Saturday, October 31, 2015


As a kid I loved to play dress-up and pretend to be various characters. Halloween is a great time for kids to do that!

Probably that was one reason why I enjoyed participating in Marin Junior Theater.

As an adult I haven't gotten to perform often, but I still have an active imagination and enjoy pretending. Maybe that's why I'm a writer.

In my last post I promised to tell about my experience performing with the Joffrey Ballet.

That happened over twenty years ago. Someone from my church in San Francisco told me they were looking for supernumeraries, which what people in the ballet world call extras.

I'd had less than a year of ballet lessons back in in first grade, but that didn't matter. They just needed people in a crowd to sway to the music and turn around once or twice, so I was accepted.

The rest of the supers, as we were referred to, and cast members with small parts got to hang out together during rehearsals.

The ballet was Petrushka, which is set in Russia in the winter. For performances I was dressed up as a fat man with lots of padding, a heavy coat, and a wig and fake beard. I could barely move at all!

The show was in the old San Francisco Opera House and the complicated underground rooms, which audiences never see, reminded me of the Phantom of the Opera.

Every evening the makeup people would put on my beard, etc., then I'd walk through the room where the orchestra was rehearsing to the place where I'd get my costume. The orchestra people always laughed when they saw me in my street clothes and beard.

I forget how many performances we had, but there were quite a few and the audiences were huge.

I'll never forget the fun of performing with the Joffrey Ballet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Show Time!

Although I do plenty of public speaking, it has been over 20 years since I last performed in a show. That was the Joffrey Ballet, even though I don't know how to dance. (I'll post more about that in the future.)

But now I'm about to perform in an operetta, even though I can't sing very well. I have a speaking part and join in one chorus, singing softly so I won't pickle anyone's ears.

Actually I only have a bit part, but it's so much fun to be involved in a production again!

The show is an operetta called Everything. It's historical fiction taking place in the 1930s and includes some romance.

There will only be one performance next Sunday at 4:00 in the afternoon at the Grass Valley United Methodist Church. The show is free, so I hope lots of people will come.

Here's my costume:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Baked Potato Boy

This is another book for children that presents a possibly disturbing subject in a way that's not disturbing.

To start with, The Baked Potato Boy seems to be about potatoes, but we soon learn it's actually about a baby who was only the size of a baked potato when he was born.

His name is Eliott and he is is an orphan but he's obviously very cute and lovable and has a happy life.

He survives against the odds and grows into a big boy who enjoys all the things most kids do.

We're left with a warm, cozy feeling after we read his story.

Then, from the information at the end of the book, we learn Elliot lives in Tanzania where there are over a million orphans.

The author, who grew up in an orphanage in the United States herself, works at the one in Tanzania where Eliott lives. She explains something about the language and culture of that country.

All the proceeds from this book go to help support the babies in the orphanage where she now works.

Young kids who read this book or have it read to them will learn to identify with others who live in a different culture and may deal with different problems, but are more similar than different.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Change That Bugs Me

Normally I think it's silly that people get upset about new ways people use the English Language. Only dead languages don't change and English is a living language.

Yes, I'm a professional writer and majored in English in college. But I also took electives in Linguistics for fun, so I'm not likely to be upset by new slang or other changes in the way we write or speak.

But there is one change that irritates me, to put it mildly.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say it's driving me crazy, and I see it often in professional writing.

That change is using just "couple" instead of "couple of."

When I read something like "He ate a couple apples," it reminds me of the sound fingernails make scratching on a blackboard. (I'm old enough to remember that sound.)

Nobody would say "He wore a pair socks" or "A pair eyes peered in the window," but people think nothing of using "couple" alone.

Will we eventually be saying "People think nothing using couple alone?" That does change the meaning of the earlier sentence to one I believe is accurate.

Am I the only one who finds this change in our language irritating?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Heaven Holds Little Samuel Tippie Toes

There isn't a big market for Heaven Holds Little Samuel Tippie Toes, but it's strongly needed by some kids.

The book is about a little boy with a terminal illness and how his sister copes with his death.

Any child who has, or knows someone who has, a similar condition will find this book inspiring and encouraging.

The author, Arianne Brynn, made Samuel seem real as it portrays his desire to become a firefighter like his father.  He's an enthusiastic and fun little boy who knows he'll be in Heaven eventually.

