Saturday, January 31, 2015

Africa Mercy - Ready, Set, Go: One Nurse's Journey

Another post from Marilyn on the Africa Mercy in Madagascar. Cataract surgeries have begun again, and after reading her descriptions, it truly feels like love in action. This dedicated team has their hands full, and moreover, bad weather is headed their way. It's cyclone season in the Indian Ocean!  ----Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

"Ready, set, go"
23 January 2015

Cataract surgeries begin again on Monday! This week has been a
time of preparation--half the team was in Tana screening for more patients, and half the team remained in Tamatave to screen for local patients and to prepare housing for our Tana patients at the Hope Center. We moved 65 mattresses across town in an open truck bed on a rainy day. We got the first load of 17 mattresses moved just before the rains started, and we were able to move the rest during an intermission in the rain around midday. At least our patients won't have to sleep on wet mattresses! The next day, we needed to shop for linens and dinnerware for 60 people. Can you believe we accomplished it in three stops? 

It truly was a week of many small blessings. Next week, it will feel so good to be underway with cataract surgeries--that's what we came for. It seems like I've heard a lot of inspiring stories lately from elsewhere around the ship. I heard of one young boy who wouldn't smile at first. He went through surgery rather stoically, but didn't interact with others much at all. Then another young boy with the same problem was admitted, and before you know it, the first lad was befriending the second, and now they are great pals, playing all around the ward, shyness forgotten.
At the Hope Center, where patients go to live while they continue
their physical therapy or dressing changes after surgery, there was another young boy, maybe age seven. His caretaker was his
grandmother, but she wasn't very nice to him. He was an unhappy
little guy who wasn't putting much effort into recovery. The staff
of the Hope Center started intentionally loving the grandmother, and she really mellowed. The boy perked up, started working on his therapy, and is now happily riding a Big Wheel.

Then there was the little girl, maybe aged 4, who was the caregiver for her mother. The Hope Center didn't have running water that day (it happens a lot there), so the little girl was trying to lug a pail of water up the stairs, one step at a time. One of our team stopped to help her. At the top of the steps, Kelly asked the little girl which way to go, but she didn't understand. Kelly took the pail in one hand and took the girl's hand in the other. The lights came on, the grin spread from ear to ear, and she led the way to her mother's bed.

Not all the stories are happy, of course. I'm thinking of an old couple who came to the eye clinic for screening this week. The woman was completely blind, but unfortunately, it wasn't due to cataracts, and we couldn't help her. The man couldn't see very well, but his problem, too, wasn't something we could fix. It was hard to deliver such news, but the reason they stay in my mind as the graciousness of their response. They thanked us quietly, and the old man gently led his wife out the door. His kindness to her touched my heart.

It is cyclone season here. Last week a tropical storm crossed Madagascar to join a rather large cyclone, not far from us out in the Indian Ocean. It could have had a significant impact on us, but fortunately, it headed in the other direction. We did get some pretty good swells, though, that broke a few of our mooring lines. Now the captain has announced a new weather pattern nearby that is predicted to produce even larger swells by Sunday. We may need to anchor offshore for a few hours to ride it out--it's safer than being too near the concrete dock. In the event of an imminent cyclone threat, we would need to suspend surgeries, transfer the existing patients to the Hope Center, along with some nurses to care for them, and take the ship north, out of the path of the storm. February could be an interesting month around here!

Perhaps, next time I'll have some stories from our cataract patients. I'm looking forward to that.


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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Very Inspiring Blogger Award: Thanks! And Here Are My Nominees

My thanks to Deanie Humphrys-Dunne for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. 

Tales Of Sweetbriar CoverDeanie is a published children's author and you can learn more about Deanie at her blog, where she writes about her books and recent events, and gives writing hints. Her website lists her books and I urge all horse lovers out there to check it out. Her Tails of Sweetbrier (yes, the book jacket is illustrated) was winner of the Silver Medal in the Feathered Quill Book Awards! (2014). 

Deanie asked that I mention three things that inspired me during the past few weeks.

