Category Archives: Education

Flying Across the United States Is A Great Time to Read

I could have watched movies if I had downloaded the United app on my computer or iPhone BEFORE the plane took off. I downloaded it before I boarded to go home, but I was already engaged with Winn-Dixie, and it was more trouble than it was worth to figure out how to use the free movie service.  Books are more accessible.

You  can read Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo in about an hour and a half. Mama Cormier suggested this book because she thought it sounded too similar to the one I am rewriting now. Di Camillo uses a simple style which includes repetition without being unbearable. I enjoyed Opal’s adventures, yet is well-suited to a ten-year old’s reading level. It reminded me of a picture book for younger children only the author used words instead of drawings.

Opal’s mother left her with her preacher-father when she was young. At age ten she and her father moved to a new community.  Opal’s new misfit-type friends made her feel welcome as she introduced them to her new dog found in the grocery store, Winn-Dixie. Opal, in turn, drew these strangers together into her new community, enriching their lives.  I wish I’d written this one!

Because of Winn-Dixie

I finally finished Writing the Breakout Novel by  Donald Maas. I do this every time I sit down to write – read about writing. It makes me indecisive because I start one thing, then hate it, and start over. My manuscript gets chewed up before it even gets halfway done.  Nonetheless, I think it improves some each time. At this point, I haven’t written a good word in a week, which is 1/4th of the time I have to write. I can’t blame that on Donald Maass. This might be a better book to read between writing exercises, rather than during NaNoWriMo. But DO read it.

Writing the Breakout Novel

Finally, Change of Life by Anne Stormont lapsed over into my regular schedule because my iPhone tells me it took five hours to read, and I started it just before we reached San Francisco.

I would have been happy to write this book also. With an enlarged family of characters and only a few outsiders Stormont manages to inflict everything horrible on the heroine that can possibly happen. She does things to that poor woman, that I just couldn’t bear to do in my Girls on Fire novel. She’s not very nice to her husband either. I cried a few tears with her, but I didn’t put the book down until the resolution. I think the worst secret, saved for the last pages might be little overplayed, for today’s reader, but for the time period in which it happened, not so much. Her husband kept the secret until 2009, and by that time, I didn’t think it should have had the painful impact on the heroine that the book seemed to imply that revealing the secret would cause.  I recommend this book, especially for women battling breast cancer. If I  am diagnosed with cancer, I’ll give this book to my husband!

Change of LifeThe other book I started to read, and closed quietly was The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. I thought this book would help me write a successful first page to my new novel, but it drug me all over the writing process.  It would take me an agonizing two hours and fourteen minutes to complete the remaining 81% of the book. Instead I opted to try to sleep my way to Philly with my seatback fully reclined at 89 degrees, every itchy inch of my dry skin making me want to crawl out of it, and shivering in the controlled airplane climate under layers of thermal and flannel wrapped in a down coat.  Sorry Noah.

Books You Must Put Down and Movies That Transport You Out of This World

To be honest, if I’m reading fiction, I can’t put the good books down. If I’m reading non-fiction I have the opposite reaction. The better it is the sooner I put it down and start practicing what I just read.

Because I chose to take part in NaNoWriMo this month, I’ve read non-fiction, how to books to improve my fiction writing as I write.  Along with that I began blogging again, although not at the frantic daily pace I did three years ago when I started.

Writing the Breakout Novel

The first book I began, and hope I’ll finish is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. If you write seriously, you’ve probably read it, but I’ve done other things. His writing style is professorial with honest suggestions, examples, and a summary at the end of each chapter, so you don’t forget the main points. The problem is that I get a few pages into each chapter and I go to my new novel, and begin revising – from the beginning.  I may never finish either my novel or the book.  The good news is that this book is making a difference in how I write fiction.

Every Writer Needs a Tribe

This morning I just downloaded a free non-fiction book, Every Writer Needs a Tribe, from Jeff Goins who I know from My 500 Words. One of my favorite writing friends, Tonia Hurst, invited me to this writing group on Facebook.  This book is very short, 42 pages, and talks about building a writing platform. As a blogger, I have a platform that is pretty scattered, and Goins advises against that, but as most of what I’ve posted on this site has been about blogging, I think you all should know about this book.

The two movies I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks I recommend that you not get up in the middle and walk out. Both of them are still showing, at least in Visalia, where we get a smattering of the current movies.

The Martian, unbelievable as a science fiction should be, enables you to suspend reality and live on Mars with the astronaut that gets left for dead when the rest of the crew takes off to avoid certain annihilation by a fierce Martian storm. (Whew, try saying that sentence without taking a breath.) The photography and Photoshop tricks used to make this movie are every bit as enjoyable as the plot and the acting, both of which helped capture this movie a 93% approval rating.

The Intern entertains entirely differently. If you love Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, you will already love the film. No man is as perfect and loveable as the senior intern played by De Niro, but every romantic wants to believe in him.  I saw this chick-flick with four other retired, successful, busier than working-women friends for our birthdays.  We all loved the movie. The Rotten Tomato website rates this movie as a 60%, but if you believe chivalry didn’t die with your grandparent’s generation, this movie is for you.

Those are my recommendations for you. What do you recommend for me to make it through NaNoWriMo?

I’m Really Not Dead, But I Wasn’t Fighting in the Battle

It’s 4:03 in the morning. I slept all day yesterday after minor surgery, so I’m relatively bright-eyed and drug free. How are all of you?

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything besides letters, emails, figured budgets, and fixed computer problems that, I’ve forgotten how to write blogs! So I guess I’ll write you all a letter. I remember getting letters from my grandmother, and every one of them told us about someone we didn’t know or remember who had died. So I wanted you to know that at least I didn’t die, and I’m going to tell some of you about a bunch of people you don’t know.

2015 WVMS Civil War111

I got a call to be a REAL photographer last week by a friend, Lauri Polly, who IS a real photographer and editor of our Kiwanis Magazine, “What’s Happening in the Foothills.”

