Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Friday, April 12, 2019

Children's Literature -- Not Only for Kids

This week, Jeopardy fans watched while Las Vegas resident James Holzhauer broke the record for single-day cash winnings. While the newspaper article I read was all about his big earnings, as a writer, the nugget that jumped out at me was this:

Holzhauer claimed his secret weapon for learning information was children’s books. “They are chock-full of infographics, pictures and all kinds of stuff to keep the reader engaged.”

Such a great lead-in for the review of a children’s book I’ve wanted to share on The DayMaker. So here you go. Meet Sallie in her story told by a children’s author and a fellow member of Writers of Kern.

*     *     *     *     *

What’s better than a dog story? A true dog story steeped in historical context.

Allison Crotzer Kimmel’s picture book, The Eternal Soldier; the true story of how a dog became a Civil War hero, celebrates the loyalty, bravery, and devotion of Sallie, the pup who becomes a mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Through Kimmel’s endearing story and Rotem Teplow’s colorful, detailed illustrations, we learn how Sallie, in turn, brings out the soldiers’ kindness and humanity in the face of devastating times on the battlefields.

Sallie, a four-week-old pup, is brought to the volunteer infantry in a basket. The men take to her immediately, and she to them. She immerses in camp life, marching beside the soldiers in drills, responding to bugle calls, and boosting morale. Soon Sallie was marching into battle and standing her ground with the flag bearer who raised “the colors.”

After the long, difficult battle at Gettysburg, Sallie guarded and comforted the fallen men, remaining by their sides until help came and all the men were taken care of. Two years later, at the battle at Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, Sallie herself is hit by enemy fire. Her men never forget her, and twenty-five years later a monument that included a bronze statue of Sallie was erected and dedicated to the soldiers of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

Allison Crotzer Kimmel tells Sallie’s story with heartfelt compassion and the accuracy that diligent research brings. The Author’s Note provides historical names and places of Civil War battles, information about military rituals and traditions, a glimpse of Sallie’s time with the 11th, and excellent resources for exploring more of Sallie’s life.

I highly recommend Kimmel’s The Eternal Soldier, published by little bee books, for youngsters eight years of age and older and their parents. With its educational value, positive message and role models, and its accurate, but un-sensationalized, depiction of the battlefield, this book is an essential addition to home and library collections.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Remembering Dad

Thomas Cassells with his grandchildren Amina and Asila, circa 1971

The significance of yesterday’s date, March 14, didn’t register with me until mid-morning, when I wrote it on the sign-in sheet at the writing workshop I’d be conducting at the Art & Spirituality Center in Bakersfield.

Then it struck me: it was the 47th anniversary of my father’s death. I stopped and drew in a breath, saw Dad’s face, and thanked The Universe for having had him.

I haven’t written a lot about Dad. But that doesn’t mean I don’t carry him with me every day. At certain times, I see him in the mirror. And I know I hold many of his values and qualities in my behavior and in my heart, like curiosity and reverence for knowledge.

Born in the early part of the 20th century, Dad’s eighth-grade education was typical in rural Ohio. He often told us kids, “Your mom is the educated one in the family. She finished high school.” But he educated himself in adulthood. In the late 1950s, he came into Islam and studied the Koran and Arabic. He read about the power of positive thinking, studied yoga, meditation, and the healing properties of herbal remedies.

As youngsters, we three kids cringed over his vegetable juicing and distasteful concoctions. One memory that stands out is of us, if we needed to cough, burying our faces in the coats in the front hall closet so he wouldn’t hear us and prescribe the cough medicine he’d made.

Dad’s interest in yoga led him to teach classes in the evening recreation program at our local elementary school in Detroit. My brother Thomas and I were out of the house by then, but Dad would practice at home and get my sister ReeniĆ©, who was a young teen, to try the postures, too.

Circa 1945
Saturday nights, their kitchen filled with smells of Mama’s lentil soup and the sounds of a group of young neighborhood men holding profound conversations around our table. For several years, as they lapped up Dad’s wisdom and mentoring along with Mama’s soup, these men became like brothers, and we all felt a deep loss at Dad’s death.

He left us way, too soon—I wasn’t yet thirty when Dad died. But he left us with lots of memories of him, his favorite phrases, and his corny jokes. And, a legacy of love, honesty, pride, and determination—exactly what we’d need to become successful adults.

