Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sean Rosenfeld presents Santa's thoughts about Christmas.
Dear Readers: Once again, two of my student elves carved out Christmas tales. I hope you enjoy them. Have a wonderful Christmas! Diana
Santa’s View of Christmas
By Sean Rosenfeld, 9
“Humph! Come on. You slept in and now you are like a snail trying to get across the sidewalk,” I yelled at Plush, my head elf. “It’s almost 12 o’clock in Japan, Plush. I am so tired you are going to have to do it for me.
You do get paid for this!”
Finally, Plush, my best elf and all the other elves filled the sleigh. It took two hours and I’m already behind.  Now you see how it’s so hard for me.
Kids think I am a jolly old man, but I am not.
Every year, I have to fly above houses, and people leave their fire on. It smokes up the air and I start coughing and sneezing and whooping and hollering. It’s always so cold when I’m flying around in the air. Then I have to put almost seven million presents under their Christmas trees.
Well, what I’ve just told you is about to come a reality. By the way, I forgot to tell you my butt burns up, my beard freezes and reindeer pellets are always flying through the air at me.
So, if you are hearing what I have to say: Turn your fire off this Christmas Eve!
I hate Christmas!
After Flying Around the World Christmas Eve
As usual, when I came close to my secret fort, I always end up crash landing ---swoosh in all that snow.
I jump out of the sleigh very grumpy until I see the elves are lined up and ready to throw our Christmas party. The elves sing Jolly Old St. Nick. I plant myself in a cozy chair by the fireplace and the elves  bring me  cups of hot chocolate and cookies – until I practically fall asleep.
“I love Christmas!” I shout to all the elves who giggle.

Shersten Rosenfeld, 11, shows how friends can provide the spirit of Christmas.
A Christmas Surprise
By Shersten Rosenfeld, 11
 On Christmas day, well, our family doesn’t do much. All we do is open the few presents we get, eat a breakfast of cereal and hot milk, and then my dad usually sits on the couch reading the newspaper from last week. My mom usually calls her friends with an ancient dial phone and cleans up the cheap wrapping paper from the 99 Cent Store.
I just play with our toys, from garage sales and cheap stores, and watch junky cartoons on the Cartoon Network. We never have a Christmas party or anything because my mom says she is too scared in the kitchen and she doesn’t want to cook a whole feast but I think it’s just because financially we aren't doing so well.
My Mom works at Walgreens as a cashier and my Dad is one of those guys who holds a sign in front of Subway and he’s always dressed in a Subway sandwich costume.
Their two jobs don’t earn enough money to get decent food on the table or a nice house either. Instead, we live in a musty, dusty cramped old apartment and we usually eat the cheapest food including the  old canned soups that are 75 percent off.
All my other friends get to go to expensive restaurants or stuff their stomachs with gourmet food in their new homes on Christmas Day.  But we get the usual for Christmas dinner, a soggy, rotten salad with turkey and gross soup on a cheap plastic bowl and plate. We eat with silverware my mom got from a garage sale. You get the picture.
Whenever my friends ask me if they can come to my house, I always panic and say “no” because my Grandma’s coming this weekend or something. I really don’t want people coming to my “house” to see a musty, dusty cramped old apartment.
Christmas is in four days and I’m not even excited.  You’d think we’d visit our relatives or something, but we can’t because they live in Detroit and of course, we can’t afford airplane tickets. Everything is so wrong in my life.
My mom says we can’t ever afford to go to college. So I guess I’ll be a cashier too.
Now it’s Christmas Eve. My parents are still at work and I’m sitting on the uncomfortable puke-green couch watching a movie about aliens with my older sister, Amanda who’s 14. I am 12.
She can get so annoying sometimes. She’s always like: “Zoe, get a soda pop for me.” Or “Zoe, stop bothering me,” if I ask a question. But besides that, we don’t fight much. It seems Amanda saves up all that fighting for Mom.
I hear a car door close. My mom is home. She must have gotten off early.
“Hey girls, I’m home,” Mom said, closing our termite-eaten door.
“Whatcha’ bring home this time? Some chips that are a million years old?” Amanda asked in a bratty voice.
“Hey Amanda, watch it,” my mom retorts. “It’s not my fault we’re struggling.” That means my mom already had a bad day, because she’s usually happy regardless of what Amanda says.
“Uh, yeah, it kind of is Mom,” Amanda charged. “I’m not the one who dropped out of high school and became a cashier.”
“OK, Amanda. That’s it. Go to your room,” and this time my mom’s voice is raised another octave level. “
“But Mom, it’s Christmas Eve and isn’t Christmas Eve about kindness?” Amanda asked hopefully.
“Amanda, you shouldn’t be talking,” I pointed out.
“Exactly.” my mom agrees.
“Fine.” Amanda stomped off to her room with a frown.
I woke up with eye boogers in my eyelashes and chapped lips. I almost forgot it was Christmas! When I finally remembered I jumped out of bed and walked to my parent’s room to see if they were up. Yep. They sure were.
Their bedclothes were in a jumble and my mother’s teeth guard sat on her bedside table.
I walked down the stairs with the smell of coffee that is 75 percent off. My mom calls it a cruddy cup of coffee, but can coffee be cruddy? Coffee is cruddy. Period. When I went into the living room, my parents were sitting in our fluorescent blue lounge chairs, sitting by our tiny fireplace.
I was surprised to see five presents for me, each from Mom and Dad.
Mom stood up from her chair and smiled at me.
“Our helpful and kind friends have a surprise for you and your sister. Amanda come here.”
Amanda trudged to mom carrying a small package in colorful wrapping paper.
“First, Merry Christmas Zoe!” Amanda handed me the package and I smiled.
We followed Mom and Dad outside our grassy lawn.
And then I saw it. It was a Christmas tree glinting with colorful ornaments and more presents under the tree. On the tree, hung a huge signed in red letters: “Merry Christmas Zoe and Amanda! Love, the Millers and the Smiths.”
My face lit up. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I dove into the presents. My parents laughed and watched joyfully as we opened them eagerly.
I learned a lesson this Christmas. It’s not about presents. It’s about kindness and giving. I had never seen my family so happy – and that was the greatest gift of all. It showed me how right everything was in my life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


