Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Is it really December already? The month came too fast -- how can it be the end of the year?
I recently read my list of accomplishments for 2005 and read my goals for 2006 (jan 2006 archives) -- yikes -- oh well.
Even though I did not accomplish all I wrote about, I'm not disappointed. That was just me thinking out loud at the time. I actually feel I accomplished plenty in my writing career this year.
Writing accomplishments in 2006:
* Covered the World Ag Expo -- writing 2 to 3 stories a day
* Wrote several stories for Salser and Dillard (for an international funeral industry magazines/my stories were published in the U.S., Holland and in Germany)
* Continued freelancing for The Fresno Bee, South Valley Bee (newspapers)
* Continued freelancing for The Porterville Recorder (newspaper)
* Started freelancing for Valley Voice (newspaper)
* Wrote the majority of stories (20) for "Living Here" publication
* Wrote all of the agriculture stories for the "South County Pride - Ag" publication
* Wrote one story for the "South County Pride - People" publication (Frank "Buck" Shaffer)
* Started BuckShaffer.com
* Worked on several other websites
* Attended my first Writers' Conference
* Presented six classes of "Journalism 101" -- Career Day presentations for jr. high students.
* Entered my first internet short story contest on Jason Evan's site, Clarity of Night -- AND WON SECOND PLACE!
* Reviewed a book for the first time ever -- The Pacific Between by Ray Wong
* Traveled with Porterville Panther Band to the East Coast -- writing daily band stories
* Had my blog site and website reviewed by Cobwebs of the Mind
* Wrote the "Women in Business" stories for Porterville publication
* Had a story published in Fall/Winter edition of Discover Magazine (distributed all over the Valley)
* Had a story accepted by Overture Magazine (Hollywood musicians' magazine - runs in January)
* Recorded television commercials (English & Spanish) for Bakersfield Californian newspaper
* Recorded radio commercial (English & Spanish) for Bakersfield Californian newspaper
* Was asked to contribute stories to two local magazines (starting soon)
* Will travel with Porterville Panther Band Dec. 29 - Jan. 2 to the Rose Parade - will write daily stories for the local paper.
Goals for 2007:
Continue to expand my writing portfolio.
Friday, December 08, 2006
‘Buck' laid to rest
By Esther Avila,Published Dec. 7, 2006 -The Porterville Recorder
Porterville loses an icon
By Esther Avila,
Published Dec. 4, 2006 - The Porterville Recorder
Buck Shaffer returns to Porterville:
By Esther Avila
Published Nov. 24, 2006 - The Porterville Recorder
Shaffer remains stable
By Esther Avila
Published Oct. 25, 2006 - The Porterville Recorder
Frank ‘Buck' Shaffer admitted into hospital
By Esther Avila
Published Oct. 24, 2006 - The Porterville Recorder
“Both of those were given to me by people in my hometown and I felt they ought to be in that museum,” Shaffer said.
Friday, November 17, 2006
There was an article in yesterday's issue of USA Today that caught my eye -- “‘Old Glory’ is the Flag to Fly in Pahrump.”
Mark Memmott wrote about banning foreign flags in
I know I will get a little hate mail by saying this, but I do not care about that. I have as much freedom of speech as the next guy, so I will say it anyway.
Good for you, Pahrump!
First - let me say that I do understand that the First Amendment guarantees everyone in this country the right of free speech. And I am exercising that right as I type. I also realize that I may not like what others are saying or doing and that our Constitution defends other's rights to do that which I may find most offensive. (ok, so I took this line from Michael Douglas in "The American President" but I agree with him.) I know that our American Constitution protects freedom of speech and expression without consideration of the person's country of origin or nationality.But I also know that our Republic is being inundated by foreigners who come to this country and refuse to learn the language or accept our patriotic love of flag and country.
I believe that the primary flag of this country should be the U.S. flag. And I have said this before, if someone feels so attached to their country and flag - what the heck are they doing here? Go home! I knew some foreign (not from Mexico) students while at Porterville College who hated the American flag and hated everything "American." It drove me insane to listen to them. If it was up to me, I would have deported them all. And I told them so. We were friends, so they would laugh and sometimes I think they did it just to get to me. But I had no problem telling them to leave. We do not need people like that here.
I have no problem if people feel adamant about displaying a different flag. (I do not care for it, but I can live with it) But I do have a problem if they disrespect our flag in the process. Flying a foreign flag above ours would bother me. (As flying the flag upside down. I often travel to the local Indian reservation and it really bothers me to see the flag flying like that in a couple of places. That is a sign of distress. They are simply doing it as some kind of protest or to make a point. I do not like it. I find it disrespectful.) The same holds true with flying a foreign flag higher than the American flag - it diminishes (mainly in their eyes) the patriotic standing of our country.
I am proud of the little town in Nevada. By taking a stand against foreign encroachment, this one small community has spoken out with what (I hope) the majority of Americans believe but are too timid - or too frightened from being politically incorrect - to say.
