Saturday, March 30, 2013

Africa Mercy - A Challenging Week: One Nurse's Journey

This is a running post about my friend's journey to Africa and work as a nurse on the Africa Mercy. Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on this ship. Here is her latest email!


It has been a challenging week. 

The good news is, I've learned how to slither in and out of my upper  bunk fairly reliably now, I got a nice wool blanket to keep me warm,  and I plugged the vent with a plastic bag so that it blows away from me  instead of on my head. My roommates are all really nice and really  thoughtful about the mechanics of four people living together in a  small space.  I've put away my belongings, and I can find them again,  mostly without too much digging.  So the basics of ship living are  whipped into shape.

The next challenge came when I discovered that I had been assigned to be a ward nurse instead of admissions nurse for the first month.  I sort of freaked out at that.  Fortunately, my Gateway friends (the folks I've been with in school and in field service for the last seven weeks) rallied round and encouraged me.  Still, I'm afraid I spent a lot of emotional energy being scared and feeling unprepared.  Once I actually started orienting, I settled down quite a bit, but still...

The third challenge came in the form of illness.  I had some abdominal cramping on field service, but on Thursday, it suddenly got much worse. The doctor says it's just traveler's diarrhea, a common occurrence for newcomers here.  But still, I haven't been able to eat anything except a little toast for three days so far, and I've had to call in sick for my first three shifts of post-orientation work--not a good beginning. The people at work seem understanding, though--I guess it happens frequently.

What shall I tell you about ward nursing?  There are four wards, plus recovery and ICU.  I am in Ward A, the least critical patients, at least at the moment.  Normally we handle general surgery--lots of hernias and tumors, I think--but this week we are overflow for plastic surgery (burn scar releases) and for max fax patients (clef lips/palates, facial reconstructions).  There are ten beds in the ward, occupied by both male and female patients, adults, children, and infants, all in the same room.  Children must have a caregiver with them; the caregivers sleep under the beds.  There are two bathrooms for all these people.  Teaching them how to use a western toilet is part of the game.

Language is "interesting."  A lot of people speak French as a second language, but not all.  The patients come from several tribes; there are at least three commonly used tribal languages, and they don't overlap.

We have day workers who function as translators.  Any given worker knows English, probably French, and hopefully one or two tribal languages. The languages of the patient are posted on the wall, so you try to find a translator who can speak that language.  Occasionally you have to use another patient as translator.  Patient right to privacy has to be a little lax on the ward to make it all work.  No one seems to mind.

Medications are also interesting.  Almost all the patients are on vitamins, iron, and supplements to promote healing.  Antibiotics and pain meds, of course, and a surprising number have sky-high blood pressures, which we medicate.  Medications are in stock bottles, and nurses just dispense what they need.  Of course, since the medications are largely donated from various countries, reading the labels can be a challenge... And figuring pediatric dosing can be a challenge...  And dealing with donated IV tubing of various drop rates can be a challenge... And just finding room at the cabinet to get your meds can be a challenge..And knowing what to reuse (eg plastic medicine cups), and how to dispose of trash (make medication containers and IV bags unusable so they don't get refilled with bogus meds and sold)... But we have cheat sheets to help, and we double check each other's calculations, and somehow, it all seems to work out OK.  But it takes time!

One of the fun things that happens on day shift is taking all the patients who are able up to Deck 7 for a little fresh air.  It's quite a parade, but they really enjoy it.  Another fun thing is when the singing team comes through the ward singing a few African songs about mid-morning.  In the evenings, the patients can have visitors, so the ward gets really full of people then.  Lights go out at 10:00 and everyone goes to sleep--even if the baby is wailing away in the corner bed all night.

Now I'm going to make all my nursing friends envious:  charting is basically ticking the boxes on the printed pre-op and post-op pathway for that particular surgery.  Meds are on one sheet; vital signs and assessments on another.  Everything you want to know is right there in the chart, on easily turned pages.  No computers.  Sorry, friends...paper charting is the way to go!

Enough for now.  When I actually have to work a shift without a preceptor, I may sing another tune, but right now, enjoying the joyous patients (they're thrilled to get surgery and thankful to be here) and working with other volunteer nurses who love being here--well, it's just about as good as nursing ever gets.  Despite my initial apprehensions, I'm thankful for this time on the ward.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cats: You Gotta Love 'Em

I'm sure there are others out there, but I came upon this video one day by accident. It's one of the funniest cat videos I have ever seen, and why I love this animal so much. You just have to admire Maru's perseverance and refusal to give up, no matter how ridiculous the situation. I swear I have days like this!! How about you?
(Please excuse the ad at the start and end. If I could prevent this, I would!)

