Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Friends

I’ve been thinking of the song we used to sing in Girl Scouts: “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver but the other is gold.”

This morning I was able to spend some time with friend I met years ago, but most of my contact with old friends is through the internet.

There’s something special about spending time in the presence of people who share memories.

Today we call that FaceTime, but in past years that term didn’t exist.

It’s wonderful that we can now keep in touch with others we care about through electronics, but it’s just not the same as seeing people in real life.


I hope everyone who reads this gets to spend some time with old friends in real life between now and the end of the year.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Holidays and Traditions

Probably every culture in the world has some sort of holidays or traditions. 

In the USA many people celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, even if they don’t believe in the religious aspects of those events.

And people who do celebrate them usually have their own traditional ways of doing that.

It’s comforting to do familiar things, especially if we can share doing so with people we love and who share many of our memories.

After all, our memories are an important part of who we are.


What do holidays mean to you?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Merry Myrrh The Christmas Bat

This picture book by Regan W.H. Macaulay is an amazingly creative Christmas story.

It’s about a young bat, who was named Myrrh after one of the wise men’s gifts. 

He wants to see the Nativity scene in a house belonging to humans because his parents have told him about it.

But the bat does some dangerous and exciting things as the story unfolds. 

Kids will enjoy his adventure and the happy ending. 


The book would make a great Christmas gift and the illustrations by Alex Zgud are perfect for the story.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Christmas Book for Kids

Secret Service Saint
I don’t often mention my own books here, but this one is very appropriate for the holiday season.
When kids become old enough to realize a fat man dressed in red doesn’t really come down chimneys to deliver Christmas gifts or fly through the air in a sled pulled by reindeer they’re likely to feel disappointed.
But in Secret Service Saint they can learn about the real Saint Nicholas, who discovered the joy of doing secret good deeds. The deeds he does in the book aren’t historically accurate, but the basic story is true. And this book can help kids enjoy the spirit of Christmas.
It’s available on Amazon, among other online places, and local bookstores can carry it.




Saturday, November 10, 2018

Makeup

I’m frustrated.
Whenever I buy makeup in a store I choose a color that matches my skin, but when I get home I always discover it doesn’t really match. 
The artificial lightening in stores distorts the colors.
Am I the only one who has that problem?

Can anyone suggest a solution?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Vote

My bumper sticker says, "If you don't vote, don't whine." I hope people follow that advice.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Off the Grid

I was completely off the grid and unable to get internet or telephone reception for several days. I can’t ever get any cell phone reception in my house so I was pretty isolated.

It’s amazing how addicted we are to being able to communicate instantly over many miles.

When I was a kid, we had a telephone. but message machines hadn’t been invented, and it cost a lot of money to phone somebody using Long Distance. Mailing letters could take over two weeks to arrive if it was for someone who lived far away and at least the same amount of time to get a reply.

But compared to people in centuries past when it could take months for people like the pioneers to get mail from people where they had lived before, we were already at a great advantage.

And, today, we expect messages to arrive anywhere in a matter of seconds. We’re spoiled.

Someday we may have brain implants instead of phones.

But just imagine if some evil world government were to take over those implants and control everyone on the planet. Sorry, but as a writer I have to use my imagination.


In the meantime, I’m grateful to be back online and having a phone that works.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Moving

I'm moving this week.

Fortunately my new home will be only a few blocks from the current one, but it's smaller so I've been getting rid of lots of stuff. It's amazing how things accumulate.

The hardest thing about moving is that you can't go home from it. But I've learned from experience to set up a place in the new home where I can turn my back to the mess and relax for a while.

If you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know why.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Bedtime Stories

When I was a little kid my parents read to me and my brother every night before bed.
We would each get to pick one picture book.
To my dismay, my brother always chose the same book. It was The Animals of Farmer Jones.
I would get so frustrated because we could have been hearing two different stories every night instead of only one. 
I guess hearing the same one over and over gave him a sense of security.
But it’s a good thing that our parents read to us, no matter what the titles. Reading to kids at bedtime not only helps them relax, it stimulates their brains at the same time. And it encourages them to appreciate the importance of reading.

Did your parents read to you when you were a kid?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Bumper Stickers

My neighbor often has teenager’s cars parked in front of his house and I enjoy reading the multiple bumper stickers on their cars.
I only have a few on mine.
One I had made and it says “Bookaholics Unite” I consider myself a bookaholic and have no intention of getting into recovery. ;-)
Another one I printed out on my old label maker. It says, “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
At this time my third bumper sticker is very important. I was able to find and order it online. (Thanks Mike.) That one says, “If you don’t vote, don’t whine.” I hope some people will see it and decide to vote in the upcoming election.

