Thursday, July 31, 2014

The customer is NOT always right!

The motto “the customer is always right” was popularized by retail pioneers Harry G. Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field. It is a phrase that irritates me to the bone because the customer isn’t always right. It is a phrase that customer have used as the basis to walk into a business demanding whatever they wish regardless of cost or ability to fulfill a request. As early as 1914, there have been challenges to this statement and how it is bad for business. In my retail experience, I’ve seen and heard customer try and weasel their way to discounts or free items. I have three reasons why this phrase should no longer be used: dishonesty, unrealistic expectations and lowering employee morale.

First, customers can be dishonest. Some customers come in causing a situation in order to get something discounted or even free. I’ve had customers tell me that store X or store Y will fulfill a request, why can’t you? Or store X has this so much cheaper, can you price match? This is usually a ploy to get the employee to panic, thinking “I’ll lose this customer to another store if I can’t make this happen.” It usually does not. I’ve seen customers come in time and time again after swearing up and down that they would never shop at a my store because we could not do what they wanted. I’ve made such a claim better, when I’ve said that I would never shop or eat at a business again, and I’ve kept that promise. I can name a few stores or restaurant where my husband and I have not gone to for years because we were upset at our experience.  

Second, customer can have unrealistic expectations. I’ve had customers come in with an agenda, determined to get something for nothing. For instance, I used to work for a bakery and cakes can be pricy when you add all the bells and whistles. For my bakery, there were some things we could not do with cake because we did not have the equipment or the space especially when a customer comes in wanting something seen on Ace of Cakes or the Cake Boss. One customer came in with a ridiculous request that I apologize and told her that we were not able to do. The style of cakes done on these shows take a great deal of talent, planning and design that a simple in-store bakery just doesn’t have. In most instances, the cake decorators have only on-the-job training and did not go to a special school in order to decorate cakes.

Finally, it can hurt employee morale when managers consistently bend the rules for customers because they are so afraid of losing customers. They make the employee look like a fool when he or she was simply following company policy. I’m not talking about customer who have legitimate complaints or concerns. I’m talking about the customers who walk in the door and you know will be trouble. Situations that make you feel like an idiot. An employee is simple trying to follow company policy, as trained. It felt like if the management doesn’t care about the corporate policy, then why should I? Now imagine situations like this happening day-in and day-out. It can get very draining that I understand why some employees simply stop caring about the job, about the customers and about the business.

In conclusion, customer service is extremely important. Happy customers mean better business and possibly more business because word of mouth is important. However, there are customers who are so dishonest and have an agenda that nothing, short of giving them something for free, will make them happy. Keeping the customer happy does not mean allowing the employees to be walked all over in order please one customer. A good management team should be able to recognize when the customer is being dishonest for their gain as well as being able to stand up and say “I’m sorry I can’t fulfill that request.” I think the most important thing to remember is high employee morale equals good customer service equals happy customers. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Hanging Tree: a mystery and a curse

The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillips Cash is a novella about a long family curse. The story opens with Arielle who is rebelling against her father and his new girlfriend. She and her boyfriend, Chad, are hanging out by the The Hanging Tree in Oyster Bay. Unknown to the couple, there are spirits watching them from the branches of the tree, each with a story tied to a curse and this particular tree.

The story then turns to the same area in 1649, Goody Bennett has been raising her granddaughter since her son’s death. Goody is known as a healer but when her remedies don’t work anymore, trouble rumbles from the village. Tragedy strikes and Goody Bennett curses the family of the local reverend. How will the curse be broken? Who will fall victim? The story weaves between past and present in order to explain the curse and how it must be broken. Is the curse broken or will someone else fall as its next victim?

I enjoyed this book. For a novella, it had depth and action that I was not expecting. I highly recommend this book for all who enjoy a great story. 

The Hanging Tree is available on Amazon for the Kindle for free and in paperback for $6.99

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A birthday tribute to my beautiful Grandma!

