Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A very Merry and Blessed Christmas




Merry Christmas from my family to you!

Christmas 2007

Esther and girls: Catherine, Marisa, Jennifer (and Meeko)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Momma, we're in a lockdown. I'm scared," said my daughter's text.

Today was the first day of finals at Redwood High School - so imagine the frustration of the teachers when they suddenly heard the "lockdown" bells.

"You've got to be kidding," my daughter's teacher said. "Not today."

Per protocol, the instructor logged on to his computer for further information and instructions from the front office and immediately read an email to the class:

"This is not a drill. This is a true lockdown. Three murder-suspect prisoners have escaped from the courthouse."

The courthouse is only a couple of hundred feet from the Vista campus of Redwood High. So he promptly locked the door, moved the students into the center of the room - away from the windows - and turned off the lights.

My younger daughter immediately text me.

Thank God for cell phones. (After Columbine, even though my children were young, I went and got them all cell phones. Now, almost every kid in school has one.)

"Mama, we're in a lockdown. I'm scared. Three prisoners escaped from the county jail. They are telling us that they murdered someone and they are considered dangerous. I'm scared but we're fine. We're safe for now."

I immediately text her back and assured her that I would be standing by and ready to go get her if need be but to keep communicating with me. I am only a few blocks from the school and I know better than to head to the school and get in the way of police officers. Still, I drove that direction and stayed a couple of blocks away.

The area was swamped with officers. I stayed away but did text my daughter until I heard the "all clear" announcement from her.

According to Visalia Police Sgt. Allyn Wightman (at a press conference) the escape occurred at approximately 8:30 a.m. when [names removed] escaped after arriving to Tulare County Superior Courthouse in a van from Juvenile Hall. Guarded by unarmed probation officers, the three juveniles ran as they reached an entryway to the courthouse.

“They were handcuffed and shackled, but were able to slip out of the leg shackles as they ran,” Wightman said. “They went in a northerly direction and into a residential area in Green Acres — a housing area of that name.”

The three now face charges of escape, resisting and delaying officers in the performance of their duties, and possession of an article to aid a prisoner or inmate in making escape, said Wightman.

"We were so scared, mom," Jennifer said. "We were at the Vista campus and after we all moved to the other side of the room, we heard a shot go off. We all screamed. We heard the guys were hiding in the slough next to the school. That is so scary."

The Vista Campus is down the street from the courthouse - only a couple hundred feet - but according to the press release, the three juvenile murder suspects were captured less than two hours later in the Green Acres area - a woodsy home area northwest of the campus. The shot might have been a backfire from a vehicle because no shots were fired.

Press release info:

The Visalia Police Department, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department and MAGNET — a multiple-agency drug task consisting of the VPD, TCSO, state parole, California Highway Patrol and investigators from the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office and probation officers — all assisted in the search of the three teens.

Witnesses located the escapees in the 1700 block of West Main Street. Vista is in the 1400 block of West Main.

A perimeter was established and a yard-to-yard search began and shortly before 10 a.m. the three were located in the area of Fairway Street and Manor Drive.

“They scaled a fence when they were first located,” Wightman said, “and the yard they entered was full of police officers. So, they basically jumped a fence to waiting officers.”

Without further incident, the juveniles were taken into custody — still in their jail attire that consisted of grey sweatshirts, tan pants and green T-shirts.

“After they were located and arrested, they were sent back to Juvenile Hall and searched,” Wightman said, “and one of them, [name removed] was in possession of a handcuff key.”

The three were to appear in court this morning for a murder preliminary hearing. They are being charged as adults in connection to the Oct. 1, 2006 murder of Robert Trevino, 16, of Visalia.

Wightman said Trevino was killed on Northeast Fourth Street in Visalia.

The court hearing was postponed to Dec. 19.



Thursday, November 08, 2007






"Restless Dawn" Short Fiction Contest


Jason Evans announces his 7th
Clarity of Night contest. Using the photograph for inspiration, compose a short fiction piece of no more than 250 words in any genre or style. Complete rules at:
Clarity of Night

Saturday, November 03, 2007

September Skies, chapter II excerpt

Isabelle tried to focus on anything but the screams her mother produced. She stared out the window. The deafening thunder, piercing lightening and the rain of the mid September monsoon pulsating against the window panes could not scare her tonight.

She  tried to focus on a river of rapid flowing water that seemed to appear out of nowhere. If she was scared, it wasn't because of the monsoon. As lightning hit, it gave her a glimpse of the barn in the distance. Her thoughts wandered to Pepita, her horse. She wished she were with her, comforting her.

Isabelle shivered as she watched several lightening bolts light the sky at once. At times the bolts created a splash of light so bright, she could see prickly pears getting knocked off the cacti by the strength of the rain.

This was a typical monsoon storm – high winds had downed power and telephone lines, a colossal cloud of dust formed and lingered, shutting out the light of the sun for more than two hours – only to be replaced by raging rain, followed by flashfloods across the desert floor.

It was a miracle Maria had been called earlier in the day – before the monsoon arrived.
Inside, the room was dimly lit by candles, reflecting fear in her eyes. But the fear was not a result of the storm – nor was it created by the loud moans and occasional screams coming from the bedroom. Something else provoked it.

“I’m scared,” Isabelle whispered to Sonia.
Her sister instinctively placed an arm around her shoulders and led her away from the window.

“Mama will be fine.”

“But what if she has another girl?” the fear was now evident. “Papa said he’ll leave.”

“Let him leave,” Sonia snapped. At 17, she was tired of the man they called their father. She looked angry as she grabbed her younger sister by the shoulders.
“Listen to me! Where is he now? Tell me! He’s never around anyway and when he is, he’s always drunk,” she said seething before calming down. “Mama doesn’t need him and neither do we. Mama has us. I want him gone. I pray she has a girl.”

Isabelle saw rage in her sister's eyes. She admired her and wished she could be more like her. Sonia was four years older and she had seen a lot of injustices in her short life. A baby brother Isabelle never knew died in infancy, sending their father into frequent drinking binges with destructive consequences to the family.
She was still holding Isabelle by the shoulders when a sudden shrilling scream sent them running to the bedroom.

“Almost. Almost. Come on. Push a little more,” the self-proclaimed midwife looked worried as she encouraged their mother.

“No puedo; no puedo,” she started crying in Spanish. She had been in labor for what seemed like hours and it was obvious that the baby was in trouble. “I can’t do this.”

“You have to do it. Just a little bit more,” Maria raised her voice, scolding the woman before reassuring her. “I see the head now. Come on. You can do this.”

Isabelle gasped as she saw the bloody child pass from her mother.
Living on a ranch in Phoenix, she had seen kittens and puppies born. And once, Pepita, her horse, gave birth in the barn and Isabelle was amazed at how quickly it stood and nursed. She loved the colt but discovered it gone one day after school. Her father had sold it -- to buy alcohol.

“It’s a boy!” the midwife exclaimed as Sonia’s expression fell. It was not that she didn’t want a brother. She just didn’t want to give her father an excuse to stay.

“Sonia! Quick.! Help me,” the midwife said as they rushed away with the baby.

“Dios mio,” Isabelle heard her mother scream. “Where’s my baby? Where are you taking him?”

At that moment, Isabelle realized she never heard the baby cry. Tears rolled down her cheeks and grief filled her heart as she remembered the tiny baby who was rushed past her – a whitish-blue umbilical cord dangling from the pale limp body.

