Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mr Willowby's Christmas Tree

Looking for a new tradition? This is my family's favorite Christmas story. I received it as a gift in 1963 and we have been reading it ever since. I posted this last year but too late for most people to obtain a copy. This year we are set and ready to go. The family will love it. And for the reader it is a chance to use their stage voices as they express each of the characters.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree is the story of a man who purchased a giant beautiful Christmas tree that was too tall so he chopped off the top. And, the top continued to be chopped and was passed along to many families until it finally reached a little mouse family. It is a wonderful story of surprises, delight, and making the most of what you have, and being happy! The illustrations make the story AND they are now IN COLOR. Imagine that...

Amazon has both the original black and white drawing and new versions available and both have the same story and illustrator so take your pick. They also have the "look inside" feature if you would like more information.

It just wouldn't be Christmas without Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Toys for Tots

"Since beginning the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program in 1947, Marines have distributed more than 452 million toys to more than 209 million needy children. This charitable endeavor has made U.S. Marines the unchallenged leader in looking after less fortunate children at Christmas."


This information was taken from the Marine Toys for Tots website and the history of the organization is a Christmas story in and of itself reminding us that our soldiers serve our communities in so many important ways.  I had to laugh at the start of the organization:

"Toys for tots Began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, USCR and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The idea came form Bill’s wife, Diane. In the fall of 1947, Diane crafted a homemade doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization, which would give it to a needy child at Christmas. When Bill determined that no agency existed, Diane told Bill that he should start one. He did. "  Another reminder of the old saying "behind every good man stands a good woman" and that the Marines just keep making a way where there is no way.

Looking through their website I was throughly impressed.  Did you know they ran a literacy program?  I didn't.  And, their list of corporate sponsors were top of the line.

Christmas is such a wonderful time of year to recognize and acknowledge the generosity of others and be a part of it as we are able. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Salvation Army - Hear the Bells Ringing?

It's that time again... 
We've all seen them and in our bustling shopping schedule it's easy to walk right on by. Sometimes we may throw in some spare change as we pass. This year I got curious to know more about the Salvation Army including it's history and impact. What I found amazed and astounded me and if you have a few minutes I hope you too will take the time to learn a little more about this wonderful organization to whom one of the wives of the McDonald's company thought worthy enough to donate $1.6 billion dollars. I know I will dig a whole lot deeper into my own wallet each time I see a kettle.

The Salvation Army is the Number 1 non-governmental charitable organization in the United States and has locations in 122 countries. They have been feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, on the battle fields, and burying the dead after disasters. In 1906 they were there after the great San Francisco earthquake and more recently have assisted 1.7 million after Hurricane Katrina investing $365 million dollars and countless hours in rebuilding the lives of those affected. The list of where they have been and the help they have given is extensive for more than a century.

Amazon Link
Founded in 1865 in the United Kingdom by William and Catherine Booth as a mission organization to reach out to the alcoholics, drug addicts, and prostitutes. While William preached to those outcasts of society his wife spoke to the wealthy gaining financial support for the work. Surprisingly their work was met with the throwing of rocks, rats, and tar along with assaults on their workers because they were affecting the livelihood of the bars and other individuals who profited off their misery. Read more about the history and current outreach in Wikipedia . In Australia alone the Salvation Army has housed over 30,000 needy children. William's goals were simple: Soup, Soap, Salvation.

His passion and mission has encompassed the world providing food, clothing, and shelter to those in need and rapid response in times of crisis. We have the opportunity to participate in this work simply by taking a moment to pause and donate to the kettles and thrift stores thoughout our communities. The story is exciting and encouraging and never more appropriate than in this season of giving.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

  The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln


Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Clipping Wings

In the last post I mentioned my bird business.  As all of us know ducks are good flyers.  When I would purchase a new hen in order to keep her close to home her wing would be clipped so she could not fly away.  It was an easy operation with a pair of sissors.

When the wing was clipped it would throw off their balance and flying would be difficult if not impossible until the feathers grew back.  By that time they would realize that they had a safe place to live,  food to eat, and water available and would not want to fly away except for possibly a little exercises now and then.  When their babies were hatched they would then teach them to stay home also.  Soon the yard would be full of ducks as they hatched batch after batch. 