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Africa Mercy - Aboard: One Nurse's Journey

Here is another update from my dear friend "M." She is finally on board the Africa Mercy, I am happy to say! Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors, and the people they help on this ship. 

Sat 3/23/2013 4:38 PM

"Aboard the Africa Mercy"

I last wrote from Chicago.  We did catch the next plane to Conakry, and almost all our luggage made it, too.  The container with $10,000 worth of medications was located in Brussels, and the airline kept it cold until we could catch up with it after the three day delay in Chicago. It was a good ending to the "hiccup" in our travels.
We did two weeks of field service in Conakry, Guinea, before boarding the Africa Mercy (the ship that Mercy Ships operates) yesterday.  Field service was amazing.  It was hot, dirty, disorganized, and stressful, with constantly shifting plans, delays, difficulties in obtaining supplies, and health issues for several of our team...BUT...when all was said and done, I was surprised to discover that we had successfully accomplished three projects.  We painted the classrooms for the deaf school and put murals on several of their walls.  Then, when the unrest in the city settled down, we were able to hold a couple of days of Vacation Bible School for the Christian school as we'd originally planned, and we built a fence around the existing playground at the hospital where we had planned to build a new playground for the smaller kids.
I said that I was surprised, but I shouldn't have been.  In retrospect, it became obvious that the Lord had a hand in crafting our days, tailoring the work to suit both the talents and the weaknesses within our group.  We had some artists among us to produce the murals, some workmen capable of building fences and repairing the school desks, some who knew sign language to help us connect to the children and teachers at the deaf school, some teachers gifted in working with children and leading VBS, and even some mature ladies (me) to connect with the women who gathered to watch us work.  We didn't make our plans around our talents--it was pretty much catch as catch can, from our point of view.
So when I saw how it all came together, I really did feel that  I saw the hand of God at work, in a non-miraculous way, through us.  We were full participants in his creation—our efforts, prayers, struggles, work, and sweat were necessary ingredients—the raw materials out of which God crafted the final product.  Sweet!
So, we've been on the ship for a day now.  Our group has been disbursed, 16 people scattered among 400+ crew members, ready to begin our various jobs on Monday.  Yet another transition point--a big one.  Until now, we've faced many adjustments, minor hardships, and new things, but always, the situation was temporary.  Now, we begin the process of settling into a new home and a new job that will last a while, so "tough it out" doesn't work as well.  Hopefully, we'll find strength in the Lord to embrace fully the path that lies before our feet, looking past the inconveniences and remembering to be thankful to be involved in this great project of Mercy Ships.
I'm preaching to myself.  Yesterday was a hard day.  I was exhausted, for one thing.  I was disappointed in my cabin assignment, and didn't have the reserves to shake it off.  I'm in an upper bunk that is so close to the ceiling you can't even sit up in bed.  The room is very cold, with a wind blowing on me from the outlet two feet away. The cubicle space seems even smaller than what I had last time--I can touch the opposite wall from my bed, which, it turns out, is a good thing.  I lean on the opposite wall to climb out of bed down the steep ladder.  In general, my bunk, which was my place of refuge last time, is useless for anything except sleep this time.  And until I fix a few problems, it's not even very good for that.
Today is somewhat better.  I'm still exhausted, but not quite so much.
I've made some progress in fixing problems and sorting myself out, and I've worked on attitude adjustment with some success.  I can see some of the good things in my new situation--toilets that flush, good food, pleasant roommates, even decaf coffee.  Today, I once again believe that I will solve the problems that can be solved and adapt to the inconveniences that can't be avoided.  I'll adjust. 

 Monday begins the new job as an admissions nurse.  Another learning  curve, and who knows what difficulties lie ahead.  But also, it is,  finally, the beginning of what I came to do.  Soon, very soon, the  two-year time of preparation will give way to THE BEGINNING.  Stay  tuned...
Be blessed, y'all.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr. and Floyd Cooper: Book Review

Brick by Brick By Charles R. Smith Jr. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper Brick by Brick
Author: Charles R. Smith Jr.
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publisher: Amistad, 2013

Age: 5 to 8, Picture Book

Slowly, slowly, “brick by brick,” freedom is earned by African American slaves in this compelling story of slavery. It was the year of the nation’s first president, and President George Washington needed a special home. Slave owners were hired to help build the nation’s first White House, and they promptly ordered their slaves to work. “Black hands, white hands, free hands, slave hands,” Smith Jr. writes, worked hard to build the mansion, but for the slaves alone, the labor was brutal, often painful, and always without pay. They toiled seven days a week, twelve hours a day, men and women together, young and old, under the slave owner’s watchful eye. Some African Americans, however, learned a marketable skill or trade during enslavement and found ways to earn money—enough for many to buy their freedom. This is their story and the price they paid for that freedom. Names are real in Brick by Brick, and each face shows individual emotion. Yet Cooper’s overall use of brown shades gives a sense of unity to their struggle. Youth will come away with admiration and respect for the slaves that helped build America. A brief history of the White House is included at the end. Brick by Brick is a Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Welcome Spring

The grow light experiment worked! Hubbard and zucchini squash on the far left are the winners, and will need larger pots soon. The tomatoes on the right have plenty of room to grow for planting this June. Petunia is growing in the rear at a slower rate. Only half of the seeds sprouted. Someone has told me petunia is difficult to grow, so maybe half is good? On the lower rack, there are various herbs, lettuce and spinach growing.