Powerful spasms hit her mother again causing additional shrieks that penetrated to the core of Isabelle’s heart.

“It’s ok, mama’” Isabelle said in a meek effort to comfort her mother. “You have to pass that placenta now.”

But a look at her mother’s face said otherwise.

“Maria!” Isabelle yelled for the older woman as her mother squeezed her hand. “Maria!”

The midwife rushed in, the first baby still in her arms. She had just wrapped the newborn in a blanket and she quickly handed him to Sonia.

A look of panic filled Maria as she saw a second head crowning between the mother’s legs.

"My God,” the midwife exclaimed. “Twins!"

The Tule Fog

It happens every year -- the California Tule Fog sneaks in - sometimes causing zero visibility. It is something that has scared me since I was a child. And every single year, there is at least one disastrous pileup on our Freeway 99. Usually I try to avoid traveling too early or too late - waiting for the fog to lift. There is nothing worse than driving along and suddenly hitting a white wall of nothing. I remember as a young nursing student - in 1978 - coming upon such an accident - and upon arriving at Tulare County Hospital, being assigned to care for a patient who had broken his back in the accident - and he turned out to be a 1976 classmate from my school.

Earlier today I was talking to my newspaper photographer John Tipton when he came upon this horrible pileup. So sad.

***** also*****

Micky Padilla of Porterville was driving with his family to a baptism in Fresno when he slammed into a Nissan Maxima.

"It was just bang, bang all around us," Padilla said. "I can't believe I still have my wife and my kids. Someone was looking out for us."

Massive Pileup Closes California Highway

By GARANCE BURKE,
Posted: 2007-11-03 19:08:31
Filed Under: Nation News
FRESNO, Calif. (Nov. 3) - More than 100 cars and trucks crashed on a fog-shrouded freeway Saturday, killing at least two people and injuring dozens more, the California Highway Patrol said.

Eighteen big rigs were involved in the massive pileup on Highway 99 just south of Fresno as patches of dense fog obscured visibility on the heavily traveled roadway, CHP officials said.


Photo Gallery: Highway 99 Pileup

Gary Kazanjian, AP

The wreckage of more than 100 cars is seen here on a Fresno, Calif., highway after dense fog led to a pileup that killed at least two people.

A 6-year-old boy and a 28-year-old man traveling in separate vehicles were killed in the chain-reaction collisions around 7:45 a.m. , said CHP Officer Paul Solorzano, Jr., who described it as one of the Central Valley's worst freeway crashes in years.

"It looked like something out of a movie, walking up and seeing all the cars mangled and crushed," Solorzano said.

Rescuers had to extract several people trapped in the wreckage, and paramedics transported more than three dozen patients to the hospital with injuries, Fresno City Fire Department spokesman Ken Shockley said.

The freeway's northbound lanes around Clovis Avenue were shut down indefinitely as investigators worked to determine the cause of the crash. Traffic backed up for miles south of the wreckage. Southbound lanes remained opened.

Two of the big rigs leaked 90 gallons of diesel fuel onto the freeway when their fuel tanks ruptured, but the diesel was contained. No hazardous materials were spilled, CHP officials said.

Hours after the accident, the freeway was littered with smashed cars and trucks, broken glass, auto parts and blood. A big rig carrying stacked crates of live turkeys was stranded in the middle of the normally busy highway.

Crash victims gathered on the freeway shoulder near the wreckage, waiting to be interviewed by investigators.

Cindy Ramirez, 21, of Selma, said her purple Mazda pickup truck was rear-ended as she was driving to her job washing windows in Shaver Lake.

"Everybody was trying to miss everybody, but it was impossible not to get hit," Ramirez said. "I'm fine physically, but I keep thinking about all of the things that could have happened."

Omar Macias, 33, was hauling asphalt from Bakersfield to Elk Grove when his truck was caught in the pileup.

"I got out to check on people at first, and then I heard more crashes around me, so I got right back in," said Macias of Bakersfield. "I feel OK, but I don't what OK means right now. People got hurt."

Even as investigators interviewed dazed drivers on the roadside, crews began sprinkling sand on the freeway and sweeping up shattered glass.

Thick seasonal fog known as "Tule fog" typically occurs in Central California in the late fall and winter. Two people died along a nearby stretch of fog-blanketed Highway 99 in an 87-vehicle pileup in 2002, and another section of the roadway several miles south was the scene of a 74-vehicle crash that left two dead nearly a decade ago.

"There was probably two-foot visibility in the fog when I got here. It was really bad," said Mike Bowman, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "It looked like chaos. Cars were backed up on top of each other."

Micky Padilla of Porterville was driving with his family to a baptism when they heard the sound of metal screeching, struggled to brake and slammed into a Nissan Maxima.

Padilla ran out and found a man bleeding in a white pickup. The man was still breathing minutes later when firefighters arrived, but later died on the highway, Padilla said.

"It was just bang, bang all around us," Padilla said, shaking his head as he stood next to a puddle of blood on the blacktop. "I can't believe I still have my wife and my kids. Someone was looking out for us."

Associated Press writer Marcus Wohlsen contributed to this report from San Francisco.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Selma Band Review: Monache Sweeps Up Awards

Photos by Esther Avila

They did it again!


For the 23rd time, the Monache Marauder Marching Band from Porterville, CA took home the grand sweepstakes at the 43rd annual Selma Marching Band Festival and Field Show Competition at Staley Stadium in Selma Saturday. Click here for full story.


Congratulations, Justin Adams, band director, Monache High School; Troy Rexell, band director, Granite Hills High School; and Donna Steigleder, band director, Burton Middle School, Porterville, CA. You've made our town proud!


AWARDS EARNED

Burton Middle School:
Second- Percussion, middle schools
Third - Parade Band, division A, middle schools
Third - ID unit, middle schools
Third - Flag Team, middle schools



Granite Hills High School:
Second - Majorettes
Third - Field Show Drum Major
Third - Parade Band, division D
Second - Field Show Performance, division B



Monache High School:
Grand Sweepstakes
Half-Time Sweepstakes
Field Show - General Effect
Field Show- High Music
First - Majorettes
First - ID unit / shields
First - Band Parade, division A
First - Field Show Drum Major
Second - Field Show Attachments
Third - Parade Percussion
Third - Flag Team

Friday, October 26, 2007

The "Greatest Generation"


Story by Esther Avila
Contributed photo / Ivanhoe watchtower
The Fresno Bee / October 26, 2007

Watchtowers sprang up all over Tulare County
after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They served as lookouts for incoming Japanese aircraft.

Stories of the 'Greatest Generation'

Tulare County members of the 'Greatest Generation' share memories of World War II era.


TULARE -- They remember rationing their food, school air raid drills and blackouts.

More than 100 Tulare County residents who are members of the "Greatest Generation" have shared memories of their experiences during the World War II era as part of an ambitious project aimed at preserving history. These "oral histories" are now available to the public.

The stories, part of a Tulare County history project, span from 1941 to 1946.

"This whole program was conceived in 2003 when I needed to write a grant," said Judith Wood, county reference librarian and project director at an Oct. 14 celebration party for the people involved at the Tulare Historical Museum. "I thought it would be good to get California stories of what the people were doing here in Tulare County during World War II."

The project, titled "Years of Valor, Years of Hope: Tulare County and the Years 1941-1946," was born.