An interesting thing about this is that if one were to clip a little off both wings the bird would still be able to fly.  Their balance would be intact and though it might take a bit of getting used to they would not be grounded.  The bird raisers in the readers may enjoy this blog titled Back Yard

As I pondered this I realized that DEBT has very much the same effect.  Whether we get in the situation by choice or perceived necessity soon our freedom to fly is gone.  We rightly believe that we need to continue in a job we may not like to earn the money to pay the bills and may even begin living payday to payday.  Savings dwindle, bigger goals and dreams are set aside or fulfilled by even greater debt.  After a time we have lived so long in debt that we accept it as an inevitable part of of life and may bemoan the state of affairs but not acknowledge the source of the problem.

Freedom.  Such an amazing and precious word. As we look to the skys and watch the birds we are reminded each day.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Learning to fly

One of the most fun and fulfilling times I have had was raising peacocks, ornamental pheasants, and quail along with the chickens and ducks who were the basics of my beginning small business. 

It started when I went to visit my brother more than 30 years prior at a place he lived in Oregon.  He had built his own cabin in the woods, bought a truck, and gotten a horse.  He lived among the timbers.  One of the most memorable sights of the trip was that he had gotten a peacock who roamed freely.  Never had I been so close to one and I was amazed at their beauty.

Little by little my love for birds grew and was kicked into high gear after a visit to small zoo in Honolulu and the museum that contained items from Princess Kaiulani who was  referred to as the Peacock Princess.  So much was her fascination with the birds that they roamed freely throughout the palace grounds and one of  her own dresses was designed and made from royal blue velvet with a bodice of feathers.  In line for the throne her story ended sadly when she died at age 23 of pneumonia.

My own dream continued to grow with first a few chicks, there a chick, and everywhere a chick chick...

The population grew to between 200 - 500 birds and among them was more than a dozen peacocks who once decided to walk down the highway by our home raising the attention of all in the area. The housing was three buildings, brooders, a small incubator and then the leap to my 200 egg incubator.

The overall experience was definately one of the most fun and an opportunity to learn, meet people, be creative, plan, be adventurous, and finally after many mistakes actually begin to make a little money.

The beauty of small business is that it can be custom designed to the one running it and in line with their values, talents, and interests.  Resources abound for learning as long as one does not go faster than their own well rounded knowledge.  Whether one wants to indulge in a hobby or make some extra money the opportunities are as limitless as ones creativity.

Below are photos of some of the varieties I raised.  The males are shown as they are typically the more colorful:


Golden Pheasant

Lady Amhurst Pheasant

Yellow Golden Pheasant

Ringneck Pheasant
Bobwhite Quail

Muscovy Duck

White Peacock

Photos courtesy of google.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Johnny Appleseed

John Chapman was not yet 2 years old when his mother died during childbirth with her third child. His father remarried and he and his second wife had 10 more children. This family of fourteen lived in a poor small home. His father worked three jobs to support them all. John spent much time outdoors exploring the country just to get away from the too crowded home.

Apple cider was a common drink during that period. During the harvest time people would take their apples to the community cider presses where all the juice would be taken out. The seeds and pulp were discarded and Johnny found that he could have them for free. Who would know that free apple seeds would be the beginning of an American legacy? John's mission was one that made American history and still has valuable lessons for today. It started with dreams of apple orchards throughout the land providing food for the new settlers who were moving out west.

At the age of 23 John left the area of his family in Pennsylvania and set out on his own. As the oldest son this would have been an extraordinary move as he would have probably been a big part of helping his parents provide for his younger brothers and sisters. He took not much more than the clothes on his back, a bag of food, and a bag of apple seeds. The year was 1797.

Johnny started walking through the unsettled land. When he found a good spot he would plant an orchard and then move on. Mile after mile he travelled and at some point in his journey he met a young girl with no shoes and he gave her the only pair he had. In order to show their gratitude the family gave him a cooking pot that Johnny wore on his head to protect himself from the elements. On he went planting more orchards along the way and surrounding them with fences made of sticks. He would make the rounds of the various orchards to check their progress and nurture them along the way. When he met travellers he would often give them some seeds so they could take them further West and plant them where they settled.

