WeekendCoffee Dance

audIf we were having coffee today I’d have to tell you about my daughter’s recent award.  Well, it wasn’t a formal award.  It was more a bit of recognition from one of her students.  As you can see from this picture, it was an homage in the form of a 10 reasons list.  It brought tears to my eyes.

I posted this on Facebook at first.  It got a lot of likes and a few comments mentioning that we, her parents, had done such a good job.  Sure, we enrolled her in dance.  We paid for it. We rallied through rehearsals and competitions. We volunteered where we could and continued to encourage her.  But, seriously, that is just the tip of the iceberg.  It’s a good metaphor.  Beyond all of that, lies the truth. She worked hard.  She formed and molded, she learned, she studied, she practiced, and she focused.  She did everything she could. This is all her.

We’ve seen a lot of dancers come and go, a lot of them very dedicated dancers too.  A very few have progressed to the level Audrey currently enjoys.  In short, most of those past dancers burned out.  Audrey continues to flourish.

I’ve seen her take recital classes of tiny dancers, four and five years old, who most teachers feel lucky if they manage to go through most of the motions and make her dancers actually dance.  They stand out.  Where others see a bunch of little kids who find it hard to keep focused longer than five minutes, Audrey sees a class she can teach and then she motivates them to learn.  She is a master teacher, one who makes it fun while instilling knowledge and skill.  Little students love her and older students love her even more.

It hasn’t been easy for her.  She’s short.  The common perception about “tiny” ballerinas? It’s a myth. Ballerinas need to be at least four or five inches taller than she is.  Almost always.  But she learned and practiced and applied herself.  And she thinks dance, a skill she very early figured out makes her an exceptional choreographer.

She’s done some remarkable things too.  Did you know that she was the first person at Duke University to earn an official Bachelor’s degree in Dance?  The first.  Their department had a dance minor for a long time and she was a dance minor her first year.  But while Audrey was there, they upgraded the program and she was the first declared dance major.  She’s concentrated on teaching but has had some great experiences professionally dancing in a few companies.

Teaching dance pays okay, but most of the time it’s a part-time job.  She’s compensated by teaching a lot, sometimes at as many as five or six different studios.  That, my friends, is true dedication to her craft.  I frankly don’t know how she keeps her schedule straight.

So go back and reread that list after reading this short essay.  One could easily change “Jazz” and put in “Ballet” or “Modern” or “Tap.”  THAT is my daughter.  Her mother and I couldn’t be more proud of her.


Thomas Fenske is a writer and “dance dad” living in North Carolina.  You can get more information at http://thefensk.com


Still Basking

img_6284If we were having coffee today, I’d realize I hadn’t seen you in a week so I guess I’d simply have to mention my latest review.  It’s a little bit of a redo since I’ve already posted about it but consider this: the review was so good, I think it deserves two posts.

If an author is a scone, reviews are the butter and jam.  They are a source of validation, although they can sometimes be the source of consternation.  The best reviews are unsolicited, but writers can also submit books for review.  I hope that doesn’t surprise you but surely you didn’t think those newspaper or magazine book reviews were random, did you?  It is always a gamble.  Not every book is for every person so you never quite know how your book will be received.

In a way, this was a random review since the reviewer expressed interest in the book.  Some reviews, like on Amazon or other sales outlets are pretty much a surprise. “Oooo, look, a new review!” I’ll say when I notice it.  But when you submit to a reviewer the waiting game starts.  There is a period of anticipation as you wonder, will they like it?  Will they not like it?  Will the simply post something like, “Meh … yeah, it’s a book,” or “wow, what a lot of words.” But wow, when it is finally out and you read things like, “Thomas Fenske is an incredible talent and an author whose work radiates throughout,” it tends to make one’s heart beat a little harder for a few minutes.

But that’s just me. You can check it out for yourself here.

I guess it sounds like I’m reviewing the review, but really, I’m humbled by the reviewer’s reaction and elated. I want to share it from the highest mountaintop.  But I guess quietly talking over a steaming cup of coffee will have to do.  Now, for some reason I’m hungry.  Scone?

Thomas Fenske is an author living in NC. He encourages you to leave reviews for your reads … they are important to an author.  A simple review on Amazon can be a big deal to the success of the book.  It doesn’t have to be long, “really enjoyed it” will do.  Even “Meh” helps … it’s something of a numbers game.
Check out his web page at http://thefensk.com

Avoiding shelter …

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today I’d tell you about the lost dog.  It belongs to my son’s family, slipped out a week ago when a gate was apparently left ajar.

Sadly, Bert is a bit long in the tooth, an older dog with a variety of mild illnesses.  Partially blind, not too worldly.  Poof.  Gone.

