Brand New Resource for Writers!

Many people have a book in their minds, or have been told that they should write a book about their experiences.  Only a small percentage actually do it, but then the hard part begins.  Turning those private pages into a manuscript, then into a published book, then getting the book into the hands of readers are much more difficult tasks.

Finding expert help for such basic things as editing, illustrating, interior book design (formatting), cover design, publishing, marketing, etc., can be harder than the actual writing of the manuscript.  And getting information out about the author and the book?  Way too many authors learn after the fact that they should have been promoting themselves and their book long before it was available to the public.

Now there is a new online resource for writers in the Sacramento region.  SacWritersAlliance.com is now up and running, with all kinds of valuable information for writers.  Writers groups in the area are listed with links to their websites.   News and events are listed after being submitted by individuals or groups.  A calendar includes all the events listed from every writers group in the area, with links to the source for detailed information.  A writers services page includes listings regarding all those valuable services writers need, with information and links provided by the service provider.  Authors can showcase themselves on the Authors Link page, as well as the Book Launch page for their new books.

If you’re a writer, check the site out for information and for an additional platform opportunity.  If you’re an avid reader, check the site out to learn more about area writers.

 

From Wedding Gown to Angel Gown

It sat, sealed in a beautiful box, for years. My wedding dress was incredibly special to me, especially since I’d made it myself. After the big day, I did like many brides and had it cleaned and sealed to save for the magic day when a daughter or grand-daughter wanted to use it. That didn’t happen, however, since my daughters and grand-daughter wanted to make their own special choices. The seal was broken when my oldest daughter got married, so that she could use my veil and headpiece for her own ceremony. Years later, the veil was used again when her daughter, my one and only grand-daughter, was married. But the dress stayed carefully preserved and packed away, in spite of my husband’s grumbled words, “Just get rid of it. Sell it or give it away. The darn thing is just taking up space, and nobody in the family is ever going to want it.” Harsh words, even if they were true, so the box just stayed in a dark corner of our storage shed.

My youngest daughter had a similar box in her house. Her marriage had ended in divorce, but the dress was a magnificent gown with a long train, huge wide petticoats to hold the voluminous skirt, with all kinds of lace and beads covering the beautiful white material. She didn’t want to give it away or sell it for next to nothing, so started researching what to do with a used wedding dress.

To her amazement, she discovered The Angel Gown Program, a service provided by the group NICU Helping Hands, Family Support for Fragile Beginnings. The Angel Gown Program combines gifts of wedding gowns with the skills of volunteer seamstresses throughout the United States. The garments they create are provided for babies that were either stillborn or pass away in the hospital just after birth. The gowns are used for final photos and for burial services. The program also provides support resources and mentoring programs for the families.

The minute I heard about this program, I jumped to the computer for the website,

http://www.nicuhelpinghands.org/lend-a-helping-hand/angel-gowns/

and was reduced to tears. Over 700 seamstresses throughout the United States create amazing little gowns, which are wrapped and shipped to to destinations all over the country. Hospitals can stock the garments through a simple online request procedure, but families can also make personal requests online as well. The organization also accepts traditional donations to help cover the costs of shipping the gowns to hospitals and families who need them.

As I read all about the various services the NICU Helping Hands organization provides, my thoughts turned to an amazing little boy who our family lost when he was only four years old. Seth was a tiny, mischievous little guy who had a heart pacemaker implanted at just two weeks of age. He collapsed at two years old, then spent a month hospitalized in San Francisco where a new pacemaker replaced the first one. His life was a gift to the whole family, and when he died everybody who knew and loved him was devastated. Losing a child has to be the most difficult loss anyone can face. I cannot even imagine the pain of losing a child before it even gets to go home from the hospital.

Within two days my wedding gown, my daughter’s wedding gown, and her best friend’s gown were all boxed up and shipped to The Angel Gown Program in Fort Worth, Texas. My dream of seeing a family member wearing my special dress as they walked down the aisle never came about, but the knowledge that a grieving family could lay their tiny, precious baby to rest wrapped in a garment made from my dress warms my heart in an entirely different way.   If you have a lovingly preserved wedding dress, I urge you to consider donating it to The Angel Gowns Program. I promise you’ll never regret it.

After Death : Mourn, Memorialize, then Celebrate Life!

