Bloom Where You Are Planted

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Our guest today is Lynn Hobbs. She is an award-winning authorof inspirational Christian fiction and biographies.  Each book in her first series, Running Forward, a powerful faith and family saga, won first place for Religious fiction in the Texas Association … Continue reading

Attacked!

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Today’s guest is Ada Brownell, author of six books and hundreds of stories and articles. When she sat down to write her latest book, The Peach Blossom Rancher, she drew from her experiences growing up in Colorado’s Peach Country near Grand Junction, picking peaches … Continue reading

An “Aha” Moment

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Today, Gay Ingram gives us an interesting post on those little moments of joy that pop up ever so often for a writer.  Gay is a multi-published award-winning writer.  She writes both fiction and non-fiction for both adults and young adults.  … Continue reading

The Cairo Puzzle

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Today’s guest is Laurence O’Bryan.  He’s an Irish writer who has achieved some notoriety with his “puzzle” novels.  Today, he talks about his fifth in the series, The Cairo Puzzle.  I visited the Great Pyramid of Giza in February, 2017. … Continue reading

What’s in Your Retirement?

Retirement Can Change Your Life – Or Someone Else’s Life.

Retirement. That word means different things to different people. And it means different things to an individual at different times of his or her life.

Some see it as an opportunity to travel, to go places time has not permitted in the past. Others see it as a time to kick back and do nothing, watch more TV, read more books, get in a daily siesta, join a coffee klatch with other retirees, or have no schedule at all.

How many retirees use the additional free time to improve their golf game, or develop a better bridge game. Others use the new-found time to work with charitable organization.

But some choose to use their skills to train or otherwise help people in need.

Sylvia had begun sewing as a child, making her own doll clothes. She continued as an adult, making her husband’s suits, ties and shirts. After awhile, Sylvia Remple began teaching sewing and eventually opened a clothing manufacturing business. It grew quickly and before long she had three hundred employees. In 1982, her company, Sun Ice, outfitted the first team of Canadians to conquer Mount Everest. Two years later, her company was awarded the contract to outfit many Canadian teams for the Winter Olympics in Los Angles. Following that success, Sun Ice became the Official Clothing Supplier to the Winter Olympics hosted by Canada

In 2001, Sylvia Remple sold the business. Retirement. What to do now?

About the same time, she became aware of the poverty in Sierra Leone and in particular, the desperate circumstances for some women. She came up with an idea.

Sylvia and daughters Tammy and Angela formed Sewing Seeds International – SSI. Its mandate was to create self sustaining sewing schools in impoverished areas, empowering women, bringing hope for a better future.

The first project was in Sierra Leone. SSI secured backing from some companies, purchased sewing machines and materials. In Sierra Lione, they found a place to hold classes, then advertised for women who wanted to learn a skill that would help them toward a better future.

The classes were intense. Sylvia also realized that to keep attendance and attention at a high level, the school must provide care for the many young children of the students. So, day care was provided, including meals.

At the end of the three week classes, the machines were left in the classrooms and the women were encouraged to continue working on their sewing skills.

A few months later, these same women were given another three-week school, introducing them to more advanced skills. Again, the machines were left for the students to practice and make clothes for their children and themselves.

A third course was offered. Now, the students were capable of using patterns and making items for sale. But most important for the Sewing Seeds mandate, the best students were trained so they could teach classes to other women.

The success of the school encouraged SSI to move into other countries. Classes have been given in Africa, Europe, South America, and Mexico.

Has it been successful?

Absolutely. All can make clothes for their families. Many of the women now make a decent living sewing for others. Several have formed companies to manufacture clothes. One graduate now has a company with eight other women working, all making a decent living. Graduates of another school formed a co-op which now has a contract to supply all the uniforms for a school system in a nearby larger town.

Because they are set up to be self-sustaining, these schools should bear fruit for years to come. The Canadian government has recognized SSI as a certified charitable organization. In many places around the world, SSI is recognized as a life-saver.

Is Sylvia bored in her retirement? Not even a little. Her compensation? Seeing impoverished women now able to be self-supporting, infused with hope for a brighter future. That’s better than a paycheck.

