Saturday, May 30, 2009

Helping Children

     A few days ago I blogged about helping children. Yesterday I got a message from my cousin about some children who desperately need our help. I'll copy her message below, and hope some of you will be willing to help. The URL for his website is:
     Since Bryan will be returning to that village in mid-June, time is of the essence.

Dear Friends-

I'm writing on behalf of my friend Bryan Hendon who is a Long time San Francisco Firefighter and Paramedic who traveled through Asia earlier this winter.  Bryan has a heart as big as the world, and, as you could probably surmise from his profession, helping people comes naturally to him.  He is the kind of guy you would trust with your life, and many people do!

Anyway, while in Asia, Cambodia to be more specific, he traveled through a small village (Beng Village has a population of about 1500 people) where although a family there lives on about one US dollar per DAY, the people were among the happiest he had ever met.  Their lives are simple, they have nothing, and yet they are filled with joy.  He made many friends there and has been able to keep in touch with one or two of them via the internet.

After returning home, Bryan learned of Beng village's plight.  A series of powerful storms this past spring washed away a dam that was vital to the welfare of the village.  The dam enabled the villagers to maintain a clean water supply for drinking and cooking; it also provided irrigation water for their rice crop; the road that ran along its top gave villagers and the outside world alike access in and out of the village, thus encouraging a new developing tourist trade and it provided law enforcement a venue by which they could continue to control illegal deforestation of the woods nearby - deforestation which has become a potential environmental disaster.  Without the dam and the simple benefits it provided, disease will surely follow and the already precarious lives of the Beng villagers will definitely deteriorate.

Now, the solution:  through his friends, Bryan has learned that the dam could be rebuilt for only $5000 US dollars and he has set about raising the money personally to so so.  He wants to raise the money by mid-June, when he plans to return to Cambodia and Beng Village and see that the dam is re-built.  His friend will meet him and help him to be sure that the money goes exactly where it is supposed to go to see that the project is completed successfully.  

I sent Bryan a check this morning.  I hope you might too.  We have so much in this country.  Those people have nothing.  But they have a spirit of joy!  We could learn a lot from them.  And we can start by helping them get their dam back.

If you would like to help, you could send a check directly to 

Bryan John Hendon

99 Hillside

San Anselmo, CA  94960

or, if you prefer to pay on-line you could google his website:


and click on the Cambodia Dam Project 2009 and follow the PayPal directions.  While in the website you might also check out his travel section and see his photos of his travels to Asia, many of which include pictures of children of Beng Village.

Since Bryan is doing this totally on his own, he is not a non-profit so there wouldn't be a tax deduction for any donation, but look at it this way - the money will be going directly to the reconstruction of the dam and not to paying for office expenses or secretarial salaries or executive suites!

Thanks for reading this and I hope you will consider reaching out to help the Beng Villagers.  Bryan's plan is to ask anyone who donates to send him a photo so he can take all the photos with him and show them to the villagers so they will know who helped them.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What is Childhood For?

     Everybody knows childhood is a time of wonder and a time to learn the skills that will be necessary in adulthood. Babies' brains are programmed to learn and they're doing that constantly. (In July 2008 I posted a review of a book, The Scientist in the Crib, that reveals how infant brains develop.) But learning doesn't stop with infancy or even early childhood. As adults, we, too, can maintain a state of wonder, continue to learn and to love, and help the children in our lives. 
     But, unfortunately, there are many children in the world who don't have the opportunity to be loved and to learn. Fortunately there are organizations and ministries that can help them. Perhaps if each of us who had what we needed as children do one thing to help the disadvantaged children of today, the world will be a much better place in the future.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Way Down Deep

Ruth White's book, Way Down Deep, is charming historical fiction that took place in the mid-1940s. It's a bit slow starting and the sort-of-magic climax is a little difficult to believe, but otherwise the book is excellent. The heroine, Ruby, was found as a small child and raised by the woman who ran a boardinghouse in a cozy, small town. Ruby has a happy life, but there are clues that may help her find out who her parents were. The author does a magnificent job of showing the loving, safe community where Ruby lives, and the dangers of the things she discovers are very believable. It's a great read for girls who want to relax and travel to the world the way it ideally used to be.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to Write a Story