My friend died a week ago.  Some would say she died a gentle death, since pain medication kept her unconscious as her body slowly shut down, but it wasn’t easy for her spirit to let go.  I could feel her, fighting and frantic at first as she came to terms with her body’s inability to sustain life.  She finally turned to the light, even though still tethered to her familiar flesh, and reveled in the joy and freedom she found there.  As her body grew weaker, dying by inches, her spirit spent most of the time on the other side.  Many friends and relatives came to visit her, some talking to her and praying out loud.  Others, like me, held her hand as they bent their heads in prayer or meditation, quietly connecting with her and letting her know it was okay to let go.

Knowing someone you care about is going to die does not make it easier.  On one hand we repeat the same platitudes about being glad the suffering is over, and about the soul being in a better place.  On the other hand we play the guilt game, wishing we’d been kinder, wishing we’d spent more time with them, wondering if we’d let them know how much we’d cared about them, if we’d let them know how important they’d been in our lives.  Even as we express our beliefs that they’re at peace, we wish there was just a little more time to finish all the things between us that were left undone.  We know they’re okay, but we aren’t!

Mourning is a natural first reaction after a death, as we come to grips with the reality that our time together is truly over.  Grief can be overwhelming, but grief is also a personal expression of loss.  They’re fine, but we now have to reconstruct our future without a vital part of our world.  We mourn as we think of all the “what might have beens.”

We memorialize our lost ones together with other people who cared, providing strength to one another as we share memories.  Different cultures remember and memorialize their dead in different ways, some quietly in small gatherings, others loudly in public ceremonies.  The purpose and effect is the same, to remember the life of one we’ve lost, to remember the dreams and accomplishments, to remember the stories and laughter, to take those memories into our hearts to carry forward alone.

All too often after someone close dies, we stop after the memorial service, forgetting the most important step of all.  Remembering someone we loved is important, but celebrating their lives is even more important!  If they had a passion in life, you can honor them by doing something good in their name.  Doing something they would have cared about, that would have made them happy, that makes some small difference in the world, keeps the memory alive and means they still matter.  After you mourn, after you memorialize, then celebrate your friend by your actions, so they can look down and celebrate as well.

 

 

My Friend is Dying

My friend is dying.  Nothing dramatic, no teams of surgeons frantically and heroically working over her body, no crowds of people crying and wailing about what a tragedy it is, nothing that would garner a headline in the news.  Just a sweet woman in the process of passing away, on what the hospital calls “comfort care”, which means she’s on strong pain medication to keep her comfortable, but nothing else — no food, no drink, no tests, and no medications.  Her heart and lungs are strong, not ready to give up nourishing her body as it wastes away, but her organ systems are failing her, one by one,  as the process continues.

My friend is dying.  We’ve been assured that she’s no longer feeling pain, but her family and friends are all hurting.  We remember all the shared moments, we remember her accomplishments, we remember her kindness, and we know each of us is richer for having known her.  We’re coming to terms with the reality that there will be no more shared moments with her, and the understanding that her passing will leave a void in the lives of everybody who knows her.

My friend is dying.  I spend time with her each day because it feels like the right thing to do.  She’s unable to respond with her body, but I’ve felt her spirit each time.  At first she was frantic, afraid, full of guilt for the things that she was leaving undone.  She sensed her failing body, but was unable to accept that she couldn’t go back to solve problems left behind.  All I could do for her was to let her know that her family would be okay, that all problems left behind were no longer her responsibility or concern.  Her path is forward, her spirit should be focused on the next world.  I reminded her that leaving her physical body is not an end, but rather just stepping through a door to the next phase, much like birth.

My friend is dying, but the death of her body is not the end of her existence.  One day, when I knelt beside the bed holding her hand, her spirit felt excited and happy.  I felt and heard her voice telling me that she was young and strong again!  I saw her clearly in my mind, her body no longer silver haired, stooped over a cane, every step full of pain.  Instead, dark hair swung around her face as she ran on strong legs, bare feet flying over green grass, until she plopped down to sit cross-legged and laughing in the sunlight.  She was lovely and full of joy, and I knew she was okay.

My friend is dying.  I’ll keep going every day until her tired body stops, simply because it feels like the right thing to do.  When it happens, I hope someone who loves her is there to ease the way.  When it happens, the healing can begin for her family and friends.  When it happens, everyone who knows her will remember and miss her, but also will be grateful that the process is over for her.