Marlene Joan Mingo was born July 27, 1934 to Joseph and Lillian Mingo in Klamath Falls, Oregon. She is the one of three daughters. She married C.M. Nelson on July 18, 1953 and had two sons, Steve and Randy. 

She is my beautiful grandmother and today is her 80th birthday! Since I can’t be with her today, I decided to write and share with you my wonderful grandmother.

I have always been close to my Grandma even though she lived about a thousand miles away in Oregon. We wrote letters and she would encourage me in everything that I did. I could talk to her about anything. She is a great woman of God. She's a sweet woman with a soft voice who rarely has a unkind word about anyone. 

Some of my favorite memories of Grandma are when she came to visit. Once we gave her string cheese for a snack and instead of pulling a string of cheese off, she bite right into it. I remember my siblings and I laughed so hard. Grandma didn’t know how to get string cheese. It must be heredity because my daughter eats her string cheese the same way. When Grandma visited, she always made a wonderful cinnamon-sugar twist that she called a hoot-n-nanny. 

Last September, my dad surprised me by flying her down. It was great to see her because I hadn’t seen her since my 21st birthday! She finally got to meet my husband, Joe and my daughter, Abby. She also got to meet her other great-granddaughter, Cosette. It was a quiet visit where we sat and discussed many things. Some important but some were not. I introduce to football as games were on while she was here. It was a short weekend but filled with great memories. I'm glad that she was able to come down and meet my husband and meet her great-granddaughters. 

This past June, she had open heart surgery to repair two valves. While I encouraged and prayed, I was afraid. Open heart surgery is scary at any age. But she’s tough and she’s pulled through and better than ever. She enjoys her church, her little garden and her new cat, Theo. Even though we don't talk often, she is always on my mind.
Please join me in wishing her a happy 80th birthday!

Happy 80th Birthday, Grandma! We love you! 

Friday, July 25, 2014

More awesome books from the "If you were me and lived in..." series

I have some more great books from the “If you were me and lived in…” series. 

First, we visit the land of South Korea. In this book, the readers are introduced to the county and its culture. We learn about its capital city, Seoul and the currency that is used, the won. Popular foods and favorite activities are introduced. Foods like bulgogi and kimchee. Activities like taekwondo, the martial art of South Korea.

Second, we learn about the country of Turkey. There are some fascinating facts. Turkey’s most famous city, Istanbul is the only city to sit on two continents: Asia and Europe. We learn about the Hagia Sophia, a famous church by Emperor Justian in 390 which was later turned into a mosque by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet and it now a museum. There is a discussion about the popular food items and the country’s favorite sport.

Third, we travel to Kenya whose capital is Nairobi meaning “cold water” in the Maasi language. We learn about the Maasi Mara National Reserve where many native animals are protected. We learn about the Mombasa Carnival where there is music, floats and a parade.

Lastly, we visit India. The second most populated country in the world located in South Asia. There are 100 different languages spoken in India. We visit the Taj Mahal, the famous monument to Shah Jehan’s wife. We learn about the different spices in Indian food: cumin, curry, cinnamon and chilies.

I can’t recommend these books enough. They are a great learning tool for any family and classroom!
All the “If you were me and lived in…” titles are available on Amazon for $9.99

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Flip: a haunting new novel

The Flip by Michael Phillip Cash is a ghost thriller about a young married couple who flip old houses. Their latest house has them on their toes. Julie and Brad are currently renovating the Hemmings House, an old Victorian house which sat vacated for years. Julie fell in love with the house instantly while Brad had his reservations. While work beings, strange occurrences begin to happen as they tear down walls and unlock the houses secrets. The house is haunted by Tessa and Gerald whose stories are told as new discoveries are found in the house and how they came to haunt it. Tessa and Gerald make mention of The Sentinels, an entity that is never really explained who or what they were. With each discovery, Julie and Brad make surprising discoveries about the house’s history.

