Jane looks at life with her tongue in her cheek. Come in, kick your shoes off, and let's play with words.
Author: Jane Carlile Baker, Author, Editor, Teaching Consultant
Jane has loved writing from the time she learned to hold a pencil. Her writing journey moved from that pencil to personal computers through the seventies, she edited for a hospital public relations department. The eighties found her owning a public relations business, publishing newspaper and magazine articles, and directing communications for a large church. In the nineties she published her first book and led critique groups and writers' workshops. In the twenty-first century she became a teaching consultant for the National Writing Project, published several more books, and began an editing business.
Jane also loves raising chickens, dogs and alpacas, gardening, oil painting, swimming and hanging out with her family.
Last time I promised to tell you about alpacas spitting. Generally, if they have anything to say, they just hum. Some say that’s because they don’t know the words.
This picture shows Chloe giving the warning signal that a spit is on its way, and Champagne giving it back. When Chloe puts her head up in spitting prep and her ears flat against her neck, she’s telling Champagne she better back off or there’s going to be trouble. She growls at the same time she raises her head. Now, she won’t spit at me, but her spit can fly ten feet. Therefore, an intelligent, focused human will back away that distance.
However, there’ve been times when my back was turned, I missed the growl, and I got the wet green regurgitation all over me. Alpacas have three stomachs, so the smell of this stuff isn’t Chanel #5. In Alaska, if you’ve seen the ice break up and go out to sea on the Yukon, you’re called a sourdough. I guess since I’ve worn alpaca spit, I’m an alpaca sourdough.
Just to make sure you don’t swear off the sweet deer/teddy bear cross of an alpaca, up against spitting are:
Elegant, peaceful, calming movement
Warm soft fleece with multiple uses
Sweet pasture buddies
Poop that makes the best natural fertilizer around
One day,, I believe alpacas will make their way into one of my novels. In the meantime, they cush in my field.
I could hardly believe it when I looked at my blog page on janecarlilebaker.com and realized I haven’t said a word since February. Part of the reason is that I’ve revamped the page to add my editing business, which took a while. Click on over and look. There’s an opportunity to get a monthly email from me containing fun adventure, animal, and other stories. Please sign up. I won’t sell your email address, just share my writer life with you.
So what’s that got to do with alpacas? I’ll tell you. I have a giant backyard even though I live in town. If there are no animals, somebody has to mow. I can’t mow and write at the same time. So my alpacas’ first identity is lawn mowers. However, this is not a short story. I was drawn to alpacas at first because when their fleece is grown out, they look like teddy bears on four legs with these gorgeous eyes. Then I found out they don’t tear grass out like sheep do. But that’s not all, dear friends. They also eat elderberry trees like mine which is trying to take over the world.
And that’s not all, either. Alpaca fleece is some of the softest there is. People compare it to cashmere, and yet it’s strong and warm, and even wicks water away from your skin. It’s hypoallergenic and dust mites (which I’m allergic to) hate it. So far, I have a sweater and a pair of socks made of alpaca fiber, and they are lightweight, too. You can make so many things out of alpaca fiber–dryer balls, hats, shawls, blankets, rugs–I could go on. In about a week, I’ll have a bed pillow made from Champagne’s fleece. Ask me if I’m excited. Yes, yes I am.
But that’s still not all. Alpacas poop all in the same place because they want their owners to have easy clean up. No, really, they do. And not only that, their poop isn’t hot. That means you can put it right on your garden, or if you’re a purist, you can compost it first. Some people make alpaca poop tea, but I prefer to just water it. You don’t even have to rake it in, for cryin’ out loud. Some folks call alpaca poop magic beans. No surprise there.
Now for the best part. Each alpaca has their own personality. In our herd, and by the way, if I’ve talked you into getting your own, you have to have at least three. In our herd, Chloe is the leader. She is aloof and her ears go up first when there’s a noise. Nevertheless, she’ll eat alfalfa pellets right out of my hand. She’s also the oldest. Champagne is next, and she’s a foodie. I have to put rocks in her frizbee feeder to keep her from eating too fast, or she’ll choke. Just the other day she gave me a nose kiss. The youngest and littlest is Mocha (the dark one, naturally) and she’s had a little trouble with comfort in the transition from the farm to our backyard. She hums the most. That’s the sound alpacas make, humming, peaceful humming.