I am surprised at how much water the seedlings have required - daily misting and watering every other day without fail. The heat from the fluorescent lamp is low, but enough to dry out the soil apparently.  Spring is here, but it is far too cold for planting on the Palouse in eastern Washington. We are still in the low 40-50°F degree range during the day and 20-30°F degree range at night. To our south in Lewiston (ID) and Clarkston (WA), spring often comes a month early. Temperatures can be as much as 10 degrees warmer. Vince and I decided to drive there over the weekend to do some shopping.

It takes about 45 minutes to reach the Lewiston grade. It's quite a drop in elevation as you can see below. In the 1970s when my husband and I first moved to the area, we took this windy road described on the sign (it was the only way!). We now drive down a slick four-lane highway at sixty miles an hour. Truckers are more cautious, however, and sand-filled escape lanes are provided in several locations - and for good reason. We have heard stories over the years of trucks losing their brakes and sailing over the cliff on that first road.


View from the top. It is still very much winter here, as you can see. These hills will turn velvety green soon, but not for long. They will be brown over most of the hot summer. Lewiston is below to the right. By the way, Lewiston is named after Lewis Meriwether of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Clarkston to the right of this view is named after William Clark.

We stopped in Lewiston along the Clearwater River to view the old 18th Street Bridge. There we saw a touch of green in the grass, and hills in the distance, but trees elsewhere are still in the bud stage.

Some history on the bridge follows . . .

Coming home, those gray clouds turned into 
a raging snow blizzard. 
Ah . . . spring, don't you just love it!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Ever wonder why we pinch each other on St. Patrick's Day if someone forgets to wear green? Oops, did you forget? The pinching tradition was started in America in the 1700s by Irish immigrants. They claimed that wearing green made them invisible and kept the leprechauns away. Leprechauns were mischievous fairies who liked to play practical jokes on people.

History shows that the original color associated with this Roman Catholic 4th century saint was really blue. St. Patrick is believed to have used the green shamrock as a teaching tool to explain the holy trinity to Irish Catholics, which may be why people started wearing green when celebrating his memory. Celebration of St. Patrick's Day in Ireland predates the 1600s and became a holiday in America in the 1700s. 

 St. Patrick (Patricius) was born to a rich landowning family in Britain near the end of the 4th century, where exactly is unknown. During a raid of his family's land by Irish pirates, he was captured at the age of fifteen and taken to Ireland, where he was enslaved for six years. After hearing a voice in a dream, telling him how to escape, Patricius managed to flee his captors and return home. It was the basis of his religious conversion to Christianity. St. Patrick then returned to Ireland as a priest and missionary around 430 A.D., where he stayed for many years spreading Christianity everywhere he went. Tens of thousands were baptized and hundreds of churches were established all over Ireland.

St. Patrick's Day is still celebrated in Ireland with parades and family gatherings, and to some degree in the U.S. Parades are held in larger cities here and most of the stores stock up on corn beef and cabbage (not my favorite). Senior centers and similar places serve Irish Stew on the menu. I happened to be in Spokane yesterday attending a writers' workshop. Streets were barricaded and people (some in green costumes--mostly kids) were lining up, waiting for the big parade.

Growing up, I sort of remember someone walking through the neighborhood playing a bag pipe on this holiday. In grade school I must have cut out dozens of shamrocks with my classmates. We had fun pinching everyone who forgot to wear green, listened to our teacher read cute stories about leprechauns, and ate cookies with green frosting.  

