I Couldn’t Believe It…Then I began to Laugh!

Most of my life, I’ve been called a tight-wad, –and I just couldn’t see it.

People use labels all the time, to understand each other, as well as, to work on negative characteristics in ourselves. However, I believe there are two problems with labeling. One; often we simplify to the ridiculous. And two; most of us can’t see our own quirks anyway. Especially if those traits have negative undertones.

Take me for instance: I’m thrifty, maybe. Prudent, often. Economical, Heck ya. Careful, most of the time. Frugal, possibly. –A tight-wad, I can’t see it. And so, to figure out if this were true or not, I started listing things that might be considered traits in someone who is a tight-wad.

You know you’re a tight-wad if you…

  • Spend twice as long in the grocery store, checking every item to be sure the larger size is really the best bargain, before you put it in your cart.
  • Wear your old jacket to go to the store, when you’ve got a new coat in the closet.
  • Cut the lotion bottle open and use a rubber spatula to scrape every –last drop.
  • Wrap up and take home the used bar of soap from your hotel room.
  • Write as few words as possible, to get your point across. Like this list, instead of a paragraph.
  • Make silly, cheap Christmas cards, instead of buying those big beautiful Hallmark cards.
  • Take your kids with you EVERYWHERE you go, so you don’t have to pay for a sitter.
  • Don’t buy something until the money is there. Yes, that’s a tight-wad, dodging those extra interest fees that most don’t mind paying.
  • Tear a paper napkin in two, give one half to your husband and take the other half for yourself.
  • Bend down and pick-up those pennies, most people walk over. (Even if it’s heads down!
  •  Find your husband making jokes; copper wire comes from you, stretching pennies.

Oh, my goodness, –I guess, I am a tight-wad! Yup! I’ve done everything on this list more than once. And my husband has said that….  After much deliberation, I’ve decided, –I like being a tight-wad! However, I am going to work on spending more time thinking of others, spend more on charities, and spend more time on me.

The trinket I took from this experience and may use when writing children’s stories: Learn to laugh at ourselves. And don’t put too much faith in, or weight on, one person’s perspective. A child isn’t going to become a tight-wad because of this blog. Nor is a child going to be confident because they read The Lion of Tupungato, about an animal that helped a young girl find her strength. Children are secure, because of many, many wonderful people, and situations throughout their lives. –Nonetheless, I’ll keep writing stories of self-esteem for grandparents and parents to read with their loved ones.

Is It Just Another Ordinary Day or Will It Be Special?

The sun was beginning to peek through the clouds. A handful of children scurried through the maze of parked vehicles. A young girl yells, “I’ve got it!” Retrieving the foul ball, she runs it back to the ball field. The baseball bleachers were packed. Safely behind the backstop, stood a boy of three years. Hanging onto the fence, he rolled back and forth on his push-bike, waiting for the crack of the bat. The loudspeaker announced, “Next at bat, number ten, Dan Evens.” –Swack! Grandma, Grandpa, sisters, brothers, Mom, Dad, neighbors, and classmates cheered!

There are few things more precious than a community gathering at a high school baseball game. I used to think sports was all about labeling for the “most competitive or most aggressive”. But I’ve learned, that the most honorable trait found in sports; is building endurance, by challenging and strengthening the body and mind! And in doing so, even the meek and thin-skinned, find self-esteem.

Fashion statements, fast cars and cellphones, came in last place among this crowd. A food stand selling peanuts and popcorn, hotdogs and hamburgers, candy and drinks didn’t outshine the scoreboard. Another day or place might have been filled with distractions from social media. Disconnected from the unrealistic flicks and clicks of others, today was about being a team. It was about being together.

Earlier that morning, the game had been postponed. While puddles were raked and covered, spectators seemed to patiently wait. They enjoyed the cool breeze, and the unique warmth of sunshine on this long-awaited spring morning. No-one seemed to be in a hurry today.

