Category Archives: Editorial

Choosing The Right Path


SOC 163, III-3b 089

Have you ever realized that you were on the wrong path, or that the one which used to inspire and fulfill you, no longer seemed relevant in your life? Were you tempted to make a big change, or did you play it safe and stay put?

A few years back I came to such a devastating realization. It wasn’t long after that, when an unexpected request came knocking on my door. A voice from deep inside me was saying if I did not honor my authentic self and risk failure, I might never have another opportunity to follow my bliss where ever it took me. “Go ahead,” it seemed to say. “Put your heart in it and just do it.”

In 2009 I took a leap of faith and changed my career path to that of a freelance writer. I began doing the work I love, using my writing skills to help people pen their memoir or turn their non-fiction material into a completed book manuscript and successfully have it published. Since I began this journey, one of my co-authored books earned the runner-up position, and two were recognized as Outstanding in their categories, enough to win Nationally Recognized Gold and Silver Book Awards. Wow! Not only have I received joyful recognition for my work, but I also helped others to achieve their literary goals and dreams. I am looking forward with gratitude and excitement as I continue on the path of the writer’s life and helping other writers for as long as I possibly can.

In the opening days of 2016 my client and co-author, Digene Farrar, surprised me with a wonderful message of her acknowledgement:

NABE – Fall 2015 – Award Announcement

Pinnacle Book Achievement
AWARD WINNERS

For the past 33 years NABE
The National Association of Book Entrepreneurs,
presents some of the finest books published by their members.
Scroll below to check out the latest Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Winners.

http://www.bookmarketingprofits.com/PinnacleAwardsFall2015.html

Not My Secret to Keep: A Memoir of Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse

by Digene Farrar with Cynthia Hurn

Not My Secret_

Winner of the Fall 2015
NABE Gold Award for
Pinnacle Book Achievement
Genre: Memoir

NewPinnacleAward3D2

What a great way to welcome in the New Year – watching Digene do the Happy Dance!

Congratulations, Digene. You certainly earned it!

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Filed under Announcements, biographical, Editorial, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Love Lessons: A talk with Dr. Bernie S. Siegel and Cynthia J. Hurn


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Filed under Announcements, Editorial, Non-Fiction, Spiritual wisdom, Uncategorized

Generous Offer


WOW!!! My publisher – New World Library – is offering an incredible opportunity to all its authors, their friends, and families – If you’re reading this, then this means you!

Please give the gift of books this year and take advantage of the 50% discount, and for deliveries inside the continental USA, there is free shipping on orders over $35. There are so many wonderful books in the New World Library catalogue; have a good browse. If you’re wanting to buy any of their titles that I have written, the books I co-authored and edited with Bernie Siegel are:
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Art of Healing Bernie Siegel 2011

Don’t delay – this offer ends on Dec 18 or when books run out – which ever comes first.

Simply enter the code HOLIDAY at checkout by Friday, December 18, 2015 to save

The link to their website is: http://www.newworldlibrary.com/

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Reflections on ‘Liberator’


Porlock Vale

During infancy, before we use words, we have only physical senses and conscious awareness. Movement, vision, sounds, touch, reflexes and emotions become the sum total of our experience. For most people, their earliest memories start from the age of two, when they had enough words to make simple statements. Words allow us to express, judge, store, and repeat the experience for later use. Those who study Human Development know this early learning phenomenon as learning from Bottom Up, versus the way adults learn, from Top Down. Adults use their past experiences to recognize, categorize, and make sense of new ones. Infants don’t have a filing cabinet full of past experiences to compare with, nor language to describe with and file in retrievable order. For babies each moment is untainted, unprejudiced, and pure. Each experience contains a powerful impact.

Those who attended Liberator experienced this bottom up style in the performance, a dance/movement production which made that same powerful impact – an emotive and unforgettable event. Watchers found that no script was written, no direction given by word, no linear guide of what they should understand, think, feel, or believe they were witnessing. The audience became a part of the act, equal as trees and grasses that stroke the wind, or as earth and water that breathe beneath the sky. Each person had freedom of opportunity to employ their own interpretation of the dance, the movement, the music, the emotions expressed, raised, and felt. Each person was deeply touched and moved by seamlessly woven story-in-action.

