Category Archives: Humanity

summer + nature = redwoods


No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe.

~ John Steinbeck

Summer along the California coast is inspirational, nothing more so than the Redwood National Forest, enjoying it so much I’m making it a feature in the next series.


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Filed under California, California Historical Landmark, Creativity, Entertainment, Features, Humanity, John Steinbeck, Life, Native American, Nature, Posts, Quotes, Redwoods, Romance, Series, Summer, Summer fun, Suspense, Vickie McKeehan, Weather, Writers

Mother Earth, oh, happy day!

“He plants trees to benefit another generation.”

Caecilius Statius

Earth Day. 2015.

Give back.

Plant a tree.

Big Sur


For most of my life I’ve taken trees for granted. They’ve always been there when I needed one. If you’ve ever been outside on a really, really hot summer day and looked for shade to get some relief, you’re probably a BIG fan of trees. Here in Southern California the average temps have increased by 6°F over the last 50 years.  We’re losing trees at a rapid rate. Every day somewhere, developers move into an area, cut down a swath of trees without blinking an eye. But trees are valuable. They give something back. They cool urban areas by up to 10°F. Trees provide shade for picnics, or for those times you take a break while riding your bike. Through their leaves, trees release valuable water vapor into the air. For the complete list of good things trees do, go to

Celebrate the earth. Plant a tree. Your children’s children might one day thank you.

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Filed under California, Features, Humanity, Life, Love is life, Photos, Quotes, Vickie McKeehan

Stopping Domestic Violence Matters

Do you know someone living with an abusive partner, male or female? Recognize the signs. And do something. Do all you can to help them find a way out.

 Domestic violence occurs in every culture, country, and age group. It affects people from all socioeconomic walks of life.  It affects both males and females. Most of the time domestic violence incidents are never even reported to the authorities. Domestic abuse may not be so easy to identify because many victims are unwilling to admit that their situation has crossed the line or even admit they live with an out of control individual. Often a serious threat can escalate over seemingly nothing.

To those who have a loved one in this type of environment, know how to recognize the signs when your son or daughter, your cousin or aunt and uncle, is enduring abuse at the hands of another — and help them get out. No one, whether male or female, young or old, should have to live with an abusive partner. No one.

The article below is from the Mayo Clinic. The title of the article is directed at domestic violence against men but this advice should be 1 Stop Abuseheeded by anyone suffering from abuse, no matter the gender of the victim. As family members, you should do everything you can to recognize the signs of stress from a loved one and encourage that person to seek help to remove themselves from the situation. If you know someone who is struggling in this type of living arrangement, your actions could be the difference in whether or not they stay safe.

The Mayo Clinic defines domestic violence as:  Intimate partner violence — occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. It can happen in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.

It might be harder to recognize the potential ugly behavior as domestic violence issue because in the early stages of a relationship, a partner might seem attentive, generous and protective in ways that later turn out to be controlling and scary. Initially, the abuse may appear as isolated incidents. The partner may apologize over and over and promise not to ever do it again.

But that apology never lasts for long. The behavior escalates and continues to build. Controlling behavior returns twofold. This is still damaging to you, whether male or female, and the children in the household.

From the website, A Safe Place: People who abuse often use the children to try to control their partners.  For example, abusers often threaten to harm the children to stop their partners from leaving them.

Below is the list of signs directly from the Mayo Clinic that you should NEVER ignore.

You might be experiencing domestic violence if your partner:

  • Calls you names, insults you or puts you down
  • Prevents you from going to work or school
  • Stops you from seeing family members or friends
  • Tries to control how you spend money, where you go or what you wear
  • Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
  • Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
  • Threatens you with violence or a weapon
  • Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets
  • Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
  • Blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it

From HelpGuide.Org: Women rarely inflict physical abuse in the same way as men. However, it can still happen. Examples of the ways women perpetrate physical abuse include:

  • Harming pets
  • Destroying possessions
  • Biting
  • Spitting
  • Striking out with fists or feet, pushing
  • Using weapons, such as guns or knives, poison to make you ill

