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The Gift of Newness – a High Desert Blogging Writing Contest Honorable Mention

Ann Miner Heimback photoThe Gift of Newness by Ann Miner Heimback won honorable mention at High Desert Blogging’s September 2013 writing contest.

Congratulations, Ann!

The Gift of Newness

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;

I will tell of all Thy wonders. I will sing praise to Thy name, O Most High!

Psalm 9:1-3

It’s early morning and the pale sun stretches across the tips of the greasewood, as my front yard awakens to another day. Two cottontails, frolicking like kittens, play hide and seek in the shiny green brush. The morning train snakes through the valley, wailing its greeting – two longs, a short, a long…waaaah waaah wah waaah!

It’s Indian Summer. I know that’s so when I see white-crowned sparrows and juncos mingling with the other greedy birds at the feeders. They are the first to signal the cooler season, and their return brings me joy.

The change of seasons offers freshness…another opportunity to put away things of the past and move forward to new ones. Another chance for really delving into that new bible study, for planting those new bulbs, for enjoying the stillness of home as the children return to school. Another chance for goodness. Another chance!

Who else but the Lord could design such a pattern of seasons in our lives, with all the good and not so good that come with them. We have an opportunity to learn from every one.

What season of my year — of my life — am I in? What am I to learn from it? How am I to react?

Then Comes the Winter

On the first day of October, I pulled on my warm, fluffy robe, slid into my cozy slippers and schlepped out to the living room. I was about to turn on the fireplace to take the Fall chill out of the air when I noticed the temperature on the indoor thermometer. It was 70 degrees! Well, it had been a hot summer.

October in the High Desert is the most beautiful, rewarding month of the year for me. Cool nights, warm days, clear skies. Perfect for working outside. Time to harvest for Fall. Time to plant for Spring. Soon the roses must be pruned.

But for now, for today, I will sit in the sunshine on the swing by the tinkling brook, and watch the bunnies nibble on the melon rinds I left on “their” rock.

I will close my eyes and listen while birds fuss over breakfast and crack open the sunflower seeds in the feeders.

And I will praise God for the wonder of it all. It is the Fall of my life, too. Much is behind me, but there’s so much more ahead. I am warmed by the thoughts of all that My Father has bestowed upon me. And I am excited for what He has placed before me.

Winter is coming, and I am ready for it.

There is a future for the man of peace. Psalm 37:37

 

Ann Miner Heimback is a freelance writer, speaker and workshop leader. She writes a column for the local newspaper to educate the public on Parkinson’s disease.

She has been a member and served on the boards of the High Desert Branch of California Writers’ Club, Southern California Conference on Prayer and Healing, and Supporting Women In Ministry (S.W.I.M.), International. She is a member of the San Diego Christian Writers’ Guild.

Ann lives in Apple Valley, California.

Autumn – The Season of Black Socks, a High Desert Blogging Writing Contest Honorable Mention

Beverly Prine photo

AUTUMN – The Season of Black Socks by Beverly Prine won honorable mention at High Desert Blogging’s writing contest in September 2013.

Congratulations, Beverly!

According to Merriam Webster, autumn means the season between summer and winter. In my book, the months of September, October and November mean marching band season,! Over the past five years, I have been a band booster with the local high school. The band, in my case, is the Oak Hills High School Bulldog Brigade. Volunteering to help has its own rewards, but my experience with the band has returned to me much more than I feel I have given.  During the autumn months, the band performs at football games, parades, field competitions, and other special events. It is an intense three months, but it is the best three months of the school-year, for many students, and boosters!

Autumn weather in Southern California is usually a continuation of the summer heat. It is not like other places, such as my home-town in Northern California, where the leaves change colors and the fog lies low on the hills in the morning. The few trees in the High-Desert change colors, but quickly then fall off the tree. The local High-Desert folks have a saying about the weather, “There’s two kinds: hot and windy.” Once in a while, there will be an early fall cold-snap, but it does not last for long.

September, the first month of autumn, is considered the start of football season, whereas October is when the first field competition is held. By the time the first football game comes around, the band is ready to victoriously perform The Star Spangled Banner at the start of the game, and a portion of the field show during half-time. They had already survived an intense two-weeks of band-camp in July, in preparation for marching band season. The marching band uniforms had also been taken care of. The weather was High-desert hot, and the band room was filled with both students and parents. The goal was to find the best fit for each student for the black “monkey-suit” and jacket, hat, known as a shako, gloves and shoes. The uniform was uncomfortable to wear in the summer-time, but it kept the band-members warm in the cool autumn nights and wintery days to follow. There would be many hours sitting in the stadiums across the High-Desert and the Southland in those uniforms.