Nick was one of my first friends at the newspaper. He always waved when I saw him outside or he would stop by my desk on his way in, to see how I was. I remember he always had a smile for everyone. Sometimes we would chat for a minute before he would continue on to his own desk on the other side of the building.
I could not stop thinking of how young he was. One should not die at that age. But I guess it should not surprise me. I mean, I have lost many loved ones at young ages. My father was only 56 when he died. My oldest brother was 53. Nothing is certain....
At the graveside, I glanced around. Finally we had a cooler day. The leaves had started turning and were falling off the trees. This may sound strange, but it was a perfect funeral day. When I die, I want it to be fall -- it is my favorite time of the year and just seems right for a funeral. I would be more perfect if it rained. I love rain and there is something about standing at a graveside under black umbrellas seems right. Not that I want everything to be gloomy, that is so not it. It is just that I love fall and I love rain - so why would I not want that? (But then again, I love cemeteries, especially old ones or foreign ones - like Pere Lachaise in Paris - I can literally spend hours there.)
Sadly, Nick's passing has really brought Albert to mind lately. Albert was actually my brother-in-law but I was so close to him. I loved him dearly and my children adored him. He lived with us off and on through the years and thought the world of my kids. Albert was a free-spirit type of guy. He kind of came and went. He was an artist and died while photographing the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge a couple of years ago. He loved photographing it and painting it. A huge wave came out of nowhere and knocked him off a rock, camera and all.
I still remember the screams from my children when he died. I think that scene will haunt me forever. Marisa still cries for him. But he left behind some awesome work. I have several windows painted by Albert in my home. For Jennifer, he painted "Winnie The Pooh" on her bedroom window (she was only 3 at the time) and for Catherine, "Hello Kitty." Marisa picked Brian, who she was crazy about at the time - from the Back Street Boys. Brian is wearing a cap with Marisa's name on it. Those paintings are precious to me. For my window, I just asked for a vine, small yellow flowers and small birds - which he did for me. And since I love cats, he put a small kitty on one window. But my front two windows have Christmas paintings on them -- a snowman on one and Bambi on the other. I can still see Albert's handiwork here and at several businesses in Porterville -- he designed and painted several signs. But he was mainly known for his Christmas windows around town during the holidays - he did everything in 3D. Amazing stuff.
Anyway, when Nick died, I started thinking of Albert. Albert was only 45 when he died - like Nick, way too young. I especially miss Albert during the holidays, because he would always come stay with us during that time. I know this holiday season will be really hard for Nick's family -- I guess there is no such thing as a good time to die...
Friday, November 03, 2006
Not having any idea what to expect, I held my breath as I nervously skipped over to Cobwebs of the Mind -- a site by (author of several books) Ted William Gross of Jerusalem.
But it was pretty cool. I was not disappointed and I almost forgot I was reading about myself. Ted gave me a very nice review. He called my accomplishments "awesome and intimidating" -- it certainly made me smile. That never would have crossed my mind.
I'm not used to praise and I'm sure I was blushing as I read about myself. But even so, heck - admit it - we all love reading wonderful things about ourselves.
I won't go into the entire review here, but Ted did write:
There is something very uplifting about "Midnight Writings", Esther's blog (and there is an accompanying web site Estheravila.com) and something that we should all learn from. There is a quiet, serene osmosis between an individual and her profession. Esther is not just a woman who happens to be a journalist. She is a woman who part of her being is being a journalist. Sometimes, yes, she must write dry facts (though they don't appear in her blog for the most part). Mostly you can see her own thoughts and feelings within the posts on her blog. This allows for the mother, the individual and the professional to all merge as one into a coherent, though certainly emotional and deeply feeling individual.
And after talking about several of my posts, Ted ended by saying:
"Midnight Writings" is not just a blog. It is the heart of a woman, mother, journalist. It is a journey from time to time into the soul of the woman who always smiles, names Esther Avila. Her writing friends at AW know her as "September Skies". And thus when I always think of her I think of a clear blue sky in the heavens on a warm, breezy day. It is always a day that brings a smile to one's face. Esther's heart and soul, with the hope that she portrays in her blog, leaves us with such a smile.
Read "Midnight Writings". Visit "Midnight Writings". You will not be disappointed.
Now, isn't that the sweetest review? If you can, and you have not visited there yet, do take a detour to Ted's Cobwebs of the Mind site and check out the review. And, please....leave him a comment. He didn't have to do the review and I just feel honored that he did.
Monday, October 30, 2006
And I did do that. But I have also used it to occasionally write miscellaneous family information.
I have met many other bloggers since last November -- blogging about everything from everyday life to the more serious ones -- who use their site for political thoughts, actual writing activities, contests, and the craft of writing.
Anyway, in honor of my blogversary, and ...Just for fun, I thought I'd run my very first post again. Actually, my first three posts - all written on the same day, Nov. 1, 2005.
MidnightWritings.blogspot / November Archives /original entry dated Nov. 1, 2005My first newspaper assignment -- otherwise known as -- The deer-in-the-headlights look
I will always remember my first newspaper assignment. I was so excited with my new job. It was my birthday and getting the job was the best gift I had ever received. I was going to be the next Lois Lane – in my very own hometown. I was so ready.
