Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Times They Are A-Changin'

New Year's Eve is a good time to look back and see what we've accomplished in the past year. But I'm looking back farther than that.
With the economics, technical advances, etc. there have probably been more changes in the last ten years than happened in the previous 50 years. In 2001 some people had cell-phones and computers but they were bigger, bulkier, and couldn't do nearly all our modern devices can do.
And think of all the changes that have happened in the two hundred years since 1812. We now take trains, electric lights, telephones, radios, cars, airplanes, movies, TV, washing machines, and hundreds of other things for granted that were developed during that time.
It took much longer for technology to advance beyond the invention of the wheel, bows and arrows, wind or water mills, guns, and the printing press to those inventions.
I wonder what the future will be like? Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hurry, Hurry!

The new year is about to start and there's so much to do! Oh, my goodness, how can we ever get it all done in time?
I'm already almost three hours later than usual posting this to my blog and haven't made my resolutions yet the deadline to submit an article is looming, and I still need to get ready for 2012 ... and..... and...
Okay, let's just take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Even though I saw Valentine's products when I stopped in the almost-empty store to replace my lost gloves this morning, it really isn't necessary to get everything done right away. Let's just focus on the things that really matter.
May 2012 be a year full of peace.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I'm wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas tomorrow.
Yes, that's right. I did say everyone.
Even if you don't celebrate that holiday you have my official permission to be happy on Christmas Day, so do it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Love

Christmas is a time to celebrate love, both God's love for us and our love for each other. But what does that mean?
One of my college psychology professors taught us this definition: "When the happiness and well-being of another is essential to one's own happiness and well-being a state of love exists."
Author Gary Chapman says there are five basic ways people communicate love to one another. Those ways, which he calls Love Languages, are: speaking words of affirmation, spending quality time together, giving gifts, performing acts of service, and physical touch such as hugs, handshakes and pats on the back.
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As we gather with friends and family during the holiday season we tend to use all five love languages.
If the incarnation shows God's love for us how can we show our love for God?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hi, Ho! Come to the Fair

Last night I had fun passing out bookmarks to kids at our local holiday street fair. The weather was clear so hundreds of people came to the event.
Like nearly everyone working or helping there, I wore pseudo-old fashioned clothes, including a cape my mother made for me long ago. (Don't tell, but I still love to play dress up.)
Holiday decorations and lights abounded on buildings and stalls and people called cheerful greetings to one another. Of course seeing friends and hearing Christmas carols and music added to the pleasure of the evening.
No matter what the season, street markets and fairs always seem special to me because they have been part of human's lives for so long. Even thousands of years ago non-migratory people all over the world had events like this where crowds of people gathered, vendors offered wares for sale, and musicians and performers demonstrated their talents.
Last night as I wandered through the busy crowd, saw the lovely, often handmade items and delicious foods for sale, and heard the choirs and musicians it seemed like I was transported back in time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Books

Every Christmas Eve when I was a child my mother read the same two books to us before we went to bed.
One was a Christmas Carols illustrated by Fern Peat. The songs, which we would sing together, were interspersed with passages from the Bible telling about the Nativity. The other book was The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. I can still repeat many passages from both of them by heart.
And every Christmas morning one of the gifts waiting for me under the tree would be a book. I still have most of those from the picture books I got when I was little and later read to my own kids, through classics like Heidi and Little Women.
This year my cousin compiled and self-published a book of recipes contributed by members of the extended family, many of which bring back warm memories of holidays we spent together. She gave us a similar compilation quite a few years ago and my copy is worn by frequent use.
Are there any books associated with Christmas in your family? What memories do they bring back to you?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winter Holidays

I hadn't lived where it snows since I was a little kid, but six years ago I moved to the Sierra foothills where we do get some snow in the winter. We've had none yet this year, but it is cold. Christmas is approaching and I've already participated in activities where friends and family sit around fireplaces and share warm food and happy memories.
Many historians think Jesus was not actually born in the winter since the emperor, Herod, would have realized people who lived in northern parts of the Roman Empire couldn't possibly travel at that time of year because of the severe weather. But many cultures have celebrations when the season of winter begins and days begin to lengthen. The Romans, who persecuted and killed Christians, were no exception. Legend says in order to avoid standing out by not partying, the Christians chose to celebrate the coming of Christ at that time.
Whatever people choose to celebrate, it's easy to see why they do it now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another Book for Christmas

I've reviewed quite a few books that would make good Christmas gifts for kids, and here's another one.
I don't want to seem like I'm just wanting to sell my own books, but I think Secret Service Saint is a good one to help children realize the importance of giving and helping others. In a time of financial problems kids need more than ever to understand that Christmas isn't primarily about getting presents.
The book is about Nicholas who discovers the adventure of secret giving. At the end of the story kids will discover he eventually became known as Santa Claus and I hope some of them will join Nicholas in giving to help others without hoping for praise or rewards.
Secret giving really is fun, and it's a good way to experience the spirit of Christmas.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sea Turtle Summer

Two girls on a beach are amazed to watch an endangered Loggerhead sea turtle lay her eggs, although they usually only do that at night.
But a big machine is coming to clear the beach and no ranger is available. Can the children manage to protect the eggs?
Sea Turtle Summer by Nancy Stewart is part of the series about Bella and Britt, the two girls who were also the main characters in Stewart's best-selling book, One Pelican at a Time, about the Gulf Oil Spill. Like that prior book, this one not only helps readers learn to appreciate our natural world, it shows them that even kids can make a positive difference in the world by standing up for what is right.
The illustrations by Samantha Bell carry us away to the sunny beach and show us what the endangered turtles really look like.
This is another book that would make a great gift for kids.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Books for Kids

I've been reviewing a lot of books here lately because I think books make wonderful gifts for kids. Here are reviews of two more by author Janet Halfmann.
Fur and Feathers is about a little girl who imagines creative ways to replace the coats normally worn by animals after their usual fur, feathers, scales, etc. are blown away by wind in her dream. Besides being a cute story, the book helps young kids understand the purpose of the real coverings animals have. The book contains an educational section of scientific information, which would be of interest to older kids at the end. The illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein are cute and well suited to the child's fantasy.
Little Skink's Tale also presents information about the natural world in creative ways. In this book a skink who looses his tail imagines what it would be like to have the tails of various other creatures until his own grows back. And this book, too, contains educational material at the end that could be used by teachers or parents to help kids learn more about nature. It has the same illustrator, but the style is quite different and shows the beauty of nature.
In my opinion both books would be great gifts for young children because kids would enjoy the stories while learning about nature.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Sister is My Best Friend

