Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone.
I will return soon to post my annual "highlights of 2008" later. I stay in Porterville Mon through Fri - taking care of my mom - and I don't have as much time to devote to writing (other than my work at the newspaper daily) lately.

Christmas morning 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Favorite Christmas cities

A country or small town Christmas experience is beautiful and actually - it is the place that I would want to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - but on the days leading up to Christmas, this country mouse loves to go into the city for a day or two. There are some things that our small towns just can't offer -- the sounds of the city, people everywhere, giant stores with beautiful decorations, ice skating in a central plaza or central park, and one of my favorites - going to a symphony orchestra Christmas concert.

So, with that in mind - Here are some of my favorite cities for Christmas:

New York City
San Francisco
Disneyland (not a real city, but oh so beautiful)
Seattle/Victoria, B.C.

"cold" cities - with snow (or if no snow - with rain)

Christmas traditions

I have several traditions at my home, though they are all quite special, I will share a few of them here.

Every year, since my girls were little, I have bought each of them a special ornament. When the girls were in ballet, I got them little porceline "girls in pink tutus" ornaments. As they grew, and had different interests, they got more individualized ornaments - softball player, musical instruments, and other unique ones -- Paris' eiffel tower, NYC's empire state building - and other gold, silver, and gemstone ones.
Jennifer treasures her Care Bears, Marisa her Back Street Boys ornament s- and Catherine, her Barbie ones.
Someday, when they leave and have their own place -- they will each take their box of special ornaments to hang on their first tree.

There is another tradition we have - shopping in a "big city" --normally that means San Francisco Union Square (always have to go see Santa at Macy's) --The trip is not complete without a special brunch or lunch, hot chocolate and ice skating in the plaza.

Last year was truely magical. It snowed. I was promised a "little girl" Christmas experience I would never forget - and I certainly got it -- an awesome light show and listening to Christmas music played on the largest pipe organs I have ever seen at the biggest, most beautiful Macy's I had ever been to. I will never forget it and will forever treasure the photo with Santa I have as a reminder of that magical day.

Disneyland at Christmas is another tradition. I take the girls twice a year. In the summer, and at Christmas. Disneyland is always magical - but even more so at Christmastime.
We will go on Friday, and I can't wait. Marisa especially, is counting the days. Every day she asks "how many more days?" and she jumps up and down and claps when I tell her.

And, my favorite tradition - opening gifts on Christmas morning. Growing up, it was always done the eve before. I wanted to give my children the excitement of Santa (Marisa still believes.)

Whatever your traditions are, may they leave beautiful memories for your loved ones.

Christmas time is here again....

It's finally happened.
My home is slowly getting transformed into a glistening Christmas home.
I got a big tree up in the entryway - and decorated it all evening/night. (all by myself.)
I got a smaller 5-ft white tree for my daughter's room. She decorated it in blues, pinks, purples and penguins. It's so pretty.
I placed three smaller trees in the dining room, and a small table top tree in Catherine's room. She returns next weekend from UC Santa Barbara. Yay! I'm so excited. I can't wait for her to see our little winter wonderland sparkling home. Marisa's room is too small for a tree (she has the cutest room - at her request, she wanted that room - think half a dorm size) but we are placing green garland around her window. It's lighted, plays Christmas tunes, and she can hang some of her small ornaments from it.
My mantel and piano is also covered in beautiful rustic garland, with silver and gold accents.
My house smells like gingerbread or home-baked apple pie (depending on which candles I light) and I constantly play Christmas music - I am listening to Eugene Ormandy conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra (Glorious Sound of Christmas album) "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" as I write this.

I have always loved decorating my home for Christmas but it has been a few years since I've really gone all out. It kind of stopped in 2003 when Catherine was dying in the hospital and I "lived" there for a couple of weeks - never coming home. (that year we got our tree the day she came home - Christmas Eve.)
Since then, I've decorated but never the same again....though last year I started getting back into the swing of it.

Yes - it's definitely beginning to smell, sparkle, and look a lot like Christmas at my home.

Monday, December 01, 2008

From Beethoven with love

Broken hearts do not heal. People say they do, but they don’t.
They are hollow, like a broken drum – silent and undone.
And life goes on but the spirit doesn’t. It remains,
with such longing and such unfulfilled belonging…..

She thought this year would be different.
She thought he was different.
Yet, she’s alone.… through evenings, weekends and holidays.

The heart beats but no rhythm is played......she remains alone....and he does too.

Love letter from Beethoven to his immortal beloved on July 7, 1812

Though still in bed my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us.

I can live only wholly with you or not at all—yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home, send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits.

—Yes, unhappily it must be so—you will be the more resolved since you know my fidelity—to you, no one can ever again possess my heart—none—never—Oh, God!

why is it necessary to part from one whom one so loves and yet my life in Vienna is now a wretched life—your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men—at my age, I need a steady, quiet life—can that be under our conditions?

...Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together—be calm—love me—today—yesterday—what tearful longings for you—you—you—my life—my all—farewell—Oh continue to love me—never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.

ever thine
ever mine
ever for each other

Monday, November 10, 2008

Buck Shaffer Community Clock

All photos by Esther Avila

Saturday was such a bittersweet day for me - very emotional, and yes - along with many others - I cried.

Anyway -- It is official. The beautiful Buck Shaffer Community Clock is definitely up.

If you are in, or anywhere near, Porterville, stop by and take a look and you can probably agree with me and say that it is striking.

An added surprise that we kept secret is the sculpture of Buck- directing the band - that stands on top of the clock.

Saturday was a beautiful day - and, I am very biased, and have to say that listening to Jim Kusserow and the Fabulous Studio Band rated right up there with the unveiling of the clock. What a treat.

REMINDER - Don't forget, if you are in the area, meet at the clock before the parade -- 9 a.m. Tuesday, November 11 -- for the dedication of the clock to the city of Porterville. It will be short and sweet.

The parade starts at 10 a.m. And the Buck Shaffer Band-A-Rama at 2 p.m. - with preshow at 1:15 p.m. at PC's Jamison Stadium.

