2014 in review

On July 15, I posted my first blog. Since then, I have posted 24 more. I have enjoyed writing the posts each week and sharing them with my followers. Please check out my archives in case you’ve missed any. I look forward to even bigger and better things in 2015.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 560 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Handy Helpers–New Year’s Resolutions

Scan_20141229Like many of you, the Handy Helpers have been thinking about their hopes and expectations for 2015. These are their New Year’s  resolutions.

My name is Amber Snyder. I’m in the fifth grade at Bluesky Elementary school. This year I am going to work on finishing what I start. Sometimes I get distracted and I leave a job unfinished. My mom tries to help me get organized, but I don’t always remember everything. If I can get my homework done on time and do my chores without being told, my parents will be very happy and so will I.

Hi, I’m Melissa Peterson. In 2015, I’m going to try to be nicer to my little sister Trisha. She can be such a pain, it’s going to be hard not to yell at her, but I’m going to try. I’m also going to try to be more patient with my dad. He was in the army in Afghanistan. Now he’s home. I don’t like the way he bosses me, but I’m going to try to be a little more understanding. I know he has problems too.

Yo, Spike here! My New Year’s resolution is to stay out of trouble. It’s not easy to be a good kid all the time, but I can try harder. I hate being picked on by my sisters, and sometimes I do mean things to them. Jennifer’s boyfriend Todd told me to hang in there. He said that pretty soon my sisters will go to college and I’ll be an only kid. I can’t wait!

My name is Logan Green. I live with my mom in Bluesky. My dad is an airline pilot. He isn’t home very much. Sometimes it makes me angry to see my mom so sad when he’s gone for a long time.  I’m going to try to be the best son I can be. Maybe then my dad will come home more often.

My name is Beth Anne Riley. I like to be with my friends and help my mom and dad. Mrs. Henry is my friend. I like to help her too. My mom says that I need to listen more. That is what I want to do. It will make my mom happy and my dad.

Happy new year from Laura Thomas. My resolution is to help my mom more. She is very busy with her dance studio and taking care of my little sisters. I like to help with the cooking, but there are other things I can do like laundry and housework. Then my mom will have more time to relax and be in a happy mood.

Hello, my name is Chris Bishop. My New Year’s resolution is to read my Bible more. My brother Eric reads his Bible every day. He wants to be a minister when he grows up. Eric said that everyone should read the Bible because it tells us how to live a Christian life.

Hi, I’m Rosemary Morgan Heddens, the author of The Handy Helpers book series. My New Year’s resolution is to keep writing books that will help my friends solve problems and grow in the way they should go.

Keeping Christ in Christmas

IMG_0796As a Catholic Christian, I enjoy our liturgical calendar. I see it as a path to follow–a guide to help me on my journey. For Catholics, the new year began on the first Sunday of Advent, November 30, and continues for three more Sundays. Advent is a time of preparation. In the scriptures we read, “A voice cries out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.” In church we sing, “Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel.” Through reflecting inwardly and reaching out to others with acts of mercy, we prepare our hearts to receive Jesus.

Advent is followed by Christmas. For many people, Christmas is one day–December 25. For Catholics, Christmas is a season. It begins on December 25 and continues through Epiphany–January 4 this year.  Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the magi and reminds us to always seek Jesus and keep him foremost in our hearts and minds as we travel on our journey.  After the Christmas season, we move into what is called ordinary time. That doesn’t mean we sit back and relax until Lent. Strengthened in faith by our weeks of preparation, we move forward, following the teachings of Jesus and applying them to our daily lives.

I have a magnetic sign I hang on my car this time of year. It says, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” More and more these days, the traditional greeting of “Merry Christmas” is being replaced by the more general and ostensibly more politically correct “Happy Holidays.” As Christians we have witnessed our celebration of Christ’s birth being overshadowed by more material and secular activities such as parties and shopping for expensive gifts.  “Keep Christ in Christmas” has become a movement to remind us of the true meaning of the season. Ironically, the expression “Merry Christmas” seems to have taken on new importance as we boldly continue to greet others with those words.

One of my favorite ways to celebrate Christmas is ringing the Salvation Army bell. This past Friday, I finished my third and final session–with temperatures in the twenties, bundled up from head to toe. I watched with glee as bills and coins were pushed through the slot into the red kettle, knowing that it all goes to help those in need in our community. But ringing the bell is about more than just collecting money. What I enjoy most is greeting people as they walk up to the store–receiving and returning their smiles and warm wishes. Sometimes I’m able to share a brief moment in someone’s day and I really love that. It makes me feel a part of something bigger than myself and lets me know that we are in this together. Keeping Christ in Christmas doesn’t seem like such a daunting task as I recognize him in the kindness and generosity of those I meet as I stand there in front of Safeway, ringing that bell.