And that’s not all. Next time I’ll tell you about spitting.
“Turn” is my word for this year. Specifically, in baffling or important decisions, turn and ask Jesus first. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Easier to write than to do, at least for me. You see, I have this hangup. It’s bred into me to say yes and scramble to accomplish whatever need someone presented or whatever good deed needs doing. HOWEVER, this is not biblical. Have you ever noticed that Jesus didn’t heal everyone in Israel? There were still sick, twisted people when He headed back to Heaven. That’s because He talked over His earthly mission with His Father, every day, all the time. He turned, and then He obeyed. That’s how He managed to be gentle and lowly, even in a human body.
There’s an important truth there. He talked it over with His Father. We call that prayer. The trick, for me and you, is to turn off automatic response in favor of discussing the current situation with Jesus. Sometimes I don’t even get my whole thought out before Jesus starts answering. Sometimes he taps me on the shoulder before I have a thought. Other times I ask and ask and He just says, “I’ve got this.” Finally, of course sometimes I ask Him and He says nothing. That is a dead giveaway that I need to stand in place, not rush off to anywhere. But I’m still practicing, sometimes I still forge mightily ahead and don’t ask.
Nevertheless, He loves me. Whatever his response, I know He loves me and will give me His best answers and His best in everything. So this year, I’m practicing. Won’t you join me? Turn and ask.
This may seem obvious, but to set goals, we have to stop and think. About what we want, whether we’ve given up in the face of obstacles, fear, longing, all that human stuff. It seems possible to me that most folks are like me, and need goals to put flavor in life. If you disagree, please speak up. Might make a great discussion.
At any rate, in the last week of 2021, I spent all the time I had on considering. One thing that had been bothering me was that my marketing ability was so ineffective with my books. I’d spent twenty years in the public relations profession, but my writing was the world’s best hidden secret. A lady at church even said, “I didn’t know you were a writer. You need to speak up.” Not good. I read yesterday that the best marketing tool to sell books is to write a good one, and go for word of mouth promotion. See, I already knew that. So why so tight-lipped? (Lord, please don’t let it be false humility.)
Another was that I wasn’t getting as much time with my adult children and grandchildren as I wanted. A couple live clear on the other side of the county, so that complicates the situation, but I’m a pretty smart cookie. I can figure it out. And I’m the one with the most flexible time, thus the opportunity to plan to be together. Got on that one this week.
I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Just one more thing. One big, lofty goal seems like a great idea, no matter how old you are. There’s this award for Christian fiction writers, called the Carol Award. I’m going to win that award, maybe next year.
My novel about the rewards and challenges of teaching elementary school is finished! You can preorder it on Amazon, and it will be out December 23 in time for gifts for teachers or parents on your Christmas list.
Here’s what Barbara Reed, San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year, said about Queen of the Third Grade.
“’Love them first. They’ll learn their heart out for you.’ The Queen of the Third Grade teacher’s quote in her last year of teaching says it all in this beautifully written novel. Her heart is wide open for her dizzying array of third graders–from a learning-disabled boy unable to read to an autistic child fixated on Quantum Physics to an emotionally disturbed boy to an angry girl with questionable bruises to a girl who doesn’t speak English. She addresses her students’ vastly different abilities, challenges and gifts by focusing on strengths, teaching to each child’s ability, rewarding the good, giving her students power; and embracing “Truth and Grace” to apologize in front of the class when she is wrong. However, the teacher’s work is not limited to the four walls of the classroom; she goes far beyond, working with the families, mentoring new teachers, and challenging the shameful dictates of state-wide testing that leave students feeling worthless. Intertwined in her school life is her full-time devotion to her husband and family with all its blessings and tragedies. Just when the reader thinks this teacher’s retirement signals a final departure from her students, her trust in the Lord opens a brand new and heroic chapter in her life!”
I hope you enjoy Queen of the Third Grade. If you do, please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or both. And Merry Christmas!