Hope to see some of you there,

Esther Avila
Class of 1976

I wrote two stories on Saturday's event -- if you missed them, here are the links

Buck Shaffer Community Clock unveiled
Porterville Recorder, CA - 22 hours agoBy ESTHER AVILA
Thousands of community members gathered at the plaza at Centennial Park at noon Saturday with one thing in mind — to see the unveiling of the city's new Buck Shaffer Community Clock.
“A year ago, I was standing here looking at a vacant piece of land, saying ‘The clock will be here,’” Felipe Martinez, a City Council member who is also on the committee that spearheaded the project, said. “Porterville is a community that gives and gives. Buck Shaffer’s soul is here. It’s an amazing feat to come together and do this.” on link to read full story.

Music marches on in Porterville
Porterville Recorder, CA - 23 hours agoBy ESTHER AVILA
Somewhere up in heaven, Frank "Buck" Shaffer is smiling. That’s because music was flowing down Main Street Saturday during the Fabulous Music Jam II, an all-day music festival at the plaza at Centennial Park in downtown Porterville. And because one of the last wishes of his life was made real.

The celebration of sound took place in conjunction with the unveiling of the Buck Shaffer Community Clock, a monument in honor of the late Frank “Buck” Shaffer, Porterville’s musical icon and former Porterville High School band director. on link to read entire story.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Selma Band Review

Amazing - how Monache High School wins the Grand Sweepstakes again and again.
This year was no exception. They did it again - winning the award for the 24th time and I loved that I was there to see it again.

Competition was tough too -- with only a half of a point separating the top three bands.
Granite Hills High School shined too and brought home a few awards, including first place for their majorettes.

Here is the story that I wrote for the Porterville Recorder:

SELMA — It was icing on the cake Saturday for Monache High School when for the 24th year, the Marauder Marching Band proved nothing could stop them from winning Grand Sweepstakes during the 44th annual Selma Marching Band Festival at Staley Stadium in Selma.

The competition was tougher than previous years — only one half of a point separating the top four bands — so the young Monache musicians wondered what the final results might be.

“I had no idea we were going to win,”Amanda Allen, head field drum major, said. “We thought we had it figured out, so when [the announcer] said ‘For the 24th year,’ — the band didn’t wait for the rest, they jumped up and started screaming. I had not even gotten to the salute yet to receive the trophy. They rushed the field and beat me to the trophy.”

2008 Band Festival Winners:
GRAND SWEEPSTAKES: Monache High School



GRAND MARSHAL'S TROPHY: Mt. Whitney High School

PARADE HIGH MUSIC: Monache High School

FIELD SHOW HIGH MUSIC: Reedley High School



DIVISION B - 1. Washington Union; 2. Mt. Whitney; 3. Kingsburg

DIVISION C - 1. Granite Hills; 2. Edison; 3. Exeter

DIVISION D - 1. Roosevelt; 2. Fresno Christian; 3. Sunnyside


DIVISION A - 1. La Joya; 2. Barlett; 3. Rafer Johnson

DIVISION B - 1. Washington Intermediate; 2. El Monte; 3. Burton


DIVISION A - 1. Reedley; 2. Monache; 3. Stockdale

DIVISION B - 1. Kingsburg; 2. Paso Robles; 3. Mt. Whitney

DIVISION C - 1. Exeter; 2. Selma; 3. Atascadero

DIVISION D - 1. Templeton; 2. Orange Cove; 3. Farmersville



DRUM MAJOR, MILITARY: 1. Fowler; 2. Reedley; 3. Kerman

DRUM MAJOR, MACE: 1. Hanford West; 2. Sunnyside; 3. Roosevelt.

DRUM MAJOR, OPEN: 1. Redwood; 2. Farmersville

SOLO TWIRLER: 1. Fresno Christian; 2. Mt. Whitney;

MAJORETTE TEAMS: 1. Granite Hills; 2. Monache

IDENTIFICATION UNITS/LETTER CARRIERS: 1. Monache; 2. Washington Union; 3. Reedley

FLAG TEAMS: 1. Dinuba; 2. Washington Union; 3. Fowler

PERCUSSION: 1. Kingsburg; 2. Hanford West; 3. Sanger

PARADE JUNIOR HIGHDRUM MAJOR: 1. La Joya; 2. El Monte; 3. Burton


IDENTIFICATION UNITS/LETTER CARRIERS: 1. Washington Intermediate;2. Burton; 3. Abraham Lincoln

FLAG TEAMS: 1. Burton; 2. Washington Intermediate; 3. La Joya

PERCUSSION: 1. Washington Intermediate; 2. Burton; 3. La Joya

FIELD SHOWSPERCUSSION: 1. Sanger; 2. Kingsburg; 3. Mt. Whitney

ATTACHED UNITS: 1. Sanger; 2. Kingsburg; 3. Paso Robles

DRUM MAJORS: 1. Paso Robles; 2. Hanford West; 3. Stockdale

NON-BAND AWARDSSCHOOLS: 1. Selma FFA; 2. Jackson Elem. School; 3. Indianola

COMMUNITY: 1. Selma Lioness; 2. American Legion; 3. Maravillas

COMMERCIAL: 1. EECU; 2. Quinn Co.; 3. Selma Auto Mall


AUTOS - 1935 & NEWER: 1. Elwin W Peak; 2. Selma Masonic Lodge #277

AUTOS - CUSTOM/MODIFIED: 1. Marvin Raven; 2. Great American Hay Rake;3. Latin Angel Car Club

THEME TROPHY: Jackson Elementary School

Granite Hills shines at Visalia Band Review

We have some amazing school bands in Porterville and Granite Hills High School made us proud at the Visalia Band Review on Saturday, October 18.
VISALIA — A Porterville band took to the streets of Visalia on Saturday and walked away with honors befitting a winner.
Led by parade drum major Erik Bartlett, the Granite Hills High School marching band stepped out to John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post” during the Visalia Lions’ 28th annual Visalia Invitational Music in Motion in downtown Visalia.
photos and story by Esther Avila

Friday, October 24, 2008

cute alien

I picked up this little guy at an event I went to recently - Porterville Art Association sponsor appreciation dinner - at the Porterville Art Gallery.
Ballooney the Clown was there and he made this for me.
Isn't it cute?
I have the coolest job.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

emotional - nostalgic -- fairy tales -- whatever it may be .....

"Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together - Be calm - love me - today - yesterday - what tearful longings for you - you - you - my life - my all - farewell. Oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved. ever thine ever mine ever ours."

