Friday, December 28, 2018

Going Solo by Roald Dahl: Book Review

Going SoloTitle: Going Solo
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Publisher: Puffin Books, 1988, YA up
Pages: 210

Believe it or not, this was my first Roald Dahl book. Lucky me, it was geared more for adults, as I found the book in a Roald Dahl collection for children. Wonderful read. I highly recommend this memoir. 

Dahl tells the story of his life as a young twenty-something British employee in east Africa working for the Shell Company. The adventures with his sometimes dangerous surroundings and the people he meets along the way are daring enough, but with the outbreak of World War II, his life turns on a dime. 

With minimal training, he finds himself flying all makes of planes for the Royal British Air Force in active combat against incredible odds. Few in his squad survive. Told with humor in great detail you will laugh and marvel he even survived. He was one very "green" pilot. 


Sharon M. Himsl
Published: Evernight Teen 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Celebrate the Small Things - Christmas Chores

--I finished my Christmas letter yesterday. The cards are stacking up, nearly ready. I always breathe a sigh of relief when it's over. 

I hate to call it a chore, but it's a lot of work and there are all those added handwritten notes you have to write. I'm not faithful every year. I missed last year. We were just too busy getting my mother moved into her new place.

--Email greetings. I have family in Norway and write special letters to them. Thank goodness, I can do translations with Google Translate Some of my relatives barely speak English.

--Decorations. About all I'm going to do. No tree this year but I have plenty of other Christmas do-dads to pretty up the rooms. I might pull out the Christmas village.

--Outdoor decorations. Sorry, just a wreath and a "Merry Christmas" door hanger, but I do admire my relatives who could easily win a contest.

--Presents mailed. Yay for Amazon Prime. An hour away for shopping is no problem at all. I go to my computer and can order just about anything, even gift wrap. Please "Mr. Government" don't take my Amazon away. I can afford this service at the current rate. I heard somewhere that Amazon was under attack by the administration. 

--Christmas gift to Vince and me this year is coming - A 55 gallon aquarium and stand! Can't wait for it to arrive. Then it's off to the pet store for our new pets. I'll post pictures after it's all set up. 


To join "Celebrate the Small Things, visit Lexa Cain's blog

Co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge 
Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

Sharon M. Himsl
Published: Evernight Teen 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Gifts I Have Loved - The Singing Teapot

Gifts come in many forms, big and small. Many I have forgotten over the years, but some stand out in my memories, and many I still have. A singing teapot is one of them.

It was Christmastime and we were exchanging gifts at my job, where I worked as a Service Representative for General Telephone. In those days you called the phone company and ordered service. I was was one of many you might reach in the Moscow, Idaho region. 

There were sixty of us. Holiday and birthday parties were celebrated all day, so some of us could man the phones. My turn finally came to open my gift , and I don't even remember who gave me the teapot, but I loved it right off.  You tipped it over to serve tea and it played Christmas music. Neat!

Years passed and apparently the battery had failed. The teapot no longer played music. I liked it though and decided to display it on a glass shelf in our china cabinet as a keepsake. Suddenly it began playing music randomly throughout the year. When I lifted it up though, the music would stop. Strange. Nothing. Again and again, it would play randomly. 

It became a family mystery. A visitation by a ghost, an angel? We didn't know. I just knew we loved it. We finally concluded it was vibration on the floor when someone walked by the china cabinet that caused it to play. Logic dictated this but the music was never consistent and sometimes we heard it playing in bed.

Frankly, it's still somewhat of a mystery. Any ideas?

Today I can get it to play if I tilt the pot just right, but we are in a different home now and nothing else triggers the music. So far... 

Hear for yourself:


Sharon M. Himsl
Published: Evernight Teen 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wise Words.... No Better Time Than Christmas

I was about to hit the 'send' button. I'd spent a good deal of time wording and re-wording my disappointment in a group I had briefly participated in. Someone in the group had put together a survey asking for feedback as to the future of the group. 

Evening meeting times were my biggest complaint, as I live an hour out of town and didn't like traveling back home in the dark during winter. As a result, I never got to know the people in this group very well. Was it any wonder they treated me like a stranger when I did come? Yet suddenly, this became my biggest complaint. I did not feel welcome in the group, I complained on the form. I added a carefully worded paragraph restating my impression.

