Making it Merry Again

The simple act of receiving a Christmas card means someone remembered you,

that you are cared for, and that you are not invisible.

When my friend Barb initiated a wonderful tradition in sharing the joy of Christmas cards with homeless individuals, the initial goal was to collect 80 cards. As it turned out, 80 was “a drop in the merry bucket” as over 1200 cards came in from all across Canada, UK and the USA in a little over three weeks!

I’m joining in the merriment again this year, and hope you’ll been inspired to snail-mail a card! And you could have the children in your life send a card (here are Samples of Cards sent by children).

Here is some more information on the website, and I appreciate Barb’s Resources page for help in composing messages. Here is a link especially for teachers.

How to send a card:

  • Purchase a Christmas card or hand-make one (see FAQs for suggestions) .
  • Include a simple handwritten Christmas message, inspirational thought or note to let the receiver know they are cared for
  • Signing the card with your first name is essential to provide a personal connection
  • Mail your Christmas card by December 10th (or November 30th if you are outside Canada) to:

    MakeItMerry
    P.O. Box 96107 West Springs
    Calgary, AB
    T3H 0L3

 

If you pass this along, even more joy can be spread!

Thanks everybody!

Culture, geography, history and inspiration – Chinese Immigrants in Canada

From as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by other cultures and eager to know about countries around the world.

This fascination has led to traveling, learning about global holidays, attending pow-wows…

…writing to overseas pen pals, learning Scottish Highland dancing, volunteering at a First Nations wilderness camp…

…AND writing about other cultures!

Immigration to Canada – Then and Now is a new series of educational books published by Beech Street books. I was thrilled last winter when Red Line Editorial invited me to write one of these books, and am celebrating receiving my author copy of Chinese Immigrants in Canada!

An Educational Experience

What an educational experience it was for me to learn about this strong, determined, resourceful, industrious ethnic group in Canada. I have enormous respect for the Chinese immigrants and Canadian-born Chinese people who battled hardships with dignity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about Canada and immigration, until I began gathering information. What a valuable experience!

Let me encourage you to “go back to school” and have a look at some of the fascinating people groups in your country. I’m sure you will be as inspired as I am at their journey and accomplishments.  Here are some links to whet your interest!

 

 

The History of Immigration to Canada

The History of Immigration to the United States

The History of Immigration to Britain

And here is a link showing another children’s educational book I wrote for Beech Street Books about sustainability.

If you or someone you know is a teacher or librarian, and are interested in these books, you can purchase them at the publisher’s website, or on Amazon.

Summer Reads–Don’t Miss the Greatest Books

If you’re looking for some summer reads, may I recommend this list?

The Greatest Books

If you haven’t already discovered some of these, you don’t want to miss out on some excellent literature.

Many years ago I found a similar list. With a goal of reading one or two from the list each year, I started with some books that I thought I could stomach: romances by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (only because it was very thin).

All of them were fascinating. Who knew?

Then I got brave and read some that looked endlessly boring and painfully long–The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes–only to be pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to read and how hard to put down (Don Quixote made me laugh out loud!).

It gave me a feeling of satisfaction to check them off the list one-by-one. I also noticed that a sense of camaraderie with other readers of classics as I started to understand cultural references to these stories.

Soon I discovered an online classic book club through my public library. One of them sent the first three chapters of a classic novel by email at the beginning of each month. That was do-able, and I found more authors I liked.

That was the beginning.

These led me to lesser-known old books, and the best books I’ve ever read (hence, my posts!). This is how I began collecting old books at book sales, and my experience has shown that I can trust most books written more than fifty years ago to be a quality read.

I no longer carry that list in my purse because my “list” is now on my shelves, each awaiting its turn–as time allows!

And here is a list for classic children’s books.

What are your favorites on the list? Or if you aren’t yet into the classics, how about taking the challenge?  One or two from the list each year?

Happy reading this summer!

My appreciation to the following for open source images:

http://thegreatestbooks.org/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Books.jpg

https://pixabay.com/en/book-teacup-nature-summer-reading-2388213/

My Favorite Books of 2017

Here are the books I enjoyed reading the most in the past year. They fall into various categories of fiction and non-fiction, old and new, and are listed in the order that I read them. The only thing they all have in common are that they are generally positive and upbeat!