The dance/performance Liberator is based upon a real past event – an airplane that crashed during WWII over Porlock Marsh – as remembered by an old man who witnessed the scene when he was a boy. The boy certainly had language, but with little experience of the world, how could he make sense of war and death and devastation and hope and love and all the implications and feelings that encompass war? For him, witnessing that plane crash was a Bottom Up experience. For us, Liberator was a chance to participate in our own act of creativity as we watched the beautifully choreographed and emotively danced and played performance.

wings   plane

Liberator

A man and his long armed jacket

Whose arms become wings

Spread-eagled over the land we call Home

Leather helmet and goggles

Speaking of a time

Of a movement of people

Of armies, forces, guns, and planes

And a war to end all wars

Of three boys and a girl

Running through woods

Hiding in marsh grasses

Playing beside skeleton trees

In the shelter of a stone barn

Fiddling with radio knobs

Their innocence seeking music

But receiving the voices of battle

Of victories and losses

And a snare drum rat a tat tatting

As air-ripping sounds stream down from overhead

Bullets strafing the stone walls

Skudding and thudding the marsh mud

Children hiding under the radio table

Shuddering in terror

Running outside, following the pilot

He who flies for their freedom

Who leads them to safety

Whose movements encourage, embrace

Who thrills and instills a passion for living and loving

For the joy of being alive

Man body entwines with boy body

The knots of family and country

He who guides them to classrooms

Who teaches them strategy and planning

Who tries to stop them from straying into danger

Who suffers their innocence lost

Who dies in the marsh

And shows them the face of death

How it does not move

How it stops loving arms from holding them safe

He who remains still

And useless

Leaving only war and the hope of peace behind

Melts into earth and the setting sun

In a cauldron of flaming clouds

Snare drum playing a funeral beat

drrrat… tatttt… tatttt

Horn crying Taps in plaintive single notes

The Last Post – Day is Done

Sixty onlookers walk in silence

Following steps of those gone before

Having once learned the history

Yet only now understanding

That history is just

His Story

Our Story – our shared experience

And our silence

Bleeds

Just as they who went before us bled

From a desire for freedom

Like a living, breathing animal

Like a bird that soars

Like a helium balloon with paper planes tied to its string

Rising to the heavens

Like a note that never stops playing

A drum that is never truly silenced

A movement, a dance of life

In the meadows, forests, and marshes of this earth

A voice, a cry of hope

The human condition

A Yearning for

Liberty

Raffy 2015

Liberator was nothing less than an act of devotion. It moved me to tears many times over. The devotion showed in so many ways; it came from inspired individuals, some from this community and others from elsewhere, and it grew into a greater community of people honoring the past with their passion for art, their creativity, their skills, their time, their presence, each one sharing in the freedom of expression that many of us take for granted – until it is lost  – or stolen.

Liberator became a passionate expression by adult and child performers who dedicated more than skill, practice, and time by living and breathing Liberator’s soul in their hearts, minds, and bodies from early this summer to its evening culmination in autumn.

dance  rescued

Not a single thread of the Liberator was woven without love. Every moment of each event thrummed with intensity from the direction and choreography to the performance; from the designer, producer and graphic artist’s work to the providers of setting and space; from the makers of airplane fuselage and costumes to providers of period props; from the sound designer to the still photographer and videographer; from the production assistant to the behind-the-scenes crew who ran about, collected, dropped off, showed up, dug in and did everything they were asked; from the 1940s double-decker bus and driver to the creator of Delicious Feasts that formed and furthered more bonds of community; from the shared food, the laughter, and stories to all the people who came to listen, watch, follow and experience this dynamic Exmoor event.

   3 boys

The Liberator was born of a memory, an idea, and a desire for expression. In its production and performance it gave birth to new community, new memories, new ideas and a greater appreciation of the sacrifices that were made to preserve our freedom and the right to creative, artistic expression.

Well Done, everybody. Liberator was simply AWESOME.

For information on Liberator, more photos and biographies on all involved, visit the website: http://www.stackedwonky.com.

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Filed under Editorial, Poetry, Travel

Another Grandie Story


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My daughter, Terry, teaches yoga on Wednesdays, so every other week I get my youngest grandson, Jesse, for the day. The other grandmother takes the opposite weeks. Terry refers to the plural version of us as “the Grandies.”

It was mostly drizzling yesterday, so after we walked Tess, my golden retriever, Jesse and I decided to go to the Williton library. When he first arrived at my house, he’d been fascinated with my wheeled computer case which was still in the living room from my previous day’s visit to the Somerset Cancer Care group where I gave a 1 ½ – hour talk about Bernie Siegel’s books and a 20-minute meditation that used his creative visualization methods for healing.

Jesse zipped and unzipped the various compartments, and I showed him how to extend the collapsible handle so he could wheel the case around the room. He put a big book in the case and transported it all over the house. Could we bring it to the library? Okay, I said, what a great idea! Jesse insisted on wheeling the case (nearly as big as he is) out to the car and lifting it into the back all by himself. He’s incredibly strong, adept, and patient for a nearly-three-year-old.

When we got to Williton all the car parks were full, so I parked way down a back lane, leaving Jesse and I a fair hike into the town. The minute Jesse got out of the car he unloaded the wheeled case, determined to do it himself. He then proceeded to pull it behind him all the way into town and over to the library at such a fast pace, I had to trot to keep up with him. Occasionally the case would catch on a building corner or pavement edge, halting him with a jerk. Not a problem for the imperturbable Jesse! He’d look back, adjust the case onto the narrow path, and take off once again at full speed. In the meantime, I was his wingman, making sure no vehicles or other pedestrians could be run over by my grandson. God help them, if they got in his way – He was on a mission!