Any other traditions out there? How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

[Source:;;'s_Day; St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography, 2005, Phillip Freeman] Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The City's Son by Tom Pollock: Book Review

The City's Son (Book 1: Skyscraper Throne )
Author: Tom Pollock
Publisher: Flux, 2012
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Ages: 15 up, Young Adult fiction
Pages: 460

London is like any city of old, with its crumbling buildings and lost memories, buried in the wake of skyscrapers and change. But what if vintage lampposts, graveyard statues, junkyard rubble and its homeless remnants could speak? Would they fight back against the skyscraper realm? This is the centuries-old, magical underworld that Tom Pollock creates in his debut urban fantasy novel, The City’s Son. Beth Bradley, a high school student at Frostfield High, wanders into this monster-filled world accidentally, but the "real" world she leaves behind is no less monstrous. At home, her zombie-like father has been a mental basket case, catatonic ever since Beth’s mother died. Beth spends a lot time on the streets drawing graffiti and getting into trouble at school as a result. Beth's only real support is Pen, her Pakistani best friend. Pen, too, deals with "real" life monsters. A math teacher at school has abused her and she is under his control. The friendship splinters when Beth mistakenly believes that Pen has betrayed her in a school incident. Beth leaves home for good and meets Filius, the fifteen-year-old crown prince of the underworld. Beth finds a home never before imagined, complete with talking statues, pylon spiders, a junkyard character named Gutterglass, and other strange characters. A relationship develops between Filius and Beth as they pull together forces to battle Reach, a powerful monster who threatens to destroy the city. Meanwhile, Pen sets out to find Beth, along with Beth’s father, who has finally come to his senses. Pen is then captured by the Wire Mistress, Reach’s priestess, and her body is taken over. Mr. Bradley must persevere alone and find a way to help his daughter, while Beth is forced to fight her best friend in the final battle. The City’s Son is well-written, gritty and thought-provoking. Readers are advised of violence, language, and sexual content.

I have never read urban fantasy before. I was asked to review this book and said, "Okay," and to be honest, it took one hundred pages before I was fully vested in the story. This is the point where Pen decides to look for Beth. Symbolism and metaphors abound in The City's Son and it is what Pollock does with Pen that I found so convincingly developed. That Pen goes from being dominated by a horrid teacher in the real world to being controlled by the Wire Mistress in the fantasy world is no small coincidence. I won't spoil what happens there, except to say it worked for  me. Mr. Bradley's development, on the other hand, came up short. Perhaps Pollock intends to develop him in the sequel, but I found it dissatisfying that more didn't happen between Beth and her 'dead to the world' father, who has experienced some kind of transformation and returned to help her. What happened there? It is a subplot, but an important one.

Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Africa Mercy - Hiccup: One Nurse's Journey

This is a running post about my friend's journey to Africa and work as a nurse on the Africa Mercy. Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on this ship. I am still waiting for news "M" has arrived safely! Her latest email is dated 3/7.


Just getting to Conakry seems to be a challenge.  To get the humanitarian rates, our group of 19 was split into two groups.  My group was scheduled to fly from Tyler to Houston, Chicago, Brussels, and Conakry.  The other group was scheduled to fly from Dallas to Newark, Brussels, and Conakry.  Because of weather in Newark, the Dallas group was eventually, after hours of uncertainty, rescheduled to Chicago.
They arrived moments before our plane to Brussels was loaded.  So far, so good. We boarded for Brussels almost on time and moved slowly down the runway for fifteen minutes or so...and then returned to the gate.  Mechanical troubles, they said.  Now, that was the same plane we'd just flown in coming to Chicago--I'm glad "mechanical troubles" didn't affect us before we landed!  After fiddling with the problem for a while, they scrapped that plane and got us another.
But, with all the delays, our turn-around time in Brussels was gone.  We were going to miss our connection to Conakry.  That was a problem, because there are only two flights a week to Conakry.  Did they want to put us on the flight to Brussels and park us there for three days?
Shucks, maybe not. It took hours, but eventually they decided to park us in Chicago for three days.  We'll resume our travel itinerary on Saturday to catch the Sunday flight into Conakry.  Hopefully.
Of course, our luggage didn't fare so well.  Some of it is here, but quite a bit of it is somewhere else in the world...Newark?, Brussels?
Conakry? A back room in Chicago?  A random airport in Asia?  They may eventually round it all up for us...or not...but the worst of it is, they have lost the box of medications packed in ice that we were taking to the ship.
So, we traveled for about seventeen hours yesterday, and we made it from Texas to Chicago. I, for one, was exhausted and glad for a nice comfy bed and a day of rest.  Saturday will begin another marathon travel day--it'll take about 24 hours, if all goes well, to get from here to Conakry.
Of course, plans for our field service have changed again.  One of our leaders went a few days ahead of us to line things up, and he is doing a terrific job.  The current plan includes some time in a school for deaf children and some repair work in a men's prison, both located in the safe zone of Conakry.  But...well, we're fluid if need be.  I am thankful it's not my problem to work all this out.
So, contrary to expectations, I am not spending the next couple of days painting a dental clinic in the tropics of Guinea.  I am lounging, sightseeing, and resting in cold, snowy Chicago, mostly at the expense of United Airlines.  Pretty tough, eh? 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Do You Read the Comics?

