"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bloomin' trees

     Last week I took these pictures of two trees flowering in our yard, the bees busy among their bright blossoms. I didn't post them, in case the blooms spread and I could get better pictures but it turned out I'd caught them at their peak.
Crepe myrtle in our back yard, from our bedroom balcony. 

Je ne sais quoi on east side of house, by driveway.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New cover


     Although I am very grateful to Wilmington College, Ohio, for initiating the publication of To Russia with Love a few months ago, the book I wrote when I was 17, I have redesigned the cover (with the help of my talented cousin Gina Sammis).
     I thought this one would create more interest and curiosity and make a stronger statement than the picture someone else chose of me writing my journal. (See below--what do you think?)
     Now all I have to do is understand the intimidating mass of information on the Lightning Source website for uploading this cover and we'll be in business--hopefully.
     Oh, and there is a 1-1/2 page foreword--making clear who and what the entire book is about!--which was left out by mistake and which the publisher needs to put back in.
     The price will still be $11.95 and all proceeds will go to Wilmington College Peace Center.
OLD cover

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Also on open mic tonight. . .

     A blogger I follow, Jeremy Bear, read his introspective, Best Possibleon Open Mic tonight. At least he read part of it and I have just gone to his blog Tips on Triplets to read the whole story--er, essay--er, vision? It's one of the most original pieces I've read in a long time. Amazing concept, with that quirky humor characteristic of him. Creates ripples of thought. . . Never read anything like it. Thanks, Jeremy!
     And his wasn't the only good piece. There was a variety of high quality original literary and musical compositions. Some came from members of the writers' group in our church, headed by Katherine Lo, who herself offered two very different poems worthy of publication. Ana Sanchez' passionately-presented poem I Wish I Was Beautiful was especially haunting.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Open mic

     I'm looking forward to our church's first "open mic" experience tomorrow night (7PM). It will be at the Seka Coffee House, Grace Brethren Church of Long Beach. Music, poetry--each of us has five minutes to read, recite, play, or sing. I'll be sharing the poem I wrote after my mother's homegoing.

                             HIROSHIMA DAY: August 6, 1990

                                    Once more, upon these graves
                                    without a corpse,
                                    where grass now grows--
                                    and folding chairs in rows--
                                    we sit respectfully
                                    at break of day
                                    and try to fan
                                    the flames away.

                                    Only cicadas scream
                                    and clouds of smoke
                                    rise as our foes'
                                    housewives and children rose.
                                    Rising, too, memories
                                    threaten to choke,
                                    such leveled dreams
                                    as they evoke.

                                    She did not burn with them--
                                    but she was here.
                                    Her ghost with theirs
                                    this cemetery shares.
                                    And all their horror, thirst,
                                    and agony
                                    with my new grief
                                    explodes in me.

                                                  --Jessica Reynolds (Shaver) Renshaw

     I love poetry--real poetry. My attempts to write real poetry (and other stuff) are at BONUS FEATURES. I lead with my best (the first have become the last), so scroll down to June 3, 4, and 5 for stories (When I Named the Kangaroo, The Swordfish and Howard) and start reading the poems from June 6 up (starting with Missionary Kid). Click on Newer posts at the bottom of each page to see more. Toward the end of July, when I run out of stories and poems, I switch to attempts at art photography.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