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
If you’re young at heart
For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
If you’re young at heart
You can go to extremes with impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams
And life gets more exciting with each passing day
And love is either in your heart or on it’s way
Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart
For as rich as you are it’s much better by far
To be young at heart
And if you should survive to 105
Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive
Then here is the best part
You have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rainy days and Mondays

I love them both. Always have.
I love rain - it's so refreshing.

Today I was looking out the window when I suddenly noticed the light but consistent mist falling. You could almost not call it rain, it was so fine. But I didn't care. I jumped up and ran outside. I love rain. We rarely see it out here. But, as expected, it didn't last. No time to even grab an umbrella. Something about walking in the rain with an umbrella is so precious.

Extra special today - I didn't have to work. A day off - I did plenty of housework and I went to see my Jennifer's tennis match. She's an awesome tennis player. Last year she started playing for the first time and she's on the JV team but frequently plays varsity. She won again today. :) Catherine was on the team when she was there too and went two years undefeated. I love watching my daughters play tennis. Marisa always goes with me and she enjoys it too.

I took my girls to the mall and to In and Out for dinner. It's so strange not having Catherine here. I miss her. But I did get to spend the weekend in Santa Barbara with my family. It was very special.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ralph Lauren shoes

Remember the song by Melanie Safka?
"I've got a brand new pair of roller skates, you've got a brand new key."
Growing up, anytime I got a new pair of shoes, I'd walk about singing it. I've always loved new shoes.
Well..... I've got a brand new pair of Ralph Lauren shoes.....

I had most of the day off today so Catherine and I headed to Fresno for some school clothes (jacket mainly) shopping. She leaves for Santa Barbara this weekend.
Our first stop was Macy's - she fell in love with a nice coat there and picked it up.
I fell in love with the shoe department -- Stuart Weitzman shoes but at $295.00 a pair, they were a bit much. Same thing with a wonderful pair of Vince Camuto's (yeah, for fun I tried them on) and some nice Coach shoes. But then I saw and tried on a pair of Ralph Lauren Shoes and I could not leave them there - so I pampered myself and bought them.

  Ralph Lauren "Hollie" Leather Pumps

Here they are - aren't they pretty?
They're chocolate brown, beautiful, have the sweet RL enamaled ornament, and I love them.
Happy Birthday to me. :)
I hadn't had a pampering "princess" day in a long time and I needed it. And, Macy's is one of my favorite stores - of course, I prefer Boscov's but none of those here.

(I wore them to work Friday and felt like a little girl wearing new shoes.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 11

In honor and memory of September 11, the city of Porterville lowered their flags to half staff.

photo by Esther Avila

Thursday, September 11, 2008

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I had the most wonderful time tonight. Marisa and I went to see Collin Raye at the Tulare County Fair. It was wonderful. I love Collin Raye and have seen him in concert seven times now.

Tonight was great. Not only did I totally enjoy the concert, but afterwards, the stage manager gave me a song list. They normally don't give them out but I was working (I had my name tag and had been talking to people and taking lots of pictures, so they asked if I was with the press and I said yes.
And not only did I get the song list. I got a guitar pick from Collin Raye and they gave Marisa a glossy 8x10 photograph......

AND......(drumroll) .....I got an exclusive interview with Collin Raye's stage manager! He gave me his business card and asked me to also email him my story and that he will see about placing it online! Oh my gosh....I love my job.

I was so excited. He talked about his new album and where they were heading next.

Oh....another interesting thing....the drummer.
You gotta love the drummers. 

But, during one of the numbers ---- he fell off the stage! Literally.
He actually fell off the platform and all the way off the stage.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Letting Go"

This past weekend I attended and wrote about the fifth annual "Wish Upon A Star - Shave the Brave" event. Law enforcement, firemen, and military men and women shaved their heads, beards, mustaches - to raise money to make dying children's dreams come true.
After that event, I covered a "Locks of Love" story - two sisters with hair long enough to sit on had never cut their hair in their lives (10 and 12 years) -- I was there for their first cut.

I decided this was a good place to post my last online contest story.
I entered the 250-words or less short story in Jason Evan's Clarity of Night'
The way the contests work: Jason posts a photo and writers are inspired to write a short short story, using the photo as inspiration.
This particular contest sported a photo of a motorcycle.

"Letting Go"

Ever since Sarah could remember, Johnny wanted a motorcycle, so it did not surprise her that when he turned 16, it was what he asked for.

“No. Absolutely not,” Sarah said as she turned to face her husband. “You know how I feel about these things. Tommy would still …”

She couldn’t finish the sentence. Her younger brother had been killed on his first motorcycle – at age 16.

“Stop baby,” her husband said as he went to her side and held her. “He’s not Tommy. Look at him. He’s not a little boy anymore. Sooner or later you’ll have to learn to let go.”

She turned to look at Johnny, who had tried so hard to find his identity. Sarah couldn’t help but smile as she saw that the half-man/half-child had fallen asleep on the couch – watching cartoons – his long lean body draped over a stack of pillows on the floor.

She remembered how upset she felt when he cut his hair, first into a Mohawk, later clean-shaven. A lightening bolt tattoo followed and Sarah was relieved when he told her it was only henna.

No matter how big he got, he would always be her little boy, she thought.

“Sweetheart,” her husband interrupted her thoughts, telephone against his chest. “It’s ‘Make a Wish Foundation.’ They are bringing a motorcycle for Johnny to ride.”

Sarah nodded as tears rolled down her face. She knew she couldn’t take Johnny’s last wish away.

