“Pieces” by Donald Stidham

Final Pieces Cover 3

(Note: This book is the first editing project I took on. The reviews on Amazon reflect the first time the book was posted on Kindle.  I’ve since gone over the manuscript again.  Aside from a few missing hyphens, I believe this copy falls inline with a good reading copy.)

   A breeze moved along the interstate.  Trees and grass bowed in respect while cars and trucks of every size ignored its existence.  The wind flew around and over boulders as animals and critters scurried about.  It found a pond and glided across the glassy surface, disturbing a cluster of dragonflies.

   She kneeled in the grass with her hands on her legs.  She bent forward and tried to catch her breath.  A single flower lay by her knees.  Its yellow brightness stood out against a small, white cross that stood beside it.  She ran her fingers down the wooden memorial and dropped her head.

   The breeze wafted from the woods and nudged at the yellow flower, rolling it over.  The flower yawned at the touch.  The breeze blew harder until the flower touched the girl’s knee.  She picked up the kingcup and stood it against the cross.

   Tears streamed down her cheeks with memories of excitement and love.  She wanted to scream and release all the agony held inside, but could only muster whimpers.  She fell forward and kissed the ground.  She welcomed the loneliness that had become a part of her soul.

 

PART ONE

Chapter One

“Mr. Aames?  Hayden, are you with us?”  Mrs. Prescott, the twelfth-grade honors English teacher asked.

“I’m sorry.  Yes.  What was the question?”

The class laughed.  Eric, Hayden’s best friend, nudged him on the shoulder.  Hayden’s face began to glow red, but then he realized he didn’t care what the others thought.  He sat up straight at his desk and folded his hands together.

“Nothing specific—I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.  You’ve been drifting off lately into a world the rest of us might be interested in.  Is there anything wrong?”

“No, ma’am.  You can continue with your ever so interesting lecture.”

Sarcasm rang in his words.  The class laughed again, which brought a visit to the principal’s office.  Hayden shoved his English book into his backpack and left the room.  He stopped by the bathroom on the long walk.  The boy’s room smelled of urine and bleach.  The camera facing the bathroom entrance was meant to scare off any students who wished to smoke or hide out during classes, but the small device had little effect.  A clean white sink hung below a small, water-spotted mirror.  The reflection disgusted Hayden on several levels.

“What’s the point,” he said to himself while shaking his head.

He pulled out a small knife that he kept under his belt.  Bullies in junior high had influenced Hayden to carry a weapon even though he never found the courage to use it.  He opened the three-inch blade and put it to his wrist.

Before sliding the blade, he looked back in the mirror.  His black hair, which wasn’t black enough, hung past his eyes.  His blue eyes were barely seen, but didn’t have enough life in them.  His slender frame was complimented by a button-down white shirt and black slacks, but the hidden muscles would never be grand enough.  All imperfections screamed for him to create a river of blood from his palm all the way up his forearm.

A toilet flushed, which startled Hayden.  He frantically closed the knife and shoved it in his pocket.  He turned on the water and silently scolded himself for being so dramatic, just to stir his own emotions.  Hayden would never slice open his own skin.  Principal Kroger stepped from the stall.  He adjusted his belt before seeing the present student.

“Hayden, how are you doing today?”  His deep and friendly voice offered trust.

“Fine, I guess.  I was just on my way to see you, sir.”

“Why?”

“I wasn’t paying attention in English.  I made a derisive comment about Mrs. Prescott’s lecturing methods.  I don’t see why the adults can’t joust in conversation without immediately taking offense and sending the kids to you.  Don’t you get tired of seeing us for such mediocre complaints?”

“Yes, sometimes, but order has to be kept,” he sighed.  “Some teachers are just like kids themselves, and then some students are more mature than teachers.  Take Coach Adams for instance…that goofball would be out of here if he didn’t know how to coach a three-point shot so well.”

They both laughed.  Kroger thought his joke was authentically funny, but Hayden was laughing to keep the focus off his earlier mistake.  He played psychologist with the principal, hoping it would work in his favor.

“Hayden, your grades seem to be slipping slightly.  Up until this semester, you’ve had straight A’s, but you received B’s in two classes.  Don’t be alarmed, but I like to keep a close eye on students that I believe have great potential.  Is something going on at home that you want to talk about?”

