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Letter "O" Discoveries

Posted by Val Fox on April 18, 2014 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

As we work our way through the English alphabet during the April 2014 A-to-Z Challenge, I often discover some unfamiliar terms. This post features the letter "O" and will introduce two literary terms you may not be familiar with.


The Ollamh was a profession of ancient storytellers that gained popularity between the 6th and 15th centuries.  They were considered to be wise men, respected elders that held the status of the highest leader.


To be an Ollamh one had to know at least 350 celtic stories that kept the culture of the ancient ones alive.  Sometimes the stories were related in poems, dramatic narrative or song. 

Want to learn  more about these ancient storytellers?  Follow these links. 

O'Henry Ending

This term refers to a twisted or surprise story ending. It originated from the short stories of William Sydney Porter (1862-1910) who often wrote under the pen name of O'Henry.


Photo Credit: faith goble via Compfight cc


The surprise ending would change the action of the narrative in a positive way; therefore, an O'Henry ending was a positive description that acknowledged a clever writer.

The Letter "O" Thanks for visiting!


Nicholas Winton's Secret

Posted by Val Fox on April 17, 2014 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The film, Nicky's Story is a 2013 Czech documentary directed by Matej Minac that recounts a story that began in 1938 Czechoslovakia.

The following quotes from the film tell their own story - one of savagery and loss, of courage and humility. The man was Sir Nicholas Winton. The children from Prague were put on a train, never to see their families again.

You could feel the danger getting closer and closer.

                  What made a 29-year-old Englishman do such a thing?


                     Photo Credit: oliver bloom photos via Compfight cc


               I was moved to at least try to save the children.

Winton was a London stockbroker, single and with the means to enjoy a comfortable life. When a friend cancelled their ski trip, Nicholas (Nicky) joined him in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He felt the tension, saw the fear in people's eyes as German soldiers made their presence known. In some neighborhoods people were being separated with jewish people among the first to be loaded onto large trucks.

A woman came to see Nicky at his hotel room when she learned he was British. She implored him to help her get her child out of the country before something terrible happened. Nicky felt compelled to help her, and as word spread, young Nicholas Winton became inundated by worried parents asking for help in getting their children out. He would try.

Nicky wrote letters to anyone who would listen, even presidents and kings. No one wanted to risk conflict with Hitler so only one country agreed to help. England. He started a list of every child in need and refused to give up even when fronted by beaurocracy. He had to figure out how to get the children out of Czechoslovakia; how to expedite the process of getting them into England; he needed to find the money to make this plan a reality, and he needed to find families that would care for the children until the crisis ended.

"We'll have to let them go."                 "We can't come with you."

All along the platform there were mothers clinging to their crying children, promising they would be together soon, knowing the kind of danger they were in. Hands tore apart when the train jerked then picked up speed. It was a long journey. They did not understand the sacrifice their parents made as the tanks rolled into Prague behind them and Hitler shouted out to the crowd.

They did not know their lives would be forever changed by a stranger's act of kindness. One man sent out a ripple that no one could have predicted. He is now 104 years old.

                     "I was three years old. Nobody came."

      "I was left sitting there."                  "You shall be loved."

                 "The poorer they were, the kinder they were."

"The last letter from my father came in 1942. He said they were packing up to go somewhere."

 "We heard about the work camps and hoped our families were okay."

                "Then the letters stopped."

                                "We had to keep living to overcome the past."

"When you're young you take everything, including survival, for granted."

"                                       "We're the same."

                                 The letter "N."  Sir Nicholas Winton

Thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes today. If you'd like to learn more about this remarkable story, the following links will help. 

You can find the video, "Nicky's Story" on Netflix, or you can rent or purchase it from Amazon.



tags: the holocaust; death camps; Hitler invades; Nazi Germany; Kindertransport; inspiring story; the man who saved Jewish children from Prague; a 50-year secret; survivors reunited; Winton knighted by HRH Queen Elisabeth;  


Meadowlark Melodies Return

Posted by Val Fox on April 17, 2014 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Each year the Western Meadowlarks return to this part of Alberta to find mates and nest. Their sweet melodies blend with the April sun as Spring warms the earth. New life once again joins the meadowlarks in a cacophany of sound.