I’m sure you can imagine, if you don’t already know from experience, how much work it is to plan and execute a day of activities for several hundred students.  First you have to line up volunteers to present, which means you have to know a lot of people who know a lot of stuff, AND are good with kids! Then you have to con your last-minute volunteers (teachers and librarians to stand in for those who couldn’t make it.)

Then you plan the weather. It should be sunny, with a light breeze, not too hot.

Oops it rained. Plan B
Oops it rained. Plan B

Then you invite other students to join you, so there’s a little more pressure on you as a planner, but adrenaline helps because the event is exciting, after all.  I’m sure Courtney slept well that night.

Finally you plan a grand finale. And what could be grander than shooting off a Civil War canon?

And that’s how you send off the year of studying eighth grade history in Woodlake, CA with a big bang.

There’s not much information in here about the Civil War. I can’t with so many of my friends who are experts in the subject – I’d embarrass myself!  I have all the pictures with some notes from the event posted on my Facebook Page.

Good Morning, World

It’s four in the morning here in California as I write to you for the first time in weeks. I have a good reason – for not writing, that is.

“Really? What possible reason could be good enough for not writing to your friends?” asks the little voice in my head.

One thing I learned about writing good dialogue – and writing in general is that you leave the boring parts out.

“So what made you think you should even write anything?”

What a pesky little voice you are. there are maybe five or ten people in the world that are still interested in even the boring little details of my life. Maybe they miss me.

“Well get on with it then, and write what you’re going to say, and quit talking to me.”

OK OK, the truth is that I have a new job, and I was sort of waiting  until the Board President announced to the public before I wrote about it, and I’ve been extremely busy doing exciting things like filing and trying to balance the books.  I am the new Executive Director of the California Council for the Social Studies, and it’s not entirely clear what that job will be, but for me it starts with filing and organizing.


Maybe, but necessary. Today I will attend the Executive Planning Meeting in Los Angeles, so I stayed the night in the hotel where our conference will be next March, and took a tour of the facilities.

2015 Hilton OC209

Most important to me is establishing face to face contact. I met Deb, Ryan, Tim and Carmita. Ryan will be our main contact person as we prepare for our biggest event, a conference for about 700-800 social studies teachers, professors, and administrators in California.

2015 Hilton OC109Seeing the rooms gives our planning committee and me an idea of which rooms will be best for the presentations, and where the exhibits and ticketed meals and social events will be.  You can see about one-third of what will be the exhibit hall in this picture above.

2015 Hilton OC114Session rooms are huge, but they can be divided into thirds. Left open they seat almost 200 guests. The hotel has recently been remodeled, and is quite lovely. Most importantly it has good internet access for everyone – in public places and in the rooms, and I will soon learn the cost to make it available during sessions.

2015 Hilton OC202I can visualize two history teachers networking here with computers open and a cup of coffee, discussing how they will use what they learned in a session in their class .

2015 Hilton OC201I expressed surprise over how pretty the tables looked, and Ryan told me that the facility is linenless. That’s a new term for me. Normally when you see tables at a hotel without their linens on, they are rough pieces of wood, that sneaks up and snags your nylons when you cross your legs under the table.

“No one wears nylons anymore.”

Be quiet. I do sometimes. It’s cold in hotels.

“That’s not why YOU wear them.”

2015 Hilton OC207There’s a perfect little office right outside the registration area where we can set up shop so everything will be close by. It is linenless, too. I never realized how pervasive linen was.

2015 Hilton OC206This is a small part of the foyer outside the exhibit hall. One year we had Mexican folklorico dancers in the foyer it was so big. Another year we had extra exhibits. Our conference planners will have all kinds of decisions to make about the space, but at least now I know how the space looks, so I can picture it when they ask me questions.

2015 Hilton OC127A beachy place wouldn’t be complete without swallows. It was nice to have the time to enjoy the scenery. I’m sure I’ll be very busy the next time I see this place. :)

Now you know I haven’t disappeared or died. In fact I just renewed my domain, so I’m here for another year, starting my fourth year of blogging.  Thanks for reading and chatting, and being my friend.

The Deliberate Blur: Retirement?

We looked forward to our vacation in Sedona for weeks, and we’ve already been home for two days.  What happened?

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Sights seemed clear enough when we were there. We stopped at a wonderful museum in Kingman even though this lady view us with some distrust.  Maybe her vision was blurred.

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If you are at the Route 66 Museum, and you like old-fashioned milkshakes and malts you should go across the street to Mr. Dz. Yelp provided this picture, so I’m a bit blurry on the name details.

Mr DzWe spent the first and last night in Laughlin, so we met ourselves coming and going. It was beautiful on the way, but by the way back, the blurry air smeared the town’s beauty.  So enjoy the first glimpse.

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We visited a park called Slide Rock on the way home that may have been the most beautiful place in the world. In 1912 a man named Frank Pandry homesteaded it and grew apples.

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It’s heyday came and went in a blur, but artifacts remain. It’s definitely worth a visit.

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The red blur at the bottom explains how the place got its name. Kids and adults alike still enjoyed the slippery rocks.

2015 Sedona184Bees still enjoyed sniffing the black apple blossoms. I had never heard of black apples.

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Can you imagine a finer setting for an apple orchard?

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For more blurry pictures click here.

How to Write Essays to a Prompt for Tests, Work, or School

Sample Prompt: Explain a complicated process that you can do well to someone who doesn’t know how to do it.

If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. Ernest Hemingway

Writing Is a Complicated Process                                         Do you struggle when you have to take a writing test, or write a report? As a teacher/consultant writing essays was my forté, yet writing to a prompt is a complicated task.  When I think about my professional life, I probably spent more time writing than almost any other single activity, either writing or grading essays for over 20 years.  Writing professionals have boiled essay writing down to a few steps which can be easily explained to someone who doesn’t write.  While most people THINK they know how to write if they can put words down on paper, they struggle to write even a simple five paragraph essay to answer a prompt.