Do you have any bumper stickers? If you do, what do they say?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Paper Procrastinating

I have way too much paper stuff. 
Remember when they said computers were supposed to eliminate paper? I use more paper now than I ever did before computers. Even as a college student I didn’t use nearly as much.
I guess I’m a procrastinater. I’ve been putting off cleaning out my files for a looooong time.
In my office I have rough drafts and copies of chapters with notes from writers critique groups I belonged to years ago. In the garage are files of guarantees for things I haven’t owned in years, and papers from jobs I used to have.
If I get rid of all those papers I can also get rid of several file cabinets I won’t be needing anymore. But doing that will require a lot of work.

Okay, I guess I’m procrastinating by writing this post. I’d better get back to cleaning out those files.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Times and Seasons

Is it just me, or does time seem to fly lately?
It seems like Summer began just a short time ago, but this coming Sunday will be the first day of Autumn. In the northern hemisphere that means the weather will be cooling off and leaves on deciduous trees will be changing color from green to yellow, orange, and red.
This planet has always had four seasons. There have always been days, with morning, noon evening, and night. Months have always existed, though not exactly as our calendar says. And there have always been years as the Earth circles the sun.
But hours, minutes, seconds, and weeks are human inventions.
And Caesar Augustus stole one day from February in the Roman calendar and added it to August so the month named after him would have as many days as the month named after Julius Caesar. (In the Roman calendar February was the last month of the year because the year began with the first month of Spring.) Before that all the months alternated between 30 and 31 days. Yes, February had 30 days before one was moved to August.
Autumn is my favorite season. As Goldilocks would say, it’s not too hot, not too cold, and just right. And there’s less pollen to bother my allergies than in Spring.

What’s your favorite season?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

International Dot Day

I just learned that today is International Dot Day. It means everyone is encouraged to use their creativity today, no mater what that may be.

Do you write? Paint? Draw? Sculpt? Photograph? Act or perform? Dance? Sing? Play an instrument?
Design houses, vehicles, or other things?

Nearly everyone has some creativity in them and this is a perfect day to let it out. Please do.

How are you creative?

For more information about Dot Day please see http://www.holidayscalendar.com/event/international-dot-day/

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Hi, Ho, Come to the Fair

Today I’m helping at the Gold Country Writers booth at the Gold Country Fair in Auburn, CA.
We’re inside one of the buildings so we don’t have to sit in the sun. 
We’ll get to spend time with some writer friends, meet lots of nice people, and, hopefully, sell some of our own books along with those of other members.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Rich or Poor

Do you ever worry about finances? I think most people do, even if they’re rich.
But what does it mean to be rich?
Compared to many people, perhaps millions, even people in the USA on welfare are rich. 
If we have a roof over our head, plumbing and water, gas or electricity, enough food to survive on, transportation, and medical care we’re millionaires compared to many people in the world. 
Besides the homeless in our own country there are thousands - perhaps even millions - of people in the world who struggle to survive. Often big families live in one room and must walk for miles just to get water.
It’s still only Summer, but I’m thinking about Thanksgiving and all that I have to be thankful for.

What do you feel thankful for?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Bread Crusts

What do you do with bread crusts? 
Sometimes I use them instead of pasta in casseroles

Other times I use them to make bread pudding.

I don’t like to eat them as I do other bread slices, for toast or sandwiches.


I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

A Stitch in Time

At first I found the title of this book confusing because it didn’t seem to be about sewing. But it actually is. Taxidermy involves sewing animal skins together after the insides have been removed and the skins are stuffed. 
Donut is only eleven years old, but she has already learned to stuff small, dead animals and add glass eyes to make them look alive.
Her godfather, Uncle Sam, has taught her how to do that.
But Donut has become an orphan and her irritating aunt has come from Boston and intends to take the girl back there and put her in a school. 
No! Donut is determined not to go and is willing to take any risk to stay where she has always lived. As the story unfolds she gets into all sorts of trouble.
A Stitch in Time is historical fiction and takes place in the early 20th century. It’s well written, the characters are believable, and the conflict is real.

I look forward to reading more books by Daphne Kilmar in the future.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Fragrances

When I was a kid if a woman wanted to be fragrant she’d wear perfume, cologne, or “toilet water” (That was a translation of the French term, eau de toilette) and men might use aftershave. If there was a bad odor in a house people would use Air Wick to overpower it.
But now fragrances are everywhere. 
Lots of public buildings are loaded with fragrances, supposedly to make them attractive to customers, but they have the opposite effect on people with allergies and sensitivities.
Most cleaning products, laundry detergents, cosmetics, personal care items, and many other things now contain fragrances. Odor eliminators simply make people unable to smell them, but the actual odors are still in the air.
Years ago I read about a study that said about 18% of people have some sensitivity to fragrances. More recently I read one saying more than 30% of the population have adverse effects from fragrances.
I’m certainly one of those.