Christmas Memories

Scan_20141215Back when I was a kid, Christmas wasn’t so much about the shopping. Black Friday was not a term that was used by anyone–maybe merchants, but certainly not the rest of us. No stores were open on Thanksgiving–in fact, no stores were open on Sundays. Still, we managed to get our Christmas shopping done.

As it is today, Christmas was about family. My grandfather’s birthday was Christmas Eve. That meant a huge family gathering with all my cousins. Sometimes it was just those of us who lived in the Phoenix area and we could get together at someone’s home. On special birthdays or when family members were here from out of town, we would hold it at a restaurant meeting room. My grandfather, who was a wonderful, loving man, was the center of attention. He was in a wheelchair and we took turns sitting on his lap as if he were Santa.

I remember being excited about Christmas and anxious to open my presents on Christmas morning. (I was the kid who always peeked at the presents no matter how well my mom thought they were hidden.) But there is not a single Christmas or a single Christmas gift the sticks out in my mind. I do remember the Christmas when my sister Shirley received a life-size doll that walked. It wore three-year-old clothing and was nearly as tall as Shirley.

My brother Ricky was born when I was nine. Being his big sister wasn’t my favorite role. Still, at Christmas time I was able to talk my parents into buying him toys they would never get me, being a girl. Those gifts included Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, and a chemistry set. While they might have been gender-appropriate, they weren’t really age-appropriate. That was okay because I was the one who played with them. I used the Erector set to build a robot. You should have seen the faces of my family members when it came rolling down the hall.

After all  the presents were opened and the wrappings cleaned up, I would eventually get around to looking in my stocking. There was no real hurry because I knew what was in it. There would be an apple and an orange in the bottom. There would be a mixture of nuts–not in neat little packages with the hulls removed. These were nuts that had to be cracked. My favorite were the Brazil nuts, but they were also the hardest to get the meat out of. I remember spending hours trying to pick out the pieces of nut stuck in the corners of the shells, my fingers bleeding from where I had poked them with the pick.  Of course, my stocking also held candy–this was also unwrapped. It was hard candy in the shape of fruits with a soft jelly center and colorful ribbons-shaped candies. Unfortunately, by the time I dug through my stocking, the candy was coated with a thin layer of nutshell dust.

As a child, I always puzzled over the contents of my stocking. There was usually fruit in the refrigerator. So why did my parents put it in my stocking? I never asked–mostly because it would make me seem ungrateful. As an adult, I came to consider that my parents had grown up during the Great Depression. In those days, the contents of my stocking would have been real treasures.

Christmas has changed a lot. Today kids are looking for electronics and other expensive gifts under the tree. But it will always be a magical time filled with wonder, anticipation, and love.

I Write the Stories–Jesus Adds the Message.

IMG_0792 (2)I have put off writing about this subject, partly because it’s personal, but mostly because some readers might think I’m weird–okay weirder than they thought.

When I first envisioned the Handy Helpers books–before I even knew what they would be called–I never considered including a Christian element, at least not to the extent that I eventually did. In A Rocky Start, the Snyders are a Christian family that has dinner together, plays board games on Friday nights and walks to church every Sunday. That could have been enough, but it wasn’t.  I needed a Sunday school lesson, so I looked on the internet for some fourth-grade Sunday school topics.  I randomly selected the story of the prodigal son. After hearing about it in Sunday school, Amber relates the story to her parents and they discuss its meaning. That could have been enough, but it wasn’t.  Near the end of the book, Amber is feeling very guilty about some things she’s done. She tells her dad, “I’m like the son in the Bible who wasted his inheritance. I’ve wasted my chance to help seniors.” Her father uses the story of the prodigal son to show Amber how she has already been forgiven. All she needs to do is forgive herself. He goes on to explain to her about God’s mercy. Had I chosen a different Sunday school lesson, the book might have ended in a similar way. I believe I was directed to choose that Sunday school lesson so that the message of God’s love and mercy could be the primary message of the book.

As I planned the second book, Seven is a Perfect Number, I knew it would include an explanation of why seven is God’s perfect number. But there were lots of surprises in store for me as I wrote that book. One surprise was The Servant Song that Beth Anne and her grandmother sing on the way to Phoenix. We sang that song once in church and I thought it was a very nice song. I wondered if there was some way that I could use it in the book. Every week at mass, I would turn to that song in the hymnal and read the words. More and more I began to feel like it needed to be part of the book. Words from the song appear in the book four times and it is crucial to the story. Beth Anne sings it to Mrs. Henry when she is trying to cheer her up. Later, when Beth Anne is alone in the dark on a hillside, she imagines Mrs. Henry singing it to her. Finally, when Mrs. Henry is sitting with Beth Anne in the hospital, she sings the song and Beth Anne wakes up to hear it.

