Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"Criminal" behavior

We are just a few weeks away from starting school. Children will be boarding school buses across the nation. I guarantee you, your students won't find a cuter bus driver than Liam.

I used to roll play with Liam's mom when she was little. We would act out what to do and say if someone bullied her (or someone else.)

Roll playing puts children in charge, empowers them and gives them practice. We always acted out several scenarios and solutions. Sometimes she was the "criminal" she called it, and sometimes she was the problem solver. I wish schools taught this in depth. It is up to parents, so pass this info on to someone you know.

When Ashley came home from kindergarten with head lice in her thick, long, blonde hair, I removed the nits for hours outdoors as she begged me to tell her another "criminal story." I covered just about every offense imaginable. She was as precious, smart, and precocious as her little boy.

Here's another of my favorite boys!

On one of the hottest days of summer, almost 100 degrees, we met Cole, one of my favorite former students and his mama Stacey at the all-abilities park. The boys are both very capable and enjoyed playing together. 

I pray for the health, happiness and safety of all children as they grow up in this
criminal-infested, crazy world. When Cole was in my class he and I sang You Are My Sunshine...he filled in the blanks. He sang it at our Spring Sing in front of parents and families.

 I sang in his ear at the park when I greeted him, and I could see a memory-spark from years gone by. he really is a ray of sunshine.

My little buddy is a fearless water baby.
Little wise guy is getting too smart for his britches. He loves the sprinkler park, and he has figured out how to fill his cup. It is fun to watch him figure stuff out.

He also loves his noodles, not mac and cheese, but dry pasta noodles. He enjoys the sensory activity of scooping and pouring the noodles. One day last week he was tossing them all over. I said, "Look, Nana's barefoot. When you get the noodles on the floor, it might hurt my toes and feet. Keep them on the sheet and off the carpet."

My little darling looked at me, stopped pouring and gazed at my feet. He said, "Wear your shoes!"
I know he said that because if he had said, "Where your shoes?" his little voice would have gone up at the end of that sentence. He's a cutie, alright, a real problem solver.

I put him down for his nap after lunch and as I was cleaning the kitchen, I heard the pitter-patter of his little feet. He greeted me with a grin and said liltingly, "Good Moaning, Nana."

I said, "It is not MORNING and you have to take a nap." I chased him all the way down the hallway and into bed with much giggling.

My wish for all of you~ at least half as much happiness as Liam brings to me.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hot and bothered

We're having a heat wave! I am grateful I live in a first world country, no matter how crazy our leaders are acting.

Tuesday evening at bedtime, we heard a loud boom in our back yard. We have a power pole with a transformer in the yard behind us. All of our neighbors came outside in night clothes with flashlights. We figured the transformer blew in the storm with those 70 mph wind gusts. I reported the outage which they were already aware of, but because it only affected 116 residents, I assumed we weren't high priority. We made it through the night, though.

The next morning, hubby saw a repair truck up the block. The lineman said it was not a transformer issue; a power line snapped in our neighbor's yard when a heavy tree branch fell on it. He assured us power would be restored in 20 minutes.

Thank God for those power crew people. Good man! A job well done.The storm was long gone. The sun radiated, and the thermometer climbed into almost triple digits. Air conditioned breezes soothed this old gal, and I was again privy to all the news I don't need to know, about whose line it was anyway. And I'm not talking power lines.

Less than two hours later, I heard an awful rumble from the bowels of the house. We live on a busy street with large trucks passing frequently. It sounded like a semi truck with no wheels going past the house. Nothing outside, then no electricity inside, as it all came to a grinding halt.

My sweet hubby took another walk up the block. He discovered an awful mess. The top of a power pole behind a small retail plaza had snapped off, along with two attached transformers, which pulled live wires down. All of  it was laying on the ground oozing oil or some liquid in a stream down hill.

I called 911 and the firefighters came. Old men with stories to tell gathered under shade trees, swapped stories, and complained about the heat. We headed back to the house.

Hard working hubby gassed up the generator, hooked up a couple of extensions, one to the TV and fan, and one to the fridge. We were back in business. He came in pouring sweat, so he went to take a shower. When he came out of the shower, the power came back on. Apparently they swung our neighborhood to another system or something.

Hubba-bubba hubby unhooked all the wires, and headed back into the heat to wind it all up again. Came back in and took shower number two.

I am so grateful for running water, electricity, food to eat, a bed to lie in, and most of all, being hooked up with a man who knows how to hook things up. Without him, I'd have spent my day in the library.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Did you smell that?

Smell is a potent wizard that can transport you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.—Helen Keller

Sense of smell is most closely linked to memory; smell is also emotive.

When I was a kid, we lived across the street from a large manufacturing company which produced cans for a variety of products: Anheuser-Busch beer, shortening, food, soda, and baby food.
The memories of the emissions from that factory still reside in my olfactory bulb —a part of my brain— pungent, offensive; a sickening blended smell of ether and some sort of petroleum product.