Since unscented products are now available, there are obviously a lot of other people like me. I wish everyone would use unscented products.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Signs of Trouble

I don’t often mention my own books here, but since it’s the beginning of the school year I think it’s a good time to mention this one.

Signs of Trouble is about kids who get separated from their Special Ed class on a field trip to a shopping mall. I went on similar field trips with a Special Ed class years ago, but none of the kids ever got separated.

The kids in Signs of Trouble use what they’ve learned about safety rules and recognizing signs to get reunited with their class.

There are educational materials at the end of the book that will be helpful to all young children as well as those with special needs. I used similar activities as a preschool teacher. 


The book can be ordered through local bookstores or the usual internet venues.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Before and After

Two weeks ago I got a new dog. She had been rescued by a shelter and kept for 30 days, but nobody claimed her. She was spayed a few hours before I got her.
I named her Bushy.

Here’s what she looked like:

Yesterday she had the stitches taken out and the cone/torture collar removed and this morning I took her to the groomer.
This is what she looks like now:

What a difference!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Trojan Horse Traitor

I read middle grade fiction a lot, and The Trojan Horse Traitor is one of the best books in that genre that I’ve ever read.

It starts out like an ordinary story about kids at summer camp, but develops into a thrilling fantasy. The plot is so exciting I had to keep reading until I finished the entire book.

I don’t want to give away the plot, but the characters are believable and the story is amazing and exciting.


Amy C. Blake has done a wonderful job writing this book and I hope to read more of her work in the future.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Mixter Twizzle's Breakfast

The first thing I noticed about Mixter Twizzles Breakfast was the bright and amusing illustrations by Wei Lu.
But the story immediately pulled me in because of the amusing language.
The book by Regan W. H. Macaulay is about a little monster that lives under a chicken coop and steals eggs from the hens.  The illustrations show him as a demon.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but it is amusing and very positive after Mixter Twizzle hatches an egg himself.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Ulysses the Befuddled Basset

It has been a while since I’ve blogged about books for kids, so I want to get back to doing that.

Ulysses the Befuddled Basset by Emma M. Glover is a good one to start with.

It’s about a dog  - obviously a basset hound -  who tries to sound like other animals. He finally uses his real voice and saves a child’s life as a result.

This is an important moral for kids to learn. Be who you are and don’t try to copy other people.  


But the book isn’t at all preachy-teachy. It’s a fun read and the colorful illustrations by K. C. Snider capture the story perfectly.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

My New Dog

My last dog had to be put to sleep in April and it has taken quite a while to find a new one. 
Because of my allergies I can only have one that doesn’t shed and big ones are expensive. I had checked out several dogs that met the requirements, but none of them were right.
Finally I found just the right dog!
She’s a Lhasa Apso/mutt and I named her Bushy.
My last dog was white and her fur picked up the dirt so quickly she’d be tan the day after she’d been bathed. Bushy is naturally tan, so that won’t be a problem with her.
She was spayed the same day I got her and must wear one of those horrible cone collars for two weeks, but she’s tolerating it.
Bushy is sweet, affectionate, and eager to please me. I’m delighted to have her.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Festival

Yesterday I participated in the local Renaissance Children’s Festival in Nevada City.
It was fun!
There was a dragon, sword fights. a parade, and LOTS of children and parents.
I helped in one of the dozens craft booths where children could make things to take home. I worked in the one where they made things out of clay, and some of the kids were very talented.
The volunteers and many of the children and families wore costumes suitable for the historical period.
Mine wasn’t very authentic, but here’s what I looked like:


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Classics

I usually finish a book in a few hours, but right now I’m reading Les Miserables. I’ve been reading it for several days and I’m only a little bit past halfway through.
Classic children’s books like Heidi, Little Women, and Tom Sawyer are still good. But many of the classic books for adults certainly couldn’t get published today.
But a lot of that is because our tastes have changed.
Long ago I read and enjoyed Ben Hur. But a few years ago I started reading it again and when I got to page 50 and nothing had happened except a camel walking across the desert I put it down and never read any more of it.
I guess, like everyone else in our time, I’m spoiled by the internet, TV, etc. and expect instant gratification.
But I do plan to finish Les Miserables because I’m enjoying it.
Maybe I’ll even try Ben Hur again.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Looking Ahead