(Comic book: Ken Ernst's
 Mary Worth (March 1956)
I recently asked a few bloggers if they read the comics, or if they had a favorite, and no one said they did. I have been a fan of newspaper comic strips for a long time. One in particular I remember from my youth, the Mary Worth series, arrived on my parent’s porch with a loud thud every night around six—in the Tacoma News Tribune. I was eleven or twelve at the time, and I may have been a budding artist. I spent hours tracing this strip on paper and writing captions. I have since learned that Mary Worth was known for its cliffhanger endings.  

In fact, it was considered the soap opera of comics and dealt with issues not uncommon today: unwed mothers, drug addiction, spousal abuse, infidelity, juvenile delinquency, elder issues, and the generation gap, to name a few! No wonder I love writing suspenseful scenes today. And those cliffhanger endings . . . the more the better!

But what I mostly remember about the series are the people that came into Mary’s life, and as a kind neighbor, she tried to help. This savvy silver-haired widow, who had been a school teacher once, offered a deep well of wisdom and loving advice to everyone she met, and apparently, I was one of them! 

Newspaper: Mary Worth by Karen Moy and Joe Giella)

Credits for Mary Worth go to writer Allen Saunders and artist Ken Ernst, and its distributor, King Features Syndicate. Other artists and writers have worked on the series, but most recently, artist Joe Giella (1991) and writer Karen Moy (2003). The comic strip thrives to this day (unfortunately, not in the paper I now get). It should also be noted that most references credit the 1932 Apple Mary series (by Martha Orr) as being the true origin of Mary Worth, but King Features refutes this claim.

Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl; Sources:

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What's the Next Big Thing?

Thanks author Mary Cronk Farrell for tagging me in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop! I have one Work In Progress . . .  

What is the working title of your book?

Shells of Mersing

Where did the idea come from for the book?

My husband and I lived in Kluang, Malaysia for nine months in 1995-96. I was volunteering at a local orphanage when I learned that one of the boys (7) had been rescued from domestic slavery. I was aware of human slavery, of girls mostly, but my shock level jumped to a new level. This was the little boy I had made yarn dolls with at Christmas time. I then learned that human trafficking and slavery did indeed exist in Malaysia and even more so in Thailand to the north. From this experience a story grew.

I began to ask a lot of what ifs. What if a Malay girl and her sister had been sold in Thailand? What if an American G.I. later met and fell in love with this girl, and took her to America as his bride? What if he then died and left his Malay wife alone with two children? Would she miss her family, especially her sister in Thailand, and try to rescue and bring her to America? And finally, what would be the fate of her children, if she disappeared in Thailand?........which is where my story begins.

The idea for the title came from my travels. We sometimes meandered up the east coast of Malaysia along the South China Sea. The views were incredible. We would stop to gather shells or just walk along the beaches. Mersing was the first stop, and I fell in love with the colorful boats in its fishing harbor and a section of beach. I decided to make Mersing the childhood home of my Malay mother, and the shells a special collection her daughter inherits.

What genre does your book fall under?

Adventure/Mystery, Young Adult fiction.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

-Only two actors so far. They may be too old for the part, but I have always imagined Vanessa Hudgens as my main character Callie (15), who is half Malay; and Zac Efron for Sam (16), the American boy she meets in Malaysia.
-Lucas (8), Callie's brother (also half Malay), plays an important role, but I'm not familiar with younger child stars. He needs to be smart and confident.

(Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens;

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After witnessing the murder of her Seattle foster dad, a teenage girl runs away with her eight-year-old brother and sets off on a journey to find their missing mother in Thailand and family in Malaysia.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to find an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One year. I have since written several drafts and changed the tense twice.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

To some degree the following:
-Patricia McCormick's Sold, the story of a thirteen year old girl from Nepal, who is sold into sexual slavery. (There is a tragic back story of human trafficking and slavery in my book that becomes a live threat to my main characters, Callie and Lucas).
-Wendelin Van Draanen's Runaway - Holly is abused by her foster dad. (My main character is afraid of her foster dad when he drinks, especially the night she and her brother run away).
-Heidi Ayarbe's Compromised - A father goes to prison and his motherless daughter is left to fend for herself, and ends up in an orphanage; She runs away to search for an aunt in New Mexico. (My main characters’ mother is missing and their father is dead; they are placed in a foster home and then run away to search for their missing mother and Malaysian relatives).

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

-Callie and Lucas stowaway on a large sailboat called the Meli Ann and cross the Pacific to Hawaii.
-The Mersing shells are stored in a wooden box with a beautiful dragon carving on top, but there is a secret compartment and much more in this "dragon box."

I'm tagging authors Catherine Ensley and Kim Harris Thacker.

Check out their Next Big Thing!

