Sunday, July 26, 2009

Man moons over pictures: Brian Floca succeeds as an author and artist

Telegram Staff Writer

Going to the moon wasn't his childhood dream.
But drawing it was.
And that's just what Brian Floca did when he grew up.
The 1987 graduate of Temple High School drew the big, bright moon on the cover of 'Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11,' his most recent book as author and illustrator.
'I've been wanting to do that project for a long time,' Floca said. 'The first time I tried to put it together, it was too complicated for a picture book, but this time it worked.'
Critics are saying the Simon & Schuster children's book is a success.
'The main text is beautifully illustrated with line-and-wash artwork that provides technological details and visually stunning scenes,' said Carolyn Phelain of Booklist.
Her favorite scene in the book is the image of Earth as seen from the moon.
'Then there's picture of a lone astronaut looking up,' Ms. Phelain said. 'It shows the enormity of it, and the fine details.'
The perspective is dead-on, according to astronauts who've read the book.
'Reading it gave me the feeling I was back up in space,' said Michael Collins, command module pilot of Apollo 11.

They ride for the fun of it

Telegram Staff Writer

Don't let the club's name fool you.
The Bell County Gunslingers Riding Club doesn't have any guns.
'We're about horses,' said Rena Burleson of Temple, one of the club's founders. 'We go riding and have a bunch of campouts. It's pure enjoyment.'
Fellow founder Jimmy Adams nodded.
'This ain't no job, this is recreation,' Adams said. 'The day it starts being a job is the day I quit.'
The Gunslinger reference is a nod to old western movies.
'That's what the cowboys were called,' Burleson said. 'Thought it would make a good name.'
The club meets every weekend at a Temple ranch on the corner of East Adams and Friendship Road.
'We've got about 30 members,' Burleson said. 'Whoever can make it shows up, and we get the horses out and go riding, in the direction that suits us.'

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Church helps special needs families with night out

Telegram Staff Writer

Everybody needs a break.
Nothing could be more true for parents of special needs children.
'Their job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week,' said Marsha White, volunteer with the special needs ministry at Temple Bible Church. 'It's tough to find a few minutes for a shower, much less an evening out.'
That's where TBC's His Kids program comes in handy.
'Every second Tuesday of the month, the parents can drop their kids off and go do what they want for a couple of hours,' Ms. White said. 'They can have a date night, go grocery shopping, pay bills or take a bubble bath. All those little things they've been putting off because they don't have time.'
Susie and David Marek of Salado are grateful. They've been participating since last fall along with Logan, their 14-year-old autistic son.
'Logan can stay here and have fun,' Mrs. Marek said. 'And we can go out to eat and relax for a bit.'
All of them look forward to His Kids Tuesdays.
'The days are marked on our calendars,' Mrs. Marek said. 'And as soon as we pick Logan up from one of the nights, he's already talking about the next one.'
'It's a blessing to a lot of families,' said Lisa Prince of Temple, another mom. 'It's so much easier to take an evening off when you know your children are safe and happy.'

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Special needs kids rule the court in Buddy Ball

Telegram Staff Writer

Winning's not always the point. Sometimes just playing the game is enough.
That's why the Buddy Ball games at First Baptist Church in Belton always end in a tie.
'The score doesn't matter,' said Ricky O'Banon of Belton, program coordinator. 'It's about everyone getting equal court time.'
That's important to the Buddy Ball players, children from 5 to 18 with special needs and disabilities.
The group's first practice was July 6, and everyone was having a blast. A smile was on everyone's face, and cheers could be heard from every corner of the FBC gym.
'Fun. Fun. Basketball is fun,' said Bobby Ayer, one of the players. 'My favorite is to throw, count and bounce.'
The enthusiastic Ayer also likes Buddy Ball because he gets to 'talk to a hundred friends.'
Parents enjoy Buddy Ball for the same reasons.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sisters harvest for the hungry

Telegram Staff Writer

Three years ago, there was just a half dozen lavender plants.
Now the Belton farm produces a variety of crops, sometimes more than a thousand pounds' worth.
The farming started as a hobby that two sisters - Melanie Morrow of Temple and Donna Stoa of Nassau Bay - could share.
'At the time we lived two states away,' Mrs. Stoa said. 'I was close to Houston, and Melanie was in New Mexico.'
And the routine was to meet at home base, the house of their parents, Don and Estelle Fisher of Belton. So there wasn't much opportunity for quality sister time.
'I wanted something we could do together like a project or a hobby that would give each of us an excuse to get together,' Mrs. Stoa said. 'Farming, why not? The land was there, and the barn was there. It could be put to use.'
When the sisters' garden project launched in 2006, the Fisher's five-acre farm land wasn't being used.
'The parents had donkeys and horses on it when we were younger,' said Mrs. Morrow, a member of First United Methodist Church in Temple. 'But those are long gone.'
The two novice gardeners opted to try their hands at lavender.
'There was no particular reason,' Mrs. Morrow said. 'We thought it sounded like fun.'
And it was successful, sort of.
'We got some plants working,' Mrs. Morrow said. 'But not well enough to grow them over the two acres we were working. There was a fungus that would grow on them, and it was too expensive to keep the plants treated.'
So they moved their sights to produce farming.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Harmons huddle into a traveling sisterhood

Telegram Staff Writer

Sunday afternoons were for dinner with the family.
That's the way it was for the 10 children of Joseph and Bertha Harmon of Moffat.
'It was the way all of us came together,' said Martha Tomme, the oldest daughter. 'Us five girls, and the five boys. We'd all come for supper, even after we were grown.'
But when Mrs. Harmon died 23 years ago, her fear was that the family would drift apart.
'We didn't want that to happen,' said Melinda Murray, the youngest daughter. 'So we tried to make it a point to continue to get together.'
Even though all of the 10 siblings lived within 40 minutes of each other, it was difficult to continue the routine.
'The dynamic of the family had changed,' said Martie Crocker, one of the sisters. 'Things weren't the same.'
So the group made a pact. They promised each other they would take a vacation together at least once a year.
'It doesn't matter where we go,' Mrs. Murray said. 'As long as we go somewhere.'
That pact transformed into an annual October camp-out at Cedar Ridge.
'That's when all of us get together,' Mrs. Crocker said. 'And it's a big group because we bring our husbands, kids and what not. Sometimes the siblings of our spouses tag along.'
So the Harmon family felt whole again - not the same as when they were young, but just as happy and just as united.
The group's approach to life after the death of their mother was normal and healthy.
'Things change,' said Vekram Mehra, an area psychologist and counselor. 'And the best thing you can do with that is accept it and learn how to live with it the best you can.'