Notice the blingy water.
Notice the blingy water.

Definition of an Essay

Commonly essays fall into four categories : expository, descriptive, narrative, and argumentative. Essays  convey information rather than tell a story, although they may use facts or short stories to persuade or convince readers to take action. An essay consists of three parts:  an opening paragraph, the body, and the conclusion.  Many teachers in our county use Step Up to Writing to teach this process to students and teachers alike.
  1. An opening paragraph restates the prompt stating three or more examples or facts.
  2. Body paragraphs expand on the three or four facts, one paragraph per main idea.
  3. The concluding paragraph points back to the opening paragraph and summarizes how the paragraph addressed the stated prompt.
PG and Pie
Ideas Matter: Brainstorm and Analyze  Before Writing 
Step Up to Writing  steps sound simple enough.  However, even though the process is simple, fuzzy ideas swim in the writer’s head and often come out jumbled.  Maybe the writer knows nothing about the prompt. Before I write anything I take a few minutes to ask myself questions about the prompt.  I usually jot down some notes in an informal list or outline.  If I can use the computer during the test or when writing for publication I search for a quotation and a definition or explanation of my topic. Most important: Make sure to answer the prompt.
  1. Analyze the prompt or break it into pieces.  Ask, “What DO I know about the prompt?  OR How can I relate it to something I know better and still answer the prompt?”
  2. Ask, “What can I write in a few paragraphs without repeating myself?”
  3. Consider, “Who is my audience?”
Research , Research, Research
Writing to a prompt is difficult for many reasons.  An author who does not know much about the topic may cut corners and merely copy the prompt word and repeat it multiple times throughout the essay. Unprofessional essays often start and end with the words, “Today I am going to write about (prompt words)”  This might be acceptable in first grade, but beyond that writers need to display more sophistication in their writing.
  1. Wikipedia is fine for quick bits of information partly because each entry has a bibliography which the writer can also check. It is good to have more sources than just Wikipedia. I use Google, but there are other ways of getting information quickly off the internet.
  2. Books and articles provide detailed information. Digitized books allow the writer to mark what he or she wants to remember and to sort out unnecessary information.
  3. If time is not an issue, articles and scanned documents can be processed into searchable PDF documents using inexpensive or free downloadable programs.
  4. When writers don’t have these options, note cards work well. I always note the title, author and page number, so I can go back and check my sketchy notes. I don’t take time to write detailed notes.
  5. Highlighting works well on printed material that the writer can keep.
  6. Post-it notes allow the writer to comment on materials and books he or she needs to return. Writers can color code these by book or article, topic, time period or any category they choose.
writing, blogging, book reviews, New_Office04
Weed Out All But the Most Important Information
Essayists can’t use it all.  According to the brain laboratory at UCLA, people have more than 70,000 thoughts per day. One short essay can’t utilize all these thoughts, so the first step is deciding which thoughts are keepers. When I write under pressure on a topic, use these techniques.
  1. Brainstorm on paper. Lists, webs, and tables all work well.
  2. Move to an outline. Find connections between the list of words. Sort them into categories. Writers may do this mentally, but it is more effective if they write it down. I use the old fashioned outline because it puts my thoughts into a hierarchy, most important first.Manny's Trip to Spain
Match Writing Style and Vocabulary to the Task
Prompt writing is a formal process.  Vocabulary, spelling, and style become issues.  My blogging style is informal, uses simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and I attempt humor. Formal writing style differs in several ways. 
  1. It uses a more academic lexicon or vocabulary.
  2. Sentence structure varies.
  3. The tone is generally, but not always, more serious.
  4. Each sentence starts with different words.  For example, after I have written this essay, I will go back over it and circle all the initial words.  If I have more than two or three of the same beginning word, I will change one of them.  I will look at how many of the same words I use within the sentence as well.  Word processing programs and the internet have dictionaries and a thesaurus at the writer’s fingertips, so there is no excuse for repeating the same word constantly. If the internet is not allowed during an essay, use the scratch paper to free-associate synonyms.
  5. Spelling is most difficult for me if the internet is not an option. When I can’t remember how to spell a word, I substitute a word I can spell.
  6. Punctuation errors show up, and even though there are differences about how to punctuate. Study Strunk and White before you take a test, or take it with you.
Ralph's remodel003
Keep the Conclusion Uncluttered
Students, test takers, or essayists who utilize these tips will have a passable essay for any project, exam, job application, or work-related report, and become an expert in writing to a prompt.
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Notes on Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – funniest book ever.  I can hardly get through this.  I’m 17% done.  I have written something since I was old enough to write.  No pressure to publish, just love to write.  Can’t help myself really.  It just flows out. Anne Lamott can tell you exactly what happens.

What should I write today? the autobiography of my childhood, or a book about the history of – oh say – women?


“You sit down to write… what you have in mind is…a history of-oh say- say women. …Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives.  … After a moment I may notice that I’m trying to decide whether or not I am too old for orthodontia, and whether right now would be a good time to make a few calls, and then I start to think about learning to use makeup and how maybe I could find some boyfriend who is not a total and complete fixer upper, and then my life would be totally great… Then I think about all the people I should have called back before I sat down to work and how I should probably at least check in with my agent and tell him this great idea I have and see if he thinks it’s a good idea, and see if he thinks I need orthodontia-if that is what he is actually thinking whenever we have lunch together…”

Maybe you will be better at finishing this book than I am so far.  As soon as I start reading, I have to write the same thing that happened to me only in a different way.

So I’m trying to get through at least one more chapter without stopping to write any more of her funniness.