What I was not ready for was being asked to write about anything political. I was so proud of the fact that I always voted…but what did I know about propositions and initiatives? I rarely bothered with learning all that. (That has changed and I am now totally aware of everything on the ballot)
Anyway, Henry (my immediate supervisor and mentor) sent me to cover a speech about Proposition-54 at the local community college. I went – not really knowing what I was doing. Our paper photographer met me there. “Isn’t this cool?” he asked. Um…yea…cool. NOT!
I took notes -- lots and lots of them. I didn’t really know what to do. It was my first day on the job. I had been told it was going to be a day of in-service. Doesn’t that mean watching movies and filling out forms? I had absolutely ZERO idea what to do out there alone.
After the event, I sat in my car for half an hour (my lunch break) and talked to my best friend. I was scared to go back to work. I had no idea what to do with the information I had gathered, or worse, how to write it. Dennis assured me that I would be fine. I wasn’t sure. I finally forced myself to return to the office.
Henry must have sensed it. “What’s the matter?” he asked me as I walked in. “You have that deer-in-the-headlights look.”
I just handed him my notebook -- page after page of scribbled notes. I stood there, quiet, waiting for him to call me an idiot. But he didn’t. He looked it over and being the professional that he was, found something in my notes, circled it -- and handed it back.
“This looks like a good place to start,” he said.
I took it from there. Of course, the story took me about three hours to write and rewrite. But when I left, I left with a smile. It did not matter to me that no one knew it was my birthday or that anyone even wished me a happy birthday.
All that mattered was that I had done it. I wrote a story.
The next day, I literally screamed when I saw it on the front page. Wow. I had really done it. I had written a story for an official newspaper – and if I had to say so myself, it came out pretty good. I went out and bought like 15 newspapers. (No idea why). I decided that if I could make it through that first day – that first story -- then I could do anything at the paper.
The Problem with New Writers:
The problem with new writers is that we usually feel we have to say it all – in one story. So, we don’t know when to stop.
As a student at COS a couple of years ago, I found several of my classmates with the same problem. Our first assignment (a news story) was so long – we’re talking four to five pages long – that our instructor didn’t read it. She placed a big red mark on it, returned it and asked us to turn it in no longer than two pages long. I learned a lesson. Or did I?
When I was hired by my hometown paper, the problem resurfaced and my first stories were often so long, my mentor would either shake his head or laugh. Oh sure, make fun of my writing. That was about the equivalent of laughing at one of your children.
But that is not how he meant it. And thank goodness he taught me about the 18-inch rule.
Henry also gave me some of the best advice I ever had. OK, so he was the only one giving me advice, though Bill Furth tried but he didn’t teach me anything that I didn’t already know.
This is what Henry said:
“When you get to nine inches……STOP. Just stop. Don’t go any further. Then, read your work. And you should be about half way done."
Then all I had to do was go back in and finish it up. Um…yea...right. That was easier said than done.
But it worked. I finally learned to stop writing when I was supposed to. If I was asked for a 10-inch story, I’d stop at five inches and take it from there.
I learned other tidbits of advice from Henry ... Such as “Start with the clown.”
In other words, find the most colorful, interesting thing in your story and start with that. Simple! No further explanation needed.
He also taught me that the cow jumps over the moon – and the explanation there is simple too.
“Esther, the cow jumped over the moon.”
Mental note to self: Do not write “over 100 people” – it should read “more than 100 people”
The same holds true for less than, do not use “under 50 people” unless I have dug a trench and am crawling under them.
Excuse me, do I hear ringing?
Too bad Henry never gave me advice about where not to put my cell phone.
As a reporter, I never carry a purse when I interview people. Not a problem most of the time since my slacks usually have a small pocket.
But one day I was interviewing a minister from a local church. It was a Sunday and there was church service that day. So, I wore a dress.
There was one problem -- no pockets.
My car key I had on an elastic band around my wrist. My writing pad and pen, well...that belongs in my hand. But, what would I do with my phone?
I thought I was being clever when I placed it snugly between my breasts. I mean, my phone was pretty small. No one could see it or even tell it was there. It was well hidden.
The church service ended. I waited for the right moment to approach the minister and I was writing down a quote from him when the unexpected happened. My phone started to ring. I forgot to place it on mute.
I quickly excused myself by putting up my index finger, “Excuse me a minute, please" and I turned away.
I walked a few feet from him, pulled out my phone, shut it off, quickly hid it again and walked back. It was so fast, I’m not even sure he knew where the ringing came from.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Where were we?”
And without explaining a thing, I continued the interview. I think I handled it rather well. It was a lesson I never forgot. Henry would have been proud of me!
Saturday, October 28, 2006
I answered, "I am." And I laughed along, but I really had no idea why he found it so funny. Apparently to him, it was.
