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…and we’ve made it as easy as possible to do so. Presenting The Mac-Hi Pioneers 2013 Football Team Roster and Cookbook (with Cheerleaders!) Buy one for yourself. Buy a couple for the grandparents. Don’t forget the aunts and uncles. The neighbors. The nice people at your church. This is your chance to score a great keepsake and support the football and cheerleading programs at McLoughlin High School, all in one easy step. Jam-packed with stunning photos of the Pioneers and cheerleaders in action as well as tasty recipes donated by the team, this beautiful, fun little book makes a perfect keepsake for your very own Pioneer—and anyone who loves him (or her). 

bookfaceThis is probably one of the less expected fundraising ideas you’ll see for a football team.  And yet it should really be a no-brainer. Anyone who has ever watched a football player power through a meal after a hard practice will understand exactly how the idea for this book happened. Football players:  Food. They just go together.

So that’s one part of the reason behind this book. Here’s the second: Helmets. Football players wear helmets, which is where those big numbers come in that you’ll find on each player’s page. Those numbers allow us proud parents in the stands to know when our precious child, the child who (as I frequently remind my own precious child) we mothers labored for hours to bring into the world, is being Badly Done By by boys who are far, far too large to be playing against our sons. Opposing teams are, by definition, Too Big. Always. Helmets make it both easier and harder because while we depend on the numbers to tell us which boys are ours, we all know that the boys on the field are far more than numbers. They are our sons. And they have faces.

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Which is why, for each player for whom it was humanly possible, we included a close-up as well as an action image based on as one of Sharon Herndon Harwood’s fabulous game photographs. These are our sons. Here are their faces. These are the foods they like. And these are their friends, the boys with whom they train, and then, on game days, walk onto the field, and then, win or lose, the boys with whom they walk off the field.

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By now you’re probably wondering why a mother who has such very mixed feelings about football would go to the trouble of putting together a book like this, particularly since my son isn’t even playing football this year (he’s in band, where the competitions take place in music halls rather than on muddy fields). I’ll be honest: when my son came home in middle school and said he was going to go out for football I came very, very close to telling him ‘no.’ But I didn’t, and now I’m glad.

Over the years, I’ve come to see that football is about a lot more than just what happens on game days. It’s about learning to adopt and keep a regimen. It’s about training, training, training. It’s about honing a skill, about pushing yourself beyond where you think you can go. It’s about learning to lose–and win–with grace, honor, dignity, and honesty. Not that it always happens that way; football is a discipline, and football players are works in progress. But when I watch the games I see that that’s the key: they do progress. They get better.

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But football is more than just a regimen; it’s also a brotherhood (our team is all boys, so I can use that term without fear of political incorrectness). And that brotherhood survives. Though my son doesn’t play this year, he wanted to keep the annual Birthday Pizza Party we’ve had each October because though he’s not playing, football is still an important part of his life.

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And that right there is why this book happened–because though my son isn’t on the field this year, boys he has played beside for the last few years are. Football is important–sports in general are important. They’re worth supporting. Because those are our children out there.

And so this book, to give us parents a chance to gloat over our beautiful children, to marvel at the pageantry of a game–and it is a pageant–and to try out a whole teamful of recipes. Books are available from CreateSpace now, and will be available locally after October 16 (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise), and on Amazon. This makes a great gift for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends–and since the book can be purchased online delivery is simple. Christmas is coming, folks–get a book…feed the team…

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Priests can get their noses out of joint, and old women still have their pride. I’d been a priest of Micah for 68 of my 82 years and a woman for all 82 of them; when my congregation began drifting away to the flashy new temple down the street, something snapped. If my parish wanted a new priest, I wasn’t going to stay and hang on by my nails.

So begins Marian Allen’s newly released novel, Eel’s Reverence, and so begins the great karmic irony of the book: The speaker and central character –82-year-old priestess of Micah “Aunt Libby”—abandons her temple and sets off on a “Final Wandering.” The “wandering” seems to be motivated primarily by self-pity; when a former parishioner offers her a ride and food she is irritated that he has spoiled the “effect” of her leaving, rather than grateful for his generosity.

In short order her “wandering” leads her to The Eel—a coastal region populated by mermayds, reaver priests, mercenaries, and a cowed and fearful citizenry.  When the Aunt Libby is exiled and the innkeeper who gives her shelter burned out she finds herself faced with the very situation that prompted her to abandon her shrinking congregation in the first place—in spades.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I won’t tell you how it turns out. Be warned, though: don’t take anything for granted. Nothing is quite what it seems.

I started Eel’s Reverence expecting a good read; Marian Allen knows her way around a keyboard and a red pencil. She has numerous books and short stories to her credit and hangs out from time to time over at the Blood-Red Pencil, where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a great writer or editor.

What I hadn’t expected was a book that raises so many questions about issues: One of the central conflicts in the book is driven by the uneasy relationship between private spirituality and established religion. Another issue explored is the advantages—and disadvantages—of citizenship. The mermayd population of The Eel is resistant to the citizenship—and taxation, and curbs on behavior—being offered by the reaver priests. Their resistance raises an interesting question about how we outside of The Eel deal with alien populations. How do we balance the right to one’s culture with the need for a certain level of assimilation to the national culture?

Perhaps the most interesting conflict, though, is the one played out in Aunt Libby’s character. She leaves her temple because her parishioners are increasingly choosing the spiritual short cut—the financial salvation the reaver priests offer, rather than the personal soul-searching the “true” priests offer. Faced with the same situation—though magnified—in The Eel, she comes to see that there is a place for both. While some crave personal spirituality, there are also those for whom the simplicity of a finanacial transaction is sufficient—and people are best served by having both options available to them.

Writing a fantasy that feels real is a delicate balancing act, one that Allen manages with deft humor, all-too-believable characters, and the occasional fantastical reference that reminds us that we’re not in Kansas anymore. Take, for instance, the reproductive cycle of mermayds. Like seahorses, the females lay eggs—but the males gestate them in a belly pouch. Like some amphibians, they are capable of switching gender at need. And yet they are physically like mermaids—half human, half fish. The fantasy is real, and believable, because it is rooted in similar structures in the “real” world.

Perhaps that’s the key to Eel’s Reverence both as a darned good read, and as a book that provokes questions about our own world—the fantasy is fantastical enough to be fun, and real enough to be believable.  If you’d like to read more about Marian Allen, her books, and Eel’s Reverence visit her online here. If you’d like to order Eel’s Reverence, click here.

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