An older man leaned forward in his chair and asked the little boy resting on his bike, if he knew Chase Bennett.” Intensely looking at the man, he nodded and proudly answered, “You’re his Grandpa!” It isn’t uncommon for the parents and grandparents of sports teams, to know and care about each player and their families. Many of these high school graduates; will be heading off to college in the fall, and have expressed hopes of returning, to repay the old and help the young.

It was the last inning. This wasn’t the first time the bases were loaded. In the second and fifth inning, the third out, had left points on the field. This time, it was a home-run. The dugout was abandoned. Everyone on the west side of the bleachers jumped to their feet and applauded! The little boys’ wide eyes peered through the fence at the team.

Today’s game wasn’t the flashy world series. Despite the fact, there was nothing flashy about this day; this ballplayers’ accomplishments, might be more important to him, than graduation. For the best days in life, are not the ones we expect. The most important times are the ones that build our self-esteem and confidence.

The trinket I took from this experience, that I may use when writing children’s stories, is to remember that each child is like a tiny camera. They are watching and recording those insignificant words or gestures from peers, parents, and teachers. Even though we may be at the same ballgame, each of us will take away a different perspective. A day that is just an ordinary day to you, might be very important to your child.

 

The Thrills and Threats of Traveling

Let’s face it, traveling is hard. Maybe it’s the unknown that is so alarming. Although crossing over difficult terrain is tiring, isolated areas where there are no warnings, nor help –can make the voyage daunting.

The Appalachian Mountains are calm, graceful and timeworn. However, her roads are anything but forgiving. Narrow, wobbly, curving roads through the highlands were never made for large, fast moving vehicles. Even with the temperate weather conditions, the roadbeds have heaved. Tires kiss the rounded edges on hairpin turns. Dimpled low, soft asphalt, pitches its riders from side to side.

Anyone who thinks, the Rocky Mountains are just another range like the Cumberland Gap, is in for a rude awakening. Don’t let the wide buffering shoulders along the byways fool you into thinking it’s an easy journey. Pushing west across the country, the first of many summits are met. The extreme height and sharp jagged ledges, slow traffic. Road signs warn of a six percent decline in grade, along the mountain road. The pass is soon closed, when October warms of winter storms brewing.

Ice crusted signs warn of an eight percent decline in grade. Gaining speed in low gear, tires slip slightly on the first switchback off the summit. Driving conditions decline. The speedometer begins to escalate. Riding the brakes with a hope of reaching the lower foothills before they heat up and fail, makes for an exasperating trip. The challenge is far from over as altitudes climb higher.

Many of the wild mountain ranges have been tamed with contoured roadways, warning signs, guardrails, and more. Some areas, safer than others. The most untamed territory I’ve ever encountered, was on the way to a little village called Idunda, located at the top of a mountain range in southeast Africa. The trip in and out of Idunda was more intimidating than any place I’ve traveled in the United States. It was not the unreliable vehicles, the hilly topography, or even the rainy weather, but rather the nonexistent roads that commanded respect from intruders.

Three old, worn-out Land Cruisers slowly rolled off the city street of Iringa and onto the dirt. It wasn’t long before the deep swells of the African grasses, blocked the windshield. The driver admitted his concerned about the treacherous travel conditions. “Our people in the village are very appreciative, that you traveled so far and are risking your lives to visit them.” At which point, a fellow traveler replied, “Aren’t people in the other vehicles risking their lives as well?”

Only the driver and luggage remained in each of the Land Cruisers, as they cross unsafe rotting logs, serving as bridges. It was a relief to get out and stretch my legs, after being cramped in the backseat for hours. Precarious walks over numerous ravines, was the only choice.

The wilderness had not yet been suppressed by lorries, crushing trails into the landscape. There were only meager footprints from these villagers. Water was hand carried from nearby streams. Indigenous wood rocks sticks, and straw, created most of their homes and tools. Listening to the rain hit the roof, I lay awake in the middle of the night, wondering if our group would be able to leave the next morning. April was monsoon season.

