Thursday, December 11, 2014

God is not dead nor doth he sleep - Powerful lyrics from "I heard the bells on Christmas Day"

Christmas music is very much a part of my soul. "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is my favorite. I have written several pages on Christmas Carols and since this is not self-promotion on my part, the pages are listed at the bottom but they are not required reading.

However, I want to share the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Ed Hermanns telling of the story behind Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem. It is about the human spirit and the most powerful of all the songs that are sung at Christmas. If nothing else, watch the video which is excellent.

If you are so inclined, you can also listen to the Johnny Cash and June Carter version. It is my favorite.

Besides, I heard the bells on Christmas Day  this is the list of my other pages on Christmas music.

Deck the Halls - My way of explaining the lyrics to my child. Do you know what "Don we now our gay apparel" means?
Silent Night - Simple tune, simple melody.
Away in the Manger - Generally the first carol that kids learn.
A Soalin' by Peter, Paul, and Mary - The story behind the song and some of my other favorite Peter, Paul, and Mary tunes.
Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy - An unlikely duet with two very different people, David Bowie and Bing Crosby.
Christmas with the Beach Boys - I'm a California girl and the Beach Boys were very much part of my youth.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Charity begins at home

"Charity begins at home" is one of the most misused quotes of all times so who am I to use it correctly. Like all the others who misuse it, I am going to use it to mean that there is hunger everywhere but it is much closer at home.  This is day three of the Effectively Human blog - web food drive started by M. J. Joachim to increase awareness of this growing need. 

Food banks nationwide are dealing with an enormous task to feed the hungry. Some of them limit the daily allotment of food to the first 25 people in line. What gets media attention is the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals provided to families but the day to day operation goes unnoticed. 

This is a very personal subject to me and I don't tell people that we have been one of those people at number 26 and were turned away. For a few short months, food was an issue. We have been blessed and are now in a position to give back but we know what it's like to worry how to provide food for the family.  

Riverside California Free Food Sources is a website listing all the places in Riverside County, California where families can go to get food. All of these places welcome donations of food or money. 

Giving can be even easier of you have kids in school. Participate in the school's food drive. My child raided the pantry a couple of weeks ago and filled a box with canned and packaged goods. He doesn't remember when food was hard to come by but has a giving heart. 

One a personal note, a heartfelt THANK YOU goes to all those people who work tirelessly to provide food. They spend hours sorting food, packing boxes, and soliciting for donations. It's a monumental task trying to keep enough food on hand. But even more so, thank you for your loving hearts that cheerfully deal with the people who do not want to be there asking for a handout.

There are children starving worldwide but there are children who are going hungry in your own neighborhood. Please help feed them because charity begins at home. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

"Spark of Love" Toy Drive Tournament - Once again, baseball related because that's the only thing we do

The goal of M. J. Joachim's Holiday Food Drive on her blog "Effectively Human" is to share local programs that feed the hungry. These are the people who make a difference on a daily basis and need our support. But for Day 2 of the Holiday Food Drive, I am going to change my focus just a bit.

It's December and everyone is out shopping. It's almost sad to see how products are pushed for children who now must have the best and the most of everything. What if you are a child in foster care who may not get anything? Los Angeles County has a trust fund to make sure all the children in their care are not only eligible for scholarships but during the holidays make sure they are included in the festivities of the season.

The Spark of Love Toy Drive is one of those programs. Their mission (from the website) is:

“Spark of Love (SOL)” is a toy drive and distribution campaign that includes a number of related holiday events benefiting foster youth and caregivers. The 22 year-old initiative is managed by a Planning Committee comprised of ABC’s Channel 7, Children’s Trust Fund, representatives from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and Metrolink. 

Within Los Angeles County, these efforts are also supported by volunteers, representatives from the Board of Supervisors and employees from the Department of Children and Family Services. Approximately 50,000 toys are collected each year. The toys are distributed to the community through the work of ABC7, the Children’s Trust Fund, and Los Angeles County Fire Department.

We are well aware of the toy drive because it's been around for many years and we have donated toys, dropping them off at the fire station. However, this year there is a baseball tournament in Fontana where collecting toys is part of the entry fee. Each child playing will bring a toy.

I grant you this is not a food drive. However, feeding the soul is every bit as important and our players are excited to help. Not only do they get to play baseball, they are part of something bigger where giving is the focus.