What is her retirement? To help others.

While going into extremely poor, perhaps desperate, areas may not seem like a fun thing to do in retirement, it must be extremely rewarding and give one a true sense of worth that a game of golf probably won’t.

Sylvia would tell you she has found the perfect retirement.

What do you see for yourself in retirement?  Leave a comment on your retirement.

 

A Greased Pig?

Many years ago, I was teaching in a private school. One year I was sponsor of what many of the faculty labeled as the most difficult of the senior classes. Actually, I found them to be a very energetic and imaginative group, perhaps less concerned with the rules than most, and certainly less studious. But they were interesting, fun and goodhearted. I never had a problem with any of this class.

So it was no great surprise when they proposed holding a greased pig chase as a fund raiser. I raised a number of objections, but they countered each with a reasonable answer. After seeking approval from administration, a date was set.

One boy in the class had an uncle who raised pigs, so that was taken care of. Posters were made. In fact, those in charge of publicity were very innovative . One day they were more animated than usual. The greased pig chase was being publicized on the local radio station most popular with high school kids.   However, only students from our school could participate in the chase.

Entries began immediately ,with an amazing number coming from the freshman class. Briefly, I wondered if there was any coercion, but dismissed that thought. In fact, the whole school was buzzing about the upcoming porker party.

The day before the event, I received a call from an animal rights group. They were concerned about the safety of the pig. I thought to dismiss that thought also. The pig was soon to be shipped off to the packing house which would be a much worse experience than being chased by screaming teenagers. But the animal advocate was very serious. I explained that the pig would not be harmed. Once caught and secured by one or more students, he would be quickly returned to his home on the range. The contestants were allowed no tools, no aids at all. They must catch the pig using only their hands, and maybe their feet. Instantly, the pig’s protector worried that someone might kick the pig. I assured her no kicking was allowed.

What were we going to put on the pig? Well, it was a “greased” pig contest. I guaranteed her it would be only natural products, quite possibly coming from the pig’s ancestors.

“This might be too tiring for the pig,” she continued. “I must insist you allow a rest period every five minutes.” I suggested every fifteen minutes and we ultimately compromised on ten minutes. I wondered how effective this would be. Would the pig understand a rest period?

The day finally arrived and Joe drove his truck in with a very sturdy cage in the back containing… The Pig. To many, it looked like a wild boar. It snorted and banged against the cage, and several of the small freshmen began to have doubts about chasing this wild animal. Some worried the razorback might chase them instead.

The class committee decided to use vegetable oil to grease the swine, assuring the pig would be very hard to hold. Ten minutes before start time, students lined up behind a rope marking the starting line, and Joe and two classmates poured corn oil on the shoat, who didn’t care for the attention. Hands would pop in and spread the oil and jerk back before the pig could bite.

Though close to eighty students had signed up, there were probably only fifty on the starting line. Possibly some had second thoughts after seeing this ferocious looking bovine. But there were probably another two  hundred and fifty spectators. On the count of three, the rope was dropped and the door to the cage thrown opened.

Porky just stood there.

After railing against the cage, it didn’t want to leave. Joe grabbed a pencil out of his shirt pocket, reached in the cage, and jabbed the pig in its hindquarters. The bore took off. And as the contestants started running and screaming, the pig kept running.

Two or three students got a hand on the porker, but the slippery oil let the swine escape. Several dove at the pig and got nothing but a handful of grass. However, twin brothers had devised a plan and simultaneously dove at the pig from opposite sides. As the greasy bovine slipped out of one twin’s hands, it put him in the brother’s arms.

In three minutes, the contest was over. The twins held the oil covered pig down for the required thirty seconds and were declared the winners.

This special class had once again deviated from the norm. During the week leading up to the event anticipation saturated the school and grabbed the attention of the entire student body and most of the faculty.

And though the contest was very short, everyone in attendance seemed to have a great time.

Except, perhaps, the pig.

 

James R. Callan

Callan is no longer teaching.  He writes mystery and suspense novels.  Thus far, none has featured a wild pig, with or without grease.  But he’s not ruling that out.