Huddling around a smoldering fire, we breathed in the misty morning air. While warming hands with a breakfast bowls of rice and beans, we contemplated the risk of heading out on the eroded, muddy paths. As we packed the old dilapidated automobiles with a few belongings, the sun began to offer some hope.

It took the better part of the day, to visit many of the small towns along the mountainside. Medical facilities were scarce. Offering rides to the weary and sick, the caravan of three separated, in order to get passengers to their different destinations. Our driver talked in Swahili to a man sitting beside him. Their conversation came to an end. The gentleman thanked us and got out of the vehicle.  As we continued down the mountain, the driver informed us, “This traveler was returning home after attending your wedding. For this man to join us; he had taken the bus from Iringa to the end of it route at Kyvalomos, where he had walked nearly nine hours, stopping only when it got dark.” We learned that it was customary for people along a traveler’s path, to welcomed them as family into their homes.

Our Land Cruiser forged on through the muddy foothills. Turning into a slight decline, we began to sink. The axel was packed in mud and the wheels had lost their grip. Without cell coverage, it became obvious, we were on our own. Darkness fell. Working under the glow of the headlights we secured a winch from the front of the vehicle to a tree. However, it had not been installed correctly and as the steal cable pulled tight, the bumper came loose. With the possibility of spending the night, in an area where malaria ran rampant, it was hard to think clearly. Huddling into the backseat, the glare of headlights flicker through the window. The others in our group had come looking for us.

It’s easy to enjoy nature along a well-maintained mountain pass in a reliable vehicle, where help is readily available. It’s not so easy to be bold and fearless, when stranded in unfamiliar territories. Here’s the trinket from that experience, I may find useful when writing children’s stories. There are going to be those mountaintop experiences as well as time spent in mudholes. –Truly appreciate the good times and graciously except the tough times. –Wonderful news since our trip to Tanzania: Due to medical advances, there are half as many malaria deaths.

Visit me at leannembenson.com

Bright, Inquisitive Grandchildren

Picture this scenario: Your grandchildren are visiting for the weekend. It’s your first day together. And you’re already wondering, what you are going to do to entertain your bright, inquisitive grandchildren. It was a rather short drive home from the bookstore. However, waiting for each stop light to turn green, helped pass the time. As you pull into the driveway, your granddaughter throws her arms over the backrest of the passenger’s seat, to tell you, she had finished reading one of the three books you had just purchased.

Sitting down with your two grandchildren, your attention focuses on the second book. Holding this world atlas, you begin dreaming up a make-believe trip. Noticing the Andes Mountains painted on the cover of the third book, your grandson points to the mountain range on the map and asks what life is like in Argentina. Picking up this book titled The Lion of Tupungato, you begin to read the first page aloud and soon realize, there is more to this story than a mountain range, a lion, and a little girl.

“Have you ever had to do something you didn’t want to do, or be someplace when you’d rather be anywhere but there? Does it frustrate you when your parents make decisions about what you should do, without consulting you? Well, let me introduce you to Sedona; you may have a bit in common.

It was Memorial Day weekend and Sedona’s parents were in Nantucket celebrating their wedding anniversary, while she was confined to a meager twenty-minute ride to her grandfather’s house. She didn’t mind spending time with him. But if the truth were to be known, she really would have preferred to travel to Massachusetts, Madagascar, or Malaysia.”

After reading the entire story, you come to the last page. “Sedona sat quietly with a smile. She realized her trip across town to see her grandfather was more meaningful than any other place in the world she could have traveled to during spring break.”

How much enjoyment can this approximate one-hundred-fifty-page story bring? It all depends on how you look at it. You might find The Lion of Tupungato stimulates your interest, beyond the printed words inside. The interesting views on life south of the equator, might intrigue you. You may relish in being a detective. Unlock the mysterious code that might have led to this actual plane crash in the Andes Mountains. And with any luck, this fun adventure will possibly boost your children’s curiosity about the world. Perhaps it will even persuade them to inquire; where their ancestors came from, before they immigrated, and struggles they might have encountered to claim their freedom. It could possibly, provoke your children to dig deep, find their strengths, and understand where they get the power to make it through difficult times in life. You might enjoy discussing the differences between the two girls in the story. One girl learns to be gentle about judging others too quickly, while another finds strength to deal with bullying and inequality. Maybe you’ll stop at the end of each short chapter to discuss unfamiliar words, new places, and family values. You could even try your hand at illustrating your favorite scene in the story. There are numerous layers to this seemingly simple children’s story.