We’ve joined the search, but I’ve been here before and it is harder than trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.  We’ve all done all the usual things.  It is just amazing how completely they can disappear in such a short period of time. I half-expect them to show up on the island of odd socks or the valley of the missing coat-hangers.  They disappear that completely.

They live three towns west of us, and the shelter for that county/town is on the eastern side of town; it is actually closer to us than it is to them.  So, we’ve been going to the shelter.  There are no happy dogs or cats at the shelter.  Excited, yes. Running the gauntlet in the hall of the German Shepherds is evidence of that.  There was no Bert, either.

When we first arrived, there was a woman there with a quiet dog sitting patiently by her side.  I thought she was perhaps in the midst of adopting.  Quite the opposite.

As we returned we witnessed her handing over the leash and walking out the door.  The dog moved to follow her, was stopped by the leash, looked back and then forward at the closing door, a look of total confusion on her face. Then we could see a distinct look of realization and resignation flash over her face.  Welcome to the shelter, right?

We just lost a dog last July, by natural causes.  We have ten cats.  We are overrun.  But we were sorely tempted by this dog, Daisy.

We followed up on Daisy’s status.  She was almost immediately adopted.  We’re both happy for her, but we’re also just a little sad.  We got totally involved and invested in that few seconds.  But we’re both hopeful that she found her forever home.

Bert’s still missing.  We’re checking the shelter online now.  They update their webpage hourly, which we know for sure now.


You can find out more about Thomas Fenske at http://thefensk.com … the Kindle version of his novel THE FEVER is on sale for $1.99 for the rest of February.

Shoutout Sunday

It’s not just me, others are catching THE FEVER too.

Books by Marianne Reese

My Shoutout this week goes to author Thomas Fenske. I caught the reading fever from his book ‘The Fever’. Here is my five-star review:

I had the “I can’t stop reading this book” fever! An enjoyable read with a great storyline.

The protagonist, Sam, is obsessed with the lore of a gold mine and spends countless days/hours in his quest to find it. The characters were all likable, and I loved the uniqueness of their names.

This story is a reminder of how catching ‘the fever’ can consume your life, impact your relationships, and affect your moral compass. It also touches on the preparation needed when delving into an expedition full of unknowns.

Here are links to Thomas Fenske’s Amazon Author site and web-site:



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February Sale


I am please to report that my novel, THE FEVER, has been included in booksgosocial.com‘s Amazing February Sale Guide.  My book will be on sale through the end of the month ($1 off).

You can check it out, along with the other Mystery and Crime titles here: BGS Sale Guide/Mysteries

The full Sale guide is here:  BGS February Sale Guide

This is a great chance to Catch THE FEVER and support other independent authors.



If we were having coffee today I think I’d have to fess up about a recent case of attempted murder.  No, not by me, silly.  It was Siri.
You see, Siri tried to kill me a couple of months ago.

My daughter lives about three hours north of us, very near the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We had gone up for Thanksgiving with one of our grandsons and decided to try a different route south, mostly because the grandson lives west of us and I wanted to see if there was a more direct route, so I asked Siri.  She is generally quite attentive to such requests.
Indeed, Siri took us a different way, down a very unfamiliar path. But we were headed south so it seemed fine until we got to our second major turnoff. She spoke up

“Turn right.”

There were in fact what looked like two rights. We took the first.  Siri didn’t like that.  I have often thought any GPS with a voice should use an exasperated sigh when one misses a turn. Instead, she said,
“Turn around, when possible.”
GPS programmers take note:  this would be an ideal spot to program something like “No, No, No, the other right.”
There wasn’t any place to turn around. She repeated her request several times until we had gone more than half a mile.
At this point I guess I should mention a few pertinent facts:
I was in a rental.
I hadn’t purchased the extra insurance.
It was packed to the rafters.
I wasn’t inclined to do potential damage-inducing maneuvers.
I glanced at the map my phone and realized we were actually on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a particularly narrow portion of it at that.  At this point, I expected one of the famous overlooks you see about every half mile along some stretches of the Parkway.  Nothing. Just narrow road framed by dense foliage.
Siri finally decided to recalculate a new route and soon instructed us to turn left.

We took a left on what we were assured was a state road, State Road 814.
I remember thinking at the time, “How could this one lane graded road be a state highway.”
Yes, indeed, I really could have turned around here and yes, I should have. It was only about five miles back to the turn-around.
But I had faith in Siri. I knew she was going to get us out of this, so we proceeded down “state road 814”.  It was reasonable to assume that we would soon intersect with that other road.  So I drove on and on.

The problem was, there was no place to turn around on this road.

And what a road it was … we went up and down and around, and up and down and around.  We traversed a couple of mountains with long stretches of steep drop-offs with no rail. This was ear-popping, white-knuckle driving.

