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Church Notebook: Local church activities are plentiful

The other day, someone asked me about “that plant you wrote about last year that you thought was dead.”

 And it dawned on me — it’s February — time for it to start showing again if it has survived those dormant months once  more.

When I got home, I brought the pot out from its resting place to the sunny kitchen window it obviously likes — and sure enough, there were seven tiny leaves peeking up out of the soil. So here we go again.

This little white Gloxinia has been a faithful performer for several years now, and I’ve become very fond of it. Flowers are often given as a symbol of love — and they don’t always have to be bouquets of roses. The Gloxinia was not a gift, but a rescue, a sad specimen that was going to be discarded as unsalable, but given to me for the token price of 50 cents.

Next Thursday is Valentine’s Day — a day dedicated to love. But what is love? A four-letter word with many definitions.

The most important love of all is that which God shows to us. And when I think of how that little flower makes me happy each year, I have to wonder if we are dependable enough to make God happy.

When all is going well, we so often put our faith on the back burner — until some difficulty crops up that we can’t handle, and then we’re ready to exercise faith again. I think there are many times that God is probably pretty disappointed in us.

The Easter season, depending on your denomination, may start as early as this coming Wednesday — known as Ash Wednesday — the day before Valentine’s Day. Between the two, we have a number of things coming up, starting today.

Coastal Voices: Finding Del Norte, my 'forever home'

My husband and I moved to Del Norte County a year and a half ago from San Jose.  I had previously worked as a deputy district attorney both in San Joaquin County and San Benito County, and budget cuts seemed to follow me wherever I went. We came to Del Norte County because I was offered the chance to continue my career as a deputy district attorney. 

We were not sure what to expect moving to a rural city, so far north from everyone we knew. We need not have worried, for Del Norte County embraced us with open arms. Through my work and community service, I truly learned what it meant to live in a small town.

People may say there is nothing to do in a small town, but I disagree. In a small community there is everything to do. I became a board member for the North Coast Marine Mammal Center and worked on several of its fundraising events.

In addition, I became a member of Sunrise Rotary, and just last month was elected to the Board of Directors.  Through Rotary, I became a volunteer for the Schools of Hope. As a volunteer for the Schools of Hope, I dedicate my lunch hour once a week to helping two first grade students learn how to read. The two students always manage to put a smile on my face, and I look forward every week to seeing their progress.

Through Rotary, I met wonderful leaders in our community who serve in many difference capacities. I started attending public meetings. In attending the City Council meetings and Harbor Commission meetings, I saw elected members and volunteers of the community dedicate their time to make Del Norte County a wonderful place to live in.

California Focus: Immigration: Political landscape has changed

Elections matter, one reason for the immigration reform proposals coming from President Obama and a bipartisan panel of U.S. senators.

Here are a few facts behind those moves: Republican Mitt Romney won among white voters, rich and poor, male and female, by an overall 59-39 percent last November. Because Obama had far larger margins among Latinos, blacks and Asian-Americans, Romney’s strong showing among whites wasn't enough.

Meanwhile, voting by Latinos is on an upswing in many currently safe GOP states like Texas and Georgia, causing freshman Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to observe that unless the GOP does something to win them over, Texas will become Democratic in a decade.

But that’s only part of the picture. It turns out the strong anti-illegal immigrant feeling behind GOP platforms, state and federal, for most of the last 20 years was on the wane long before the fall election.

Before the spring of 2012, legislative action in Arizona and Utah, two states whose governments are firmly controlled by Republicans, saw an uninterrupted flow of precedent-setting moves against illegal immigrants.

Police in Arizona now must stop anyone they so much as suspect of being in this country illegally, and demand documents. All employers there are required to use the national E-Verify system to determine whether any new hire was undocumented.

The results for Arizona have been decidedly mixed so far. The state lost a few conventions to boycotts by liberal-leaning organizations. Thousands of illegal immigrants moved to other states, including an estimated 20,000 coming to California.

Coastal Voices: Things to consider about jetty access

I was very disappointed to see the results of the Triplicate’s online poll regarding whether or not walking onto the jetty should be illegal.

As of this writing, over 60 percent of the voters believe that being out on the jetty should be legal. That being said, I realize that many are unlikely to agree with my opinion. However, I feel that there are aspects of our community’s well-being and safety of which many are unaware.

Let me preface my statement by saying that I think all people should be able to enjoy the beauty that our area has to offer. However, I would ask Crescent City residents to consider the lives of people that have been lost or those who have been injured as a result of being swept off the jetty before you make up your mind as to whether it is worth the risk to continue to lose members of our community to the dangerous conditions (sometimes foreseeable, sometimes not) that occur on the jetty.