"The main question we wanted answered was how that time frame affected them and how it affected the way they are today," Wood said.

They recruited 20 people who were then trained to do the oral histories, she said. In addition, they found 100 people who lived in Tulare County during that time frame.

"We started interviewing in 2003 and started editing the stories in 2005," Wood said. "We ended with five boxes of tapes and transcripts of 104 different interviews."

Among the stories is that of Strathmore resident Ted H. Iles who was 70 in October 2003 when he was interviewed by Kris Gray for the project.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in December of 1941, Iles said he was 8. Because his family was poor, the rationing that followed of meat, sugar and other essentials did not create a great impact on his family. But something else did. He could not understand why his Japanese-American friends suddenly disappeared.

"They were gone. They were essentially rounded up with their families and sent all over the country to relocation centers," said Iles during that interview. "Suddenly our friends were gone, and we couldn't understand it."

Iles also said he remembers the original flag salute, which included extending the arm towards the flag.

"This continued until the early days of the war -- until they decided that Hitler's salute and that of Mussolini in Italy were too similar," Iles told Gray. "So they terminated the extending of the arm [to] just a laying of the hand over the heart the way we do today."

Iles' stories are but a few of many that have been transcribed into hard copies. The original tapes, as well as transcriptions, can be reviewed at the Annie Mitchell History Room at the Visalia Library.

Five other libraries and museums are also recipients of the four-year project: the Tulare County Historical Museum, the Tulare Historical Museum, the Porterville City Library and the Fresno County Historical Society.

"It is such a great contribution to our local history room," said Sandi Farnsworth with the Porterville Library. "We are losing the history so rapidly. This is great for future generations and a great way to honor our veterans."

Ellen Gorelick, executive director and chief curator of the Tulare Historical Museum, agreed.

"We're losing people of that era. It is a wonderful project that Judith has gotten involved in," Gorelick said. "The project is a combination of a lot of people's hard work. It has been very successful, and we will all benefit from it."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

WORLD SERIES: Rockies pitchers Jeff Francis and Ubaldo Jimenez and my daughters

It is so exciting to watch baseball when your boys are playing - and I mean that literally. The great thing about minor league baseball is that you get to know the players before they disappear into the big leagues .

Jeff Francis with my daughter Jennifer / May 2003
Jeff Francis with my daughter Catherine / August 2003


Sometimes, as in Jeff Francis' case, they are here only for a little while. Other times they stay for a couple of seasons before we have to say goodbye.

But because I was an active member in the Visalia Oaks Booster Club since 1998 (six years as secretary and board member, wrote mission statement) we knew our boys very well.

In fact, several of them have eaten in our home. And Jeff Francis' family (Uncle) used to invite my children and I to their home in British Columbia. Now it is so exciting to see Jeff Francis pitching the first game of the World Series - needless to say I am cheering for the Colorado Rockies!

Jeff Francis is not the only one - we have several - FIVE - former players -- representing our Visalia Oaks in the World Series.

In the National League - left-hander Jeff Francis (2003) is starting - impressive - he only stayed in Single A one season and quickly moved up - making it to the majors for a cup of coffee his second season - eventually staying there for good. Now he's their No. 1 pitcher. He has been outstanding in his two post-season starts, boasting a 2-0 record and a 2.13 ERA. Jeff has had unbelievable control, striking out 12 and walking just 3 in 12.2 innings.

The Rockies second starter is also someone we know - Ubaldo Jimenez (2003-2004) - and he is just as impressive as Jeff Francis. He has a quick fastball and a 1.59 ERA. Ubaldo has plenty of "swings and misses" - striking out 11 in 11 1/2 innings.

Ryan Speier (2003) has yet to give up an earned run in the 2007 postseason. He has collected one save in two outings and has given up one hit and no walks in 2.1 innings pitched.

Rockies outfielders Ryan Spilborghs (2004) -- batting .300 through five of seven games, scoring three times, and has an on-base percentage upwards of .450
and Jeff Baker (2004) batting .667 (2 for 3) and has one RBI

sidenote: When the Rockies played the Diamondbacks in the playoffs - I got to see three more Oaks players there -- Justin Upton(2007 Oaks player - imagine going from Single A to the majors in the same year) Jeff Salazar (2003-2004 Oaks player) and Eric Byrnes (1998 Oaks
player)


Jeff offers advice on how to hold and throw a baseball correctly











Jeff Francis watches Jennifer pitch







Jeff Francis pitching to Jennifer








Jennifer at bat - Jeff Francis pitches to her






(all photos by Esther Avila)

Ubaldo Jimenez with Catherine and Jennifer, 2003

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Miss Porterville - Emmylou Dowling

story by Esther Avila/photo by Chieko Hara
The Porterville Recorder - Monday, Oct. 22, 2007

Dowling crowned queen
Homecoming: Queen carries double honor.
Emmylou Dowling earned double honors Saturday night when she was named Miss Congeniality by her peers and minutes later crowned Miss Porterville and the 2007-08 Veterans Homecoming Queen in front of a packed crowd at the Frank “Buck” Shaffer Theater inside the Porterville Memorial Auditorium.
“I wasn’t expecting this,” Dowling said as she wiped away tears of joy. “It has been a wonderful evening. All of the contestants deserve this crown. I am honored to become the homecoming queen.”

Also wiping away tears were Dowling’s parents, Robert and Patricia Dowling. Approximately 50 family members attended, including her three siblings, Bobby, Mario and Tiffany, Patricia Dowling said.

“She’s so excited. She deserves and earned this,” Robert Dowling said. “She’s always been involved in many clubs and many [extracurricular] high school activities — and has kept her No. 1 ranking for four hears of high school a GPA of 4.2. Ever since she was little, she’s been really outgoing and a little aggressive. If she wants something, she goes out and gets it.”

The Granite Hills High School straight A honor student, one of 13 young women vying for the title, sang a patriotic medley of “God Bless America,” “This is my Country” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” for her talent portion of the competition.

The girls were judged by a panel of five out-of-town judges on four areas, each worth 25 points: a 200-word essay, interviews with the judges, poise and the way they presented themselves, and talent.

In addition, the contestants were asked three questions on stage by returning master of ceremonies Jamie McGlasson.

When asked if she could spend an afternoon with one person from any time in history, who it would be, Dowling’s answer brought a hearty applause from the audience.

“My savior, Jesus Christ,” Dowling said. “I believe he was a real man who walked the earth — definitely who I would like to spend the afternoon with.”

Joining Dowling in her royal court are Sammie Jo Stone, senior princess; Crystal Ervin, first attendant; Sabrina Ziegler, second attendant; and Sarah Chandler, third attendant.

“The girls were all wonderful. They are the cream of the crop,” Monique Page, coordinator of the event, said. “They have been very supportive of each other. Any of them could have won the title.”
Former queen Katie Lopez spoke on her experience as Miss Porterville and offered words of advice to any young girl who may have her sight on the crown -- encouraging them to believe and to enter the pageant if they have the slightest spark of interest.

“This has been the most wonderful year,” Lopez said before the program started. “For me it was life-changing and something I wanted so much. It has given me such a positive outlook on life. It was unexpected and it happened. That is how it is: When you least expect it, it shines on you. It’s a little sad that it is ending but I also know that it is something that will never go away, this feeling that I accomplished something I wanted so much, and that I was Miss Porterville and the Veterans Homecoming Queen. That will always stay with me.”