When we reached our destination, the library had two automatic doors to navigate, these being part of a wheelchair friendly, s-bend entrance. It may have been friendly for wheelchairs, but it constituted quite a challenge for a toddler towing a 2-wheeled monster, nearly as big as him. I was directed by my grandson to stand aside, for he was capable of getting it through those doors, all by himself. Having been the youngest child in my family tree, I understood the importance of his request and said, “Okay, Jesse… go for it!” And go he did. The quiet library became a lot less quiet upon our entrance, but nobody seemed to mind when they saw the cause of the minor commotion. Smiles and charmed expressions of “awhhh” followed Jesse’s stage-left to stage-right entrance.

We parked the wheeled monster in a safe place then navigated over to the child’s reading corner. The library has a wonderful assortment of colorful, creative seating for kids – everything from a wooden steam engine filled with books and bench to pooh bear cushioned cubes. Jesse led me straight to the “oooh oooh train,” sat down on the bench, and pointed to the 8” space beside him. “Sit here, Grannie C.”

Now the last time I looked at the width of my derriere, I’m sure it was greater than the space Jesse’s chosen seat afforded. Being a very special grannie, however, I prepared to wiggle my butt down into that wedge of space, which seemed to shrink in size the closer I got to it, while my bottom appeared to grow proportionately bigger. As I squatted my knees creaked like a door in a haunted house.

“Let me know if I’m squashing you,” I said to Jesse, realizing that I’d reached the point of no return. If he squealed now, my only recourse was to fall forward onto the floor, flat on my face in a most inelegant, but perhaps entertaining way for grandsons.  The things I do for love…

After we read about ten very entertaining books, Jesse popped out of the train seat and I did the grannie version of popping out – a much slower unfurling in an upward direction, using book shelves as props. Thank goodness they were bolted to the floor.

Jesse retrieved the parked black bag on wheels, which I now realized could be mistaken for a UED (unexploded device). Luckily no alerts had been declared, no armies called upon, no panics risen – this was just a quiet little village library where nasty things don’t happen, and all is well with our little world – thank goodness.

Jesse’s exit was smoother than his entrance, proving that practice does reap positive results. He high-tailed it back towards the town center, ‘Grannie C’ doing her best to keep up the pace and protect passersby, while alerting Jesse to the dangers in his environment. “Puddle ahead, Jesse!  Go AROUND it, please, not through it. Mind that lady – don’t knock her over – there’s a good boy. Let the lorry go first, Jesse. Not a good idea to challenge lorries. They always win.”

Jesse came to a sudden halt at the café we’d passed earlier. The cakes in the window had missed his glance before, but not this time. “How about stopping for a piece of cake?” I asked. Apparently that was the right question.

I quickly learned that the fewer choices a child is given, the better. Decisions between one good thing and another are nigh impossible to make, so I said to the lady behind the counter, “Jesse and I will split that big chocolate brownie.” He looked pleased and relieved at my taking the bull by the horns to make such a crucial executive decision. In return, I let him choose the table. We stored the UED-on-wheels under the table and sat down to a chocolate indulgence. I was glad we split the bar in half; it was so rich a whole slice would have been too much for me, let alone for Jesse.

After our café treat, we clambered back to the car and drove to the beach so Tess could have a good run. While Tess had her explore, Jesse did what kids do, no matter the weather. He got down in the sand and started digging. His little hands grew red from the cold, but they worked diligently nevertheless.  Woe to any rock that thought it had a safe haven from weather; as soon as Jesse uncovered one he’d toss or heave it out of the hole and onto the beach. The rocks would have to wait for the next storm to provide a sandy cover again. For now exposure to the elements seemed to be their destined lot; it’s a good thing they’ve got hard skin.

Lungs filled with fresh air and clothes with wet sand, we drove back to the house and had a late lunch together.

Finger food is Jesse’s favorite. Those crunchy, dried green beans from Africa always bring a smile to his face, plus the sharp cheddar cheese that I tell him “will knock your socks off.” He looks at his feet and back at me, then laughs at the joke. Chopped apple, a sprinkle of cinnamon, some cranberry/pumpkin seed bread toasted and buttered with Terry’s plum jam, a few grapes, and we’ve got a feast fit for a king, let alone a nearly three-year-old boy. He slowly devours them all while we talk about things boys like.

Today’s subject covers favorite songs, Jesse’s currently being a condensed version of Baa Baa Black Sheep, and I tell him about the Take Me Out To The Ball Game song that everybody sings at baseball games in America. I realize he doesn’t have a clue about baseball, so I take the opportunity to introduce my grandson to the American tradition. This is, after all, essential education!