It was the kind of road that has periodic gates somebody closes in bad weather but it was so narrow, I don’t know how anybody could turn around if the gates were closed. I don’t know how anybody would or even could try to drive up there in a snowstorm to close those gates. Talk about “worst jobs in the world.”
My darling bride kept saying what a fun drive it was.  She wasn’t driving.  Thankfully we encountered no vehicles going the other way.  I have no idea what we would have done if that had happened.  There was literally no room for two cars to pass … not in my rental car, anyway.
Finally, after about an hour or so, the road started to level out and we began to see signs of civilization again.  Eventually, we emerged onto some pavement.  Yes, I saw a street sign, it WAS still state road 814 but we also found out it was called Campbell Mountain Road. We eventually hit another real, honest-to-goodness, highway, with pavement and stores and gas stations.  It was salvation.
 Siri kept plugging away with myriad directions and eventually got us to … the same highway we would have taken if we had gone our “normal” route. I stuck to it like glue the rest of the way home.
Okay, I guess she didn’t intentionally try to kill me.
But then again, she’s smarter than all of us and has the entire internet at her disposal.  Consider this: I did some simple searches for this highway for this post and I found the following warning in some directions to a nearby campground (The phrase I boldfaced below particularly caught my attention):
“WARNING: Please use the directions we have provided below for safe and pleasant driving. If you choose to use another source for your directions, please be wary if they include Route 814; this winding, gravel mountain road is not for the faint of heart. DO NOT take 814 if you have a camper or RV.”
Sound advice.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  Check out his books at http://thefensk.com
All pictures borrowed from Google Maps in the interest of public safety.
Yes, he’ll probably go try to find Campbell Mountain road again sometime.

Steeling My Heart

Pound for pound, my favorite Christmas gift this year was my Baking Steel. That pound for pound comment was a joke. It is heavy.

Most people have heard of a pizza stone. The Baking Steel serves the same purpose, only much better. Think of it as a pizza stone on steroids.

I’ll tell you this: even my most mediocre attempts with it have been better than any pizza I’ve ever made at home. The crust is phenomenal.

baking-steelIt is basically a slab of steel, just like the name implies. You preheat it for about an hour. You assemble your pie, and using your pizza peel you launch it onto the hot steel. About 5-6 minutes later you retrieve it and … mama mia!

I’ve watched this company grow from their facebook postings over the last several years. I couldn’t take it anymore. “This is what I want.” The flat HEAVY present under the tree was no secret.

They make griddles too, although you could use the basic product as a griddle for something like pancakes. Just nothing with too much grease.

Check them out at http://www.bakingsteel.com

I know it is expensive but your grandchildren will thank you for leaving them this awesome heirloom. It will last that long.


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Hmmm, how about pizza tonight?

Check out my books: http://thefensk.com

Reflections: 15 Years On

columbia1Fifteen years ago today, I was driving south on US 29 in southern Virginia when I spied a bright light moving across the sky.  There were no blinking lights associated with, just a smooth steady motion, very bright, across the sky from West to East.

I knew what it likely was.  No, not a UFO.  I figured it was either the space station or the shuttle Columbia.  I also knew how to verify it, once I could get to a computer.  I had long been a space station watcher, and I knew a website where one could check for possible viewing opportunities.  It included other satellites, but nothing shows up quite like the space station or the shuttle.

I checked the website and found out it was indeed Columbia, well into its second week of a long mission.  It gave me a good feeling to know I had seen it pass because I had a special personal association with the shuttle Columbia.  In 1981 I had driven to Florida to watch the first launch.  It was the culmination of a lifetime fascination with space flight, dating all the way back to Alan Shepard’s first Mercury flight.

Anyway, I didn’t think too much more about it that week.  Until Saturday.  Our son called and said turn on the TV, there was something about the space shuttle.  I was with our daughter Audrey and as the news channel came on a deep pit opened in the bottom of my soul.  “Ooooooo,” I said.

Audrey must have noticed visible shock on my face and asked me what was wrong.

columbia2I pointed at the screen.  “See all those trails in the sky?”


“That is supposed to be ONE.”

She realized what I was implying and asked, “Can anything be done?”

“No.  It’s over,” I said, “They’re gone.”

It was a horrible tragedy, but space flight had always been dangerous and always will be.  Is it worth it?  As I sit here typing on a device that can trace its widespread use, along with the networking and other technology that make this communication possible, I’d have to say … yes.

In a way,  I always thought the Columbia disaster was even more tragic than the Challenger explosion because these astronauts had a very successful mission up to that point, most of it doing hard science.  And a high percentage of their data had already been transmitted home.  They had completed their jobs and were fifteen minutes from landing.  So close, in fact, that people were at the Florida landing area anxiously waiting for their imminent return.  It just never happened.