HOWEVER, I’ve been on a writing roll since 12-27, but husband told me yesterday.  I thought he meant 12:27, but that’s another argument. (minor, minor one folks)

The other day after rewriting Girls on Fire for at least four hours, I took a break to take the dog outside.  The good news is that I had dressed.  Many days I don’t change out of pajamas until I know I have to go somewhere, and now I hate to leave the house for any reason.  But that day, I did throw on some jeans and a t-shirt I’d been wearing for a day or two.

Retirement MMP & K

My hair was still rumpled in a way only women with hot flashes understand.  The straight bangs that used to be thin and straight are now fluffy in all directions.  The back of my hair sticks out about an inch from my head then falls limply leaving a huge part the size of my  hand in the back.

bing car

So I walked out on the front porch and waited for the dog, who I’ve ignored all morning, and who drives up but the Bing car.  Maybe you’ve never seen the Bing car.  It’s white with a black sign on the side that says Bing.  On the top is a 5 or 6 foot pole, and on top of the pole is a camera(s).  The Bing car drives down your road at about 30 miles an hour shooting pictures from all angles from the camera(s) perched on top of the car.  The result will be pictures you can zoom down to see your street at any angle.  I’ve always worried that one of these cars will shoot through the fence in the backyard when I’m skinny dipping at midnight so no one will see me.  So far, until last week I’ve been safe, but last week the Bing car drove down my street.

Road Trip
Road Trip Yes, it took plenty of gas.  

I wouldn’t worry as much, but the picture that is up on Google has been there since we had our GMC motor home, which was about 6 years ago.  So I’m obsessing that this horrible series of shots of my bad hair day will be up there for everyone to see for the next 6-7 years. What if I become famous?  Will newspapers pick this up and publish it?

Now do you see why I’ve only read 17% of this wonderful book?  You’d better read it yourself instead of waiting for a book review from me.

How are you today?

Images of America: Four Simple Steps to Edit a Pictorial History

Editing a picture book with 50 -70 word captions for each of 200+ pictures requires more effort than you would think, and grammar is not the hardest part to correct.

1.  Ask experts to read your manuscript.

McKay Point 2

I might have made the mistake of calling this a cement dam at one time.  But not after writing Images of America:  Woodlake.  Robert Edmiston corrected one entry explaining that cement is a part of concrete, but dams are made of concrete, an aggregate of cement and rocks.  No company in Woodlake makes cement.  In a million years I would not have corrected that mistake on my own.

This is the four room school built in 1912 or 1913, not 1923.
This is the four room school built in 1912 or 1913, and not in 1923.

2.  Ask experts to help you check pictures for historical accuracy.  This can be more difficult than you think.  Sources of pictures don’t always label their pictures.  Even libraries rely on the picture donors to date and label the pictures correctly.  Sometimes you can check facts using newspapers, but they are not always accurate either.  I used two or three references when possible to make sure I had names and dates correct.  Even then, my readers questioned me on several items.  Marcy Miller and I sleuthed through dates of the school buildings.  She had a picture of a building built in 1913, but several dates were attached to it.  I had thought it was the same building that is now the district office, but I had a date of 1923 on that building from an obscure reference in a book.  As we dug, we found that there were actually two different buildings.  We looked at the brickwork at the bottom of the building and compared it to another building picture we had from a newspaper.


3.  Ask experts to check names, double check them. If you are like me, you were not alive in 1860.  When a relative tells you that one family’s children were too young to attend school in 1860, you have to question the historian’s information, if possible.  In this case it was not possible because the historian passed away in 1971, and she did not have anything footnoted.  The mystery might have been solved because the woman from the family in question had children from a previous marriage that could have attended school in 1860.  Even though the children had a different last name than was listed in the book, the historian might not have realized that because the woman had remarried, and the children might have gone by the new husband’s name to make things more simple.  Some things never change!  But it is surprising how important it is even 150 years after the fact, to get the names correct.


Notice the search box at the top, and the name is highlighted.  The page number is also listed in the sidebar not pictured.
Notice the search box at the top, and the name is highlighted. The page number is also listed in the sidebar not pictured.

4.  Document your sources so that you can find where you got your information.  One fact in question came up about the name of one of the participant in the 1926 Pageant named in the picture. One elderly resident had seen the picture and told Marcy Miller that it was one person,  when in fact it was his brother.  The evidence was in the newspaper, and when I showed her the article, she said, “Well his memory isn’t always perfect.”  Expect people to question your facts, and do your best to keep track of them.  When publishing with  Arcadia books, the template doesn’t allow for footnotes or an extensive bibliography, but you almost need to include one in your own copy.  I spent a lot of time looking for the information source to prove my writing.  Sometimes I had it listed in the caption, but when I approached 70 words in the caption, I couldn’t include the information credit for publication.  As I neared the end of my research, I purchased a product, Wondershare PDF Editor Pro to make my PDFs searchable.  This helped me to find information faster.

Can you guess the year of this picture?  Clue:  Experts are alive today who can name most of those pictured.
Can you guess the year of this picture? Clue: Experts are alive today who can name most of those pictured.

In their author’s guidelines the publisher suggested that writers allow 2 weeks for editing using an expert reader.  They moved my deadline up a month, so I didn’t have that luxury, but they have been wonderful about accepting changes, and once I get the proof back, I will have another opportunity to proof read it once again.

I hope this has been a helpful process for you in your own writing.  :)

Find me on Facebook under TC History Gal Productions.


Images of America: Woodlake; Gathering and Organizing Images

 My 600th post! 

Woodlake parade  350
A Woodlake Rodeo Parade picture from an unspecified time period.  (A Bud Kilburn picture courtesy of Lisa Kilburn)

Arcadia Publishing has specific requirements for the photos in your Images book.  You receive a written guideline and an editor that answers questions promptly.  Your success is practically guaranteed – once your get the photos!

The Edmistons (Courtesy of Robert Edmiston.)

Images of America books are not family history books, so even if you grew up in a community, you must gather pictures.  Multiple family’s pictures in the book are essential to telling the story.

