Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan Hits The Philippines, by Noemi Rabina

November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan hit Leyte, the famous historical province in the Visayan Islands of the Philippines. It was here in 1944 where Gen. Douglas McArthur landed to liberate the country from Japan, who had ruled the country for about four years. Since then, Leyte has been a peaceful and beautiful province with the white sandy shore that attracted many visitors. But now, a great devastation has happened as the strongest typhoon Haiyan pounded on the land, killing thousands of people and reducing the once beautiful city into rubbles. The whole world has seen and heard the cry of the people. It was so heart-breaking! 

I thought I had already experienced nature's worst typhoon when I was in Manila.  It was signal #3, and I was caught working in the hospital many miles from home. The city streets were flooded. No more public transportation. People were wading in the dark dirty water to get home. I had to follow the crowd in my nurse's white uniform. It took me more than four hours to get home when it used to be less than an hour ride on a usual day. 

We were often visited by typhoons, usually in November and December, and typhoons were always named after women. That is because women are more aggressive, and unpredictable. For typhoons signal #1-#3, schools and public offices were closed, but they never excuse the workers from the hospitals. If they cannot report due to lack of transportation, the hospital ambulance will come and get them. 

To the affected people of Leyte, let us be a good neighbor, to help them the way we can. Jesus said, "What ever you have done to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me." 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Veteran's Day, by Caleb J. Gomez, 12 years old

My Papa, Victor Adele was a Marine. He served our country in Vietnam.

Now he is a volunteer at my Troop 93 meetings and outings. He has taught me how I can serve my community and my country by being the best Boy Scout of America.

My Papa says,  I can be like a  Marine  even if I' am only 12 years old by always doing my  best, and never giving up when I have trouble putting up my tent,  tying my knots, and calling out color-guard commands, and folding the flag correctly in a triangle shape and going on hard hikes.

 I want to wish my Papa and all the people who have served in the wars a happy Veterans day.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Abandoned In the Attic, by Yolanda Adele

As I lie in the dark corner of the cold attic,
the spider,
and deliberately approaches my being.
Sticky, beautiful gossamer- like webs anchor my broken body down.
Thankful, I’m for the lace collar of my tattered yellow dress,
that covers and protects, my mouth and ears,
from the ominous black spider’s curiosity.
There is no comfort in the haunting sounds,
of the child’s laughter,
that once beckoned me to run in frolic. 
Her shrills of delight,
echoes like a faded lullaby,
suspended from the rafters now.
This precious little girl often wrapped her arms around me,
whispering her secrets and pain
knowing I’d never judge or blame.
My jaw frozen wide in silent scream,
I wish this were but a dream.
Alas, since she abandoned me, only darkness fills the air.
I should have known that little girls,
all too soon,
grow up,
and put their dollies down.
Someday a new child may find, and mend my broken parts,
setting in motion the magical, imagination,
that breaths life into dolls,
bringing them to life again,
and again.   
Until then I lie,
and abandoned,
in the attic.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Memories, by Charlene Farnsworth


Over the years, I have become disenchanted with Halloween. That is probably because my childhood memories are that of dressing up as a pleasant personalityone that made you smile rather than wince. This may have been a storybook princess, a cartoon character or perhaps a cute animal. My early and midlife adult memories are also of a more calming approach to Halloween. Then more frightful figures were introduced and became quite popular.  Each year, the costumes, masks and makeup are more gory, which adds to my discomfort at Halloween.

Some vacation spots have annual shows with a Halloween theme. Knott’s Berry Farm has “Knott’s Scary Farm,” Universal Studios has “Horror Nights,” and the Queen Mary has “Dark Harbor.” The ghouls and goblins are lurking here and there and jump out at their “prey” unexpectedly and are often disfigured, dripping with blood and missing various body parts. It amazes me that people actually pay to be subjected to such fright. This also entails enduring heavy traffic around and long lines within these locales.

Thankfully, my parents took an everlasting photograph of me in my favorite Halloween costume. I was Little Bo Peep, and Mom fashioned my frilly dress from some kitchen curtains that she had replaced. Dad skillfully handcrafted the shepherd's crook.

Another fond childhood memory is how much my brother Jim and I enjoyed trick-or-treating at Mr. and Mrs. Woodmansee’s house on our block. This was because they always passed out the bigger-and-better nickel candy bars instead of the usual penny candies.

One would never know that Halloween is not my favorite holiday by what I do each year. I assemble well over 100 candy packages for the door-to-door visitors, family members and friends. Before Halloween, I personally deliver some of the treats to favorite children in my neighborhood. Have you ever heard of home delivery to the trick-or-treaters? It is also tradition for me to take these treats to my friend Steve's home some distance away because he has many more trick-or-treaters from his neighborhood and church than I do.