  • I've been reading IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond and was inspired to try Flash Fiction after reading one of the chapters. I had been editing my WIP for so long I wasn't sure if there was a creative bone left in me. To my surprise out came a scene for a new book I had been mulling over. Now that's inspiration!
  • My husband built a Scottish wall! We had a large rock pile that we had recently inherited with the purchase of our new home. Now for a guy who hates outdoor yard work I thought that's pretty amazing. If he can do that, I thought..........I can do (?????). Inspiring.
  • A small furry friend comes to my door almost daily. She's white and black all over and purrs lovingly whenever I pick her up. I do not have a pet, but this sweet little cat is the next best thing. She's one of three hangar cats that live in the neighborhood, and she wanders freely from home to home (or hangar to hangar). I admit she's been in my home from time to time and I heard recently that another neighbor gave her a ham bone. We all love her and she's brought me a lot of joy lately, as I sorely desire a pet. So I guess if there is such a thing as an animal giving inspiration, she is definitely it! are my nominees: (Dixie) (Birgit) (Suzanne) (Eclectic Alli) (Donna) (Tyrean) (Catherine) (Crystal)

These bloggers have been an inspiration to me. I have enjoyed their insights, encouragement, humor, and shared stories.

Rules for the Nominees:
1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog.
2. Display the award logo.
3. Nominate 15 other bloggers (more or less) and provide a link where they may be found.
4. Go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated.
5. Mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks.

Celebrate the Small Things: A Writer's Poem?

Excerpt from "Voices of the Night, Prelude" by Henry W. Longfellow, 1839

Sunlight In Deep Green Forest

. . . "Before me rose an avenue
Of tall and sombrous pines;
Abroad their fan-like branches grew,
And, where the sunshine darted through,
Spread a vapor soft and blue,
In Long and sloping lines.

And, falling on my weary brain, 
Like a fast-falling shower, 
The dreams of youth came back, again--
Low lispings of the summer rain, 
Dropping on the ripened grain,
As once upon the flower.

Visions of childhood! Stay, oh, stay!
Ye were so sweet and wild!

And distant voices seemed to say,
"It cannot be! They pass away!
Other themes demand thy lay;
Thou art no more a child!

. . . "Athwart the swinging branches cast,
Soft rays of sunshine pour;
Then comes the fearful wintry blast;
Pallid lips say, 'It is past!
We can return no more!'

"Look, then, into thine heart, and write!
Yes, into Life's deep stream!
All forms of sorrow and delight,
All solemn Voices of the Night,
That can soothe thee, or affright--
Be these henceforth thy theme."

Keep on writing . . . 

Thank you Lexa Cain for hosting this blog hop!
And co-hosts: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge  
and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

National Book Awards: Young People's Literature 2014

Brown Girl Dreaming


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Ages: 10 up


--Threatened by Eliot Schrefer. Publisher, Scholastic Press, 2014. Ages: 12 up

--The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin. Publisher, Roaring Brook Press, 2014. Ages: 10-14


--Noggin by John Corey Whaley. Publisher, Atheneum Books for 
Young Readers, 2014. 
Ages: 14-17

--Revolution by Deborah Wiles. Publisher, Scholastic Press, 2014. 
The Sixties Trilogy. Ages: 8-12

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Classics - Opening Lines: White Fang by Jack London"Dark Spruce frowned on either side of the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean toward each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land."      Published 1906

I love the classics and plan to share some "opening lines" over the coming months. Comment if you like, or read for inspiration. Writing styles were different then, but were they really?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: Chocolate, Fresh Air, and A Little Progress

Someone had me in mind when the announcement was made that dark chocolate is good for us, not that it made any difference. I already knew it was good for the mood, just wasn't sure about the body. Today I'm thankful I can eat small amounts without any side effects. Boy did it ever give me pimples and terrible cramps once a month when I was younger. Age does have its benefits. The other day I splurged and shared a can of chocolate covered Almond Roca with my husband. Was it ever good. Apparently, I have zero will power when it comes to chocolate.