Babies only look ahead to having their next diaper change or satisfying their hunger.
Toddlers look ahead to when their parent will get home or pick them up from childcare, or when their next meal will be served.
Young children look ahead to recess time, weekends, or special events like holidays. 
As they grow older they look ahead to the next year of school and start to think about what they want to be when they grow up.
Teenagers look ahead to what will happen when they graduate. Will they go to college? Get married and have kids? What will their careers be?
Adults in their 20s may still wonder about getting married (if they haven’t done that already,) and what will happen with their careers in the future. Will they own their own homes? 
As people move through adulthood they realize they’ll eventually become old and need to prepare for retirement. They look ahead at decades.
And once they do become old they wonder what it will be like to become disabled and unable to live independently. And they may look ahead to life after death.
And they (or perhaps I should say, we) spend a lot less time thinking about the future and focus on enjoying life as it is in the present.

Perhaps people should do more of that at every age.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Another Claim to “Fame”

On my website I list three “claims to fame,” the first being my experience with Koko, which I shared in my last blog post.
Here’s the second one: I once performed with the Joffrey Ballet, even though I don’t know how to dance.
I had a few months of ballet lessons when I was in First Grade, but after my father died we couldn’t afford those anymore. Obviously, I was hardly an expert ballerina.
One day someone at the church I attended in San Francisco mentioned that the ballet company was looking for supernumeraries. That’s what would be called extras in theatre terminology.
I tried out and was accepted. 
They were performing Petrushka, which takes place in Russia in the winter. 
Before each performance I’d go down to the basement in the old San Francisco Opera House and  have a wig and long beard  put on by the makeup people. 
Then I’d wander through the maze of rooms trough the room where the orchestra was rehearsing and they’d all laugh at me.
In the room where I changed into my costume I put on layers of padding and heavy winter clothes. I could hardly move!
During the performance all I had to do as part of the crowd was sway with the music and turn around once.

It was hardly what you would call dancing, but I can say I performed with the Joffrey Ballet.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Earthquakes

Yesterday the weather here in the Sierra foothills of northern CA was overcast and muggy. That’s very unusual in this area.
When I was a kid my grandfather lived with us, and I grew up hearing stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. 
Because the quake and resulting fires destroyed homes, people camped outside for days, and the weather was overcast and muggy then. People who had experienced that event called it earthquake weather for he rest of their lives. Of course it didn't cause the quakes.
When the Loma Prieta earthquake happened in 1989 I lived in a victorian house that swayed from side to side during the quake. Fortunately very little damage was done to our home, but a lot was done to other structures in the area.
Earthquakes are rare, but very dangerous. Just think about what has happened more recently in Haiti.
It’s the movement of the tectonic plates below the surface of the earth that causes them, and I’m afraid all the lava pouring out from the volcanic eruptions in Hawaii may cause the Pacific tectonic plate to move. 
I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a major earthquake in the next few months. I hope I’m wrong.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

If Only ...

I’ll make this post short and simple.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Golden Rule. I’ve seen paraphrases of it from most of the major religions on Earth.
If only everyone would follow it, most of our political problems, both in the USA and around the world would be solved.
So lets all try to do unto others as we would like others to do unto us. In other words, let’s all treat everybody else the way we would like to be treated.
Even though we may not be famous and powerful, we help make the world a better place a little bit at a time.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

When I Met Koko


I mention on my website that I once met Koko the gorilla and, since her death has been in the news lately, I was asked to share more about that experience. So here it is...

Back in the 1970s when I lived in San Francisco I worked at California School for the Deaf in Berkeley,  my husband was a Sign Language interpreter, we had a Deaf foster son, and we both interpreted services at our church in Sign Language.

We also had a deaf dalmatian who had learned to understand about 300 signs.

Someone at our church told me he knew a woman who was teaching Sign Language to a baby gorilla called Koko, and arranged for me to contact her.

I wanted our dog to meet the gorilla, but Penny Paterson said that wouldn’t work since gorillas are terrified of dogs. In Africa all wild dogs are predators.

But she did arrange for me to meet her at the zoo where she explained to me what she was doing, then took me out to Koko’s cage and went back to work.

A young man who was also working with Koko entered her cage and she slammed the door shut so he couldn’t leave.

Then the baby gorilla quickly clambered up on top of his head so he couldn’t scold her.

I asked if he wanted me to get help and he replied that wasn’t necessary because someone with a key would be coming soon. But he told me having Koko on his head was really hurting his neck.