Field competition days for marching bands look like this on a band-family calendar in the fall: “Call-time – TBA. Reserve the entire day. DON’T FORGET BLACK SOCKS!” As a veteran band booster, I now understand this translates to: “Go to the band room on Saturday morning at 6:00am, take your kid and make sure he has socks (black), snacks (red licorice), and instrument. Bring a flashlight because it will be dark when you return to the school.” In the fall, when the daylight hours are shortened, these Saturdays start at dark and often end after dark for band-members and their families. Volunteers are asked to ride the bus to chaperone, and also to keep in contact with the other boosters, like those hauling the equipment in the band trailer. Sometimes the band buses and the equipment trailer get separated, never lost, only temporarily delayed due to road construction or incorrect driving directions. It is always a good plan to utilize the buddy-system and have at least two parents on the bus.

Marching band season is a time when friendships are formed, not only among the students, but also with other band boosters. Boosters divide the many duties, assigning one parent as the first-aid person, one for hair and make-up for pageantry, and one for uniform malfunctions, and extra BLACK SOCKS!

At one particular field competition, on a warm Saturday in October, there was a BLACK SOCK incident. The band was staged at the edge of the field-entrance, next in line to perform. The band director noticed one band-member did not have BLACK SOCKS, but navy-blue. I was the closest parent in proximity, so he asked me to take care of this. The extra BLACK SOCKS had already been locked away in the trailer for safe-keeping, and the trailer was parked down a hill about a quarter mile away. Time was of the essence, so I ran to the trailer and unlocked it, grabbed the bag with extra BLACK SOCKS, and ran back up the hill to the offending band-member.  When I returned, red-faced and out of breath, the swap-out was made, and the band went on. I am quite certain I looked rather foolish after the mad-dash for BLACK SOCKS, but it was all for the band. On that day, BLACK SOCKS became a first-aid item, keeping them right next to the band-aids!

This is just one small glimpse of of being a band booster and what autumn means to me. There are so many other ways in which I have been privileged to help.  I always count it an honor and pleasure to support the band students and the music program. Marching band season is my favorite time of year, which is why I love autumn!

 

 

A little about me:
I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, in a town called Lafayette. I moved to Southern California in 1983 and have been here ever since. I enjoy life here, and although it would be nice to spend time in a cabin in the snow-topped mountains, I really cannot imagine living anywhere else but here. One of my passions is running, and I love discovering new routes. I often run out on the ridge between Summit Valley and Crestline. Recently I ran my first 10k (6.2 miles) in East Highland. It was a picture-perfect day, and it was great to meet new people at the event. Another passion I have is writing and creating stories. My grandmother was a newspaper reporter, among her many other talents. Her story is one I am forever working on. I’m glad to have the opportunity to “guest-blog” for High Desert Bloggers, and I look forward to more blogging in 2014!

Beverly Prine 
Contact me at: bevp.2010@gmail.com

Autumn – High Desert Blogging Writing Contest First Place Winner

Michelle Rickey photoAutumn by Michelle Rickey won first place in the September 2013 writing contest at highdesertblogging.com. Congratulations, Michelle!

Autumn, your name is sweet – nectar on my tongue. Won’t you stay? I breathe your name, and it turns to a light smoke, a condensation dripping from my lips. Your cool breeze enwraps my body, sends chills up my spine. I breathe you in deeply, the leaves changing colors with each breath I take. They bleed into the color of your eyes – flecks of gold, ruby, and topaz, colors of our earth that awaits the frozen air of Winter. Only your colors are brilliant and vivid, for Winter will not bring a single color. Winter will wipe the color off the face of the planet, shrouding it in a deathly white.
            Autumn, your stare is as pure as the moon that shines upon me. Your nightly shadows scattered across the land accompany the light glittering over the diamond trees. The city lights up in your presence. They are waiting for you, dreading Winter’s unruly visit, for Winter will only offend them. He will bring no gold, nor ruby, no distant stare, but a piercing, relentless focus.
            Autumn, your face is soft and fragile, your lips curled with a grin. Your skin is lightly colored, blood still flowing through your veins, painting a gentle blush across your cheeks. There is such a beauty in your light complexion, unlike Winter’s drained husk.
            Autumn, your voice is deep –  baritone melodies in my head. Your voice whispers through the trees around me. It is so silent, almost still. It is but a slow, even murmur compared to the beating of my heart, the ticking of a clock, the uneven flow of traffic. How is it that your voice is so tender? I don’t have to wait to hear you. You speak to me always, unlike Winter’s cold silence. His voice is non-existent – an imaginary tone. He speaks to no one.
            Autumn, you are kind – you come before Winter to prepare the earth for his harsh cold. Your colors blanket the land as if to make up for the death that Winter has to offer. You offend no one with your radiant beauty. You bring families together, chilly weather for the piling of leaves, the holidays for sharing and thanksgiving, the memories for years to come. You love as you are loved. Winter is not so kind. His weather pushes people apart, separating them with ice and loneliness. He drowns out their hopes for warmth and better days with his persistent snow. Winter is not so loved.
            Autumn – you were meant to stay. Please, you must not go. Can’t you see that you are adored? Your ruby leaves and gentle whispers through the trees cannot be remade. Your kindness and favor are unmatched. No season is parallel to you, you see. No frozen winds of a drained soul, nor the heartless silence of a predator, nor the displeasure brought upon me by a dying season could win my heart. No other can satisfy me. No – it is only you, my sweet Autumn, for there are none that compare.
Michelle creates customized designs for any occasion. She sings and climbs and enjoys the outdoors.

