Sunday, May 31, 2009

Oh what a beautiful day!

Today was such a glorious day! I awoke to sunny, blue skies, soft clouds and a warm breeze, and I cleaned house! But then I sat outside and read most of the afternoon. Finished the book in which my story appears. It was exactly what I needed to do, RELAX. We ate lunch at Steak & Shake. It has been a year since I've eaten a burger, but the smell of fried onions did the trick. I had a patty melt. Yum!

This evening we took a long walk. I live in the suburbs. It is so different from when I lived in the city when my kids were little. An evening walk back then was an assault on the senses: dogs barking in every yard until you passed their houses, the smell of bacon frying or pork steaks grilling, people on front porches, men cutting grass, kids on bikes shouting and zooming up and down the block. It is quieter now; my life is calmer, and I am blessed.

Saturday, May 30, 2009 like it or not

2:00 p.m.
Seems like this weather can't make up its mind anymore than I can. It rains and turns so cool I need a jacket, then half an hour later, the sun feels like a blast furnace and the humidity shoots up. It's been doing this all day. Crazy weather!

My friend Mary from the writer's guild is requesting prayers for her husband Dale Menke who was diagnosed with a brain tumor yesterday. Prayer is powerful, please put him on as many prayer lists as possible. One never knows.

Got an acceptance and a rejection with a positive comment about my writing style! Sort of like the weather; one cancels out the other.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bedpan Banter

Today I received a package; it contained a pink bedpan! I'd forgotten that ages ago I'd sent a humorous medical story to an anthology titled, Bedpan Banter. I had to chuckle. Brenda Elsagher is the author, and she also has other books, I'd Like to Buy a Bowel Please, and If the Battle is Over, Why am I Still in Uniform? She is a comic who has had a colostomy and is head of that organization.

It was a treat to receive this package along with an autographed book and check. Haven't a clue what I'll do with a pink bedpan. Plant pink flowers in it, maybe.

Sasee just accepted the essay I wrote about exercise!

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Whew! It's over! The Preschool Spring Sing was last night. My 28 little darlings performed the Three Brown Bears, sang songs and recited nursery rhymes with actions. Two hundred parents, grandparents and siblings attended. It was a rousing success.
And I feel a real sense of accomplishment.

That is how I feel when I complete a writing assignment too. While I'm dragging through the muck,thinking I'll never get through it, I feel overwhelmed, but when I complete that task, I breathe easily and feel a real sense of pride.

Tonight I'm off to the Regional Arts Commission for a reception in honor of my winning poem which will be displayed on Metro Link trains and city buses. Walter Bargen, Missouri Poet Laureate is guest speaker, and it is open to the public, so ya'll come!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I can see clearly~

Bill gasped when I opened the glove box in his truck. "What are all those glasses doing in there?" I explained that they were my old reading glasses; one pair was missing the nose pads, but would suffice in a pinch. The other pair wasn't strong enough for me to read a map but worked for large print books.

"You can't read a map even with good glasses," the joker said.

I held up another pair. "These blue-framed ones have always been my favorite, and even if the screw is missing, one day I intend to repair them."

"Why don't you throw all of them away, and get new ones?"

I didn't tell him that everytime I go to the Dollar Store I pick up a new pair. I often misplace them; I know I left one pair in a dressing room when I was trying on a swim suit. Those glasses made me see things I didn't want to see.

I have one pair in my purse and one pair on top of my head at any given time, or so I thought. Yesterday I was prearing for a parent-teacher conference. I stepped into my school closet to retreive something and bumped into a plastic storage tub on a high shelf. I knocked my glasses off my head onto the floor. Scraped the lens, stretched the arm straight out and when I tried to reposition it, it just wagged back and forth. Ready to toss them, I searched my purse for my extra pair, and remembered I'd left them in the camper this weekend. It was very embarrassing trying to hold those dumb glasses on with one hand and shuffle through papers with the other while squinting with one eye through the good lens to read grades.