                                               Creative Commons

Three years ago as I listened to the meadowlarks (members of the blackbird family) announce their arrival I noticed that they do not sound all the same; rather, each has it's own distinct call along with other assorted soft, cackling noises.

I focused on one specific song and eventually discovered the male meadowlark sitting on a fence post. I recorded him before he settled for the evening. He has returned to our fields each year, defending a territory with song. I've watched him pick through the grass with his long, pointed beak, then freeze-and-duck when sensing one of our dogs. Back feathers blend into the surrounding grass, hiding his bright yellow chest.

Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta) nest on the prairie ground, out in the open. They feed on insects, berries and seeds. Their nests can be difficult to find when covered with a woven grass roof. Females lay up to seven eggs, incubate them for two weeks and the young are ready to fly at about six weeks later.

Western Meadowlarks leave the Southern Alberta prairie near the end of August, returning to wintering grounds that extend almost down to Mexico.

For now, I'll treasure each song and it's promise of new life. The Circle will continue for another year and it's joy more complete with the songs of the Western Meadowlark.

Bloggers from around the globe are participating in the April 2014 A-to-Z Challenge; posts follow the letters of the English Alphabet each day in April except Sundays. The following link will provide readers with more information.

Thanks for stopping by! My next post will feature the letter "N."

Tags: prairie birds; birds of North America; Southern Alberta prairie; grassland birds; prairie wildlife 

Lunar Eclipse Tonight

Posted by Val Fox on April 14, 2014 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (1)

                                  Photo Credit: Collin R Erickson via Compfight cc

The April 2014 full moon will pass directly through the earth's dark shadow tonight, creating a total lunar eclipse.

North and South America will be the best locations to see what is expected to be a deep orange moon called a blood moon. This color occurs when dispersed light from earth's sunrises and sunsets falls on the face of the moon.

The bright star close to tonight's full moon is Mars which will be the closest to earth for the rest of 2014.

The following link to Earth Sky Science News provides more information about tonight's spectacle. It will be visible around the world as a partial eclipse, or in the west as a full blood moon.

Happy star gazing!

This blog features the Letter "L" as we continue the A to Z Challenge where bloggers from around the world work their way through the English Alphabet. For more information on this blog hop, click on the following link which will answer all your questions.

tags: astronomy; April 2014 lunar eclipse



The I-Kiribati

Posted by Val Fox on April 12, 2014 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Kiribati is an island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator and bordering the international date line. Its closest neighbours are Japan, Australia and New Nealand. While the 33-island nation could be a tropical paradice for some, scientists believe it will be the first country to succumb to the effects of global warming.


    Photo Credit: UNISDR Photo Gallery via Compfight cc

Kiribati was originally colonized by the British but achieved independence from the UK in 1979. The country became a full member of the United Nations in 1999.

The islands are scattered over 3.5 million square kilometres (1,351,000 sq. mi); some of them were formerly used by the United States and Britain for nuclear weapons testing. Today, Kiribati is one of the poorest countries in the world. Most residents squeeze out a living from serving aboard ships or as fishermen.

The 103,000 residents of Kiribati are mostly of micronesian decent and are Christians; about 56 percent are Catholics, 34 percent protestant, and there are smaller groups of Latter Day Saints (Mormons,) Baha'i and Jehovas Witnesses. The village household is the most important social unit with family and extended family (Utu) sharing common ownership of land plots.

Their houses are open sided rectangles with thatched roofs and raised floors. The maneaba or meeting house serves as a community center  where the oldest malesmeet to discuss matters and make decisions. The I-Kiribati (name for the people) are largely a classless society but new, younger leaders threaten village-based traditional elder authority. A president is democratically elected every four years.