I suddenly remembered Roger - a friend from when I worked at the newspaper full time. We were going to lunch one day and when we got to his car, I saw he had a John Kerry for president bumper sticker. Of course, it was no surprise that he was a democrat (I seriously think I was the only Republican in my office and the only person who did not hate President Bush.) Anyway, I stopped at his car and said, "We have to take my car." and when he asked why, I pointed to the bumper sticker and said, "You can't possibly expect me to get in that car. There's no way in the world I am going to be seen in that car with that thing on there." LOL -- I was kidding, of course. He didn't take it that way. He got in his car and drove off, leaving me standing there in the parking lot. I laughed so hard, I went back inside. When he returned, he not only didn't talk to me that day, he didn't talk to me for a week!
Anyway, back to Friday -- I was also asked what kind of Republican I was -- and why was I a Republican.
What kind? No one had ever asked me that before. I found it interesting that he would ask me.
I'm conservative but I guess I am social-moderate when it comes to certain issues. For example, I have no problem with two people of the same sex wanting to marry each other. What bothers me is when they try to control everything else -- i.e. forcing churches to accept them. I'm against that. I mean, if they want to do whatever, it won't bother me -- and if they find a church who will accept them, fine. But that does not give them the right to fight and try to force all churches to accept them. Does that make sense?
Skip apparently was trying to figure out why I was a republican.
"Your parents were republican!" he said -- as if that explained it all.
No. Actually, they were democrats.
My parents grew up as democrats -- but they were the Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy democrats. The democratic party back then was nothing like the democrats of today. The democratic party back then was more like the republican party of today.
Franklin Roosevelt got us into WWII
Harry Truman dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
and John F. Kennedy was president during the Cuban Missile Crisis -- placing the United States on alert against Russia.
Somehow, I can't imagine any current democratic politician (Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Charlie Rangle, Howard Dean) or any other presidential candidate having the strength of their conviction to stand in the shoes of a Kennedy, Roosevelt, Truman or George W. Bush.
National security and the defense of the United States should not be a political issue. It is a necessity. The problem with the democratic leadership is that they believe that if we are nice to our enemies - they have to be nice to us. But when you're dealing with leaders and regimes, whose first intention is the death and destruction of the West, there is no room for compromise. The only compromise they see, is our annihilation -- total destruction and complete obliteration.
I can not imagine what John Kerry would have done after 9/11. I really can't. I see him as beholden to the radical, liberal, 5-percent of his party.
That is why I can never imagine myself -- ever -- voting for a democrat.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
It seemed like lately, every time I was in Porterville, I would run into Buck Shaffer -- at the grocery store, the post office, the pharmacy and even at the AAA automobile club. Each time, he would always smile and extend his hand and say, "Well, Esther Avila. What are you doing here?" -- always in his same voice. I would say the same thing, "Well, Buck Shaffer. It is so good to see you." We always talked for a few minutes and he'd tell me how proud he was of me. And I'd tell him how much I admired him.
I love Buck Shaffer. I always have. I have known Buck since I was 10. (But he talked to me for the first time when I was 7. I lived near the corner of Orange and G Streets, just down the street from the PHS bandroom and I often ran outside to see the band march by. He'd always say hello to me and I will always remember how he took the time to talk to me.) I marched in his Porterville Panther Band 1972-1976 and considered him a hero in my life. I adore the man.
I've also had the privilege of writing some wonderful stories about him over the past several years. Early this year, I had the honor of writing the story when he was the recipient of the Freedom of Spirit Award. If you have not seen the story, I highly recommend it -- the things that this one man has done are amazing.
After his retirement, he kept teaching music. This man has done more for music in Porterville than anyone else I've ever known.
I interviewed him last week (10/17) about a trip he was planning for Saturday -- a day dubbed "Buck Shaffer Day" in his original hometown of Shinnston, W. VA. He was going to play a concert there and assist in the opening of a music wing of their new museum.
When he returned, we planned on getting together next Tuesday to continue another interview that he requested. So imagine my shock when I got the call that he had suffered a stroke on Sunday. I cried for a few minutes and then got myself together and went to work on writing a story about it.
I was touched to see the outpouring of love and support from across the nation. Buck Shaffer is certainly loved by many.
my dear friend died on Dec. 1, 2006 -- please go to www.buckshaffer.com for stories.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Something beautiful happened this weekend. My friends' daughter, Katie Lopez, was crowned Veterans Day "Miss Porterville" last night. I was there covering the story. When they called her name, I cried.
I was excited for her but that is not why it was so beautiful.
It was beautiful because it was a dream come true for her.
For the past 17 years (ok, maybe only 15) Katie has attended the annual pageant. Her father, (I went to school with both her parents and we all work on the reunion committees together) has worked at the auditorium where it is held for the past 32 years, and every year Katie watched, waiting patiently to be old enough to participate. She always knew she wanted to represent our Veterans by being their homecoming queen.
I believe that it would be such an honor to be the Veterans Homecoming Queen. I never tried for it. The closest I go was in college when I was named homecoming princess during football season. But that was not anything like this. That was a pure popularity contest and since I was a cheerleader, in the nursing program and a member of the track and cross country teams, I had plenty of people voting for me.