All I Want For Christmas Is For These Three Dumped Kittens to Find Homes
And Two Other Holiday Stories
Three or more kittens were dumped at the White Point Park recently along Paseo del Mar and are still young enough for adoption.
It took me a bit of time to find them –hiding in thickets and brush – but they were there once again when I returned to the park after hard rains and bitterly cold days.
I’m hoping someone has a few miracles in their pockets and can find these kittens a new and safe abode. The park is on W. Paseo del Mar and Western Ave in San Pedro.
Please email me for more information or let me know if you took a kitten home.
When the Rest of Us Forgot, Man Does a Good Deed at the Assistance League Post Office
I was buying stamps from a volunteer clerk at the Assistance League Post Office in San Pedro, when a well-dressed, elderly lady burst into the lobby – her peach colored lipstick glaringly loud.
She zoomed up to the counter and started shoving a giant bagful of bundled holidays cards in the clerk’s face. The kindly clerk said she could take those since they were stamped, but if she needed anything else she would have to go to the end of the line.
But that wasn’t enough for the woman who seemed oblivious to all the people standing and waiting in the crowded lobby – holding numbers for their turn.
“Yes, and I’d liked to buy,” the woman continued to the clerk, who once again  explained to the woman she needed to go to the end the line.
“But I don’t have enough time,” the woman countered as she looked all around at us. Maybe looking for a miracle.
Sure, she seemed a bit confused, and possibly disoriented – or just a rich lady with no qualms about shoving herself in the front of the line.
I confess, I was irritated probably along with others.
Just as the woman dropped another:  “I don’t know if I’ll have time,” speech, a man waiting quietly in the back showed us all how to behave during the holidays and then some.
He handed her his card -- Number 36—which meant she would be the next person up. The man  took a new number and went to the end of the line.
Still perhaps somewhat confused, the woman again said: “I don’t think I have time.”
“You are next,” he explained  patiently as he persuaded her to wait. It took all of thirty seconds.
Now, I felt silly about my irritation. A single individual showed us all how such a small  gesture can make the holidays so bright, just a little miracle in motion.
Great News About Bonnie Sheehan and Her 60 Dogs
Bonnie Sheehan, the woman who has saved 17,000 dogs in her lifetime, packed up her canine buddies and left Sunday night for Virginia – but not before receiving what she considers an amazing gift.
As soon as the Long Beach rescuer – who formed the non-profit Hearts for Hounds – registered her website with the new Virginia zip code, more than 300 hundred calls poured in from people wanting to adopt her dogs.
Having run the Long Beach rescue for 15 years,  the rescuer was dismayed when her small dog adoptions dwindled from 17 to 20 a weekend down to one in the past six months. She could no longer afford the $7,000-a-month kennel fee and decided to relocate with her small canines to Virginia where other rescuers said small-dog adoptions remained strong.
There’s more good news for Sheehan and her canine friends.
Relying on her realtor’s advice, Sheehan purchased a property, sight unseen, in Huddleston, Virginia to kennel some 60 dogs that still remain with her.
When Sheehan arrived she was delighted to find the land had more than she expected. Besides a  house, it included a log cabin built in the late 1700s, a barn and a chicken coop for $80,000.
And that’s no dog about it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky faces charges that he molested boys, some as young as 10