I Remember Nothing by Norah Ephron © 2010 – some quite humorous essays

The Man of the Desert by Grace Livingston Hill ©1914 – inspiring characters, excellent Christian romance

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (fiction) by Siri James © 2008 – absolutely incredibly awesome.

The New Year © 1968, by the amazing Pearl S. Buck, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature – characters of strength and integrity – a perfect marriage is rocked by a letter from 12-year-old Korean son of wartime romance

Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything that you Love by Barbara Sher © 2006 – thank you Barbara for saying that scanners are unique and intelligent and valued!

The Year Without a Purchase by Scott Dannemiller © 2015. Hilarious! And it does have some good solid advice and thoughts for people addicted to buying.

Venetia by Georgette Heyer © 1958. Humorous Victorian romance – one of her very best!

The Sojourner © 1958 by Marjorie Rawlings, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Yearling – wonderful, I reviewed this here.

Selected Stories by P.G. Wodehouse © 1958 – even the author’s foreword is funny, every story is laugh-out-loud hilarious (to me, anyway!).

Charmed Particles: A Novel by Chrissy Kolaya ©2015 – a theoretical physicist, his wife and daughter assimilating into suburban America, the last great gentleman explorer and his politician wife and their precocious daughter; all living near the superconductor supercollider in Illinois. Fascinating on so many levels, I couldn’t put it down (a debut novel—wow!).

WWII poster, U.S. Office of War Information–still relevant!

 

And for a few more, here is my post from last year: Positive Uplifting Humorous Reads

What are YOUR favorites?

Happy New Year of Reading in 2018!

******

Images:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A%22In_a_War-Torn_World%2C_Let_Good_Books_Help_You%22_-_NARA_-_514614.jpg

Thanks to ulleo at pixabay for the creative commons photo of book heart https://pixabay.com/en/book-pitched-book-pages-browse-1975830/

He Lifts his Voice, the Earth Melts

One of my mom’s favorite verses of scripture is Psalm 46:6, so I decided that for Christmas I would make her a poster of the scripture that she could hang on her wall.

I added my visual interpretation of the verse, using pictures that displayed the chaos and terrors of today’s world in contrast with the calm and strength in God Almighty, the highest authority in the universe.

 

My interpretation of the last line is that many people’s hearts are raging, hardened and cold, toward others and toward God. But when God speaks, when we hear the truth, and when we know who He is that is speaking, that ice melts. Then He gives us a “new heart” that can hear him speak and submits to his perfect government of our lives and our world.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

I also believe that the word-picture of the earth melting is related to the breaking, or melting, of the power of sin, which is what Jesus accomplished in dying on the cross.

Notice that the scripture says He will put his spirit in those who trust him, and “move you to follow” His decrees and laws. Instead of waiting for us to get it together and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, he enables us to follow him.

 

If you like the poster, you can download it below for free, as my little Christmas gift to you!

Click here for the JPEG image

Click here for the PDF image

 

Merry Christmas, and I wish you a wonderful 2018!

P.S. Here are some of my other Christmas posts you might like!

Not a Normal Rockwell Christmas

I bring you Great News!

The Bells Still Ring Peace

Snail-mailing kindness and hope

Although I love being able to text and email, there is really nothing like a card or letter to hold in your hand and a handwritten message inside. (I guess the only thing better is being there in person, but it isn’t always possible, right?)

I have been greatly inspired and encouraged to revive my enjoyment of sending snail mail cards and letters by my friend Barb who blogs at RiteWhileYouCan.com. I met her in the collectible books section of a used book sale that raises funds for literacy. We browsed through a fascinating old book together, and when we realized that we both blogged, we started following each others posts.

I enthusiastically joined her last year when she invited readers to send encouraging snail-mail letters to the struggling members of a First Nations band in northern Ontario.  Recently Barb shared some great pen-pal sites with me, and now I am again in awe of her creative compassion as I read her most recent post, “Send a Christmas card to someone who is homeless“.