We go into the living room to my big screen computer, and he sits on my lap while I find a YouTube video with people singing the song at a game. We watch the baseball play and sing the song along with the crowd, and every time we come to the end, Jesse wants to do it again. I fill him in on the roles of the batter, catcher, and pitcher, and we laugh at the men sliding into each other at the bases and the guy who leaps to catch the fly ball but takes a dive over the wall and lands on his nose, feet flapping in the air, as the crowd behind him clamor to catch the ball. “Batter’s got a HOME RUN!” I shout, and Jesse gets excited, though he doesn’t really understand why.

Jesse asks for a digger video next, so I find a 20-minute video of three diggers, cranes, and dump trucks working on clearing a building site. He is transfixed by these machines and talks about what they are doing – the size of the load – where they are dumping – the difference between one truck and another – the distance the digger arm reaches. I can’t help but get enthused with him, for he’s showing me how to see them through his eyes, and it is impressive – almost miraculous – what they are capable of. While I give Jesse some Yankee culture, he gives me an education on big plant machines.

After a while, I go over and sit on the sofa next to Tess, leaving Jesse in my chair to watch the last few minutes of a scene with power jack hammer digging up the pavement. When I look back at him, he’s seated in my chair but he’s not looking at the screen. He’s looking at me. His eyes land on mine, and he holds my gaze for such a long time with what can only be called an eye-hug. The love in his eyes is so obvious it brings tears to mine. I gaze back at him and stay inside the moment, sending him an eye-hug back, soaking up everything this moment contains, knowing it won’t last long. One day Jesse will be grown and he’ll be interested in doing all kinds of things – few of them involving his grannie. But now he’s honestly enjoying his time with me, and I’m treasuring my time with him.

A few floor games later, we realize it’s nearly 4pm, time to get his sisters. Though we usually walk, I decide to drive to the school because it’s started to rain again and we’ve already been wet and dried once today, which is plenty enough for me. Izzy and Raffy look happy to see us, pile into the car with their stories and school gear, and off we go to their house. A hot mug of ginger tea and a couple card games of rummy at the kitchen table are a fun way to enjoy the girls. Terry soon arrives home with Farley, the oldest grandson, and as she and Jim go about making supper, Farley joins the card game, only to slaughter his grannie and sisters with his rummy hand.

Finally I head home for my own supper and an evening’s appointment on Skype to record one hour of  Ted’s story interview for his memoir. The nearly ninety year old glows as he recalls his working days on Panama Canal, his time in the Navy during WWII, and 14 years of mining gold up in the Yukon during the 60s – 70s. As I listen to Ted, all I can see in my mind are Jesse’s eyes, not blinking, not averting, but really looking into mine, sending a love message, a hug like no other.

And I know I have the best memories of all.

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My Ghostwriting Project Is On the Bookshelves!


Alt Med Cover

Last year Dr Mel Borins hired me to ghostwrite a non-technical, light-hearted narrative for medical articles he’d written – articles meant for doctors’ eyes only. He hoped I would bring them to life in a way that would appeal to and be useful to the general public. While I researched the history of many alternative herbs and treatments, folklore, botanical information and human interest stories – as well as interviewing Dr. Mel about his own experiences – I was able to help him create his new book “A Doctor’s Guide to Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why.”

This was a fascinating project for me, one that changed how I look at my own healthcare and how I choose alternative methods, which I regularly use. I thought modern science and traditional medicine had to be worlds apart, but I learned through my research and writing, just how complimentary they are. This was a 6-month journey for me into the work of a general practitioner who truly cares for people, loves life, and encourages people to live it to the fullest.

In his new book, Mel Borins will take you across the world to exotic places where he studied traditional methods that have served people well for thousands of years, methods that scientists are now studying with much interest. Using real-life examples, he shows what makes doctors reluctant to encourage self-treatment with certain alternative products or therapies. He doesn’t take sides this way or that; he gives the reader enough information to make better, more informed choices, and learn what to look for when trying any new alternative.

The book is an excellent read and valuable reference for individuals and families. I hope you buy the book; I hope you read it; I’m certain you’ll enjoy it and discover new ways of achieving and maintaining a healthy, more comfortable body.

The forward was written by Dr. Bernie Siegel who inspired Mel’s generation of doctors and who opened the minds of the medical profession to treating people, rather than disease. Both of these men are way ahead of their time. Their work is extraordinary. They are healers in the truest sense of the word.  Buy it. Read it. Enjoy, and live well.

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Filed under Editorial, Non-Fiction

November 11 – A very special day


The hours and minutes since typhoon Yolanda have been challenging me to remain positive and to focus on my faith that no matter what happens, All is Well. At times I must admit, I found that hard to do.

My big brother Fred lives on Boracay Island in the Philippines. His island is situated on the west side, center of the country’s land masses. My stomach lurched when I learned that Fred was directly in line with the path taken by the eye of the storm. Six hours before the typhoon’s fury struck, I was able to Skype with him. I asked Fred if he was worried, and he said that after surviving many other typhoons, he felt confident they would survive this one too. Was he putting on a brave face for his kid sister, or was he really convinced of his safety? I’d never know.