The evening began with a welcome by Don Dowling, general chairman of the Veterans Homecoming Committee, posting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance by Ruben Bonilla, commander of American Legion Post 20 and Tom Jacobs, commander of VFW Post 2001. The National Anthem was performed by five brass members from the Monache High School band.

In addition, a spirit dance performed by all of the contestants was choreographed by Pam Sheldon of Deenie’s Dance Studio, as well as two presentations by Deenie’s dance performers.

A touching patriotic slide show — including photographs of Washington, D.C., Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and various other war memorial sculptures, and recent photos of the U.S. military in the Middle East — had several people in the audience wiping tears as solemn patriotic music filled the auditorium.

The 62nd annual Veterans Homecoming Queen, Miss Porterville Pageant was sponsored by American Legion Post 20; and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2001. Emmylou Dowling and her court will preside over the Veterans Day activities on Nov. 11 — the Veterans Memorial Service, Veterans Day Parade and the Veterans Day Band-A-Rama.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Moon River

Moon River -- I can't play the song without crying - I don't know why. I love this song. It is so beautiful. And as of recently, I have been playing it daily - along with hundreds of other favorites.

I got a new phonograph player for my birthday! I love this thing. I have a couple of record players, part of complete stereo systems, but they were so bulky and took up so much space, I finally stored them. But this little baby, is all inclusive - and looks great.

I am having the time of my life playing all my music. The very first LP I played was Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D Major.

I am currently playing Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons as I write. Life is good.

Yes, I kept most of my LPs and have hundreds of them - everything from classical and opera to jazz, Broadway and big band, and from oldies to rock. My kids laugh every time I play Donny Osmond LPs - my favorite in the early 70s.

Here are just a few of the classical and big band albums in my collection. I also have hundreds of 45-rpm records.

"Moon River"

music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Johnny Mercer

"Moon River, wider than a mile,
I'm crossing you in style some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker,
wherever you're going I'm going your way.
Two drifters off to see the world.
There's such a lot of world to see.
We're after the same rainbow's end--
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me."

September Skies

September -- my favorite time of the year - weather starts changing, school starts, and its my birthday! And though I'm not big on birthdays, I do love the day.


So far my birthday weekend has been full of surprises - from a group of first-graders serenading me with songs, to white roses - my favorite - and 40-plus of them! Aren't they absolutely gorgeous? I love them! They look beautiful and they smell great.

Yes, I'll be 50 in a few years. But I love it. I don't feel my age - I'm always writing, working, attending sports, bands, concerts or club events - or doing something fun with my family, that I don't have time to feel older. But, if I could have the perfect birthday weekend, it would include writing! There is nothing I would like more than to have an entire weekend to write. Not newspaper or magazine articles, I write plenty of those all the time - in fact, I am still working on an entire series for the Women in Business local newspaper-magazine tab. Today my "Living Here" tab published - a series of stories about Porterville and the surrounding communities.
I love my work, but I want to get back to my short stories and novel. Two years ago I participated in Nanowrimo for the first time, and I loved it. It really kicked off my 1930's era novel.

November is National Novel Writing Month. Even though it is it still a month away, I can't help but get excited over it. I'm not sure if I will participate - a lot of it depends on what family activities are happening that month.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Time Marches On" - Buck Shaffer Town Clock


This photo of Centennial Park has been altered to depict what a town clock might look like at the location. Porterville High School of Class of 1975 is spearheading a move to place a clock there in honor of band director Frank ‘Buck’ Shaffer. (Contributed Photo)

PHS students push Shaffer’s vision for town clock

Committee: Time Marches On’s goal is to raise $22,000.

FOR THE PORTERVILLE RECORDER
September 4, 2007 12:46 AM

When Centennial Park was being planned, the late Frank “Buck” Shaffer, Porterville’s musical icon and Porterville High School’s former band director, went to City Hall to offer music ideas and other suggestions for the new park.

“Buck had a vision for a clock — a town clock,” said Felipe Martinez, mayor pro tem. “He had already done some research of different styles and different clocks and brought in pictures of what he had in mind. This was a month or so before his stroke. His vision did not come to fruition.”

Now the Porterville High School Class of 1975 would like to see Buck’s dream come true. They are spearheading the “Time Marches On” committee to raise an approximate $22,000 to purchase and install a four-dial Howard- or Seth Thomas-type street clock to place in Centennial Park at the corner of Main Street and Cleveland Avenue.

The clocks and their bases can have heights up to 20 feet, and can weigh up to 400 pounds. Though an actual clock has not been selected for Centennial Park, the committee does know that it must have four faces — one in each direction. The words “Time Marches On” will also be inscribed on the clock. The clock will stand inside a planter and be surrounded by bench seats.

All work provided for the clock, and surrounding setting — from the electrical to the masonry — will be donated. And the committee is hoping that local high schools’ horticulture departments will donate and plant flowers and plants.

“We want this to be a true community effort,” said Robert Roman, head of the committee and a drummer in the Panther Band under Shaffer from 1972 to 1975. “I don’t want it to be just labor. I want the community to come out and have fun doing it. But we want to start raising the money and get it going.”

Before they can order the clock, an approximately 40-percent down payment is needed. Once ordered, it will take 15 to 20 weeks for delivery.

“We want to place either a bronzed sculpture — a band director with his wand — or music notes on top of the clock,” Roman said. “There is not enough that Porterville can do to repay this gentleman.”

When he first heard about Shaffer and the town clock suggestion, Roman discussed the matter with friends — other former band members who graduated in 1975 — and they all decided to do something about it. They changed the name of the committee from “Class of 75” to “Time Marches On” to be more inclusive of all years and of the community in general.

“We are asking all former band members to help. Imagine if every band member who ever marched under or knew of Buck Shaffer, pitched in five bucks — that would cover it,” Roman said. “What better way to honor him than by carrying on with the dream that he started?”

Martinez, also a PHS Class of 1975 graduate, echoed the sentiment.

“There are usually about 400 kids each and every year in the band — and Buck came to Porterville in 1953 — that is a lot of kids,” Martinez said. “There are two things that Porterville is known for. One is patriotism and the other is music — and Buck represented both. He was a very patriotic individual and music was his passion.”

Martinez also pointed out that some local families have two or three generations of children who played under, or were influenced by, Shaffer, a 53-year music instructor who was still teaching music until his stroke in October 2006. He died Dec. 1.

Shaffer’s son, Skip Shaffer of New Jersey, said he was unaware of Buck Shaffer’s clock dream but is pleased with the prospect.
“My father was very civic minded. People were always suggesting he run for mayor. The clock gives him a connection to Main Street — the center of the city and the heart of town,” Skip Shaffer said. “It is nice to have him recognized by the city of Porterville.”

To kick off the fundraising, the committee is planning a “Fabulous Music Jam” for Oct. 27 at Centennial Park.

“Lots of music by lots of groups — many of them band alumni. Nostalgia, Latin Friends, and the Crash Street Kids from the ’70s will reunite and play. We’re also trying to get [band] San Andreas Fault to play,” Roman said. “But it’s not limited to band alumni. We have a wide variety of music planned. We will have Mariachi music there. All of the musicians are donating their time.”

A request to close Main Street and Cleveland Avenue has been submitted to the city and Roman said they plan on having lots of vendors, food, arts and crafts at the musical celebration.