Because this blog is about words, books, and kids there couldn't be a better book for me to review here than My Sister is My Best Friend by Nicole Weaver.
There are lots of books about sibling rivalry but this one, by contrast, is about two sisters who get along well together and enjoy sharing experiences. Since the girls in the book are twins, it would be an especially appropriate gift for real-life twins.
The words aspect of the book is that it is written in three languages, English, French and Spanish. I enjoyed trying to figure out the meaning of the individual words and phrases in the languages I don't know and some kids will probably like doing that, too. Although I took French in school decades ago and never studied Spanish I found that I could understand more of the Spanish words than the French ones.
My Sister is My Best Friend would be a great help to kids who know one of the three languages and are trying to learn another and already bi- or multi-lingual kids will like it.
Of course children who can only read or hear the story read in one language will enjoy it for the cheerful experiences the sisters share. The cute illustrations by Clara Batton Smith add to the pleasure of the book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Trouble on Earth Day

Why, you may ask, am I reviewing a book about Earth Day the day before Thanksgiving?
Trouble on Earth Day by Kathy Stemke is a cute picture book about a little squirrel who learns to appreciate and use what she has and to help someone else. What better time of year could there be to remind us all to do that?
Besides the appealing story and charming illustrations by Kurt Wilcken, the book includes many pages of activities to help kids appreciate the natural world and reuse things instead of discarding them. Some of those activities are projects kids could make that would be great Christmas presents.
So this is a perfect time of the year to get that book for kids.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bullies #4

After my last three posts you're probably tired of hearing about bullies, but I have one more important thing to share.
A while back I discovered this website, and realized the principles suggested there are the things I had experienced. The idea is that bullying is like a game and if the bully gets someone upset he or she wins. There had been many times in my life, especially when I was a kid, when bullies got me upset and won the game, but the few times I'd reacted as this website suggests, the bullies left me alone. I guess those times I'd won.
I strongly suggest anyone dealing with bullies, and that includes verbal ones, check out the information at

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bullies #3

My husband used to work at a retirement and nursing home in the inner city where they had constant problems with graffiti. The maintenance people had to spend huge amounts of time painting over it, but the graffiti would always be back in a day or two.
One day my husband was walking down the street on his lunch break when he saw a some members of a street gang standing on a corner. He walked over to the gangstas, introduced himself, and said, "You know, we try to help the community as much as possible." He mentioned several ways their families might have benefited from what the people where he worked did and continued, "You're making our job a lot harder by painting graffiti on the walls. Would you please stop?"
For the rest of the years he worked at that facility there was never any more graffiti from that gang - or any other.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bullies #2

In the 1960s I lived in a rough inner city neighborhood. I worked the swing shift so I usually didn't get home until nearly 11:00 p.m. and often had to park a block from my apartment.
One night as I was crossing the street a gang approached.
"Hey, lady, " one of them called out. "Ya wanna f*#* with me?"
I calmly replied, "No thank you," and kept walking.
They seemed stunned and not to know how to react, so they let me alone and I got home safely.
If I had acted scared, angry or upset things probably would have gotten a lot worse. Yes, I could have been in serious trouble anyway, but by not reacting as they expected I didn't encourage their bullying.
Bullying is like a game, and if bullies get someone to react with fear or anger, they've won. That night the bullies lost.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bullies #1

As a kid I was bullied a lot and the bullies usually succeeded in getting me scared and upset. But here's one incident when I handled the situation well.
One summer day a girl pushed me down on the sidewalk and sat on my chest. Nobody else was around so I had no help.
She raised her fist to punch me in the face, which scared me, but for some reason I reacted differently than usual. Even while terrified, I felt sorry for her. Instead of crying or begging her not to hit me I calmly explained that nobody in school liked her because she was a bully and suggested if she treated people nicely she would have some friends.
"I don't care if they like me as long as I can beat them up," she replied. But she stood up, walked away, and never bothered me again.
Sometimes turning the other cheek really does work.
That girl moved away soon afterwards so I don't know if she ever took my advice or not, but I hope she did.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Natural Disasters

Earthquakes. Floods. Droughts. Storms. Hurricanes. It seems like every week or so there's another natural disaster somewhere in the world. I don't know if more are actually happening or we're just more aware of them because of quick information through technology, but a lot of people have certainly been affected.
Many years ago I was involved in a Yahoo group that got into a discussion about disasters. We wanted to know which kind was worst.
Strangely, everyone who participated was sure the kind that happened where they lived was preferable to others.
People who lived where hurricanes happen said those were better because the weather service always gave advance warning so they could prepare.
People who lived where tornadoes happen said those were preferable because they only damaged a thin strip of the area.
People who lived in earthquake areas said they'd rather deal with those because serious ones were decades apart.
Personally, I think forest fires are the most dangerous because they happen often, cover huge areas, and can't be predicted.
What kind of natural disaster do you think is worst? Which kind would you rather deal with?

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Halloween was a lot different when I was a kid in the 1940s and 50s.

Back then it was a holiday all kids could enjoy. Since Wicca and New Age religions weren’t around yet it had no religious connotations and only little kids really believed in witches and ghosts.

Most children either wore costumes made by their mothers, or cut holes in old bedsheets and pretended to be ghosts. All sheets were white back then, and it was usually easy to find an old one that could be spared. Store bought costumes were thin plastic and so cheaply made they would usually get torn before the evening was over, so nobody wore them if they could help it.

Trick or treating was perfectly safe. Only the tiniest kids without older siblings needed adults to go with them, and we ate the homemade treats people gave us without hesitation, often before we got home. We usually had enough candy left in our bags to last for weeks.