Nearly every story in the world has the same basic plot. Making up your own story is a good cure for boredom and may even help you become a published writer someday. It's even possible for a group of people to create a single story if everyone contributes something. Here's how to make up a story 1. First you need a main character, sometimes called the hero or protagonist. This person (or other creature) must be original. For example, your story could be about a mouse, but not about Mickey Mouse. Who is your story about? 2. The main character must want something very badly. What does your character want? 3. Something is preventing that character from getting what he or she wants. What keeps your character from getting it? 4. The character tries to solve the problem and get what he or she wants. In a long story the character might try several different things and either fail at each of them or, each time one problem is solved, something else happens to keep him or her from reaching the goal. In a short story the protagonist might solve the problem right away and not have any more problems. How does your hero try to solve the problem? Does it work or not? If not, what is the next thing to try? 5. The main character either does or doesn't get what he or she wanted. That's the end of the story. Usually getting it is needed for a happy ending, but sometimes the character realizes he or she didn't really want that goal after all, so not getting it can still be a happy ending. Young kids can have a grown up write down their stories and older kids can write their own. You might read or tell the story to somebody else, or draw illustrations and make it into a book. Sometimes it's fun just to make up a story in your mind and not share it with anyone. If any brave kids want to make up short stories and send them as comments to this blog post they may be read by lots of people. But, like most editors, if I don't like the stories I won't publish them.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Invented Words

 Have you ever invented words?

        Here are some that were made up by kids  (and adults) I've known. See if you can guess what they mean.

       *Trigadierdillions (hint; this word is used in a list after "billions and trillions.")

       * Disgusticating

       * Grossifying

       * Trigatutely  (hint; this word is used after "absolutely.")

       * Frustrifications

         Can you think of any others?

       All words were made up by someone at some time, but more and more new words are being added to the English language because so many new things are getting invented and discovered. Only ten years ago most people wouldn't have known what "blog" means. And did you know that "google" used to be a scientific term that meant one number less than infinity? It's easy to see why that word was chosen as a name for a search engine, but even the people who chose it didn't know we would now use it as a verb.

          It's fun to invent words, and if you make some up it's not impossible that they might actually become a part of our language. Why not try? If you ever think of some good ones I'd love to know what they are.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Espresso Book Machines

The Espresso Book Machine (EBM) was invented several years ago, but is just beginning to be used in a few stores and libraries. It's a big contraption like an ATM that can print and bind paperback books in a few minutes when money is inserted. It has many thousands of books no longer under copyright as well as new ones from publishing houses including John Wiley and Sons, McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan available.
Imagine what fun it will be for kids to watch their parents insert a credit card, hear the machinery working, and see a brand new book pop out in just a few minutes.
Lots of people are worried that e-books might make real hard copy ones become obsolete, but this machine will make that even less likely because publishers who use it won't have to pay storage fees for unsold copies and bookstores won't need shelf space for every book they sell.
The EBM is probably expensive so it may take a while to be available everywhere, but I think it will catch on soon.
You may have noticed on my website,, that I once mended a Gutenberg Bible. If Gutenberg were still alive, can you imagine how he'd react to  the Espresso Book Machine?


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Grief in Children

When I was six years old my father died of polio and, of course, I grieved for him. About eight months later I read Black Beauty (yes, my reading level was advanced for my age) and cried for hours because the horse in the book died. The adults didn't understand and I didn't realize it myself, but I was actually grieving for my father. It had taken a long time for me to really understand emotionally that his death was permanent and my life had been changed forever.
Decades later I was teaching preschool and asked the kids in my pre-K class what they wanted to be when they grew up. One little girl said she wanted to be God, and when I explained that was impossible she began to cry desperately hard. She sobbed for so long we had to call her mother to come get her. It turned out that child was actually grieving for her father, who had died many months earlier. She had planned to become God someday so she could make sure nobody else's father ever died, and maybe get her own father back.
Apparently it's normal for children suddenly to be hit by strong grief a long time after the losses they experience. This is a healthy thing for them, and part of the healing process. Perhaps reading a book about death to a child, or encouraging them to read one themselves, at least six months after a death in their family happens would help them recover from the tragedy.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

Any time more than two humans are together for long, there will be politics. It doesn't matter if we're talking about government, churches, classrooms, or businesses, people will be vying for power and attention. In a way, sibling rivalry is a form of politics, and will always be there to some extent.
However, here's a story that may help to reduce rivalry between little kids. 
When my daughter was little I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but needed to earn some money, so I ran a family daycare home. Normally the children I taught were from almost-three to Kindergarten age, but once a neighbor had an emergency and I agreed to care for her infant for a few weeks. None of the children had ever acted jealous of each other before, but they all seemed jealous of the baby and I had no idea why. 
Finally an articulate little boy told me it was because I loved the baby more than I loved them. When I asked what gave him that idea he said it was because I was always hugging the baby. I explained that holding the baby wasn't the same as hugging and I had to hold the baby a lot because it couldn't eat or move from one place to another by itself. Immediately all signs of jealousy from any of the children disappeared.
Perhaps if parents explain that to the big brothers and sisters as soon as a new baby joins the family it will help reduce the sibling rivalry.