Thursday, July 29, 2010

Someone Special, by Barbara Sparks

It is really hard to think of just one person who has inspired me. I have met many special people in my life. Teachers, however, have had the most lasting influence on my life. They are why I chose to become a teacher.

English teachers introduced me to literature that broadened my concept of the world. My world before meeting them was limited to my home, school, city, and country. My eighth grade teacher introduced me to Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and The Diary of Anne Frank. For the first time I discovered prejudice and hatred existed all over the world and throughout history.

My 10th grade teacher continued my love of Shakespeare and drama by having my class read Macbeth. We read sections orally and she also read to us. As she read I felt that I was there listening and observing the characters in the play. She took us on a journey to England, where Shakespeare’s works were first performed, by showing us slides from her trip there. I dreamed of going to England and because of her I travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon where I attended a production of Hamlet.

My twelfth grade English teacher introduced me to the Greek Tragedy Medea. She took me to see a performance of Medea. This was the first time I had ever gone to a live performance. My love for live performances was ignited. This love continues today. My favorite pastime is attending plays and musicals.

Teachers made history and politics exciting. We discussed newspaper articles in class. I realized that the world was right there at my fingertips. All I had to do was open the newspaper and read.

My teachers believed in me and my ability to succeed. I was chosen to go to a leadership camp where I met people of many cultures and religions. No longer was I reading about different cultures and religions, I was learning first hand about the beauty of our diverse population.

There was one event that changed my life completely and I am so grateful to Dr. Liljekvist. He took me to various colleges. He showed me his thesis and dissertation in the library on one university campus. He said that one day I could have my thesis or dissertation there. I later did attend graduate school on the same campus. He planted the seed. Without him, I would never have dreamed of attending that university. I became the first member of my family to graduate from college. Many of my younger cousins followed me and now there are many college graduates in my family.

These are just a few of the examples of how teachers impacted my life. Their belief in me and the eye opening experiences they presented led me to places I never dreamed I would go, to pursue experiences I never dreamed I’d have and gave me the skills I needed to succeed and interact in a world that was beyond the limited world in which I was raised.

Beach Boy Summer Days, by Annette Skarin

My oldest sister, Manon, was obsessed with getting a suntan. She hated what she called the “pasty white skin” and “fish ball eyes” of wintertime. When the sun had sufficiently warmed up to “cook” her just the right shade of toasty brown, she would be out there with her beach towel; baby oil; tin foil (for intensifying the rays), and donned in a bikini. She would have to sneak down to the beach by making up a story because my father didn't allow us to wear revealing garments.

Manon always spent at least two hours putting on her make-up. Her perfectly drawn on eyebrows; carefully etched eyeliner and gobs of mascara made her appear mannequin-like. Her features were Barbie-doll perfect with cat eyes, high cheekbones, straight nose and full lips. She had long blond hair which she would rat up at the top, smooth over, then flip up at the ends with a curling iron. She would lengthen her sessions in the sun by about 15 minutes a day, so as not to get the lobster look, which was not in vogue. The Beach Boys were all the rage then with their hit California Girl-even though they portrayed surfer boys but only one of them was a surfer.

My youngest sister, Becky, was fair-skinned with a curly mass of fiery-red hair and what typically accompanies that-the dotted mass of freckles. The adults all thought her freckles were adorable but she hated them. Since we didn't have sunscreen in those days; she stayed home a lot or hung out with friends down the block. My sister Becky also made friends with an elderly woman who she would help out during the summer months, running errands and cleaning. In return she was given gifts like a small intricately carved wooden table that she kept for many years.

We lived in the city of Orange which was located inland from the beaches. I always hated my body shape and refused to be seen in a bikini but I loved swimming. We had a pool at a nearby park where we took swimming lessons. Because my arms were so short, I didn't like to do any other stroke but the side-stroke and I could dog paddle like a true canine. I also loved to take a deep breath and dive underwater-moving my body with a mermaid-like thrashing-I would cross the pool lengthwise twice without coming up for air.
I loved the carefree, barefoot, book-reading, bike-riding days of summer and always dreaded when they began to creep away with the shadow of fall. Back to school and the dreaded teachers with their stern, “your days of fun are over”, look.

Annette's Blog:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All Shook Up, By Yolanda Adele

In the summer of 1969, it was Elvis Presley’s opening night at what was then The International Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. It was the first time he had performed in public for more than nine years. According to a Newsweek article dated August 11, 1969, the showroom was filled with 2,200 seats twice each day for four weeks; total attendance reportedly topped 101,509, a new Las Vegas record. The gross receipts were $1,522,635, also a Las Vegas record.