In my senior years, the Halloween season seems to be too long and way too commercial. For my preservation, I always avoid the store aisles with the gruesome masks and various body parts. I think I’ll stick to my more calming homemade treats and cheery "Casper the Friendly Ghost" for my Halloween entertainment.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

One more Gift, by Karen Borrell

A strange plant in our yard,
My husband said, “It’s a weed!”
It smelled to me like tomato
I said, “The wind blew us a seed.”

Afraid to pull another plant,
He let the green leaves grow
In friendly soil it grew quite tall
Small blooms began to show.

He began to daily check the plant,
Give it water and tie support.
Soon green fruit began to appear
Although the time seemed short.

Now full, bright red and ripe
Juicy warm from the sun,
I wonder how such a miracle
Came so sweetly to my tongue!

Monday, September 9, 2013

K is for “Kindness." by Shirley Mark

Our class was saddened by the news last week that one of our own had passed away. Shirley wrote so many good stories of her travels, her family, and her passions (like opera!). Here is a story she wrote about the class several years ago. It was one story in an ABC anthology of class stories.
 If you have a favorite memory of Shirley, can you post it here in the comment section? I would love for us to pay honorable tribute to this special friend. ~ Bonnie

Kindness – "the quality or state of being kind; good will; graciousness; kindhearted."

         All of the above reflect the kindness I have felt in the Downey writing class and in this one in Norwalk. How fortunate I was – how fortunate I am.

        Last week I went into my son’s old room, which is now used for anything and everything, looking for a photo. Going through papers, scrap book pages, etc., I found a letter from a Downey student expressing how much she enjoyed hearing about my travels. Next to it was a photo of the class which had been given to me, “in friendship.”

That was and is typical of the kindness that begins with the instructor and filters through the excellent and kind students. Am I lucky to be a part of the warmth, friendliness and kindness of that class? You bet!!!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

My Daughter Sarah and the Sand Dunes, by Annie Freewriter

Here is a story I think you will enjoy . . . especially if you have ever become impatient waiting for a baby to be born!

I was watching the news a couple of years ago in August about a week before my youngest daughter Sarah’s birthday. A park in Manhattan Beach, called Sand Dune Park, had just been reopened after being closed for a year. The 300 ft. dunes had been damaged by years of people tramping up its sandy sides. The streets had been congested by excess traffic and parking problems, and constant noise well into the evening from all the people who came just because it was a cool place to hang out. The city finally had to come up with a solution to please everyone; or at least some. There is now a three dollar fee and a reservation required to use the dune. 

Flashback to 36 years ago (now 38) on August 12, 1974, I was attending church, at a small hall our church was renting next to Sand Dune Park. I was miserable because I was more than a week overdue, and it had been a hot summer. I believe my daughter preferred the warmth and security of the womb, and refused to come out. She still prefers to curl up in the warmth and security of her bed, snuggling with her kitty, more than thirty years later. My son was born a year and one month before, on July 5, 1973. 

I told my friend, Nancy, who was standing outside with me, that I was wondering if climbing the sand dune would help me go into labor. We decided it was worth a try if she went along to help me. We climbed about half way up the steep, leg-tightening dune, and then descended into ankle-plunging depth. Still no labor pains, so we turned around and tried again; this time – a labor pain. We were experienced mothers and knew how to time the pains to make sure it was real. It was. Away I went to the hospital, and delivered a beautiful baby girl, after several hours of labor. 

Right after she was born, a nurse overheard us trying to come up with a middle name to put on the birth certificate. She peeked around the curtain and said, “Did I hear you say Monique?” We had already picked out Sarah as the first name and they sounded good together, so I said, “Yes, that’s it.” Her friends and I have teased her over the years saying she was very unique, that Sarah Monique. She truly is!

Just think: if I had climbed that dune to induce labor today, instead of 36 years ago (now 38), I would have had to pay a three dollar fee and on top of that; make a reservation. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One Is Never Too Old To Learn, by Maria Zeeman

Facilitating this community of memoir writers has been a joy from the beginning. When I try to tell people just how special this group is, I suspect they must think I am exaggerating. Maria’s story represents what happens when people take time to listen to one another. Walls of fear and prejudice come tumbling down. And we are sometimes blessed with the privilege of being there to witness it.