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...
That was so heartrending.My heart went out to the family.Hope it might not be his last wish...Very well narrated!
July 15, 2008 1:39 PM
wrath999 said...
Wow sadness at abundance here.Excellent!alex
July 15, 2008 1:58 PM
BernardL said...
Well illustrated sample of a parent's nightmare.
July 15, 2008 2:37 PM
Sarah Hina said...
So heartbreaking. You took this in a completely different direction than I thought. The line about having to "let go" really gets me in retrospect. And I like how he is caught between boyhood and adulthood as all this strikes. Richly drawn tale. Good job!
July 15, 2008 2:49 PM
strugglingwriter said...
Very heartfelt. I could totally hear my Mom saying “No. Absolutely not,” to a motorcycle :)
July 15, 2008 2:55 PM
J.C. Montgomery said...
Wow, what a tug on the heart. Good job on drawing the reader in so well in such a short space of time.
July 15, 2008 3:11 PM
Beth said...
Truly a surprise ending, not what I expected at all. Very good!
July 15, 2008 3:11 PM
kgilbert said...
A superbly woven story. Surprise ending. Very poignant.
July 15, 2008 3:58 PM
JaneyV said...
Esther - a beautiful and poignant story. The ending was both heart-breaking and unexpected. You packed a lot into your 250 words. Well Done.
July 15, 2008 4:35 PM
SzélsőFa said...
Oh, this was painful and haunting. The twist at the end made it sorrowful, and took the meaning of 'letting go' to another, elevated level.
July 15, 2008 5:01 PM
September said...
Thank you, everyone. I actually had three different stories in mind but decided to go with this one because I enjoy writing unexpected endings. I was hoping it was not too obvious but wanted the reader to go back and see it -- the "letting go" and the shaved head. I had a couple other hints in there but removed them because it may have been too obvious.Thank you again for the kind comments.
July 15, 2008 10:15 PM
Lena said...
really a surprise ending, makes me feel so sad after reading it, you have done a great job in just 250 words :)
July 15, 2008 11:26 PM
JR's Thumbprints said...
It's not easy being subtle, but I think you did a good job with it.
July 16, 2008 12:17 AM
Wannabe Writer said...
Not even a hint that Johnny was sick until the end. Good job. -Rita
July 16, 2008 7:53 AM
Scott said...
I was sure this was going to turn bad quickly, but you played it straight. This is a slice of a parent's life, the pain of letting go. Touching.
July 16, 2008 8:05 AM
Dottie said...
Ditto what Scott said. Nice pacing in your piece.
July 17, 2008 11:37 AM
The Grocer said...
Excellent surprise at the end in a totally different way to expectation.
July 17, 2008 12:20 PM
pernille said...
What an ending! I was so surprised. After reading you own comments I found the clues - excellent writing.
July 17, 2008 5:44 PM
angel said...
omg that totally caught me off guard! i have a big lump in my throat now... wonderful!
July 18, 2008 2:52 AM
c.s. said...
beautifully written! i like it a lot!
July 18, 2008 12:40 PM
September said...
Thank you for the supportive comments. I've always enjoyed reading (and writing) stories with twists and turns, and especially enjoy surprise endings. I'm grateful to Jason for running these contests - we all learn so much and it so entertaining to read all of your stories.
July 19, 2008 2:41 AM
Posolxstvo I said...
Nice irony... made us think that mom said no to a bike because someone she loved was killed on one - looks like even she believes that. This was one of my favorites (so far).
July 19, 2008 10:48 AM
Missy said...
July 19, 2008 1:31 PM
September said...
Thank you, missy and posolxstvo i.
July 19, 2008 6:42 PM
laughingwolf said...
well done, esther... hits home on so many levels
July 19, 2008 7:34 PM
September said...
Thank you, laughingwolf.
July 20, 2008 2:20 AM
jason evans said...
Very effective emotional hit. Did not see that coming at all. We were lulled into a sense of normal teenage rebellion. High marks overall.
July 24, 2008 4:57 PM

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Reading and more reading

I guess you could say that if I am not at work, I am reading. Though lately, I've found it harder to read a book a weekend. The last book -- "The last summer of you and me" took me two weekends, but no surprise, as I was also out with my girls doing back-to-school shopping.
(cute little story, by the way - sweet summer read)

It's amazing how much Catherine needs for school. I had never given it much thought until we started picking up things - basically, she needs everything -- but keeping in mind that it all must fit into a dorm room.

She got her new flat screen television (I know, don't say it) but the way I see it, she studies hard and if she wants to watch a program or two, it's fine with me. New printer, new mini refrigerator, iron and board, etc. etc. -- and all of the normal dorm stuff - xl sheets, xl comforter, and cute stuff for her desk -- the list seems endless. How fun.

Well, this weekend was another long weekend. I had Saturday and Sunday off so I picked up a new book -- Nicholas Sparks "The Choice" -- but I just couldn't get into it.
I was too busy Saturday with family -- barbecue at my sister's house -- and on Sunday, just couldn't get into it. It may take me a couple of weekends for this book since this weekend is gone.
Oh, I worked Monday, Labor Day. I'm off today but it's another busy day. I'm taking care of my mom and then have a tennis match, followed by Back to School Night for Jennifer.

So, nothing exciting to report. Oh...yes....there is one thing. Collin Raye will be performing on September 11 at the Tulare County Fair. That's exciting - for me anyway. He has been one of my favorite country singers ever since I can remember....."That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

Monday, August 04, 2008

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

My angel story has caught the attention of Keith Olbermann - it was mentioned in his "let's play oddball" section of his July 31 "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" show.

That is so cool!

And, more exciting Angel stories are bringing in record hits at the office -- almost 10,000 hits in less than a week!! -- a record for us!

Of course, I've had a few phonecalls from people saying "how dare you write this" -- but I never said I believed or didn't believe it was an angel or Jesus on the Cross -- I simply reported what people out there were doing and saying.

Stay tuned for another story soon. I'm already working on story number three.

If you missed my last story, click here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Angel gone but Jesus and Virgin Mary in palm tree

Wow. Just when I thought I had heard it all - something new comes along. The angel on the window is gone but guess what? It was replaced by an image of Jesus on a nearby tree.
I went to report on it tonight and there were so many people, it took forever to get out of there and back to the office. I had to drive through a couple of parking lots and then take the back roads all the way to Morton Avenue and return to the office the long way back.
Talk about a fun day! (I also worked on a couple of other stories - new superintendent for Alta Vista school district and a story about a patient from a developmental center who escaped and is still missing.)
To read the image story - click here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Angels in the newsroom

Photo by Esther Avila

I had a most interesting day today - covering everything from visiting with Chinese children, followed by a police chase and shooting, an afternoon covering boat races and photographing children in the lake, and finishing the day by covering the sudden appearance of an angel in a window.
Oh yes, today was a fun news reporting day.
Can my job be any more interesting?
Did I mention that I absolutely love my work?
I do. I do. I do. I do. I do.