At the end of the evening we'd snuggle into bed with full tummies and happy memories of our adventures.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Earthquakes Again

Since there have been several earthquakes in California recently this seems like a good time for kids to learn more about them. There's a page for that purpose on the USGS site at and I mentioned an excellent book on the topic in an earlier post at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More About Computers

Those of you who know me are aware that I'm a techno-idiot. Any new technological task is scary for me. Right now I'm frustrated because I recently upgraded my laptop and must adapt to lots of changes.
But when I consider how much more I know now than I did ten or even five years ago, I'm amazed! There are lots of people who haven't learned to do many things I now take for granted, such as participating in Facebook, blogging, setting up a webpage or even using e-mail.
Back in the 1980s when we got our first computer I was sure I'd never have enough material in it to fill an entire floppy disc. Boy, was I ever wrong!
But computers can have all sorts of problems that aren't easy to deal with. Sometimes we must spend hours on the phone with tech support or spend a lot of money for something needed to make them work. (The computers, not the tech support people.)
Sometimes we can't live with 'em, but in this day and age it would sure be hard to live without 'em. And that sentence could refer to either or both of the above. ;-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Fair

I don't usually blog on Tuesdays, but today I'm participating in an internet book fair along with lots of other people and sharing about my book, Signs of Trouble. It's about kids who get separated from their class on a field trip and use what theuve learned about safety rules and recognizing signs to get reunited with them. Besides teaching kids to be safe the book also helps them understand people with special needs.
Signs of Trouble is available at Amazon (here's a short version of the URL ) and other online bookstores, at and can be ordered by local bookstores.
Here are links to a few reviews other people have done of the book:

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Way back in the early 1970s while I was working at the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley somebody at the nearby Lawrence Hall of Science got a brilliant idea. Maybe deaf people could communicate with each other at a distance by sending computer signals as if they were telegrams.
They ran some phone lines over the hill to our campus and connected them to several teletypewriters or TTYs. Those devices were about five feet square and two feet deep and had keyboards.
It worked! They could actually access material on the computer at their lab.
Computers were scary, but we were required to attend training and learn to use that technology before it became available for the students.
I sat in front of the contraption and tried a program called "Dorothea" after a famous psychologist named Dorothea Dix. The program was supposed to help students cope with emotional problems by encouraging them to share their feelings.
I'd had college classes in psychology and knew the non-directive phrases like "How do you feel about that?" so I typed some of them in as responses to prompts and within a few minutes the computer had become confused and was sending me gibberish.
Whew! A computer wasn't smart enough to do those scary sci-fi things we'd heard about after all.
Of course today computers can do things we could only have imagined back then and they're part of our every day lives. I'm proud to have been involved in one of the very first internet communications.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Keep On Blogging

More than ten years ago the word, blog, didn't exist. It originated as a combination of the world wide web (www) and a log where people posted things they wrote online as if they were writing in a journal. Blog is short for web log and blog has also become a verb.
Five years ago I had no idea I would ever be one of those blogging people, but I've been doing it here for three years.
When blogs first became popular they were considered an easy way for authors to publicize their books because there weren't very many blogs and most of them had lots of readers. Now, of course, there are thousands -- perhaps even millions -- of blogs and people have become selective about which ones they read, so blogging can't be used for publicity as easily as it once was.
When my first book was under contract I was told it was important to have a blog so, being a good girl, I started this one. But I didn't want it only to be a form of advertising for my books and wondered how I could possibly think of something new to post twice a week. Probably I'd run out of ideas and have to give up in a few months.
Well, obviously that hasn't happened. It seems there's always more to say about words, books and kids. I've reviewed dozens of books, including classics I loved as a child, library books I enjoy, and new books written by authors I know. Hints and information about kids, parenting, and language have often appeared here, too. And I can always post links to other sites.
Since my posts appear on Facebook most of the comments people make are on that site but that's okay.
While it's great if people who read my blog posts also buy my books, I'd probably keep blogging even if the books were all out of print because it's a fun way to communicate.
Those of us who blog may never run out of things to say.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Free Play

"Mom, can I go out to play now?"
If you're old (like me) you probably remember asking that question.
After reminding you to say "May I" in stead of "Can I," and checking to be sure you'd finished all your chores the answer was usually, "Okay" with a reminder about how to behave and when to be back home.
Then you'd rush out the front door to find your friends.
Wait a minute! Do I mean kids actually went out without adult supervision?
We sure did.
As long as the commies didn't drop an atomic bomb that day parents assumed we'd be okay.
Illegal drugs were something the papers reported were becoming a problem back in poorer sections of New York City and molestation was never mentioned in public. Only the children of rich people might get kidnapped and held for ransom and we knew to be careful not to be run over by cars.
Of course we'd often get skinned knees, someone might get a black eye in a fight and once in a while a kid might even fall out of a tree and break a bone, but nobody would get sued because of things like that. They were considered a normal part of growing up.
And we had the advantage of spending hours using our imaginations.
We might pretend to be cowboys and Indians, princesses and knights in shining armor, space explorers, detectives, horses, jungle animals, doctors, parents, or anything else we could think of. Sometimes we'd play games, but those weren't organized by adults and we could change the rules any time we agreed on new ones.
Since today's kids always have adults watching them and are usually in groups with others near the same age it's unusual for them to do pretending play after they enter grade school. For many children, electronic games are the only opportunity they have for using their imaginations.
It's a shame today's kids don't have the kind of freedom we enjoyed.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Holidays 2011

I don't like to sound like a grinch, but it bothers me that some stores had Christmas stuff for sale in mid September and even more are displaying some of it along with the Halloween stuff now.
Yes, I know stores get most of their income from holiday purchases and, in this economy, they want to make all they can. (Actually they've probably always wanted to do that.) But it's only October.
Christmas has become so commercialized it's a problem to keep children from becoming greedy at this time of year. While I must admit that I wouldn't mind making a bit more money myself, I really hope some kids who read or hear my Christmas book about Saint Nicholas, Secret Service Saint, will be inspired to focus on giving and helping others rather than how much stuff they can get.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Peril of the Sinister Scientist

When my first book, The Peril of the Sinister Scientist, was published in the summer of 'o9 I took a copy to the local paper but they had no interest in my press release. This week, to my surprise, Ryan Rindels, a new writer for the paper, called me. He said he'd been given the copy of my book by an editor, and interviewed me about writing.
On Thursday he sent a photographer to my house. As you can tell by the photo, my dog found the camera fascinating.
Yesterday the story ran and it took up most of the front page in the Religion section. I was amazed to have such a big spread.
I wish the nice young man who wrote the article had mentioned my newer books, but I'm pleased to have gotten this unexpected publicity.
Here's the link to the story and picture:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Years ago when I first joined a writers' critique group I'd had a few things published in periodicals but was bringing book manuscripts for critique. Some of the other members were sharing excellent work and I was afraid if they got books published before I did I'd be jealous.
But when John Olson and Randy Ingermanson (Randy lived far away but had visited our group) got their book, Oxygen, published and it went on to win a Christy award I wasn't jealous at all. Instead I felt like a proud grandmother because our group had become almost like a family and we'd all helped John and Randy nurture that wonderful book.
The plot was exciting, the characters believable, etc. and even those of us who knew both the authors couldn't tell which parts had been written by either of them because the teamwork was flawless. No wonder it won that award!
John and Randy have just re-published Oxygen as an e-book, and have added a lot of information helpful to writers at the end. That material will also be of interest to anyone who wants to know how a book gets published.
Although the book is for adults, there's nothing in it that would be inappropriate for kids and I think lots of teens would love it. It's on sale on Amazon for only 99 cents for a few days and I hope it sells well. After all, it's sort of like my great grandbaby. ;-)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Successful Parents

