Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When Cats Take Over

A crazy busy week, so sharing a funny video. I think I need a cat in my office, don't you? I'm reminded of Sassy's "cats rule and dogs drool" remark in the movie Homeward Bound. Remember that?

Also wanted to let you know about a contest called "Pitch Madness" coming up this March. A friend just clued me in, so I thought I'd give it a try--practice pitching my novel and see if my first 250 words are strong enough. Check out the link below.

(for Young Adult, Middle Grade, New Adult, and Adult)

Sharon M. Himsl

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things: Wishful Thinking

Ever slip into wishful thinking, where you need a good kick-start to get you moving again in your writing or other goals? Is it a problem with the goal? A motivation issue? Some of the arguments I have with myself border on the ridiculous. It goes something like this.......

"Okay, 'little quacks', listen up. I can't move and you can't move.

All the staring in the world isn't going to change anything!"

There are days I cannot budge. I stare at the screen, my fingers frozen over the keys, my mind locked in time and space on characters I have never really met before except in my mind. Yet they are real . . . REAL as the people I sometimes hear talking in my dreams at night or playing out in my mind during the day.


"But I like hanging out in the loft," a small voice says.
"There are no pressures there. No agents or publishers to
worry about, no critiques to fret over. No queries to write or
that synopsis I need to rewrite. Safe, comfy and warm."

"And besides, I can just dream and dream . . . and dream."

(Some days I'm Ferdinand the Bull, lost in wishful thinking).

Timing can be a bit strange when it comes to fulfilling dreams. As is typical in the arts, fulfillment sometimes comes posthumously. I read in the paper this morning of a local woman who has self-published her deceased husband's novel. He was 84 when he died. The article showed a sweet picture of the couple and emphasized their years together. It was done is such a warm manner, I would argue that his dream of publishing a novel was fulfilled in a better, grander way, for he gave his wife a reason to go on with her life.

So where do I stand on the dream-fulfillment meter? Writing has
been the focus of my life for the past two-plus years. I had no idea I would love blogging as much as I do. In fact, I had no idea, I would gain confidence as a writer in sharing my life interests and dream of publishing a novel. I will get there, God willing, and if the world doesn't end tomorrow. And when I do, you will be the first to know!!

So.....celebrating holding onto my dreams this week and also the

big A-Z blog hop this April. I hesitated at the huge time commitment there, but last year's experience was so incredible, I just couldn't pass it up. Did anyone else sign up?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

John Brown: Defending the Innocent or Plotting Terror by Nel Yomtov: Book Review

John Brown: Defending the Innocent or Plotting Terror
Author: Nel Yomtov
Publisher: Capstone Press/Capstone, 2014
Age: 8 to 10, Chapter book
Pages: 32

The hanging of abolitionist John Brown in 1859 was controversial, and depending on one’s perspective, his death was either hotly protested or applauded as justly deserved. John Brown believed that slavery was wrong, a growing belief shared by many across the nation in the pre-dawn of the Civil War. Tension was high everywhere. When slavery was suddenly allowed in the new territory of Kansas, Brown and his supporters rushed to the scene in protest. A gun fight broke out and several men thought to be proslavery were killed. Brown was accused of murder and became a wanted man. Later, a raid on Harpers Ferry in West Virginia to obtain weapons went wrong, and Brown was arrested.

“Was John Brown a hero or a villain?” Yomtov asks. Readers are given the opportunity to ask this question and to see the different sides of Brown. They learn about Brown’s early life and the strong influence his father had on his religious faith and beliefs as an abolitionist. He was also married twice and had twenty children, some who supported his beliefs about slavery. His home was even used for the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape to freedom in the north. Many in the nation reacted to Brown’s arrest. Some respected his courage, while others condemned his actions. Yomtov’s John Brown fits well in the “Perspectives on History” series, complete with glossary, index and resources. Questions are also asked at the end to give students more to think about in their study.

Although written for young children (details are sketchy), Yomtov does a good job at showing the different facets of Brown's life. I liked learning of his background with the Underground Railroad. I was more familiar with his violent past. Some credit the incident at Harpers Ferry with starting the Civil War, which makes studying Brown's life all the more important. 

Copyright 2014 © Sharon M. Himsl

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Africa Mercy - Natural/ Supernatural Events: One Nurse's Journey

More from Marilyn in the Congo! Life is never the same, one day to the next.

08 Feb 2014
Natural/Supernatural Events

Greetings, my friends

T'is a weekend, and I am thankful for it. We've finished another week of surgery--where did the time go? The days ranged from "normal" (whatever that is...), to very stressful, to frustratingly unproductive--in other words, a typical week. No two days are the same, and they are all unpredictable. I live in a place where rain causes the city to grind to a halt for hours at a time, and it is the rainy season.  I work in a culture that views time and appointments differently--if you tell patients to come at 0630 on Tuesday, some of them will be there, but some will straggle in by 10:00 or 11:00, and a few will come on Monday or Thursday instead.