This is different. These young ladies were judged on a written essay, judges' interviews, talent, and the way they presented themselves in public.
It is also not associated with a football game, but with our Veterans -- which I admire tremondously. I am a very patriotic person and love the way Porterville treats Veterans Day.
Porterville is really big on Veterans Day. We have the parade, several services, a Veterans Day tea - which I have covered for the local paper for four years, and of course, my favorite -- the annual Band-A-Rama: something started by Buck Shaffer to honor our veterans. Hundreds of young musicians, from all of the local marching bands, come together to play patriotic music. It is not a competition, but a showcase of bands. Each band parades around the stadium individually before taking their place on the field. When all of the bands are on the field, they all play the same music simultaneously -- without ever practicing together as a group. It is the most amazing thing and they sound awesome.
But, back to Katie. My heart was filled with joy -- and with the thought that yes, dreams really do come true. Just ask Katie.
Congratulations again, Katie. I know you'll represent Porterville and the Porterville veterans well.
To read the story, go to www.portervillerecorder.com (story up 10/23 only, then moved to onlinearchives)
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I will forever remember my first breakfast in The Netherlands. Yes, it was exciting --visiting a foreign country for the first time and living with a Dutch family for two weeks.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
I love staying home.
I did have to work this morning but I made it a point to stay home all afternoon/evening. We ordered pizza for lunch and for dinner, I made simple BRC burritos. (beans, rice and cheese) As far as I was concerned, it was the perfect birthday meal -- delicious and fit for a queen.
Speaking of Queens -- I am the current reigning queen (a game we play) at Absolute Write. I was thrilled to have the honor of being royalty for the week. And it couldn't come at a more appropriate time - it is not only my birthday, but my one-year anniversary at the site. How cool is that? :) It really made the honor more special for me.
I have another reason for having an ecstatic birthday.
Today's newspaper at Porterville Recorder ran my stories on "Living Here 2006" -- It was so awesome to see the little magazine-newspaper insert with all of my stories. I must say "great work" to Glen Faison, my Porterville Recorder editor (and the others putting it together) for some great work there.
And, a story I wrote for The Fresno Bee on a little girl (Camron Ascencio) from my home town made front page of the South Valley Bee - complete with two color pictures (one that I took of her, the other her mother contributed - she's listening to our national anthem after accepting the gold medal) and another contributed photo on the inside page. That little girl is amazing. She's 13 and just won the gold medal for the United States at the 2006 World Baton Twirling Championships, in Rome, Italy. She's the first American to ever win the title. (Japan has dominated that field for the past eight years, sweeping everything from first through seventh place, almost every year.) Anyway, I felt so blessed to be able to interview this little girl and the layout on the paper was amazing. Kudos to my editors, Gene Garaygordobil and Kathleen Coates for a job well done on that layout.
On a sad publishing note -- my editor at Valley Voice magazine left this week. I'm going to miss him. I was quite excited because he had just asked me to write a piece for DISCOVER (a local magazine) that comes out twice a year. I wrote the story and turned it in but now I do not know if they will use it. I hope they do. I would love to see my name in the pretty, glossy-cover magazine.
On a sadder, more personal, note -- my sister in Phoenix is very sick. I wish I could go see her. I will try to get out there soon. Also, my uncle died a few days ago. My mom was expecting it but it was still hard for her. I am taking her to Southern California next Tuesday. We'll stay down there a couple of days. (That is why I can't go see Lily next week.)
Fortunately, I'm almost caught up on stories again. I have another special section coming out in the Porterville paper - the Women in Business section -- which comes out in a week or two.
Lily twirled around the room while holding a light blue dress against her little body.
“I’m wearing this,” she said. “What are you wearing?”
I stared at my little sister. I hadn’t given any thought to my wardrobe. I was 6 years old. I did not care what I wore. Whatever I grabbed out of the closet first, or whatever my mother would hand me, that is what I wore.
“I want Daddy to see me in this,” she said as she twirled some more. “This is such a pretty color – just like the sky.”
I remember feeling ashamed. I never thought for a minute that our father might see us. Why would he? He had never seen us before.
“Is Daddy really going to see?” I asked my older sister.
“Of course, he is,” Becky replied.
I still didn’t believe it. Papa was blind. He had been blind since age 22. He had been a welder for the Ford Company near
Growing up in a strict Pentecost family, I had seen attempt after attempt of young and seasoned ministers – all praying diligently to have God restore his sight. A few strange ministers, not from our church, even went as far as trying to cast devils out of my father.
Papa was a Godly man. He had spent many a year as a missionary, preaching in
“Why are you blind, Papi?” I asked him once.
He started to tell me about his work.
“No. I know that. But, why hasn’t God healed you?”
I still remember what he told me.
"Sometimes, God can use a person with a handicap more than he could if that person is whole," he told me.
Simple. I nodded and smiled. Papa must have sensed it. He smiled too.