This morning I can see clearly that I'll need to purchase a few pairs of magnifiers for school as well as every room of my house! Dollar Store, here I come!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An exercise~

Back in the swing of things today. I should be exercising. After the long weekend, it's hard to get back into the groove. It's that way when I take a break from writing too. Just have to make myself do it! And you should too. Write about a door. Describe it, is it sliding glass door, ornate oak etc.? Then walk in or out that door and SHOW the reader what you see. Don't tell, make your reader look through your eyes. Have fun. And get some real exercise. I am going to go lift my hand weights and do my thigh master. Boy! Talk about false hope.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Taste those tomatoes~

The weather is crummy, but all that rain will make the garden flourish. The tomato plants are thriving, and if my friend Mary B. lived in St. Louis instead of Georgia, I'd save the biggest, ripest one for her. There is nothing like a fresh tomato plucked right from the garden. Speaking about tomatoes makes my mouth water. After a rain, it is as if the vines speak to ME with their own green scent. They're just babies now, but a few weeks from now they'll be gracing my kitchen counter and just about everything I eat.

I can remember when I was 10 years old; my mom and I were visiting a neighbor. We sat outside at her picnic table. She gave us a sack of homegrown tomatoes and a salt shaker. I thought that it was odd when she bit into one and salted it, then ate it like an apple. I tried it. Uhm! To this day I can remember the juice running down my chin, the tangy, salty taste on my tongue. Ever since, I've been hooked!

Hook your reader with sensory detail. If you write the word Tomato, make your reader TASTE it! Have a great day and keep on writing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Wow! What a relaxing weekend. We left for Lake Carlyle Friday morning. My muse left me. I was unable to write, but I had two books going at the same time; Claire Applewhite's Wrong Side of Memphis, I read inside the camper and David Kirkland's, The Yesteryear Tales, I read outside. We rode our bikes twice a day, walked a mile and napped everyday. This morning we ate a delicious breakfast at a homey cafe and now it's back home and real life. It's always good to get away for a few days.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Publishing and Marketing

Today is a school holiday! And I plan to spend the next four days reading and relaxing. Attended a Writer's Guild meeting and came away filled with despair; the publishing industry is floudering even in NY. Small press seems to be faring better. The speakers suggested that self-publishing has its problems too. I guess I'll just stick with small markets and send short stories and personal essays.

Everyone wants to write a best-seller. Receiving a book contract is only the beginning. Marketing yourself sounds very expen$ive. Oh well, since I have not submitted my manuscript, I have no worries there. Have a great weekend and no matter how you feel about war (ugh!) remember the reason for this holiday. Get out and about and enjoy this beautiful St. Louis weather.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Literary magazine seeking sea stories~

They say, build it and they will come. I say, write it and they will come, eventually. Don't worry about writing for publication; write for your own pleasure. You will accrue at least a folder full of prose, poetry or meanderings of the mind. Then, when you see a call out, send it out. I have been waiting years, almost seven to be exact, for a place to send my beach poems. Today I saw a call out for a literary magazine, no payment offered. seeking prose/poetry about the sea.

Dive in; you may be swimming in success.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I understand capitalism and how we have to keep the economy going, but I think that text book sales and buy-backs are the biggest rip off going. You pay over $100 for a book, USED at that, then they offer to buy it back for five bucks, then turn around and sell it again for a mint. That's sort of the way I feel about all these in-home parties where women sell cosmetics, home decorating accessories or enough scented candles to illuminate and stink up a village. It's a tiered racket system where somebody is always being taken advantage of. I could never host one of those parties, because I always felt like I would be ripping off friends. My rant of the day.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Thanks to everyone who prayed for my daughter-in-law, Jackie. Her vision is improving and the doctor said he will do laser surgery on her blind eye (since birth)because technology has come so far, that she may actually have a little vision in that eye. That would be amazing!

I saw a call out for teacher stories a couple weeks ago, busted my hump to get an essay written on deadline, and then I couldn't find the web address to send it to. That was frustrating. Sometimes you just have to walk away and come back. When I let it go, it came right to me. That's the way it is sometimes. When you're on overload, sometimes the brain goes on the fritz. Give it a rest and it reboots. Write something this week.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beginnings and endings~

Last night Jason graduated with honors. I remember how he cried the first six weeks of kindergarten. Last night I was the one shedding a tear. I am so proud of him. He has worked so hard.

I carried my baby granddaughter for four blocks to St. Louis University arena for the nearly three! hour ceremony. Nicole weighs 27 pounds; she's an armload of love and wiggles. I apparently overused my arm muscles, because when we stood for the national anthem my right arm spasmed so badly I couldn't keep my hand over my heart. After a while it quit.