My husband made reservations six months in advance to be there for our seventh wedding anniversary; it was his anniversary gift to me.

The orchestra played the powerful theme from 2001 Space Odyssey to a reverberating crescendo when Elvis finally made his highly anticipated appearance and took command of the stage, wearing a white jump-suit.

The air seemed to fill with electrifying energy and euphoria as the audience stood and applauded with thunderous frenzy.

My husband bribed a couple of waiters and a maitre’d to sit me up front, center stage. I didn’t sit for long. I rose and pressed my body up against the platform as some women from behind me rushed the stage when Elvis teasingly pulled his scarf off his neck to wipe his brow before offering the scarf to his adoring fans.

I raised and waved my hand to plea for the priceless scarf. I screamed out his name. He turned and looked right at me, giving me his trademark, upper lip curled smile, and said “Hold on honey, I’ll get to you.”

One of his body guards pointed a flashlight beam on my burnt orange hot pants (shorts) and matching calypso blouse that I wore, that seemed to cue the lighting technician, because changing color lights washed over me repeatedly before panning the rest of the audience in the auditorium.

Then a single large spot light followed Elvis as he moved nearer to me and knelt down on one knee directly in front of me. I was mesmerized by his sapphire-blue eyes as he sang Love Me Tender. I was sure he was singing just to me. Slowly Elvis leaned foreword to slip his scarf over my head until it reached the back of my neck pulling me closer to him. I stood on my tip-toes, closed my eyes…then he kissed me on the lips softly and tenderly. Women shrilled fervently, but he chose me.

I opened my eyes feeling a bit shook up and disorientated. All sounds seemed muffled before everything went dim and I fell to the ground. I vaguely heard someone say, “She’s fainted, give her some room!” And I remember thinking, “if only Elvis could give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”

That was forty years ago, yet the images of that magical time in my life are vibrant in the recesses of my mind; where I visit from time to time when I need a break from the doldrums and I’m once again feeling vital and All Shook Up.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Remember When?

What are some of your favorite summer memories? Watch to video to refresh your memory!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Our First Home, by Nora Szechy

After many years of apartment living and having scrimped and saved every penny, we now had the princely sum of $1,550, enough for a 10% down payment on a $15,500 home. We looked at every home for sale and even in 1965 realized that all we could buy would be an entry level fixer upper.

We were becoming quite discouraged until one day Frank came home very excited with the news that he had found us a home. He said the realtor was waiting at the property and I should come with him to sign the papers.

The house was a small frame house and didn’t look too bad from the outside. Frank brought me around the back to where the realtor was waiting. The realtor was seated at a picnic table with a sheaf of papers in front of him. Lo and behold on this sunny afternoon in the backyard was a beautiful sparkling swimming pool! He said we had to act quickly because a house like this for $15,500 wouldn’t last long. He gave me a quick tour of the house and in my excitement about the lovely backyard and pool, I barely looked at the house. This agent was very clever having us sign the papers by the inviting Pool. I didn’t realize then that we had paid $15,500 for a pool.

This house was butt ugly. Whoever designed it never went to architecture school or wasn’t even a decent handyman. The living room was more like a long narrow hallway made even longer and narrower by the dark paneling on the side walls. It was impossible to decorate. Should we try the couch in the middle of the room to try to break up the length? Who ever heard of a couch in the middle of a room? Whichever way we tried to place our furniture, it looked plain awkward.

My ever-resourceful husband Frank decided to remove the dark paneling and with the use of mirrors and white paint, the room took on a wider appearance. He built a bookcase on the long end which helped balance the length.

He tackled the pokey little old-fashioned kitchen next. He broke out the wall facing the pool and extended the kitchen several feet. He also added a master bedroom and bath.

We had four happy years in our first home and often entertained yard loads of friends for BBQ’s and swimming parties.

The best part was when the time came to sell, we doubled our investment!

Nora's website

Monday, July 5, 2010

Freedom, by Charlotte Boquist

Freedom is precious, too easily accepted as normal. Those of us who have never experienced the lack of freedom probably have no concept of what it means to have none. We accept the fact that we can worship whatever god we wish or not recognize God at all. We are able to travel anywhere without restriction. We are free to start a business, own a home, raise out children, dress as we please and take part in our government. The list is endless. As we celebrate our country's birthday we should "re-pledge" our allegiance.