Beginning Woodlake buildings labeled by Marion Legakes.  (Courtesy of Marcy Miller.)
Beginning Woodlake buildings labeled by Marion Legakes. (Courtesy of Marcy Miller.)

In the case of a small community, probably the library will not have enough images to fill your book.   You might have a small museum or historical society that stores pictures.  Even though our museum is not open, one woman has pictures in her home.  Here are the ways I started from 0 and gathered the 200+ pictures I needed for publication in 6 months.

Woodlake parade  351
A Woodlake Rodeo Parade picture from an unspecified time period. (A Bud Kilburn picture courtesy of Lisa Kilburn)


  1. Our local Kiwanis magazine put in a free ad for me. – 1 direct call and one referral from her
  2. I walked the streets of Woodlake and talked to business owners, City Hall and Woodlake Police. – 2 donors
  3. Talking to friends in the grocery store  – 1 prospect
  4. Following referrals from friends – 30 donors
  5. Cold calls to businesses – 1 potential donor who googled me to make sure I didn’t have a criminal record or wasn’t a sex offender before he called me too late for publication.
  6. Following referrals from referrals – 3 donors
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The community northwest of Woodlake called Elderwood in the 1940s. (Courtesy of Laura Spalding.)

Organizing was important, and took quite a bit of time as I processed the photos.  These are my steps.

  1. As I started scanning photos, I put the PDFs into files in my document folder labeled by donor’s names.
  2. Next I created a “Woodlake PDF” and put in all of the donor folders.
  3. Each photograph sent to Arcadia was a TIFF file, so I processed all most files, and put them into a separate file with the donor’s name inside a large folder that said, “Woodlake TIFF.”
  4. I didn’t write about every picture.  In order to write, I used an unpublished blog account, because importing each picture to a Word file made Word crash.  It is hard to write about a picture when you can’t look at it as you write, so the blog was perfect.
  5. However, that created another step.  TIFF files are huge, so I resized each photo I used (or thought I might use) in the book and saved it as a JPEG, and created another Donor file and put it inside – you guessed it – the “Woodlake JPEG” file. Then I could upload those files easily to my blog, and the ones I didn’t use in the book I could post to FB or in my  blog.
  6. Then I made files for the chapter titles and copied only the TIFFS into those files, numbering them for the book.
  7. Finally I copied the entire folder, “Arcadia,” onto an external hard drive.  I started to copy all of it to the cloud, but it was very time consuming.
  8. After I submitted the manuscript and pictures, I began copying the JPEG files only to Picasa.  I’m still not finished, and I hope it is worth the effort!  I have them organized by subject rather than chapter, and I have one folder for all the images used in the book along with the caption, so that if I do another book, I will use different pictures, or be sure to credit the book as well as the donor.
Inside the Bank of America circa 1936.  Courtesy of Woodlake City Hall
Inside the Bank of America circa 1936. (Courtesy of Woodlake City Hall)

That’s it.  That’s how I gathered and organized hundreds of pictures in six months.

Travel Theme: Belonging – Colonial Williamsburg or Not?

Jamestowne 003

Life is defined by belonging:  our family,  town, organizations, belongings, even the time into which we are born.   I attended a teachers’ institute at Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago.  That town preserves what belonged to another time period, so that we, of the 21st century could understand somewhat what it felt like as patriots and loyalists, all British subjects, clashed, and then hashed out new plans in the taverns, church, and legislature all situated on the mile long walk down the main street.

Williamsburg 007

Our trainers immersed us in the life of the time.  Four of us from Tulare County joined six others from California, a few from Pennsylvania, some from Georgia, one or two from New York, and we lived as a group for one week.  We belonged together for a week.


Williamsburg wed 175

Our guide, Bunny, embroiled us in an 18th century court case in which a Baptist minister was tried  as a criminal because he preached from a  Baptist pulpit, not from the one true church the Anglican Church.  “The law of the land from 1624 mandated that white Virginians worship in the Anglican church (Church of England) and support its upkeep with their taxes.” ( Religion in Early Virginia.) We had to decide his fate.


Williamsburg wed 191

One of our members, Jami Beck, volunteered to participate during the trial.


18 th Century Military Life 109

We learned how to fire cannons and muskets.


18 th Century Home Life 186

We danced, and sat around a properly set dinner table sharing the latest colonial gossip.

talk and pass plates

We visited with tavern owners who served George Washington on a regular basis.


Williamsburg wed 047

Slaves let us enter their farm-house, feel the tobacco they harvested, smell it hanging in the barn.  But in all the authenticity of belonging to that time period.  There was always something that didn’t belong.


18 th Century Military Life 137

Actually there were many things.  What do you think belonged, and what didn’t?

Oh My, What Have You Done?

Nothing is not the right answer.  Blogging is not it either.  I wish it were.

Branding Time

Do you get roped into things?  Do you sometimes feel like you’ve been branded as the girl who says yes to too many things at once?

Scan 27R

Sometimes I feel like I’ve kicked up so much dust, that a can of worms might be a good thing in comparison. Today I talked to our CPA and learned about 501(c)(3), and I hope we’ve filed all out paperwork.  I created a program for our Western Regional Breakfast that’s happening at the NCSS Conference in Boston next month.  I found out about awards for the program.  I learned about the Woodlake Rodeo.  I did laundry, made lunch and dinner, cleaned the kitchen, took a walk, went to the post office and mailed a letter to a 10-year-old P.O. Box and I hope to find the person who owns the bottom picture to get her permission to use it, so promise me that you won’t steal it.