I am sending at least one card, and I am using Barb’s Resources page for help in composing messages. I hope you’ll been inspired to send one, or have the children in your life send a card (here are Samples of Cards sent by children). They’d love your card to be sent by November 30th, or at the latest have it in the mail by December 10th.

I am thankful for Barb’s compassionate heart and her practical ways of making others’ lives better, and I hope you’ll pass this along!

Thanks everybody!

Sustainability Alberta Style

Alberta was formally declared a province of Canada on September 1, 1905. To celebrate the 112th birthday tomorrow of my province, and to celebrate the publication this month of my book, Respect Our World: Sustainability, I thought I’d share some of the ways that Albertans work toward sustainability. I admire the leadership Alberta has taken with innovative steps to a better environment for Canada.

Micro-generation

Micro-generation is the production of electricity on a small scale by individual home owners and small businesses, using renewable and alternative energy sources. They typically use solar and wind energy, but may use other sources of energy including biomass, microcogeneration, geothermal sources, and fuel cells.

The micro­generation regulation was recently revised to make it easier for Albertans to generate electricity for their own electricity needs.

The Climate Leadership Plan

The Climate Leadership Plan is a made-in-Alberta strategy to reduce carbon emissions while diversifying the economy and creating jobs. The Canadian government announced that provinces must enact an emissions reduction plan or pay a carbon tax in 2018, and this is a launch of a strategy designed specifically for Alberta’s own unique economy.

Innovation

Alberta is taking a leading role in promoting energy efficiency, resource conservation and environmental measures through the growth of Alberta Green Building Technologies and Products industry, with the hope that one day many of these green technologies and products will be mandatory in the construction of new buildings.

Four corporations—Bio Solutions, Energy and Environment Solutions, Health Solutions and Technology Futures – were consolidated into one innovation powerhouse, Alberta Innovates. Through it, ideas and technologies created by Albertans receive support, and innovators, businesses and researchers can now easily tap into their collective assets – cross sectoral knowledge and expertise, funding, networks and research facilities.

The Book

I found a lot of inspiration in these initiatives and many more that I ran across while writing the book. If you have kids or are a teacher, I hope you’ll check out Respect Our World: Sustainability!

August 1st publishing date for my book Respect Our World: Sustainabililty!

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

What a surprise I had yesterday, when I noticed stores are posting my children’s educational book for pre-order!

It all started last summer…

  • I received my usual copy of the Children’s Writer newsletter, produced by the Institute of Children’s Literature (see my post about ICL here)
  • The newsletter mentioned a book producer looking for authors to work on projects.
  • Since I’d been planning to check out non-traditional publishing opportunities, I looked into it.
  • I sent my writing resume to Red Line Editorial.
  • In early December I received an email from Red Line, inviting me to work on a project, their series of books called To Be Canadian.
  • I accepted, and said I’d like to work on the one about Sustainability.
  • I spent most of my school’s Christmas holiday researching and contacting experts.
  • It was a VERY tight schedule, rather exhausting, but I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having!
  • I wrote evenings and weekends during January, and edited and rewrote during February.
  • They accepted my manuscript, noting that they planned to publish the series in the fall.
  • I proceeded to wonder for the next few months if they were really going to publish it the way I wrote it, if it will say my name anywhere, what it will look like.
  • I couldn’t really believe I’d be the author of a children’s book.

But it’s true!

Here are a couple websites that show the series, Beech Street Books (the publisher), and McNalley-Robinson.

And yes, my name is on the cover. Whew.

If you have an inkling to pursue this kind of work-for-hire educational writing opportunity, I recommend checking out Red Line’s website , and Evelyn Christenson’s website, which lists many other educational publishers.

YA-HOO!

 

Thank you publicdomainpictures.net for the HAPPY image!

Oceanside Poetry

Art begets art.

I usually try to escape the long, cold Calgary winter when I have time off for spring break, and if I’m not exploring I like to write. The warm relaxing climate and the inspiration of the ocean brings out the creativity in me, and judging from the freely-offered art and writing that I see around beach towns, it’s clear I’m not the only one inspired.