I was in a concentration camp under the Japanese regime.
During the time that has passed since then, and that sure has been many years, I learned to forget and to go on. I had several friends that were Japanese. But I would never buy anything that was made there.  I even chose not to accept a better job when I found out that my supervisor was Japanese. It made me think of long past sad times.  I must say that almost all my life I was too busy having a good time. I always worked hard and studied hard, wanted to be the best mom I could.   But I really never took time out for just me. My inner self.

Then I retired, earlier than I wanted. Again my time went for extra work to make money for the care of my children and grandchildren.

Then one day a lady from the Netherlands came. She was looking for any survivors of the Tjidang camp in Djakarta, Indonesia during World War II. And I am one of them. She talked to me  for a long time. Then she offered me a visit with a psychiatrist and he referred me to a counselor. I still see her. This Dutch organization gives me some money for the rest of my life.

I still carried a grudge that I was hurt not only by the Japanese, but also by the Dutch people. Because when we came to Holland, nobody was nice to us. I know that they went through a war too, but they weren’t skinny and hungry. A Dutch organization gave us double coupons to obtain food. Others were envious of that. And, of course, we spoke Dutch, but with no dialect. They thought we had our noses in the air.

In school they laughed and teased us because we were far behind in every subject. I was 9 years and had to do grades 1, 2, and 3 in one year. No wonder I was still undereducated for my age. I made up for it for many years to come. The older we get the more we learn and understand. This counselor helped me a lot.

Now I’m a senior and am in this writing class. When I listen to the other people in the class, I learn and take time to understand other people and how different they are. When I listen to Kay (she’s Japanese) she makes me think of her and other people from a very wise and humble standpoint. I finally felt that I could love her for what she is, Japanese or not. And I felt such a burden of relieve fall off me that I was quiet and thankful. When we left and I saw her outside, I called her and hugged her, thanking her for being Kay, wise and understanding.

Yes, even at 78 years one can still learn a lot in life. 


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Daily Routine, By Charlotte Davis Boquist

Our daily routines may change gradually, but they change dramatically. Enjoy Charlotte’s perspective on one aspect of this change. There are certain things that it’s best to keep a sense of humor about. Aging is one of them.

The words, “of an age” sound genteel and sweet, but, truth be known, the so-called golden years are spent in an entirely new circle of friends.  They reside at our doctor’s office.  Other patients; the receptionists, the nurses and the doctors themselves are all known by their first names.  The workers at the pharmacies know us by the prescriptions we refill on a regular basis.

          Each day is a whirlwind of pills—and more importantly when to ingest each one, how often-of course, the timing is crucial.  One with water first thing; you can’t eat for an hour no matter how late you start.  Then two others, one small round pill and one triangular shaped.  To be taken with breakfast, one with a little food and the other when my tummy is full.  Oh don’t forget the teaspoon of syrup.

          Lunch brings on a pile of vitamins.  Capsules and pills all recommended by our M.D. or grandson and especially Dr. Oz, who daily has something new that is important to swallow. 

          Afternoon calls for some elixir, a tea perhaps, or a smoothie made from many healthy ingredients.

          Six o’clock comes quickly and it’s time for the pill that will anchor my blood clot.  Pay attention now, is this the day for a whole one or a half?  Oh my!  Have I had enough water to drink today?  Probably not, but if I try to make it up now I’ll be up several times in the night.  Tomorrow I’ll do better.

          Bedtime and three teaspoons of that stuff that keeps my air passages open.  Now what did I forget? I’m sure there is something.  But I’m too tired to care.  Good night ZZZZZZZZZZZ.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grandma's Pan, by Karen Borrell

Do you have an every-day utensil in one of your cupboards that has served you and your family for generations? Have you ever thought about how that ordinary item has added to your family’s memories?  

Old black iron pan

What history you have served.

Nordic lamb and cabbage,

Proud tradition you preserved.


Adjusted next to melting pot stews

And the tight economy of war,

You now offered us filling foods

We might not have considered before


Another journey, this time South

And the aroma was totally new

As you brewed us many spicy feasts

Our Children enjoyed them too


So, old pot. You are almost sacred

Having journeyed far with four generations

What will happen when I am gone?

What will you serve at your next destination?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sometimes it is good to Forget, by Yolanda Adele

 Here is a different perspective on memory from Yolanda.