Tired of Kids Being Society’s Victim, We Must Begin Treating Child Molestation As Any Other Heinous Sexual Crime and Do The Right Thing: Call the Police
By Diana L. Chapman
It’s been on my mind ever since the Penn State crisis blew up, circling the nation with questions. Did school officials cover up that a former football coach allegedly was raping  young boys  – at least one reportedly in a university locker room?
That was followed by more explosions: Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was fired Nov. 17  for allegedly molesting  two boys. ESPN sat in on a taped conversation where, Fine's wife, Laurie, allegedly admits to a victim that he was molested by her husband.
Failing to find anyone to collaborate the story,  the sports network held back from airing the 2002 conversation.
Instead of turning the  tape over to police, ESPN kept it confidential and never notified the cops.

That wasn’t their job, they said. Of course it is!
As far as I’m concerned, hiding behind rules of journalism or tucking away secrets because it might hurt a powerful institution such as Penn State’s money-making football program becomes very close to aiding and abetting.
I’m writing this because society must come to grips with that fact that this responsibility belongs to all of us. No stupid journalism rules need apply. No waiting on a supervisor to decide what to do. No idiocy of “Well, I’m not sure what I saw.”  It comes down to this: If you see a woman being raped, wouldn’t you call the police?
 Why is this so different when you see it happening to a child?
If you see a child being harmed in any way– even if it’s just suspected such as a man showering with a 10-year-old in a school locker room – report it to the police.
It’s that easy. No gray areas. No protecting institutions. Pick up the phone and call 911.  I believe that’s what this hideous case is teaching us.
Why, then, when I suggest people call police first, do some folks recoil?
It’s partly because we cower behind our fears of molestations and that it’s too uncomfortable to do the right thing.  Child sex abuse must be put out on the table so perpetrators are caught.
In the Penn State scandal, several top university officials  – including football coaching icon Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier – have been accused of knowing about the incident but failing to turn it over to police. Both were ousted in November after assistant coach Mike McQueary testified to a grand jury that he saw what he believes was Sandusky sexually assaulting a boy about 10- years- old in a locker room shower in 2002.
During testimony on Dec. 16, McQueary reported what he told his higher-ups – including Paterno – as well as former Penn State vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley. Schultz and Curley are now being charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse.
McQueary said while he couldn’t be 100 percent sure there was penetration, he did witness Sandsuky in the shower with the boy and that he  heard “rhythmic slapping” with Sandusky’s arms around the boy, according to USA Today.
So while McQueary did report it to his bosses, it appears the report was dropped. He believed, he testified Friday, that he had in fact told the university police since he met with Curley and Shultz 10 days after he talked to Paterno. Because Schultz oversaw the campus police, McQueary indicated he believed he was reporting it to the top authority.
Again, this makes me shiver. Since McQueary saw this in 2002, how many more children were injured in the meantime? Sandusky waived his right to a preliminary hearing last week in which 11 alleged victims were prepared to testify what happened to them.
This takes me back to the police. Why not call them? I suspect a response would occur in minutes, and it would at least be documented before a social worker could even arrive.
 “As for the Penn State child molestation, every one of us has a responsibility to report the sexual abuse of a child,” says Pat Gannon, a Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief.  “No exceptions. I don't have all of the facts concerning these allegations, but the entire incident sickens me.

“Somebody needs to stand up for the kids and protect them.  In this case, everyone involved failed to protect these kids.”

Part of the dilemma, it seems, stems from the federal “mandated reporter” law, which dictates that medical officials, teachers and police have a legal duty to report such incidents and have a protocol to follow.

Does that mean the rest of us are off the hook? No.

With jarring numbers of child abuse, we can’t just say “I’m not responsible.” The U.S. Department  of Health and Human Services reported that in 2007 alone, 794,000 children were considered abused or neglected, and nearly 8 percent of those cases involved sexual abuse.