Complaining

We were complaining some time back that both of us needed to go see the eye doctor. My wife needed to have her glasses changed for a new prescription and I needed to get glasses.

Then we met Rudolfo.

Rudolfo is blind. But he has a beautiful voice. He walks along the Malecôn, a mile-long wide walk along the beach in Puerto Vallarta. He has a small device strapped to his chest. It amplifies music from a recorder the size of a cell phone.  Maybe it is a cell phone, for all I know. And Rodolfo sings. He walks along singing, and people will drop a few pesos into a small container also strapped to his chest.

Many days, he is also followed by a woman, who rests a hand lightly on his shoulder. She is his wife, and she is also blind.

He has a microphone, but the amplifier is set low so that is not obtrusive. In fact, ten feet away you wouldn’t hear him at all. But as he passes, you get this pleasant voice, singing quietly, offering what he can give. He does not ask for donations, but it is obvious this is his living.

We have had an opportunity to visit with him on a few occasions, when he was not singing and trying to earn a living. He is a humble man, always pleasant, never complaining, at peace with his place in life. We discovered his small device contains the music for three hundred songs. He can press a button and it scans through the songs so fast that I could hear only a blur of sounds. To me, it seemed there was one word, or maybe three notes, per song, and they were zipping by at five to ten songs per second. But to Rudolfo, they were clear. If I asked for a particular song, he would scan through the list and in seconds, he would have the music I requested. Clearly, his hearing is highly developed.

So, Rudolfo not only provides us with beautiful songs, but also reminds us that we have so much. I grumble about getting glasses. Rudolfo would love to have glasses, IF they would help. But they would not in the least. He and his wife both have been blind since birth. They do not grumble. They would like a few more pesos. But they are at peace with their lot.  Rudolfo sings beautifully.

And he has helped me.

James R. Callan, 2017

 

Our Guia in Chile

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I’ve talked about unexpected kindnesses, and I’m going to do that again today. And interestingly enough, this one also took place during our visit to Chile.

One of the things we’ve found in traveling abroad is that foreign countries don’t have the abundance of coin operated, self serve laundromats. And often, to have the laundry done at a commercial shop may take longer than we will be in that town. We tend to stay away from home for long periods, but to stay in one town only a short period. Ah, the little problems. We need to plan ahead and decide that since we are planning on being in this town for five days, we can send the laundry out.

We had been in Chile for a couple of weeks and felt the need to do some laundry. And after checking around, we found a laundry (not self-serve) that would do the laundry for you and return it the next day. Great. My wife, Earlene, explained in her best Spanish, no planchada. No ironing. She tried again. No planchas. You don’t iron.

A woman had just walked into the store and she said to my wife, “You do not want your clothes ironed?”

My wife was only slight annoyed. She felt like her Spanish was good enough to get the idea across. But the woman was smiling and Earlene said, “Yes. I do not need any of this ironed.”

The woman spoke in Spanish to the employee behind the counter, then turned back to us. “My name is Maria and this is my business. I just wanted to make sure you got what you wanted.”

We talked for a few minutes, telling Maria where we were from, and answering a few of her questions. After a short while, Maria said, “Maybe I’ll be your guia tomorrow.”

We were surprised and I blurted out, “What does a guia cost for a day?”

“Nothing. It will be fun. I’ll show you around.”

A few minutes later, arrangements had been made as to where we would meet and what time. Then, she escorted us down a block to a restaurant she could recommend and spoke to the owner, asking him to take very good care of us.

The next morning, we met Maria, our guia, our guide. She showed us a number of places we would never have seen without her. She gave us a wealth of interesting facts about Chile and the area we were in. She took us to a lake where we boarded a boat which actually took us into Argentina. Of course, we bought her meals and boat ticket, etc. But she refused any other money. She took us to a great store where Earlene bought a jacket and shoes she still loves today.

It was a delightful day, made so much better by a unexpected kindness from a stranger. She seemed to enjoy guiding us around and giving us interesting information. For us, it was one of the highlights of our trip. What wonderful people strangers can be.

Leave a comment about your experiences with unexpected kindness from strangers.

James R. Callan,  2017