 If you tell them to take their blood pressure medicine before leaving home on the day of surgery, maybe half of them will do it. I haven't figured out why that happens. Are we not saying it correctly? Can they not afford the medicine? Have their doctors convinced them that they are cured of blood pressure problems with two weeks of medication? Is the word out that Mercy Ships will give them medicine to lower their blood pressure enough to allow surgery, so save yourself a pill? (We do that, usually.)

 So, a day like Tuesday happens now and then. It rained all night, so streets were flooded. The surgeon was eager to get an early start...but by starting time, we had only two patients qualified
for surgery and two with sky-high blood pressures. The other twelve patients hadn't come yet. We made multiple trips to the dock in the rain to bring in drenched patients as they gradually arrived over the next several hours. At one point I had four with elevated blood pressures, three or four that the doctor hadn't seen yet due to late arrival, two pterygium surgery patients (always  scheduled to be the last surgeries of the day), one or two whose cataract surgery was expected to be difficult and so scheduled for later in the day...and no patients qualified to send for surgery.

 The doctor was having to make compromises on who he would do next...and I was jumping this way and that trying to predict which ones I should be preparing for surgery in what order. Some I dilated early in anticipation that he would take them next, only to have them set aside. Others I had to scramble to get ready, and even sent them for surgery not fully dilated. Two patients never did arrive, but we did eventually manage to get the surgeries done on the rest. All's well that ends well, but it was a stressful day.

 Meanwhile, glorious things were happening down the hall. We have a  dental program. They do fillings and cleanings, but they also do a lot of extractions for teeth that are too far gone to save. They did an extraction for one man who had quite an abscess under that tooth. The infection spread quickly and he became deathly ill.

 They admitted him to the hospital for treatment, but he quickly deteriorated to the point of needing intubation and life support. He had aspirated pus, and was in dreadful condition. They actually had to cancel a day of surgery so that the anesthesiologist could attend him 24/7, and even at that, he was not expected to live.

 The hospital administrator later told us that it was technically impossible for the man to recover. His death was so certain that the administrator had already begun the paperwork required for a death on the ship. But, a call for prayer went out, and many prayed, including the kids in the academy. I think the Lord listens to the prayers of children with special attention. At any rate, it seems that He did intervene, interrupting the normal course of this man's crisis. 

 Imagine the administrator's surprise to find that not only was the man not dead the next morning, he was off the ventilator, out of  bed, and sitting in a chair, dramatically recovered. It doesn't happen that way very often, but when it does...hallelujah. 

So there you have it, the lows and highs of the week.


[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy]

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Buddies: A Good Thing to Celebrate

Reading is a gift we give our children.

 Berks County animal shelter’s ‘Book Buddies’ program is the cutest thing


This cat reminds me of an old cat adopted my family one year. She was promptly named "Tina" by my sweet daughter Rachel, who had a "Tina the Ballerina" doll at the time and was taking dance lessons. Cuter than cute as I recall, except Tina our new cat was hardly a pink-slippered ballerina!

Our orange tabby was a feisty old gal, as big as a small dog with a tough barnyard personality. She would sit on her haunches in the road in front of our home and challenge any car that tried to pass. She often won. The drivers would shake their heads and simply drive around her. She wasn't a lap-sitter either, but I remember the one time she made an exception to the rule. I was suffering from a root canal and in terrible pain. She slept next to me on the couch for most of the day, purring the way cats do. They know, they really do. Animals know when we need love the most.  

I have never heard of a "Book Buddies" program in an animal shelter before. Have you? What a terrific idea. It satisfies three of my loves - Reading, Children, and Animals. The program not only teaches kindness and epitomizes the love that people and animals sometimes share, it promotes reading and the joy of following the words out loud.

How I cherished sitting down and reading to my own children. For a time, we even had a 'Story Time' in our home after school. My husband and I sometimes read books to each other, or as a family. There is something to be said for 'hearing' the words of a good book read out loud. Soul nurturing, comforting, safely tucked in, cherished . . . words like that come to mind, and when I saw this article, my heart just warmed. Haven't done this kind of activity before? Do . . . DO. Before it's too late! Reading is a gift we give to our children . . . and to each other.

Animals love the sound of our voice, too, and I doubt if the little boy above will ever forget his experience. For all we know, no one reads to him at home and his reading level is poor, although he appears to be off to a good start. Thought this was a pretty good thing to celebrate this week. Such a simple idea, such a huge benefit!! 

Happy Valentine's Day!!

'Celebrate the small things' was started by Viklit at Scribblings of An Aspiring Author. Sign up below and meet some terrific writers and bloggers!   

Sharon M. Himsl

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Walking Dead Fans, Which Character Are You?

Here is a fun diversion to break up your day. Take Zimbio's quiz and find out your character type. I'm Carol. Who are you?

