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PostHeaderIcon Traditional or Modern Father Knows Best?

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I recently read a blog on Parentdish.com that said today's fathers are more involved in the day to day care of their children, and not solely taking the role of breadwinner.  It went on to say that today's generation of fathers equate being a good father with "being there and being accessible" to their kids.

I've been racking my brain for weeks about what to write for a Father's Day story.  I have searched for an interesting story about my own dad, a funny situation, a remembrance of a childhood happening.  Should I write a loving tribute to my Dad or should I write of his influence in my life and what I have become?

After reading the Parentdish story, I was struck with the differences in how today's fathers must differ from what my own father's role and responsibilities were.

My parents had me before they were 20 years old.  I think I came along a bit too early, and although, like any parent, they were thrilled, they must have been scared and uncertain of what to do in this new situation.  It was the late 50's and the roles of parents were very much set in stone.  The father was the breadwinner and the mother was caregiver.  No options.

My dad worked hard to support our growing family.  He made sure we had a comfortable home and as the old saying goes "food on the table".  He often worked long hours, and I know that in my formative years, he was gone before I woke up in the morning and home long after I was in bed.

My own father was not a kissy/huggy/feeling kind of man.  He was very much a traditional father.  Although I have seen pictures of my brothers and I on his lap, I don't have much recall of being held and kissed by him.  By the time I was 12 or so, the affection we received was usually a handshake and a pat on the back.  He was a task master, we had to do our chores and we got hell if we talked back to our mother.  We played catch in the backyard and we had to sit up straight at the dinner table.

Needless to say, as a teenage and young man, I was distant from my father and didn't understand or appreciate his place in our family.  I thought him old fashioned, out of touch and hard to talk to.

It's only now, as I am older, that I truly get it.  His role in that era was not to spend so called "quality time" with us, but to support us and raise us as only he knew how.  He was a product of his own generation, just like today's fathers are a product of theirs.

He may not have made it to every school function, or talked to us about our day or shared his feelings, but we did get our father/son time in.  He may have never talked to me about my needs, but he taught me what it takes to be a good man.

With all the attention and equal parenting they will be getting, will today's kids grow up with a different feeling and understanding of their fathers?  Will children feel a better connection or will they still  grow up not getting their old man? 

Only time will tell.

But, as a child raised in the traditional home of the 60's and 70's, I do know that my brothers and I turned out just fine and it is comforting to know that old time concept of dad still got the job done and we appreciate him for that.

We may not have known it at the time, but he did what the dad did and he did it well.

Happy Father's Day to all dads, the traditional and the modern. - SEW

Last Updated (Friday, 18 June 2010 16:23)


PostHeaderIcon Locals Bring Baby Items to Guatamala

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Joan Hamblin raised six children and knows plenty about baby blankets, booties, lotions and diapers. Her children have been out of the house for years and have children of their own.

Still, for the last few months there have been boxes of diapers, stacks of blankets and booties and suitcases full of lotions and soaps in the sprawling Danville home she shares with her husband, Jake. The president of a local mother’s group dropped off ten bags of clothing and blankets this month.

The loads of baby items recently went to Guatemala City for teen mothers who otherwise wouldn’t have supplies for their babies. It was in 2002-03 when the Hamblin couple spent 18 months in Guatemala on a humanitarian mission with their Danville church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

While visiting orphanages in Guatemala City, the largest city in Central America, where 70 percent of people live in dire poverty, they became involved in outreach to the poor. They also learned about the extreme circumstances in orphanages there. Newborns, infants and children are without basic needs: diapers, pins, clothing and blankets.

It is not uncommon to see a newborn wrapped only in newspaper, departing the hospital in a young mother’s arms.  The need for supplies for young moms is great: In Guatemala City alone there are three clinics for pregnant teens. It became Hamblin’s mission to bring necessities, as well as comfort to the children, especially infants in orphanages of Guatemala.

Committed to Pan-en-la Boca, (or bread in the mouth in Spanish) a feeding program founded by her friend, Evelyn Candland of Danville, Hamblin and others have made two return trips to the orphanages. While visiting, they confer with local doctors who serve the poor, including Dr. Ernesto Velasquez. “Whenever possible, we have tried to help him help the vulnerable young women, infants and small children there,’’ she says.

Recently, Dr. Velasquez suggested creating “newborn kits” for teen mothers in need. Hamblin’s response was, “We can do this!” There are many articles a baby needs for a good start inside: diapers, pins, gowns, receiving blankets, booties, soap and lotion. 

Earlier this month, the Hamblins and others went on a third trip to Guatemala City with six pieces of luggage packed to capacity with the kits. Some of the items were purchased, other were handmade.

Hamblin had sewn baby blankets of flannel, while others knitted booties and caps. Cash donations have come in to help pay for some items, others were contributed by friends and well-wishers as far away as Idaho and Utah, she says. 

Diapers in bulk lots of 8 dozen per pack were ordered from a Utah company and bars of soap were bought in bulk. Approximately 100 mini layettes of every color will go to the mothers of newborn infants in Guatemala.The cost to put together each kit is about $25.