On a personal level, with the people and families involved, it’s a tough call, but every single person who flies into space has to accept the risk; they know it is extremely dangerous.  Life is full of such risks.  If we were suddenly whisked away from the nineteenth century and plopped onto the freeway into a car driving seventy miles an hour along with hundreds of other cars … we’d probably drop dead in fear.  And at any moment, even those of us who are used to it should realize that it is extremely dangerous and in a split second, we could suffer the same sort of fate as those astronauts.

I think Alan Shepard explained the astronaut side of it best when he said, “It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”

columbia3Anyway, as we approach the fifteen-year anniversary of the tragedy I’ll be thinking about the Columbia crew and their families.  Tragedies like this make us all stronger and help to make space flight even safer. The shuttle was the most complicated machine ever built.  That we lost three out of five was regrettable, but even more regrettable is the fact that we lost continuity … we should have continued building them, making them better and safer, maybe a new one every four years. At the very least we should have had a replacement vehicle ready long before we retired the fleet.

Now, we are on the cusp of a new era of exploration.  There will no doubt be other tragedies.  Advancement sometimes has a high price.

If you ever want to spot the station flying overhead, you can sign up to get text alerts of when one is coming up.  Sign up here:  https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/

I highly recommend it.  You can look up and think, “I belong to a civilization that can do stuff like that!”  When you think about it, in many ways it is as remarkable as building the pyramids.


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  You can find out more about him and his works at http://thefensk.com

Note: his debut novel, THE FEVER, is available for a 25% discount for a limited time.  http://thefensk.com/fever.html

#Weekendcoffeeshare Return

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today I’d apologize and lament my several month’s absence.  I’m not quite sure what happened.  The WeekendCoffeeShare is sometimes a bit like a meandering river, changing course with little to no notice.  Plus, I was fairly diverted through the second half of 2017.  The major events were my dog dying in July and my mom passing away in October.  At some point I expected I would do a post about the latter (I think I did in fact post about the former), but I never felt quite ready.  I still don’t.

Then after a deep sip, I’d go into more recent events.

I had a nasty case of this awful flu that is going around.  My lovely bride got it much much worse than me.  I hardly ever get sick.  I had the flu once in the early eighties.  I remember that mostly because of my cat.  At some point I had dragged my sorry carcass out of bed to let her in and she came in  limping on three legs and bleeding.  I remember taking her to the vet and the doctor asking which one was the patient.  I must have looked awful.  That’s the last time I remember catching the flu.

Oh, there have been other things. I had pertussis in 1999.  That’s right.  Whooping Cough.  I’ll take a bad case of the flu over that.  I have no idea where I got it.  Luckily, somehow, nobody else in the house got it.  It was not confirmed.  I went to the doctor with a bad cough.  No tests.  Got a prescription.  But at some point I read up on the symptoms and more than that, heard audio of the resulting coughing spells.  THAT is what I had, I have no doubt.  Drop to the floor, piss all over yourself, almost suffocate, making that gawd-awful whooping sound as you gag for air … yep.

Had a bout of pneumonia in 2013 too.  No cough, no fever, I just couldn’t breath.  I work in a 24/7 industry and was working with a team on a worldwide conference call. It was as scheduled software installation project at 2 AM one Sunday.  We were behind schedule because a developer was uploading a last minute revised program for me to install on a series of servers.  I had felt a little off that day, but with no real symptoms.  I felt about the same when I joined the call.  Then, while waiting, I simply could not catch my breath.  I didn’t have chest pains but that was the first thing I thought of.  I went downstairs from my home office and took a full-strength aspirin.  I struggled to get back up the stairs and sent the project manager a quick note: “I have to leave.”


I quickly explained the situation.  Protocol usually means I need to find my own replacement or call my supervisor.  She would have none of that and said, “we’ll cancel and reschedule …. go wake up your wife right this minute and go to the hospital.”

When we got to the ER, they put me on a heart monitor but the ER doctor pretty quickly decided on a chest X-Ray.  They were going to give me an aspirin too.  I told them I already took one.  “A baby aspirin isn’t going to do it, you need a full aspirin.”

“I took a full aspirin!”

The doctor was impressed.  I remember thinking, “what, they think they’re playing with kids?”

The X-Ray showed a pretty significant chest blockage, confirming pneumonia.  I responded pretty well to whatever antibiotics they gave me and went home the next day.  After waiting all day to take a treadmill test (they just wouldn’t let up on the heart thing).  That was the first time I had stayed overnight in the hospital since … well, I remember the premier of Bewitched was on TV the last time. Seriously.

Anyway, we are both on the mend … and I’m happy to be back.


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. http://thefensk.com

The Kindle version of his debut novel, THE FEVER, is on sale this week … 25% off.  This would be a great time for you to Catch The Fever.