I understood perfectly and I never asked again.
But now, there was excitement in the air. We were all going to
I wanted my Papa to see. I really did. But deep down I knew he would return the same. And that made me feel ashamed.
I tried to get excited. I remember picking a yellow dress, my favorite, to wear – just in case.
With 10 children in the family, we didn’t venture out too often. But that day, we all climbed into our family station wagon for the four-hour trip south.
As we arrived at the
I remember watching miracle after miracle. A deaf woman could suddenly hear. A man in a wheelchair got up and walked. Every time the crowd would clap and praise God.
I was happy for them. I was. But I was so scared.
Finally it was my Papa’s turn. I saw him walk forward, holding on to my mother’s arm and I saw the minister talking to him and asking about his sight. He prayed for my Papa.
I’m not sure what all happened. I know there was prayer and a lot of Hallelujahs coming from the crowd.
“Can you see this? Follow my hand,” the man seemed to be yelling, as if being louder would make it happen.
My father shook his head and said he couldn’t see a thing.
Somehow I remember those words but not a whole lot more.
Finally, they stopped. The minister told my father that he needed to have faith and to return that evening, that this was a test. I also remember the minister talking to the crowd – telling them that they must also believe.
I shrank in my seat. Could this all be my fault? Did I not have enough faith? I wanted to cry. I knew it was my fault. Because of me, my Papa would remain blind.
I don’t know where we went for lunch but we did have plans on returning that afternoon. My Papa told my mother that he was thinking of going home. But my older brothers and sisters insisted we stay. Lily cried. She was so positive that he would see her blue dress before the end of the day.
We sat in the crowd, far from the front, when the minister called out for my Papa.
“Papa! That’s you!” Lily cried out but was quickly hushed. “They’re calling you. Didn’t you hear them?”
But my Papa wouldn’t budge. He shook his head no.
I don’t remember the rest of the service. I remember feeling horrible at the things the person was saying. How could he say such ugly things? He said the blind man did not have enough faith and refused to let God heal him. He said my Papa was wicked. He said things that made me cry.
No one else tried to talk Papa into going forward. Even Lily stopped insisting. I don’t remember a whole lot more but I do remember him talking to my mother and I guess my older siblings on the way home.
“I don’t believe God wants me to see right now,” Papa said. “God has a plan for us. It is not in his will for me to see – not today, anyway.”
I believed Papa. You don’t belittle people the way that man on stage did. I worried about Lily. I knew she wouldn’t understand. She was only 4 years old. How could she?
I turned to glance at her. She had crawled from the back of the station wagon to the middle aisle seat and into my older sister’s arms. I didn’t have to worry about her. She didn’t hear a thing. She was sound asleep.
My father was blind for more than 30 years and never did see eight of his ten children. I was only 17 when he died. Lily was 15. He never saw either of us - nor Lily's blue dress.
But I know some day he will see us in heaven. I have dreamt it many times and always --- I see my little sister, as a 4-year-old, in that same dream, twirling in her little blue dress.
“Can you see me, Papa?”
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
"Gotta keep the spinach farmers in business" -- someone told me when I was little, and it always stayed with me. I say the same things to my daughters now.
But I had never bought spinach at the supermarket or had an official "spinach salad" -- until last week.
Of all the times I had to choose to start.
LOL I thought I was being so healthy. Not only did I add spinach to two big salads during a tennis tournament (for 50 people) last week, but I made myself a really nice and big spinach salad that I actually enjoyed.
It was not until that night that I heard about the spinach e-coli outbreak but I've checked with my daughter, no one on the tennis team has gotten sick.
Still, this reminded me of an incident in 1984, with a watermelon-pesticide scare. About eight people died.
We love watermelon and that day, my husband and I ate some and ended up getting sick. The sicker we got and the worse we felt, the more we ate. We didn't want food so we just sliced up more watermelon. We both ended up in the hospital. I came home right away, James was hospitalized for three days. That is how we learned about the pesticide poisoning. We were lucky. We could have died.
It's scary, when you think about it -- contaminating fruits and vegetables. It's so simple to do.
I live in the Central San Joaquin Valley -- everything is grown here! All it takes is for Al Qaeda terrorists to decide to contaminate our food source and we would be a bit of a mess. How do we know for sure if anything is safe to eat or drink?
I've been reading about some fish program that the government uses - to keep track of whether or not the water is contaminated. If the fish are fine, the water is fine. Simple.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
I have not gone online to see what spinach it was. I bought bags with SpongeBob on the front.
The tournament was fun. My daughter played three times and lost once. But because it was a "for fun" tournament, it does not count against her undefeated status. Actually, she was moved up to the No. 1 Varsity Doubles team for the tournament. I was very proud of her.
I was there from noon till after 5 p.m., then I rushed to take the salads in (I had premade them in the morning) and then hurried to take my girls to their first football game. I had volunteered to slice tomatoes for band boosters hamburger stand, so once I did that, I rushed to take my other daughter and son to the Convention Center.