My Most Memorable Fourth of July, by Annette Skarin

My grandson, Joshua and I have a special bond. I have a child-like spirit and my grandson is a fun-loving teen-ager. We can laugh and joke in a way that only we get. We compare wound stories to see who wins the prize-I’ve been losing lately much to my children’s relief-especially since the time he was bitten by a shark.

In the year my grandson was about to turn three, I began to cajole my children to have a Fourth of July picnic. I had missed out on this holiday during my child-hood years while growing up on the prairies of Canada. My children were not as enthused as I was about going to a crowded park just to watch ten minutes of fireworks. I had a card to play because at the time I lived just a few blocks from a popular park where a fireworks show was being held. I won the hand!

On the day of the event I was pumped up with enthusiasm. My son and daughter-in-law parked in my driveway and unloaded the car. We filled a wagon with all the gear and goodies of a great picnic: blankets to sit on, ice, sodas, a barbeque, charcoal, chicken, hamburgers and finger-licking sauce. Joshua got to ride on his big dad’s shoulders (he is 6’4”).

My daughter Sarah came in her own car and joined us as we made the trek to the park. The air was permeated with the smell of roasted corn, savory stir-fried teriyaki, the pungent aroma of onions and cilantro from the taco booth, sizzling char-broiled burgers and sweet powder sugar dusted funnel cakes to name just a few.

There were booths with items such as hand-made jewelry, clothing and lots of shiny noisy toys for the kiddies. I bought a pair of earrings, which I lost one of years later, so I made a necklace out of the remaining one. I bought my grandson a light saber that glowed with an eerie green light (he recently told me that he had it for years). I ran around the three-tiered park with my grandson, as he took in all the sights with wide-eyed wonder.

My visual senses were electric with the energy of the moment when the show began. The bursts of fiery, vividly colorful flowers against the night sky; always left me with a sense of awe. My grandson was more thrilled by the close encounter of the sparklers, which his dad held for him, than by the expensive show. That was the last time we have gone to a Fourth of July show together as a family.

I am so thankful to have this memory as I moved to the State of Washington a few months later to help my mother. After I moved back to California a few years ago, I tried to get everyone together again for the Fourth of July, without success. So far! Hmmm…I might have another card to play yet.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4th at Church, by Nobuyo Avery

"Holiday"....what a comforting word! While our children were at home, "Holiday" was the resting day from work, school, study and all the obligations and duties to fulfill during the week. It was an oasis for a hard working housewife, mother and professional to relax and enjoy a day. While my husband's uncle and aunt lived in Wilmington, California, they invited us for every holiday to their house or to the park celebrating a day with a family.

Aunt Fay was a good Southern cook who always entertained us with soft, delicious roast beef on every Sunday with tasty green beans, or corn on the cob, mashed potato with gravy, homemade bread and cakes or pies. She always served ice tea for drink. On holidays, they barbecued in the back yard or at the park. The park in general was beginning to be too crowded in later years, and Aunt Fay preferred to stay at home to cook for us. Since they moved to live in Arkansas we missed them mostly because of her delicious meals. My children always say, "Aunt Fay was a good cook!" to this day.

They were a kind and God-fearing couple who took us to church when we did not have transportation, watched and cared for our children without hesitation, and did more than our parents who were in Arkansas and in Japan. We are grateful to them, and especially Aunt Fay. They were our only close relatives in California. Since they left, it became my turn to cook Sundays and Holidays. Our kids often say, "Aunt Fay did not make like that!"

For the last twenty years or so, we have had our July 4th celebration at the parsonage. It started when Pastor Jerry and his wife Sarah invited us, all the church members, to their backyard party. The parsonage is next door to the huge church parking lot where the teens can play basketball, baseball or football. The younger ones can ride bike or tricycle. The church provides the meat and buns and we bring pot luck on the sides, baked beans, all kinds of salad and desserts.

When Jerry and Sarah were here, we chatted in their beautiful backyard with a pond and a little gazebo, enjoying church family fellowship all afternoon. After dark, we lighted the fireworks each family had purchased and brought in. The children and adults gazed at the ones shooting high up in the sky, or the ones twirling all over the ground. There were many varieties of fireworks in the sky, loud ones, colorful ones, some beautiful and some long lasting.