Additional people from Danville and Alamo who also went on the trip, brought 200 pairs of shoes for children of the orphanage as part of an Eagle Scout project.

There are two dental clinics in Guatemala City as well, operating under the auspices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in conjunction with the orphanages.

While there, Hamblin and her daughter, Rochelle, will take a bus through Antigua to Panajachel, the closest city to the orphanage, with 100 toothbrushes to distribute.  Rochelle, a trained dental hygienist, will demonstrate proper tooth brushing technique, a first for many children and teens in the remote areas.

Hamblin says she is grateful the project is ongoing and not a one-time effort. With the continued support of volunteers and donations of cash and goods, it is her hope that the newborn kit project will continue to make a significant difference in reaching out across borders. To help, contact Hamblin at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it --KRB

Karen R. Balch is a retired nurse, freelance writer and San Ramon resident. She writes regularly for www.allnewsnoblues.com and can be reached through This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated (Tuesday, 22 March 2011 21:24)


PostHeaderIcon A Senior Moment

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Tomorrow is Mother's Day. We wish all the mothers of the world a wonderful day. Contributing writer Steve Wallace wrote this in honor of his own mother. Enjoy.

The day before Easter, I got an e-mail from my mother. Now, that in itself isn’t so unusual, she e-mails me often. But those are usually of the "Why haven’t you called me?" variety or a smattering of forwarded jokes, funny stories or self-help ideas. No, this one was very special. It read: "Today Toby and I got married."

My mother is 74. She is still a beautiful woman and has a wicked wit and sense of humor. She can tell from 3,000 miles away if I’m having a bad day and I can tell from her "hello?" on the phone what kind of day she is having. We have had our ups and downs over the years. She can be stubborn, needy, loving, funny, exasperating, thoughtful or my best friend. Sometimes these things happen in the same day.

We have gone through periods of not talking, periods of talking three times a day. We share the same gene pool and to my total mortification I often hear, "You look just like your mother." Her greatest pet peeve in when someone says to her "Carolyn, you look just like YOUR mother." We are way too much alike, which can often lead to misunderstandings, pettiness and hurt feelings. On the other hand, we can sit and talk to each other for hours oblivious to the rest of the world.

My parents divorced when I was 17. They married way too young, and if you look at pictures of their wedding day you will see a couple of terrified kids who are keeping the secret of a baby on the way (ME.) By their 30’s they realized that they were different people, with opposite ideas of what they wanted in life. Divorce is never easy and theirs was typical of most, but it was what they both needed to do to be happy.

For many years, mom struggled with her identity and insecurities. Having gone from a daughter and only child to a wife and mother, she wasn’t always sure who she was or what she wanted. There were other relationships. A second marriage that didn’t work out and another long term boyfriend. But eventually she found herself single again and stayed that way for nearly 20 years.

Then at her fiftieth high school reunion, in the small town in Ohio where she grew up, she ran into Toby. They had known each other in school, but not dated. They probably didn’t even run in the same crowd, but he had never forgotten her. He had also had a marriage or two, had grown children and a life time of experiences. They immediately found a commonality and bond.

But there was one big problem. He lived in Oregon and she lived in Florida. I think the term "geographically undesirable" might have applied here, but for them and the modern world, it made no difference. By phone, computer and the US mail, they got reacquainted and found laughter, joy and eventually love. He visited Florida. They spent a summer together exploring the country by car and visited family, introducing each other to their respective children and friends.

Within two years they had figured out how to share a life. Toby moved to Florida and somehow, two people in their 70s were living the life they may have had in that small town in Ohio in 1954.

This brings us to today.

That e-mail did catch me off guard, as it did my brothers and I’m sure Toby’s children, too. But, they planned a wedding just for them. No stress about inviting everyone. No frustration over other peoples wishes and wants. Just the two of them in front of their local minister in the library of their church. He was handsome in a suit and she was pretty in pink. They both wore big smiles with trust, hope and respect in their eyes.

So, for having the courage to find happiness at 74, for having the strength to just go for it, for having the love to sustain a new beginning, I celebrate your marriage even from a distance.

Congratulations Carolyn and Toby.--SEW

Last Updated (Friday, 21 May 2010 17:55)


PostHeaderIcon What it Takes to Ride a Bike for 30 Hours

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Lee Briggs wanted to do something big to celebrate his 30th birthday. A couple of his buddies had run 30 miles each to mark theirs, but that didn't appeal to Briggs. So, he decided to ride his road bicycle for 30 hours. That's right. An entire Saturday and then six hours into a recent Sunday. He also raised more than $5,100 for a Berkeley nonprofit that runs sports programs for disabled children and adults. We caught up with Lee to find out what it took to survive the journey.

ANNB: Where did the idea to ride 30 hours for your 30th birthday come from?
LB:My wife Melissa; we were brainstorming a couple ideas and off the cuff she said "you could bike for 30 hours." 