What makes a successful parent? We tend to think that depends on what our children do when they grow up.
Some people use their kids as status symbols and want them to be rich and/or famous. Most parents want their kids to become self sufficient and have happy marriages and children of their own. And nearly all parents want their kids to avoid becoming criminals or destroying their lives by addictions or reckless behavior.
But the choices adults make are outside their parents' control.
We can try to teach our kids to be responsible, get adequate educations, and make wise decisions. Above all they'll need to have compassion, integrity, and common sense in order to have successful adult lives.
There's no guarantee the things we try to teach will sink in and last but it's important to keep trying. And probably the most important thing parents can do is demonstrate the values they want their children to have.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Compassion for Kids

My internet friend, Nicole Weaver, recently sent me a pdf of her book, My Birthday is September Eleven and other short stories. It is about children who must deal with serious problems like natural disasters and prejudice and some of their stories are heart wrenching. While the book is fiction, I know a lot of it is based on things the author and people close to her have actually experienced.
But every story has a positive ending and the book will inspire readers to reach out and help others, as characters in the stories did.
While some children may find the stories disturbing, that's not necessarily a bad thing because it will help them develop compassion for others. There is a "bad word" in one story but it's included because it shows what the main character must deal with.
People anywhere from grade school through adulthood who read this book are likely to be inspired to make a difference in the world.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sibling Rivalry Help

When my daughter was young I had a family daycare home, which I operated like a small preschool. But once I had a neighbor who was in the Navy and only got two weeks of maternity leave, but the base childcare wouldn't accept babies younger than three months. Because she was desperate I agreed to care for the baby.
To my surprise, the other kids were all jealous of the baby, although they had never seemed jealous of each other. When I asked them about it they said I loved the baby more than I loved them. I assured them I didn't and asked what made them think so.
They couldn't answer.
Finally one articulate little boy said I loved the baby more than I loved them because I hugged it all the time. All the others agreed.
I explained that when I held the baby in my arms I wasn't hugging it. Since the baby couldn't walk or crawl it couldn't get from one place to another without being carried and because it couldn't eat or drink by itself I had to hold it to give it a bottle.
All the kids relaxed immediately and there was never another sign that they were jealous of the baby.
Whenever there's a new baby in a family maybe parents should explain the same thing to their other little ones. Although some sibling rivalry is inevitable, that might help keep it to a minimum.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


My grandfather, born in San Francisco in the 1870s, really thought minstrel shows gave accurate depictions of African Americans since those were the only "black" people he'd ever seen.
Now that so many people are watching or reading The Help the topic of prejudice often comes up in conversations. Back in the 1960s many of us fought to eliminate prejudice against racial minorities and it became unacceptable to make fun of people who had long been the subject of humor.
For some reason a lot of what is considered funny in our culture involves ridiculing people, so when the entertainment industry couldn't joke about Jewish people being stingy, black people being stupid, or any of the other ethnic stereotypes they'd used for years what could they do?
They began making fun of the majority and have continued doing so for nearly 40 years. For example, Protestants are often portrayed by the media as ignorant rednecks and Catholics as members of the Mafia.
Just as many people in the past had their ideas about people different from themselves shaped by comedy, I'm afraid that is happening again in our time.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What Goes Around Comes Around

In the olden days when my grandmothers were young, women wore long dresses with full skirts, long sleeves, and corsets to make their waists as small as possible. (And how did they stand cooking over fires on hot days dressed like that?) Men usually wore suits and ties unless they were doing physical work, and most had beards and mustaches.
In the 1920s the 'modern' generation wore dresses with shorter skirts and no waistlines. Men became clean shaven and women cut their hair short and got permanent waves. That was my mother's generation.
When I was a kid we went back to full skirts with petticoats and wide belts. While our fashionable clothes weren't as long and restrictive as those in our grandparents' day, we valued the old fashioned look. Things worn in the previous century like cowboy gear and coonskin hats also became popular. For a while, some boys even wore Mohawk hairdos, though most had crew cuts and lots of girls still got perms.
Then came the hippie generation with men growing long hair and facial hair again. For the first time (probably because of mini skirts) women and girls could wear pants to work and school. Some styles imitated things from other cultures.
Today the grunge look is in, and my grandparents would be horrified to see the body parts freely displayed in public by both sexes.
But all things change and I'm guessing that the new generation will swing the other way.
While spiked hair is not uncommon and I've seen a few young teens wearing wide belts and full skirts, that doesn't mean they'll go back to clothes like we had in the 1950s. I doubt that women will ever return to wearing skirts and dresses all the time, but perhaps the kind worn in the middle ages will become popular when they want to dress nicely. Maybe clothing will imitate a sci-fi or fantasy world. Or perhaps togas, sarongs or kimonos will become the norm.
It will be interesting to see what's in style ten or 15 years from now, but it's certain to be different from what young people wear today..

