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Charity Logo

Charity of the Month


In December I am riding for Heifer International. Founded in 1944, Heifer International works with communities around the world to end hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Its approach is more than a handout. Heifer provides animals (e.g., heifers, goats, water buffalos, chickens, rabbits, fish, and bees) and training to impoverished people in over 30 countries. The animals can give milk, meat, or eggs; provide draft power; or form the basis of a small business. Communities make their own decisions about what crops, animals, and market strategies make sense for their everyday conditions and experiences.

Heifer International is based on 12 Cornerstones, such as Sustainability; Genuine Need and Justice; and Gender and Family Focus. Perhaps the best known Cornerstone is Passing on the Gift, in which Heifer recipient families pass on the offspring of their animals to others in need. In this way, whole communities can raise their standard of living.

A donation to Heifer International also can make a wonderful alternative holiday gift. Instead of yet another sweater for Grandma that she really doesn’t need, why not donate a Heifer animal or a share of an animal in her honor? Does your child really need so many new toys? Instead of five new toys, give him/her three new toys and a Heifer flock of chicks. Heifer has honor cards to let your loved ones know of your gift on their behalf.

I have set up a Team Heifer page to support Heifer International through A Year of Centuries. My goal is to raise $500. Please make your donation through If you would like more information about Heifer’s work, please visit Whether you give to honor a loved one or make a regular donation, thank you for taking steps to transform the world for the better.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Tribute to Nancy Drew

When I was growing up, some of my favorite books were Nancy Drew mysteries.  I loved seeing how all of the pieces came together as Nancy solved the case, and there was just the right touch of suspense and spookiness.  My collection of Nancy Drew mysteries included eight or ten books, but I was always on the lookout for ones I hadn’t read.  The sister of a friend had a large collection that left me starry eyed.  A couple of times I spent an afternoon at their house, devouring a whole Nancy Drew book in one sitting.

Nancy Drew is a good role model for young girls.  Obviously, she’s intelligent, able to solve mysteries that sometimes baffle Carson Drew, her lawyer father, and Chief McGinnis, head of the local River Heights police.  Also, Nancy is accomplished.  She excels at everything from golf to driving.  For example, one of the books describes how she gets through a traffic jam in minimal time thanks to her skillful car handling.  I was amused by the Nancy Drew movie that came out a few years ago, which spoofed the fact that Nancy seems to be really good at everything she attempts.  Moreover, Nancy is ethical.  My friend Linda Aldridge, a fellow Nancy Drew aficionado, shared one of her favorite remembrances from the books.  Even when Nancy is hot on the trail of some ne’er-do-well, she always drives only “as fast as the law would allow.”  When you get down to it, the car is a big part of Nancy’s appeal.  What young girl reading a Nancy Drew mystery doesn’t imagine herself to be 18 with her own convertible?

In addition to Nancy Drew mysteries being fun to read, they are good vocabulary builders.  I remember specific words that I learned from these books:

Bungalow – One-story cottages seem fairly prevalent in Nancy Drew mysteries.  There’s even a whole book about a bungalow, The Bungalow Mystery.  My husband and I used to live in a bungalow.  One time when I described it as such, he thought that was a strange thing to call it.  Maybe he just needs to read some Nancy Drew.

Notary public – In The Secret of the Old Clock, the first in the series, Nancy discovers someone sneaking across the lawn of the house where she is staying.  The man claims that he is simply a neighbor taking a shortcut home.  He avows that he is an upstanding citizen, saying something to the effect of, “I’m a notary public, and they don’t let just anyone be a notary public!”  Of course, later in the story, Nancy needs something notarized and calls on this man to help.

Sedan – Everyone in Nancy Drew mysteries, the good guys and the bad guys, drives a sedan.  At first I thought this was some model of car that I had never seen, but when I asked my parents, I learned that it’s just a car body style.  By the way, do you know why a chicken coop has two doors?  Because if it had four doors, it would be a chicken sedan.

Titian – Nancy’s hair color.  Sometimes her hair is described as strawberry blond, and so I got a general idea of what color titian is.  Interestingly, I’ve never heard of anyone besides Nancy Drew who was said to have titian hair.

As part of this tribute to Nancy Drew, I checked out one of her mysteries from my local library.  I selected The Double Jinx Mystery, which I had not read before.  It was spine tingling!

Also, I found that Nancy Drew can be educational even for adults.  One of the characters in The Double Jinx Mystery is a man with an aviary of rare birds.  He tells Nancy and her friends George and Bess lots of interesting things about the birds.  For example, he says, “When a hummingbird is hovering he has an energy output per unit of weight ten times that of a man who is running nine miles an hour.”  This reminded me of the power to weight ratio that we cyclists often use, and so I made a comparison between hummingbirds and cyclists.  A nine-minute mile is a very moderate running pace.  A 150-pound (68-kg) man running at this pace probably puts out about 125 watts.  Therefore, estimate that his power to weight ratio is about 2 watts per kg.  That means that a hummingbird’s power to weight ratio is about 20 watts per kg.  For comparison, a Tour de France racer has a threshold power to weight ratio of about 5 watts per kg.  That’s only ¼ the power to weight ratio of a hovering hummingbird!

Nancy Drew mysteries began in 1930.  A number of authors using the pen name Carolyn Keene have produced various incarnations of Nancy, including rewrites of some of the original titles to modernize the storylines.  Also, many completely new stories have been written since I was young.  Fans of all ages celebrated Nancy Drew’s 75th anniversary a few years ago.  I found a website with all kinds of special memorabilia, and I couldn’t resist.  One item I bought was some Nancy Drew fabric with a checkerboard pattern.  Some squares show pictures of Nancy’s face as seen on the covers of the first five books in the series.  Other squares have quotes like “A mystery?  Tell me more!” and “My diamonds.  They’re gone!”  My previously mentioned friend Linda, a talented seamstress, used some of this wondrous fabric to make me a vest and some throw pillows for my reading nook.  In addition, I splurged and bought a bracelet with small reproductions of the covers of the first five books.  I always wear the bracelet with my Nancy Drew vest.

Close-up of cool Nancy Drew fabric used for vest and throw pillows

Nancy Drew bracelet

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