That’s 63,520 kids in one year -- a number that should make us cringe.

Other statistics from the same federal agency seem unimaginable. For example, in the same year, more than 3.2 million child abuse referrals rolled into Child Protective Services agencies nationally. Those involved 5.8 million children across the nation. At least a quarter of those confirmed that at least one child was abused.
Of course, this doesn’t count cases that have gone unreported – as the Sandusky case apparently was for years despite, as a Sports Illustrated writer reported, the town was marinating with rumors.
Such mistreatment often means later in life those children will likely never lead normal lives, often fearful of building any loving relationships or even killing themselves.
Without police investigations, we place hundreds of more children at risk – which is what apparently happened in the Sandusky case.  After he resigned from Penn State, Sandusky ran a successful non-profit organization, Second Chance, involving you guessed it: underprivileged kids.
Anyone stumbling onto a molestation case does not need to wait to call Child Protective Service agencies or talk it over with their boss. The first thing they need to do, Gannon said, is call the police.
“A call to 911 is simple and appropriate,” Gannon said.  “The responsibility to
 investigate the physical or sexual abuse of a child rests with law enforcement.
 Child welfare services is only responsible for protecting the children. They rely on
 police departments to conduct the criminal investigation. They use the information
 from the police reports and then petition the court for specific rulings to keep the
 children safe.”
In the meantime, the Sandusky case seems to have opened up a Pandora’s box of allegations as more and more cases popped up all about the country. One includes allegations against Robert “Bobby” Dodd, the former president and executive director of the Amateur Athletic Union. Those allegations came from  two male accusers who said he molested them in 1984 while attending a tournament in Memphis.
Sandusky, Fine and Dodd all proclaim their innocence.
Here in our own backyard, two cases unfolded this fall in Hollywood. Talent agent Martin Weiss, 47, has been charged with eight felony counts of molestation.
Registered sex offender James Jason Murphy, who was convicted of kidnapping and molesting an 8-year-old in Seattle 15 years ago, was casting movies – including finding parts for children.
Using a different name, Murphy came down to Hollywood and set up shop until J.J. Abrams, the producer and director of “Super 8,” discovered Murphy’s cover-up. Abrams may have saved a slew of kids by his intelligent choice.
He reported it.
At this juncture, there are lots of questions we must ask ourselves about how we should handle child molestations.
Many people are blaming McQueary, the Penn State assistant coach, for not  immediately calling the police.
McQueary, who was recently put on paid leave because of death threats, asked that the public wait to judge him because it will all come out in court. I give McQueary credit for continuing – despite numerous death threats – giving consistent testimony.
Out of all this horror, we should now know to call the police immediately when seeing anything we believe might be sexual abuse or any maltreatment of a child.
The Sandusky case is horrible. But it might just open the doors to put sexual abuse of children out on the table for everyone to see. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Volunteer Elf Jacqueline Padillia, 15, passes out gifts to each child.
A Little Miracle in Motion; YWCA Feeds 400 Kids A Pancake Breakfast Saturday With Santa Spreading His Holiday Cheer
By Diana L. Chapman
Luz Flores, wearing elfin clothes, spirited around the youths and told about 100 children at a pancake breakfast what to say to get the Big Guy to come.
“Who are we going to see?” Flores piped up musically. “Santa Claus? O.K. We need to sing Jingle Bells.”
With parents, volunteers and kids clapping and singing  happily, Santa for the 25th year in a row magically appeared on a stage at the YWCA in San Pedro  where children up to 10-years-old plopped on St. Nick’s lap.
Some kids cried. Some giggled. And some seemed actually happy to sit on Santa’s lap.
Santa arrives to hold kids of all ages.