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Changing Clothes

When I was a kid, way back in ancient history, people didn't have automatic washing machines. The electric ones available then took a long time to use and every item had to be put through the ringer by hand and hung on a line to dry. Some people took dirty clothes to a laundry, but it would take a week before they were clean and ready to be picked up. And, since fabrics like polyester hadn't been invented yet, everything had to be ironed before it was fit to be worn in public.
For that reason, kids usually wore their school clothes for at least two days.
Girls had to wear dresses or skirts to school, of course. After school we'd change to our play clothes, and those usually included jeans, slacks, or pedal pushers and a tee-shirt. Boys, too, would change out of their nice school clothes every afternoon and put on jeans for play. We'd wear the same set of play clothes all week.
We also had some nice clothes for dressy occasions like church, birthday parties, and holidays. Usually girls would have organdy dresses for warm weather and velveteen or taffeta ones for the colder months and boys would wear suits and white shirts. They also wore neckties, though the ones for kids were already tied and held on with elastic that went under the shirt collar.
Girls always wore slips with skirts or dresses and it was humiliating to have anyone see part of them. There were several code phrases like "It's snowing down south" to subtly let a friend know her slip was showing so she could rush to the bathroom and pull it up.
And if anybody saw our underwear we'd almost die of embarrassment because someone would be sure to call out, "I see London, I see France, I see somebody's underpants."
Now young people walk around with their underwear showing all the time on purpose.
I wonder what would happen if all us older folks were to shout that chant and point to them every time we saw those no longer private garments in public.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

More About Learning to Read

One of my books, Signs of Trouble, can be helpful in teaching kids to read. Although the text is at second grade reading level and the book is intended to be read aloud to younger kids, it contains some helpful activities at the end that can be used with very young children.
The story is about kids who get separated from their group on a field trip to a shopping mall where the class was supposed to recognize signs they had studied in school. My preschool classes went on field trips around the neighborhood to find familiar signs, and a special education class I worked with did the same thing so I know that method helps.
Besides being an exciting story and helping children understand others who have special needs, the activities in Signs of Trouble can help kids learn to read. And, since reading to children often is the most important thing they can do to help them become fluent readers, I hope lots of parents will read this book to their kids.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

More On Teaching Reading

I once read about a study (wish I'd kept the reference) where scientists tried to determine what method of reading instruction worked best. They interviewed top-performing students from the most respected universities in America and, to their surprise, discovered the methods of teaching reading made no difference at all. The students had been taught by many different methods and still did well.
However there was one thing they all had in common. When they were little kids their parents had read to them a lot.
The single most important thing parents can do to help their children become good readers is to spend at least 20 minutes every day reading to them, starting when the kids are tiny tots. It helps to point to each word as it's spoken, but that isn't nearly as important as sharing the experience of the stories and books.
Of course there's no rule saying reading time must be exactly twenty minutes long. If there's only time to squeeze in ten minutes on some days, that's better than nothing. And if children keep begging for more and story time goes on for 40 minutes without conflicting with things like bedtime, that's fine, too. But parents should read to their kids every day until the children are able to read by themselves and no longer interested in being read to.
Some kids who read fluently still enjoy hearing their parents read to them and may like reading out loud to their parents.
And reading to kids should start as early as possible. Although they can't understand the words, most infants enjoy being held and hearing their parents' voices read out loud to them for a few minutes every day.
Even kids with learning disabilities may do better than they would have otherwise if they were read to by their parents when they were young.
Of course it also helps develop reading skills if teachers, older siblings, and child-care providers read to young children, but the parent-child bond is strengthened by sharing that special time and that emotional aspect helps motivate kids to learn to read.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Teaching Reading

As I mentioned in the last post, children are ready to read at different ages and trying to teach them too early does more harm than good. But here's a method I used that allowed many young children to start reading while not pressuring the others.
Each day when the preschoolers I taught lay down for naps I'd play a story tape followed by a phonics record that repeated the letter sounds. (Since I used tapes and records you can tell that was long ago.) Then I'd play quiet music as they drifted off to sleep.
Every morning at Circle Time I'd spend a few minutes showing them the letter of the day and telling them the the short vowel or hard consonant sound it made. Then I'd tell each child how their name would be pronounced if it started with that letter or had it in the first syllable. For example, if the letter of the day was F I might tell a kid named Dan, "If your name started with F it would be Fan." If the letter of the day was E I'd tell that child his name would be "Den."
I'd congratulate those who did have names starting with the letter of the day. That's all the actual reading instruction I'd give.
And, of course, I read to the kids a lot, sometimes using big books and tracing my finger beneath the words as I read. I'd also let the children choose books they wanted me to read to them.
Quite a few of my students started reading spontaneously when they were about four years old and a few did so earlier. I hope the method also helped the ones who weren't yet ready to learn reading in Preschool to do it when they got to 'big kid school.'

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reading Readiness

It used to be the norm for kids to start learning to read in First Grade. Now reading instruction often starts in Kindergarten or Preschool.
While some children are ready to learn to read at early ages, others are not, and trying to teach them before they're ready can do more harm than good.
In order for human brains to read the myelin coating of their nerves must be complete and, just as babies get their teeth and older kids reach puberty at various times, myelinization can develop at different ages. Usually kids' brains become ready to read when they're between four and six years old, but it can happen earlier or later. And the age of reading readiness is not necessarily an indicator of intelligence.
If people try to teach children to read who aren't yet ready, those children come to believe reading is something too difficult for them ever to learn. They may think of themselves as stupid and give up trying. Pressuring them does more harm than good.
On the other hand, kids who are ready and eager to learn shouldn't be denied the opportunity.
There is a method that works for almost everyone. I'll share information about it in my next post.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What Kids Need to Learn

What is the most important thing kids need to learn in school?
The public school system was established in America so kids would grow up to be adults who could make wise choices as voters in a democracy.
When they begin attending school, children must learn to function as part of a group, to share, obey rules, and listen to those in authority. But they can learn those things in other situations.
By learning to read and write kids gain access to vast amounts of information that will be useful to them for the rest of their lives.
Arithmetic is essential for handling money and other tasks needed by all adults since calculators and other devices might not always be available.
As the saying goes, those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, so Social Studies are certainly important.
Since many modern kids no longer just "go out and play" Physical Education is essential for their health.
Science helps them understand how the world works and provides practical information they'll certainly need as adults.
Art and music open their minds to appreciate the world around them and help kids discover and develop their talents and creativity.
Of course as they get older they'll learn more about all these subjects and get to explore others.
So, if kids schools could teach only one subject, which of these should it be? In my opinion, it would be reading because all the others, even how to participate in physical activities, can be learned through that skill.
What do you think is the most important thing kids need to learn in school?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes, etc.