An abusive wife or partner may hit, kick, bite, punch, spit, throw things, or destroy your possessions. To make up for any difference in strength, she may attack you while you’re asleep or otherwise catch you by surprise. She may also use a weapon, such as a gun or knife, or strike you with an object, abuse or threaten your children, or harm your pets. Of course, domestic abuse is not limited to violence. Your spouse or partner may also:

  • Verbally abuse you, belittle you, or humiliate you in front of friends, colleagues, or family, or on social media sites.
  • Be possessive, act jealous, or harass you with accusations of being unfaithful.
  • Take away your car keys or medications, try to control where you go and who you see.
  • Try to control how you spend money or deliberately default on joint financial obligations.
  • Make false allegations about you to your friends, employer, or the police, or find other ways to manipulate and isolate you.
  • Threaten to leave you and prevent you from seeing your kids if you report the abuse.

Children and abuse

 Domestic violence affects children, even if they’re just witnesses. If you have children, remember that exposure to domestic violence puts them at risk of developmental problems, psychiatric disorders, problems at school, aggressive behavior and low self-esteem. You might worry that seeking help could further endanger you and your children, or that it might break up your family. Fathers and mothers might fear that their abusive partners will threaten to take their children away from them. However, getting help is the best way to protect your children — and yourself.
 Break the cycle
 If you’re in an abusive situation, you might recognize this pattern:
  • Your abuser threatens violence.
  • Your abuser strikes you.
  • Your abuser apologizes, promises to change and offers gifts.
  • The cycle repeats itself.

Typically the violence becomes more frequent and severe over time. Do NOT ignore it. They won’t change no matter how many times they promise. The abuser will try to haggle and make amends but they do little to actually change. Behavior won’t change.

Domestic violence can leave you depressed and anxious. You might be more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs or engage in unprotected sex. Remember, if you’re being abused, you aren’t to blame — and help is available. Start by telling someone about the abuse, whether it’s a friend, relative, health care provider or other close contact. At first, you might find it hard to talk about the situation. However, you’ll also likely feel relief and receive much-needed support. Bottom line is to seek help. Getting yourself out of the situation is the first step to helping your children.

As you can tell, this subject is near and dear to me . I hope all of you will do everything you can to put an end to any form of domestic violence in your community. All we can do is try to encourage a loved one to see the light and leave behind an abusive home life, once and for all, for a better existence that doesn’t include violent, abusive outbursts. If you have any advice as to how to get the victim to listen, I’d love to hear from you.


August 4, 2014 · 4:42 pm

Help Cecilia Spark Raise Funds for Born Free

Ngaire Elder, author of The Adventures of Cecilia Spark series of children’s books, is once again showing her generous spirit. She’s donating all the profits from her books for the month of June to the Born Free Foundation in support of their 2014 Big Cat Nap Fundraiser.

Big Cat Nap Logo Lion

Ngaire Elder Photo

 The Born Free Foundation is an international wildlife charity founded in 1984 that rescues vulnerable animals from appalling living conditions and starvation. By funding sanctuaries for cats like lions, tigers, cheetahs, and leopards all over the world, Born Free makes a huge impact on whether or not the cats survive. But only if you help. Join Ngaire in her effort to save big cats.

Big Cat Ngaire Elder

Purchase any of Ngaire’s children’s books in any format, hard cover, ebook, or audio, and the proceeds will go to providing for the feeding and care of these endangered animals.

Not only will your children get to know a great character in Cecilia Spark, but you’ll be helping a worthy cause.