Jugfest - Visalia , CA

Another fringe benefit of writing articles is - getting the whole scoop on upcoming events.
Here is one event that I am looking forward to attending.

Country music fest to rock Visalia
Jugfest to feature some of country's biggest entertainers Sept. 22.
By Esther Avila / Special to The Bee
09/14/07 05:34:27

More information
If you go

What: Jugfest 2007 -- 10 artists in back-to-back country music performances, with opportunities to meet and greet the artists; kids' activities.
When: Sept. 22, starting at 11 a.m.
Where: Plaza Park, Plaza Drive and Highway 198, Visalia.
Tickets: Advance -- all day and evening $15, general admission and $25 for preferred seating. At the gate, tickets $5 for daytime only or $25 and $35 all day/evening. Advance tickets available online at www.kjug.com or www.gorillatix.com and at Best Buy Market, 1300 W. Walnut Ave., Visalia; 1798 N. 10th Ave., Hanford and 1135 W. Bush St., Lemoore.
Details: (559) 553-1500.
A country music festival Sept. 22 will feature performances by 10 country artists at Jugfest, a day filled with back-to-back performances and opportunities for fans to meet several of the artists.

"We are excited to offer an event of this magnitude to the Central Valley. Currently there are no other country music festivals in our area," said Melinda Caz, marketing director at KJUG FM 106.7, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

"There'll be something for everyone -- for all ages," she said. "The best deal is to come early and stay all day, especially through the evening when we have our grand finale, a tribute to our troops."

The day kicks off at 11 a.m with performances on two stages by country artists Dusty Drake, John Berry, Ty Herndon, Whiskey Falls, Lance Miller and Sarah Buxton.

But Jugfest will offer more than just country music. A Kids' Zone area will offer a children's bounce houses, bungee run, jousting activities and a trampoline euro-power jump. In addition, there will be free face painting, magic shows and strolling clowns making balloon animals for the children. Plenty of local food vendors and craft booths will also be on site.

"Country music isn't what it was when I was a kid," Caz said. "With artists like Bon Jovi and Sheryl Crow releasing country songs, country music is expanding its fan base -- and, on the day of Jugfest, I think we are going to see that. We are expecting big groups of country music fans and families."

The station has received confirmations from people who will attend from San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona and Miami, she said.

As evening arrives, the main stage will heat up with more acts. At 7 p.m., country group Cole Deggs and The Lonesome will light up the main stage. They will be followed by recording artist Paul Overstreet. Overstreet has written hit songs for George Jones, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker and Marie Osmond. Country group Little Texas will follow and is expected to rev up the audience with some of its greatest hits, including "God Blessed Texas" and "Amy's Back in Austin."

But it will be Darryl Worley who will take the stage and rock the arena with the grand finale -- a tribute to United States military men and women. Program listeners were encouraged to send a photo of someone in the military or a veteran to honor in a presentation at the evening concert.

Lawn chairs or blankets are recommended for the daytime concerts.

"Don't underestimate the power of country music; it's electrifying and the listeners are loyal," said Dave Daniels, program director for Westcoast Broadcasting, owner of KJUG. "Not everyone has the opportunity to go to Nashville and experience country music one on one."

Nothing like checking out the backyard

I've been very busy the past two months - writing. I don't even know how many stories I've written.I wrote a batch of stories for our local museum (at least 10) I had a lot of fun writing them and learned alot. Here is one story about the Yokut Indians and reed boats.

Then our Tulare County Fair came into town and I covered the fair daily - two days stand out for me - Physics Day (students rode the carnival rides with intention of collecting data to use in graphs) - and Auction day for 4-H and FFA students - always one of my favorite events - It is what the fair was all about. It was not about rides and hundreds of commercial exhibitors.

But that wasn't all - I have also been writing stories about our surrounding communities for our "Living Here" tab magazine.

My home town - Porterville - is the gateway and headquarters to Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument - it's absolutely breath taking.

I loved working on the "Living Here" stories - I was reminded how great my area of the world is.


Click here for cam


These trees are huge! Can you spot the people next to the trees?

Sequoia National Forest
1839 South Newcomb Street
Porterville, CA 93257
559-784-1500


Living Here: Porterville - Visalia - Springville - Tulare - Exeter - Lindsay - Tulare County
(I will place links to my stories after the "Living Here" tab is published on 9/30)

Nothing like checking out the backyard

I've been very busy the past two months - writing. I don't even know how many stories I've written.I wrote a batch of stories for our local museum (at least 10) I had a lot of fun writing them and learned alot. Here is one story about the Yokut Indians and reed boats.

Then our Tulare County Fair came into town and I covered the fair daily - two days stand out for me - Physics Day (students rode the carnival rides with intention of collecting data to use in graphs) - and Auction day for 4-H and FFA students - always one of my favorite events - It is what the fair was all about. It was not about rides and hundreds of commercial exhibitors.

But that wasn't all - I have also been writing stories about our surrounding communities for our "Living Here" tab magazine.

My home town - Porterville - is the gateway and headquarters to Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument - it's absolutely breath taking.

I loved working on the "Living Here" stories - I was reminded how great my area of the world is.


Click here for cam


These trees are huge! Can you spot the people next to the trees?

Sequoia National Forest
1839 South Newcomb Street
Porterville, CA 93257
559-784-1500


Living Here: Porterville - Visalia - Springville - Tulare - Exeter - Lindsay - Tulare County
(I will place links to my stories after the "Living Here" tab is published on 9/30)

Another fringe benefit of writing articles : getting the whole scoop - Here is one event that I am looking forward to attending.

Country music fest to rock Visalia
Jugfest to feature some of country's biggest entertainers Sept. 22.
By Esther Avila / Special to The Bee
09/14/07 05:34:27

More information
If you go

What: Jugfest 2007 -- 10 artists in back-to-back country music performances, with opportunities to meet and greet the artists; kids' activities.
When: Sept. 22, starting at 11 a.m.
Where: Plaza Park, Plaza Drive and Highway 198, Visalia.
Tickets: Advance -- all day and evening $15, general admission and $25 for preferred seating. At the gate, tickets $5 for daytime only or $25 and $35 all day/evening. Advance tickets available online at www.kjug.com or www.gorillatix.com and at Best Buy Market, 1300 W. Walnut Ave., Visalia; 1798 N. 10th Ave., Hanford and 1135 W. Bush St., Lemoore.
Details: (559) 553-1500.
A country music festival Sept. 22 will feature performances by 10 country artists at Jugfest, a day filled with back-to-back performances and opportunities for fans to meet several of the artists.

"We are excited to offer an event of this magnitude to the Central Valley. Currently there are no other country music festivals in our area," said Melinda Caz, marketing director at KJUG FM 106.7, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

"There'll be something for everyone -- for all ages," she said. "The best deal is to come early and stay all day, especially through the evening when we have our grand finale, a tribute to our troops."

The day kicks off at 11 a.m with performances on two stages by country artists Dusty Drake, John Berry, Ty Herndon, Whiskey Falls, Lance Miller and Sarah Buxton.

But Jugfest will offer more than just country music. A Kids' Zone area will offer a children's bounce houses, bungee run, jousting activities and a trampoline euro-power jump. In addition, there will be free face painting, magic shows and strolling clowns making balloon animals for the children. Plenty of local food vendors and craft booths will also be on site.

