Posts Tagged ‘difficult times’

A Message of Hope

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

This post from Janet resulted from a comment regarding our “Making Connections”post.

Hi Polly,
Boy, do I ever agree with you regarding your word of caution! In fact, I was just thinking about this subject the other day when I overheard some elementary school teachers talking about some unruly kids in class. You can imagine how I felt when they chalked it all up to poor parenting! Nine years ago, when I was in the thick of some pretty tough (and that is so an understatement!) parenting times, I wrote a piece to offer comfort to other parents. (Really, I think I was writing it to comfort myself too since I had no idea what our future would bring. At that time, I could only hope for better days.) Anyway, I’d like to post what I wrote back in 2000 again in hopes that it might help other parents who feel that things aren’t turning out quite like they “planned.”

I’m ecstatic to report that while my daughter and I are two very different people, we’re very close today, and I’m proud of the young woman she has become — a wonderful mother of 5-year-old Tristin and a very talented, passionate and hard-working vet tech at an emergency clinic. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on my parenting journey, it’s what you wrote, Polly — that kids are not “all about us!” They DO have a will of their own, and all we can do is set a good example, provide them with the best resources we can, and have faith that everything will turn out for the best. My heart aches for the parents of “prodigal” kids because I’ve been there, but I do want to encourage you to hang in there and know that there are plenty of other GOOD parents out there who can relate. Thanks for bringing this topic up, Polly. Wishing you all the best, Janet

Janet’s original article from 2000:

I’ve often wondered how certain memories wind up in my brain’s hard drive forever, while others seem only to be stored on a temporary disk. Take, for instance, an afternoon 16 years ago, when I intently studied every inch of my beyond-adorable baby girl, attempting to freeze frame that particular image of her in my mind’s eye forever. My hope was to always be able to conjure up all that cuteness in my mind - sort of a cerebral cryogenics, so to speak! Sadly, the only thing I can actually conjure up of that afternoon now is the memory of my intent. Any mental pictures of my beautiful girl on that day did not survive the test of time. On the other hand, plenty of other downright mundane memories have lodged themselves permanently in my fickle memory bank: the memory of a random yard sale, the face of my daughter’s first pediatrician, and the words of a stranger in the produce section of Larry’s Market in Federal Way, Washington in 1985.

Here’s what happened: Sitting in the basket of our grocery cart, my happy toddler was absorbed in figuring out how to open a package of toilet paper, when a middle-aged woman walked up to us. There was a soberness on her face as she spoke: “Savor these days. My daughter’s a teenager now, and I’d give anything to go back to the days when all it took was a roll of toliet paper to make her happy.” She then briefly shared with me how her daughter had become caught up in “the wrong crowd” and how drugs had taken over her life. We wished each other well, and went our separate ways, but our brief encounter has stayed with me all these years.

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Featured Chinaberry Employee - Karen Knight

Friday, March 27th, 2009


Janet: How long have you been working for Chinaberry?

Karen: I was first hired in April, 2000 to do payroll and some bookkeeping. When I was offered a job elsewhere in 2007, I took it, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that Chinaberry is the place for me. After two months, I returned to open arms. You just can’t leave a place like Chinaberry and be happy.

Janet: How would you describe what you do now?

Karen: I work in three departments: in Human Resources, my primary job is payroll; in the Website Department, I turn the ads on and off as inventory changes, copy ads to different websites, and keep an eye on other websites that have links to our website; and in Accounting, I do sales taxes and anything they need help with.

Janet: What has been your most memorable experience at Chinaberry?

Karen: One of the most memorable experiences was when Chinaberry was threatened by fire. Everyone immediately pulled together to get a rental truck loaded so we could keep the business running if the fire were to reach our building. No one had to ask anyone to help; everyone just pulled together and got busy. The next year the fire was even closer, and in the wee hours of the morning, employees who could get through to the building left their homes to come and make sure things were covered to keep smoke from the merchandise. Together, they stood at the back of the building as the fire approached, hoping it would not hop the roadway below.  No one called and asked anyone to come; they just showed up and got busy doing whatever they could to help. Some employees lost their homes and everything in them. Immediately, the Chinaberry family tried to find out what they could do to help.

I love how employees are quietly watched for their strengths and how management works together to find the perfect fit for employees. Every book and toy is read or tested by employees and their families to make sure it is a fit for Chinaberry kids. We have books you would never find in the mall bookstores.