My friend is dying, but her life was well lived!  She made a difference to many, many people and to  many, many animals she was able to rescue.  May God bless her, and the ones who loved her, as he takes her home.

 

Truth, Justice ….. and the American way?

                          JUSTICE….?

settlement_law_justice_clip_art_9525         Justice

 

Justice is such a noble ideal, and is considered part of the bedrock foundation of our society.  From our founding documents to our pop culture, Americans feel confident that we have the finest system of justice in the world.  We know that sometimes our courts fall short, but as a people we want to believe that fairness, or justice, is the ultimate goal.  If someone is accused of a crime and can’t afford a lawyer, we even provide a public defender, because our society says that money shouldn’t stand in the way of justice.  Again, a noble ideal, but what of those accused who aren’t wealthy, but can’t quite qualify as poor?  Too bad for them.  Our system leaves them hanging, and all too often they must choose between bankrupting their family and risking jail or prison time, or accepting a plea bargain even if they’re innocent.  The choice can clear out a crowded court docket, improve the prosecutor’s case clearance numbers, and keep the legal costs down for the accused, but now a life is ruined because of a conviction obtained purely for expediency.  Justice?  Doesn’t sound like it!

And what about Family Law Court?  No public defenders here.  Ideally, justice in Family Court is supposed to be what’s best for the children and fair for the parents.  Again, lofty goals that we as a society believe in.  But those goals are not what Family Court is actually about.  A retired Family Law judge, who still serves as a mediator in Family Law Settlement conferences, recently said that Family Law Court is not about justice, not about fairness, not about what is best for the children, not even about the evidence.  It’s purely about playing by the rules.  And if you’re not represented by an experienced lawyer, or if you’re trying to represent yourself?  Well, too bad for you.  In truth, Family Law Court is about playing the game, and who plays it best.  Bottom line, the one with the most money to spend on a contentious lawyer is the one that wins.

Long ago, when the traditional family unit was the norm and children of divorced families were a small minority, perhaps this standard was ignored because so few people were hurt by it.  But today, the traditional family is becoming less and less common.  Check out any classroom of children and you’ll find that a majority of them have experienced the pain and inequities of divorce.  Courts don’t care, lawyers won’t touch a case without a hefty retainer, and family’s savings are decimated trying to pay legal bills that never seem to stop.  And if you think there are resources available to help people without money for attorneys, think again.  Pro bono legal help for Family Court just doesn’t exist in any appreciable amount.

Why should we as a society care?  Well, if the concept of justice is truly supposed to be one of the basic values of our society, perhaps we should reevaluate how justice might be achieved in Family Law Courts, rather than letting decisions be purchased by the highest bidder.  Our children aren’t stupid, and far too many of them become cynical after seeing it happen to their families every single day.   Americans are familiar with Superman, and his saying “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”  Perhaps there is more truth there than we thought — there’s truth and justice, and then there’s the American Way!  Maybe one day they will become the same in our court systems, but it won’t happen until enough people care about changing the system completely.

AN IRRESISTIBLE FACE, BEGGING FOR YOUR HELP

Gracie was a rescue puppy, so tiny when she was adopted that she had to be fed from a bottle for the first weeks.  The family was told that she was a chihuahua mix, and would be a very small dog, exactly what they were looking for.  Gracie thrived in her new, loving environment, and reached about 50 pounds at 11 months old.  So much for the chihuahua heritage!  Her size was a surprise, but her personality was everything they’d hoped for and more.

Like little kids, puppies explore their world by chewing.  Unfortunately, Gracie ate a hand-towel, and became very ill.  Her family pulled all their savings and credit card cash, nearly $4000, to pay for surgery to save the dog they all adored.  Gracie came through the surgery and seemed to be doing pretty well, but then her abdomen began to fill with fluid.  Luckily the vet that treated Gracie participates in a monthly volunteer cat spay and neuter clinic.  Dr. C knew how much the family loved Gracie, and wanted an opportunity to give her another chance. Dr. C also knew the other vet, Dr. McR, would provide another pair of experienced hands to try and save the puppy.