My husband, who shares an office with me, leaned over, and said, "What's you doing?" He got an earful. Always thoughtful, and slow to respond, he calmly said, "You don't want to send that if the group is important to you." 

And of course he was right. The group would never treat me the same again if I did. They would feel bad that they had made someone feel unwelcome. To be fair, friendship takes time. My real problem was not being able to attend more. I reworded my comment and told them the group was important to me and about my problem driving home in the dark. It was a kinder response and left the door open for a solution. Not sure how this will turn out but I feel better.

Publilius Syrus got it right in the quote above. Holding your tongue is not easy for most of us, but it can mean living with "no regrets" later when we do. Among family, with friends, in the office, and doing business out and about, our words have the power to impact others negatively and positively. I tend to be bolder with the pen than in person and sometimes forget. Today was another reminder.  But hey, I'm going to forgive myself. This is the season of forgiveness after all. And there is no better time than Christmas to reflect on this, when we are faced with holiday gatherings and festivities we may or may not appreciate. There is  continued unrest in our countries of residence and elsewhere. Within our lives and without, there is plenty to upset and isolate us from others. I'm going to concentrate on the message of love and forgiveness instead that Christmas represents. This is true peace.

On another note...
I'm still trying to figure out the Christmas tree thing. We no longer have an artificial tree and I'm resisting the urge to buy another one that costs more than $300 if you want one that doesn't shed. I do enjoy these trees, fresh ones even more, with all the decorations and that wonderful, reminiscent scent of Christmas past, but I can see these stores who choose to celebrate Christmas, my church, Mother's retirement home, and neighborhood yards with lighted trees. Someday I wouldn't mind doing a survey. Fresh only or artificial? Did you stop having one when your children left home? Maybe I'll get a few answers here.  


Sharon M. Himsl
Published: Evernight Teen 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Call the Midwife: A Nice BBC Series

I love Christmas movies and have watched several already.  I like that they end happily and leave me with an 'all's right with the world' kind of feeling. Come to think of it, the reason for celebrating Christmas, Christ's birth, does the same if you believe and embrace this miraculous story. 

Occasionally I find a series on TV, in my case, on Netflix, that equally warms the heart, so much so I am brought to tears. 'Call the Midwife' is one such series. Set in the 1950s and early 1960s Britain, the series follows the lives of four young midwives and four nuns who assist and supervise them in the delivery of babies and female care.

When the convent phone rings for a midwife, they hop on their bicycles and ride to east London's poorest district, where families are packed in like sardines. They get an earful and eyeful about love and marriage at such a tender age. All in their 20s, they are pretty naive, barely women themselves.

Based on the best-selling memoirs of Jennifer Worth, their stories are told in Jenny's voice, narrated by Vanessa Redgrave. It's a marvelous adaptation of a memoir to the screen. I dearly look forward to watching it, often while on my treadmill wearing headphones. A physical workout and a delightful mental retreat all packaged in one. I highly recommend it!

Sharon M. Himsl
Published: Evernight Teen 
The Shells of Mersing

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Hide Me Please: Reflective Time Restores the Writer Soul


We all need time to unwind .... and re-wind, especially after a flurry of activity. As life often does, it interrupts, takes you on unexpected paths, sometimes fun detours that give you an abundance of writing material for the future. No regrets. 

Family, friends, and unexpected activities that interrupt take my hand and pull me in various directions for awhile. All good, all good. Helping Mom with an arthritis fare-up. Did you know that wrapping up in an electric heated blanket works wonders? Meeting up with friends recently, talking of old as we always do. Touring a magical Christmas store in Tri-Cities, complete with live reindeer and traditional Christmas music. Shopping online and finishing my Christmas shopping for faraway family, a first to be so early. All good, all good.

But when the dust settles after such activities, there is a part of me that wants to retreat, to hide out for awhile and reflect. I find myself sitting in front of or staring out the window. I revisit a clip board I use to sketch writing ideas. There to my surprise I find a scene I'd written for my novel, forgotten but safely tucked away, waiting for my return. I begin sketching an introduction to a nonfiction book I'm working on and wonder if it would also work as an inspirational talk for young adults. Can I do this? I wonder. Much to think about as always, much to do.

Warm Wishes for a Merry Christmas! And may there be moments of reflection too that nurture your soul along the way in this busy, busy season of life. 