MEXICAN BORDERS (2): Zeta gang origins

     You might also like to read Cyndi Jacobs' amazing account at Mexico Report of the Cinco de Mayo Prayer Initiative April 15-May 5, a 21-day fast by Christians all over the world. She writes, "Houses of prayer in border cities fasted and prayed during this time as well--even for a continuous 24 hours on the 5th of May." 
     The 21 days of prayer culminated in Cyndi and Mike Jacobs joining 29 other evangelical American leaders to meet Mexican President Calderon and Secretary of State Dr. Poire (both educated at Harvard) and having lunch with the President, his wife Margarita, and the Secretary of their Homeland Security. In her report she shares Dr. Poire's summary of how the Zeta gang came into power, including how our country's lifting of the assault weapons ban in 2004 provided primarily non-violent narco-traffickers with access to the kind of weapons they needed for violent confrontations.  
     A quote from Cyndi's account: "After a time, we were able to ask [the president] questions as well. At one point, I was able to voice what many of us had expressed privately to one another, “Mr. President, I believe I can say that many of us have felt both embarrassment and sorrow at some of the things we have heard today about how our nation has caused so many problems for your nation.“ I went on to ask his forgiveness for our greed for money, drugs and lust. Many leaders shook their heads in agreement. It was a snapshot in time that I will personally never forget. I don’t think it was just my imagination, but there was a tangible change in the atmosphere at that point. At the very least, I was greatly relieved to have had a moment to share the heaviest of heart I had felt after hearing the Mexican side of our border problems. We, as Americans, cannot point fingers at “them” without taking a hard look at ourselves. . .
     "If that was all we had accomplished that day, it would have been monumental, however, that night was the “icing on the cake” as we say in Texas. After a brief stop at the hotel, we drove around an hour in the usual Mexico City traffic jams to the convention center for a night of prayer. About 800 pastors and leaders had been invited from every state in Mexico to join us. Thousands joined the leaders as we asked God to heal our borders.
     "Ron Luce of Teen Mania prayed for the youth, Larry Stockstill shared what God had shown him for the nation. Billy Wilson of Empowered 21, John Robb of the International Prayer Council, pastors of several large U.S. churches, and many others prayed—Mexican as well as American. The flags of both nations stood on either side of the podium. A video had been made for prayer points to aid us in informed intercession.
     "The full results of our twenty-one days of prayer and that one night’s intercession are still to be made known. We do know that the week before the police had closed down the oldest area of prostitution and 60 woman and girls had been rescued. Now that was worth the whole journey to hear!"

MEXICAN BORDER (1): Zeta gang leaders being saved!

Dear Friends with a heart for Mexico,
     Our Hispanic friend Irma, originally from Harlingen, now a pastor's wife here in Long Beach, told me this morning God has been working in the hearts of Mexican criminals of the Zeta gang. As you probably know better than I, this gang has grown to 2,000 violent ex-military who are taking over the drug cartels by force. They have no religious or political "ism" to promote, like communism, socialism, or Islam, no agenda other than seizing and maintaining power and money. 
     Some time ago, a pastor in Matamoros had a vision to plant churches (Irma can't remember the specific number--"50? 300?") on the Mexican side of the border. Through this ministry, she knows of three of the Zeta gang who have given their hearts to the Lord. All three of them said they were tired of living the lives they are living. 
One received Christ through Irma's uncle, a retired master plumber from Corpus Christi who mentors and disciples Mexican pastors, going to Harlingen frequently to help plant these churches along the border.
     A second Zeta soldier came to a church in Matamoros when there was no service taking place. He found the janitor and told him, "Pray for me. I keep seeing all these dead people. I'm going crazy. I need prayer." The janitor went and got the pastor, who led him to Jesus Christ.
     In another Mexican town along the border, a Zeta cartel leader came with his henchmen and demanded of the pastor, "How come you're driving a nice car?"
     The pastor said, "I'm a pastor. I'm the son of a king."
     The soldier threw a wad of money on the table before the pastor and said, "I'm tired of this life. I want more. I want peace. I want what you have."
     The pastor answered, "I don't want your money." He slapped the drug lord on the left side of his chest and said, "God wants your heart!"
     At this, the drug lord's men came from all sides and grabbed the pastor but their leader told them, "Leave him alone." Then, to the pastor, "I'll do whatever you want me to do." And he gave his heart to the Lord.
     Irma thought it better not to mention names, other than hers, because of possible reprisals.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not what I would have chosen

     I never meant to write this kind of thing, you know--hard facts, championing causes, things people don't want to read and don't want to believe if they do read them.
     I have wanted to write since I was seven, but it was always stories, fun anecdotes, silly dialogue, poking fun at stuffiness, fiction to make children giggle and adults smile nostalgically. And poetry.
     This wasn't my choice.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just an average post-Fukushima day around the world

Today's headlines on enenews.com:


Other good sources of information I have just discovered about Fukushima aftermath:

FUKUSHIMA: Stabilized

     Japan's crippled nuclear plant reaches stability. If you read this article closely this does not mean radiation is not still affecting the environment. (In fact, at this very moment Fukushima beef is being recalled because cows ate cesium-contaminated straw.) It just means the situation has stopped getting worse. Japan is now denying the three meltdowns, which they had before admitted and which have been confirmed by other countries. They are now calling them "partial meltdowns."
     Thank God they are shutting the plants down. They anticipate achieving a "cold shutdown" by January. "A reactor reaches cold shutdown when the temperature at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel drops below 100 degrees Celsius, and when the release of radioactive materials is 'under control.'"
     Note: This means the release of radioactive materials is not yet 'under control' and is not expected to be under control for six more months. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