It is my hope, that The Lion of Tupungato brings you and your children enjoyment, as you spend time together. The best part for me, is the warm cozy feeling it generates. To read more about this book, visit me at www.leannembenson.com

Scrapping a Dangerous Helicopter Rescue

Writing is an archeological dig for me. The magic happens when excavating the collection of ideas in search of the hidden treasure. The problem started when my enthusiasm for writing, carried me off course and lead me to “start digging in Texas while standing in Argentina”. It’s been something we’ve joked about quite often at our house. And so, I thought I would share those amusing times and let you laugh along with me.

As a cardiac surgical nurse, Isabel was a vital member of the heart team. She met challenges with gusto. Eager to learn more about new medical breakthroughs, she could hardly wait for her supervisor to finish telling her about the heart conference, to accept the offer.

Stryker sat at the helm of the old helicopter, waiting patiently to make the return flight home. Isabel and the other six had just returned from the conference. The aggressive sun-rays felt as though they could melt a polyester shirt to Isabel’s shoulders.

The helicopter’s fuel gauges hadn’t moved off “full”, when Stryker received a distress call on the radio. A nearby control tower was transmitting on the emergency frequency channel 09. All aircraft in the area could hear the distress signal. After a minute, with no other aircraft response. Stryker keyed the microphone.  

“We’re on it!” Stryker replied to the controller’s detailed message. Hesitant to admit to the others, the helicopter was nearly unstoppable except for two things. It didn’t like the heat, and it didn’t perform well in altitudes over 5000 feet above sea level. The flight plan he had just taken could put them into mountains over 8000 feet. Everyone on board agreed to take the risk.

Just when the search seemed an impossible task, Isabel pointed and yelled over the roar of the engine. “Look… over there… at the bottom of that ravine.” There wasn’t a flat location to land. Jumping out of the flying buggy, with one skid on the ground, was their only choice.

The sweltering heat and whirling sand were hard on the crew. The engine had to work twice as hard in the thin, hot air. The chopper was having trouble. There was little room for error in this tight spot. The helicopter could not take on any more weight or they may not make it out of the ravine. Isabel made the only decision she could think of and stayed behind. Through the worried eyes of one rescued passengers, a glimmer of thanks, was revealed to Isabel.

The engine revved louder as the helicopter pulled away from the rocky ledge, and slowly turned, to gain altitude. Unable to descend to gain speed, the aircraft swung back and forth. Taking an unexpected jerk toward the mountainside. Stryker pulled up on the cyclic control and fought to avoid the rocks.

Isabel could see the helicopter was struggling. As she watched it lunge toward the mountain, a flashback from her youth, of the terrible momentous airplane crash, vividly appeared. She closed her eyes. “I can’t look,” she thought. “Pull up, pull up,” she began to chant to herself. With her eyes still closed, she could hear the pitch of the rotors change. –The chopper was gaining altitude! Opening her eyes, she took a deep breath and then a sigh of relief, knowing they were going to be okay. The helicopter was out of danger and heading to towards the hospital.

Isabel sat down on the hillside as she watched the helicopter fade into the distance. Thinking of all the challenges and events that had given her the strength to do what she had just done; a smile arose on her face. She was grateful for her relationship with her father and thankful for Pansy’s friendship. It had been exactly ten years since Isabel had found her steadfast friend, lying next to the plane crash, on that snowy mountaintop so very far away…. And the story continues. The new path that leads to our conclusion in The Lion of Tupungato, now says. “It had been exactly one years since Isabel had found her steadfast friend on that snowy mountaintop.”