As I said, we sang The Servant Song once at mass. We did sing it a second time a few months after Seven is a Perfect Number was published. I was feeling  discouraged and disappointed that my books weren’t selling as well as I had hoped. In my morning devotions, I talked to God about it, feeling that maybe this wasn’t what I was being called to do. I asked for a sign, some way that I would know that I should continue with the Handy Helpers project. We were in the middle of mass and I needed to go to the restroom. I decided to go during the offertory. Just as I stood to leave, the choir began to sing–The Servant Song. Immediately, I sat down and joined in the singing. I had my sign.”

Me and My Man by Kirstin Heddens

Scan_20141130David and I found each other at a Halloween dance. I was dressed as Dorothy Gail from Wizard of Oz. David was Captain Riker from Star Trek. He thought I looked really cute and I thought he was so handsome. We have been dating about ten years. I like to call David my man and he calls me his woman.

David and I have lots in common. We were my mom’s students. David was in her first class when she started teaching at Bradshaw Mountain High School. He was fourteen years old and I was only eight. He thought I was just a little girl. But when I grew up, he became my boyfriend.

We have different hobbies. David likes to play his Play Station. I like to sing and dance or read my Nook. We both like country western, oldies, and Disney music. David and I like to have peace and quiet at times. We like to watch TV. David and I collect cds and movies. David is a Diamondbacks  and Luke Bryan fan. Sometimes we listen to music together or go to movies. We like to go to the special needs dances every month. David and I like to kiss.

We are planning to get married. David and I will have our own house–It might be the house I own already or a different house. We will do our housework together. I’m the one who will do the cooking. David will set the table and help with the dishes. I will help David pay bills,  take his pills and handle his money. I’m going to retire from Costco when we get married. David already calls my dad–Dad.  My dad likes that.  We will go for walks and shop for food at Walmart or Albertsons.

I’m writing my own book series called snap singers. It is about kids with special needs who like to sing together and play in a band. Someday I hope my books will be published so everyone can read them.

News from Spike

mqkTKySDzy7mUaLE6NWbfoA (2)Okay. Okay. I know I shouldn’t a done it. But having two older sisters is a pain in the butt. When they’re not bossing me around getting me to do stuff, like vacuuming they’re supposed to do, they’re telling Mom about something I did–usually something I didn’t mean to do anyway. Accidents happen you know. So Jennifer found my fake rat, Chuck, in the box of cereal. She didn’t have to make such a big deal about it. Then she got Mom all worked up. I had plans you know–plans to go fishing with my bros. But no! I got stuck washing windows! Then when I figured out a way to get it done quick, (I got some little kids to do it for me. They even paid me to do it.) Mom came home early and spoiled the whole thing.

I guess washing windows isn’t the worst thing to have to do. Anyway it’s summer–there’s plenty of time to go fishing. That’s not what’s really bugging me. What’s really bugging me is Todd. Todd’s Jennifer’s jerk boyfriend. Why he’s always hanging around here I have no idea. Doesn’t he have a home of his own? I’d think Jennifer would get tired of seeing his dumb face everywhere. I know I am.

The first time I ever saw Todd, he was trying to show off for Jennifer, doing tricks with the basketball. First he was dribblin’ tween his legs. That looked  stupid ’cause he kept hitting his leg and then he had to chase after the ball. When he finally shot a basket, it did go in a few times. But that wasn’t good enough. He had to show Jennifer how he could make a shot with his eyes closed. He opened his eyes just in time to catch the ball when it was rolling off the roof. His backwards shot bounced off the rim and hit him in the back of the head. It was so funny, I thought I’d die laughing. When he saw me, he threw the ball at me. “Let’s see you do better!” he yelled. I just threw the ball down and went in the house.

After that, me an’ Todd have been sworn enemies. Mom and Dad think he’s trying to treat me like a big brother–but they don’t know him like I do. He’s a jerk and a bully. I’ve gotta figure out a way to get him off my back. Anyway, Jennifer only keeps a boyfriend for three months. Todd doesn’t know it, but his days are numbered. When Jennifer drops him on his butt, I hope I’m there to laugh in his face!

My friend, Rosemary, asked me to write this blog. She writes down the things that me and my friends do as Handy Helpers. You can read about all the stuff we’re into in the Handy Helpers books. If you have any ideas about what I could do to get even with Todd, I sure would like to know.

Scan_20141120(The Handy Helpers books are available at amazon )

Written by Rosemary Heddens