If you are in Fontana on December 6-7, drop off a toy at Jack Bulik Park or Bill Martin Park. Come watch the kids play baseball and enjoy the time with us. Help us teach our kids not only good sportsmanship but giving to others. It's food for their souls and the kids who will get the toys.

"Spark of Love" Toy Drive Tournament in Partnership with
RC Bulldogs
.Dec. 6-7, 2014 8u, 9u, 10u, 11u, 12u, 13u, 14u, 16u
Jack Bulik Park, 
Bill Martin Park, 
Fontana, California

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

eHow, Helium, and Squidoo all shut down. It's time to move all the articles on HubPages to the blogosphere.

I can string words together and have fairly good grammar. I have ideas and information to share. I started with eHow and learned a lot there but they shut us down. So, I moved some of my articles to Helium.

I liked Helium and had a very good time with new writing friends. I practiced my craft at article writing and actually made some money but they also shut down. I moved some of those articles to my computer and the rest found their way to Squidoo. I have enough articles on camping to write my own book which I may do someday.

I had a great time on Squidoo but we were told that they were closing their doors too. It was discouraging but Squidoo had made arrangements with HubPages to take all our lenses and make them hubs. Before the transfer, I deleted more than 50 articles because I knew they weren't going to make it on HubPages. That left about 150 which I edited to conform with their rules. I was enjoying my time until yesterday when all of a sudden some of my hubs became "unfeatured" for quality. I took a hard look at the three of them and could see where they needed to be updated.

However, I am tired of trying to fit what I want to say into other people's rules. It appears that the hubs that were former lenses are being dealt a deathblow. We (those from Squidoo) think HubPages is regretting its decision to take our lenses and this is their way of weeding them out. I updated a healthy lens today only to have it drop into unfeatured for quality. It's about baseball with lots of original photos and even more information on how to be a good baseball parent, including what not to buy.

That will be the first one that I post here next week. Our grandson has been playing baseball since he was five and now that he's got one more year in Junior High, we know a great deal about youth baseball. That information is worth sharing for other parents who might be starting out.

I will not spend any more time complaining about eHow, Helium, Squidoo, and HubPages. What I post now is only me sharing what I know and saying what I want to say.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Death of a friend - Ruth's story

This was written on August 29, 2010 on Helium. Helium is closing down but the story is still important to me so I am re-posting it here. All 300 of my articles on Helium will disappear at the end of the year and like this one, there are many I want to save. 

Ruth's story

The tubes and the heart monitor had become part of the background. The constant beeping, annoying at first, now seemed to offer comfort and hope. I watched her from the doorway, too young to be allowed in the room.

The fifteen-year-old girl on the bed was often asleep when I came to visit. I would call her name softly when I arrived. “Ruthie”, I said quietly, “Are you awake?” Sometimes her mom would be there and gently touch a spot on her shoulder that was not wrapped in bandages.

The smile that erupted when she saw me standing in the doorway was contagious. “Hi”, she would say cheerfully, “I just had the best dream”. Not believing that anything bad could come from this I said, “Tell me about it”.

“We were little. We had those old-fashioned clippers and were playing barber in the empty house next to mine. We cut off all of Jackpot’s hair”.

Laughter erupted from the doorway. “That wasn’t a dream, that was a memory”, I said. I watched her on the bed, seeing her eyes crinkle in laughter. Loving her as much as I did, I did not see the bandages or the parts of burned skin that were visible. What I saw was the curly brown hair, sometimes wispy around her face. I saw dark brown eyes that viewed the world with wonder. I remembered the two little girls, one light and one dark, cheerfully cutting the hair of the 6-yr-old boy. We had been in so much trouble.

“Do you remember that we were not allowed to ever go to the empty house again?” I asked?

Ruthie glanced up and gave what would be the equivalent of a nod. She looked tired all of a sudden. Drained from the exchange, she drifted off to sleep. Her mother, looking worried came from the room. Pulling my mom and me from the doorway, she looked for a place to talk.

“She’s had a bad day today”, Ruthie's mom said. “The skin graft under her arm didn’t take. They also had to remove three fingers from her right hand”. Ruthie's mom glanced at me.

I was horrified. How could this be happening? We were best friends. We had our lives planned. Ruthie wanted to be a nurse. Ruthie was boy-crazy. Ruthie and I were always together and had been since we were three-yrs-old. People loved to be around her, she seem to draw people to her like a magnet. She loved everyone in turn and only saw the good in people.