Angel appears on local window

Comments 2 Recommended 13
The appearance of what appears to be the image of an angel on a local business window has several Porterville residents flocking to the location in hopes of seeing the angel, with halo, that appears to be flying.
The image has been appearing after dark for several nights, said Debrah Dattoli, who captured it on video.
People have been gathering after dark at Carpet Plus Colortile, 1043 W. Olive Ave., to catch a glimpse of the angel.
To read the full story - click here.

I'm sorry - this story appears to be gone. However, I did write a couple of other stories on this topic.
See two stories below.

Angelic sighting attracting crowds to Porterville store
Posted: Monday, July 28, 2008 12:00 am
Angelic sighting attracting crowds to Porterville store
(Recorder photo by Esther Avila)

Age didn't matter, and neither did religion, as more than 200 men, women and children gathered Friday evening in one accord — to see firsthand if an image of what appears to be an angel on the window of a local business was real.

"It's unexplainable," said Debra Dattoli, when she brought a video of the image to the Porterville Recorder on Thursday. "It has actually been there over a year now."

Once Dattoli reported the angelic image — which spans across two large storefront windows at Carpet Plus Colortile at 1043 W. Olive Ave. — large crowds flocked to the area.
Fathers lifted their young children and pointed to the image. Others brought their cameras and used their cell phones to call family, friends and loved ones — inviting them to come see for themselves — the angel that has been making appearances night after night. Most of the people arrived in large crowds, bringing their families and friends along. Most of the people talked excitedly but a couple of people stood silently, as if in awe, one with tears.
"It's amazing. We're Catholic — we do believe in Virgin Mary appearances but very seldom do we see an appearance of an angel. It's a blessing," said Sylvia Trevino of Porterville. "We're true believers. I have a feeling this will go national. This is huge. There's a reason why this is here."
Many in attendance expressed similar sentiments.
"It says in the Bible, Acts 2, that in the end days there will be signs and wonders," said Maria Hurtado, who said she attends a Porterville non-denominational church. "I was in a bad mood before coming but once I got here, it had a calming affect on me. This is a way of God saying ‘I'm coming.'"
Hurtado said people keep trying to figure out what is causing the image.
"Not me. I just accept it. In Proverbs 3, it says that we should not lean on our own understanding," Hurtado said. "They should just accept it and trust in God."
Brothers Adrian and Joe Soto arrived with their father and with friends. Though Adrian Soto said he was a bit skeptical, Joe Soto said he wanted to know why it suddenly appeared.
"I'm not sure what to think," Joe Soto, said. "This is something you don't see every day. I'm not sure how to react to it. I heard of it today so we all came over. It's funny how everybody's gathering to see it."
One woman, Angelina Briones, said she captured the image on video — opening and closing her eyes.
"We came last night and I caught it on film," she said as she showed several people her video. "They say in the Bible that there will be signs. This is a sign. I like it."
The stories continued, with resident after resident sharing their stories, photos and videos with those around them.
"It's beautiful. Our town needed a sign like this. It's exciting to see all the people. We needed this to keep the faith," said Aimee Navarro. "I read about it in the paper. You can't believe it till you see it so I came with my nephew, brother, cousins and friends. We don't see too many positive signs like this and we needed it after [Friday's] stabbing and shooting. People should come and see this."
Owners of the business, Ronald and Teri Johnson, said during a television interview that they believed the bright image was created by an odd reflection. But after rearranging racks and other store items, the reflection continued — night after night.
Teri Johnson said: "I think our angel is sent here from God and watches over us because we pray all the time for our business and our family."
-- Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1047 or

People seeing new image - Jesus on the cross

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 12:00 am
Recorder Photo by Esther Avila 
 An image of what appeared to look like an angel on the window of a local store is gone but a sea of people longing to catch a glimpse of the heavenly creature flocked to the site tonight hoping to see not only the angel but also something new — an image of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross on a nearby palm tree.
“I went looking for the angel and it was gone,” Robert Sanchez said today. “Then someone said Christ was there and I looked up and I saw him. Christ was on the cross, arms out, head down, his beard, his eyes — down to the last detail. You can see his ribs and his stance with his knees up and arms hanging to the side. I was thrilled. To have two sightings in the same place — it confirms that the image on the window was not fake.”
Sanchez said he saw the new image around 8:45 p.m. Monday and again at 2 a.m. today when he returned with his family.
Two Porterville police officers and the PPD traffic patrol supervisor monitored the activity tonight.
“We’re out here to make sure everyone is safe,” said traffic patrol supervisor Mark Acevedo. “Other than the traffic issues, there have been no problems.”
Crowds of people could be seen on both sides of Olive Avenue. Some people parked east of the highway and walked to the 1000 block of West Olive Avenue.
Most of the crowd could be seen taking photographs. Some claimed to see it, some didn’t. Television crews were interviewing people.
The Rev. Steve Benton, pastor from Hope Restoration Ministries in Poplar, placed a cross at the base of the palm tree.
Recorder Photo by Esther Avila
“My wife and I were here to share our faith with the people who are drawn to this image in the window,” Benton said. “I have been out here for two nights and never saw it myself but these people are looking for something to fill the vacuum in their lives. That is why I put up the cross, because it is an image that is really clear. People are looking for something. People are looking for hope.”
Porterville resident Trina Leon said her heart felt heavy when she saw the people.
“My heart just sank. People want to believe,” Leon said. “I said ‘People, this is not of God.’ It was an illusion. I call it mass hysteria. People want to have hope but that hope needs to lie in God. Instead of turning to a palm tree or a window, they need to look for God.”
The angel in the window turned out to be nothing more than reflections of light from the mini mart across the street. But people who have been gathering at the site are not convinced.
“People will see whatever they want to see. That’s imagination,” Adel Joudi, owner of Xpress Gas and Minit Mart, said. “The angel has been there since I opened the store two years ago. It was a light reflection. If I turn on the light, it is there. If the light is off, it is gone.”
Nearly 400 people arrived Monday night to see the angel, he said.
“I had to call the police,” Joudi said. “They couldn’t control the crowd. I had to shut my store down for two hours while they got all the cars out of here.”
Joudi said he was forced to turn off the lights directly under the overhang of his business to prove to the people that the angel was caused by a light reflection.
“But people wouldn’t believe it. They wouldn’t leave. They hung around the area until 1 a.m. to see if the angel would return,” Joudi said. “I just want them to go away. I want them to know that the angel will not return. I have a business. I just want people to respect my business.”
Across the street, the owners of Color Tile, Ron and Teri Johnson, also talked about the mass crowd.
“There were so many people [Monday] night. They were in the street, in the street median, in the parking lots, at the empty brick house across the street, in the empty field — they were everywhere. It was unbelievable,” Ron Johnson said. “It is wonderful and exciting and nice but I don’t think it is a miracle.”
-- Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1047 or