We know that Johnny covered Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana and bought land to maintain his own orchards. Some stories say he went much farther West but others count that as embellishment of the events. John Chapman was a vegetarian and became an expert in medicinal medicine. At one point he came across an injured Native American, treated the wounds, and carried him on his back to his tribe. As the son of the chief of the tribe this act of kindness went a long way to improve the relationships between the Native Americans and the whites. Johnny Appleseed was welcome wherever he went.

Some of the significant lessons from the life of Johnny Appleseed:
  • Even in extreme poverty our lives can make a difference that will go far beyond our years.
  • Did you notice that Johnny used the free seeds from the cider mills? Look around for your own seeds to begin your small business.
  • He worked in harmony with nature instead of stripping it. Had he lived in this generation he could have been the spokesman for the Green movement and made a fortune in speaking engagements.
  • Johnny combined business with a great love for people thus benefiting all.
There is more to the story and I hope you will rush right out to the library and find out the rest. Don't forget the children's and young adult sections which often have some of the best history books and of course you can actually share them with your kids too!

Photos from google.
First posted October 17, 2010

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Winter comes as a shock to me every year.  Often I have dreamed of living in Hawaii where the seasons change from good to better and the tropical bliss is taken for granted.  Paradise is what they call it and it is a well deserved name.  But, I am in the states where the seasons change and just when my body adjusts to the heat it becomes cold and rainy again.  I don't know why this should continually surprise me except that I am just so anti-winter that each time one is over I attempt to put it out of my mind forever.  I almost convince myself that I can throw away all my sweaters and the temperature drops 20 degrees and I have to dig in the back of my closet.

I KNOW!  That just sounds so silly!  But in honesty that is how my mind works though admitting it can easily cause others to think me nuts.

Yet this is how so many approach their finances.  When they find themselves in the fall and winter of a financial season they moan and groan and are totally unprepared.  They struggle through the downturn without preparation longing for better days to come.  Often they seek assistance from others and most recently the government.  People show up in the millions wanting some sort of subsidy, some sort of relief, and some sort of solution.  All the money they have gained in the earning and income seasons has been spent and none remains. 

Many get angry.  Many get desperate.  Many loose hope.  The generosity of others is pressed to the limit as everyone struggles though the season.

Then a little sunshine is seen measured in economic indicators.  Unemployment levels show improvement, foreclosure rates subside, and hope returns.  People start spending again.  Soon forgotten are the days of cold and misery as we bask in the warmth of better days.  We celebrate with extravagance and spend as if we are making up for lost time.  We lavish treats for the entire family and generosity to others.  Waste is not so bad because we have more than we need.  Risk is seen as a good thing as we pour money into the stock market hoping for a better return.  We leverage our buying power through debt expecting the good days to roll on forever.

There is not a cloud in the sky to damper our mood...  at least until the season changes.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Election Day

I, like most Americans, anxiously await the outcome of the election.  I do not remember one that seemed so supercharged with emotion from both sides.  It has been a long and grueling battle soon to be over but in reality just beginning.  I have remained uncharacteristicly quiet on the subject as I have often been right in the thick of voicing my thoughts around election time and at times have jumped into the  campaigning.

For those who know me or read this blog they may have often picked up my faith in God though I choose to write the blog for the general population so disclose topics that can relate to all without stressing the faith aspects.

Today I would like to take a moment to share what is utmost on my heart and mind regarding America especially for those who profess to have a faith in God.  One of the greatest responsibilities is this:

I cannot help but wonder:  over the past 4 years have we done this faithfully and diligently?  Or, have we just been flapping our mouths to express our disagreements, disputes, or support?  From what I have seen on facebook, heard in the streets, seen in the media, and even in churches it seems like we are doing more of the second than the first.

And, are we ready to PRAY for the next four years regardless of who is elected?
With all the fussing and fighting going on are we missing the very thing that could make the difference?  Are we ready to begin to pray for our leaders whether we view them as a friend or enemy?  It is not President Obama or Mitt Romney that can heal our land.  If we think so then we have already taken God out of the first and rightful place He deserves.

I recognize that my words have the potential of offending both nonChristians and professing Christians but the words of an old hymn come to mind.
Trust and Obey - John Sammis 1887