I’m so glad the locals in some places consider this form of art worthy of permanent all-weather plaques.  Here are several I’ve run across in my past few trips.

Shell Beach Symphony

Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles is Pismo Beach, California. I’d heard of Pismo Beach (most recently on an episode of I Love Lucy!), but never been there, so I skipped my usual southern California spots in favor of this more central area. I stayed in a residential neighborhood called Shell Beach.

Wandering around the small neighborhood and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I discovered a little park. Running around the park’s perimeter alongside the cliffs is a sidewalk that passes a plaque on the ground. The lovely words on it share sentiments that perfectly describe my feelings toward the ocean.

 

The symphonic

Ever rising ever falling

Sound of surf

Sings its song to the eternal

Winds and man they come and go

But the rising falling crawling sea

Always was always is

Always free   B.B.

Bayard Bloom

December 12, 1974

 

Nearby on the sandy beach, I enjoyed warm-hearted greetings written daily in the sand by some unknown but obviously beautiful people. The longer I stayed there, the more I found the neighbors to be friendly and welcoming. Thank you Shell Beach!

 

“Don’t worry ‘bout a thing”

“Warm and fuzzy”

 

Pelican Pete

I lived in San Diego for a while and my favorite place there is Pacific Beach near the Crystal Pier.

This past April I noticed a large statue named “Pelican Pete” near the PB lifeguard station. On a plaque is the story of Pelican Pete in rhyme.

“The Ballad of P.B.

Pelican Brown was in search of a home
where he could have fun and relax
he looked for a beach that was pretty
and a sea that was swimming with snacks.

He flew up and down the long coastline
looking both far and quite near
then one day he knew he had found it
when his eyes saw the great Crystal Pier.

On the end was a big crystal ballroom
dancers came from all over the west
and since Pelican Brown loved to tango
he dressed up in his best velvet vest.

He fit right in with the others
tangoed many a night until dawn
Pelican Brown loved the beat of the music
and danced until the others were gone.

Then he’d fly out and find him some breakfast
the happiest bird all around
and everyone loved when they looked up
and caught sight of Pelican Brown.

The dancing bird soon became famous
people came from all over to see
the great crystal ballroom and dance hall
and the pelican known as P.B.

(Poem by Jan Phillips copyright Jan Phillips, Concept and sculpture by T.J. Dixon & James Nelson)

 

And here is one of many San Diego murals I ran across, on the outside wall of a business:

 

La Jolla Lifeguard Box

There is a pathway that goes along the shore in La Jolla, not too far north of Pacific Beach. If you take it past the sea lions and seals at Children’s Pool Beach (Casa Beach) and keep walking along the shore pathway, just before you get to La Jolla Cove you will see a lifeguard box which has a phone in it for emergencies (unlocked during the summer).

 

Lifeguard box and La Jolla Cove

Engraved on the box is this text:

TRANQUILITY

BOOMER

FRESH DEEP SOUL PURITY

SPRAY GENTLE BREEZE

WAVES BREEZE REEFS

SPIRITUAL HEALING

BODY SURF RESPECT ROCK

WORMS FINS ENDLESS

PELICANS UNPREDICTABLE

FRIENDS RIPTIDE

A FREE SPIRIT PALM TREE

ADRENALINE RUSH

FUN EEL GRASS MAGIC

ETERNAL CALM PICNIC

BOOMER CAMARADERIE

BUNGALOWS YIN YANG

CHANGES COMMUNITY

I searched around for the story of this lifeguard box with all the interesting words, and found this account    :

High on a craggy bluff overlooking the churning surf in La Jolla stands this weathered sea-green box, a proud, life-affirming icon dedicated to lifeguards everywhere, embossed with transcendent words and phrases that evoke the heart and soul of the brave men and women who save lives on this rugged coast. Take a closer look, and you’ll see how beautifully these words connect us with the creed that draws lifeguards and surfers to the Pacific: “spray, waves, eel grass, tranquility, spirit, adrenaline.” The box demonstrates the power of primal engagement with the forces of nature in all sorts of fields and pursuits, in taking the time and effort to carve out our unique and vital code.