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mamma mia... dot dot dot

I went to see "Mamma mia" with the girls - it was so funny and we had a great time. I'm such a hopeless romantic and I like Meryl Streep. Growing up in the 70s - of course, Abba was all over the radio, but I don't remember particularly paying attention to any one song - you automatically sing with the radio - I mean, I did. I'm always singing - constantly, especially when I wash dishes, in the shower, and always in the car. But listening to the songs, in this musical, it brought it all back. Songs I had forgotten, came back to me. I had to resist the urge to start singing along in the theater.
Interestingly enough, the theater was filled with two age groups - mostly women in the younger teen to 20s and mature women but -- when it came to couples, they were all in their 60s.
I will go and buy the soundtrack - just for fun. They are all cute songs. I like all genres of music. Here's three songs that I really liked. They all had words that meant something to me. I can only imagine what it must be like to actually have someone of your very own. ohhh...mamma mia.

Mamma Mia
Mamma mia, here I go again
My my, how can I resist you?
Mamma mia, does it show again
My My, just how much I've missed you?
Yes, I've been broken-hearted
Blue since the day we parted
Why, why did I ever let you go?
Mamma mia, now I really know
My my, I should not have let you go

Our last summer
I can still recall
Our last summer
I still see it all
Walks along the (shore)
Laughing in the rain
Our last summer
Memories that remain

We made our way along the (coast)
And we sat down in the grass by the (light houses)
I was so happy we had met
It was the age of no regret
Oh, yes
Those crazy years
That was the time of (living our dreams)
... We took our chance
Like we were dancing our last dance

I do I do I do I do I do

Oh, I've been dreaming through my lonely past
Now I've just made it
I found you at last
So come on
Now let's try it
I love you
Can't deny it
'Cause it's true
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do

Oh, no hard feelings between you and me
If we can't make it
We just wait and see
So come on now, let's try it
I love you, can't deny it

'Cause it's true, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do
Love me or leave me
Make your choice
but believe me I love you,
I do, I do, I do, I do, I do

I can't conceal it
Don't you see, can't you feel it?
Don't you too? I do, I do, I do, I do, I do

OH, mamma mia, indeed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Story posted

My story is in. :)
Please go over to Jason's "Clarity of Night" sight to read it.
I'm entry No. 45 but they are alphabetized and I am the fifth one down.....
"Letting Go"

And don't forget to comment. Better yet, enter a story of your own. You have a day left.
I always enjoy entering the contests.

See you all at the finish line!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Clarity of Night" short fiction contest

Jason Evans is running his ninth "Clarity of Night" short fiction contest. I'm so excited.
I always enjoy these and encourage all writers to enter the contest.
You can find all of the official rules here: "Running-Wind-Short-Fiction-Contest"
If you have not participated before, it's really quite simple.
Using a photograph (posted on his site) for inspiration, compose a short fiction (or poetry) piece of no more than 250 words in any genre or style. That's it. There are a few prizes just for fun, but really, all participants get so much out of it. Not only do people comment on the stories, but Jason will give you a little evaluation on your writing. (via email)

If you want to read any of my previous entries from other Jason Evans' contests, you can find them here:

"Two Lights" short fiction - I won second place - it was my debut online writing contest
Read story here:
"Endless Hour" short fiction - I won First Runner up, Readers' Choice award
see story here:
"It is finished" short fiction -
"Silent Grey" -

Skunks, racoons, and UCSB

I've been at UCSB with Catherine for a two-day Freshman Orientation -- two days of workshops to help scholars and parents transition into college life. I loved it.

I learned so much. Catherine and I were separated into separate groups. Scholars went with peers and parents with parents. They kept us so busy too. I was in "class" from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. the first night.

Thursday night they scheduled a "parent social" but I'm not into those things, so I decided to skip it and I went to the beach and sat there for a long time -- watching the moon dance on the water, listening to the waves, and dreaming.

As I walked down the little pathway back to the dorms (only a couple hundred feet from the ocean) I was startled when out of the bushes came two skunks! Yikes! Right in front of me. I had seen several on campus - (probably saw about 15 of them) - but these came right out and were about five feet from me. I froze. I did not want to get sprayed by them. They stopped and looked at me and I swear, they smiled. I said, "hi little ones" and they kept walking. They were so cute.

AND...I kid you not. Right behind them were a couple of large raccoons. Those scared me. I didn't know if raccoons attacked or not. They walked away and as I looked to the side, one more skunk appeared and the five of them frolicked in the nearby grass - you would think they were the best of friends. I tried taking a photo with my blackberry phone but it was too dark to capture the image. Oh, I bought a new blackberry! 

Anyway, I continued on my way back to my room. I was so lucky. I got a room all to myself. When I signed up, I was told I would get a female parent to room with but when I checked in, I was given a single room so I had it all to myself. Once I went back to my room, I showered, and was going to read, but my eyes were tired (I had been up since 2:30 a.m.) so I turned off the light, opened my window (Mine faced the ocean) and fell asleep to the sound of water lapping, birds chirping, crickets and frogs, and occasional other strange noises.

Catherine skipped her teen social too. She and her roommate, who was from Sherman Oaks (her dad graduated from Redwood High School! Wow. Small world) were both tired, so they went to their room to rest. We had left home at 3:30 a.m. so she was exhausted too.

The program ended Friday evening. She's quite excited. She got her new schedule too.
I'm so proud of my little girl. She's a scholar now at one of the most prestigious teaching schools in the world.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Meet my Sweetpea!

I am in love! Isn't my puppy sweet and adorable? He's my new baby. I bought him today from Kimberly Caudillo at work. I took one look at that little face and I had to have him. So precious. Sweet - sweet - sweet. 

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Escaping into a different world

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed reading. It's an escape for me. It's how I survived for so many years. I love to read.