Memoirs & Ramblings – High Desert Blogging Writers Contest Second Place Winner

Alyssa Penman photoMemoirs & Ramblings by Alyssa Penman won second place in the September 2013 writing contest. Congratulations, Alyssa!

Autumn… Fall… a time of transition, of anticipation, or preparation.

I think that fall has always been one of my favorite times of year. I loved going back to school (for a few weeks at least!) and the clean slate of a new year. New ideas, perhaps new friends, a chance to transform into the person I wanted to be. I’m something of an optimist, always keeping in mind Tolkien’s words in The Hobbit: “Where there’s life there’s hope.” As long as I’m breathing, this new season could be the season that changes it all! Hope springs eternal for students with the chance to try new classes, new teachers, new personas. It is actually a little sad that we don’t get that opportunity for self-reinvention as adults.

Although fall is associated with the harvest and trees shedding their leaves, preparing for winter, it still feels like something wonderful is about to happen. The change means progress. This year has been a challenging one for me on several fronts, but that subtle shift towards winter feels instructive. “Learn to let things go, Alyssa! Take it easy and rest. Dig a little deep to restore yourself so you can come back stronger.” So much of the summer is just surviving the heat! Fall seems to say, “Ok, relax and savor life.”

I always know that first day of real autumn weather. It isn’t exactly cool out, but it is like something in the atmosphere has relented. There’s no oppression in the heat. There is even a bit of bite in the coolness. This year it happened in mid-September, after weeks of unbroken heat waves with more humidity than our desert is used to. Then one magical morning, I open the front door and there it is, ready to greet me like a surprise visit from an old friend. A strangely familiar nip in the air.

The temptation is to just immerse myself in pumpkin-flavored coffee and snuggly sweaters, but of course those days are weeks away. (I do admit I indulged myself with a pound of pumpkin coffee from my local roasters, Tonyan Coffee. Mmmm…) In the desert, the nights start cooling off enough to sleep with blankets on, or brew a pot of decaf while the windows are still open. How heavenly if it hits 65 degrees at night!

And here, at the beginning of October, it feels like those cold nights with the threat of snow are still a long way off, but they will be here before I know it. Already the stores are carrying Christmas decorations, right next to Halloween costumes. We have holiday sales planned for the bookstore that we have been working on for weeks. Soon I’ll be bundling my son into a snow suit for a once-a-year trip up to Wrightwood to see snow. I know that it is physically impossible that time is speeding up as Fall goes on, but I would swear it does.

The sun is setting sooner, so it is dark by the time the bookstore closes. Cole’s Halloween costume is all picked out. We have our plans for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday (but we haven’t figured out Thanksgiving yet!) and we have even started planning for Christmas. I will make sure I find some time to sit, savor a warm cup of pumpkin coffee, snuggled in a sweater, dreaming about what I can become before this magical season is swept away.

 

Alyssa has a passion for the small business community. She is Owner at LocalAndIndependent.com, Co-owner and Marketing Director at Hi Desert Book Oasis Used Books, and Owner, Community Builder at RelyLocal.com – Victorville, CA.

Making Fall – High Desert Blogging Writing Contest Winner

photo 1Making Fall by Cristen Velasquez won third place in the September 2013 writing contest at highdesertblogging.com. Congratulations, Cristen!

Making Fall

 

Seasons haven’t always brought me warm and fuzzy feelings. They’ve brought other things, though. Winter in Houston means a nice marriage between humidity and cold. It buries itself in you no matter how many layers you might be wearing and stays there until you take a hot shower. Spring brings rain, and bugs follow the rain. In Texas, we get water bugs. They’re like roaches, but bigger and they fly at you. Summer brings heat that always breaks a record or two, and for a fair-skinned person like me, a good burn or two comes along for fun. Then comes Fall.

Fall isn’t really a season around here. It’s more like two and a half weeks where the acorns make dents in your hood and you find small leaves and flowers blown onto the floor board. Scorching heat goes further south and you start risking the outdoors without three layers of sunscreen. The humidity fades away for a moment and you start wearing boots for fun, since you’re technically still using the air conditioner, but want to look the part anyway. If you have the same level of baking skills that I do, you’ll buy the pre-made cinnamon roll dough at Trader Joe’s and let everyone believe you made them yourself. Water, a couple cinnamon sticks and an orange peel make a wonderful simmer pot and make an apartment feel a little more like home.

