Sunday, March 28, 2010

Diamonds Are A Family's Best Friend

I haven't worked on my WIP much the last two days but I have a terrific excuse. I'm not even going to call it an excuse but rather a very good reason. For the last four years, Lower Dauphin High School has hosted a mini-thon to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund.

I know Four Diamonds isn't known to everyone but if you live in Pennsylvania you probably heard of it. If you attended Penn State University, you've heard of it. If you know a child who was treated at Hershey Medical Center for cancer, you've heard of it.

Every year the students at Penn State hold a dance-athon and raise money to support the Four Diamond. They raise millions of dollars to insure no parents will ever have to worry about paying for medical bills if their child is being treated for cancer at the medical center. A few years ago many local high schools joined the efforts by holding shorter versions of the thons held by PSU.

For twelve hours starting Friday night at 7:00 the students at Lower Dauphin danced, play sports tournaments, cooked, played video and board games and had fun. What they didn't do was sit down, sleep or forget their reasons for being there. The theme posted all about the school was FTK, for the kids. As a teacher and parent I can't tell you what it meant to see those young people giving their time, suffering minor discomforts and understanding how lucky they are to be healthy and able to help someone else. If you had been there you would all have wanted my job and understood why I love teaching teenagers.

Many parents volunteered to chaperon, donate food and of course helped their students in raising over $25,000 and still counting incoming donations. A few of us stayed up all night with the kids and at my age, I know I'll never get those hours of sleep back and my feet have yet to forgive me, but I wouldn't have missed it.

If you have children in school, check out your district and see if they do anything like this. If they do, I hope you'll find a way to help. For The Kids.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

All Dogs Go to Heaven

It's been a while since I blogged but it's been one of those weeks. Not everyone is a pet lover but those who are know the joy of unrestrained love and loyalty from a warm, furry friend.

We moved to our current location fourteen and one half years ago. Our first summer here, my son asked for a puppy for his birthday. We wanted a large dog but one with a reputation for gentleness and intelligence.

I have a dear friend in the dog business and she warned me against golden and Labrador retrievers who have been vastly over bred due to their popularity. Not that there aren't wonderful examples of those breeds out there but they would probably be out of my price range. By some chance of luck we saw someone with a Chesapeake bay retriever at a baseball game. The proud carriage and settled behavior of the dog convinced us. We lucked upon a breeder who had one litter being raised in his own home.

We drove into the mountains and selected a male with reddish brown curly hair. His official name was Gunner and he had a long line of police working forefathers in his pedigree. Gunner is no name for a family dog. In our house nicknames are used more than real names. Within hours my stepson dubbed our new puppy, Schrambie. Most of the time we called him Schram. The vet had fun with that one.

Schram would have turned 14 in April. On Tuesday he didn't eat but he had been doing that once in a while over the last year. But then he didn't eat on Wednesday morning either though he was still drinking. I worried about him while at work and when I returned home, he didn't want to get up at all. I carried water to him and he drank some and looked more alert.

He didn't seem in discomfort so we took turns sitting with him. His conditioned worsened throughout the night and at times I wished I had taken him to the vet. But he was afraid of the doctor's office so I put it off.

I knew by two in the morning he was never going to wake up again. I stayed up all night and woke my daughter at 5:30 to say her farewells. Schram had become her dog after my son went away to college. Before she got dressed and came down stairs to see him, Schram died. I knew he would want to be at home on his favorite rug and was glad I didn't take him to the vet. It was quick for him and without pain except for us.

I rejoice in 14 years with the most loving, loyal pet in the world. He growled at strangers, fought off any male dog on his territory, let all the female dogs visiting him steal all his toys and he carried more frogs and toads than I can count back to the house. He loved the snow and rain and hated the heat.

There's an empty spot in our house and a scar on our hearts. It's been tough to write this week but I'm at a part of my book where people have to step up and be heroes. They have to be willing to sacrifice everything. Some of them only need to be loyal and stand beside their families and friends through hell and beyond. Perhaps when I can think of him without crying, Schrambie will inspire me to catch the deep emotion I need.

Rest in peace, beloved friend.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quiddle This

As a teacher, mother and writer, I care about words. I've always encouraged my children to read and used every opportunity to expand their vocabulary. We've spend hours as a family playing Scrabble and a few months ago my college son introduced us to a new word game.
I won't go into all the rules or fun but Quiddler is a card game designed for all ages. I warn you, have a dictionary on hand for controversies because in a house full of teenagers it gets pretty competitive. You can get bonus points for longest words, most words and lots of laughs for attempts to sneak those questionable words by your opponents.
We've all heard of the studies about families who eat together and play together. Well, this a great educational way to play together. And it's not a video game. Sit at the kitchen table, put a bowl of chex mix in the middle and have fun.
Turn off the TV and game system and play a good old fashion card game but with an educational twist. Quiddle some new words with your friends and family.

Friday, March 12, 2010

May the Sun Shine on My Friends

I've been the lucky beneficiary of some blog awards from my friends. Some of these wonderful people I only know from our communications online and some are fellow writers belonging to the same writers groups as I do.

Let me put a plug in here for CPRW, my local RWA group. We meet once a month to share knowledge, encourage each other and laugh a lot. The Susquehanna Writers is a sub-group within Pennwriters. Cate Masters glues us together on our blog and honored me with this latest blog award.

Now before you say, enough already with the blog awards, remember how they help link us all together, bring new readers to your blog and remind us to visit our colleagues online often.

The Sunshine Award is perfect for the northeast this weekend since we're supposed to have heavy rain on Saturday and a chance of flooding. Keep the warmth going, think spring and use the rainy days to write and read. If you receive the award, no need to make up funky lies or confess outrageous truths. Just pass it on to up to 12 fellow bloggers.

Vicky Burkholder- she better save a copy of her new release for me

Vicki Smith- she has a very entertaining life

Ava Quinn- I know what she'll be up to when the sun returns

Megan Hart- My daughter tells me Megan looks like a writer and I only look like a mom.

Natalie Damschroder-my 'go to' girl. If you know you know what I mean.

Jemi Fraser- she always has something interesting to say. Where does she find time?

Jarmara Falconer - I hope it doesn't lighten up her dark words too much.

No hurry friends to pass this on but I look forward to seeing who you give it too. I find most of my blog friends through links on other bloggers' pages.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Write Faster!

What really gets the engine fired up for a writer? A new contract, the light at the end of a book, a new contract? For me a lot of different things will keep my butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard.

Last week it was receiving the new cover for my second book in my fantasy series, The Futhark Chronicles. You already heard me squeal about Beyond the Gate. Then I received an unexpected royalty check. Is anything better than that?

Then a member of CPRW, shout out to Joyce, had a great period of writing. Later another member, Elizabeth, had her first sale of a short story. They inspire me.

Today I finally received my print copies of the fourth book in The Chronicles of Solonia, One Good Woman. I've been waiting forever for those to arrive.

All these things, including the light at the end of a book, have kept my word count adding up. One of my students at school told me her mom bought my book and she asked me if I would sign it if she brought it in to school. So I've been writing faster. I have until Saturday to reach my month's goal of 35,000 words. I'm close but I've needed all those little nudges from my colleagues and the mail.

Do you set goals and make them public? Do you usually reach them? What inspires you to write faster?