Family life consists of monogamous marriages, some arranged. Direct eye contact is rare, especially with someone of a higher status such as an elder. Touching of the head is considered an extremely intimate touch and would be frowned upon. The women traditionally perform tasks related to home and child rearing; modest dress is important. Children are indulged until age four, then strict rules are enforced that discourage crying or other emotional outbursts.

In spite of the threat of rising waters to the land, the greatest threat to the people of Kiribati is disease. Many of the people drink heavily; there is Tuberculosis and frequent cases of food/water poisoning due to bacterial contamination. There is also a problem of overcrowding with many people moving into cities ill-equipped to handle the numbers. The government has begun encouraging the population to spread out onto less inhabited islands.

Their dances emphasize outstretched arms and sudden bird-like head movements. You will not see them smile during a dance as the movements were not just about entertainment; dances were a form of storytelling that displayed the beauty and skill of the dancer. The Kiribati continue the practice today.

                                 Kiribati - The letter "K."

                     Another group of Earth's Inhabitants

Tags: Micronesia; cultural practices; Climate Change and rising oceans; world's poorest nations; arranged marriage; tropical countries; no employment opportunities; subsistance living; family rules; 



Jot This Down

Posted by Val Fox on April 12, 2014 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

                           Creative Commons


To Write something  briefly and quickly, make a note of, put on paper; Short, often temporary notes for a reminder or to be later transferred onto something more permanent.

- phone numbers                                - addresses

- names                                               - account numbers

- times and places                             - directions

- story ideas                                       - book titles

- recipes                                             - To-Do List

- shopping list                                    - items to check out

- appointments                                  - license plate numbers

- ideas (gifts, stories, holidays)       - paint colors

-mileage                                            - name of a song

- great sentences or quotes            - questions to research

- unfamiliar words                             - unfamiliar words

- notes for work                                 - possible book titles

- key words or phrases                    - simple drawings/sketches

- colour combinations                      - observations

- website addresses                       - sizes (shoes, length, waist, clothing)

- data (meter reading, prices)        - meeting notes

                                  Longer Than a Jot

                                                        - Plans
                                                        - Detailed drawings
                                                        - Brainstorming ideas
                                                        - Decision-making options
                                                        - Articles

Would you jot down a decision? Why or why not?

Thanks for joining me as we make our way through the English alphabet during April. For further information on the A to Z Challenge, click on the link below. Have a great day and thanks for visiting!

tags: jot things down; what is a jot; jot down ideas; jot the main points; jot down your questions; write a list;

Gifts of Inspiration

Posted by Val Fox on April 11, 2014 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

The following short video brings you the gift of music and inspiration as we continue our journey through the April 2014 A-to-Z Challenge. This post features the letter "I" for Inspiration, and it's 6-minute message will leave you with a smile. Thanks for coming, and welcome to this site's newest members.



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tags: Life Vest Inside video; showing kindness to others; passing it forward; helping one another; making a difference in someone's day; it only takes a minute; show you care; 

Searching For Harmony

Posted by Val Fox on April 10, 2014 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (1)

The following blog post was a flash-writing exercise where thoughts tumbled out in no particular order and with no edits. The end goal was to find a way back to harmony.


I love to listen to the news every day at least once, and a low-volume news channel often serves as background noise during the day. While learning to think like a journalist, I turned into a news hound. I don't always fully understand some news stories and often listen again to gain clarity. From there I write it down using the simplest words, adding metaphors or even gestures (if telling the story.)

This practice, although stimulating, has another side.

I grieve with families of Flight 370 passengers and crew; the most recent school attack gives me alarmed pause; stories of refugees on perilous journeys and victims of violence provoke anger or sadness; tragedies resulting in forever-altered lives tug at my spirit. Some days I feel frustrated and powerless as I learn about the world's inhabitants. Other days I step back, not knowing who to trust, all from watching the news.

Then I pause to say "Thank you" for all the gifts and opportunities I have here in Canada. The time is now 11:30 a.m. I will not listen to the news for the rest of the day.