I have come to the conclusion that a great memory is a bit over-rated. When I was much younger I had extraordinary recall. My mind never seemed to run out of inventory. I remembered every unkind word, broken promise, betrayed confidence, my failures, others failures.
Being overly sentimental is like a web that can entangle and choke a person with memories, whether they are good, sad, or ugly. Memories can be disruptive; they come back when you don’t want them, in daydreams, nightmares or flashbacks, usually accompanied by painful emotions.
In this age of pharmaceutical wonders there are pills for anxiety; depression, improved memory, libido; the morning after pill; why not have pills for forgetting? Sure, one could argue that our memories are part of what makes us who we are. Yet, if we didn’t recall the negativisms with which some of us grew up, the naysayers, we’d have greater confidence and potential to be the best we can be.
Still I’m reminded that life, like art, has light and shadow. Mosaics illustrate wholeness with intricate complex, interrelated elements of parts, or factors. In essence, I’m a piece of unfinished work, and in the end, discernment is the key.
I must be poised to remember that sometimes it is good to forget.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

4th of July Memories, by Bonnie Mansell

       It has been quite awhile since we have published any stories on this blog. Here is an early memory of my family’s celebration of Independence Day. Do you have one to share?

When I was young, mom and dad took us to Grandma and Grandpa’s hillside home in Monterey Park. All the aunts, uncles, and cousins were there as we celebrated America’s Freedom.
In the afternoon, while it was too light for “real” fireworks, Grandpa would take the kids into the garage, near his workbench and get out some small black tablets. He’d put them on the garage floor, and light them with a “punk,” a sort of slow-burning lighter.
Sometimes it was a little hard to get them going, but once they ignited, the tablets would begin to glow and grow, producing long “snakes” of ashes with a peculiar pungent odor. Sometimes he’d let us do the honors of lighting these mild “fireworks” and I suppose we were more excited than these little glow worms deserved, but it was all  part of the day’s energy.
All day we waited in anticipation for the sun to go down so we could begin the “real” fireworks. After a meal of hamburgers, picnic style salads, beans, and watermelon, we brought blankets, chairs, and popcorn onto the front lawn as Dad and the uncles got the show ready to begin.
They took turns lighting the fireworks, dashing out of the way once the sparks began to fly. A pinwheel on the peach tree, a piccolo Pete piercing the night, fountains, roman candles – all these filled the night with excitement, laughter and wonder.
But the best part always came at the end, when the sparklers came out, turning us into magicians with our wands. We wrote our names in fire on the dark night, trying desperately to get the last letter written before the first one faded. Impossible, of course, but we never stopped trying.
Grandma and Grandpa moved from that house when I was quite young. The scene was recreated in other places over the years, but the house in Monterey Park is where my memory is most vivid, most filled with magic.
When Steve and I had children of our own, we took them to my mom and dad’s home, where we ate hamburgers on the patio and watched fireworks in the front yard after dark. Later, the party moved to our house and began to include the neighbors. For many years we had an annual 4th of July block party, everyone bringing something to share.
The tradition faded and died for many years, and we have been celebrating the 4th with a swim party/barbeque at Pam and Joan’s house, ending the day with chairs on the lawn at Downey High Football Stadium, enjoying the community fireworks display.
But today we are returning to the neighborhood barbeque. It’s a whole new set of neighbors and we have passed the baton of hosting the event to the younger families. I look forward to getting to know some of the people I pass every day. And I hope the children enjoy the sparklers.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Track Team, by Carol Kearns

In class a few weeks ago I asked the class to do a ten-minute writing on something they had noticed that day. Carol continued to notice things around her. Later that day she observed the Downey High School track team running through our community and she paid attention to their workout. This is the perceptive result of her observations.

School is out
But the jagged line of students pushes onward
Down the boulevard
Ignoring the exhaust
They know the route and have the desire

The track team is large
Democratic, self-selected, with no tryouts
You don’t have to be fast, just willing to train

A mile from school
There is little energy for laughter and chatter
Some advance solo
Syncing their pace to music on an iPod

Experienced runners pump their arms
In smooth coordination with their legs
Not too hard
Just enough to be efficient
Gracefully they advance up the line

Novice runners haven’t learned yet
What is required for success on the track
Rigidly held hands conflict with
The motion of their legs

Bouncing ponytails betray
The side-to-side swing of shoulders and elbows
By girls wondering             is track compatible with femininity

But two miles is still two miles
And from daily effort
The novice runners will find their stride

At last the line turns left on to a tree-lined street
Confident boys shed tee shirts
Even the shade is not cool enough

Brave girls strip down to sports bras
And enjoy the breeze
On their glistening midrifts

Two more blocks and the line turns left again
Just in time for the grammar school dismissal
Less fit runners welcome the order by a crossing guard
To jog in place at an intersection

Small children escorted by parents look in awe
At these fleet creatures
Do you know my brother
A little one asks a shaggy-haired Adonis
His only answer is a smile
From an adolescent breathing deeply

The whistle sounds
And the sweaty herd surges onward
More stretched out than ever at this half-way point
Saturday will be their first meet of the season


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MISS FLORA’S GARDEN, by Charlene Farnsworth

This is a story that reminds us that some people have a gift for creating beauty in the most ordinary of places. It also reminds us to take time to notice someone else’s beautiful creation. By taking time to stop and linger, Charlene and her mom prompted a life-long memory.