That particular odor triggers so many childhood memories:

Searching for bits of colored glass on the gravel parking lot to add to my empty mayonnaise jar.
Mary Jane candies, better than Bit-o'-Honey from the penny candy counter at the confectionery.
Wild sunflowers along the back fence which towered over me, leaves large enough in which to stash a childhood dream.
Catching grasshoppers that spat brown juice into my hand.
Floating Ivory soap and emerald green Prell shampoo.
Itchy mosquito bites.
Friday Night Fights on TV... falling asleep during the Gillette Razor blade commercials.

Take a moment and think of an olfactory memory that triggers 2 other memories, for example:
Vanilla-scented candles casting shadows on old family portraits.
Makes you remember... crocheted doilies on Grandma's furniture, which leads to memories of...
dipping Hydrox cookies, better than Oreos, in a glass of milk with Grandma at her chrome and Formica kitchen table.

Care to share an olfactory memory and let readers see where it leads?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Has anyone ever exposed themselves to you?

Do  you have a pile of papers on your desk, or scraps of scribbled inspiration? I came across a poem I wrote in 2007 when I was going through a rough period, suffering from great loss. Two good friends had died, and one was dying. The kids were doing their own thing; the grandchildren were growing up and away. I felt like everything I cared about was going, going, gone. And then, out of all that sadness and chaos, a new baby was on the way... my ray of hope.

Today, as I reread Going-Going Gone, I remembered the reaction it garnered that evening when I nervously read it at open mic. Most people in attendance looked away or met my eyes with sad expressions, although it was not my intent to get sympathy. I was merely venting. I was very uneasy pouring out my angst in front of a roomful of strangers in the back meeting room of a neighborhood bar that served delicious pizza.

I will always remember one of the poets, Ken Brown, a neighborhood guy in his 40s. He had long scraggily hair, a ruddy complexion. He was a creative literary genius who could/should have been a beat poet. He wrote with brevity, yet his work spoke volumes. He had a signature sign off when he finished reading. He tossed his papers over his shoulder onto the floor.

Ken was a full-fledged alcoholic. But he was the only person that night who commented after I read. He scraped his chair back on that crummy floor at The Mac (where the St. Louis Writer's Guild met once a month for readings) and stumbled up to me. As he came closer, I backed away, uneasy as he approached. With a blast of alcohol breath, he said, "Aww darlin." He leaned in, kissed my cheek, and shook his head as he walked back to his seat. It wasn't a come on, or pity. The late Ken Brown was expressing empathy. I will always treasure that moment.

Writing about your angst can be a release, so if you feel burdened by personal problems, overwhelmed by events, or the world situation, journal your feelings. Share only if you want to. Write for release. It helps.

And when you are at an open mic and someone undresses in front of you, makes you feel uncomfortable by baring all, exposing their deepest emotions, remember we are all human, and a little empathy goes a long way.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

22 days and counting!

Releasing July 30th 

Lisa Ricard Claro's first two books in the Fireflies Series are filled with lively characters and realistic plots. I'm anxiously awaiting the release of LOVE TO WIN,  her third book in the contemporary romance series (Black Opal Books.)

I can't wait to see what's happening in the Kincaid family... drama and romance awaits. Lisa has a knack for character development and I must say, Caleb from the first book, still has my heart! Will Dante move into first position? I'll let you know.  

Learn more about Lisa, the writing services she offers, and her novels.

Coming July 30, 2016

~ #3 in the Fireflies series ~

Love to Win
She hates to lose . . .
Competitive barista Brenna Kinkaid loves a challenge, and she’ll do whatever it takes to win, especially when it comes to her nemesis, Dante Caravicci. But when forced to team up to save their best friends’ wedding, Brenna recognizes that Dante might just be her ultimate win.
He plays to win . . .
Restaurateur Dante Caravicci won’t quit anything until he can claim success. He’s bided his time, but he’s used to taking big risks and surviving, so he figures he’s got nothing to lose by playing for Brenna.
Hearts at risk . . .
These two fall fast, and it looks like a win-win—until a competition pits them head-to-head and one of them goes way too far. A nudge from an improbable source may be the only way these two competitors will ever admit that the only way to win is to lose their hearts.
 “Well, I like that,” Brenna said. “My own mother likes your cake better.”
Dante regarded her with amusement. “Not everything has to be a competition between us, does it? What difference does it make which of us bakes the better cake?”
“Or saut├ęs the better shrimp?” Brenna said, remembering Dante’s shrimp dish from Thanksgiving that she, Rebecca, and Maddie had all deemed to be almost better than sex. Not that she’d tell Dante that. She blew out a tired sigh. “I’m sick of losing to you in the food department. I try so hard to be creative, and you whip something up at the last minute that takes home the gold.”