(2 seconds later)

My body still works considering the abuse I put it through. The brain works most days but it never stops chattering. It takes continued practice to quiet my mind so I can hear the wisdom it contains. When I remain open to new thoughts, while practicing discernment and peaceful contemplation - Oh! and while we're on the subject of..

The chattering starts again. I turn off the volume.

Fan whirls feathered air to caress cheeks and neck. Wet snow drips off the roof; I hear tapping hooves and gentle snorts. Shimmering snow flows to melting pools. Dogs on bales study ground squirrel holes. Sun-bathing cats stretch then turn to bake the other side. Coffee maker pops and the refrigerator motors up. A meadowlark melody celebrates an emerging sun; Boots wait on stairways and some tulips have sprung.

Still chattering.


(3 minutes later)

Wow, that felt good. I wonder if..


(10 seconds later)
It's okay to breathe.


Heading In For Breakfast    © Val Fox

(40 minutes later)

With wagging companions I walked to the barn,

The chattering stopped.

Sweet, flowered hay and moist earth scented the air

It stopped.

Warm wind kissed, the snow vanished.

Earth began her joyful song.

When I got quiet and found her rhythm.

She whispered, "Join me."

The noised stopped. 

                                HARMONY - The Letter H

Thanks for visiting as we continue the A-to-Z Challenge for April, 2014. The next post will feature the letter "I." Further info on this blog hop can be found when you click on the following link.

The next post will feature the letter "I."

Practice Gratitude Today

Posted by Val Fox on April 9, 2014 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)


Today I am reminded that practicing an attitude of gratitude reduces stress, invites more love into our lives and can change a challenging day into one of thoughtful purpose.

Our family lost a sister in January, another sister in February (both sudden) and in March we learned a third sister was moved into palliative care due to advanced cancer.

I heard the following words at a 1981 convention in Seattle. I never forgot them and hope you enjoy their comfort as much as I have over the years.
Gratitude really makes a difference.

                          The World is Mine

Today upon a bus, I saw a girl with golden hair.
I envied her, she seemed so gay, and wished I was so fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the isle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch,
and as she passed, a smile.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two legs, the world is mine.

I stopped to buy some candy. The lad who sold it had such charm.
I talked with him, he seemed so glad.
If I were late, it'd do no harm.
And as I left he said to me, "I thank you. You've been so kind.
It's nice to talk with folks like you. You see," he said, "I'm blind."

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes, the world is mine.

Later while walking down the street
I saw a child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play.
It seemed he did not know what to do.
I stopped a moment and then I said,
"Why don't you join the others, dear?"
He looked ahead without a word. And then I knew
he could not hear.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two ears, the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I'd go,
With eyes to see the sunset's glow,
With ears to hear what I would know

Oh God, forgive me when I whine,
I'm blessed indeed, the world is mine.

                      -Red Foley

Today's post featured the letter "G" as we continued with the April 2014 A-Z Challenge where bloggers from around the globe post each day and feature something related to a letter from the English alphabet. The link below provides more information on this annual blog hop; it's not too late to join us. There are 2181 participants so far!

You can expect another post later today that will feature the letter "F." Thanks for visiting and have a great day, friends.

tags: gratitude; when we experience hard times; loss of loved ones; sorrow; coping with tragedy 

Free Online Courses Available

Posted by Val Fox on April 7, 2014 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)


Today I want to share some websites where you can access FREE online courses in a large variety of subjects.

This site is partnered with several post-secondary learning institutions such as: Stanford, Yale, Harvard and others. There are 875 free liberal arts and science courses available for you to choose from.

Edudemic has hundreds of courses on just about any topic you can think of along with lists of other class sources. Whether technology, art or current events, this site will help you find what you're searching for. Edudemic may be of particular interest to teachers that wish to further their professional development.

Here you will find more than 400 free online courses plus certificate programs in subjects like Psychology, Human resorces and Legal Studies.