After we hung up, I watched Boracay Bay from a live webcam located above the beach. People strolled by as if nothing was amiss, and while the low tide stretched far out, clam diggers filled their sacks and children skipped, leaving footprints behind. After a few hours, the palm tree leaves began to ripple and then sway as the winds picked up. The tide had turned and the seas grew a little higher. The previously gentle waves began to fill with an expectancy, rising crests that seemed to reflect an urgency of energy. Around two in the morning (UK time) I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, so I turned off the computer and fell asleep. Sometime during the night, the Boracay webcam went dead and I woke to the realization that all news of Boracay and my brother went with it.

When I turned on my computer, a forwarded email from my sister in Georgia contained the last words that Freddy wrote:

Will hit this pm. I’m hunkered down. So far no big deal. But this is a big one. No one can get off island cuz all boats gone to safe anchorage. Will advise when it’s over. Wish us luck!
Ur old fart bro

The message was typical of our big brother in times of stress – make light of it and keep laughing.

While trying to enjoy my weekend events as planned, I spent every spare hour at home, both day and night, searching the internet, trying to find people who knew my brother. As soon as I found their names on a blog or website, I searched for their contact details, and finding them, I tried to make contact, but all attempts failed.

The first glimmer of hope came yesterday when my sister discovered a tweet on Huffington Post from a writer who is staying in Boracay. He reported that Boracay had escaped the worst of the storm. Diane tweeted him and sent details of our brother, hoping he might have word of Fred. I was able to find the writer on Skype and I requested connection. At last, miracle of miracles, he replied. A loud, long “whoop” bounced echoes off the walls of my kitchen, frightening the living daylights out of my dog, Tess. The Huffington Post tweeter (bless you, Norm Schriever) Skype-messaged that all electricity, internet, and utilites were down, but the island had managed to escape the worst of the horrific damage now being televised across the world.  As far as he knew there were no deaths or loss of buildings on Boracay Island.

While my family were relieved to hear this heartening news, we still had not received any contact from Fred. My sister in Florida found another name and address of someone in the Philippines who might have news of Fred’s condition. My nephew, whose wife is from the Philippines and who has been to Boracay to visit Fred, sent a detailed description of where his house is situated above the beach. While chasing every lead, I also continued to send Skype messages to my brother. I figured if he had any battery left on his phone, he might just be able to pick up some signal.

Last night, just as I was ready to turn off my computer and climb into bed, news from my sister in Georgia came through. She’d just got a call from Fred! He’s alive! My sister didn’t know if it was a Skype call or Fred’s regular cell service; he only spoke long enough to say he was okay, without fuel or electricity, and his house was intact. He hung up quickly, for his cell phone battery was low.

With all the sadness, grief, shock, and horror that rips at my heart for the gentle people of this devastated country, and the overwhelming realization that this will take many years for them to recover, I see a shining light in the midst. Today is a very, very good day. A grateful day. Thank you God and all the angels for looking after my big brother.

Freddy is alive.

To all folks who are trying to find loved ones, maybe Skype will work for you. It’s worth trying.

For those of you who have loved ones missing in the Philippines, we found a missing persons search facility posted on the site of a Manila TV news station: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/334739/news/nation/database-yolanda-missing-persons-inquiries

For those of you who wish to contribute to aid organizations that are currently in the Philippines bringing supplies, food, water and medicine and who can handle the transport logistics for getting supplies to the people in the worst hit areas, there is an excellent article in the Huffington Post which offers several aid links: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/09/philippines-haiyan-how-to-help-_n_4247106.html.

Please feel free to copy this and post it to your blogs and Facebook pages. The people in the Philippines need all the help they can get.

Thank you.

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November 11, 2013 · 3:53 am

Finding My Ontological Core


 

UK Passport - expired 2004 142

This week I faced a chore that I kept putting off. I still had nineteen loose leaf notebooks full of lecture notes and all the university papers I had written. I loved my time in school, which didn’t happen until I was in my 50’s. Thoroughly committed to the opportunity of further education, I enjoyed every moment, and felt blessed to be in my professors’ classes. But now that I’m moving back to England, humping nineteen notebooks around the world doesn’t make practical sense. A mighty big pruning job was in order. I dreaded it.

I sat down with my dog, Cherokee, one night and tuned into the Celtic CalmRadio channel. Then I went through every notebook, just as friends who stop to have a last cup of coffee before parting ways. Page after page of information stared up at me while the inspiration of people sharing knowledge and opening minds together filled my mind and heart. I said goodbye to Physics and Stages of Human Development; I nearly wept as I parted with Perception and Physiology of the Brain. Even Statistics, the domineering schoolmaster of science which had terrified me with the stilted tempo of its title, had captured a part of my heart.

One by one, the toppling tome-pile shrunk. At the end of this paper exorcism, I found myself with two notebooks that I could not bear to leave behind. The first contained all my lecture notes and writings from Professor Doug Rice’s Creative Writing classes. Two hours with him was like entering another whole lifetime. His passion for story and words instilled me with a Jesuit’s love of perfection and beauty in every shade of existence. His commentaries on my assignments still teach me today and every time I struggle to read his nearly indecipherable pen, I learn something new about life – which means, of course – about writing.