Sharon M. Himsl

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Alcatraz by Nick Gordon: Book Review

Author: Nick Gordon
Publisher: Bellwhether Media, Inc., 2014
Age: 9 to 13, Middle grade
Pages: 24

Alcatraz, a new title in "The Scariest Places on Earth" series, is a spine-chilling book designed to keep readers turning the page. Divided into four short chapters, young readers learn about the famous prison known as The Rock, Alcatraz, which is located on an island in San Francisco Bay. Closed in 1963, Alcatraz is a spooky U.S. tourist destination today. Tour guides and visitors alike have "reported strange sights and sounds" while touring the facility. The Rock has long been known for its ghost stories and unsolved mysteries that date back to the prison's beginning as a military fort in 1853. But long before the fort's construction and its conversion into a prison, even the area's Indians had long believed the island to be evil. Readers will learn about one of Alcatraz’s most famous prisoners as well, Al Capone, and the eerie tales surrounding his imprisonment. Gordon's most chilling description of the prison is of an area where prisoners were sometimes sent for punishment, called the "hole."

Alcatraz is not recommended for the nightmare-prone reader. In fact, it might make a perfect Halloween story. Photos of the prison today and from the past bring a historical perspective, while the ghostly images and the artist's renditions of past occurrences could be viewed as frightening for the youngest reader. However, for those who love a good ghost story based on eye-witness reports, as well as those interested in the history of The Rock, Alcatraz is a great resource for young researchers. The glossary and index at the end are age-appropriate, and library and web sources are provided.

Copyright 2014 © Sharon M. Himsl

Sharon M. Himsl

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

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Africa Mercy - Ravette's Story: One Nurse's Journey


From Marilyn in the Congo! A nice story about a girl named Ravette. 

Mercy Ships newsletter--Feb 2014

Look what I discovered! Mercy Ships puts out a newsletter for us to use to tell you folks about what goes on around here. After all, the Mercy Ships story is bigger than just the cataract surgeries I am involved with. So, here’s a real-time story of a different surgery that happened here recently.

Step By Step to a Brighter Future:  

The plane’s shadow followed the trail of the Congo River to the wide Atlantic – to the ship, they said, that offered free surgery. Vivianne held tightly to the two government-purchased travel tickets as she prayed for her wide-eyed, beautiful daughter, Ravette, who sat beside her and stared out the window with fascination. Maybe, just maybe, the ship would save Ravette. And, in the process, it would save Vivianne, too. The two have travelled light. They left much behind – the disappointment over the lack of medical care; the brutal breaking of Ravette’s legs by the traditional medicine man; the lifelong ridicule; the helplessness; the hopelessness – all of this was too heavy to pack.

Ravette has lived her eleven years of life with a deformity known as genu recurvatum, which loosely translates as “backward-bending knee.” It is a congenital dislocation of the knee. Ravette     struggled to walk, to sit in a car or chair, to climb a staircase, and even to attend school. The most remarkable thing about Ravette, however, is not her deformity. It is her beautiful, ever-constant smile. No matter what goes on, even if it’s painful or tedious, Ravette is always smiling. This glowing smile illuminated her face when she met Dr. Frank Haydon, a Mercy Ships volunteer orthopedic surgeon from the United States. 

Dr. Frank smiled back as he cast an expert eye over her legs and made his assessment: “At this age, the knees are now deformed and won’t bend normally, but we can make them straight.” Ravette and Vivianne were shown before-and-after images of a boy  named Abel, who came to the ship during the Togo field service. Abel had the same severe case of genu recurvatum. They watched a video of Abel walking down a hallway with straight legs. “It was then that I believed my daughter could really be saved,” said Vivianne.

Prior to surgery, Ravette’s legs were placed in the first of a series of specialty orthopedic casts that would gradually stretch her legs. This process would increase the bendability in her soon-to-be-straightened legs. Surgery has since come and gone for Ravette. Hobbling around the wards with her crutches, she is always finding ways to have fun. Whether she’s playing with the
Paint program on an old computer or mimicking her crew friends’ English in a singsong voice – “I’m fine, ow are yooouu?” – she creates smiles and laughter.

There are many more steps ahead on Ravette’s road to recovery. Gradually and progressively, casts and braces will be removed until the bones are strong enough for Ravette to walk with straight legs  and no assistance. You may be wondering what’s next for Ravette and her mother as they board another plane to go home. Ravette is clear about her plans for the future, as she states firmly, “I want to find a job in an office working on a computer. I will be a boss!” And then she adds, “But, first, I will tell other people who suffer to come on the ship to be saved like me.” Her mother smiles and replies, “Yes, and so they can be saved like me, too.”

Yes, step by step, cast by cast, Ravette is making her way to a brighter future. I couldn't figure out how to give you the newsletter intact, so the words are above, and the picture of Ravette is attached (I think). Hope you enjoy the story. I did. 


[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.]


About Me

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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.