"Country music isn't what it was when I was a kid," Caz said. "With artists like Bon Jovi and Sheryl Crow releasing country songs, country music is expanding its fan base -- and, on the day of Jugfest, I think we are going to see that. We are expecting big groups of country music fans and families."

The station has received confirmations from people who will attend from San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona and Miami, she said.

As evening arrives, the main stage will heat up with more acts. At 7 p.m., country group Cole Deggs and The Lonesome will light up the main stage. They will be followed by recording artist Paul Overstreet. Overstreet has written hit songs for George Jones, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker and Marie Osmond. Country group Little Texas will follow and is expected to rev up the audience with some of its greatest hits, including "God Blessed Texas" and "Amy's Back in Austin."

But it will be Darryl Worley who will take the stage and rock the arena with the grand finale -- a tribute to United States military men and women. Program listeners were encouraged to send a photo of someone in the military or a veteran to honor in a presentation at the evening concert.

Lawn chairs or blankets are recommended for the daytime concerts.

"Don't underestimate the power of country music; it's electrifying and the listeners are loyal," said Dave Daniels, program director for Westcoast Broadcasting, owner of KJUG. "Not everyone has the opportunity to go to Nashville and experience country music one on one."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Please send Miss Eleanor a postcard



UP DATE: September 5, 2007 - I drove by her work, and there she was - wearing a "thank you" on her outfit. Isn't she beautiful?

How it started:
I printed the request below on my writers online community - and I have been really pleased with the positive response I've received from everyone. It is all in fun - so I'd thought I'd share it here too.


Please send Missy a postcard

There is a mannequin near my home in front of a restaurant-supply store (about two blocks from my house) She sits out there every day - dressed in a professional chef coat and chef hat. We call her "Missy" and ever since the kids were little, we'd wave at her every time we drove by. It all started innocently about several years ago - I told them she was a real person who was out there. We met her when I took a wrong turn on the way to school and the girls asked where I was going...

"I want to drive this way to wave to my friend Eleanor," I said and then pointed to her as we drove by. They said it was a fake person, I claimed she was real. We still call her Eleanor when we drive by and a postcard or two has her listed as Eleanor -- but later, when we wrote Ms.Mannequin on the card, we started calling her Missy.

While in Hawaii recently, one daughter said, "Lets send Missy a postcard" -- so we did and we had such fun, we have sent her cards from everywhere we have gone this summer -- Texas, Oregon, etc.

We never really say who we are, just that we are thinking of her and hope that someday she can join us or that someday she can take a trip or we just ask how she is and how the restaurant business is going, etc. Very G-rated. Nothing bad.

It suddenly reminded me of the gnome story -- obviously we can't steal "Missy" to photograph her all over the world - she's human size - not a little gnome.

But I do wonder what the heck the business owner must think every time a card comes in. We've sent at least a dozen.

So, here is my request: If you can, can you please send "Missy" a postcard from where ever you live? And when you do - let me know here so that I can keep track as to how many states are sending (sent) a card. I'd love for her to get them from all over - from California to Seattle to New York to Florida - and from other countries too -- from Canada to Mexico and across the oceans from India to Australia - where ever you all are. You don't have to write much, "hello from Alabama" or whatever state or country will suffice.

But PLEASE - if you do write something -- keep it very clean. It is nothing illegal - just sending friendly post cards.

Miss Eleanor Mannequin
C/O Handley's Restaurant Equipment
400 N. Johnson St.
Visalia, CA 93291


Thanks, everyone.
Missy (Eleanor) thanks you too!
__________________

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Does anyone remember seeing the stationary-store commercial? -- parents smiling and laughing and dancing through the store hallways, filling their cart with paper and binders and pencils and pens -- as the Christmas song plays. Then they focus on a little boy and a little girl - frowning.

1998: Jennifer and Catherine - posing for annual "First Day of School" photo - which I have taken every year on the steps of our home for the past 13 years. (Catherine is a senior this year)

BACK TO SCHOOL time!
Both of my girls were very excited about going back to school and seeing all of their friends. I am lucky my children love school as much as I did. Of course, both of my high school girls are involved in band, sports and service clubs - and both both are honor students and have been inducted into the National Honor Roll Hall in Washington D.C.


School started today. It seems as if each year it starts earlier in the year. Whatever happened to school starting the day after Labor Day?

After the traditional "Stand in front of the house" back to school photograph - which I've been taking since kindergarten, the girls were off to school -- they start at 7 a.m. and do not return until almost 6 p.m. -- Very long days for them.

And - being the studious kids that they are -- they had plenty of homework on day one! And so did I! It took me more than an hour to sign dozens of "contract" forms from each classroom. It took another hour to fill my calendar with their tennis matches, band practices, band reviews, band Disneyland and San Diego trips, etc. etc.

How do they do it? I browsed through the tennis calendar -- there are 23 matches, starting next week through October 24! Including Sept. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, skip a Sunday, again Monday. Skip a Tuesday, again Wednesday, skip Thursday, and again on Sept. 14, 15, 17...... the list went on and on. I was exhausted by the time I finished jotting down everything.

I also noticed they have band practice every Tuesday night.

"Can you girls handle all this?" I asked. They looked at me as if there was something wrong with me.

Later, Catherine, a senior, was at the kitchen nook table.

"Oh! I love this! I actually understand it all," she said as she worked on her AP calculus. I looked at it. Looked foreign to me.

"I've joined the math club," she said nonchalantly and then sighed, "I guess that means I have meetings every day at lunch."

Math club meets Tuesdays at lunch, Wednesdays is Key Club, Thursdays is Future Business Leaders, and Link Crew meets as needed on rotating days.

At the dining room table, Jennifer worked on her homework and talked excitedly about biology and other courses.

I smiled. Inside I was beaming. These are my babies. I am so blessed.

I love Back To School time.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Eight Interesting Things About Myself


Joanne from "Write after dark" has tagged me into writing eight interesting things about myself. (AW Monday Memes) 

I am not sure just how interesting it may really be...

1. I didn't speak much when I was young. As it turned out, there was a good reason. I was tongue-tied. I was diagnosed with Ankyloglossia - my tongue was attached to the plate of my mouth. The tendon was slightly cut, making it easier for me to speak - but too late, I had already gone through much of my school life without speaking, labeled as shy. I was never just shy. I
was quiet. There is a difference. About five years ago, I had some oral surgery at UCLA Medical Center -- I quickly became a central focus as interns gathered around me to see my tongue. They suggested severing the rest of the tendon but there were some risks and I decided against it. I've gone this long and have done alright.

2. I grew up in a home that did not believe in going to the movies. But in 1970, my older sister took me to see Erich Segal's "Love Story" - I loved it. It was the first movie I ever saw at the theater. My parents never knew I went. It was on that day, I decided some day I would go to NYC and ice skate in Central Park.

3. I was a tomboy as a kid. I'd hang out with my brother, climb trees, jump fences and spend all day at the river. The river was my back-yard playground. I wouldn't change a thing if I could. 

4. I always wanted a Barbie as a child. I asked for one many times. I came from a large family and money was tight. Still, my little sister got one -- but I never did. I did however, become a Barbizon Model. How many people can say that? I didn't get a Barbie but I did look like one.

5. I loved school and rarely missed. Favorite subjects: English and U.S. History. Now I love writing and historical places.

6. In college I was a Barbizon Model, a cheerleader and ran track and cross country. I set ten school track records in college. I ran cross country and track. When I wasn't on the track, I was cheering at football or basketball games. I was a cheerleader and loved it.