We enjoyed the ones in the neighborhood and in the distance, maybe shooting at the near-by parks. My favorite is the sparkler, making soft sound "spark, spark!", stretching the sparkling arms short and long for a minutes or so of enjoyment while I am holding on to the a foot long slim wooden stick. As if it were saying, "I am small and quiet but you love me more than loud, noisy and glamorous ones!”

After Jerry and Sarah left we kept it as the tradition to celebrate July 4th at church. We are looking forward to celebrate the freedom of this nation this Sunday evening with our church family and be thankful to all the sacrifices of our soldiers who made this peace possible in our country.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Independence Day, by Noemi S. Rabina

The Philippines has been under the rule of Spain for hundred years. General Emilio Aguinaldo declared its independence on June 12, 1898 when Spain surrendered to the United States with its colonies. The Philippines then became a commonwealth country of the United States and Manuel L. Quezon was the first President. The country aspired to become completely independent as the president said, “it is better to live in a poor man’s house and be free than to live in a rich man’s palace and be a slave.”

In 1941, Japan was at war with the United States and being a commonwealth country, the Philippines was also at war. Our country was completely conquered and was under Japan’s rule for four years. On October 1943, they gave the Philippines a mock independence, appointed Jose P. Laurel as president but they remained to be in control. In 1945, the United States liberated the country and gave our independence on July 4, 1946 under the presidency of Manuel Roxas. Thus the Philippines became a Republic. Later on, when Diosdado Macapagal was the president, a Republic Act was passed that made June 12, the first time our independence was declared, to be our official Independence Day and July 4th became Philippine/American Friendship Day. That is the brief history of the Philippine Independence.

The Philippines celebrated its 112 Independence last June 12, 2010. President Gloria M. Arroyo led the celebration at the Rizal Park in Manila. There were also celebrations in other parts of the country as well as around the world where the Filipinos are gathered. Independence Day celebration rekindles our heritage and roots. I love the Philippines. It is the land of my birth and the home of my people. It is where I was raised and became what I am now.

I love the United States of America though there are lots of things to learn in a new place. There could be cultural differences, inconsistence in language and possible changes in the standard of living. I can just relax for what the American motto states, “In God We Trust.” I love this country for the freedom of speech, of religion, freedom to socialize as we wish and equal opportunity to work with no discrimination. That is true freedom!

Independence Day is special and our gratitude to all the soldiers who made this possible. God Bless America!

INDEPENDENCE DAY, By Gloria Hannigan

Everyone came together to celebrate the Fourth of July in my hometown, Elysian, Minnesota in the ‘40’s. The Second World War had just ended and we had much to celebrate with the return of our loved ones. Celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence was secondary to the pride of being loyal Americans.

The morning started with a parade down Main Street. The veterans led the parade with the flag bearers, followed by the Boy and Girl Scouts. The grade school children followed waving flags of all sizes.

Next came the mothers with babies in strollers, buggies, or their arms. The strollers and buggies were decorated with stars, and red, white, and blue streamers. The babies were dressed in patriotic outfits as there was a prize for most beautiful baby. There were a few horse and buggies brought out of the barns for this occasion, a couple of Model T Fords with as many teenagers as you could get in and on them, also the latest in John Deere tractors.

After the parade there was a program at the town dance hall. It opened with the presentation of the flag and salute to the flag, followed by the invocation by one of our many ministers. The Mayor gave a welcoming speech. The grade school children performed a skit of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. There was always a George Washington with his hatchet chopping down a cherry tree, An Uncle Sam reciting patriotic verse, and a Betsy Ross sewing stars on a flag. The program ended with everyone singing God Bless America.

In the afternoon we would meet at the ball field where our baseball team would play a neighboring town. After the game we would head for the lake shore for a picnic. We didn’t do any barbecuing then, everything was prepared at home. There were wash tubs and large Coleman chests of ice to keep salads, watermelon, and drinks cold. fried chicken was always abundant with potato salad, deviled eggs, and a table full of cakes and pies. The watermelon was fresh off the vine and this was the one time we were allowed to spit the seeds at each other.

As the sun set over the lake, the fireworks started. We listened for the whoosh of the bottle rockets, watched them arc over the lake and heard the sizzle as they came down in the water. There was the pop of penny firecrackers and the loud bang of the larger ones. We wrote our names in the dark with sparklers and threw them in the lake when they got to hot to handle.