Any kids who have been scared or just became interested in earthquakes because of the recent one in the state of Virginia might enjoy reading Earthquake by Susan J. Berger.
Maybe it's just because with all the modern technology we're much more aware of things happening in parts of the world far from our homes, but it seems to me there have been more earthquakes and volcanoes than usual in recent years.
Somebody told me that might be because of all the petroleum and minerals humans have removed from underground, but I find that difficult to believe because our planet is so big. I'm reminded of another book I used to read to my classes, Is A Blue Whale The Biggest Thing There Is? by Robert E. Wells. (It was published in 1993, but copies might still be available.) That book shows how small we humans really are.
But if there actually are more earthquakes and volcanoes happening lately, what could be the cause? Or are we just hearing more about them?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Simply Salsa

I don't usually review this sort of books here, but couldn't resist sharing about Simply Salsa, Dancing without Fear at God's Fiesta. It was written by my friend, Janet Perez Eckles who has dealt with multiple problems and tragedies in her life, but has a joyful attitude. Her book is a Christian one that will help other people going through difficult times. I found it encouraging myself and it's not surprising that the book became Amazon's #1 best seller.
One thing about Simply Salsa that does make it appropriate for this blog is the frequent use of Spanish words and phrases, with translations. I never took Spanish in school, but as a California resident I've picked up a little by 'osmosis.' After reading the book and looking through the glossary at the end I've learned quite a bit more.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Muscles Make Us Move

Bill Kirk sent me a PDF of his newest book in The Sum of Our Parts series, Muscles Make Us Move. I have a feeling lots of kids who read this book will become doctors or scientists when they grow up because, like the other books in the series, it makes scientific information about how human bodies work fascinating.
It's a picture book and the rhymes are amusing and simple enough for young children to understand, but the factoids tell things older kids and even adults will find fascinating. (Confession: I'm a grown up and I discovered a lot of information in this book I hadn't known before.)
I can see parents and teachers reading the rhymes out loud to children, middle graders reading it themselves, and older kids - maybe even some in High School - using the book for research to use in term papers.
Eugene Ruble's illustrations are educational, too.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Complicated Families

There are lots of complicated relationships in my family such as second cousins, first cousins twice removed, etc. But many young kids today have far more complex ones and there are no generally accepted terms to describe them.
Step-brothers and step-sisters are a clear relationship, but what if the parents get divorced but the kids still keep in touch? Do the kids remain step-siblings?
What if the parents live together but never marry? And what about their other relatives? What should kids call the parents of their mother or father's domestic partner? Grandpartners?
Changes in families are difficult enough for children without the need to figure out terminology for relationships. It's too bad they must deal with things like that at all, but it might make their lives a tiny bit easier if we could come up with appropriate vocabulary.
Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Maurice Sendak

During all the years I taught preschool and read picture books to the kids one book stood out from all the rest as the most popular. Except for one little girl who was afraid of the monsters, every child loved Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
I guess every little kid has misbehaved and had nightmares so they could all identify with the story, which is just scary enough to be exciting but has a comforting ending.
I recently learned that a new book by Maurice Sendak will be published soon. It will be called Bumble-Ardy and is based on something Sendak, who is now 83 years old, once wrote for Sesame Street. Will it be as good ads Where the Wild Things Are? We'll have to wait and see.
I learned about Bumble-Ardy on Nancy Stewart's blog and you can find out more about it by following this link:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Substitute Teaching

Years ago I was having some health problems and couldn't work full time, so I became a substitute teacher. That was a job I enjoyed a lot, but I missed having the same group of kids every day and eventually went back to teaching my own classes.
A few years ago ago I was visiting my kids and took my grandson to his school in the district where I had worked fifteen years earlier. To my surprise, some of the other teachers asked me if I was subbing that day. They remembered me after all that time!
Subbing isn't for everyone, but I enjoyed it a lot. People doing that job get to meet lots of great kids and develop relationships with other teachers and staff. (Believe me, nobody can be a better judge of teachers than somebody who has subbed in their classes.)
One of the high points of substitute teaching was that once in a while I'd explain something a little differently than the regular teacher did and a student, usually a boy, would suddenly understand something he'd struggled with. Those ah-ha moments happened rarely, but made me feel great when they did.
Of course once in a while I had a bad day, but those can happen in any job and were few and far between.
Soon I'll start substitute teaching again. Since I've worked a lot with kids in Special Education and taught Preschool and Kindergarten chances are good that I'll often be working with classes like those.
I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What For?

About a year ago I was trying to figure out a tag line that would apply to all the writing I do. The one factor that has been consistent in both my writing and my life is caring about people who are different, often because of special needs, and helping others to understand and accept them. Maybe that's because I had severe chronic asthma as a child and was often teased and bullied.
The tag line I decided to use is "Opening Eyes, Opening Hearts" and I hope my books do that for kids. The Peril of the Sinister Scientist has a protagonist who doesn't know who his father is and features another character who uses a wheelchair. Secret Service Saint shows the young man who later became Saint Nicholas helping people dealing with illness and poverty. And Signs of Trouble, my newest book, is about kids with learning disabilities who get separated from their class on a field trip. Besides helping children understand learning disabilities that book also shows them ways to stay safe themselves.
Soon I'll be going back to substitute teaching and will probably work in a lot of Special Education classes because of my experience in that area.
I hope both my writing and my teaching will help to open people's eyes and hearts.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

And the Winner Is ...

The person who wins a copy of the e-book, 11 Secrets of Getting Published, is ET. I'll send her the author's contact information by e-mail so she can let Mary DeMuth know she won.
I'm sure ET will become a published writer soon as a result of reading the book.

Friday, July 22, 2011


The drawing for a free copy of Mary DeMuth's book will be tonight at 8:00 Pacific Time so if you want to enter you'll need to do it before then. I'll announce the winner on my blog tomorrow. For more information please see the previous blog post.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

11 Secrets of Getting Published

I've met Mary DeMuth at writers conferences and was pleased to get a free copy of her e-book, 11 Secrets of Getting Published. I've always admired Mary for her courageous vulnerability and willingness to help others and those qualities show as she reveals her own mistakes along the way.
The book is great, but I think the title is inaccurate. It should be called All the Secrets to Getting Published because just about everything important I've learned from books, magazines, websites, and writers conferences is summarized in it.
While the book will be immensely helpful to new writers, any of us will benefit from being reminded of what we've heard and seen and may learn a few new things along the way.
Mary DeMuth has offered to send a free copy to the winner of a drawing. and anyone who makes a comment on my blog (not on Facebook) answering the question below will be entered in the contest.
What's the most important thing you think a writer should know?
If you tweet about this post and let me know you can have another chance to win the e-book. You can also enter the drawing by liking her Facebook page,