My first impressions of the book is that I didn’t like the double spaced lines of the text. I’m not sure it was done for style but it was distracting. Also, the chapters start on the left page rather than the right. It seemed odd to be as every book I’ve read started on the right side page. I loved the character of Brad and really didn’t like Julie. I didn’t see how they could be attracted to each other but opposites do attract by the end of the book with their shared experience in the house, they seemed a more compatible couple. I really can't say more about the book without revealing very important plot points. Overall, The Flip is a good ghost story that holds your attention. If you like ghost stories and haunts, this book is for you.

The Flip is available on Amazon for the Kindle for $0.99 and in paperback for $14.99

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Big Day: A Short Story

It’s a cool July morning and I’m glad. It’s been so hot and humid. I was afraid it would ruin my daughter’s big day. Thank you, Lord, for the turn in the weather. I smile as I stand in front of the church, watching all the guests file in. Sarah did a beautiful job decorating the church. I peek quickly in the bride’s room as I watch my beautiful princess get ready with her bridesmaids. She looks like a queen in her white gown and the sparkling tiara on her head. Her beautiful hair coiled and twisted upon her head. I look to her mother who is as beautiful as the day I met her. She’s smiling wide and proud with a hit of sorrow. I know what she’s thinking. I could always tell what she’s thinking.

It’s almost time. I take my place at the end of the aisle and look around at the beautiful church my daughter chose for her wedding. The flowers only added to its beauty. The music starts as the wedding party starts down the aisle. I look to my future son-in-law. He’s standing so proudly and nervously, like any groom on his wedding day. I am proud that my daughter chose him to spend the rest of her life with.

Now it’s time for the beautiful bride to make her way down the aisle. The short walk down the aisle represents her journey from my little girl to his bride. Her veil is lifted and her hand placed in his. The officiant speaks about marriage, the joys, the struggles, the challenges to combine their strengths to overcome any obstacle. The vows were spoken. Sarah’s soft voice spoke clear and strong as she vowed to love him until death parts them. His voice rang strong and powerful as he vowed to love her through thick and thin. The officiant pronounces them husband and wife and tells him to kiss the bride. The guests cheer as they lean to brush their lips together. They turn toward their guests, the officiant proudly pronounces them Mr. and Mrs. Miguel Sandoval and they walk up the aisle to the cheers and claps of their guests. I smile proudly with a tinge of regret.

It’s a short ride to the reception as the day heats up and the sun is shining bright. I hear them whisper “oh, he sent the sunshine for Sarah.” I laugh as I wish I could have taken credit but it wasn’t me. I quickly make my way around the ballroom as I make sure that everything is in order and on time, not that I could fix it if it wasn’t but I check anyway. Then wedding party arrives as they announce the names of the groomsmen and the bridesmaids. I wait with a tight chest as the new bride and groom come dancing in the room. Proudly holding their hands up in the air, cheering along with their guests.

Everyone takes their seats as dinner starts. The wonderful food is carried out by waiters as the aromas drift around the room. My stomach growls with anticipation but I know I can’t eat a bite. The sounds of clicking glasses echo around the room as the bride and groom smile shyly and kiss. The hoots and hollers from the groomsmen make me laugh at the boyish antics of grown men. I guess boys never really grow up.
I glance around the room and I see my sour faced sister, Mary Ann. I shake my head, that woman will never be truly happy. She’s mad that her niece got marry before she did. “Well, if you weren’t such a sour puss maybe a guy would take an interest.” I know she can’t hear me but I’ve said it before. She knows but I don’t think she cares.

As dinner is cleared and the dj announces time for the first dance. Sarah and Miguel make their way to the dance floor and dance. I make my way to my wife’s side and together we watch our little girl dance with her husband as she always dreamed and play pretend growing up. The song is beautiful and romantic. Sarah probably had that song picked out since she was a teenager. That day is finally here. As the song ends, my best friend and Sarah’s new father-in-law, Mike, takes the microphone.

