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.