  • Fresh air under a bright blue sky,  temperature in the fifties, one afternoon outdoors. Daffodils were coming up in pots in my garden shed. Geese overhead in the sky, honking noisily. Have never seen V-formations so large.  
  • A little progress on the book. Still tinkering with the final chapter and getting ready to submit. Spent time exploring Query Tracker. Just out of curiosity has anyone had good results with this site? Did you find an agent or publisher?     

Have a Nice Weekend!


Thank you Lexa Cain for hosting this blog hop!
And co-hosts: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge  
and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Africa Mercy - Time Goes By: One Nurse's Journey

Marilyn's journey on the Africa Mercy continues. She describes a visit to an orphanage - "Grins were priceless," she writes.  ------Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

9 Jan 2015

Time goes by...but nothing changes.  We still don't know how this field service is going to go for the eye team.  I feel like I'm waiting for the second shoe to drop...and waiting...and waiting.

We have finished the first week of screening in the capital city of Tana, where we had hoped to find an abundance of patients.  They were not abundant...but not so scarce that we need to close down the program--at least, not yet.  Usually, the first day of screening brings out the biggest crowds, but for our first day in Tana, only about 120-150 people showed up, and only 6 of them qualified for surgery.

Discouraging!  But, on the second day, approximately 400 people came, and the number of surgeries doubled.  On the third day, fewer people came, but more of them were surgical candidates, bringing our scheduled surgeries to a total of 42.  I haven't heard yet how the fourth day(today) went.

It's surprising that the numbers are increasing each day instead of decreasing.  Forty-two is not even one week's worth of surgeries, but if the numbers keep on increasing, we may yet find enough patients to keep our surgeons gainfully employed.  Or not.  It is really hard to predict at this point.

We were supposed to begin surgeries on January 19th, one week from now, but they've decided to delay the start-up for another week.  That way, our second week of screening in Tana has a chance of filling the surgery schedule far enough ahead so that we don't run out of patients in mid-week.  Meanwhile, the container with the mattresses for the Hope Center arrived today, so perhaps that will solve the problem of where to house our Tana patients for the two nights they are in town.  I haven't heard if the transportation issues have been worked out yet or not.  I certainly hope so!  Slowly, slowly, the pieces fall into place--pretty much at the last minute, it seems to me.

Meanwhile, those of us who didn't go to Tana had an interesting week here.  Some of our time was spent doing the tasks normally done by the people who were screening in Tana--doing check-ups on patients who had surgery before Christmas, screening random people who showed up at the clinic hoping for surgery in the future.  A couple of days, though, we were able to do some extra things.  One day we went to a nursing home and gave the folks there some reading glasses.  They seemed really pleased to get them.  It was lovely to see how the staff worked with the residents there--so much kindness.

The highlight of the week, though, was our trip to an orphanage for mentally and physically handicapped kids.  We couldn't do much for them, but we briefly examined their eyes and then gave each one of them some cute sunglasses.  There was a mirror in the room we were using, so we'd take them to the mirror to see how they looked.  The grins were priceless.  One little girl went prancing out of the room like a movie star--she knew she looked good!

Next week will again be a combination of post-op checkups and screening, both at the clinic and in a couple of towns outside of Tamatave.  We're still just rolling along, doing the best we can to find patients and to bring a little light and good cheer to the people we meet along the way.

The future?  Well, stay tuned...


  Marilyn Neville

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Classics - Opening Lines: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."     Published 1859

I love the classics and plan to share some "opening lines" over the coming months. Comment if you like, or read for inspiration. Writing styles were different then, but were they really?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: The Cure for Yesterday Is Today

"I have no Yesterdays,
Time took them away.
Tomorrow may not be,
But I have Today"

----Pearl Yeadon McGinnis

Well, we DO have the memories of those yesterdays, but point taken.We cannot turn back the clock. One memory I cherish is of my family in the above photo, taken at a recent wedding. A good title I think would simply be "love." What do you think? It still warms my heart to see it.  

I hope you have a good day. Or if this is your day's end, ask yourself, did you move one step forward, several maybe? Great! A goal achieved. Maybe it wasn't a 'task day' at all, but a 'people day'. Perhaps you didn't budge at all but sat with a sick child all day or cared for an ailing parent, spouse or friend. Whatever your moment in time, I hope it was one of your best days. 