The last notebook was a journal I kept throughout my days in a volunteer project – an assignment that was inspired by the Children’s Literature class. For one semester, I went to Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and spent one hour every week with thirteen children; all but one of them were children of Hispanic workers. For the first half hour, I would read a 14-page illustrated storybook to the kids, stopping every few pages to ask questions and involve them in the story. Then when the book was done, I’d have a craft ready for them to make and the craft would relate somehow to the story. As we worked, we talked, or rather, they talked and I listened. They were such beautiful kids with spirits that shone.

One day we read a story about a Native American grandfather who was preparing his grandson for the day he would leave this physical world. I asked the kids how many had grandparents who were alive and they all raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them got to see them regularly, at least once a year, and only one child raised his hand. The kids’ parents had no legal papers to be in the country; one of the consequences is the physical rift between loved family members. It broke my heart and I suddenly realized how important my reading to them must be. It was a humbling moment. At the end of the semester, the kids surprised me with a party with cards and cake and gifts they made, and they crowded around me and climbed all over me like a pile of puppies. I realized I had become the Native American storyteller – a figure I’ve always loved, with multiple children seated upon and around her.

This notebook is a journal filled with notes about each story and craft and about how the children responded. It contains all the emails the Director and I exchanged and her handwritten letter of thanks, saying that the program was so successful, she was contacting the college to see if they could continue doing it with an internship program. The photographs show kids’ faces entranced as I read, or their hands busy making memory necklaces and forming clay pots.

After spending hours of notebook pruning, the two branches I could not bear to lop brought me to an epiphany. Professor Rice had commented on one of my stories that he felt I “hadn’t identified the ontological core.” He suspected the story’s core was about the loss of my family and my search to bring it back. So finally, it hit me. It all boils down to this: I spent six years in college only to discover that my greatest desire and goal in life was something I’ve wanted since I was a little girl. I wanted to tell stories, and when I grew up, I wanted to be with my grandchildren climbing all over me.

In a few days I begin my journey back to my family, back to England. There my childhood dreams will become reality.

Life is such a blessing.

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Filed under Editorial, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

No Buddy Left Behind


When I started writing this blog over two years ago, I never dreamed that the book I co-authored with Terri Crisp of SPCA International would hit NUMBER THREE on Wall Street Journal’s BEST SELLERS Top-Ten List for Non-Fiction E-Books.  It’s hard to describe how incredible it feels.  Gratitude – lots and lots of gratitude.  Thank you Terri for the opportunity to work on your story and those of the soldiers and animals they befriended.

So, to all my readers, according to the Wall Street Journal, our book is one you don’t want to miss reading:

No Buddy Left Behind: Bringing U.S. Troops’ Dogs and Cats Safely Home from the Combat Zone by Terri Crisp and C J Hurn (Me).

You can order it from your local bookstore, or buy it online as hardback, audio or e-book. In July the paperback version will be coming out as well.

See link to May 18, 2012 Wall Street Journal below. No Buddy is in 3rd place in the 2nd section down (Non-fiction E-books)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304363104577389970643064172.html?mod=WSJ_Books_LS_Books_13

Other top-selling books I have been blessed to contribute non-fiction stories to:

and

Right now I am working with Bernie Siegel on his next book, The Art of Healing, (New World Library).

Terri and Cindy in Erbil, Northern Iraq  – February, 2011

Thank You Terri for a life-changing opportunity

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Whale of a Day


Fridays and sailors don’t get along, so I’ve been told. And no sailor in his right mind would begin even the shortest journey on Friday the 13th if he could avoid it. Perhaps that’s why Ed Young and I were the only two people at the harbor that morning.

Last Christmas I decided to purchase myself a gift certificate for a two-hour tour with Whidbey Island Kayaking Company. I had previously enjoyed kayaking in California, but always on a lake-reservoir. Now I was hoping to have as much fun in the ocean as I’d had on the lake. All winter I waited, looking forward to the day when I’d slip gently between swelling waves, leave life’s worries behind and paddle my happy craft along the coast. It had seemed to take forever for Spring to come, but finally, at long last, Spring and I arrived at the harbor along with my inner child, who, bouncing like Tigger, threatened to make me act sillier than adult behavior decrees.

Ed and his wife began Whidbey Island Kayak Company as a retirement project ten years ago.  With a generous assortment of kayaks and well-trained guides, Ed and his crew take tours out of Langley Harbor. For many of Ed’s guests, this is the first time they’ve ever sat in a self-powered boat, let alone a kayak, so before launching, Ed takes time to help each person become accustomed to the feel of the vessel and to learn basic safety techniques.