New photo posted on June 20

Mao and Setsu Shimizu's wedding photo is now posted on this blog, June 20. They are Christians working with organizations cleaning up the disaster area in North East Japan. Omedetou gozaimasu, Mao to Setsu-san!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

God cared about her enough to bring us back

     Yesterday Jerry and I were walking through downtown Los Angeles trying to find the Museum of Contemporary Art when a young woman holding a clipboard, all by herself on a street corner, asked if I support Planned Parenthood. I said an emphatic NO. 
     She seemed genuinely surprised.
     "Why not?"
     "They aborted a friend of mine but thank God she survived!"
     Jerry and I walked on, found we were going the wrong direction and had to walk back past her--a God-thing, I am convinced! The young woman and I talked again. (I started out by apologizing for being so abrupt with her.) I explained how Planned Parenthood had talked Gianna's mother into aborting her at seven months, how appalled she was when she realized what she had done, how women who see abortion as a quick fix at the time later suffer long-term regret and guilt. 
     "Seven months--" she said. "I don't think--"
     "It's legal until birth. I talked to the doctor who aborted her afterward--he injected the mother with something to kill the baby and usually the baby struggles for a couple of hours and then the woman delivers a dead baby. But Gianna was born alive. The doctor just shrugged and told me, 'I guess I didn't give her a big enough dose of saline.'" 
     The young woman said, "I'm against abortion, too, but it's a woman's choice." She seemed bewildered by my passion. I was trembling and close to tears.
     I shared about a baby being a separate person, having brain waves and heartbeat before the woman knows she's pregnant. "It's a baby!"
     "I know that."
     "Then why do you support an organization which kills them?"
     "It's a job."
     I asked her to reconsider her job. Ended up writing down the name of my book for her (Gianna: Aborted and Lived to Tell About It) which she said she would find and read, and giving her a hug. We didn't get her name but God knows. Please pray for the young woman He had us go out of our way to reach on a street corner in Los Angeles on July 15.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

(A little) loss

SEE ADDED P.S.  Also added two new photos to June 26.
The tree across the top of this picture extended up three stories. Note hummer at feeder. 


     In the vast scheme of things, it isn't a big deal. The liquidambar tree which canopied our patio, the one with shady branches and soft-green leaves like spread hands, the one hummingbird families have hatched in and fledged from, had to be pulled out this morning. It had grown so huge its roots were as big as tree trunks lifting two-inch faults in our cement patio and shrugging aside the fence alongside it.
     I was the one who betrayed the little birds and myself. I was the one who called our landlady (my former sister-in-law) and told her it needed to come out. I don't know why. I don't even like cement. You can see part of the fence had been removed. I could have campaigned to rebuild it around the roots. But before I could waver, she checked it out and had men come cut it down this morning.

     We weren't home but the men who chopped it down told me the hummingbirds fluttered about their heads in agitation. I understood how they felt. I felt fluttery and agitated, too, just knowing the men were there.
     Now I feel loss. There are trees out front the birds live in but I can't see them from our windows. There is even another tree they have nested in near what is now a gaping emptiness but its leaves are ugly and it's not a shade tree, doesn't have gracious, extended arms. I miss the presence and beauty of that tree that has lived here longer than I have (24 years) and been a home to happy little generations of birds. In autumn liquidambars are the only trees around here that change color--scarlet and russet and gold. I never thought to take a picture of the entire tree until it was too late.
     If the hummingbirds weren't so little and helpless, they probably would have had me taken out instead. I wouldn't have blamed them.

P.S. (July 13) - The loss of the tree has opened up a view of the entire western sky from our bedroom. Maybe the Lord will make up for the tree in sunsets.