The trinket I took from this experience, that I found while writing this children’s story: Mistakes aren’t a bad thing. G. K. Chesterton once said, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly.” –And so, I stop questioning what to write, and just started typing.  I learned to, go ahead, type away, make run-on-sentences, get ideas out. Bad is better than a doing nothing. It’s working towards a better next time.

www.leannembenson.com

Adventures in Video Production at Seven Below!

How many times, have you tried something which looked easy, only to find out it took more time and money than originally thought? You would think, I would have learned, that lesson after five years of building our house.

“What a fun project!” I blurted out, when my husband came up with a great idea, to make a video promo for my new book. We had always enjoyed watching those short YouTube videos and thought, “How hard can it be?”  It wasn’t all that difficult or costly to make this video. However, it did take more time and ingenuity than originally thought. Determined to finish our project on a shoestring budget, added to the experience. It didn’t work out the way we thought it would happen. However, the recklessness, becomes rather entertaining.

Unsure, how long to make the video, we decided to follow the length and format of an advertisement. It was surprisingly easier to ramble on, than it was to shoehorn a book report in only forty-six seconds. The harder I tried, the more mistakes and silly things happened. Honestly, I lost track of the numerous outtakes, coughing, saying an inappropriate word, and just drawing a blank on what to say next; while my husband patiently stood behind the camera. Those bloopers that we didn’t use, weren’t destroyed. We’re not stand-up comedians, –however, those silly mistakes, may someday get their debut on our YouTube channel bloopers video.

Piecing together a makeshift studio, allowed the music in my husband’s head to become The Lion of Tupungato’s theme song. It took a few days to record all the different instruments and mix them together. I couldn’t help but laugh, when he ran outside at six o’clock one morning. It was a “balmy” negative seven degrees, as he stood on the patio playing a flute, in a Parka and shorts! He was in a hurry. Getting dressed, could mean he’d miss a special recording sound and feel of the cold dense air at sunrise. Unable to find the guitar’s glass slide needed to create the perfect “lion’s” roar at the end of the song, didn’t stop him either. In all the years I’ve known him, seldom was there a time when he didn’t come up with a way to work around a “stale-mate”. Improvising, he returned from the garage, with a three-quarter inch socket wrench, quietly sitting down with his Les Paul, he starts to play. He then pulled in a bass part played by my step-son, which fits right in with the importance of family in this story. When the audio tracks were mixed down, mastered, and the music bed was complete, it was time to position all the audio layers correctly. Arranging things like the slide guitar part, so not to cover the dialog, was tricky. With even the best laid plans, the timing was so tight, the guitar slightly steps on the words Tupungato at the end.

Only a few more pieces like the pencil drawings, and the book cover had to be scanned and added, the title to my website typed in at the end, and it was finally finished! –”Oh wait!” There were noticeable breath sounds between some of the words which needing to be removed. “Now it Finished!” –”Not so fast!” You Tube is tolerant of video format, but the finished video was not recognized by Amazon for our book page. Our old video camera was not the correct resolution and had to be converted. The first attempt had to be deleted on You Tube, before uploading it to Amazon and then back onto You Tube. And lastly, the link on our home page had to be altered to play the You Tube video. “This time, –it’s really finished!”  Time to start thinking about the next one, now that all the hard head scratching is done.

The trinket I took from this experience, I may find useful when writing children’s stories: Life’s a lot more enjoyable and even fun, when you don’t try to make things perfect.

To watch our video, visit www.leannembenson.com

Where Do You Find Strength?

 

A mother should never have to look into the eyes of a doctor and hear those words, “Your daughter has cancer.” And then explain to her precious little girl why she must take medicine that makes her violently ill, or why she must get excruciatingly painful shot.