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I don't often blog about YA books, but I couldn't resist sharing about Shifty by Lynn E. Hazen. There's no sex in this book, but the main character is a teen and his rough lifestyle makes the book inappropriate for a lot of younger readers.
This book is about a kid who has been shuffled around in the foster care system for years and does a lot of dumb things even though his motives are often good. He wants to help the foster mother and younger foster kids he has learned to care about in his current home. But his efforts seem only to get him deeper into trouble. Will he have to loose these people too?
As a former foster parent I can attest to the accuracy of Hazen's descriptions of the system, including the good and bad social workers.
The book has a satisfying ending, but there are a few things that could be used as lead-ins for a sequel. I hope the author writes one, because I care about these characters and would like to read more about them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Long ago (and still in many places) most families lived in one room and gathered around a fireplace or stove to socialize, often while doing handwork like sewing, carving or repairing small things.
In Victorian times those who could afford better houses usually had a parlor, or front room, where guests were entertained, but families usually spent their 'together time' in the kitchens.
Then living rooms came along. Families would gather there every evening and listen to programs on the radio and, later, watch television together.
But then even newer, modern houses with both a living room and a family room were built. In some homes today the living room is seldom used except when company is present, so perhaps we should call living rooms parlors.
Interestingly, the word 'parlor' is derived from one meaning 'to speak.' I guess you could say parlors were chat rooms but they weren't anything like what we call chat rooms today.
Unfortunately in some modern households family members are more likely to be using computers, smart phones, i-pods, or whatever technical devices they have than to be gathered together in one room communicating with each other.
Does your family have one room where they tend to gather and socialize?

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Long ago I knew a nice, middle-aged gentleman who was sad never to have married, but women never seemed to be interested in him. Like everyone else who knew him, I was too embarrassed to tell him his breath always smelled terrible. If only I had, he would probably have been grateful, but telling people they stink isn't considered polite in our society.
A more common problem is the horrible smell on people who smoke. Since I have asthma I avoid anyone I see smoking, but can't always predict who will have the tobacco odor in their clothes and hair until I get close enough to be effected.
People who smoke have no idea they always smell like dirty ashtrays because their noses are used to the odor. Usually their homes stink, too since the odor is absorbed into the curtains, upholstery, and even walls. Some of that happens even if they smoke outdoors because it's carried in on their clothes. And it's not polite to admit that I must refuse an invitation to visit someone because their home stinks, so instead I make up excuses.
Interestingly, some of those people have Asthma, Emphysema, lung cancer or COPD themselves, but they keep lighting up. That concerns me because one of my family members died of emphysema after years of smoking and it wasn't a pleasant experience.
According to the CDC, over 20% of adults in the USA are smokers and people I know who are in recovery from other addictions say tobacco is by far the hardest addiction to recover from. Maybe if the rest of us told everyone who smokes that they stink at least fewer people would be tempted to start the habit.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


According to my dictionary, discipline is self control or a method that teaches self control. Here are some things I learned in my Early Childhood Education classes about discipline.
First, it's essential to be sure the child is capable of the desired behavior. Then the rules, reasons, and consequences of disobeying them must be explained clearly in advance. And parents should set a good example. For instance, if children hear parents swearing they can hardly be blamed for doing the same thing.
Positive reinforcement got a bad reputation when kids were given rewards for everything they did correctly, and some children became spoiled as a result, but it's important to acknowledge approval when they do what is right even if only with a few words.
Of course parents should not give in to children's demands or they loose their authority in the children's eyes. However it's important to consider the cause of misbehavior because sometimes the child may not be able to help doing something wrong, or their actions might be a reaction to stress.
There are varying opinions about spanking kids. Some people call spanking child abuse while others think it's essential. When I was a child I was spanked, but only for doing something extremely dangerous. One of my ECE teachers said in cultures where children who disobey may be eaten by a wild animal, step on a land mine, or get shot, spanking is the norm, but in peaceful societies with little danger corporal punishment is less likely to be used.
When young children do something seriously wrong, punishment should be immediate and consistent. Consistency is important for all ages, but delayed punishment, like not being allowed to do something fun later, works for older kids. In some cases with all kids simply explaining why they shouldn't have done something is all that's needed.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bad Words, Etc.

Since my last post, which is about swearing, I've been thinking about what makes certain words unacceptable while others that are literally synonyms, are considered okay. Nobody is likely to be offended by the mention of excrement, and eternal punishment is often mentioned in religious discussions but using other words for those things would be rude.
Once when I heard one man yell at another using words that literally meant "Your mother is a female dog and I want to to mate with you," I couldn't help laughing out loud.
Sometimes perhaps the "bad" words are of Anglo-Saxon origin and the "good" ones are Latin or French based because of the class differences in England during the Middle Ages, but that isn't usually the case. There isn't really much reason for the distinction between good and bad words, it's just a matter of what people agree about.
Come to think of it, that's true of other things, too.
Why should gold be highly valued in so many cultures? Yes, it's rare and pretty, but we can't use it for food, shelter or other things necessary for survival. It made better sense for the Romans to use salt to pay soldiers their salaries.
And money is only valuable because it represents gold but people all over the world now accept it as having worth.
Since humans disagree about so many things I guess its just as well that we do agree about some things, even if only which words are bad.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I wonder if the frequency of swearing is one reason why we have so much violence in our culture. When people get angry they tend to express it by stepping outside the bounds of their usual behavior. When polite people only used certain words when they were angry, saying them helped release some of the anger.
But now many people use those words frequently in their everyday conversations, so when they need to express anger by stepping outside the bounds of what's normally acceptable, swearing doesn't provide release. Instead, they release their anger with physical violence.
Of course some people have always done that, just as some people have always used impolite language, but as swearing has become more prevalent in our society, so has physical violence.
Too bad we can't do much to change that.
But we can teach children not to swear. If parents today were to wash their children's mouths out with soap for using dirty words they'd probably be accused of child abuse, but there are certainly other ways of teaching kids to avoid using that kind of language.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I recently found some notes from an Early Childhood Education college class I took years ago. They're about a study that showed the results of allowing preschoolers to watch commercials. I didn't find a reference to the study so I can't quote it exactly, but the things I did write down are important.
Preschoolers who often watch commercials usually believe them. They also tend to believe social stereotypes and try to persuade adults to give them the things advertised. The study also said those kids may get desensitized to violence, become less verbal and have less social communication, but I think those things may be a result of watching TV, movies, etc. in general and not just from the commercials.
Either way, it's probably a good idea not to let young children get a lot of media exposure.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mickles and Muckles