I posted important stuff on Facebook for CCSS.  So the truth is that today, I’ve done a lot, but can I remember it when my husband comes home and asks me what I’ve done?  I do, but that was the wrong question.  Does he really want to listen to me list it all?  I think you know that answer.  That’s why I’m telling YOU – and guess what?  He’ll end up reading about it on Facebook tomorrow.  hehehe  :)

Mill Inn-6R sepia

Right this second I’m feeling a little light headed (yes, I did get my hair cut, but only about 2-3 people even missed the 5-6 inches I’ve chopped off) But that’s not why I’m light headed.  I’m dizzy with excitement because I’m almost finished with my book, Images of America Woodlake – 15,894 words out of a total possible of 8,000 to 18,000, and 192 pictures out of a possible 200. What I’ve learned cannot even come close to a limit of 18,000 words. That has been the hardest part. Collecting pictures from those whose names I get from friends, and of those, the ones who return my call or email. Those are the ones whose minute pieces of the story get in the book. Some people have given me hundreds of photos. Some only one. I have to leave out so much, and someone’s feelings are bound to get hurt when the book is published. There is SOOOOO much more to tell. But, that is not my story – at least not for this book.

IMG_3685R sep ps

So what did you do today?  Do you need someone to listen to your list?  Write it in the comment section.  There, doesn’t that feel better?  You really did do something today!

Every Day You Learn Something – Sometimes It’s New

“In three words I can sum up what I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”  Robert Frost

I’ve had an amazing week learning about our little town and the surrounding area.  There is only one book in the library about Woodlake, published in 1971.  I have a digitized copy of that book.   This week I had the privilege of thumbing through the original handwritten manuscript of that little book housed in a 1950s-style blue canvas three-ring binder.

Grace Pogue ~ Within The Magic Circle copy-1

I have the original manuscript of her other book, The Swift Seasons, in a little blue canvas binder as well, which I am going to digitize starting today.  I get excited about the little things I’m learning or at least surmising.  Yesterday on one of my interviews Robert took me outside to his back yard.

“Want to see the old Antelope School?” he asked me.  “This is it.  It used to be on Grandma Fudge’s property.  Then it moved to Blair’s property, and then they brought it on skids here.”

Antelope School

Robert and I shared information back and forth for several hours.  “This is so much fun!” he told me.

What I know about Antelope School is that it was first built in 1870.  Woodlake erected a new Antelope School in 1895.  So would this have been the new 1895 school, or the 1870 one?

Antelope school3

The builder didn’t date the school anywhere, least of all the floor boards, but look how wide they are.  Keep in mind that we cut down big trees back in the 1800s.  This picture came from Linda and Bob Hengst.


When I came back from Linda’s house, Vince said, “What were you doing all that time?  You were over there for three hours!”

In the evening I started the boring work.  It takes 30 seconds to copy each picture, but I have someone to talk to the whole time.  I copied about 45 of Linda and Bob’s pictures, and 75 from Robert. At home it takes about 1 minute to create a TIFF file for each picture, and another minute or so to resize it for my blog so I can see what I’m writing about as I write each caption.  Finally I pick which pictures I know enough about to caption for the day, and that takes at least 20 to 30 minutes to write 50-70 words.  You wouldn’t think it would take so long, but here’s the deal.

  1. I wasn’t there when it happened.  I don’t know the people, usually the place, because they aren’t around any more, or the time.
  2. Usually I just have a name to go by, if that on the picture – that’s about 2 words.
  3. Sometimes I have a little story.  That’s about 20 words, if I’m lucky.
  4. I have tons of books about things like trains and floods in Tulare County, Native Americans, and the general history of Tulare County.  I have an 1892 Atlas of each township in Tulare County with the names of all the property owners at that time.
  5. I have notes from all the people I’ve interviewed, and sometimes audio files.
  6. I have a few newspaper articles that are photocopied, but all the archives from the Woodlake Echo have been destroyed, so all those pictures and original articles are gone.
What do you think Abe and Carl discussed? I’ll give you a clue. It has to do with college.

So every picture is a bit of a puzzle piece, and I do my best to sort through my evidence, and write the best 70 words possible for each picture.   As of last night I had finished 109 or about 60% of the required 180-200 pictures.  As I talk to more people, I’ll have to narrow it down, and throw some of them out, I’m sure.

A friend asked me what I do all day, and how much time I take writing my book (probably wondering why I hadn’t been calling her much :)).  It seems like I don’t do much, but I don’t seem to have much time to do tons of other things.  I have lots to talk about – as long as you are interested in Woodlake’s history.  Otherwise, I’m kind of dull.  I chose the think I’m focused.  :)

Marsha climbingcr

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough – Mae West

Travel Theme: Twist: Twisted Fourth of July

Setting up for an all city celebration traps workers into all kinds of twists and turns.

Twisted flagsUnfurling flags took hours.


Some workers didn’t stop until they saw stars!


Hope you had a memorable 4th!  Tell me about it!  :)

Crazy Women Don’t Blog, But What Do They Do?

Hi everyone,

It’s true, crazy people don’t write blogs.  I’ve been crazy busy these last few days.  We are changing staff people at CCSS, and I have answered emails, and tied up loose ends all week in the interim.

loose ends

I got my signed contract for the History of Woodlake book yesterday, and I’ve also been scanning pictures like crazy, and posting them on three different Facebook Woodlake groups.

4th Grade Bike Trip 4_RT

The pictures won’t win any awards, but when I post them on FB, people recognize their tia or tio (aunt or uncle), and other family members, and it’s a lot of fun.  I taught the fourth grade bilingual class in Woodlake in the early 90s.  Aren’t they adorable?



4th Grade Bike Trip 1_RT

The pictures show the last bike trip we took before the helmet law for bicyclists went into effect around 1993 or 1994.


4th Grade Bike Trip 3_RT

The goal was to get to location that hadn’t been disturbed by settlement, where a tribe of the Wachumna Indians, a sub-tribe of  Yokuts Indians, lived in this area.  The Yokuts, yes the ‘s’ is part of the name, was one of the largest tribes in North America.  Food was plentiful, nutritious and easy to gather or hunt.  However, not even missionaries or Spanish soldiers ventured this far east more than once or twice.  Settlers from South Carolina discovered this area in 1853.