…The long summer days remind us to pause and reflect and experience life anew. This box is more than just a box. It’s about life and death, a memorial to a legendary body surfer and lifeguard who drowned here at Boomer Beach. During the summer the box is unlocked and contains a phone to contact the lifeguards during an emergency. Read downwards starting under the “E” of LIFEGUARD, and you will find his name spelled out in an acrostic puzzle: DAVID C FREEMAN.

What a lovely surprise to discover Beach Literature, and the fond memories of those who live there, adding to the enjoyment of already idyllic spots!  I hope you enjoyed these gems, and you’ll share similar discoveries of your own!

Positive, uplifting, and humorous reads

I’ve just realized how much time I spend looking for good, upbeat, contemporary fiction.

My friend said she doesn’t want to read depressing books and did I have any to recommend, so I browsed my yearly lists of books read for happy fiction. I was surprised at how many serious titles were on there and how few cheery.

Pilcher and Heyer

I am always game to check out older books, as you know, and I find most fiction between about 1950 and 2000–women’s fiction, romance, mainstream–usually cheerful and positive enough to enjoy. Rosamunde Pilcher, a U.K. author of women’s fiction, and Georgette Heyer, who wrote humorous Victorian romances, are two authors that never let me down.

I think I’ve read every one of Pilcher’s books, except some of her volumes of short stories. The first one I read was Under Gemini, and I was hooked with the location and the warm, intricate treatment of characters’ relationships. The Shell Seekers and September are my favorites, and they are nice and long. Click here to read my review of Winter Solstice.

Here are my three posts about my favorite Georgette Heyer books (so far!), Cotillion, Arabella and The Convenient Marriage.

New books

I do like to keep in touch with the new books, too. There are so many books to choose from, where do you begin? It can be overwhelming. I browse the categories on GoodReads and Amazon. But I like to hold a book and flip through it, so I browse bookstores and sometimes take snap shots of shelves with my cell phone, then try to find them at the library (it amazes me how many new books are in the library system!). The library, too, has its “New and Notable” shelves and racks of recommended reading, so I check out a lot of those.

Sometimes the new books I read are considered “important”. I certainly want to expand my mind and experience the lives and cultures of many of the contemporary authors. HOWEVER. What is with all the dark, negative fiction these days? Books or movies, I don’t know what has made it so popular, but it’s not popular with me.

I can get an important impression or message from a book without reeling at all the explicit details and closing the book feeling like I’ve gone through the wringer. I do wish authors would go back to being more subtle!

Contemporary books that bring a smile

When I want to clear my head, to do a re-set, I look for something intelligent, sunny, optimistic, and relaxing to read. But finding that is a challenge. I do a lot of searching shelves and online for good humorous fiction. Here are some of the fiction books I’ve read lately that have brought a smile, and provided an enjoyable, relaxed read.

Falling for June by Ryan Winfield

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

Fanny Bower Puts herself out There by Julia Ariss (ebook)

Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel

Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin

The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante by Sharon Dunn

What a Girl Wants by Kristin Billerbeck

The Promise of Jenny Jones by Maggie Osborne

 

While browsing my library’s humor and other sections, I ran across plenty of funny non-fiction. Here are some that I thoroughly enjoyed.

You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry

I Remember Nothing by Norah Ephron

Reasons My Kid is Crying by Greg Pembrooke

Around the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox

Surely you’re Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman (Nobel prize-winning physicist)

Contemporary books that are uplifting

And here are some more books on my recent Books Read lists that are not necessarily humorous, but are uplifting, intelligent and calming. All are fascinating accounts or stories of neighbors, family, goodness, kindness, and life-changes, without the cringe-factor.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas (here’s my review–the author left a comment!)

Suncatchers and By the Light of a Thousand Stars by Jamie Langston Turner

Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

Poems for a Good and Happy Life compiled by Myrna Reid Grant

 

What have you found?

Most importantly, if you’ve FOUND good upbeat contemporary fiction or non-fiction, PLEASE do share! I am sure that many people will appreciate it!

 

Photo credits: Pixabay and unsplash at Pexel.com