I’d heard these words and more, –and each time I hear this very touching story, it brings tears to my eyes. It is my hope that this extremely personal account will raise awareness, and leads to finding a cure for all cancer, making it a thing of the past, so no little girls or boys will ever have to go through what you are about to read. Here is what my daughter-in-law writes:

“Weeks before my seventh birthday, I started feeling extremely fatigued. I would literally sleep all day, every day. My parents were concerned, so my mom took me to my primary care doctor’s office for an appointment right before close. My mom came in to the doctor’s office saying that I needed to be seen right away because I was tired. The nurses thought she was being overprotective and a little nut since it was about eight at night and her six-year-old daughter was tired. Luckily, my doctor agreed to see me. He drew some blood and the results pointed to Mono. My doctor sent my blood off for further testing and we went home thinking that all was well. Fast forward a bit, and two weeks before my birthday my parents get a call from my doctor. The news wasn’t good. I didn’t have Mono, after all. I was then diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL)

If you are to get Leukemia, ALL is the one to get. It has the best survival rates (over 90% for children) and, I believe, the treatment is less strenuous than other kinds. In other words, I was lucky to be diagnosed with ALL.

I underwent chemotherapy for about a year and a half. I like to say that I had an easy time with chemo, and I was fortunate enough that my Leukemia was fairly easy to treat. I was considered to be in remission after only a few weeks of chemotherapy, though the chemo did have to continue to ensure it didn’t come back. I have remained in remission since that time without any instance of relapse.

Even though I say that I had an easy time with chemo, the treatment is never easy. My body, and my brain, blocked a lot of what was happening so that I don’t remember most of it. Now I know that this is my body’s way of handling trauma. I remember very nasty medications, such as prednisone, that I couldn’t swallow without throwing up unless it was concealed in jello or fruit rollups. I also remember having to get a periodic shot in my leg. This particular shot needed to be injected directly into the bone of my leg. I also had to endure various surgeries and procedures that were not, for lack of a better term, fun.

Even though my treatment went fairly smooth and my Leukemia journey was “easy,” I still have some long-term side effects from the medication. I have tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears, that started when I was in my pre-teen years. This is a common side effect of chemo. I also have significant acid reflux that was caused by the toxic chemo drugs I was taking. The acid reflux has scarred my esophagus, and the scarring has gotten so bad at some points that it was also scarred shut. I have had to have multiple esophageal dilations since I was about ten. The muscle tone in my ankles is weaker than is considered normal for a woman my age. Lastly, I am starting to develop peripheral neuropathy in my feet. Currently, the sides of each of my big toes are slowly starting to lose feeling. In addition to those, I believe I developed PTSD from my treatment and have significant memory gaps from that time in my life. There is also a chance I could experience infertility because of the treatments, though I don’t think the chances of that are very high.

I don’t tell you about all my current medical issues to gain sympathy. I think it’s important for people to understand that there can be devastating consequences to children going through such intense treatments and having to take such toxic medications.

I am currently 28 years old and as healthy as most women my age. I just started training to run my second half marathon with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Team in Training (TNT). For TNT, we fundraise money that goes towards cancer research. This is important because it not only allows us to become that much closer to an actual cure, but it also helps develop more effective medication that have fewer long-term side effects. In the last two years, 40 new medications have been developed for the treatment of cancer, usually three or four are developed per year. Of the 40, 35 of them were funded directly through LLS. These treatments have even been effective in other cancers and diseases (breast cancer, MS, etc.)”

Some of my inspiration to write this up-lifting story about The Lion of Tupungato, came from my daughter-in-law. And so, with great anticipation of finding a cure for all cancers, a portion of the book proceeds will be donated to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The trinket I took from this experience, which I’ve used in my new book; when the trapdoor of life falls out from under you, and you’ve got nothing to stand on, where is the safely net, who is there with a helping hand to pull us back out. The Lion of Tupungato playfully beckons its readers to question, “Where do you find your strength?”

www.leannembenson.com

 

At First You Don’t Succeed…Take Out the Bloopers

Don’t you just love watching those extras, at the end of a DVD? Those edits, out-takes, and interviews, adding an extra dimension to the story. It amazes me how one small edit can change the way I feel about the movie.