With a three-day weekend on my hands, it was the perfect time to escape again. And I certainly did. I picked up a book Friday evening - this time "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and I just finished it earlier this morning. That's how I read. Once I start reading, I can't put books down....if I get into them and this one I certainly did. it truely was heartwrenching and mesmerizing - especially since I myself have a Down Syndrome little girl.

I'd much rather read than watch a movie. In fact, I'm always disappointed when I see a movie made from a book. The book is always so much better.

As to escaping..... I needed it. That's all I will say for now. Someday when I am ready, I will share more.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Red, White, Blue and spectacular - with the one I love

I've always been patriotic - ever since I can remember I wished I had been born on the Fourth of July.

I love the holiday. And year after year, I have watched the fireworks, always wishing there were someone special next to me to enjoy them with. I've always had my children, of course, but something always wasn't quite complete.

Until Friday.

I sat there, with my little Marisa, just the two of us as we often do. And suddenly, I realized, she's all I needed. My little precious first baby. She will always be with me and I love her so much.

We danced and ate pink cotton candy and drank diet Coke. I bought her glow sticks and watched her glow. My heart warmed when she got very excited with the flyover. "Did you see the jets, mom?" she asked again and again.

When the fireworks - and all of the patriotic music - started. we oohed and ahhhed together at the beautiful streams of gold and reds, blues, whites, and greens.
It was a night I will remember forever. It did not matter suddenly that my own Cinderella and Prince Charming story would never happen. Her's has. And I will be happy for that.

My other two daughters, age 16 and 18, were off celebrating with their own friends. But my Marisa - she's my faithful baby - always at my side.

I love them all, but my Marisa, I treasure her in a special way. I couldn't imagine celebrating without her.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

George Washington University

Well, my baby (Jennifer) is back. I missed her so much.
She had gone to George Washington University in Washington D.C. -- only four blocks from the White House -- and loved it. It was so strange that she was not here. Last Wednesday evening she attended a Nationals Baseball game.
I think of last summer, it was so different. We flew all over the place and did so much. Now, all my girls are in school.

Jennifer wanted to be a pediatrician and was taking advantage of a summer intern program at GWU medical center - she won a full scholarship. I'm so proud of her. But now that she's back - she no longer wants to be a pediatrician. She wants to be a surgeon. She's a really bright (4.0 gpa) kid - I'm sure she will succeed in anything she wants to do.

Catherine is off to University California Santa Barbara - also on a full scholarship. Another bright kid (4.67 gpa - graduated 6 out of 300+ students in her class)

And my little Marisa, now 25, loves her music and art. She has her art on display at a local art gallery.
I'm very proud of my three "babies" -- but it also makes me realize they're all grown up now. They're making their dreams come true. I put mine on hold as I help others with their dreams...... but I'm longing for mine. Someday. Somehow. Someway.
Never let go of your dreams!

Monday, May 26, 2008

and they're off........without me

The Odyssey of the Mind team left today at 1 p.m.
I should have been with them. I was invited.
But I couldn't leave the newspaper, they need me here. I had no choice but to decline. Sigh. East Coast - 10 days. If only.
Stardust - Frank Sinatra

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart
You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust
Of yesterday
The music
Of the years gone by

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely nights
Dreaming of a song.
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you.
When our love was new, and each kiss an inspiration.
But that was long ago, and now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song.
Beside the garden wall, when stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
Of paradise where roses grew.
Though I dream in vain, in my heart you will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of loves refrain.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Frank S - you gotta love him

Fly Me to the Moon

Fly me to the moon
And let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On Jupiter and Mars
In other words hold my hand
In other words darling kiss me

Fill my life with song
And let me sing forevermore
You are all I hope for
All I worship and adore

In other words please be true
In other words I love you

Some of my favorite music to play in the car has always been my Frank Sinatra CDs - and lately I've been playing them a lot every day to and from work. Sometimes I tell myself to stop, but I can't.

Stardust - Fly me to the Moon
I've got you under my Skin
The way you look Tonight
Moonlight Serenade
Young at Heart

Such beautiful music and lyrics. Sigh. I was born in the wrong decade.

Fairytales can come true, it can happen to you
if you're young at heart....
And here is the best part, you have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

keeping busy

I'm taking a leave from blogging for a little while.... I'm working full time now (lots and lots of hours) for my hometown paper. I went in to talk to them on April 1 and they hired me on the spot - they asked if I could start that same day. I started April 2.

Here is just a sample of what I have been writing the past two weeks. I have written many more stories - two to three a day, and up to four on Saturdays.

[photo by John Tipton - The Porterville Recorder]

One story of particular interest is one I wrote (see red link at bottom of page) about six middle school students who made a prosthetic hand for a little boy who was born without hands. The story has gained international attention. Television news picked it up and now the students have been offered a trip to Washington D.C. -- see second story below. It's all very exciting.

Future engineers head East

Odyssey: A paid trip to Maryland.

Future engineers head East
Porterville Recorder, CA - 22 hours ago
BY ESTHER AVILA Six students from the Odyssey of the Mind team from Burton Middle School received what they called “the news of a lifetime” at Monday ..
[click on link to read full story]
“We will fly them to Washington DC where they will stay in the dorms at the University of Maryland. We have arranged for them to visit the Bethesda Naval Prosthetic Research Center, the National Cancer Center for Amputee research, and three days just to see Washington DC.”

'Celebrating our History'Porterville Recorder, CA - May 5, 2008
BY ESTHER AVILA Saturday’s Cinco de Mayo parade had everything a Mexican celebration ought to have — piñatas, red, white and green decorations, ...

Civil War era returnsPorterville Recorder, CA - May 3, 2008
BY ESTHER AVILA An era in history long gone returned Friday afternoon when more than 100 students and staff, dressed as Union and Confederate soldiers, ...

Panther band serves up traditional eveningPorterville Recorder, CA - May 2, 2008
BY ESTHER AVILA Once again the Porterville High School Panther Band, under the direction of Jim Kusserow, brought the house down during the 18th annual ...

Man continues battle with cancerPorterville Recorder, CA - May 1, 2008
BY ESTHER AVILA With National [Cancer] Survivor’s Day only a few days away, Porterville’s resident David Gong, 38, said he can say that he has survived ...