[This traveling blog started in Australia. Each author answers ten questions about his or her Work In Progress and "tags" one or more authors (up to five) to be The Next Big Thing]

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

Friday, March 8, 2013

Southwest Indians by Melissa McDaniel: Book Review

Southwest Indians“First Nations of North America” series
Southwest Indians
Author: Melissa McDaniel
Publisher:  Heinemann Library, 2012
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Ages: 8 up, Middle Grade nonfiction
Pages: 48

There are ten major nations in the Southwest Indian family: the Navajo, Apache, Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni, Tohono O’odham, Akimel O’odham, Upland Yumans, and River Yumans. McDaniel describes  their languages, leaders, beliefs, ceremonies, family life, homes, hairstyles, the objects they made, and more. This diverse group settled in present-day Arizona, New Mexico, Mexico, parts of Texas, and surrounding areas. The region’s extreme temperatures in the summer and winter helped define Southwest Indian dress, diet, shelter and culture, McDaniel explains, and finding food was the biggest hurdle. The tribes adapted by using ingenious food gathering methods. The Pueblos, for example, dug canals to channel water to their crops and homes. The Havasupai pounded the ground to drive out rabbits from the underbrush. The Apache hunted large game, while others relied on smaller animals and seasonal nuts, fruits, and seeds.  Few, however, could withstand the violence of first contact when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. Lives were lost, children stolen, and many enslaved. Deadly disease added to their misery. McDaniel describes the Pueblo revolt in 1680 that caused the Spanish conquerors to flee, and the more peaceful Spanish mission phase that followed, altering beliefs. In the 1800s, white settlement was the next hurdle and Southwest Indians were forced to live on reservations. Despite setbacks, Southwest Indians are proud of their heritage and U.S. citizenship. In World War II, Navajo code talkers created a code that the enemy never broke. Today there are forty-three “official” Southwest Indian nations. Southwest Indians is a good resource and useful in Social Studies curriculum. Glossary (boldface text) and Timeline are provided. Maps, photos, and sketches are on most pages. Reading level Q.  

Copyright 2013 © Sharon M. Himsl

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Africa Mercy - Launch (sort of): One Nurse's Journey

My friend is on her way to Africa and has given me permission to record her journey. Here are three emails dated Jan 27, Feb 28 and Mar 4. For the sake of privacy, she is using her first initial (M) only. Click here for the original post describing the nurses and doctors on board and some of their stories. I hope you find M's journey as fascinating as I do! Has anyone else out there dreamed of doing (or done) something like this?

Sunday, January 27, 2013 5:38 PM
1/27/13 "launch (sort of)"

The adventure begins.  I've arrived to the Mercy Ships property outside of Tyler, Texas.  Yesterday was the first day of orientation--mostly getting acquainted with the other people who have come for the "On Boarding" program.  Some will be here for the first week of training, which is called Foundations of Mercy Ships--so I suppose it'll be foundational values, an overview of the programs, and some understanding of how it's all put together.  Some of us will be here for five weeks.

The middle three weeks address spiritual issues and cross-cultural issues, I believe.  The last week is basic safety training for living on a ship--fire fighting, water rescue, and so forth.

Who is here?   We come from the USA, England, France, Spain, Canada, and Netherlands.  Ages range from 5 (well, she's just a kid, but part of a family) to 18 (the youngest volunteer, I think), to 68 (me, the oldest volunteer, I think).  Experience ranges from one who's never left the country to one who has spent decades managing refugee camps throughout Africa.  There are several nurses, a radiology tech, a deck hand, an electrician, an accountant, a security officer, a teacher, an overseer for some development programs, a supply chain manager, a fire safety expert.

There are others whose job I haven't figured out yet--but you can see we have quite a variety of job descriptions represented in our group of 28 or so.

Now, how does the Lord take that kind of diversity and make a coherent team?

But He does!  In two days, we are fitting together quite nicely, it seems to me.  As I type, a fair number of them are in the other room singing, making beautiful harmonies together.  Soon I will join them, adding to their number, if not the quality of the music.

So, no real news--just a quick peek at my first stepping stone on this journey to Mercy Ships.

Thursday, February 28, 2013 5:41 AM
"we're on our way"
I've been in Texas for almost five weeks doing the Mercy Ships orientation program.  They packed the time pretty full--foundational stuff about Mercy Ships, spiritual grounding in the character of God and other assorted topics, social grounding in personality types and conflict resolution (do they think that living 4-8 people in a room might produce some conflicts?), and a fair amount on cross-cultural issues and world views.