“Is it really that big a deal?” He raised his brows.

Brenna stared at him a moment and made him laugh when she said, “Bet your ass! I hate coming in second on anything, especially to you. And say what you will—” She poked his chest with her finger for emphasis. “—but you’re just as competitive as I am.” He moved back a step and she poked him again. “You don’t like to lose at anything either.” One more poke. “You always do whatever you have to do to win.”

Dante’s eyes narrowed, but his lips curved. He stepped forward against the press of her finger, forcing her to step back—once, twice, thrice—and she sucked in a breath when her hips bumped against the counter. She reached behind her to grab the edge of the countertop, and her eyes widened when Dante rested his hands on either side of hers, hemming her in as he had done in the storeroom.

Brenna’s heart sped to triple speed. Dante leaned down and she parted her lips, in spite of herself, when his mouth stopped a mere breath away from hers, so close she swore she felt the radiating heat. A second passed, and another. His gaze dipped to her mouth. Brenna licked her lips and her eyes fluttered shut in anticipation, and then the stubble darkening his jaw tickled the skin of her cheek with the barest touch, and his warm breath against her ear made her shiver when he whispered, “You’re right. I’ll do whatever I have to do to win. You’d do well to remember that, sweetheart.”

He pressed his lips against the tender skin just below her earlobe and made her shiver again, then stepped back. Brenna stared at him, her mind whirling.

“It’s late. I’ll follow you home when you’re ready to go, make sure you get there safe,” he said. “And relax, I don’t expect to be invited in. I know you just want to be friends.”
Brenna still gripped the edges of the counter, her eyes wide and lips parted in surprise when he disappeared out to the porch.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Hurry for holiday discount

The weather is cool and rainy this 4th of July weekend, and even though swimming, picnicking and fireworks are not on the agenda, I am still cheering for the red, white, and blue!

Chicken Soup for the Soul Spirit of America is filled with patriotic stories. One of mine is included.

Also, some buzzard messed up our computer which has been in shop for three days, so I have been unable to post the latest info. is offering a new four week session. So if YOU want to learn how to write a Chicken Soup-type story, sign up by tomorrow for a 10 % discount (on any of the classes being offered.) Click on "Our Courses" to see the selection. Check out "Our Instructors"

Monday, June 27, 2016

I was almost a jail bird

Continued from previous post. This is an excerpt from my memoir.

Jeri's beautiful head shot photo and fabricated life story attracted numerous responses from gentlemen in the lower forty-eight. She ripped open one envelope after another from guys of all ages who subscribed to the Lonely Hearts Club Magazine. They were intent on not only corresponding with her, but meeting the Alaska beauty who allegedly owned a sprawling horse ranch, sled dogs and even a gold mine, I think.
We laughed out loud at their responses.

"Aren't you afraid of getting caught in all these lies?" I asked.

Sheila said, "Aw, Linda's a goody two shoes. She's paranoid. A chicken! Afraid of her own shadow." She looked at me, "Aren't you? You think guys don't make up stuff all the time and tell us lies?"
Well, it wasn't my problem and I wasn't on the prowl, so I laughed right along and helped Jeri construct her next personal ad.

Our conversations veered in every direction. Sheila and I shared with Jeri the details of our experience the day before at the trailer court up the road. While waiting for a load of laundry to dry at the Evergreen Laundromat, Sheila  had suggested we visit Janet and see their litter of puppies.

"I'm telling you, Jeri, it was like stepping into a litter box," Sheila said. "A damned litter box.  We walked up to Janet and Sonny Boyd's  ramshackle trailer and knocked. Janet shouted, 'Come in.'  I swear to gawd, we opened the door and stepped into a mound of soft puppy poop. Everywhere we looked there were puddles and piles, and the place reeked." Sheila wrinkled her nose and "ewwed".
I continued, "Yeah,  we slipped and slid through that mess. The whole litter was running wild so we got out of there. We scraped our shoes in gravel all the way through the trailer court and back to the laundromat. Didn't we?"

Sheila nodded. "It was wicked filthy, a litter box like you couldn't believe."
Jeri said, "A litter box, huh? That gives me an idea. I'm really good at art. I could make a big sign and hang it at the entrance to their trailer court as a practical joke. What do you say?"

Sheila tossed her auburn hair back and laughed, "Ah ha-ha-ha, YES!"
"I don't know about that. What if we get caught? Mac and John could get an Article 15 because of us."

"Quit with the paranoia. You worry too much." Sheila dismissed my comment.
Jeri took her Lonely Hearts Club Magazine and said she'd be back the next day to show us her art work.