Kroger finally started washing his hands.  Hayden made a point to notice and did the same.  He hoped Kroger would see that he followed by example and would assume the good trait outweighed any bad ones.

“My seemingly melancholy demeanor does not start at home.  Nothing starts at home.  Dad is always away on business, and Mom is doing the usual juggling of responsibilities.  Xbox online keeps me company most of the time when I’m not studying the arts of life.  Most of the time, I feel like I’m stuck in neutral.  The world is certainly not pushing me into drive like you guys promised it would.”

“Well, I can see why Prescott sent you to me.  You have an underlying sarcastic tone, but nothing too rude.  One might even consider it humorous.  Just promise me, you will try to bring those B’s up to A’s.  You have potential.  When you get out of this sheltered world of public education, you’ll need all the options you can get your hands on.  As far as the world is concerned, it pushes us all.  You have to find the right current and dive in.”

He patted Hayden on the shoulder and left the restroom.  Hayden heard the words that were spoken, but only a few hit their intended mark.  The metaphor of a surging river stuck with him.  He splashed water in his hair and slicked it back—glancing in the mirror.  Hayden brought his hair back down to cover his eyes.

“Suck it up, coward.  You’re acting like a girl.”

In his mind, his reflection made an obscene gesture as he sauntered back to the classroom.  He opened the door and rejoined the class by taking his seat.  The other students wanted to know if he had gotten in trouble.  Eric nudged at him, but he kept his focus on the teacher until the end of class.

The dismissal bell rang.  Hayden and Eric started their usual walk home.  They watched different students gear up on their methods of transportation.  Skateboards flipped through the air, Rollerblades slid across the concrete, trick bikes rode on one wheel, and sneakers danced around bouncing basketballs.  Hayden classified each group in his mind and placed himself outside of them all.  He was one of those who liked solitude while choosing not to own a vehicle.

Eric’s two-story brick house came first.  His mom moved in a stooping position by the flowerbed and waved at Hayden when she noticed them walking up.  She greeted him, but all Hayden saw were the tops of her large breasts peeking out of her tight pink shirt.  He mumbled to himself and walked off.  After fifteen seconds, sure that Eric was inside the house and his mom was gardening again, he glanced back to see if she was bending over.  She was, which brought a smile to his face.  He felt the ridiculous grin and immediately stopped.

 

We Care Solar

We Care SolarIn 2008, Dr. Laura Stachel visited northern Nigeria on a research trip to study maternal mortality in a state hospital. She found that the conditions in northern Nigeria were challenging to say the least. Women were 70 times more likely to die than in the U.S. from complications due to health problems and lack of adequate supplies and equipment.

One of the most attention-grabbing situations, in the hospital she was visiting, was the lack of reliable lighting due to sporadic electricity. Electricity in the main hospital was available no more than 12 hours a day, and there was no guarantee that it would stay on that long. If a woman was giving birth at night, many times there was little to no light at all to deliver the babies. A cesarean section would have to wait until morning or be performed by flashlight; deliveries were performed . . . (Read Full Article)

One Who Teaches with Experience

Wikipedia 375px-Computer_RecyclingTechnology changes at a rapid rate. It’s important for successful businesses to stay up-to-date with new technology. The site eWeek reports that a study done by Techaisle, an analyst and market research foundation, found companies that hold on to their computers for longer than three years, end up spending between $326 to $401 on maintenance of those computers with an extended warranty. For those companies without a warranty that figure jumps up to about $526 for repaired and upgraded computers. They also found that computers malfunction more often after a period of three years, and they suggest replacing them for the most efficient and cost saving measures.

A staggering figure of 355.2 million computers were sold globally in 2011. In 2010, the number was a bit lower at 346.2 million computers that were sold around the world. That means, about every three to five years a large number of those computers are being tossed out, in one way or another.