Sharon M. Himsl
Published: Evernight Teen 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Africa Mercy - What Gratitude Looks Like: One Nurse's Journey

My friend Marilyn continues to give of her time and life on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels up and down the coast of Africa. Her email post is a bit dated, but it is never too late to reflect on Thanksgiving and being thankful. As Marilyn says below: "Gratitude is a constant theme around here, so much so that it starts to feel normal and expected."

2018-11-24 Thanksgiving and kids
It’s a long weekend for us on the ship. We don’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving, but since the largest people-group is American, they did contrive to serve turkey, dressing, and
cranberry sauce for supper. Then there was a party in midships, everyone invited. Assorted people shared desserts that they’d made to celebrate. We also celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving in October, again unofficially. Thanksgiving is a lovely holiday no matter when you celebrate. 

 I went to the Hope Center yesterday to play with the kids. The Ponsetti program is in full swing, so we have lots of kids with bowed legs or knock knees who are in the process of being straightened. Walking with both legs in full length casts can be a bit tricky, but it doesn’t slow them down much. They especially delighted in the balloon animals that one crew member made for them. Personalities quickly emerged: One boy wanted two, then two more, then two more…all with a twinkle in his eye and a big grin, even when we told him no. One boy had casts on both arms and hands, but he tried very hard to grab a balloon out of the box. When he dropped the balloon I gave him, he quickly knelt down and picked it up off the floor with his teeth. Resourceful lad. One shy girl just looked longingly; she lit up like a Christmas tree when we gave her one, too. One girl was a bit of a bully, bossing others around and taking her turn first when she could. They certainly had different strategies, but they were all eager to participate, and they all stayed cheerful even when we set limits. No pouting, no tears, no sense of entitlement. They teach a good lesson to live in the moment, be grateful for what comes your way, and don’t covet what you don’t have. 
Work has settled into a rhythm and goes along without a lot of drama these days. I have scheduled almost 600 people for surgery, half of our goal for the field service. So, we’re pretty much on target. Most of the people do show up for surgery as scheduled, but of course some can’t come because of illness or a death in the family. (We try to reschedule them.) I turn many away due to blood pressure or blood sugar problems, with instructions to get it sorted and come back. Most of them do, so maybe we’ve been a double blessing to them, if they continue to take care of their hypertension or diabetes as we have instructed them. 

Conakry is still experiencing a fair amount of unrest. There are demonstrations several days a week, obstructing traffic, sometimes closing businesses for the day. Some of our day crew and patients live in dangerous neighborhoods, but for the most part, the unrest doesn’t impact Mercy Ships, even the off-ship locations for dentistry and eye clinic. I still haven’t figured out what all the unrest is about—is it just the opposing party trying to unseat the president, or are there specific grievances that could be addressed? Most likely, it’s both. 

Christmas season is almost upon us. It is a wonderful, joyous time on the ship, celebrating traditions from several countries, and free from the commercialism we experience at home. I'm looking forward to it. -- 

Marilyn Neville
2018-11-03, What gratitude looks like Gratitude is a constant theme around here, so much so that it starts to feel normal and expected. And then something over-the- top happens to remind me how thankful all our patients are, and how much they tell us so in words, smiles, tears, hugs, handshakes, songs, and prayers. I had one of those over-the-top events yesterday. An old woman, formerly blind, spent her time and resources for the six weeks following her surgery to make fans for a couple of us, a gift of thanksgiving. It must have taken her many hours; you can feel the love and gratitude woven into every thread. I’ve attached a picture so that you can see how intricate and beautiful the work truly is. 

 It humbles me to receive this gift. I personally have done so little for her—I typed a few things Hopefully I at least smiled and greeted her warmly. (I don’t always…it gets pretty busy, and I neglect the least “essential” but most important thing.) But of course, the gift is not so much for me personally; it is an expression of gratitude to Mercy Ships for the restoration of her sight, and hopefully, to God as the true source of blessing, without whom Mercy Ships could not succeed.

It’s not just the patients that God blesses through Mercy Ships. He uses this ministry to bless the volunteers who come to serve. In fact, his shovel is much bigger than my teaspoon when it comes to dishing out the blessings. Perhaps I, too, need to weave a symbol of my gratitude…but lacking the artistic talent to make a fan, perhaps I’ll just need to weave with words instead.