Another point to consider is that it is not only the lives of those who walk out onto the jetty that are at risk. We must also consider the lives of those who respond to try to save people once they have been swept into the rough waters. The boating safety deputies and civilian volunteers, the Search and Rescue volunteers, Fire Department volunteers, Coast Guard rescue swimmers and helicopter pilots also put their own lives at risk every time they respond to these types of incidents.

We also have to think about the city and county resources that are used to deploy police officers, deputies, fire rescue resources, and paramedics to the scene.

As a part-time dispatcher for the Sheriff’s Department, I am able to observe that these incidents do not occur within a bubble. They are happening at the same time that your mother is having difficulty breathing, your son gets in a car accident, or your house gets burglarized.

Many times, the resources that would ordinarily be dispatched immediately in such circumstances are delayed due to the fact that our dispatch center (staffed by one person) is trying to dispatch Search and Rescue, boating safety, etc., at the same time that we are trying to answer your 911 call for assistance.

Secret sister identities revealed today

The national news just keeps getting worse — every day, there seems to be another shooting, too often with  children as the victims.

If ever there was a time to embrace our faith, it is now.  Throughout our history, we have had memorable preachers and musicians who focused on our need for faith to sustain us in hard times. Those folks back in the late 1800s and early 1900s wrote some of the most wonderful  hymns, and each one has a story.

Here’s another  of one of my favorites, one that I can never sing enough, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

The words were written by Civilla D. Martin, a Canadian music schoolteacher who married an evangelist. They were inspired by a visit to an older couple in upstate New York, in 1905.

The couple were both handicapped, but managed to present a happy outlook despite their situation. Civilla asked them how they were able to do so, and was told by the wife, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”

Those words became the seed for the song, and after completing the words, she sent them to famous Gospel composer Charles Gabriel, who set them to music. Not only are the words inspiring, but the melody is just beautiful. Take a look in your church hymnal — you just might find it — and then sing it!

• This morning, the ladies of New Life Community Church will include a Secret Sister revealing party with their 9 a.m. monthly meeting. They will learn who their sisters have been for the past year, and draw the name of their new sister for the coming year. Small gifts and encouragement given anonymously, once a month, and attempts to guess the identity of the giver throughout the year make for fun and fellowship.

House Calls: The family that cooks together...

Amira Long and her girls.
House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today’s column is written by Amira Long.

One of my favorite things to do on a weekend afternoon with my daughters is cooking.

I really feel that little ones need to learn how to do things when they’re interested and not when they’re “old enough,” so Helena, 5, was learning the same things as Sophie, 7, right next to her at the counter. There is a lot of learning to be had in cooking.

One of the first things they start to learn, without even realizing they are learning, is math. We measure things all the time. I always ask them to help me find measurements on the side of our measuring cup. Helena only recognizes whole numbers right now, so I ask her to find “1, 2” if I want ½, for instance.

We also do a lot of counting when we add ingredients — whether it’s three cups, two eggs, or “one big spoon and one little spoon” of vanilla. We count pieces of carrot as we put them into the pot. We talk about time and watch our kitchen timer count down the minutes until our rolls will be ready to come out of the oven.

In addition to learning math, they’re also learning science. Some of their questions knock my socks off. “Why did the dough get big?” (After we let our pizza dough rise.) “What made it turn brown?” (When we pulled muffins from the oven.)  “How hot does the water have to get before it makes steam?” 

All very good questions that I tried to give very simple answers to. “The yeast is like little guys. They ate the sugar and had to burp. See all of the burp bubbles in this dough that weren’t there before?” 

And, “Remember the butter and eggs we put into the batter? They have something called proteins. When proteins get very hot, like in our oven, they turn brown. If we kept letting them cook, they would burn and turn black.”

Coastal Voices: The budget? Rain? Keep perspective

When I arise on Monday morning last week, I turn on my TV as usual. As I listen to the angry words, from both sides of the aisle, I fume. Here we are, $16 trillion-plus in debt, and yet we are going to borrow more money. Wish I could just pay my bills like that and kick the final payment down the road for my kids to take care of.

I turn it off and go to my favorite spot for viewing the world around me. As I look out, there is a thin layer of clouds, and on the horizon I can see yellows, purples and blues along that horizon. I draw my view a short distance closer and see the fishermen and their boats plowing furrows in the sea as if farming it. As they plow they pull their pots and harvest the crabs there, reseed the pot and drop it in the furrow to farm more crabs.

I can also see from shore to horizon a sparkling path, caused by the sun shining on the ripples of the ocean. I wonder if the fishermen are viewing the beauty that surrounds them or are their views drawn only to the row of floats that mark their furrow in the sea.

I draw my gaze closer to the shore and notice the rocks around Brother Jonathan Viewpoint are exposed, not dry, yet not really wet. I have not looked at the tide data, so I do not know if it is coming or going.