Samuel does die. He goes to Heaven, and the Christian faith of his family helps his little sister, Gracie, cope with the loss.

In spite of the unpleasant topic of death, the book manages to keep a positive attitude, which is why it should help kids dealing with similar situations.

And Kim Merritt's illustrations help it do that. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Invented Words

 Recently when I said "My forgettory works better than my memory" the person I was speaking with told me they loved the word I'd invented and planned to use it themselves.

When I was a kid I liked to invent words.  For example I'd say, "millions and billions and trigadeerdillions" to describe extremely large amounts.

Long ago the mathematician Edward Kasner got help from his nine year old nephew to invent a word meaning the number, one, followed by a hundred zeros. That word was googol.

Of course that word, with a change in the spelling, is now famous as Google. I wouldn't be surprised if it has been used a googol of times.

I had no idea what the name of Kasner's nephew was, but his juvenile creativity helped to create a word known to almost everyone.

I wanted to know that boy's name so I googled it. His name was Milton Sirotta.

In case you didn't notice, google is now a verb.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Corey's Fire

I seldom review YA books, but couldn't resist sharing about this one. Corey's Fire by Lee Wardlaw was originally published about 20 years ago, but newer editions, including an e-book, are available.

Because of all the recent wildfires in California the book is especially relevant today.

A girl named Corey and a boy named Topher were interesting characters to start with, dealing with problems teenagers often have.

But when a huge wildfire destroys nearly everything in the area and they have to cope with the aftermath, problems intensify - a lot.

Not only does this book have believable characters and an exciting plot, it will help readers understand what it has been like for people in the fire areas.

And those who have had to deal with the real fires, reading this book could be healing.

But Corey's Fire is a well written book with a great plot and characters the reader can't help but care about, so it will be a great read for anyone who likes Young Adult books, not just people concerned about fires.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Dogs

The first dog my husband and I got was Brenda, a brilliant, deaf dalmatian. We named her that because dalmatians are fire dogs and the name, Brenda, means fiery.  She learned to understand about 300 signs in American Sign Language and taught us about 30 dog signs. She was amazing! A story I wrote about her is in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I Can't Believe My Dog Did That.

Then we got another deaf dalmatian as a companion for her, who we named Buttons because his spots looked like buttons. He wasn't as smart as Brenda, but was a great pet.

We had the dalmatians for a long time. Unfortunately neither of us had raised a dog before and we didn't know coffee was poison for dogs. We let them lick coffee off our fingers every morning and both dalmatians died from damaged livers at about 14 years old.

Our next dog was Bungee. We named him that because he was bouncy and his tail had stripes like a bungee cord. The stripes disappeared when he got older. Bungee was a tan, terrier mix and, judging by his long body, short legs, and colors of his undercoat, he was part corgi. Terriers are bred to hunt rodents and corgis are herding dogs. Bungee had an amazing instinct to herd rodents. He'd herd our daughter's guinea pig around the floor and keep it from going under furniture, He'd lick the guinea pig and it would lick him back with its tiny tongue. He also made friends with a squirrel and a racoon.

We got the dog we named George on Washington's birthday as a companion for Bungee. He was a black mongrel who had some sort of brain injury and wasn't very bright. George would jump high into the air and catch flies. Once he caught a bee that stung his tongue, but he was back jumping at flies a minute later.

Both those dogs also died in their teens.

Then my allergist said I could only have a dog that didn't shed. At that time my aunt was terminally ill and asked us to take her dog, a Lhasa Apso named Nicky.  We did, but he only lived for a few years.

Then we got a poodle/bichon-frise mix who we named Suds because her white, curly hair looks like soapsuds. She's smart as a poodle and loves to snuggle for hours like a bichon.

I love Suds and hope she lives for a long time.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

My Pets

Pets are important for kids, and grown-ups, too.

My first pets were fish because my mother didn't like animals.

Later I was allowed to have a hamster.

Then my mother let me have a cat the kids in the neighboring summer cabin had taken in when they were going home. It was a male cat, but my mother wouldn't tell me how to tell the gender of a cat and I wanted one that would have kittens, so I named him Susie. He was never allowed to spend the night in our house, but went into the basement through a hole.

I also had other cats as a young adult but I couldn't have cats anymore after I got married because of my husband's extreme allergy to cat hair.

Then I became a dog person. I'll write about them in my next post.