Janet: What are your top two all-time favorite Chinaberry books?

Karen: Eat, Drink and Be Chinaberry is a cookbook I’ve given to all my children and friends. The recipes are simply wonderful, but more than that, you can find helpful hints like making your own diaper wipes. With five grandkids in and out of our home, we have used that one more than once. In this time of financial struggle for so many people, there are ways to save money and this is a great one. This cookbook is the favorite one in all our homes.  Also, James Herriot’s Treasury for Children is one that my grandchildren and I love to sit and read together.

Janet: What are your top two all-time favorite Chinaberry products?

Karen: The Marble Whacker is a game we really enjoy playing. It gets really noisy with the sound of the marbles clicking as you hit them, but the laughter is the greatest. Also, the Butter Bell Crock is sitting on my counter all the time and part of setting the table.

Janet: Want to share a little bit about your family and/or hobbies?

Karen: My husband and I have five children and five grandchildren with another on the way. We enjoy our Sunday family dinners, especially since all we have to provide is the house because they all do the cooking!

Watching the kids grow and mature and having the opportunity to play ball and go on family bike rides is the best, but never more fun than camping together. Of course our son-in-law claims he will never camp with us again because every time we’ve gone, we’ve run into a bear or two. The last time we went camping, it took us three hours to get to our campsite, but only 1-1/2 hours to load up and run back to the car after bears were headed toward our tents! We’re going camping locally in two weeks and hope to prove we don’t always have bears around. This time, we’ll be in mountain lion country! (We’ve never seen one there, but keep your fingers crossed!)

Real Super Heroes

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Sakura (Ali's daughter) as firefighter

Sakura (Ali's daughter) as a firefighter

Children need heroes. If we fail to give them real heroes, they will gladly seek out their own in the form of rock stars and superathletes with questionable morals. One of the most powerful things we, as parents, can do (besides be living examples of what we hope to teach) is offer them stories of real heroes. Offer them stories that will give them a model of courage so that when it comes time for them to be heroes in their own lives, they will have the inner fire and fortitude to do so. Stories of saints, freedom seekers and ordinary people doing extraordinary things all feed the soul fire burning in our hearts. This is what makes us strong in times of adversity and keeps hope alive.

Introducing Stanley

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Stanley was born under a pile of construction rubble in Mexico on Dec 6, 2006.

Sadly, one week later he became an orphan.  Through an honest gringa mistake at the border crossing, the wrong word for “puppy” in Spanish was used when describing what was in the box. “CUCHARA,” the Spanish word for spoon, is awfully similar to the Spanish word for puppy, “CACHORRO.” The litter of 9 “spoons” made it through customs and back to San Diego.  Ann, Chinaberry’s founder, brought the little ones to work with her the next day as they needed to be bottle fed every few hours. That is when I met Stanley for the first time. The litter was about 2 weeks old at this point.  Unfortunately, they were not thriving.   A sad Christmas Eve was spent in the emergency veterinary clinic. Only one puppy was diagnosed to have any chance of surviving, and that he did.

Stanley’s first few months of life here in San Diego were spent being schlepped back and forth to work with me every day along with a dog pen, pee pads, puppy formula, bottles, clean blankets, washcloths, and towels.  As the months progressed, toys were added to the trunk full of supplies.

Stanley is now over 2 years old and quite a character. I keep waiting for him to grow out of his puppy stage and wonder if he ever will. One of his favorite places to visit is Chinaberry.  He can hardly contain himself when we pull into the parking lot. His excitement runneth over as he systematically visits all of his friends in various parts of the building.

His constant canine companion is a 4-year-old shepherd mix named Stella, along with 4 cats (three of the cats are brothers from a litter that I fostered last year). If you have an idea what Stanley’s breed is let me know!

Who knew that a life begun under a pile of rubble in Mexico would end up bringing such joy to so many people.

Words of Wisdom from Jonas Salk

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Jonas Salk never let fear get in his way of his dream

Jonas Salk never let fear get in the way of his dream

”I have had dreams and I’ve had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.”