Gracie headGracie body

 

I took one look at this sweet face and fell in love, as did all the other volunteers.  Gracie was a very, very sick little girl, but we all wanted so much for her to pull through.  She was the last patient of the day, and everyone was sending up silent prayers as the two wonderful vets worked on her.  Gracie’s family was incredibly grateful for all the extra effort, but not surprised that their puppy had touched all our hearts.  The family’s two little girls didn’t really understand, but did their best to help their best friend recuperate when she came home.

kids loving Gracie

 

Unfortunately, Gracie began to fail once again.  My best friend was haunted by Gracie’s struggles, and made arrangements for one last try to save her.  She made arrangements with an amazing veterinarian surgeon to try to save Gracie.  The family agreed, and the cost was put on my friend’s personal charge account.  In spite of all the prayers and efforts, Gracie’s heart stopped on the operating table and they couldn’t bring her back.

This puppy touched so many lives, and her story still does.  We are now asking everyone to please donate anything you can towards my friend’s account at the vet office, so that her kindness doesn’t have to absorb all the cost of Gracie’s surgery.  We were unable to set up a bank account or PayPal account for the Gracie fund donations, since it’s a single animal rather than a certified charity.  You can send PayPal funds from your account to the  sharon@sharonsdarrow.com PayPal account, and indicate it’s for the Gracie fund.  The funds will then go to the vet hospital that performed the surgery, and I will be happy to provide documentation of all the funds received and forwarded to the vet hospital.  I’ve never done anything like this before, but would love to see many people share in this effort, rather than my friend having to handle it all herself.

Thank you so very much.  This is a wonderful family, and their memories of Gracie will be even more special if they can see a multitude of people taking part in this effort for Gracie’s memory.

Gracie, full face

Dear Mom, From Your Puppy

This is the letter my daughter, Sheryl Wilson, received recently from her puppy, Yogi.  He’s a 3- month-old australian shepherd, with quite a personality.  Sheryl’s other dog, mentioned in the letter, is Shante, a 7-year-old American Eskimo.  Just had to share:

Hey mom;

I wanted to write you a note to let you know I’m a little disapointed in your behavior this morning. You’re looking a little rough and acting like you did all the work yesterday. So I think you need a little reminding:
I was the one who went on their first walk yesterday. Let me tell you, it’s no easy feat to run circles around you and Shante and make sure that you two get tangled up and not me, all the while holding her leash in my mouth so I can lead her around.

Then I go home, expecting a little down time, but no, we were under attack. An assault came in the form of a huge stick. I went into puppy ninja mode and had to take it down. I growled, I bit, and I tore apart those bristles. No broom is gonna come into my house and threaten my family.

After this home invasion, I tried to lay down again, but what is that I hear? I can’t believe it, yep that damn vacuum has the nerve to show its face again. After last times beat down I was sure I’d seen the last of it. However, this time it came out with a vengeance. I attacked it over and over, but it wasn’t going down without a fight. I then saw the open closet and knew my best bet was to herd it in there. It was dicey for awhile, but I finally got the job done. I don’t think we’re going to see that damn thing for awhile.  Whew puppy saved the day again.

I guess you didn’t realize I was saving all of our lives because you brought out the mop and decided to clean. I knew you weren’t strong enough to push, so being the gallant puppy I am, I had to jump on top and push the mop for you. Next time, please ask me before you start a project you can’t do yourself!

Finally, after a long day it was time for bed. Don’t get me wrong, I love sleeping in your bed, but if you could keep your legs on your side I would really appreciate it.  I’d worked hard and needed my sleep.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure if it was my life- threatening altercations with the broom or the vacuum that gave me nightmares.  I just found myself crying and kicking out in my sleep.  Luckily, you heard the cries of your warrior and pulled me up next to you.  I felt myself calm down, go limp in slumber, and start to drift off….when wait!  What was that cool air ruffling my hair coming from? Oh, you have a fan, pointed directly at you so you can be cool and comfy.  I guess no consideration is given for your true life hero that saves you on a daily basis!  Well, in your slumber you forgot about my stealth ninja moves. It took a little maneuvering and, yes, a few swift kicks to the side of your face, but I was victorious in shoving you off the pillow and enjoying the benefits of my labor.

I had a wonderful night of sleep and woke up ready to defend your honor. But no! All you said was “it’s 5 am, go away!” The gall…..well, you enjoy your pitiful sleep and you better hope that ninja puppy takes pity on you and will save you again. Try to remember to honor and pamper those that save you every day.

Sincerely,

your puppy (Yogi)

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