4th Grade Bike Trip 7_RT

Kids enjoyed walking through a sort-of-cave and looking at the paintings left by the Wachumna.


4th Grade Bike Trip 15_RT

The owner of this property, who is in his 80s, remembers seeing them down by Cottonwood Creek.  It’s dry most of the year.  It probably was then, too.


4th Grade Bike Trip 10_RT

Wachumna women harvested the many oak trees in the area. Women of all ages sat around the large grinding rock and ground acorns.  You can tell who sat where by the size of the holes in the rocks.  Grandmas had very deep holes.  You can clearly see the deep hole on the back right.



4th Grade Bike Trip 2_RT

Too soon it was time to bike back to school.

4th Grade Bike Trip 13_RT

Drivers followed in trucks or vans to pick up stray bikes and bikers that broke down along the way.


4th Grade Bike Trip 14_RT

I biked behind them taking pictures and hoping that no one would have problems.  And no one did.  :)

Don’t Read Sad Books, Then Talk On The Phone

The Fault in Our Stars residing in my Kindle is Laurie’s fault.

LaurieShe read it and posted on Facebook how good it was.  When my friend Laurie says anything, I listen because she is smart and fun.  I immediately ordered the book on Amazon, and put it aside to read when I finished reading the boring book, Underworld a Novel.

The boringness of Underworld overwhelmed me on  Saturday. Then thought hit me that the day was too beautiful, and life is too short to EVER be bored.

The back yard 1

Saturday was one of those rare, partly cloudy, 85-90 degree, days in central California.  Vince and I sat by the pool and visited. When we ran out of words, I opened The Fault in Our Stars; he snuck off to take a picture.  The little blob by the pool slouched in the rocking chair with her legs spread apart like Grandma Morris, in her not-long-enough giant-flowered dresses exposing nylons that came up mid-thigh, is me.  In my defense I am wearing a bathing suit, so my thighs should be exposed.

Indianapolis street
I am driving up a street near our former home in Indianapolis, IN.

I’m laughing out loud at the audacity of this sixteen year old Hoosier (in the book).  I am a Hoosier (from Indiana), and it was great reading about a kid that attended my high school, North Central, and drove badly on streets near my home.  These three protagonist children all have cancer, but one of them is hot, hot, hot, according to the girl, Hazel.

Who names their kids Hazel?  Grandma Morris had a sister,  Great-Aunt Hazel, but really, does this author, John Green, know me or something?  It’s so Hoosier.

Can you find Grandma Morris? Aunt Hazel is probably there, too.

In the book Hazel, age 16, has terminal cancer, and Augustus, the hot one, is cancer free after a leg amputation.  They meet in a cancer support group led by an old guy (probably 21 or so) who is cancer free after losing his testicles, which he talks about at every meeting.  The story bounces around from hilarious to sad, and I had just finished a particularly sad page when Melissa called. Melissa rarely calls me.

“You’ve got to call(a nameless friend of ours),” she orders.   “Her brother and sister-in-law are both expected to die within a few hours, and I can’t reach mom so she can call.  Could you please call her?”

My gut says, “This is not a good idea, Marsha Lee.  You’re crying, two people are dying, and you’re supposed to… say what?”

I’m the emotional one.  Melissa’s mom is the one who gets us out of our funk. I dial my friend’s number from memory.  She is not there.  I have to look up her cell phone.  She answers after a few rings.

“Where are you?” I ask, not knowing what to say, tears lurking in my voice.

“I’m in Utah.”

“Who are you with?”

This is the most eloquent thing I could think of to say at this point.  I’m off base because I know this “secret” about her brother and sister-in-law, but I don’t know if she is in on it.  Tears well up in my throat. I can’t think, let alone talk.  I wish I had listened to my gut.

“A couple of ladies from church.”

I’m at a complete loss.  Does she or doesn’t she know? She doesn’t give me any clues. By this point in the conversation, the pent-up tears wailed out a little.  It turned out that she knew.

“I’ll call you when I get back in ten days, and we can go to lunch,” she cut me short after I stumbled around some more.

“OK,” I replied and hung up.  I never felt dumber and more useless.

Moral:  When tears are in your eyes, wait to call.

Oh, and you’ve got to read The Fault in Our Stars.  It’s amazing.

Book Reviews: Peter Abrahams Collection

After I read Steven King’s, On Writing, I thumbed through his suggested reading list at the end of the book.  Granted he published his book ten years ago, so these are not the most up-to-date books.  Probably  voracious readers have already heard of Peter Abrahams, but I started at the top of the alphabetized list, so I started reading his books.  He does what I haven’t even come close to mastering.  He writes descriptions, metaphors newer and fresher than clean socks, similes as puzzling as a Sudoku, which I never work out correctly no matter how much scratching I do along the sides.  If I had to categorize Abrahams books, my guess is that they fit best as drama or mysteries.

Lights Out

In Lights Out Abrahams chose a wrongfully imprisoned, vengeful murderer as the hero.  This poor man’s mother neglected him.  His older brother set him up, lied to him and abandoned him, leaving “Nails” to serve his entire sentence in prison for something he never did.   Of course, he killed a few bad guys in prison that picked on him, which kept him locked up.  When he eventually emerged, looking younger and more fit than his outside colleagues, he looked for his errant brother.   Nails seemed dumb, but you had a feeling he would solve the mystery of why he went to prison, and get the good-looking woman in the end.  You wondered if his brother would get caught, and by whom. He did, but not in any way I would have expected, or chosen to read, for that matter, but it kept me reading.  No matter what he did, Nails’ brother got an appropriate comeuppance, but not one you’d wish on your worst enemy.