- Jonas Salk

Henry the Three-Legged Cat Helps Sick Children and Wounded Veterans

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Henry, the Three Legged Cat

Henry, the Three-Legged Cat

I ran across this inspiring article about our favorite three-legged cat, Henry. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Henry the three-legged cat’s ‘Just Me Project’ extends his healing paw to children and wounded veterans

San Diego Pets: A Lifestyle Magazine for Pet Lovers
DECEMBER 2008–JANUARY 2009
By Nicole Sours Larson

A homeless mountain kitten, Henry was taken in by a family staying with Cathy Conheim and Donna Brooks at their Julian home after the family was burnt out by the Cedar Fire. When he showed up with a dangerously dangling left front leg and needed an emergency amputation, no one would have imagined the transformative effect he would have on so many lives.

Conheim and Brooks, confirmed dog lovers, had not planned to adopt Henry, but he came into their lives at a time of great loss and grief. Henry, like many pets, filled an unrealized void. Kind-hearted animal lovers, rather than euthanize the trusting kitten they chose to pay for Henry’s life-saving surgery and promised to find him an indoor home. Henry rapidly wormed his way into their respect and affections and inspired them to publish his story to benefit other injured and disadvantaged animals. Now, having raised more than $50,000 in four years through sales of his books and other publications to support animals and animal welfare organizations, Henry has become spokescat for a new crusade, partnering with his poodle sister, Dollydog.

Henry’s Just Me Project taps into the powerful human animal bond to extend the three-legged cat’s healing message of overcoming obstacles to help both ailing children and their siblings as well as wounded war veterans and their families.

Conheim, a psychotherapist and Henry’s “cat scribe,” and Brooks, a retired physician, thought they disliked, even hated, cats until Henry took over their lives. The La Jolla residents began to comprehend the power of Henry’s story once they received an overwhelming response to Conheim’s initial email sent to 20 of their friends detailing the indomitable kitten’s tale of survival and triumph. That email boomeranged around the world. (more…)

Words of Wisdom from Gandhi

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Wall art of Gandhi created by Will Kasso

Wall art of Gandhi created by Will Kasso

“Be the change you wish to see in the world”
- Gandhi

I just love this quote from Gandhi. I now have the bumper sticker on my car–mostly to remind myself of the responsibility we all share to “be the change we wish to see” in our families, communities, counties, states, countries, and the world.

A new arrival, ‘Be the Change’ Pendant, is now available at our sister site, IsabellaCatalog.com.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with graffiti artist Will Kasso:
Question: One of your latest portraits is Gandhi. Why?

Kasso: Well, Gandhi was a great human being. His contribution to society, the world for that matter, is undeniable. He directly influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a host of others for positive change. So when I decided to do the wall, I wanted to paint someone that ignited change, since aerosol artists are the most misunderstood and stereotyped artists on this planet.

Words of Wisdom - I Have a Dream

Monday, January 19th, 2009

I Have a Dream Speech

Full text (transcribed from audio)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. (more…)

Words of Wisdom from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr. with family after hearing that he won the Noble Peace Prize.

Two nights ago, I began reading the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. to my girls at bedtime. This is one quote–taken from ‘The Drum Major Instinct’ speech–that stood out to me, especially as we prepare to welcome in our new president, our first African-American president. It is up to all of us to help make the world a better place. We each have unique gifts that we can use to help others in need.  Please consider volunteering with your family and make a real difference in your community. What a great quality to teach our children about–service to others.

“… And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.

You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.

You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.

You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve.

You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.

You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

How a Special Book Helped Our Family

Friday, November 14th, 2008

I wanted to share my story of the impact a Chinaberry book had on my family. (I originally wrote this in autumn 2005–we still love reading this book.) Please share your story of a Chinaberry book that has touched your family’s lives.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

I am a new single-mom who recently adopted twin 3-year-old girls. Due to their background, the newness of our family, and their age, my daughters were having a lot of trouble separating from me when I would take them to preschool, at bedtime, etc. It filled me with sadness when I would see their surprised looks when I came to pick them up from preschool and they would ask me “You came back to get us?” I was looking for books that could help them feel reassured that this Mommy will always love them, take care of them & come back for them.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn was the perfect book to help illustrate that point. At every separation (and any other time they wanted), I would give them a kiss on the hand, ask them to put their hand on the side of their face, and repeat “Mommy loves me.” It sounds so simple, yet it really works. Now, several months later, I am happy to say that the girls are still happy to see me after work, but never surprised. The Kissing Hand book and concept have really helped the girls feel/sense my love for them during the school day & even throughout their sleep. (They also like to give me a “kissing hand” so I can remember how much they love me.)