Speaking of words…I listened to the Celebration of Sight being translated from French into Soussou and Pular yesterday. As I listened to the babble of meaningless sounds that obviously meant something to others, I once again marveled at the gift of speech. Isn’t it amazing? We twist our tongues and lips and breathe through our vocal cords…and convey ideas, even abstract and complex ideas, to one another. When you understand the language, you think about the meaning of what’s being said, not about the vehicle of language itself. Yesterday allowed me to be an outside observer of speech, and it is really quite remarkable. The same can be said about written language. How is it that all these squiggles on the page convey meaning to you? But since God has indeed enabled us to interpret language in squiggle form as well as speech, I’ll use these squiggles to weave my symbol of gratitude to God. He has indeed blessed me abundantly, and I am grateful. Receiving the fan yesterday reminded me of how much I have to be grateful for, and how important it is to say so.

Sharon M. Himsl
Published: Evernight Teen 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

IWSG: Reflecting on my Writing Life

How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

Bear with me. I start with the negatives but end on a positive note. I've been writing for many years now, but only recently was my fiction published. I actually found a publisher (a small press). 

Initially, I was over the moon excited, as only my nonfiction had been published before, and this was the novel I'd spent 10 years rewriting. Out of the gate sales were okay I guess, but then dropped to practically nothing. (It's been 16 months). 

Now I'm wondering what (if anything) I did wrong. The publisher did do some marketing, but most it would seem depended upon my efforts. I hear other writers complain about their low sales and wonder. What are normal sales anyway? I've followed all of the online advice, setting up a Blog, Twitter, FB, Instagram and have spent an enormous amount of time learning the process. 

Allowed to fester, this kind of thinking gets me in a rut. I contemplate silly things like:

--My profile photo online. Should I smile more and look less serious? Maybe a caricature would be better. How about a younger photo?    
--Embarrassment. I committed to doing the NaNo this November, but now I'm so pitifully behind, it's a 'why bother'. 
--Feeling like I'm in a popularity contest. Why did "they" get so many reviews? Why did "they" get so many visits and comments at their blog?  Oh....the road to jealousy is a bad one, folks.
--Blog overhaul. Should I go with a different color? A new theme? Would it be more energizing? Would it generate sales? Do ads even work?

This kind of thinking feels like such a time waster. Feeling sorry for one's self never accomplishes much, other than to rewind and start all over again.Thankfully, I'm too busy to linger long. The best therapy is really to get back to work....whatever the task at hand is. 

Truth is, I enjoy writing. When I wrote a garden column for our local newspaper this summer at zero pay, I didn't mind. I had always wanted to write about gardening. I've gained confidence as a writer over the years. A younger me would have felt unqualified to write for a newspaper. As an academic editor (now retired), I learned the importance of "less is more." Academic writers tend to be overly verbose and I got pretty good at red-inking their manuscripts. If nothing else, I learned that 'rough' drafts are indeed that--they always need work. 

Freelancing with an educational publisher later helped me stay focused on the topic at hand. I tend to wander in my thoughts, easily distracted with the details. I still have a certain editor's voice in my head ("stay on target"/"keep your focus). I learned how to research history too, at the library and online when it was still the wild, wild internet west. We have so much data available today. It's almost scary. I've done quite a bit of pioneer women's history at my blog as a result. 

I'm more reflective these days and find myself wanting to write poetry. 

View of sunset from author's home.

I'm a slow writer but I'm okay with that. I tend to be a perfectionist and like the results. I've been reading a book about happiness. It talks about the importance of the three P's in life: Purpose, Pride and Pleasure. I took a little quiz and I came up short on having enough pleasure in my life. I recently returned to church, which should help, as socialization is key to finding healthy pleasure. I fully understand the other P's. Purpose and Pride in what I do are important to me. Right now, I'm helping my mother write her memoirs and it's taking precedence over my current novel. She's 93 and I love being able to honor her in this way. I'm learning so much about our family too.

Last but not least, I found a better way to connect with the IWSG group. Turns out Facebook is an easy way to connect with other members (as opposed to the blog-o-sphere). Members responded quickly to a question I had asked recently about autographing books. Linking my blog post to FB and IWSG site will help promote this post too. There is always a learning curve isn't there? I'm looking forward to connecting with more writers in this group. I live in a rural community, an hour's drive to any writers' groups. IWSG is starting to fill that void.

Sharon M. Himsl
Published: Evernight Teen 

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.