4.   The Saylor Academy

This website offers 250 free online courses, many of which are focused on the 10 highest enrollment majors in the U.S. Students can also participate in discusson forums and it's hoped that soon there will be access to free textbooks. Courses include those at the high school and university levels.

5.    The Khan Academy

This is a non-profit program that provides "world-class education for anyone, anywhere." You can upgrade your current marks or you can choose from thousands of lessons to learn something new. There are also resources for those teaching or coaching students. This academy has partnered with The Museum of Modern Art, California Academy of Sciences, Stanford School of Medicine and others.

By the end of the week you will find a new page to this website containing a more comprehensive list of locations that provide free online learning. New sites will be added each week. Be sure to check in again for this growing list of FREE learning resources.

I'll be back again tomorrow as we feature the letter "G" during the April 2014 A to Z Blog Challenge.  If you'd like more information, click on the link below.

Thanks for visiting and have a great day, friends.

tags: distance education; free classes; life long learning; tutoring on line; free education; free instruction; how-to instructions;

Expectations Increase Disappointment

Posted by Val Fox on April 6, 2014 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (1)

Today's post features the letter "E" for Expectations. I heard it said once that our peace of mind is in direct response to our expectations of others. I have found this to be true in my life. Expectations of others can disappoint, frustrate and be a setup for resentment. Letting go of expectations of outcomes can free us and others to be real, reducing the pressure to perform a certain way.

The following quotes are thought-provoking views about our Expectations. Enjoy.




Thanks for visiting today, friends. Tomorrow's post will feature the letter "F" as we continue the April A to Z Challenge.  If you'd like to learn more about this blog hop just click on the link below to learn more.

Have a great day!

tags: 12 step recovery; ending disappointment in others; practicing acceptance; freedom from anger; increase your enjoyment of life;

Detaching From Negativity

Posted by Val Fox on April 4, 2014 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Our relationships with others can often be frustrating, even painful.  Take the co-worker who undermines your hard work, or the family member that controls you with guilt. Perhaps it's the teen that continues to lie. Or maybe it's the addict who raises hell on Christmas Eve.

How can we emotionally detach ourselves from someone's behavior, especially if it's someone we love?


Here's one formula for getting off the hampster wheel of disappointment or victimization while still honouring the relationship, whether professional or personal.

1. Change your thoughts and stop obsessing. You can analyze it every minute of every day and all your thinking will not change much, if anything. If you must take time to process some thoughts, put a time limit on it.

2. Put more focus on what brings you pleasure rather than on what the other person does that bothers you. What we focus on is what grows. Again, catch yourself, stop, change directions.

3. Remember, we can only change ourselves, no matter how much we wish something different from others. What can you do to create some joy into your life today? Do it.

4. Nurture the fact that you can still create this joy no matter what your circumstances in the relationship. We can experience happiness in spite of what the other person is doing or not doing. When we focus on creating or feeding good things into our lives, we will gradually see through new eyes which, in turn, will help us to know better how to proceed.

5. Accept the fact that other people's behavior is more about them than you. They are stuck. You are free to make choices. How do you want them to look?

Detachment does not mean you don't care or that your attitude has to be a hostility-laced "I don't care, anymore." Rather, make a plan for your own self-care and positive input every day. Do everything you can with love, then let it go.

Detachment does not have to be painful. It can free you to get on with your life, seeing the good that exists in a tiny flower or a friend's smile. It's all in what you focus on.


This post was the fourth in the April  A-to-Z  Challenge where bloggers from around the globe post daily while featuring a letter from the English alphabet.  There's still time to join in so if you're interested, the link below will answer all your questions.

Thanks for visiting and have a great day.

tags: letting go; live and let live; finding joy in turmoil; letting go of expectations; cultivating acceptance; living joyfully today; practice letting go of control; do yor own work and let go of outcomes



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This is the personal website of writer Val Fox from Alberta, Canada: soon-to-be published author; freelance writer/editor; ghost writer; animal and child advocate; amateur photographer and avid camper.  Welcome!


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