What your donation goes for:

  • $5 could buy a vitamin boost for a rescued lion
  • $7 could fund a tiger protection officer for a day
  • $10 could feed a rescued cheetah cub for two days
  • $25 could buy binoculars to help a warden protect wild tigers
  • $40 could buy a rescued lion’s food for a week

Make a difference. Buy a children’s book and help out big cats.

brimstone forest cover art 300dpi jpeg - Copy       The Advertures Cecilia 1       Drag Star Cover Ngaire Elder       MyNatureFriends


May 31, 2014 · 6:02 pm

Celebrate summer — plant a garden

secret_summer_herb_gardenMemorial Day Weekend is the all-time indicator that summer is right around the corner. There’s something special about this particular holiday. And not just the fact it’s set aside to honor our troops. That special day we use to remember those who’ve died in service to our country also brings to mind soft summer breezes at the beach, wearing sandals everywhere we go (when we bother with something on our feet at all–my personal preference is going barefoot) and closer to home, taking a walk outside in the garden. There’s nothing quite like opening the back door on a crisp, gray morning (yes, May gray and June gloom are very real here until the marine layer burns off) and stepping out into my own special place where I’ve planted my own herbs and vegetables. But the summer heat can do a number on certain plants. Picking the right ones that can handle the heat and full sun is tricky. If you’re contemplating a summer garden, ask a pro. There are tons of informative websites that will help. Some will even take questions and reply by email.

Crashing that barrier and fear of what exactly to plant is the first step to making your garden just as lush in August as the one you planted in March. I admit that California’s drought conditions make the whole idea a bit daunting, but certainly not impossible.

First, start small or small-ish. Maybe begin your summer gardening project with herbs like basil, chives, and mint along with a few rows of beans, zucchini and eggplant. I’d skip tomatoes only because I admit I’ve had major trouble growing them. I did have some success last year with grape tomatoes. But if you’re a long-time green thumber, go for it–plant whatever you like. Don’t let my failure to launch tomato plants stop you.

Don’t have a lot of room or a backyard? Don’t let that discourage you from trying.  Herbs can be grown in simple containers or planter boxes. Get creative. Turn a balcony or a small patio into your own patch of lettuce or rosemary.herb-containers2

The best advice I got my first year of having a summer garden was about watering. Water generously but do NOT and I mean, do NOT, water the leaves. It causes a perfect environment for fungal disease. Water when the top soil is dry, about an inch down and water the dirt not the plant itself. If the seedlings or sprouts start to droop, or if you notice mold, you’ve watered them too much, too often.

If you do start a garden this time of year, feel free to post pics here on my blog touting your success. Brag, beat your chest. It’s okay to feel good about your growing techniques at making dirt come to life. And if you have tips for me, don’t be shy. I’m still learning. After all, I’m the one who killed my lavender because I put it in the shade. Ugh!!

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you. Have a great,  growing season!





May 26, 2014 · 3:33 pm

John Charles Upton Jr. 1956 – 2013

As a writer, I often feature violence in my work. I write about the dark side of humanity, the evil sometimes living within our own walls. But that’s fiction. Late Saturday afternoon I learned about the death of a man I met several years back who had touched so many lives in a remarkable way. John Upton was an Emmy-winning filmmaker who was shot and killed Thursday afternoon in his own yard in Encinitas, California. The police didn’t have to go far to find John’s alleged killer. It seems it was his next door neighbor. John was alledgedly shot because of a dispute over–shrubbery. Yes, you read that correctly. An argument about trimming trees. I do love growing things, that includes my trees, but I’m not going to take out my 9-millimeter pistol and take a human life over plants. I’m not. Break into my house, that’s another matter. But trimming hedges. Uh-uh.

I know we live in a violent and mean world. It isn’t new. In fact, it’s as old as time. I often spend hours doing research where I usually uncover incredibly sadistic and cruel people who inhabit our own neighborhoods and walk down our streets. They do horrible things to others. They often do those things to children. So much so, that I’m inspired to expose that dark side and bring it out into the light. But John Upton’s death is not part of a fictional scene. John’s murder hit home and it hit hard.

What I know about John Upton is that he was a bright, caring, talented individual who took it upon himself in 1990 to rescue kids from their horrible living conditions in Romania. He inspired people to do better.

John Upton will be missed. My heart goes out to his brother and the rest of the Upton family. I share their hearbreak and pain.

If you want to know more about John and the impact he had, take a look at his ABC 20/20 interview I posted from YouTube.


Filed under Humanity, Hunger

We Can Make a Difference–Right Here, Right Now

We Can Make a Difference–Right Here, Right Now.

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Filed under Humanity, Hunger