One day, Mom and I met a charming, very able octogenarian whose name I do not recall. For purposes of this writing, I think the name Miss Flora befits this lovely lady.
Mom and I were wearily returning from a shopping excursion when we spotted a well-kept, two-story, Victorian home. What particularly caught our eye was the magnificent rose garden on the south side of the house. We stopped curbside to enjoy the spectacular display. Although we were parked on a very busy thoroughfare, we felt we were alone, together, in paradise. The neighboring storefronts and noticeably less-charming housing that had encroached upon this “gingerbread” house over the years seemingly disappeared.
We wondered if we dared to knock on the decorative front door and, hopefully, meet the owner. We were anxious to learn about the history of this Victorian beauty. Knock, knock, knock ¼
Peppy, petite Miss Flora warmly welcomed us and asked if we would like a tour of her rose garden. Of course, we immediately accepted her kind invitation. She told us that she lived in the home until she got married. Upon the breakup of her marriage, she returned to the home and cared for her aging parents.
Remembering the information from Rose Hills on the proper care of roses, I asked Miss Flora, “Do you water underneath your roses and never overhead?” She replied, “I just stand with the hose and spray them!” I posed my next two-part question: “Do you fertilize your roses? By what method?” Miss Flora answered, “I just stand and throw the fertilizer at them!” So much for following the books for abundant, healthy roses!
Miss Flora then invited us on an extended tour of her yard. All along the north side of her “dollhouse” were camellias that reached the second story rooftop. Again, thinking how I always followed the garden books when pruning our own camellias, I asked, “Do you cut your camellias back after they have finished blooming?” Miss Flora responded, “No, I cut them back when I can’t drive my car by them!”
Miss Flora then walked us to the attached back porch which was adorned with hanging baskets of brilliant fuchsias. No more questions from me—just pleasant quiet among profuse color of every hue.
We then followed Miss Flora’s darling figure into her home where we enjoyed another feast for the eyes: a huge collection of elegant Venetian glassware—goblets, candy dishes, vases, etc. While inside, Miss Flora shared a little more about her life and the interesting history of her charming home.
We then thanked Miss Flora abundantly for brightening our day and, reluctantly, returned to reality.
Over the years, Mom and I reflected upon the little side excursion we took one sunny day, enjoying Miss Flora’s Victorian home and well-manicured gardens. Although quite small in stature, Miss Flora added a significant memory to both of our lives.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I Am From, by Dora Silvers

Do you remember the “I am from” poems that we were publishing last year? Here is another one from Dora. It is a multi-layered memory, all caught in a few short stanzas. Read it slowly and savor the essence of another era.

I am from the depression era.
From New Jersey (the garden state)
Cold winters and hot summers.
Sled riding after dinner,
then a hot sweet potato with lots of butter
From the Horse & Wagon for 1 cent.

Chicken and chicken soup on Friday,
when mama would light the Shabbat candles.
Papa said the blessing over a small glass of homemade wine.
Saturday  mornings, we read from the old testament.

Movies were 10 cents,
with cartoons and a serial continued every week.
Sunday, my aunt and uncle came from New York.
Mama made salami with scrambled eggs and knishes -
Pastry dough wrapped over mashed potatoes,
Fried and drained on brown paper bags,
before paper towels.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Things That I will carry into the New Year, by Yolanda Adele

This piece was originally published on this blog two years ago in January of 2011. The lessons learned are just as valid now as they were then.

I have learned that friendships can fill the void when family brings disappointments.

I have learned that grandchildren are God’s gift of a second chance.

I have learned from myself that change is necessary.

I have learned from the events of September eleventh that tomorrow is not a given.

I have learned from my husband that love brings comfort.

I have learned from my cat to nap when the tasks at hand are too trying.

I have learned from my homemaking that I don’t have excuses to be bored.

I have learned from my addiction to chocolate that some things are out of my control.

I have learned through my writing that I have something to say.

These are the life lessons that I hope to keep present in my mind as the New Year comes in with its new adventures and challenges.




I wish all my dear friends in my Memoir Group, Live Wires, and Writer’s West Workshop a New Year full of rewarding discoveries.