After the fireworks we packed up and headed for home to lay down our heads and dream the American dream of parades and flags, songs and skits, baseball and fireworks, and ice cold watermelon.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fourth of July, by Margaret Takacs

Fourth of July -- just to mention the name of the day -- memories of happy times come to one’s mind: marching bands, veterans proudly carrying billowing flags, caravans of cars loaded with children, heading toward picnic places, baskets filled to the brim with food, tempting aromas drifting from backyard barbecues, spectacular fireworks lighting the skies at night. Celebration! Celebration of freedom is everywhere in the air!

Coming from a world in 1948 where freedom was just buried, celebration of freedom always has a special meaning for me. I came from a small war-torn country of Europe, named Hungary, which burned her name with blood into the conscience of the free world in 1956. Marrying my husband, an American citizen, I became one of the privileged few who were able to leave the stronghold of communism behind.

Since at that time I was genuinely petrified from flying, we crossed the Atlantic on a steamship, the “U.S.S. Washington” and became seasick through the whole journey. Give me the peace of the Pacific any time!

The Atlantic is a very violent ocean. So after the misery of five days, the sight of the Statue of Liberty and the realization that I had reached the land of the free became an unbelievable happiness. My first impressions of America were not totally influenced by the sight of the New York skyscrapers, but by the abundance of wealth manifested in everything everywhere. Somehow I began to feel America's power; later on I came to understand how America got there.

The U.S. with her richness and might became the world’s first and foremost power, not just because of the abundances in natural resources and the wealth in brainpower, but because of a solid foundation based on the principle that all men created equal and have an indelible right to pursue prosperity and happiness.

Fourth of July, Independence Day as we called independence, means freedom. Freedom is the most magnificent privilege a human being can enjoy. Freedom is defined as "a lack of force." It is a short definition, but it carries an immense weight. Freedom is a magic word which can build spaceships soaring over our earth, tear down the Berlin Wall, and with it the stronghold of the inhuman communism, giving to people the freedom, privilege and power to chose and govern their destiny.

America's freedom of choices, free enterprises created the most prosperous society of the century. Prosperity we created; with it, the most materialistic society, which set no limitation on anything and in the process lost some moral foothold on traditional values, destroying the very values which helped to achieve greatness.

On September 11, 2001 came a wakeup call, like a powerful earthquake which shook us up in our comfort zone, in our American way of life. The enormity of the terror and possibility for more to come present the necessity to do some soul searching, reassess our values to set our principles right. Now it is up to us to do JUST THAT.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I Found My Husband in the Tenth Grade, by Yolanda Adele

I was fourteen and in the tenth grade when I found the person who would ultimately become my husband. He was older than me by two years. Though Vic was in the eleventh grade he had to repeat tenth grade English composition.

The first time I walked in to the class room I saw his head resting on his folded arms on top his desk. I had never seen such beautiful blond wavy hair on a boy. It was the color of country butter. I was tempted to run my fingers through those thick sassy golden tresses as I passed his desk.

Unfortunately, students had to sit in alphabetical order, my last name, Yudico, started with “Y” which put me at the back of the class. His name Adele began with “A”, so we were at polar ends of the room. I spent most of the class time peering around the students sitting in front of me. I tried to get a look at his face.

I hoped and waited for the teacher, Mrs. Christopher to tell him to sit up straight. But she didn't. When she called his name at roll call he merely grunted "Here!" and she noted his attendance.

After the class period was over I scurried to make my way to the front of the room to get a better look at him. By the time I got there he was gone.

The next day I nervously waited at the front door of our English classroom until he finally sashayed by me, but not before he turned to glance at me with his majestic powder blue eyes. He was beyond movie star good looks; he was “Adonically” gorgeous!

Suddenly it became difficult for me to catch my breath. Simultaneity my knees felt weak, my heart pounded like bass drums in my ears, I was sure he must have heard it too. I felt my neck and face swelter. I really didn’t understand what was happening to me. I wondered if it was just a coincidence that I got sick at that point or was my girlfriend right when she later said that I was under some kind of spell?

He was extremely good looking, but there was something else about him that made me feel safe and special just to be near him.

The first time he kissed me, I was going down the steps of our high school library and he was going up the steps. When we saw each other we stopped and just stared at one another until the staircase was empty of other students, and faculty.

Then he came up to the same step as I was on. He wrapped his arms around my waist, and then gave me my first “grown up” kiss on the mouth; like I’d seen in the movies. He lit my world like the 4th of July.

Two years later we were married.