Imagine the difficulties Charles Dickens or William Shakespeare experienced, holding a quill over a blank page, while a mound of crumpled papers accumulated on the floor. The fatigue, and tedious labors of handwriting the entire page over numerous times, it is inconceivable to me.

Computers have made everything much easier, including the writing process.  While creating “The Lion of Tupungato”, I made a multitude of changes. So many modifications, that if I were to have kept each word in this short children’s book, it might have made Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand, appear brief.

It was a struggle for me, to stick to the standard story-line, yet write something that stood out from the masses. At one point I thought the below epilogue would be a good conclusion to my story about this lion that had been taken from a thirteen-year-old girl. However, the concept of stretching the story out for years, just didn’t seem to fit for children. I still wonder if I should have used it. What do you think?

It had been raining all night. Lush green leaves glistened with the first rays of sunshine. Birds were singing in its branches. Pansy sat in the shade, looking at the valley below. A gentle breeze, carrying a familiar smell, ruffled his mane. His eyes followed the scent to a sun hat rising over the hill. Under the brim, a face appeared. Sparkling brown eyes looked up at him as a graceful woman walked closer. Pansy gazed in amazement, not because people were seldom seen entering the park reserve, but rather, because this beautiful woman –was Isabel.

Pausing, to wipe the happy tears that blurred Isabel’s vision, she murmured, “Can this be true?” A slice of sun reached through the tree leaves and touched the lion’s mane with a tender glow. Taking a couple of fast strides toward him, she shouted, “Pansy!” louder than intended. Her feet raced uncontrollably as she crashed into her gentle giant.

Pansy snuggled next to Isabel and purred softly as she scratched his belly and rubbed his nose. Reaching around his fluffy mane like she had done a thousand times, Isabel squeezed him tightly. Only then was she sure, this wasn’t a dream. She had finally found him!

The trinket I took from this experience, that I may find useful when writing children’s stories: It’s not necessarily the smartest person that succeeds, but the one that doesn’t give up.

I’ll be sharing more outtakes next time.  Till then, keep reading with kids!

Read “The Lion of Tupungato”, with thirty illustrations.

Available now at: leannembenson.com

 

 

It’s Not Necessarily the “Hottest Item on the Market” that’s Treasured Most.

What are some gifts you’ve received this holiday season, and which is the most meaningful? Each of us has a different reason to savoring a specific item. “That favorite gift might be from someone special, something wanted for a very long time, or something that has earned a special meaning after realizing the huge effort made by the giver.”

The generosity in each person we met along our travels in Tanzania, humbled me. We were served food and drink, in homes which appeared to have little to give. Presenting us with gifts such as; chickens, woven grass bowls, carved wooden spoons, traditional wraps, songs and entertainment, brought feelings of unearned favor and appreciation.

Eighteen of us squeezed into a one room house with a dirt floor, the day before our big event. Shoulder to shoulder, we lined the four walls as we listened to this gentleman, rich with stories. A moment later, two small children lead one of their two goats in from the backyard. It took me a moment to realize what he was doing. Half of his family’s livestock was being given to us, in order to insure those traveling to join us, would not go hungry.

On the day of our wedding, my husband asked one of the clergymen from Tanzania, “How many people do you think are here?” To which the man replied, “I think, not less than three-thousand.”  Not until that very moment, did I realize, the importance of all those goats and chicken that had been gifted. We were overjoyed to find out, a lorry full of rice and beans had been sent to this tiny village, and that everyone had received a meal that day.

A man crippled from polio, shuffled on his hands to the Alter, and present us with his gift. He told us, through an interpreter, “I cannot work the fields. I cannot tend the livestock. I weave to earn my living. I am so honored that you shared your special day with our village, that I made this grass mat for you.”  It was very humbling, to except gifts from someone with a greater need than I had for their essential item.

The night was magical. We danced to the beat of the drums and jingling bells. Few words were able to penetrate through the language barriers. However, the smiles, laughter, and gleam in their eyes let me know, this was a special day for everyone!

The trinket I took from this experience, that I may find useful when writing children’s stories: “It’s not the size of the gift, but the quality of the giving.”