Sheila and I happened to be walking across the parking lot at Diehl's store when Jeri pulled alongside us in her small car and shouted,  "Hurry, get in. Don't let anyone see my sign."
The 3 foot high by 4 foot wide illustration took up the entire back seat and lay heavy against our legs.  The likeness of  Pluto was definitely a Disney patent infringement. Jeri painted Pluto lifting his leg and peeing a stream onto a kitten.

"Wow! You ARE an artist. This looks professionally done," Sheila bragged. We laughed giddily as she drove across the parking lot, across the highway, and down School Road to Sheila's red trailer.

The foot high, bold, highlighted lettering in red, black and yellow read: BOYD'S LITTER BOX. The three of us snuck that sign into Sheila's trailer and laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks. When our husbands came home we showed them. Practical jokers themselves, Mac and John wanted in on the fun. 
At 10:00 p.m. Mac knocked on our door. "You guys ready? I've got the hammer and nails. Come on. 
It's pitch dark and no one can see us; let's go."

John and Mac carried the sign between them as though they were each holding an end of a banner in a hometown parade. We marched across an open field. "This sucker's heavy. What'd she use, half inch plywood?" John asked.
"Listen Jawn, here's the plan," Mac said. "I'll stand at the base of the telephone pole and give you a lift. You climb on my shoulders. Sheila can help lift the sign, and Linda will hand you the hammer and nails. Pound that sign as high as you can get it, and we'll get the hell out of there, FAST!"

We were half way across the open field across the road behind Jack' s gas station heading towards the highway when I chickened out and started babbling. "Listen, John, I don't think we ought to do this. Let's not get involved. I mean, we could all be in jail by morning for this crime."
"Jeeze, Linder! What crime? All we're doing is hanging a sign," Mac barked into the stillness.

John laughed. Sheila taunted, "You big baby. Come on, what are you scared of?"
We darted across the two lane Richardson Highway. When headlights illuminated the four of us standing at the side of the road, I plastered myself behind the wooden light pole.

"See what I mean! I'm not getting caught! I'm leaving. That might have been somebody who recognized us. Or the State Patrol."
"Go on home then. Go!" Sheila snapped.

When the car passed and we were certain we were in the clear, I decided I had nothing to lose as I was already an accessory. I stood passively and watched John shove his combat boot into Mac's cupped hands and mount his shoulders. Sheila helped balance the sign, and we all lifted it. I stretched to give John the hammer and nails. He pounded-pounded and bounded down in a single leap. The four of us ran laughing breathlessly into the night across the highway, through the field, and into our own trailers.
The next day when the guys went to work, Jeri drove Sheila and me onto the highway to view our combined handiwork. We giggled like kids, proud of our prank, and we bragged on and on about her professional artistry.

At the end of the day, Sheila and I ran outside to greet Mac and John as they came walking down the gravel road after work.
"Anybody mention our sign?"

The guys laughed hysterically and doubled over. Hacked and coughed and spat. Hot headed Bob who had a hair trigger temper, was storming down the road ahead of them toward home, the last trailer on our road.
"What's so funny and what did you guys do to him? he wouldn't even say ho when he passed us."

Mac guffawed and sputtered. "Sonny told us on base today about the sign with his name on it.

John hee-hawed, hacked and coughed. "Bob said,  'That was a lousy damn thing to do to Boyd and if I find out who hung that sign, I'll help Sonny kick their asses."

Mac cackled and hacked. "And Jawn here said, 'Start kicking ass, man, 'cause me and Mac did it.'
Dumb ass here admitted to it."

John snorted. "Yeah, but he called me a damned liar and stomped ahead of us cussing. He doesn't believe us."

The next morning Bob stormed up the road ahead of Mac and John headed toward the highway to hitch a ride to post. He glared at them.

"Hey, Bob, we did it!" They taunted him.

"Yeah, sure! Screw you!" he shouted over his shoulder.

A week passed and the buzz on base was that Sonny was bragging  that tourists arriving at the end of  the Alcan highway spied his sign: Boyd's Litter Box. They pulled into the trailer court and asked about puppies for sale. Sonny loved the sign, said he might be able to get rid of all the pups because of it.

Weeks later, with the mutts all sold for probably five bucks a piece, Sonny climbed that telephone pole in broad daylight and removed Geri's sign. The next day on their way home Sonny told Mac and John he like the damned thing so much he had nailed it to the paneling at the head of his and Janet's bed. 

"I sure wish I could find out who did it," he said. John and Mac laughed and back slapped one another.
"Yeah-yeah, I know, Bob tried to tell me you guys did it, but he's crazy and I know damn well you guys can't paint like that."

Transient soldiers were forever coming and going, moving into and out of the four trailer courts around town with their families. When Sonny and Janet headed home to Ohio, Jeri's sign sold right along with their trailer and its contents.

I was tempted to give the next family a heads up about the headboard, but sometimes it's best to just let sleeping dogs lie.

Those were the days...