Sometimes, I forget to really enjoy the seasons. Life passes me by all the time and I often wonder where it went. My newborn daughter turned into a sweet natured ten-month-old who knows how to crawl and get into Mommy’s things now. It’s easy to bypass the pumpkin patch by year after year until one day you realize you haven’t been to one since you were a kid. The first year of marriage goes by, then the second, and then halfway through the third you notice you’ve never even decorated before. I’ve decided recently to slow down. I found simple recipes and ideas on Pinterest and I’m actually doing them. I’ve decided to start making memories.

As I mentioned before, simmer pots are perfect for challenged homemakers like me. You throw a couple things in a pot and suddenly it smells like a holiday is on its way. Marshall’s has beautiful crystal vases and decorative platters that are perfect for fall foliage. If you’re into do-it-yourself projects, making your own decorative foliage is simple – find dried leaves, pine cones, acorns, and anything else that you think fits, add an essential oil that you like, and you’re all set! Homemade wreaths are actually quite easy and fun to make and I’ve even been paid to make extra ones for friends!

Spending money on fall decorations, even inexpensive ones, can seem frivolous to a family on a budget, but it’s worth it. We don’t see the trees change color or feel the breeze pick up speed. There isn’t a crisp chill in the air. The atmosphere completely relies on what you make out of it, even if you do happen to live in a place where nature is more declarative of the seasons. We choose to create Fall. I want my children to have good memories of every season, even the one that lasts for two and a half weeks. I want my daughter to remember kind words spoken over Trader Joe’s cinnamon rolls. We will wear scarves, even if the air conditioner is on. There will be tantalizing Halloween candy just low enough for her to sneak some when I’m not looking. The cookie jar will be full. Hot chocolate will happen. If we don’t do it for them, no one else will. Yes, it’s definitely worth it.

Happy Fall!

 

Cristen is married and mom to a one-year-old daughter.  Having a passion for making a difference in the lives of youth, she writes and also speaks at youth and women events.

photo 4

How to Get Motivated to Write a Blog Post

highdesertblogging.com

Angie, highdesertblogging.com

The September writing contest at highdesertblogging.com is ending today. Since I own this blog and am the one who created the contest, it’s pretty much up to me to advertise it. So I did. And still am. Even after 8:00 pm. The contest ends at 11:59 pm tonight. That means if more writers send in entries, they have a little over three hours to write a nonfiction article of 500 to 1000 words on autumn. Can it be done? Of course. Didn’t you know that writers do their best when they get to procrastinate?

I needed to blog today and hadn’t yet because I’ve spent my evening, after the day job and dinner, advertising with the little bit of time left on the contest. A young writer friend and I were in a Facebook conversation about the contest. I told her she still had time to enter. Since she said she would enter the contest, I told her I would write a 500-word blog post. At the end of this sentence my word count is up to 173.

This blog post began at 8:20 pm. The purpose of this post is to let you see how long it takes to write 500 words – and how to motivate yourself to write a blog post. Did I say motivate yourself? Yes, that is correct.

We can come up with a page full of excuses reasons why we don’t have time to blog or write. Let’s see how many I can think of right now that I’ve thought of before or heard from someone else:

  1. I don’t know how to write.
  2. I can’t think of what to write about.
  3. I have to get up early in the morning.
  4. I’m working all day and am tired when I get home.
  5. Who is going to read this anyway?
  6. I’ve got major writer’s block.
  7. I’ll do it tomorrow.

Those were easy to think of. What if those seven excuses reasons are turned into seven ways to motivate ourselves to write? Oh, my, now I have a challenge to meet. It’s 8:41, and I’ve written 331 words. Let me hurry and change those seven.

  1. I know I can write something.
  2. I won’t think about what to write – I will just write.
  3. I will write at least 500 words tonight because I know I won’t want to write before the day job in the morning.
  4. I will write down ideas of what to write about during the work day at breaks and at lunch and write after dinner tomorrow.
  5. Readers of my blog, bloggers who subscribe to my blog, like-minded individuals who follow me on social media will read this because I will link this to those places so they can find it to read.
  6. I will write about how all you have to do to get rid of writer’s block is look around you during the day for ideas: colors, the season, the reasons people give to procrastinate.
  7. I won’t wait until tomorrow; I’m writing now.

Now it is 8:50 pm, and word count at the end of this sentence is 503.

That’s how you motivate yourself to write and to blog. You don’t think. You just start writing. A pattern will begin to unfold. It’s not the time to critique, to rewrite. That time will come later.

See? You can write at least 500 words in less than an hour. How did I motivate myself? By encouraging another person to write. Hmmm…that’s an idea.

 

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