This last week has been basic safety training--required by maritime law--including both water rescue and fire fighting.  Imagine me, if you will, all dressed up in 40-50 pounds of fire protection gear, crawling into a dark, smoke-filled tunnel to rescue a 165 pound dummy. Or dragging a fire hose into a building with real live fire, smoke, and heat.  Yes, sir, I am now officially educated and ready to fight fires in the engine room with the best of they say.
We leave March 6 for Africa.  We will spend 2 1/2 weeks doing a "field service" before we actually join the ship.  This is a part of the orientation program, to give us a taste of African culture and shake out some of our kinks before we settle into our jobs on the ship.  It's best to get over the "deer in the headlights" syndrome beforehand, because it's full speed ahead with our jobs once we reach the ship.  Our field service will be in Conakry, Guinea, only a few miles from the ship, building some playground equipment for a local children's hospital and spending a couple of days running a mini-vacation Bible school for a local Christian school.  They guarantee us that it will be hot and dirty work, but the playground will be a lasting benefit to the kids in the hospital and the surrounding neighborhood.
I think that I will be out of touch from March 6 to March 22--no internet available during field service, so far as I know.  And with a new job to learn once I reach the ship, I may be slow to answer emails even then.  I am praying not only for health and endurance for field service, but also for some significant connections to local folks as we work.  Cultural adaptation is much more important when you are there for a couple of years instead of a couple of months, and it happens best in the context of a friendship or two.  Pity I don't speak French--it's the official language of Guinea from colonial days.  I'm sure most of the people speak their own tribal languages most of the time, but I'd imagine that many of them also speak French.  I suppose they also speak gestures and emoticons--if a translator isn't handy, I guess that will have to do.

Perhaps I'll have some fun stories next time I write.
Blessings on each of you,


Monday, March 04, 2013 11:18 PM
"you have to be fluid"

I don't know if it has made the news or not, but there is increasing unrest in Conakry, Guinea.  With an election on the horizon, the competing tribes seem to be jockeying for position, using stones to make their points.  I hear there have even been a few deaths, but apparently it is not out-and-out rioting or civil war. 

Naturally, Mercy Ships command is watching the situation closely.  The southern end of the peninsula is well guarded and safe--that is where the expats live and the government has their buildings.  The Africa Mercy is within the safe zone, and business continues as usual for them.
Our field service is affected, however.  Both the hospital where we intended to build a playground and the school where we intended to spend a couple of days with the kids are too far north, not in the safe zone.

So, we won't be going there.  There's a saying in Mercy Ships that when you work in Africa, you have to go beyond being flexible, you have to be fluid.  So, we'll flow into an alternative project--probably we'll do some work at the dental clinic site.  It needs some repair and is in the safe zone.
The airport where we land is also not in the safe zone.  But, the tribes are throwing the stones at each other, not at westerners.  We will be met by vehicles with Mercy Ships logos on their sides, and that is a fairly powerful protection in itself.  Both tribes benefit from our services and regard us with favor--they'd probably stop the conflict to let us pass.  And, you can be sure that the folks in charge are planning alternative routes to get us safely to our destination by skirting any conflicts that are in progress when we arrive.

So, we leave Wednesday morning as scheduled...but after we arrive, the schedule is kaput. It will be interesting to see how it all comes together.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Peanut Butter Sandwich: An American Tradition

Ever since reading about peanut butter and zucchini sandwiches in Deborah Wiles's adorable Love, Ruby Lavender (MG), I have been intrigued with peanut butter
sandwiches  in general. The peanut butter sandwich has been around for as long as I can remember. I ate them as a kid, my own kids ate them, and now my grandchildren do. And since March is National Peanut Month, I thought it would be fun to talk about this simple easy-to-make sandwich, because from what I can tell, it has long been an American tradition.

Believe it or not, peanut butter was once a delicacy in the United States. In the early 1900s, you could only find it in fancy New York City tearooms, where it was served on crackers with pimentos, nasturtium, cheese, celery or watercress. But as far back as 1896, Good Housekeeping magazine had suggested that women grind peanuts into a spread for bread. Later that year, another magazine, Table Talk, printed a recipe for a peanut butter sandwich. However, it was not until the late 1920s that peanut butter became affordable and, therefore, available to the general public. Peanut butter soon became a staple and quite popular with children. During WWII, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was added to military rations. It had come a long way from the tearooms of New York.

Common peanut butter sandwiches in my kitchen:

Peanut butter and...
- jelly (or jam, preserves, marmalade)
- honey
- pickles
- bananas
- potato chips

Peanut butter and zucchini, on the other hand, opens up a way to add more vegetables to the diet. My husband volunteered for the experiment. Well, to be precise . . . he went along, since he prefers I do most of the cooking. Here is what we have tried so far:

- Peanut butter and sliced apples (with peelings). I added sliced almonds one day, and after being assured the 'crunchy part' was edible, he liked it.
- Peanut butter and cucumbers. He liked it.
- Peanut butter and left-over salad. Hmm....this was a bit of a stretch, but it too was good. The salad had leaf lettuce, kale, yellow pepper, broccoli and carrot slaw, dried cranberries and walnuts.