“Dearest Sarah, I’ve watch you grow up from a little girl to a beautiful woman. I am so proud to now officially call you my daughter. I know your dad wished to be here today. Since he can’t and I know that I can’t take his place, I was hoping that you would allow me the honor of giving you the dance that every little girl dreams of.”

Sarah nods through her tears as she walks over to him and he gathers her in his arms and dances with her as any father would. The song that played brought tears to everyone’s eyes. I couldn’t tear myself from the scene in front of me as I watched my best friend give my little girl her father-daughter dance. I see the tears flow down her face as she clings to her. I hear her whisper, “I wish he was here.” Oh, baby how little you know that I am. The room stood still as they danced. Tears quietly ran down my wife’s face she held her breath. The song ended with quietly as Mike kisses her forehead and leads her back to her husband’s side.

Shaky breathes fill the room as everyone holds on the beautiful moment. Sarah then turns to the dj and says, “Let’s get this party started!” And the dj answered with a loud and boisterous song that only the young could appreciate. I smile as I walk away. As I leave the building, I see something I didn’t notice before. There on a table by the beautiful wedding cake were several pictures. A sign read “In memory of those who could not be with us today.” There is my picture, smiling proudly in my naval uniform. It’s an old picture but it was one of my wife’s favorites. I took back at my daughter and wife. They’ll be ok as I simply disappear. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Adventures of Loriel the Wood Fairy: a story of magic and excitement

The Adventures of Loriel the Wood Fairy by C.J. Walery is full story about Loriel and her adventures in her world. The story opens as Loriel is waiting for her grandmother, Grandfairy Cyce, the oldest fairy. With her friends, Anya, a hummingbird and Padra, a house mouse, Loriel goes out to find her grandmother. When she arrives at her cottage, she discovers that Grandfairy has been taken by a dreadful troll and they mount a rescue. After the rescue, Loriel learns she is to be a wood fairy apprentice and learning and perfecting her spells. Along with her cousin, Lily, she discovers a locked door deep in the basement of her Grandfairy’s cottage. They find a way to open the door and discover a room. There they read a book about an evil dragon. Suddenly, a dragon appears at the door. Who is this dragon and are the fairies in danger?
This story was cute and entertaining. My daughter wanted me to read this to her. Even though she lost interest quickly (she’s 2 and a half), I know that she will enjoy reading this adventure when she’s older. Any little girl who enjoys fairies and other magical creatures will enjoy this story. I recommend this book.

The Adventures of Loriel the Wood Fairy is available on Amazon for $15.99

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Our visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific and Long Beach Harbor

On Sunday, July 13th, we took our daughter to see the Aquarium of the Pacific. She loves fish and animals in general. When we arrived inside, we were greeted by a photographer, much like Disneyland does, took our picture and we were off. The main building has the shops and theaters on the left with all the aquariums on the right. Hanging from the ceiling was a life-size model of the humpback whale. The building was filled with activity as families set off to the various exhibits. 

We first see the first floor exhibits. The beautiful fish from various parts of the Pacific Ocean. It was amazing to see all the various types of fish. Abby loved the sea lion exhibit. She squealed with laughter as they swam past her, twisting and turning as they sped through the water. Next we went outside to the courtyard where the touch tank are located. She was curious about the sharks and loved watching them swim but she was reluctant to touch them. Also, I think her arms couldn’t reach in deep enough.

Her favorite exhibit was the bat rays. There she got to watch as Daddy feed shrimp to them. The aquarium allows visitors to feed the bat rays twice a day. For $5, you receive a cup of three shrimp and stick in which to place the shrimp near the mouths of the bat rays (no fingers in the tank at feeding time as they look like shrimp to the bat rays).

We then explored the second floor of the main building with its various aquariums. Abby really liked the aquarium with the Japanese Giant Spider Crab as she still wiggles her fingers like she saw the crab move its legs. She also enjoyed the jellyfish, although she didn’t want to touch the moon jellyfish that were there. She enjoyed the jellyfish so much that she chose a pink jellyfish at the gift shop.