Have a Nice Weekend Everyone!

Thank you Lexa Cain for hosting this blog hop!
And co-hosts: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge  
and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Young Reader's Choice Awards: 2014

The YRCA is the oldest children's choice award in the U.S. and Canada. Sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association (rep. Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington; Alberta and British Columbia), the award was first established in 1940 by Harry Hartman, a book seller in Seattle. He believed that every child deserved the opportunity to read a book that gave them pleasure. Award nominations come from children, teachers, parents and librarians. 


--Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney, series "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." (Harry N. Abrams, 2011) 

--The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan, series "Heroes of Olympus." (Disney-Hyperion, reprint, 2013) 


--Divergent by Veronica Roth, Book 1.
(Katherine Tegen Books, 2011)



Junior Division (12 under)

--Cabin Fever - Jeff Kinney (Harry N. Abrams, 2011) 

--Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, 2011)

--13 Gifts - Wendy Mass (Scholastic Inc., 2013) 

--Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life - James Patterson (Little, Brown and Company; Reprint, 2012)

--Darth Paper Strikes Back - Tom Angleberger (Harry N. Abrams, 2011)

--The Last Council - Kazu Kibuishi ("Amulet" series, GRAPHIX, 2011)

--Big Nate Out Loud - Lincoln Peirce (
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2011)

--The Medusa Plot - Gordon Korman ("The 39 Clues" series, Scholastic Incl, 2011)


Middle Division (mostly 12 up) 

--The Son of Neptune - Rick Riordan ("Heroes of Olympus" series, (Disney-Hyperion, reprint, 2013)
--Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys (Speak, 2012)

--Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Press, 2011)

--Okay for Now - Gary D. Schmidt (HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint, 2013)

--The Outcasts - John Flanagan ("Brotherband Chronicles." Puffin; Reprint, 2012)

--Legend - Marie Lu (Speak; reprint, 2013)

--Michael Vey: the Prisoner of Cell 25 - Richard Paul Evans (Simon Pulse/Mercury Ink; Reprint, 2012)

--This Dark Endeavor - Kenneth Oppel (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint, 2012)

Senior Division (teen)

--Divergent - Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books, 2011)
--Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books; Reprint, 2013)

--Angel: a Maximum Ride Novel - James Patterson (Little, Brown and Company, 2012)

--Tiger's Curse - Colleen Houck (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014)

--What Happened to Goodbye - Sarah Dessen (Speak (April 9, 2013)

--Ruby Red - Kerstin Gier (Trilogy-Book 1; Square Fish, Reprint,  2012)

--Ready Player One - Ernest Cline (Broadway Books, 2012)

--Karma - Cathy Ostlere (Razorbill; Reprint, 2012)

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Classics - Opening Lines: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further outdoor exercise was now out of the question."      Published 1847

I love the classics and plan to share some "opening lines" over the coming months. Comment if you like, or read for inspiration. Writing styles were different then, but were they really?

Sharon M. Himsl

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

Friday, January 9, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: Chisel in Hand

 "It is well with me only when I have a chisel in my hand."   Michelangelo

I have never seen the works of Michelangelo. Have you? I would dearly love to see his Pieta and David, or his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Heck, I just want to see Rome and that part of the world, period. Someday....

 I was first introduced to this artist in Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy. I wonder how many of you remember this novel. It was like reading one of James Michener's novels. Seven hundred pages plus and you were lost in thought for weeks at a time. Did you know that Michelangelo was also a talented poet, architect and engineer? He was truly a Renaissance man. 

Reading the above quote I also thought of the commonality of all artists (yes, YOU), the desire to create something from the heart. Whether it be with chisel, pen, pencil, paint brush, chalk, keyboard, needle, scissor, chisel, fiddle, voice, or makes no difference how we go about it, the goal is to create something memorable and worthwhile. And it's true, isn't it? We are more complete when we do.


Thank you Lexa Cain for hosting this blog hop!
And co-hosts: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge  
and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

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.