Friday, September 22, 2017

Once bullied for her love of bugs, 8-year-old co-authors scientific paper

Before I start, please check out a piece I wrote a while back. It's the 'teaser' for this fan club's upcoming magazine issue. I hope it brings a smile to your face. British Beatles Fan Club: All I Need Is Love…and The Beatles

Now, onto my blog. 
Eight-year-old Sophia Spencer adores bugs. Grasshoppers are her particular favorite, and she was often seen giving one a ride on her shoulder. Classmates made fun of her for this habit, calling her weird and gross for her love of insects. Sophia's mom Nicole, didn't want Sophia to turn from her natural interest because of the teasing. In fact, she wanted to encourage Sophia's passion. She wrote to the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC) for support, hoping for penpal for her daughter. 

ESC did one better. A tweet went out to their membership. 

Responses poured in, giving both Nicole and Sophia assurance that a bug-loving girl was not weird, that it was in fact totally cool. Then Sophia joined forces with an entomology grad student named Morgan Jackson. Together, they wrote a paper about how to use Twitter to promote women in science. So yes, this formerly ostracized 8-year-old has a publication credit to her name. 

Let's hope her classmates don't bug her anymore. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cake-decorating stranger saves a wedding cake from disaster

Like other engaged couples, Millie and Matt wanted their wedding day to be special. Millie, an avid and accomplished baker, decided to personalize their day by making the wedding cake herself. She created a three-level beauty of a cake, fully decorated and anchored with dowels and rigid bases between the layers.

But a hot day and heavy traffic on the way to the hotel reception site wreaked havoc on the buttercream and fondant, causing the entire middle layer to collapse when Matt lifted it from the car. Millie was prepared to accept the damage and enjoy the day anyway, but Matt felt horrible. He repeatedly apologized. Nothing Millie could say calmed his sense of guilt.

It so happened that Clare Vaz was in the same hotel at that time, delivering a batch of cupcakes. The owner of a bakery, Clare was approached by a hotel manager. He told her of the damaged wedding cake and asked if she might be able to help. She said she would do her best to restore the cake to its former beauty.

And she did, even though it meant she needed to drop everything and devote hours to the task. To date, she still hasn't met the delighted bride and groom and hasn't asked to be paid for her time. She was just happy to restore a lovely cake to celebrate Millie and Matt's wedding day.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Dancing away the hurricane

Osceola County Deputy James Froelich was stationed at a shelter during Hurricane Irma. He was charged with making sure everyone stayed safe and calm while the storm raged outside. 

He noticed a frail elderly woman sitting alone, looking worried. He approached and asked her what he could do to help her feel more comfortable. Her response: dance. So he took her hand and they danced. He even provided the music, singing Bobby Darin's Beyond the Sea while the two swayed. 

A fellow evacuee captured their dance on video. The shared dance and the smile it brought to the woman's face says it all. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Florida man gives a stranger his generator, then Lowe's gives him one for free

Pam Brekke of Sanford Florida did what many Floridians did before Hurricane Irma - she prepared. A generator was tops on Pam's list to maintain her elderly father's oxygen supply in the event of a power failure. She waited in line at the nearest Lowe's, about 30 miles from her home, to buy one of their 200+ generators. The customer in front of her got the last one. Brekke burst into tears.

Ramon Santiago of Orlando had a generator already in his cart. He was walking through the store picking up other items he needed when he saw Brekke break down and cry. Because English isn't his first language, he did not understand the details, just that Brekke needed a generator and didn't have one. He had planned to buy the generator to help his mother take care of his two aged grandmothers, but he offered the generator in his cart to Brekke. She accepted it with hugs and thanks.

Unbeknownst to Santiago and Brekke, Nancy Alvarez, a WFTV morning newscaster who happened to be in line behind Brekke, saw the whole transaction and filmed it with her smartphone. She shared the story on the station's social media within hours. It went viral.

Santiago wasn't aware of it until he walked into a doctor's office several hours later and the nurses stood and applauded him. And it got better. Lowe's management learned Santiago's identity and tracked him down when a new shipment of generators came in. They gave him one for free, their thanks for his kindness to a stranger in need.

Friday, September 8, 2017

LOC research day

In an effort to accurately portray era events in my novel-in-progress, I spent Wednesday conducting research at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. What a treasure trove we Americans have at our disposal - all open and free for the asking.

Beginning a couple weeks ago, I spent hours on the LOC website, scouring their archive. Some documents and images I was interested in were readily available on their website, while others were identified as 'available on site' at the LOC. For those items, I jotted down LOT numbers and contacted librarians in the Photographs room and Newspapers room by email and gave them the date of my planned visit. Within 24 hours, they responded to let me know the items were available and would be waiting for me upon arrival. And they were.

In one (very) long day, I saved over 300 images and newspaper articles onto my memory stick. Obviously I haven't had time to sift through them all, but some of my amazing preliminary finds include:

1. A private photo album of a Lebensborn home in Steinhoring, near Munich;

2. Two full-sized Nazi propaganda posters;

3. The apparent lack of any mention of the events of Kristallnacht in the Munich newspaper in the days following the violence.

In contrast, the New York Times was chock full of articles, op-eds, and letters to the editor for days.

Talk about the value of free press. Wow.

After I sift through the overwhelming volume of material obtained, I'll integrate relevant details and facts into my story's backdrop. My hope is to accurately portray what it must have been like to be 15 years old in Munich in 1938.