After leaving the Aquarium of the Pacific, we decided to walk along the boardwalk of the Long Beach Harbor. There you can get a beautiful view of the Queen Mary on the other side of the harbor. There are various restaurants and shops along the harbor. Boats available for cruises and boats to rent if you want to go sailing. We didn’t. I don’t know how well Abby would do on a boat. We’ll try sailing when she’s older.

Our last stop of the day was a late lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., where we enjoyed delicious seafood and fun atmosphere. Our waiter was fun and engaging as he came to our table to challenge us to a trivia game about the movie Forrest Gump. We got all the questions but one right. He was surprised at our knowledge of the movie. The restaurant is rather expensive but the majority of their menu is seafood so that it was not a surprise. The food was delicious and the experience was well worth the price.

We enjoyed our day at the Aquarium of the Pacific and we can’t wait to go back again. Even Abby was asking to go back the very next day! If you have the opportunity to go, I would highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our Los Angeles adventure

Friday, July 11th, we boarded the Metrolink train to Los Angeles Union Station. Once we arrived, we headed to Olvera Street. Olvera Street is the oldest area of Los Angeles and is a part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. The street is lined with shops, restaurants and museums which were converted from old historic buildings. The oldest house is the Avila Adobe which was built in 1818. Olvera Street is technically a named alley which has been converted to represent Old Mexico. It’s a tourist attraction which attracts more than 2 million visitors each year.

The focal point of the historical site is the Plaza, a large gazebo in a center of a circular plaza that represents and honors the founding of the Pueblo de Los Angeles. Three large statutes honor the three men who made the founding possible. First, King Carlos III of Spain who ordered the founding pf the Pueblo de Los Angeles in 1780. Felipe Neve, the Spanish Governor who selected the site and laid out the town. Father Junipero Serra, founder and first head of the Alta California missions. There is also a plaque which honors the original forty-four settlers, known as Los Pobladores. There is a Lara family represented. It would be interesting to see if my husband’s family were related to these settlers. It seems unlikely but it would be cool to investigate a possible connection. On that day, the Plaza was filled with the music of Peru as a Peruvian flute player played various flute instruments from the region and later a group of Inca dancers entertained us with their traditional dances. 

We meet up with a good friend of ours and we make our way into Chinatown, filled with shops and authentic restaurants. We pass under the Golden Pagoda near the West Gate to see the Seven Star Cavern Wishing Well. The well was created by artist Lim Hong Kay in 1939 and modeled after the sacred Seven Star Caverns in Canton, China. Visitors come to throw coins in various areas hoping to be granted their wish. Areas are labeled as love, health, wealth, fertility, well-being and happiness. It is a beautiful site.  

After an afternoon of site seeing and shopping, we ended our day at La Golondrina CafĂ© which was built in 1930 from the converted Pelancoli House (1857) and is the oldest restaurant on Olvera Street. It had great food and a great atmosphere. My husband even had a Mexican singer serenade me at dinner in honor of our fifth wedding anniversary. I would recommend going to Olvera Street and other historic areas of Los Angeles, if you’ve never been. There are so many sites that we didn’t get to visit that I would like to go back. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Dance of the Caterpillars - in a time before texting: a book review

The Dance of the Caterpillars – in a time before texting by Caroline S. Fairless is about a young boy named Fisher who is about to experience a life-altering event that will change everything he knows.