Monday, July 11, 2011

We missed Will and Kate

     Prince William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, spent the past three days in Los Angeles. I'm sure they would have wanted to meet us but we just couldn't fit it into our schedule.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

FUKUSHIMA- Good news: Four nations swear off nuclear energy

China suspends nuclear power

March 16 - Japan's nuclear crisis reverberated in atomic power-friendly countries Wednesday, with China saying it would hold off on approving new nuclear plants and French lawmakers questioning top energy executives about the safety of their reactors.
     Some governments have put their nuclear future on hold, at least for now, as concerns grow even among pro-nuclear governments about reactor safety around the world. . . China's Cabinet said Wednesday the government will suspend approvals for nuclear power stations to allow for a revision in safety standards. Huffington Post

Swiss to phase out nuclear power by 2034
May 25The Swiss cabinet wants to gradually decommission all of Switzerland’s nuclear power plants by 2034. Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said the country’s five nuclear power stations would not be replaced when they reach the end of their lifespan. Swissinfo.ch

Germany To Drop Nuclear Power By 2022
May 30 - Possibly the most conservative government in Europe--Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union in Germany--has decided to phase out nuclear power. German Chancellor Angela Merkel vows to close all 17 of the country’s nuclear plants by 2022, with 8 plants to close immediately. The country becomes the first to swear off nuclear power in the wake of the recent nuclear emergency at the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Wall Street Journal.

Italians Vote to Abandon Nuclear Energy
June 14 - More than 94% of Italians voted to abandon nuclear power for the foreseeable future, turning out in droves to cast ballots. . . Anti-nuclear campaigners say Japan's Fukushima disaster in March helped sway public opinion against nuclear power.  WSJ / Globe and Mail / BBC  

Resisting this tsunami of sanity, Britain and France remain committed to nuclear energy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

FUKUSHIMA: Fifty-seven-year-old lie

     Radiation can't hurt you. That's a 57-year old lie. 
     In my post His Scribe: Growing up in Hiroshima - 2, I describe how our Atomic Energy Commission hired my father and other scientists and doctors to research radiation in Hiroshima. But I'm not sure I posted what happened afterward. 
     Three years later Dad submitted his results: The growth and development program of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission: Analysis of observations on maturation, body build and posture taken in 1951-54 on 4,800 Hiroshima children by Earle L. Reynolds. Ph.D. It was a three-inch thick hardback book of facts, backed by statistics and graphs, indicating that radiation stunts growth, compromises immune systems, and causes cancer--in children, which were his specialty, leukemia and thyroid cancers. 
     By the time Dad submitted these findings, the Atomic Energy Commission was trying to calm American apprehensions about radiation because it was now promoting an extensive series of atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific. Talk about conflict of interests! The very agency which commissioned the study of the possible dangers of radiation suppressed the facts about those dangers for 4-5 years, until our testing program was over. 
      Then they must have released the study because two researchers after that time refer to it. 
     Originally, the study was designed to be longitudinal. The same children were supposed to be studied periodically as they grew up, married, and had children of their own. But the AEC discontinued the research (on the first population in human history exposed to radiation!) as "unimportant." It has been left up to non-government-funded, non-political scientists like those at http://radiation.org/ to discover that some lethal effects of radiation do not appear until ten years or more after exposure (read any book on the little girl who made the paper crane a symbol of hope, Sadako Sasaki--exposed to the Hiroshima bomb at two, developed her first symptoms at 12 and died that same year) and that babies born to radiation-exposed parents can have horrific, even lethal birth defects (see the foremost documentary on the effects of radiation, The Battle of Chernobyl.) 
     Our son and daughter-in-love are trying to get pregnant. I am already worrying about the health of our grandchild.

Friday, July 8, 2011

FUKUSHIMA: "A hell of a way to boil water."

     I know what you have read and heard about radiation from Japan: "Radiation is all around us in our daily lives, and these findings are a miniscule amount compared to what people experience every day. For example, a person would be exposed to low levels of radiation on a round trip cross country flight, watching television, and even from construction materials.”
     Even experts, who should be ashamed of themselves, are telling us that. This particular quote came from FDA senior scientist Patricia Hansen when informed that radioactive iodine-131 had been found in milk in Washington state on March 30. (Note: Here's the powerful response of five watchdog groups and a former senior adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy to the statement above.)
     When you read reports or hear individuals discounting radiation coming from Japan as equivalent to a single X-ray or mammogram, imagine that you go in for an X-ray and instead of pushing the button to release radiation for a fraction of a second, the tech tapes the button down, leaving it on and aimed at you, while s/he wanders off for coffee--or for a month's cruise. These discounters are comparing something that lasts for a fraction of a second with something that is lasting second after second, minute after minute, day after day, month after month for nearly 4 months now.  
     Ironically, because of the prevailing jet stream and ocean currents, we are getting more radiation from Japan here in the U.S. than in most of Japan. It was safer for Jerry and me to be in Hiroshima recently than at home in California.
     As Albert Einstein, who certainly should know, put it, "Nuclear energy is a hell of a way to boil water."   