7. In 1975 I wrote a letter to the editor (hometown paper) during my senior year in high school. When I saw it - with my name - I knew then that someday I'd like to write for the paper. That dream came true. I love writing and write for several newspapers and magazines - I can't believe it is my job. I love it.

8. Frank "Buck" Shaffer was the best thing that happened to me in high school. I was an Orange Blossom - a letter girl in the band. In 1976, Buck Shaffer took us on a
ten-day bicentennial tour with stops in Boston, NYC, Washington D.C., Gettysburg, Mt. Vernon, Amish country (Intercourse, Bird in Hand) and Philadelphia. I've never forgotten it and believe it changed my life forever. I was already patriotic, but even more so after that. I returned last year with the same Panther Band, now under direction of then classmate Jim Kusserow, for a similar trip. But I've actually made the trip numerous times. I love the east coast. My life is blessed.




Miscellaneous Update

Well, good news - my eyes are just a little strained - tired - need rest, etc. I've been driving a lot lately and the "reading a book for eight hours" thing didn't help.

A lot has been happening around my home. I've driven to Sacramento three times this week (family flying out to see sick loved one) - Today we had a death in the family. I will fly out Tuesday to meet up with family in Texas.

On AW - I recently entered the July contest and won "Best Short Story" for my story "Christmas 1942 - A Means to Mighty Ends." It was fun writing it.

Also - I was tagged today by Joanne - and I will return and do the tag game before I leave for Texas but I'm not sure I know eight people I can tag that have not already been tagged.
So, I will leave the tagging off this time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blurry Vision

I have always loved to read and am an avid reader - educational and entertainment values. There was a time when I used to read a book every weekend. But I hadn't done that in a long time.

Today, I literally spent all day reading - from the moment I woke up until one hour ago - stopping only long enough to make coffee and lunch. Never even made dinner. Luckily my kids can fend for themselves.

The book I read was "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold. The story is told from the point of view of a murdered 14-year-old girl who was raped and killed. She tells the story herself - from heaven - or her version of heaven. I liked the setting of the story because I knew the places -- Fairfax, VA; Valley Forge, Philadelphia -- places recently visited. When they talked of the woods, I felt as if I had been there.

I was a bit disappointed in the ending. I kept reading because I wanted to see if they would ever catch the killer or find her missing body. I won't say if they did or not.

But one thing happened .... now I have to go see a doctor. I struggled to read - and my eyes got so tired. Now, everything is so blurry. I put the book down an hour ago and my sight is still blurry. I guess I will have to make an appointment to see an optometrist in the morning.

My father was blind. I can't imagine going through life without seeing. I keep telling myself I overdid it. I hope that is all it is.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ralph "Sonny" Arbitelle

I love feature and human-interest stories. (story below)

I just spent a couple of hours with a very interesting man -- Ralph "Sonny" Arbitelle. I honestly could have stayed there talking with him all day. He was so interesting. He is not only a former (38 years) professional illusionist (has been on Johnny Carson show and numerous other shows) and a member of the Academy of Magical Arts but he is also an artist, a member of the clergy, a published poet and writer and -- he believes strongly that one man can make a BIG difference. He's ready to prove it too.

Today is his 75th birthday and I can't believe I had the honor of spending the morning with him - interviewing him. I feel as if I were the one treated to a great birthday present.

Mr. Arbitelle will be riding cross country -- motorcycle -- to raise awareness and funds for the Susan G. Kommen Breast Cancer Foundation. He had such a wonderful outlook on life - so positive. You couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement of how he looks at life.

He leaves next week and will ride to Connecticut, down to Florida, across the panhandle and across the southwestern states back to California -- 7,500 miles in all. His journey will be made into a Discovery Channel documentary and the motorcycle he is raffling off along the way may be featured in "Deal or No Deal" on television.

When we were done with our interview, he surprised me by autographing two of his books and giving them to me - "The Bingo Farm" and "The Letter." I was so honored.

I am always amazed as to how many interesting people live right where I live -- whether artists, writers, musicians or athletes.

I love my job! And after my story on this man prints, I can come in and share it. But in the meantime, be forewarned - if you happen to hear of this man stopping by your town - go out and support him. He's amazing.

************************************


SVB FRE PINK LADY BIKE RIDE
Esther Avila / Special To The Bee
Ralph "Sonny" Arbitelle, 75, will travel about 7,500 miles to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. The "Pink Lady"motorcycle will be raffled off after the ride.


Visalia man takes cancer fight across the country on motorcycle
By Esther Avila / Special To The Bee
07/27/07 04:44:32

Editor's note: This is an occasional feature in the South Valley Bee in which we profile members of our various communities. We hope readers will provide suggestions for possible profiles, and while we are at it, a name for the feature. Please send those suggestions to southvalley@fresnobee.com or call (559) 622-2420 or fax to (559) 733-1825.

VISALIA -- Believing one man can make a difference, Ralph "Sonny" Arbitelle said he is ready to prove it.

"I used to think one person could not make much of a difference. But I was wrong," Arbitelle said. "You don't have to live a long time to do something and leave a legacy."

Arbitelle, who turned 75 on Saturday, will be making a 7,500-mile round-trip motorcycle journey from California to Connecticut. He plans to raise significant funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, while celebrating breast cancer survival and honoring those who have lost their battle to the disease.

Having lost his father, mother, sister, two aunts, an uncle and cousins, including one who was only 18 years old, to cancer, Arbitelle was still stunned when his daughter, Melanie Roth, developed breast cancer three years ago. After chemo and radiation, she was declared a survivor. But recently, Arbitelle said he learned her cancer had metastasized to her bones. Miraculously, it was ruled out. That is when Arbitelle said he remembered a promise he had made her.

"She was a fighter and I saw how tough it was for her," Arbitelle said. "I told her that one day I was going to get out there and do something."

Arbitelle said he intended on keeping his promise. After brainstorming ideas, he decided on a road trip. He purchased and donated a new 2007 Yamaha V Star 1300.

After dubbing the bike "Pink Lady" for its pink and white custom paint job by Darwin Ward, Arbitelle has been asking for a donation of $25 each per ticket, or five for $100. The bike, on display at D & E Yamaha, 1745 E. Mineral King in Visalia, will be raffled when he returns. And because of Arbitelle's professional connections, it may happen on television's "Deal or No Deal" reality show.

Arbitelle, a 38-year professional illusionist, author of numerous books, a poet and ordained minister, started planning his trip last March. He will leave Visalia on Tuesday and plans to return Aug. 31 or Sept. 1.

But that is just the beginning. Two cameras will be installed on Arbitelle's motorbike, and he has been collaborating with Brooks Wachtel, a writer and producer of the Discovery Channel, for a documentary on the road trip.

With the support of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the journey will begin in Visalia, with stops scheduled for Reno, Nev.; Salt Lake City; Davenport, Iowa; Louisville, Ky.; Cleveland; Scranton, Penn.; and Hartford, Conn. -- where Arbitelle has scheduled a few days of rest.

On the return trip, he will stop in New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Las Vegas before returning to California.

"I will limit my riding to an average of 310 miles a day, six hours a day -- with four layovers built in," said Arbitelle, who recently broke a couple of ribs during a fall. "Everyone has been so supportive."

Along the way, several bikers from each region will join him for some portions with the motto: "We will not give up, be turned back, nor stop riding hard until breast cancer is history."