The story opens with the last day of summer and Fisher’s parents are arguing in the kitchen. Fisher sneaks down to eavesdrop and overhears that they are sending Fisher somewhere. In school, Fisher is the weird kid who always gets in trouble. He is always daydreaming and not paying attention in class. Throughout the week, Fisher is getting little clues about where he is going and what is going on. He realizes that his father has moved out and most of Fisher’s clothes have gone with him but Fisher is still at home. Finally, on Friday morning Fisher doesn’t go to school. The breeze speaks to him tell him to hurry up, the caterpillars are coming. Deep in a forest, he dances with the caterpillars into the night and the caterpillars encase Fisher in a silk cocoon. The next morning, the butterflies emerge and Fisher breaks free of his cocoon and returns home. He learns the truth of what has been hidden from him all week, His mother has asked his father to move out and take Fisher with him because she can’t handle her life, Fisher’s life and his sister, Corey’s life. The story ends with Fisher leaving with his dad, jokingly asking for his clothes back.

When I requested to review his book, I was interesting to see what the dance of the caterpillars was. What I read was a strange story of divorce and a mother who can’t handle raising two children on her own, so she sends her son to live with his dad. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. I did like the interaction between Fisher and Old Pear Man. It was almost like the old mentor passing on wisdom to his young student. The illustrations are beautiful. The book is in an 8x8 format which I would associate with a picture book with little text. This book has lots of text, almost a chapter book which I think it is better suited for this book. I had to read this book a few times to see what I was missing and I still don’t know. The Dance of the Caterpillars – in a time before texting is another story about the difficult of divorce and separation told through the magical dance of the caterpillars. I read other reviews, which were growing praise and I just don’t know what I am missing. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The first 5 years: Happy Anniversary!

On July 11, 2009, I married my best friend. I know that many people say that and few truly mean it. I truly do. Joe is the first man I have truly been comfortable around. To be comfortable to share my secrets and be amazed at the support and acceptance I receive instead of shock and later rejection.
Joe and I met in 2005 when I was hired at the grocery store where he worked. I was in the bakery and he was in general merchandise. Almost from the beginning, a fellow co-worker hounded me to go out with him saying the same old lines, “You have so much in common,” etc, etc. And for months I refused. I was burned before when I dating someone I worked with and vowed never to do so again. In June 2007, she finally wore me down. I told her that IF he asked me out, I would go, thinking he’ll never ask me. Little did I know that another co-worker left the department to seek out Joe and give him a hint to go ahead and ask me out. He would later confess that he thought about it for a while because he, too, had reservations about dating someone at work. He decided to take the risk and he came into the bakery department, jumped up and sat on the table where I was decorating cupcakes and asked me to a movie that night. I was shocked and said yes. 
And they say the rest is history. We would go out almost every night for weeks before officially becoming a couple on July 12.We experienced our first kiss at Knott’s Berry Farm in the Ghost Rider as he didn’t tell me that he doesn’t like roller coasters, quickly kissed me at the beginning and the end of the ride. We did everything together. We went to the movies, Disneyland. He even took me to Las Vegas for my birthday! He would proposed on July 17, 2008 while we were watching The Phantom of the Opera, one of my favorite movie.
Our marriage has had its ups and downs from the beginning. In May 2010, we discovered we were pregnant. A little before we had planned but we were excited and just as the excitement began to spread, we miscarried. Not losing faith we tried again and in October 2010, we were pregnant again! Things were going great and just as we spread the news, we discovered that our baby had died. January 7, 2011 is burned in our memories as a day that we began to lose hope.
But after going through medical testing, we were pregnant again in April 2011. On January 27, 2012, our beautiful daughter Abigail Hope was born. We moved to a bigger home in January 2013 and much to our surprise, found out we were pregnant again on June 25th. Despite being pregnant before we planned, we were excited. Even though Joe was hoping for a boy, he was excited to learn that we were going to have another little girl. Then our worst nightmare. On October 29, 2013, I was rushed into the hospital because of an incompetent cervix and the doctors couldn’t stop it. On October 30, 2013, our daughter Ziva Rae was born and died. The past 9 months has been an emotional roller coaster for both us but we have great faith in our Lord that he has a plan for us and we rely on His strength every day.
Here on our fifth wedding anniversary, Life has dealt us some pretty strong blows but we are stronger for it. I love you, Joe. I thank God every day for you! You are the husband I was praying for when I was 17. You are a wonderful husband and father! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Patches and Buttons: a book about overcoming fears and becoming friends

Patches and Buttons, written and illustrated by Jennifer Link, is a cute story about overcoming your fears and becoming friends with someone different. Buttons is a rabbit who is afraid of loud noises and especially of the family dog, Patches. The book has Buttons running from sounds and hiding from Patches. When he thinks he’s safe, Patches approaches the cage with a present. Buttons learns that Patches just wants to play and they become good friends.