Kayaking season around here usually begins in March, along with the migration of Orcas and Grey whales, but smart ocean kayakers wait for relatively calm weather. This year the March Lion refused to make way for the lamb. All month I waited as Mother Nature released her vengeance; she down-poured and flowed; she gusted and snowed, and I desperately tried to be patient. Come April and our first day of partial sun, I called Ed. While he checked his tides list, I checked my weather forecaster. The week beginning April 8th looked encouraging for late morning high tides, when whales were most likely to be feeding, but Monday through Wednesday had predictions of wind gusts up to 25mph. “Thursday the 12th looks good,” said Ed.

“Sorry, I’ve got several appointments that day.”

“Are you superstitious?” he asked. “We could go on Friday the 13th.”

I respect the ocean and her moods, but I have no time for superstitions that curtail my opportunity for exercise, wonder and just plain fun. “Friday the 13th sounds perfect,” I said.

Langley Harbor lies at the bottom of a 300-ft. cliff on the eastern edge of town. If you stood at the end of 2nd Street, it would be easy to miss seeing the harbor altogether, tucked tightly below the coastal road. As I drove down the small lane that, carved diagonally into the cliff, hugs verdant growth, I wondered just how much the rising seas and rain erosion threaten the road. At the bottom, the shore broadens out, leaving enough room for a few guest houses, a pub and some harbor parking.

Ed arrived just as I parked my car. There were only two of us that day, so he unloaded a two-person kayak, which was fine with me. The water was calm at the moment, but oceans have a habit of changing almost without notice, and I was grateful he’d be in charge of our vessel on my first time out. After we geared up and went through the safety review, Ed decided to visit the public toilet across the way. Just as he turned to go, I gazed out to sea. Suddenly a heart-shaped mist appeared above the water and then dissolved about 100 yards from where I was standing.

“I think I saw a whale,” I called to Ed.

“What?” Ed stopped and waited to see if anything more broke the surface. He hadn’t seen the spray, but gave me the benefit of the doubt. When no other sign presented itself, he said, “I’ll just make a quick visit and then we’ll head out.”  At that moment, two whale-sprays appeared about 50 yards away from me. “Forget the bathroom,” Ed said. “Let’s go!” He pulled the kayak into the water, told me to get in and adjusted my footrests.  A minute later we launched, eyes peeled on the spot where the whales had been spouting.

Moments after we launched, one of the whales breached the water’s surface, his spine looking more like the Loch Ness monster than what I had expected. I was used to seeing Orcas with their characteristic dorsal fin, but not this smooth-backed creature.  “It’s a Grey whale,” Ed said. “Judging by the length of our 20 ft. kayak, I’m guessing he’s about 30 to 35 feet long.”

Unlike Orcas (Killer Whales) which are members of the Porpoise family, Grey whales have no dorsal fin. We kept a respectful distance to avoid disturbing their feeding, but they were well aware of us.  Every few minutes, a giant barnacled head would emerge, and one eye, just above the water-line, would stare directly at us. A bulge on top of the head revealed two nostril-like holes or spouts before the whale retreated below the surface.

A minute later, the pectoral fin would rise like a wind-filled sail, giving us the whale’s version of a High Five.

His giant fin was patterned in shades of black, grey and white. Just as one sees pictures in clouds, I made out the profile of a smiling sea lion on one whale’s fin. “The patterns are formed by barnacles,” Ed explained. I hadn’t brought my camera, but Ed used his phone to take dozens of pictures. Many electronic cameras these days have an annoying time-lapse after you snap the shot and Ed’s phone camera was no exception. We wished the whales would stay still long enough for him to capture these remarkable moments, but of course, they paid no heed to our desires.  All we could do was hope for a least one good photo.

Just as cows or sheep meander through meadows while they graze, so did our giant friends. Their movements were surprisingly slow and relaxed. I half expected to hear a whale version of the bath time song Rubber Ducky bubbling up from below as they lay on their sides and scooped sand, filtering it with their tongue against baleen screens.

For over an hour, we paddled and rested repeatedly, working our way gradually east-south-east while the whales seemed to accompany us between feeding stops.  In one deserted spot, the whales swam so close to the shore, a person standing on the tiny beach could easily have waded out and touched them, but no one was there.  Ed and I were their only witnesses and we kept our distance.

Ed was the perfect guide. He shared his knowledge about whales and tides and matters of the coast, and he spaced his talking between generous layers of silence, leaving me room to enjoy the paddle and merge with the sea adventure. “Over the years I’ve come to know their habits, so I can often successfully predict where the whales will be,” Ed said. “Some of our guests have asked me if I was a whale whisperer,” he laughed. He went on to explain more about the two giants we were watching.