P.S. Tonight Jerry and I watched The China Syndrome. Halfway through the movie, I realized I was shaking.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

FUKUSHIMA: going on 4 months

     Although we are getting no news in the States that I know of about the nuclear catastrophe in Japan, sites like http://enenews.com/  continue to provide daily updates--because the disaster is not only ongoing, it's getting worse. 
     I know accounts about the situation in Japan, like Radiation near school zone 90 times Chernobyl level40 % of Fukushima refugees show internal exposure to radiation; Radioactive whales caught 650 km from Fukushima plant; and mutant rabbit born near Fukushima (VIDEO) or even  Radioactive cesium found in Tokyo tap water, and Radiation in Tokyo 3-4 times level at which Soviets evacuated everyone/Radiation hotspots 500-700 times normal (VIDEO)may be of only incidental interest to those of us in the United States.  
     But what about the following? These are of global concern: 
     Fukushima already at Chernobyl levels-continues to release significant amounts of radiationaccording to  Robert Alvarez, former senior policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, June 11.
     And how about these? It's right here in our own communities:
     Very high concentrations of hot particles in Pacific NW during April, May--includes plutonium and americum (AUDIO), June 29 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

FUKUSHIMA: Is it safe for us to drink milk?

     My daughter called me from Oklahoma to ask whether it's safe for our 7-year old granddaughter to drink milk, in light of Fukushima. 
     I had to say I don't know. Uncontrolled radiation is apparently still pouring out of at least two nuclear reactors undergoing melt-through and is being carried to the United States (which is downwind) via the jet stream and ocean currents. I know there are hot spots of radiation in the U.S. but at present milk is only being tested for radiation in California. 
     The element that can make milk a health risk is Strontium-90, the radioactive equivalent of calcium. One of 200 radioactive substances nuclear bombs and reactors both produce which aren't found in nature, Strontium-90 seeks the bones and thyroid glands of growing children, especially babies in utero, settling there so calcium can't. Instead of benefiting growth, it causes thyroid and bone cancer. 
     So is it safe to drink milk in Oklahoma--or any other state in the Union? Well, if it rains in your part of the country, chances are carcinogens attached to those drops of water are penetrating your soil. If grass grows in that soil and cows eat that grass, they will be giving milk that to one degree or another is radioactive. You and your children will be getting additional amounts of radiation every time you drink it. 
     Even if those amounts are miniscule, they add up. On June 2, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] admitted "there is no such thing as 'safe' levels of radiation.” They cited a 700-page July 30, 2005 report by the National Academies of Science concluding the same thing, that "there is no safe level of exposure to radiation—even very low doses can cause cancer." See FDA-comparison-radiation-milk-everyday-exposures-called-improper.
     Personally, Jerry and I have switched to almond milk, which contains 50% more calcium (calcium carbonate) than dairy milk and tastes yummy. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Two successful fledges at phoebeallens.com!

July 2 - Joplin, one of the two humming babies on the most popular webcam online (nearly 3,000 viewers currently), has fledged four times so far--and keeps coming back to sibling Heather! Watch live or watch the videos at www.phoebeallens.com. (Hummers don't normally return to the nest at all.) 
Update: Make that six times! And he's back again! Joplin is making hummer history!
Update: He's come back 12 times, left 13. He stays with hesitant Heather for a few minutes or more than an hour, lying beside her or poking her with his beak. Once he pointedly hogged the nest so she had nowhere to go but--out. Obviously wants Sis* to go with him. She hasn't summoned the nerve to, yet. Still clings to the edge. (*Actually gender cannot be determined for the first year.)
July 3 - 8 AM Update--Heather is still in the cradle. At the moment, she's falling asleep perched on the rim. It looks like she may tumble over backwards and fledge in her sleep! Her brother is still waiting for her, four feet away on a yucca branch.
Update - Heather fledged this morning, just ten minutes after we left for church!
     We watched the video when we came back. She seemed to have a little trouble figuring out how to switch out of reverse--came back to the nest once and tried again--and how to get lift but after wobbling in and out of our view for a few minutes she flew out of sight.
     Observation: Over 1,100 viewers are still watching the empty nest. This is the end of the nesting season, guys. Get a(nother) life until October!