~ xoA ~

Friday, March 1, 2019

When a Promise Becomes a Reality

Excitement built when the proof copies of my book arrived at my daughter and son-in-love’s address in Washington, D.C. With Asila and David, Judy, and friend Michelle as my first audience, I read aloud. I found a few things I wanted to change during the proofreading phase—spacing, words to be added or eliminated, and resizing the cover fonts.

Then I pressed the “Publish” button. In that exquisite moment, my shoulders dropped from my ears and an audible breath released from my lips. My book was on its way. Within 24 hours, Amazon notified me it was live on their site. Just in time for the Writers of Kern Spring Conference and National Poetry Month (aka April), my book is a reality.

You Can’t Have It All: Poems is a collection of poems written over a number of years. It includes poems of memories, feelings, reflections, and observations as well as poems based on ideas and stories from conversations with others, and “poemoirs,” memoirs in poetic form.

A collection like this doesn’t happen without help, encouragement, and input from others, and I am so grateful to all who supported my writing—Judy, my family, friends, Writers of Kern critique group, writing groups, and even folks I’ve never met who commented on the poems I shared online.

From the overwhelming, positive response the book is receiving, I am buoyed, appreciative, and humbled. And curious. I’m curious about which poem(s) resonate with people, what strikes them and why. If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Hugs and thanks,
~ xoA ~

Monday, February 18, 2019

When a Threat Becomes a Promise

For several years, I’d threatened to produce a collection of my poems. At first, I thought it would be a chapbook, a small, pamphlet-like book of 20 pages or so.  I started gathering the poems I’d written over the years. Then I wrote a bunch of new poems. Yikes, the chapbook was growing into an actual book!

Two summers in Oregon I began in earnest. I dedicated library time, a thumb drive, and a second laptop only to fall off the wagon or become derailed by life circumstances. But, in the fall of 2018, I made myself and Paul, the Coos Bay librarian, a promise that I would be sitting up front in the Myrtlewood Room at the author table for the library’s 2019 Authors Day.

My friend and fellow writer Joan issued a challenge: Have it finished by the Spring Conference in March. Then, Dennis voiced his encouragement and confided, “I heard about the challenge.”

My daughters, both coaches, chimed in. “What’s keeping you from doing this?” Asila asked. “Mom, you’ve got this,” Amina said.

And then, of course, I received regular encouragement and feedback from Judy as she listened while I read individual poems aloud. This was a great help in making my language more succinct.

So it took a village that included Matthew, a creative writing instructor from our local university, various Writers of Kern members and friends who answered questions, taught me new skills, and listened to me read. And, I can’t thank everyone enough!

I’m now awaiting delivery of the proof copies before my book is on the market.  Following a reading or two and making changes, it’ll be thumbs up and ready to print.

My threat became a promise to myself and others and is soon to be a reality. In the next post, I’ll let you know the title and, if you’d like to do so, how you can read these “Poems that celebrate and remember. Poems that observe and question. Poems that honor life, love, and friendship.”

~ xoA ~

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Women’s March Kern County

Photo by Kimberly Kirchmer

The 2019 Women’s March had been on my calendar for months. January 19th I would rush from my Writers of Kern meeting to find Judy at Mill Creek Park so we could show our support and raise our voices for the March’s unity values, alongside a few thousand other Kern County residents. It had been an exhilarating event in 2018, and we expected more of the same. 

I’d paid no attention to the conversation and controversy on the national Women’s March scene. Then, on the day before the March, one friend texted me to say she had some misgivings, didn’t know if she could participate in light of what was going on. Within moments, an email arrived from a friend in another state who said essentially the same thing. Those notes woke me up and sent us searching for information.

Articles about charges of anti-Semitism within the national leadership, ties between Tamika Mallory and Louis Farrakhan, and the YouTube video of “The View” segment with two of the Women’s March leaders surfaced. Judy and I dug in, reading, watching, discussing, trying to figure out what was going on. 

Sure, there were issues on the national level, attitudes that could be adjusted, problems that needed to be worked out. But we live in Bakersfield, where, among our local leadership, none of those issues had cropped up. 

The Women’s March Kern County committee members are our friends and colleagues. We knew their values and principles. We witnessed how long and hard they’d worked. And we could not let them and our community down. 

So we marched. Chanted along with thousands—women, men, kids, youth, future leaders—from all walks of life and all there for the same reasons. Cheered the speakers and entertainers. Met up with friends—old and new, and friends-to-be. Enjoyed the camaraderie of this purposeful gathering. Became buoyed up to continue voicing our choices, hopes, and demands for a better community and country. 

Did you attend a Women’s March this year? Why or why not? If so, what was it like and how did you feel about it?

~ xoA ~