ANNB: What kind of training did you do?
LB: I biked to work (from home in Corte Madera) to San Francisco’s Presidio as much as possible; about 32 miles round trip with some good climbs out of Sausalito. I also did intense, once a week, heavy weight strength training on my legs and several long rides on the weekends. I rode 65, 90, 100 and 150 miles on training ride. The best training was the 2 weeks of pure rest before the ride.

ANNB: On the actual 30 for30th ride, where did you ride?
LB: From my home in Corte Madera north ~80 miles to Cloverdale, back down south to Geyserville, east and south to Calistoga, south to Napa, back north on the Silverado Trail to 128 east to Winters, south to Fairfield and Vallejo, over the San Pablo Bay into Richmond and finally ending at Berkeley. A total of 280 miles.

Lee is on the left in the photo. Credit: © Scot Goodman

ANNB: What did you eat on the ride?
LB: Everything I could swallow and lots of it. Pizzas, potatoes, bananas, apples, granola bars, cereal, cookies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bagels, sport jelly beans, Gatorade, and coffee.

ANNB: Did you have any problems along the way?
LB: Fortunately, nothing that threatened finishing, certainly soreness radiated from spot to spot and we did distinctively see a drunken driver in Fairfield at 5 a.m. Sunday. Also, eating so much food was beyond nauseating at times. 
ANNB: What was the best part of the ride?
LB: The night section with my buddies, Brent and Tommy.

ANNB: What other athletic feats have you accomplished in your 30 years?
LB: I bicycled across the country in 2007, 3,800 miles over 68 days from Kitty Hawk at the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of my home state of North Carolina to San Francisco. I ran the San Francisco Marathon in 2008 and completed a triathlon. Oh yeah, we won a softball intramural championship in college. 

ANNB:  What did you learn doing this ride?
LB: Preparation is everything. 
ANNB: We understand you have raised money for the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP). Why did you choose that nonprofit?
LB: I believe in BORP and know they give participants a spectacular opportunity to be active, competitive and more importantly self competitive. Physical exertion is empowering, and above and beyond its immediate physical benefits it is absolutely crucial to mental well being. BORP's amazing adaptive cycling program was the perfect synergy for 30for30th ride.

ANNB: What's up next?
LB: The wheels were turning for the next adventure as soon as I woke up from a night's rest. --KB

Last Updated (Friday, 30 April 2010 04:59)


PostHeaderIcon Filmmakers Shine Light on Tweens

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As many parents can attest, offering advice about other people's children can pull any friendship dangerously close to the third rail.

So when a friend started talking about her troubles with her ever so "spirited" 11-year-old, it was with great relief I was able to steer the conversation towards the brilliant new documentary "Going on 13," by East Bay filmmakers Dawn Valadez (right) and Kristy Guevara-Flanagan (left).

The film provides an intimate peak into the lives of 'tween girls, those mysterious 9-to-12 year-old creatures whose vexing ways can confound even the most attentive parent.

It took eight years, and 350 hours of film, but Valadez and Guevara-Flanagan's documentary offers parents and caregivers an easy way to approach the children in their lives about difficult subjects.

"Parents and caregivers don't quite understand what is going on internally and its often a time when parents can separate (from the girls), when in fact this is a time when parents need to be close to them." says Valadez.

Valadez is one of those people you meet and just want to tell your secrets to. She is a social worker who has spent more than twenty years working with young people, teenage mothers, the homeless and families on the brink of splintering apart, "It's a total passion of mine to change the world in the way parents and children work together, especially in low income and working poor communities."

Guevara-Flanagan is a professor of Film at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. She remembers her own preteen years as a time when she withdrew into herself and began to approach the world with caution. "I remember around 5th grade it was the beginning of something, things were starting to change rapidly, kids around me were acting out wildly and I didn't know where I belonged."

In "Going on 13" the camera follows four East Bay girls as they try to find out where they belong. They take their first tentative steps towards boyfriends, assert their independence to often resistant parents and enter chat rooms where at least one girl adopts an unlikely identity. We  witness their strengths and vulnerabilities as they try to maneuver around their parents' own struggles with poverty and even mental illness.

In the spirit of keeping the lines of communication open, the filmmakers have also launched a website gurlstalkback.com to give girls and caregivers a place to tackle such subjects as 'What is the hardest thing about middle school?' and how to find help if you are bullied.

And while "Going on 13" follows the girls into some of the East Bay's tough neighborhoods, there are no side-shows scene and the film is not a female version of "Boy'z in the Hood."

"One of the messages we have about kids of color living in urban communities is that they are destined to become drug dealers, or super promiscuous or (end up) in gangs," says Valadez, who like Guevara-Flanagan grew up in Los Angeles, "but the vast majority of the people in these communities are trying to do the right thing and their kids are trying to do the right, thing and their lives are much more beautiful and richer and sweeter than the messages we see." To purchase the DVD, go to www.goingon13.com. The duo also has a Web site www.gurlstalkback.com. --RB

Rachel Berger is an Oakland-based freelance writer.

Last Updated (Tuesday, 22 March 2011 21:31)

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