This story has a great message with great illustrations, simple yet detailed. Ms. Link stated that it has been a long desire to bring her art to a children’s book for many years. She wrote the story for her nephew about her dog (Amber) and Buster (bunny). Her wish is that when a child reads the book, they smile. She accomplishes this very well. My daughter loved the story so much, she had me read it three times. I really loved this story. I would recommend Patches and Buttons for all children who love a simple story about learning to face your fears or just to enjoy a small story about a rabbit and a dog.

Patches and Buttons is available on Outskirt Press and Amazon for $18.95

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Silver Star: a story of discovery

The Silver Star is the newest book by Jeannette Walls and her first book of real fiction. It is the story of Jean “Bean” and her sister, Liz after their mother disappears and they live with their uncle in Virginia.

Jean is 12 years old and her sister is 15 when their mother, Charlotte, an aspiring songwriter, singer, and actress disappears. Fearing they will be picked up by the authorities for not having their mom home, the girls take off, traveling from California to Virginia to their mother’s childhood home and their Uncle Tinsley, who is not happy to see them but takes them in. The girls explore their new town, where they met Jean’s father’s family. The Wyatts offer Jean some history about her father, her mother and the town. With school approaching, the girls decide to get jobs in order to buy new clothes. They get a job with Jerry Maddox, a man who appears to be up to no good and hires the girls. Liz becomes his private secretary and Jean becomes his wife’s helper with the children. The jobs quickly go from good to bad to worse as Liz finds her herself in a tough situation and goes up against the town bully, Mr. Maddox.

I enjoyed this book. It was a fast read and I truly enjoyed the character, Jean. I enjoyed her journey of discovery who she is and who her father was. I enjoyed how the military medal, The Silver Star, plays into the story. Although the resolution of the conflict fell short and rushed, I enjoyed this story of discovery and watching Jean mature and grow. The book makes reference to To Kill a Mockingbird a lot and I think Ms. Walls was trying to write a similar story. While The Silver Star is a good book, it is nowhere near the great storytelling of To Kill a Mockingbird.

“No one who dares to be great and reach for the stars worries about being realistic.” -Charlotte

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Scars: our story and our motivation

Scars are the results of the biological process of wound repair in the skin and other tissues. Some scars are unsightly and there are countless of oils, ointments and medical procedures to remove them. Some of us carry psychological scars. The emotional scars that no one sees and yet the person who bears them feels their presence every day of their lives. Recently, I was watching an episode of Criminal Minds called “The Slave of Duty” where in the end, David Rossi responds to a colleague’s comment that one doesn’t survive without a few scars. He says, “Scars remind us where we’ve been. They don’t have to dictate where we’re going.” I greatly admire the people who are able to take their scars and become greater than they were before.

The people who survive use their scars to remind themselves of the battles they’ve gone through, to remind themselves how far they’ve come. Carly Simon once said that “a really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars.” Meaning? A survivor is proud of his or her scars and said “yes I lived through this and here I am.” I can think of countless of men and women who despite their scars stood up and said I’m not going to let this slow me down. J.R. Martinez was a U.S. Army infantryman in Iraq when he suffered severe burns to 34% of his body. This fire left him severely burned and disfigured but did it stop him? No, he went on to become a motivational speaker, actor and he won Season 13 of Dancing with the Stars. Another inspirational survivor is Amy Purdy. She lost both legs below the knee due to an infection stemming from Neisseria meningitis. She would also lose both kidneys and received a transplant from her father. She would later win a Bronze medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and win 2nd place in Season 18 of Dancing with the Stars. These two people could have just sat down and played the pity party but they knew they were meant for something greater.