After that last one, I decided the possibilities were endless. Candidates for research include fresh:
- zucchini (have not tried yet; it grows here like weeds during the summer)
- parsley
- grated carrots
- mint
- spinach and other greens
- pineapple slices
- sliced strawberries
- blueberries
- other berries

And from the tearoom list above, I may try:
- pimento
- nasturtium
- cheese
- celery
- watercress

From online, here are some more to try:
- raisins
- bacon
- chocolate 
- maple syrup
- hazelnut-chocolate spread
- marshmallows

I am a really big fan of nuts, so I would add other nuts to any of these combinations.

Any other ideas out there? Are you a peanut butter "nut" too?

Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl
[History Source:].

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Liebster Award for Shells, Tales and Sails

Jai at blogspot And Then . . . has nominated me for the Liebster Award (for blogs with fewer than 200 followers).  I am grateful and thank Jai for nominating me for this award.

Liebster Award Rules:

1. Thank the blogger who presented you with the Liebster Award, and link back to his or her blog.
 2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator; list 11 random facts about yourself, and create 11 questions for your nominees.
 3. Present the Liebster Award to 11 bloggers, who have blogs with 200 followers or less, whom you feel deserve to be noticed. Leave a comment on the blogs letting the owners know they have been chosen. (No tag backs.)
 4. Upload the Liebster Award image to your blog.

My Answers to Jai's Questions:

1. If you could have a super power what would it be?
The ability to travel back in time, not to change it necessarily, but to observe the people and events of history. (I have no desire to see the future, however. Why destroy the adventure?)

2. Coffee or Tea?
Both, but my first love is coffee. I am half Norwegian :)

3. Favorite color?
Green. It is the color of fresh beginnings. 

4. Why did you start blogging?
A friend urged me to try. I have been writing similar posts in emails and family letters for years. But my main motivation was to connect with writers who are trying to publish their work.

5. Who was your favorite teacher and why.
So many, really. But if I were to choose one, it would be an English professor in a creative writing class. I still remember his comment on a short story I had written, that my work was starting to sound "professional." Oh, how I latched onto that one encouraging word.

6. Who is your favorite author?
My first favorite book as a girl was Jane Eyre, so I have to say Charlotte Brontë.

7. What kind of music do you enjoy?
Anything with soft guitar and lyrics I can actually hear. Bluegrass and folk. I like classical, but I'm not an expert (I like Debussy's Claire de Lune). Occasionally, I hear an artist or a tune that just wows me, like Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." 
8. Do you have a favorite movie?
Somewhere in Time (starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour)

9. What would be your dream vacation?
Right now, a roadtrip up the east coast of the U.S. I have only seen the Florida coastline.
10. What is your favorite healthy food?
Peanut butter (because it is so versatile)
11. What is your guilty pleasure?
Ice Cream. My first sentence, according to my parents, had 'ice cream' in it. And chocolate . . . need I explain? The two are a perfect combo.
Eleven Random Facts about Me

 1. I once sailed a 15 foot sailboat for a week in the San Juan Islands (and still sail).
2. I collect elephants, the first one given to me by my father.
3. My husband built an airplane in our garage and I helped (yep, call me "Rosie the Riveter").
4. The lives of my son and daughter are an inspiration to me.
5. For some reason, I have read Moby Dick four times.
6. I have six grandchildren who live too far away.
7. Gardening is like meditation to me. I can refuel there.
8. Marriage has worked for me. I'm still married to the love of my life. We met at sixteen.
9. Faith in God keeps me grounded when all else fails.
10. I survived Hurricane Camille in 1969 (Biloxi, Mississippi in an air force shelter).
11. I stepped on a cockroach (barefoot) in Malaysia once, the size of my big toe.

To the eleven bloggers I have nominated, I believe your blogs are worthy of this award. I have been checking out blogs for almost two weeks and did not pick yours randomly. I realize we are all busy but I hope you will participate. It could be fun and I think others would enjoy reading your responses. Just let me know when your post is up (if you do). Thanks.

 Eleven questions from me:

1. What is your favorite form of recreation?
2. What kinds of books do you read?
3. Why did you start blogging?
3. Do you read books on an e-reader or prefer printed books?
4. Name two actors or authors you admire.
5. What makes you laugh?
6. Which do you prefer and why: dogs or cats?
7. When or where do you feel most creative?
8. What is your favorite fast food or snack?
9. Do you have a special place you go to relax?
10. Do you have a favorite comic strip?
11. If you could travel back in time, where would you like to go?

About Me

My photo
You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.