A few hours later I am interrupted by a big bird flying up into a tree close by my viewing place. It is being chased by a swarm of crows and ravens. It lands on one of the highest branches of a dying tree close by. And the crows and ravens bombard it with their rancorous cries and flying action.

On closer inspection, this is a bald eagle, the emblem of our United States. It sits there seemingly undisturbed by all the action around it, as if to say, “This is my place and I’m going to stay here.” So for several hours it remains there, oblivious to the birds around.

On Tuesday morning, again the same is being spewed from the TV, so I turn it off and go to my favorite viewing spot. To my surprise, there is the eagle again up on that top branch, but surprise, surprise, down the beach in the next tree sits another large bird. Today the crows and ravens are not present, so both birds are left to enjoy the sun’s warmth.

Brown has actually kept his promises

The decisive moment of Jerry Brown’s 2010 campaign for governor came that September, when he looked straight into a camera for the simplest of political commercials.

“No new taxes without a vote of the people,” he declared. Brown kept that promise. When Republicans in the Legislature stymied his attempt to put a tax-increase proposition before voters the easy way, without an initiative petition campaign, Brown raised well over $1 million and put his proposal on the ballot the hard way.

The decisive message of last fall’s campaign over his measure, by then called Proposition 30, again had Brown looking straight into a camera, this time pledging that much of the money from his initiative would go to public schools.

He wasn’t precisely calling commercials for the rival Proposition 38 lies when he did that, but one of their frequent claims has now been debunked. Some ads for 38 — which would have raised $10 billion a year, almost all earmarked for public schools — claimed none of the approximately $6 billion from Prop. 30 was assured for schools.

The budget Brown proposed early this month essentially gives about half the proceeds of Prop. 30 to elementary and high schools, providing them $2.7 billion more than last year’s austerity budget.

So Brown kept another campaign promise, a stark contrast with the way some of his predecessors treated campaign commitments. He also said he’d use some Prop. 30 money to restore other programs, observing that “other worthy things also have been cut.” Things like in-home care for frail seniors and the disabled, the CalWorks welfare to work program, child care and Medi-Cal all are now slated for budget increases or at least maintenance of last year’s levels. Again, a promise kept.

Church Notebook: Old-time music at Methodist church

Music, to me, is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. It comes in various types to fill all the different portions of our lives.

We all have likes and dislikes — that’s the thing that makes us different and more interesting as individuals.

My phone rings with “Für Elise,” a Beethoven composition I played at piano recital as a teenager, and still play today for my own enjoyment. I like good jazz and bluegrass, but I’m not much for rock, and I can’t stand rap. If I’m subjected to it involuntarily for any length of time, I find myself getting angry — and when I hear today’s youngsters referred to as the angry generation, I wonder if that could be partly to blame.

As a member of my church praise team, I love the old hymns. A lot of our churches today don’t seen to sing many of the old ones very often, but we do. Have you ever wondered about the stories behind some of those wonderful old songs?

One of my favorites is “It is Well With My Soul,” by Horatio G. Spafford. This hymn came out of a traumatic time in his life, and reflects his faith in God.

In 1871, he suffered losses in business, and his 4-year-old son died of scarlet fever.

In 1873, he planned a visit to England with his family- his wife and four daughters. At the last minute, he was detained by a business matter, and sent his family on ahead, on the Ville du Havre, planning to take a later vessel to join them.


Longtime Del Norte County resident Chuck Blackburn’s column appears monthly.

In the winter, storms sweep out the sand, exposing bedrock on Pebble Beach. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Over the past 60 years, I have visited or seen many special places in Del Norte County. You could say many of these places haven’t changed over the years, but we know that the forces of nature are always doing their work.

Today, in January 2013, I am sitting at a parking lot due east of Castle Rock just south of the airport runway. I have watched the ocean so many times from here over the years. Just north of this location is Garth’s Beach, which I am sure takes on the name of Garth McNamara of the long-standing McNamara family in this community.

I see two surfers trying to catch waves that are remnants of a rough ocean that breaks over a submerged reef that runs north-to-south toward Castle Rock.

When the ocean is calm there is no break on this reef unless there is a really low tide. When the ocean is rough, usually during the winter months, I have seen breakers 20-30 feet tall.

It is awesome to watch the surf break at that level. There is deep water west of Castle Rock and outside of this reef so the waves form quickly and build to great heights as they strike the shallow water of the reef. This same big surf strikes Castle Rock and the tall rocks that are off the coast west of Pebble Beach Drive.

During big winter storms I’ve watched waves rise 20-40 feet to strike these rocks.

In contrast, years ago I put in a drift boat at Marhaufer Creek during a calm summer ocean and rowed out behind Castle Rock and fished to the east of all these rocks.

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