When I was a kid my grandfather often told me about his Scottish grandmother who had taught him the importance of being thrifty. One of her favorite sayings was, "Waste not, want not." (In the past to want meant to need.)
Another of her sayings was, "Many muckles make a mickle," which Gramp told me meant "Many littles make a big."
I thought those words ought to have been switched because muckle sounded to me like it should be bigger than mickle.
Recently I found the words in the dictionary and discovered they both mean the same thing, much or a lot.
But that doesn't make sense to me. How could my great, great grandmother have been mistaken about a saying from her own homeland? Could the meaning of one of the words have changed since the early 1800s? But dictionaries (and I checked several, both online and in hard copy) agree that the words are archaic so that change is unlikely.
I wish I knew the answer to those questions, but I do know her advice still holds true. In this economy we should all be thrifty, avoid wasting money, and remember that many small things amount to a lot.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I've heard about a group that claims to be a charity but really isn't. They put out blue bins labeled "Books for Charity" and do give a small percentage of the books to charities, but most of the ones they collect are either resold online or recycled. The bins are showing up all over the West Coast and may spread to other parts of the country soon. Donations of books to local libraries and real charities are down wherever they appear. In my opinion what they are doing is wrong.
Here are some links to stories about them:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Meghan Rose Takes the Cake

The early reader, Meghan Rose Takes the Cake, is one in a series by author Lori Z. Scott. It's about a girl whose school is having a contest to see which class can collect the most pennies to help feed the hungry.
I enjoyed the amusing plays on words used by the main character and the whole book is cute. It also teaches kids an important lesson about the importance of giving to others.
The one thing I disliked about the book is that Meghan Rose tattles on another student. I think it would have worked better for the misdeed to be discovered by the authorities in another way. But except for that factor, I liked this book, which has a strong, Christian message.
The reading level is comfortable for kids in early grades and young readers will certainly identify with the school setting and characters. Girls should especially enjoy it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Heidi by Johanna Spyri was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. Since it was one of only a few that I owned I read it many times back then, but hadn't opened it for years. Yesterday I re-read it and was surprised to see that it violates some of the rules writers are told we must follow today.
It's a Middle Grade novel, but the protagonist is only five years old when the story starts and, while the time span isn't specific, she only ages a year or two by the end of the book.
One of the basic requirements for a plotline is supposed to be that the main character wants something badly, makes several failed attempts to get it, and finally achieves the goal - unless the book is a tragedy. But in the beginning of this book Heidi wants to be loved and have a happy home. She gets that right away, looses it again, and regains it long before the end of the book. She develops and achieves several other goals as the book progresses.
Several things in the book are unrealistic, like children going from learning the alphabet to fluently reading complex material in a matter of days. And, although food is frequently described, nobody ever ate any fruits or vegetables.
So, why did I enjoy reading this book so much when I was a child? And why did it become a classic?
It completely carried me away into an unfamiliar world, the characters were believable and likable, and it had a happy ending. Probably what I liked best was the cozy, safe feeling it gave me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Prejudice means assuming all members of a group are alike. Bigotry is a negative prejudice against a group of human beings.
Back in the 1960s and 70s a lot of people in America worked hard, trying to eliminate bigotry against minority races and, while it wasn't completely eliminated, the amount of bigotry was certainly reduced. Many in our society realized it was also wrong to be prejudiced against others because of their national origin, religion, or sex.
But today it seems leaders in the major American political parties are doing everything they can to create and encourage bigotry against each other. That makes it more and more difficult for our country to be governed fairly and justly.
How can we eliminate that problem?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Extended Family

I'm thankful to have lots of relatives and to see many of them at least every year or so. But my husband didn't come from that kind of family and when we first married he was confused about what to call some of those people.
Of course there are words for parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, etc. It's slightly more awkward to refer to second cousins, great uncles, and in-laws, but that's not really a problem.
However there aren't any simple terms in the English language for relationships like my cousins' cousin's granddaughter, my second cousin's cousin, someone's significant other, or a son-in-law's sister and I consider all those people part of my family even though the way they are related to me may be complicated. If I see them at family gatherings they're family to me.
Eventually my husband came up with a term that applies to all of those and any other convoluted relationships. He called them "step-neighbors-in-law" and now I do, too.
Do you have any step-neighbors-in-law?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First to Read

When I was a kid my mother was widowed so we were poor. I would only get two new books a year, one for my birthday and one for Christmas. But as I got older I shelved books in our local library after school while I waited for my mother to pick me up when she got off work. As a reward, the librarian always let me be the first one to check out new children's books when they arrived. What a thrill!
Maybe that's why I still feel honored to be one of the first people to read a book.
When I first joined a critique group I was afraid I'd be jealous if other members got their books published before I did. Instead, I was thrilled!
Just as a mother is proud of her children's achievements, I glowed with pride at the success of the other members and was pleased to know that some of my comments and suggestions may have helped to make those books a success.
And I'd gotten to read those books before they were even published!

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Lots of people are moving lately so I thought some things I've learned from experience might be helpful to others.
Moving is one of the hardest jobs in the world because you can't go home from it and rest. It's a good idea to pack a special box of things needed to set up an area where you can turn your back on the mess in the new home and relax. Comfortable chairs, a small table, snacks, music and something to read can provide breaks from the constant unpacking. That box needs to be one of the first things to unload.
Last time we moved we packed things ourselves and labeled each box with a code showing the priority of how soon it needed to be unpacked. For example, boxes containing basic necessities for survival like bedding, towels, and frequently used dishes and cooking equipment might have been labeled as top priority with a star. Seasonal things like Christmas decorations, and sentimental items like children's drawings were labeled as lowest priority, perhaps with a zero. And other symbols were used for medium levels of priority.
Each box was also labeled with the initials or name of the room where the contents would belong. The labels were written on all sides and the tops of the boxes so they were easy to see.
Last time we moved we were able to enter our new home before the movers arrived and put removable tape on the floors showing where major pieces of furniture should go and areas where the boxes of each priority should be placed. That made the movers' job so much easier they charged us quite a bit less than the estimate.
The worst move we ever made was to a new home only a few blocks from the previous one. We were able to drive everything from one location to the other ourselves, but failed to pack things as carefully as we'd done for longer distance moves and several items were lost or damaged. That certainly taught us a lesson.