Mike and Marisa are spending the night at the Convention Center in order to get some kind of WWE wrestling tickets that go on sale tomorrow
I hurried back to watch my two high school daughters perform at half time (both are in band) and then went home to do some more writing and print up invitations to my mother's upcoming BIG 85th celebration.
I don't think I will sleep any tonight. I have already gone by the convention center to check on my Down Syndrome kids five times! They were fine. It's going to be a long and cold night. Tickets do not go on sale till 10 a.m.
update: they got second-row seats. All front row seats were reserved. I also finished all of my story assignments and even though I said I wouldn't do this again, I then took on 8 more stories for three separate papers for next week. LOL Somehow after I caught up with those original ones, I figured it wasn't so bad.
And finally -- My tennis daughter has had two more meets, and remains undefeated. :) Yea!
I have a few phobias. I am scared of heights, earthquakes and trains!
There are railroad tracks about three blocks from my home. I pass them about 20 times a day as I come and go. Though I'm scared of being near tracks and approaching trains, I am not scared of riding in trains and I love the sound of the whistle. The train goes by in the mornings, at noon, around 5 p.m. and in the middle of the night. I always enjoy listening to the whistles.
But because of my phobia, I am always cautious when I cross any tracks.
Today, I came within inches - from having my car slammed, almost head on by a train. The road I took does not have a stop sign. It does not have R/R lights. There is a small, broken R/R sign. And there is a building just before the railroads. In that same area, the railroad curves and comes out from behind the building and can hit a car head on.
I was driving about 20 mph. I did not have my radio on. (usually I do and I am so glad I didn't.) I was not talking on my cell phone (I have a bluetooth but I was not on a call and I am so glad)
I did have the A/C on full blast because my car had been sitting for a few hours and it was a very hot day.
I never heard the train whistle.
I never heard anything.
But as I cleared the building, the train was right there. I slammed my brakes and stopped inches from the train as it went by. One more mph on my part and I would have been history.
I did not see my life flash before my eyes. In fact, I'm surprised that I stayed so calm. I quickly put the car in reverse and backed up a bit.
After the train passed, I drove to the other side of the tracks and pulled over and thanked God for sparing my life. I did not want to die in such a tragic way. My children would be traumatized. Thank God I was alone.
Only after the train passed by did I get scared. I am not exaggerating when I say that I came inches from the train. If I were sitting on the hood of my car, I could reach out and touch it. I was that close. One more inch and the train would be scratching my car.
I don't think God was ready for me. Or maybe I wasn't ready for heaven. Either way, I'm thankful to still be here.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
On the plus side, I slept like a baby during the trip. But, I never got any writing done. Zero. It was naiive of me to think that I could. I did not take my lap top and I'm glad.
On the not-so-good side, I have not slept since my return. Sunday night, I slept two hours. I was so tired on Monday and had to put in a 6-hour day at work (medical work) -- since I had not been here all week, I had my day filled with appointments in four towns and two different counties. I then attended my daughter's tennis match. She won! Yeea! She's still undefeated. And from there we went directly to College Night 2006 at the Visalia Convention Center. It made for a super long first day back.
But aside from that, so much happened locally -- things that I would have loved to have been here for.
* The Visalia Drive-in Movies closed. They showed their last movie last Thursday and I would have loved to have been there. It is sad to see them all close - though I can see how economically it just isn't profitable.
* Also closing was Merle's Drive-in. They have been a Visalia landmark and icon since the 30s? President Richard Nixon ate there once. It was awesome. I remember the first time I went there for a hamburger and milkshake. The place is famous and I have seen photos of it in many books. It was like an old fashion Sonic - complete with roller-skating waitresses - though not for a while now. I'll try to go by and take a photo of the two places - both on Mooney Blvd., but a good four or five miles apart.
* Two more people were diagnosed with West Nile Virus in our area. And, anyone who visited the Fresno Fulton Mall over the weekend, may have been exposed to Rabies.
*Olympian Bob Mathias (two gold medals for the U.S.) died - he's from here (Tulare) and we have the track at Tulare High named after him. His funeral was held in Tulare and attracted many dignitaries and several other olympic-medalist athletes.
* Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was in town.
* A plane crash killed two men near Porterville.
There were several other local things and I can't think at the moment. Of course, it is 3:30 in the morning and I should be sleeping.
I worried for two days (while on my trip) about my writing assignments. I then made a decision that it was impossible to work on them from the ship and enjoyed the rest of the trip. That means that I now have 7 stories, with 7 sidebars that I must finish by the middle of next week. And two other non-related stories for other newspapers also due next week.
Today I must see my mama. I need to take her shopping and help her around the house. And with her big birthday party around the corner, I am putting the finishing touches on her invitations, that I hope I can start printing in the next day or two. I really neeed to mail them all out.
For now, it looks like my laptop has not been charged and it's about to die, so I better sign off and get back to bed.
I probably will not be posting for a while.
Monday, August 28, 2006
<----- That's my mom -- she was born in Pasadena so we always refer to her as the little old lady from Pasadena.