Revolution #9

Revolution #9, published in 1992, told the classic story of a smart woman marrying a man she thought she knew, and finding out on her wedding night that she didn’t even know his name, nor the people who came and took him away. The government thought they could close the twenty year old murder case when a counterfeiter blew Charlie’s cover in return for favors he would soon need again. No one had reacted with more surprise than Charlie when the bomb he had built and set under the building exploded, killing the eleven-year-old son of a professor at his college.

Running for his life, abandoned by the real terrorists, Charlie changed his identity, and took cover as a lobster fisherman.  He laid low until he accidentally fell in love.   When he married, news of Charlie’s reappearance twenty years later triggered many levels of events reaching into the depths of the government before the reader discovers the true perpetrators.  But did they get away with it, and let Charlie live?  Only those who read the book know for sure.


I also read Oblivion.  Such a title that might have clued me in to the surprise, but it didn’t.  It’s unclear by the end of the book if it actually has a resolved, happy ending.  It’s sort of happy, but because of the oblivious, I’m not sure.

Petrov is an investigator who wins court cases for his clients.  He’s dramatic and thorough, attacking each case with the tenacity of the locked door on my front loading washer. (That’s another story.)  Somehow along the way, he loses his way, and ends up in the hospital, falls in love with the nurse, and ends up head to head against his past and another love.  Abrahams packs more surprises into each chapter than I have had in my life.  If you read it long ago, you may have forgotten all the turns and twists, but I doubt it.

summer reading

If you haven’t read this trio of mysteries, treat yourself a few days of good reading this summer.  :)  What are you reading?


Book Review: Co-Operative Dreams A History of the Kaweah Colony by Jay O’Connell

Kaweah Colony

If you’ve never seen a tree so wide you can drive your truck through it, then you need to come to the Sequoia National Park.  The Kaweah River surges down from the Sierra Nevada, through the Big Trees, forming the Delta where big agriculture lives in Tulare County.


The huge forests that attract thousands of tourists world-wide today, might have been wiped from the map before their secret was discovered were it not for the drama that unfolded in the mountains in the 1880s.

I met author, Jay O’Connell, in the Pizza Factory in Three Rivers on the day Sally Pace and I made ad sales calls for the Kiwanis Magazine, “What’s Happening in the Foothills.”  I went home, and sure enough, I had his book, Cooperative Dreams A History of the Kaweah Colony, in my library, but to my loss, had never taken the time to read it.

Early tent colony where first Kaweah Colony residents settled.
Early tent colony where first Kaweah Colony residents settled.

“Three key issues of the nineteenth-century California history are illustrated by events at Kaweah.” The issues prominent in the 1880s, when the Kaweah Colony formed were: “land and its acquisition; labor and the organization of it; and conservation.  … They are personified by three major characters in the drama of the Kaweah.” Charles Keller found the land, and knew it would be perfect to start the perfect cooperative colony.  Burnette Haskell, son of none other than Eddie Haskell (not from Leave It To Beaver, but very much like him in personality) gave voice to the organized labor movement so prominent in those years.  Finally, Visalia’s own “Father of the Sequoia National Park,” George W. Stewart championed conservation so effectively that the results surprised even him.

More permanent dwellings afforded little protection from the winter weather.
More permanent dwellings afforded little protection from the winter weather.

What I didn’t know was that there was such a mysterious aura around the often-told story.  For fifty years even historians did not know how the park came to be included in a bill that originally reserved only a small portion of the trees for posterity.  Even more amazing was the reason for including the magnificent trees in the preservation act.

O’Connell gently unfurls the story, introducing each character, using primary sources including letters, newspaper articles, and interviews of survivors of the colonies conducted in the 1940s by Tulare County historical expert, Joe Doctor, to authenticate his narrative.

As a student of local history, I found this fascinating, but California’s history, its dream belongs to the world as did the settlers that came in the 1800s.

Reviews and Recommendations

A few weeks ago I read Breathing on Her Own published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas written by Rebecca Waters, a friend in a Facebook writers support group.  This book struck a chord with me because one of my friends in Visalia has gone through much of the same trauma.

Breathing on Her Own

Breathing on Her Own doesn’t sound like a lightweight romance, and it isn’t.  Waters walks us through the difficult healing process of a mother whose married adult daughter is paralyzed after a car accident.  WARNING:  Do not have unprotected sex if you think that parenting ends when your child leaves home at the end of… high school…  college… when they get married…

Molly Tipton, an active church-goer and Christian, battles God as she goes through the healing process after the car wreck.  Her daughter had been drinking, and the weather was bad.  Who got the blame for the accident?  God, of course.  It was HIS bad weather that made the road slick.  Well, maybe it was the “girlfriend” with Laney, she had always been a bad influence, but she died instantly, so it was hard to keep blaming her.

After the weeks Laney lingered in the hospital, Molly struggled through numerous changes and tribulations. That first night in the hospital watching her daughter struggle to breathe on her own, Molly never suspected that the caring officer, Officer Steadman, would later charge Laney with the manslaughter of one of her closest friends.  Molly and her husband, Travis, shared responsibilities for Laney’s children as the road to recovery wound around Obstacle Mountain.   When Laney left the hospital still unable to walk, Molly and her husband had hard financial decisions to make that threatened their retirement plans as they tried to help her daughter’s family cope with living with a disability.


Accidents are only a second away from any of us.  As she reached out to help , Molly discovered that her own life needed overhauling.

I recommend this book.  It’s an easy read, but then it’s not!


A few days ago I told you that I switched to iPage. The switching procedure takes ended up being more complicated than I thought it would to switch, but I wanted to save $200 or so.  The service was great.  Eva called me, and answered my call.  However, I returned to WordPress because I had to transfer my own data to the hosting site.  Because my paid membership expired, I couldn’t do that and take my pictures.  I discovered that WP has a less expensive product to host the website, and give more room for storing my pictures.  I jumped on that train, and I’m back in business at WP.  For my simple purposes the $99 program is enough.  Just thought I’d share.