I have my own scars. Scars that are physical as well as emotional. I share the story behind each scar as a testament that your scars do not have to dictate the life you lead. I may not be living high on the hog with no worries or stress but I live. Each morning, I thank the Lord for another beautiful day. I take care of my daughter and marvel on how fast she is growing. I take care of my home and prepare meals for my family. I spend time with them and enjoy the moments we have together before life intervenes again. As M.L. Stedmen writes in her book, The Light between Oceans, “Scars are just another kind of memory.” A painful memory, yes but a memory all the same. We can chose how those memories will play out in our lives. Will we stand up and say, “despite these scars, I’m going to live my life to the fullest?” Or will we say, “I can’t because I’ve been too scarred?” I hope that it’s the latter because, as author Rodney A Winters writes “scars are not signs of weakness, they are signs of survival and endurance.” Let your scars be your motivation to rise above your past, to rise above the pain and hurt and become something greater than you were before.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Captain No Beard The Crew Goes Coconuts: a great book about the importance of no bullying!

Another adventure in the Captain No Beard series. I haven’t read any other titles in this series but after reading the new book, The Crew Goes Coconut! I am eager to read the rest of the series.

The book opens with Captain No Beard and his crew as they are on an island with no more juice. Each member of the crew begins to blame the new member aboard the Flying Dragon. Matie, the goat, is the scapegoat and the crew begins to make fun of her. This upsets Matie and Captain No Beard must come in and teach the lesson that everyone is different and it is not right to make fun of others’ flaws.

This is a great book about bully, how it can start so simply and barrel out of control. It is a simple story to teach children that bullying is not just fun and teasing. It hurts the person being bullied and it doesn't make you cool or popular. With beautiful illustrations and a great story, children will learn an important lesson. I highly recommend this book! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Declaration of Independence: the document that started it all

As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, people are preparing for a long weekend of BBQs, fireworks and fun in the sun. I’ve been thinking how to celebrate the Fourth and its significance in our lives. I decided to write about a document that started it all. The reason we celebrate our country’s independence on July 4: The Declaration of Independence. The British colonies in America declaring independence from Great Britain was the first of its kind and the Declaration of Independence would heavily influence future declarations.

During my research, I found some fascinating facts about the Declaration of Independence:
  • Independence was officially declared on July 2, 1776
  • The Declaration of Independence was commissioned by the Continental Congress. A five man committee was appointed to write this very important document. Those men were Thomas Jefferson, who would become known as the “author,” Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Robert Livingston would later refuse to sign the declaration as he felt it was too soon to declare independence.
  • 8 of the 56 signers were born in Great Britain
  • The oldest signer was Benjamin Franklin at 70 and the youngest was Edward Rutledge at 26
  • One signer, Richard Stockton, would later recant his signing of the Declaration and would pledge his allegiance to King George III
  • The Declaration would list 27 grievances against King George III of Great Britain who had ignored the needs and desires of his subjects: the colonies.
  • On July 4, 1776, the final draft of the Declaration was approved and it wasn’t officially signed until August 2, 1776
  • The first public reading of the Declaration was July 8, 1776 in Philadelphia.
  • When news of the Declaration of Independence reached New York City, a riot broke out
  • Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, men who helped draft and sign the Declaration of Independence, would die on July 4, 1876, the 50th Anniversary.
  • During WWII, the Declaration as well as the Constitution were moved from public display and held at Fort Knox, Kentucky
  • Of the 200 original printings, only 26 are known to still exist. One sold at auction for $8 million in 2000.
  • There is something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence. It simply says “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” It is thought to be a label as it was probably rolled up for storage.