I signed to her, “Get down.”

Koko turned her head away, then peeked back at me.

I told her, “Give him a hug,” and she climbed down into his arms and hugged him.

He thanked me, and I watched Koko for a while longer, but that was the end of my conversation with her.




Tuesday, July 3, 2018

For the Fourth of July

New Colossus
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Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Bill Drake's Book

This is the first time I’ve blogged about a book that isn’t for kids, but this one got me so excited I couldn’t resist sharing about it.

Almost Hereditary: A White Southerner’s Journey Out of Racism  by Bill Drake is amazing!

Last week I jokingly posted something about being an anti-bigot bigot, but reading this book made me realize my attitude toward racial and religious bigots is really not very different from their attitudes.

The book is part biography, part history, and part information to help readers recognize and overcome their own prejudices. It’s well written and even some of the appendices are interesting to read.


With everything going on in the news lately, I wish everyone would read this book.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Playing Dress-up

When I was a kid I loved playing dress up. 
I had some old Halloween costumes and a few skirts and blouses that had belonged to my mother, and a cowboy hat and cap gun. I think I also had a big piece of fabric I used as a cape. 
All the kids in the neighborhood would put on our dress-up costumes and pretend to be various characters.
Of course the boys always wanted to be cowboys or super heroes while the girls often pretended to be princesses.
In about a month I’ll get to play dress-up again. I’ll be volunteering at the local Renaissance Fair for kids in Nevada City and I’m figuring out what to wear. I don’t have an authentic costume from that time period, but I do have a long dress with full sleeves, so I’ll probably wear that.
It will be fun to act like a kid again!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bigots

My old dictionary says a bigot is a person with strong opinions. Today that word means someone who is extremely prejudiced against a group of other people.
In ancient history prejudice was necessary for survival. Perhaps if an early human ate a poisonous fungus and died, others in the tribe would avoid eating any kind of fungus. They might miss out on the healthy mushrooms, but avoid being poisoned.
For centuries if people saw others who looked different from their own group it was likely those people were coming to invade and try to take over their territory, so it was logical to be prejudiced against them.
In the ancient past prejudice was a survival technique, but times have changed.
Prejudice means believing all members of a group are the same, and it’s possible to be prejudiced in favor of people, such as a favorite sports team.
Bigotry is a strong, negative prejudice against a group of humans.
Unfortunately, I’m prejudiced against people who are bigots, so I guess that makes me an anti-bigot bigot. 

Does that mean I’m prejudiced against myself?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Childhood Books and Toys

When I was a little kid my parents read to me every night before bed. I had books like The Pokey Little Puppy, Cheeky Chipmunk and many others.
I also loved to play with my dolls.
When I got too old for those things they were stored in the thin, wooden toy box and put in the basement. Since our home was on a steep hill, most of the basement wasn’t paved.
Decades later when I had graduated from college and got my first apartment I took the toy box there.
When I opened it, I was horrified!
It smelled terrible and everything in it was covered with mold and mildew. 
Some of my dolls, which had been made before plastic was available, had heads made of composite material that had rotted away, and their clothes were rotten, too.
Most of the books were falling apart, the pages were brown and brittle, and they smelled horrible.
Fortunately, I was able to salvage a few toys from later in my childhood that were made of plastic, and some of my books. 
I still have those today.

Do you have any toys or books from your childhood?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Fathers Then and Now

Back when I was a kid, in the 1940s and 50s, most kids had stay-at-home moms. Even if their fathers had been killed in WWII their mothers had remarried if they possibly could.
It was difficult for women to find jobs back then. They might be school teachers, clerks, do laundry or housecleaning, or be in the entertainment industry, but there weren’t many other options and women got paid less than men for the same jobs.
Everyone ’knew’ “a woman’s place is in the home,” and it was the fathers’ responsibility to provide for their families.
In some families it was also the father’s responsibility to spank their kids when they had misbehaved.
Back then nearly all men smoked cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or any combination of those (women just smoked cigarettes) so in grade school kids made ash trays for Fathers’ Day gifts.  Since my father had died of polio, I gave those ashtrays to my grandfather, who didn’t smoke and didn’t like the gifts.
Today it’s unusual for kids to have both birth parents living with them. 
Couples get divorced, sometimes just because they feel like it. Marriage vows aren’t taken seriously. (Of course some divorces are for valid reasons, such as abuse.)
Lots of kids have stepfathers and/or get shuffled back and forth between both birth parents.
Quite a few kids today have never even met their birth fathers. And many fathers rarely or never get to see their own children.

Fathers’ Day just ain’t what it used to be.