Grey whales migrate every spring from the warm waters off Baja California where they spend the winter months mating and giving birth. They don’t feed during that period. Southern waters contain no food fit for a baleen whale. These hungry creatures were now en route to the waters off Alaska where they would fill their bellies with krill, plankton and other delicacies. Over the years, a dozen or more members of the Grey whale population had learned that the surface layer of Whidbey Island’s shallow coves was rich with tiny crustaceans. This particular small group of opportunistic travelers made an annual fast-food stop here before continuing on to their northern destination. I guess you could say they keep Whidbey’s secret from the other whales, much as a fisherman jealously guards the location of his catch. Islanders wait for the Grey family every year and some of the members are easily recognized, especially the elder male, named Patches.

Last year, people stood on the shore of Penn Cove, just north of Coupeville, and watched in horror as Patches battled with a pod of transient Orcas that were trying to kill one of the two youngsters Patches had in his charge. He put up quite a fight; the Orcas eventually gave up and left to hunt elsewhere for easier prey. But everyone saw the blood. Patches had suffered injuries that could be fatal. He disappeared that day along with his charges, and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the year. “He’s an old trooper, over 40 feet long, and we’ve all come to love him,” Ed explained. “You can imagine how thrilled we were last week, when Patches was spotted off Harrington Lagoon. That tough old whale made it through another year.”

When our kayaks neared Sandy Point, Ed suggested that we paddle well ahead and get downwind of the two giants. The bays on either side of Sandy Point are favorite feeding spots, and we didn’t want the whales to feel pressured to move on because of us. As soon as we paddled ahead, they followed our kayaks and stayed much closer than we expected. It’s easy enough to stay out of a whale’s way when you are following him, but when he starts shadowing you, there’s not much you can do to keep your distance. Did they know where we were going? Were these whales playing tag with us or just curious? Perhaps they thought we were racing them to the feeding ground, trying to claim the feast for ourselves.

After we got downwind, the larger of the two whales spouted, and the wind carried his spray to our nostrils. “Can you smell that?” Ed asked. Just as a gardener breathes in the deep aroma of damp earth and rich loam when his spade lifts the soil, so we inhaled the fresh, warm scent of sand, crustacean and whale breath. I held the expired air of a whale in my lungs and sat there in awed wonder. Goose bumps traced my awareness of whale-spirit up and down my arms. Before that moment, I had been fascinated by whales and concerned for their safety. Now, I became acutely aware of our interconnection; our very existence linked as the atoms of spiraling DNA. We were separate parts of one whole, clearly conscious of each other. Was this was the lesson I’d been sent to learn?

A ribbon of foam on the surface of the water gave evidence that the tide had just changed. A brisk wind carried chilly gusts that whipped up the previously calm surface, and churned the sea with intention. “We’d better head back,” Ed advised. “It’s going to get a little rough.” We turned the kayak around, and I glanced over my shoulder, hoping for one last glimpse of the whales. At that moment, the two silent giants made a dive into deeper water.  Their graceful tail flukes rose towards the heavens, and they seemed to be waving us goodbye.

There was no time to sit and gaze. The sea, which had been sparkling blue had now turned black and ominous. Waves grew choppy, some hitting us head on and the occasional white-crested one would smash our bow, spraying my face and dump fistfuls of freezing water into my lap.  I felt as if the ocean was teasing me, trying to see if I’d succumb to fear. But the vigorous paddling energized my body, and the cold wash of wind and wet was exhilarating and just plain fun. I smiled so hard and for so long on that paddle home, I feared the smile would weld onto my face in a permanent Cheshire Cat grin. The thought made me laugh. It’s impossible to be miserable when you’re smiling.

“How are you doing?” Ed asked as we reached the halfway point.

“Fine!” I replied. “Were you worried about me coping with these waves?”

He was quiet for moment before saying, “I’ve learned over the years that there is one thing a guide should never say in the kayak.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Uh-oh.”

I burst out laughing and imagined the expression on guests’ faces when their guide let loose the ominous sound. Ed’s sense of humor is one more attribute that makes him an excellent kayaking companion.

For the next forty minutes, a bald eagle flew between us and the shore, hunting and resting on Douglas fir branches, then swooping over the water again. He accompanied us all the way back to the harbor in the same way as the whales had led us out, and I felt almost as if he’d been sent to ensure our safe return. Every once in a while the sun would flash on his pure white tail feathers like a wink of encouragment and a hearty ‘Well done.’

I thoroughly enjoyed our invigorating paddle back to the harbor.  We made it back in pretty good time.  “In the ten years that I have been taking tours out,” Ed confessed as we unloaded the kayak, “I can think of only four times that were as remarkable as today. We will often sight the whales in deeper water, about half way between here and Camano Island, but they come nowhere near as close to our kayaks as they did today. We usually expect to have a few minutes of sightings at this time of the year, but you had at least one hour with two whales. That’s incredible. It seems your Friday the 13th turned out to be an unusually lucky day.”

If you haven’t taken the opportunity lately to enjoy the simple pleasures of putting paddle to water and exploring our beautiful island coast, why not treat yourself?  Let Ed or his guides take you safely through an unforgettable morning or an afternoon journey.

For more information and contact details, visit their website: http://www.whidbeyislandkayaking.com/

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