Speaking of Pasadena, I've been invited by Jim Kusserow, Porterville Panther Band director, to join the band for the Rose Bowl parade on January 1 in Pasadena. That is so exciting! What an honor! I'll be covering the band's activities from Dec. 29 through Jan. 1 -- writing for the Porterville Recorder.
I've been pretty busy lately. I thought I would have a lot of free time to work on my WIP once my children were back in school, but nothing could be further from the truth -- I am busier than ever. I feel like a taxi service but that's ok - that's my choice and I am not complaining, just explaining.
My days start early. Two children start school at 7 a.m., one at 8:30 and one at 11 a.m. -- in the afternoon, I play taxi again - at 2 p.m., 2:30, 3:20, 4:30 and 5:30. (one child comes home and then returns for sports) -- On Tuesdays, I add more taxi rounds at 6 and 8:30 p.m. (to and from band practice)and Friday nights - to and from the football games. And, of course, there are at least two tennis matches a week that I attend. (I try to make every single one of them - including out of town.) Thank goodness softball season does not conflict right now. That's a whole other ballgame.
I've been busy writing and working too. I work two to three hours every day at a medical office and then write for newspapers on a regular basis. Today I received seven new assignments that are due soon. Thursday and Friday I will be recording several more commercials for the Bakersfield Californian newspaper - in English and Spanish for radio and (this time) for television too! I am very excited about it. I have never done a television commercial for them.
I enjoy recording radio commercials. That's always so cool to do. And the first time I heard the commercial on the radio, I screamed. It is so odd hearing your own voice on the radio. You can't help but smile. :)
In the meantime, I'm off to see my uncle again. He's dying of cancer in Los Angeles and I promised to take my mom on Wednesday.
But finally I will have some time to work on my novel next week. I'm taking off (alone - with no children) for a five-day cruise to Catalina Island, San Diego and Ensenada On Labor Day with my sister Becky, her daughter-in-law and my sweet grand-nephew (age 1?)
I plan to write - write - write, and I'm really looking forward to a little R and R.
Monday, August 14, 2006
One story was fun -- the class of 1956 was digging up their time capsule and I was there to cover the event. But, it was not there. Bummer. Still, I enjoyed covering the story. (My class of 76 time capsule was also missing)
Another story had to do with a Harley Davidson group having a poker run to raise money for our local sheriff's K9 units. I wrote the pre story and now they want me to cover the actual event.
It's a cool story. BUT -- it gets better. I was invited to ride along (they promised me I wouldn't fall off) at the event -- 120 miles.
Can you imagine? I'm actually not a big motorcycle fan but the thought is intriguing. I may not do the entire ride. They have several stops along the way and I may just take a leg of it.
It sounds scary. I mean, you can't really make a promise like that ("we have some great drivers. we promise you won't fall off.") An accident is an accident. Still, these guys drive these things all the time.
If you had the chance, would you do it? I told them I'd let them know by Friday.
It is times like this that I really love my job. I can't believe I get paid to do things like this. :)
During the day, I'm fine.
I thought it was due to a combination of things -- the high school reunion, my mother, (she had another fall yesterday and banged her head on the sidewalk) my kids, a dying uncle, an aunt who died two days ago and my work. I kept thinking once things settled down, things would be better.
But, today it started crossing over to my day. Usually, my symptoms disappear during the day.
So, I decided enough was enough and I made an appointment with a doctor.
Matt D. suggested I check out whats that bug dot com -- I did. As much as I dislike bugs, I was fascinated by the site.
I didn't find my spider but I did query in my question and photo and they found it for me.
My spider looks identical (same mark on back) to a Huntsman Spider. The first one is mine. The other spider has two rows of the markings but I saw several pics of spiders with only one row.
Either way, this spider was a bit too fuzzy and too large for my liking. (think baby tarantula)
Now - my question is: How the heck did it get here?
I have been reading that they are from Australia.
Thank you, Matt, for your help in identifying it.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
I realize that what he did was wrong. He realizes it. He apologized.
“I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable,” the actor-director said without elaborating. (AP story)
Actually, he's apologized more than once.
But I guess that wasn't enough. Now I hear that the Jewish community is not accepting his apology and they want him to do some service work and speaking engagements.
My question is - why?
Why is it NOT enough? Do they feel he is not sincere?
I think what gets to me is that people no longer know how to accept an apology. It's like, "Ok, yea, I forgive you....IF...." and then the list begins.
Jesus forgave unconditionally. Why can't people do the same?
So why am I so nervous about it? I go through this every five years..... I'm getting more and more excited with each passing day but also starting to get more and more nervous....
I know the main thing is to visit with classmates and have fun -- but still...... why am I nervous about this? It's not like I don't know anyone. I've been on the 10, 15, 20, 25 and now 30 year committees. You would think I wouldn't react like this.......
But do you know what is sad? We have so many classmates missing. We had 325 graduates in our class -- but addresses now for about 150 of them. And, only 75 or so are coming to the reunion.