Old tires see new life in LindsayPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 30, 2008
By ESTHER AVILA LINDSAY — Thanks to the City of Lindsay, and a new $100,000 grant, an additional 10000 California tires have been diverted out of landfills ...

Police not ready to release name of homicide victimPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 30, 2008
By ESTHER AVILA LINDSAY — Authorities have not released the name of an unidentified 24-year-old white male adult whose body was found early Tuesday morning ...

Campus sees musical summer eveningPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 29, 2008
photo caption: "This was great planning and a perfect way to end the day.” --Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1047 or

Carnegie Hall to Lindsay stagePorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 29, 2008
By ESTHER AVILA LINDSAY — Richard Glazier, a world renowned musician who has performed at Carnegie Hall, will make a one-night-only appearance Saturday at ...

Making life easier for othersPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 29, 2008
By ESTHER AVILA Monday through Friday, rain or shine, Nellie England wakes up, dresses and heads to the Porterville Developmental Center to see her ...

Literacy fair ‘really cool’Porterville Recorder, CA - Apr 28, 2008
By ESTHER AVILA There was more to the day than simple reading for the hundreds of children Saturday morning attending the 9th annual Margaret J. Slattery ...

Families, friends attend festival in drovesPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 28, 2008
By ESTHER AVILA Plenty of sunshine and blue skies welcomed the approximate 25000 Porterville residents and visitors attending the 10th annual Porterville ...

Boy Scout to earn his wingsPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 28, 2008
By ESTHER AVILA A war memorial honoring local residents who died for their country is getting a much-needed facelift, thanks to an Eagle Scout candidate who ...

Bright futures ahead for Gates Millennium ScholarsPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 24, 2008
By ESTHER AVILA Two Granite Hills High School seniors have been awarded one of the nation’s most prestigious scholarships — the Gates Millennium Scholarship ...

Taking time to smell the flowersPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 24, 2008
By ESTHER AVILA Walking through some of Porterville’s most beautiful gardens will be possible from 10 am to 3 pm Saturday, May 3, during Porterville Garden ...

Banquet honors Longtime educators and volunteersPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 24, 2008By ESTHER AVILA “Every day thousands of people go to work, leaving their most precious possessions — their children — to the city’s educators,” said ...

Students give a helping handPorterville Recorder, CA - Apr 23, 2008
When it comes to having fun, 9-year-old Matthew Lane is just like any other third-grader at Burton Elementary School. He loves to ride his bicycle, hang out with friends and play video games.

But there are some obvious differences.

Matthew was born with only one leg and no hands. But thanks to six students from Burton Middle School, that has changed. The “Odyssey of the Mind” problem-solving team put their minds to work, came up with a plan for some engineering robotics and built Matthew prosthetic hands.

“I’m like a pirate,” said Matthew. “I only have one [foot] and no hands. I’ve seen a lot of doctors and they said ‘Maybe some people can make you hands.’ And these amazing kids found out a way to do it.”

Matthew said he used to write by holding a pencil, or eat by holding a utensil, between his wrist stumps.

“Now I’m practicing my writing. My hands get sweaty with the leather, but I don’t care. I hope to learn to write in cursive some day,” Matthew said. “I wondered if they could really make it and I was excited.”

The six students that made it possible were seventh-graders Nicolas Garcia, Coral Gardner, Darion Zamora, Matthew Jones and Zeng Cha, and eighth-grader, Satwant Malhi.

“Give them a problem and they will solve it. Our motto is, ‘Take any challenge and we can find a solution,’” said Hoss McNutt, the team’s advisor. “And that is what they did. We talked to him and interviewed him and we talked to his parents. They were excited to see Matt so happy.”

Matthew moved to Porterville from Pismo Beach shortly before Christmas. Teacher, Jeff Bochat, noticed the way Matthew continually held his hands together for various purposes.

“Very efficiently, I might add,” said Bochat. “I asked him if he ever got tired and he said sometimes the middle of his chest [muscles] hurt.”

That is when Bochat wondered if he might be able to help find a solution.

“The first person I thought of was Hoss McNutt. His wife works here as a teacher and I talked to her and she said I should call him.” said McNutt. “Matt’s such a wonderful kid, pretty intelligent and witty, and very outgoing. He never let the lack of hands and feet keep him down.”

Hoss presented the challenge to his “Odyssey of the Mind” team and they were anxious to start,

“We felt bad making him wait. We had hoped to give it to him earlier,” said Coral Gardner, the only girl on the team. “But we had just won [south/central valley national tournament] championships and we were getting ready for State.”

The team received help from a couple of men who were familiar with working with molds — Edwin Batch, an artist who deals with plaster casts, and Randy Krohmer, a Porterville resident who works for special effects for movies and the television industry.

After observing Matthew, a rubber urethane hand was formed for the students to work off of, said Krohmer.

“I gave the students suggestions on what they could do, basically leaving it up to the kids to use their imagination,” said Krohmer.

And that is exactly what the six students did. Molds were started in mid February. Then they used the mold to make and attach a leather sleeve to it.

“The kids learned a lot about engineering along the way,” said McNutt.

The students said they wondered if the device would work.

“I kept thinking, how will he feel when we finish,” said Zamora. “When we started the mold, he was really excited and started jumping up and down.”

The students made two attachments for Matthew’s hand — a pencil holding device and a hook.

All of the students participated in the project. Some mixed glue, others poured plaster, some cut the leather and Garcia hand sewed a herringbone stitch on the leather.

“It’s a special stitch and it had to be done right. The leather is a few centimeters thick. The hardest part was doing the side seams because it was hard to get to the right angle,” said Garcia. “I spent quite a few hours sewing. It was hard work.”

But all of their hard work paid off.

The first time Matthew strapped on the gloved device, the students surprised him with a special water-squirting device.

“He kept saying, ‘All I want to do is shoot a water gun.’ I thought, oh my gosh, we take that for granted,” said Jane Dignam, school secretary.

“He got the water gun and he was laughing and running and shooting us. We stood in a circle around him and he was so happy. He never had a trigger finger before. It is a miracle.”

The students said they are now working on a better model for Matthew. They have also been requested to make an attachment that opens and closes. The class will research and look for ideas on how to make the new contraption, while improving the original devices.

“We’re so happy with the result,” said Gardner. “But that was just the prototype. Now the real work begins.”

Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1047 or