Ruthie was the ringleader. She had an amazing imagination and we were often in trouble. Knowing each other as well as we did, we would often start giggling in class, knowing what the other was thinking. Ruthie saw the world with humor and did not take much seriously.

I looked up at Ruthie's mother. “What!” I said. It was as if the information had just made sense. “What!” I said again, “Does she know?” Her mother shook her head no. “Are you going to tell her?” I demanded.

“No”, her mother replied, “Not now, it’s just been a rough day. When she feels stronger, we will tell her. Right now, we are letting her get as much rest as she can. The drugs help with the pain and she needs to sleep”.

“OK, I’ll go in and say goodbye”.

It was a long slow walk back to the room. Ruthie was sleeping. From the doorway I said, “Hi Ruthie”. Ruthie opened her eyes. “Hi”, she said weakly. “Did you know my mom said when I get out of here, she will let me have piano lessons?”

“Wow, that’s great”, I said enthusiastically.

“I can’t wait”, Ruthie said.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. See ya’ later, alligator”, I said

“After while, crocodile”, Ruthie replied.   

Walking out of the hospital, I had a fleeting thought that it might have been better if Ruthie had not survived the fire. After two weeks of intense pain and unbearable suffering, losing the fingers would just be too much for her to bear. Ruthie had always wanted to play the piano and although I had tried to teach her, we were both too silly to make a real effort.  

The whole thing was unreal. Ruthie was not the person in the bed. Ruthie was light itself, shining on everyone. Ruthie would be a nurse and share her generous spirit with those who most needed her help. That was who she was.

As we walked into the house after the hour drive from Los Angeles, the phone started ringing. My mom picked it up. She listened for a minute than said, “I’m sorry”. Turning to me she said, “Ruthie just passed away”.

The sun lost part of its light that day. Without Ruthie to share it with others, it never regained its former glory.    

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A collection of writing prompts

Reinventing the wheel is what writer's do. It is not necessary when the Internet has many sites with prompts to beat writer's block. You have better things to do than try to come up with prompts when the work has been done for you. As a writer who gets stuck or just doesn't feel like writing, these sites not only have great prompts but are entertaining as well.

One Word

Click “go”, and a word pops up. You have 60 seconds to write about it. You will need to think fast but it is a great exercise to get your mind working.

911 Writers Block

This is really fun. Who says you can't have fun while trying to get your sluggish brain to work. The website shows a touch-tone phone that you dial for prompts.


Spin the wheel and see what you get. The prompts are almost abstract and it is a mental stretching exercise.

Creative writing prompts

This is another fun page to play with. Pick a number and write what it says. This could probably stop you form any serious writing because once you do one; you just have to do another.

English 50- Intro to Creative Writing: Exercises for Story Writers

These are not writing prompts but a collection of exercises to get the brain moving. Although it is set for writing fiction, it will still good exercise.

There are those who believe that writer's block is all in the mind and have a simple suggestion. Sit in the chair and just write. Once you sit down, it doesn't matter what you write as long as you're writing. Put words down. Just close your eyes and start typing nonsense. Write anything.

It doesn't matter what prompts you use. Find one that works for you. Just don’t get so caught up playing with the prompts that you forget why you were there in the first place.

New direction - Helium is calling it quits - where does it leave me?

When I joined Helium long ago, I was new to writing on-line. It was a wonderful experience where I met new people, learned a lot more about writing, and made a little money. A couple of years ago, they changed directions and I decided not to follow. While my 100+ articles made a little money, I stopped writing for them.

Instead, I migrated to Squidoo along with some of those from Helium where we continued to learn from each other. I have enjoyed watching people grow.

Now, Helium is shutting down and I have a problem. A lot of my Helium articles are linked to other sites. When they shut down, those links will not work anymore. I haven't worked with this blog in a long time. I have been really busy with family history and those blogs get all my attention. However, I need a home for my helium articles.

I am not going to post all of them here. I have more than 70 on camping and might turn it into some sort of book. I have some on raising a grandchild I will add to a blog I had started a while back. However, I think this is where some of my memoirs and off-topic pieces will go. Fortunately, I started this blog about writing so it seems appropriate that I use it for what I originally intended.

I loved Helium in its heyday. It was exciting and I couldn't wait to get started each day. I enjoyed the interaction with my new friends. There has not been anything quite like it since. The old staff at Helium, the original people, were helpful and made it a treat. Thanks to them for several years of motivation and encouragement. I wish it had continued but at least I had the experience and I am better for it.