St. Nick took it all in stride as the YWCA staff once again poured out the festivities as it has done annually since 1987. It’s one of the employees favorite times of year because they are markedly doing a service for children, most of whom would get nothing  for  Christmas otherwise.
“My mom is the only one working and we are all living with her,” said 21-year-old Jessica Gonzalez as she sat outside with her two little girls, Mayah, 4, and Alyjanae, 2, waiting for next seating.  Her husband, Derian, “and I are both in college. We tried to get jobs. We’ve been applying to Target, Ross, Payless and Pizza Hut.
“We didn’t even get call backs.”
For Mayah and Alyjanae the gifts they receive at the Y this year may be the only presents they will see this Christmas “unless their Aunt gives them something.”
Jessica Gonzalez helps her girls,  Mayah, 4, and Alyjanae, 2, cut their pancakes.
The popular holiday breakfast first started in 1987.  In the beginning, there was only one seating with about 75 children. But as time moved forward from Christmas to Christmas, the celebration became increasingly popular. This year, 400 children – at four different seatings received a pancake breakfast, a photo with Santa and a single $10 to $15 gift, said the elf, Flores, the Y’s director of operations.
“This is the one community event where I have to turn volunteers away because I have too many,” Flores explained. “It’s open to the entire community. Many parents tell me that this is the only gift their child will get.
“This grounds me and makes me realize how fortunate I am to have a job and to be thankful for my family.”
Y Interim Director Margaret Hernandez, who filled the vacancy recently, said she brought her son when he was 3-years-old.
The breakfast “has a long history at the Y,” Hernandez said. “I’m grateful to help keep this going. There’s nothing better to see then a child receive a toy and it makes them smile.”
Parents pored in holding children dressed in an array of holiday styles, some girls wearing pure white dresses while others sported reindeer antlers, mufflers and holiday T-shirts.
Herlinda Perez and Heriberto Pacheco, who brought their four children ages 2 to 10, said the Y’s generosity brings them relief. She can’t work because of how many children they have (it costs more to hire a babysitter, she explained) and Pacheco was laid off from his construction job.
Junior Pacheco, 4, shows of his book and animal balloon he received.
“It’s just so fun for the kids,” said the mother. “They love to come here. They are happy just to see Santa Claus. It’s been hard. My husband was in construction and now he looks for metal in the streets.”
With all the clapping and sing-a-longs, it was hard to separate out who was happier – the volunteers or the guests.
Port Police Officer Byron Culbertson, his wife, Jeannette and sons, Gavin, 11, and Jordan, 8, have come the last two years. Byron flips the pancakes and the sons build an assembly line. Gavin placed two pancakes on each plate along with sausage, then passed it to Jordan to add the butter.
“It’s a tradition of serving the community and my whole family loves it,” said Byron. “It just warms the heart to see them (the children) get a meal and to see them smile.”
Port Police Officer Byron Culbertson and his family help whip up pancakes. His wife, Jeanette, son Gavin, 11, and Jordan, 8, enjoy helping.
Added Gavin:  “I enjoy it so much. It just makes us feel good.”
Besides a gift, children were treated to crafts – and a brand new book from "Hippo in a Tutu" to "Pirates of the Caribbean" along with "Bernstein Bears" and "Baby Einstein." Students from San Pedro High and Port of Los Angeles High Charter School gave out books to scores of excited children.
“This is what I love to do,” said Bailey Duarte, 16, who serves as the vice president for Rotary Interact at the charter school. “The first thing the kids do is make a beeline for the books. That’s so fulfilling. It’s my passion. I’d rather be here volunteering then sitting at home watching T.V.”
Bailey Duarte, 16, right, and friend, Natalie Patey, 15, left, help hand out new books to the children who attend.
With merriment abounding,  Edwin Ramirez, 10,  said he and his sister, Johana, 8,  and their 5-month-old baby sister, Denise, were delighted to be there.
“I liked the event,” said Ramirez holding his head proudly. “We got free food. We could color. I really liked that Santa was there.”
Johana  8, Denise, 5-months-old, and Edwin Ramirez, 10, attend with their mother, Angelica.
@ Diana Chapman

Friday, December 09, 2011

Another Sweet Success At San Pedro High School's After School Cooking Club Thanks to the Coastal Neighborhood Council's Support
Students excitedly slice and dice to prepare for the dish -- which students said was delicious.
 Teacher Sally Leonhart gives students directions to make curry.

This is truly about how a Neighborhood Council can aide a school in need. Three years ago, San Pedro High School's culinary program was sliced from the cutting board due to budget cuts.

One of the most popular classes -- with hundreds on the waiting list -- was lost. It once provided a most important life skill to students -- how to cook.

The Coastal Neighborhood Council provided $1,000 for the year to keep an after school cooking club going. It was launched this year first by Jeanette Stevens, the principal, who taught students how to bake holiday pies. Other teachers have followed suit, including Sally Leonhart.
Leonhart showed her students how to cook South Indian Style Vegetable Curry which packed the room.
Several said the curry was some of the best they ever tasted and that they enjoyed learning from one of the high school teachers.
Next on the January Menu, Italian Teacher Ida Lanza plans to show students how to cook pasta from scratch.

     The club attracted a lot of boys, some of whom said they wanted to learn how to cook before they leave for college.