Still, Arbitelle is also asking for the public's support, locally and on the road. All proceeds from the ride, excluding meals, gasoline and occasional paid shelter, will benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

The

Esther Avila / Special To The Bee
The "Pink Lady" motorcycle, above, on display at D & E Yamaha in Visalia, will be raffled, with proceeds going to fight breast cancer.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Fourth of July

I was looking through some old photos and found this one when my daughter Jennifer won Tulare County "Little Miss Fourth of July" - 1999
That was a very special day in her young life.

Jennifer had heard about the contest and kept asking me to take her to the mall to sign up. I did not want her to because I knew there would be many little girls trying for the title and I didn't want her disappointed when she did not win. One day, while at the mall, she got a little form and was filling it out herself. My heart broke. She really wanted to try so I decided to let her enter the contest but I kept reminding her that she may not win.
But she knew - she was confident. And she won!












Saturday, June 23, 2007

Back from vacation


Kailua Beach is so beautiful. It is located on the windward side of Oahu island and has been voted "the most beautiful beach in the United States" - it literally is picture-perfect. White powder sand, clear turquoise waters and turtles swim with you! I love sea turtles!

Cathy, Jennnifer and Marisa - Hawaii 2007

Anyway -- I am temporarily back. I was gone for two weeks and it was nice coming home. But, I had a great time in Hawaii and at a couple of other places I visited. Though I must admit, traveling 10 hours on the plane from Hawaii to Pennsylvania - and then another flight to West Virginia - was very exhausting. I met the Fabulous Studio Band on tour at Shinnston, W. Virginia - Buck Shaffer's hometown. I had the most beautiful, amazing time.

And it looks like I am not done. I'll be sending my children to Oregon to visit family while I take care of some more business travel....heading east to New Jersey next.

But not all travel is business, once the girls return, we will have a little fun before school starts in August. Catherine is a senior in high school and we will be visiting a couple of schools this summer - UC Santa Barbara and Pepperdine University - we'll stay with my sister in Camarillo - so that'll be fun. We also plan on traveling north to see San Francisco State University and UC Homboldt.

If there is time, I will take my mother to Phoenix to visit my sister for a few days. I took her two years ago and I guess it is time to go again.

As to writing - I'm still writing news stories here and there, but I hope to get back to my "fun" writing soon.

Until then - aloha. (I'm still wishing I were back on Kailua)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Take Out Your Mont Blancs - "Table for Eight"

I'm very excited! -- I made the Readers' Choice category.

Readers' Choice, 1st Runner-Up -- ESTHER AVILA, Table for Eight (story below)

TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2007

Entry #31

Table for Eight



“Perfect,” Emma said to herself as she placed a small vase with a handful of daisies in the center of a small round table. Eight veneer dessert plates were already carefully placed – each on a pretty paper doily.

Emma glanced at the clock before smoothing her blue dress down with both of her hands.

She loved the color of the dress – and the matching blue ribbon keeping her long ponytail in place. It reminded her of the robin eggs she had seen while on a picnic with her mother.

“Look here, Emma,” her mother had said as the 9-year-old child peeked into the nest. “New life will begin soon.”

Emma tried to remember what they talked about. But she couldn’t. She missed her mother and she tried not to think of the day her mother left.

Emma peered out the large window. Her mother had called and promised to join her for tea. But there was no sign of anyone coming.

“Emma Johnson – a most interesting case,” said Dr. Jason Sanders to three young psychiatrist interns as they watched the little girl in the blue hospital gown through a two-way mirror. “Child Protective Services picked her up from a filthy home. Her mother had been dead for two days – alcohol and overdose. Poor kid. As they took her from her home, she ran to the sink and salvaged those little dishes. She sets that table every day and waits.”

22 COMMENTS:

briliantdonkey said...
I really like the duality of real vs dilusion. EX: Blue hospital gown become pretty blue dress.

Nice work.

BD
Joni said...
I agree with BD. Masterfully done.
September said...
Thank you for the nice comments BD and Joni.
Jaye Wells said...
I'd love to see this one expanded a bit because there is so much to be explored. Great job.
Scott said...
You guys are killing me with these sad, sad stories! It breaks my heart to think about that little girl.
September said...
Thanks, Jaye.
Scott, you are right. I've been reading sad story after sad story.
But then again, all of Jason's photo prompts have been either dark-like or [the first one] dark but with light.

I wonder what kind of stories we would see if he posted something vibrant?
mutleythedog said...
I wonder what kind of stories we would see if he posted something vibrant?

More sad stories I should think...
Beth said...
This is so well done, September. Pulls on the heart strings!
Jude said...
Really really touching- clever story too.
Verilion said...
The clues left in the first part are very clever. A very poignant tale.
heather said...
oh i wanna slap the doctors and go hug that little girl and talk of robin eggs and pretty blue dresses. very well done. thank you!
Trevor Record said...
Oh, that is so sad! I think there should be a rule against writing sad stories about little kids!

September said:
I wonder what kind of stories we would see if he posted something vibrant?

Mutley Said:
More sad stories I should think...

I say:
Heh, Mutley tells is how it is.
September said...
Come on Mutley - think positive, dawg. :)

Beth, Jude and Verillion - thank you.

Heather: I know what you mean. And, thank you.

Trevor: Dejavu. Sigh. What is really sad is that these situations really exist.
Terri said...
This one is particularly heart-breaking...so, well written :)

Heather: I'll second that.
September said...
Thank you, Terri. Children do have a way of getting to us, don't they?
Susan Flemming said...
Oh... that last paragraph really gets you. I'm picturing a little girls getting ready for a tea party... and I suppose she is... just in a different setting than first thought.

That switch/surprize is one of the things that is characteristic of well written flash fiction. And yours made the story especially poignant. Well done.
Susan Flemming said...
Correction...

little girl... not little girls.
September said...
Thank you, Susan. Poor little kid - waiting and waiting...
September said...
Thank you - for voting for my story. It is an honor for me to have won the runner up Reader's Choice award. :)
Beth said...
Congratulations on the Reader's Choice!!
jason evans said...
Wow, that was a tough ending. The gown/dress was brilliant!

High marks for pacing and entertainment value.

Congratulations on 1st Runner-up, Readers' Choice Award!!
September said...
Thanks, Jason. I always appreciate your comments. Thanks again for hosting the contest.

April 29: Winners announced
1st Place--TREVOR RECORD, Sleep
2nd Place
--SEAN FERRELL, Talking Down the Flames
3rd Place
--REBECCA HENDRICKS, Superstar
4th Place
--JAYE WELLS, Werewife
5th Place
--KATHERINE NAPIER, Reality Bytes
Honorable Mention
--JUDE ENSAFF, Case #453
Honorable Mention
--BRILLIANT DONKEY, Its All Relative
Honorable Mention
--BETH, Things We Cannot Say
Honorable Mention
--G. LI, Afterglow'
Honorable Mention
--JOHN MCAULEY, Steak & Pork Brains
Readers' Choice
--JAYE WELLS, Werewife
Readers' Choice, 1st Runner-Up -- ESTHER AVILA, Table for Eight (story above)

ALSO - I want to let you know about another writing opportunity. My blog friend, Bhaswati, has posted about a project about an author calling upon other writers to help compile and publish a book to raise funds for a young child who suffers from apraxia. Check it out.