as we all know, with the transformation of old Scrooge into a person who loves Christmas and has vowed to remember to demonstrate the spirit of Christmas all the year through.

        Have you ever wondered how that worked out?  In this play by Mark Brown we find Ebenezer suing Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future for trespass and kidnapping!  Has he reverted to his old self?  You should find out by seeing this play or reading it anyway or anywhere you can find it.

       That’s the thing about stories:  they never end.  After the saddest or the happiest ending the lives of the characters go on just as the playwright here has imagined.  So too our lives continue after crushing blows or amazing successes.  The question is:  which way will the story turn?

       How I would love to tell you the surprising outcome of this play.  If I did then you would not experience the tension or the laughter as it happens.  I think it is good that we don’t know the final outcome of our life’s story.  We watch it unfold with plot twists and unexpected events.  Your story is playing on the main stage right now.  The curtain is rising.


There and Back Again

We are traveling back to Tbilisi, Georgia in October. It will be exactly two years since we returned to the U.S. We left a lot of friends there, the place we volunteered almost two years of our time. When we first got home, we marveled at the fresh air, the tall trees, the green grass, the food we’d missed. But now we’re ready to venture back to the mountains, the language, the hospitality, the wine and the food. Somehow the rough sidewalks, crazy drivers and hot summers seem unimportant.

Can you go back again? I love my husband’s sentimental heart. He sees time in parallels. When I take a trip without him, he graphs where I am, hour by hour. And then when I return, he compares where I was and where I am now, hour by hour, his concern and love evident.

I know we will be welcomed and we will find joy in service. But I also know the kids have grown (two years is half a lifetime). The adults have learned more languages and our successors have modified the systems we setup. Each person’s story has progressed without us.

So, I plan to make new memories, experience the place in a fresh way and visit new sights. But, it’s comforting to see what hasn’t changed, too. Don’t we all like that?

© Beryl Carpenter 2013 - 2020