In 2005, social entrepreneur, Cormac Lynch from Dublin, Ireland, had a plan to do something with all those computers that were being thrown out into the landfills. He wanted to refurbish them for the children around the world, so that they could gain an education. The company he started was named Camara, which is West African for “one who teaches with experience.” In June 2007, 70 volunteers set off with 1,000 computers, and the initiative . . . (Read Full Article)

Landesa – Fighting Poverty Acre by Acre

 

Half of the world’s population — 2.8 billion — lives on less than $2 a day. And 70 percent of those live in rural areas where agriculture is the only means to survive. For
those that own land, life is good. Land ownership can provide housing, warmth, comfort, food, good health, stable conditions to bring up a family, access to credit and a place of status within a community. For those that don’t own land, it is a day-to-daylandesa struggle just to stay alive. If people are fortunate enough to find work in agriculture, they are working for someone else to gain the profits of their labor, leaving them with a lot of time and effort for someone else’s benefit. The land situation is worse for women. Women hold less status than men do in many of these places. They are not allowed to own land, even if it is passed down through inheritance within the family.

This is where president and CEO Tim Hanstad of Landesa enters into the picture. Hanstad, following in the footsteps of Landesa’s founder Roy Prosterman, tackles this problem at the government level. He establishes a working relationship with various world governments, trying to change the laws that inhibit women and men from obtaining land or keeping the land they have. Field surveys are taken in rural districts of China, Africa and India to find out exactly what the situation is with the poor who are living there, and if they have or have ever had access to owning their own land. Then, time is spent researching the current laws in those areas to see where changes could be made to improve the lives of those who are so desperately in need. In doing so, it is possible to help whole communities of people rather than working with each individual at a time.

The idea is simple. In just one tenth of an acre of land, a family can have a home and enough space left over to grow fruits and vegetables for the family to eat year-round. Any excess could be sold at market. This small parcel would be cheap enough for governments to secure enough micro-acreage to give to many of the poorest people in their nation. So far, Landesa has helped 100 million families secure land and escape poverty. Their main focus is for women to secure or keep land and in the inheritance rights of girls.

According to the Schwab Foundation, since, Hanstad joined Landesa in the 1980s, the company “has grown 100-fold, opened eight new offices in Asia and Africa and has generated tens of millions of dollars of earned income.” Hanstad has been recognized as “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Schwab Foundation and in 2012 by the Skoll Foundation.

Creating Treasures Out of Trash

All it takes is a dream to accomplish great things in life. That dream started in Lorna Rutto when as a young girl in Kenya, the piles of plastic litter everywhere annoyed and disgusted her. She wanted to find a way to clean it up. Experimenting with melting the plastic brought two things to light: she saw that it was possible for plastic to take another shape—a smaller, more condensed form; she also was able to bring in a small amount of money from the jewelry she made from the fun, new shapes she created.

At graduation, life’s responsibilities took the forefront in Rutto’s visions for her future, and she decided on a career in banking. This brought stability to her new life as a young adult, but she was kept from the things she loved: people, creativity and environmental science. In 2009, Rutto quit her job and with business partner Charles Kalama started EcoPost—a company that makes plastic posts and poles by simple injection molding.

Positive energy is contagious in this social entrepreneur. She has enhanced her community by providing jobs for hundreds of people. These people are needed to collect the 40 tons of plastic waste that EcoPost uses every month. This is a vitally important service to the women of Nairobi and at-risk youth, who normally would not have a reasonable means to make money. Many of these freelance employees have started their own waste collection businesses, hiring other people to collect these plastics, thus, creating more jobs.

The business already has more contracts than it can keep up with from ranches and game reserves. Plastic fence posts are more popular than timber because they are stable, won’t deteriorate, and there is a much less likely chance of them being stolen for sale on the black market. Available timber is dwindling in Africa from deforestation, and this is one of Rutto’s prime goals in her eco-dream—to stop logging before there are no more trees. Expansion across Kenya is the next step for this growing company, as well as plans for other products that could be used in place of timber, such as support beams, roofing trusses and floor tiles.

Forbes named this superstar in their “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, 2012.”  In addition, she has won numerous awards for her innovative company and dedication to cleaning up the environment. One of these included the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award, in 2011. This included business mentorship for a year and $20,000. The money bought a much-needed company truck, and several waste collection sites were established in her community to facilitate the rapid growth of EcoPost.

A simple dream that started from a girl who had no job, no investment money—nothing, but a pile of trash and her desire to save trees and clean up her community. Lorna Rutto is a perfect example of how to be a social entrepreneur. Like Lorna, everyone has dreams. Everyone has potential to make an important change in the world, to make our world a better place.