When the processional began and the students in red caps and gowns filed in, Nicole and her daddy, thirty feet below, spotted one another. She reached her arms out for him to hold her and screeched, "Dada!" His classmates looked up and laughed. We took a picture.

The end of a school year; a new beginning... We passed the dorms where parents waited curbside and helped their students cram personal possessions into trucks and back seats of cars. I spoke to one mom whose son was lugging his bedding and foam mattress. "Won't it be good to have him home for a while?" I asked. She laughed and said, "Yeah, right! He's sleeping over tonight and tomorrow he'll be at the airport. He's touring Europe this summer."
Oh, to have that sense of adventure and an ounce of youth back!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What a Day!

Day is breaking gray and overcast, but it is a beautiful day for me! My son graduates today, my grandson has a school picnic, and I just submitted three pieces for publication. I have a wonderful friend named Lynn who looks out for me when I forget to send in my announcements to SLWG. I am happy and blessed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another year almost over...6 weeks of school to go!

Isn't it wonderful when things fall into place? I'm finished with report cards and will be doing conferences. In the begnning of the school year, when I am stressed from trying to establish a routine and rules, I ask myself WHY I do this each year. In May when I am pounded by things I have to get finished, I ask myself WHY I don't retire. Then the waves settle and I feel a sense of accomplishment and worth. I breathe more deeply; I dance and move and groove in the playroom instead of standing there and supervising little children. Maybe it's my flip flops and the warm weather that releases my inner child. I feel unencumbered; I feel a sense of relief. I feel free.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Censoring me!

Last night I read at open mike. My essay about aging received good reviews, but I decided not to read a poem I had written which was inspired by a young girl I saw waiting on a bus. I thought I might offend someone by using the words, Big Mama in reference to African-American grandmothers. I was concerned that it would be considered too racist,and I didn't want to offend our new guest. I actually censored MYSELF. I'm disappointed for chickening out. Am I writing for the reader or myself? Such a silly quandry.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Confusing guidelines~

Sometimes it seems you can't win. I saw that a woman's web site was looking for stories for their contest, so I sent them an essay according to guidelines. The editor wrote right back and asked me to send it in the body of an email. The guidelines specifically stated not to! Oh well, I'm happy she even responded. Maybe this is a good omen.

The writer's life: confusing, rewarding, exciting, time-consuming. Just when you think you have it figured out, someone tosses you a curve ball. Don't get discouraged; you never know when you might hit a grand slam! Keep those stories circulating. If you haven't submitted anything this week, at least write something for yourself.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day TV Interview

Just did an interview with Rebecca Wu on Channel 5. I batted my eyes way too much! Otherwise, it went well. My daughter called and said an old boyfriend called her and said, " Six words: You look just like your mom." She thought my voice sounded more professional than like her MOM. My baby granddaughter saw me on TV and ran around the house shouting, "Nana!" & 7 yr old Nick asked if I was out of town since I was on TV. My son thought I looked and sounded great. It's been a good Mother's Day; the only thing missing is my mom but I know she is with me in spirit.
Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

If you flop, flip over and try it again!

It is 6:00 p.m. despite what the time posted on this site says. We spent an hour and a half watching 9 year old granddaughter, Morgan, and classmates at their gymnastics performance. I observed those little girls as they faced their fears and failures; some fell but got right back up on the raised balance beam, the parallel bars etc. They did forward rolls, lunges and flips and splits. Morgan said she slept in the 'splits' position all night so she'd be limber for today. Now that is dedication! Or a real stretch...of the imagination.

In any case, I likened her challenges to those of writers. How many of us have fallen off, belly flopped, or struggled to stay on the narrow path? All of us. Keep going; that is the determination that makes a writer,a gymnast or whatever. Do your best, and if at first you don't succeed, don't lie there like a big splat! Get up and try again.

Post-Dispatch Interview

Mom was her moral compass

Real Parenting
Preschool teacher's book tribute to loving, spiritual woman.
BY AMY BERTRAND St. Louis Post-Dispatch Lifestyles Editor

Linda O'Connell has published 13 essays in Chicken Soup and other books. But the one she published most recently, in a book called "The Ultimate Mom: Uplifting Stories, Endearing Photos, and the Best Experts' Advice on the Toughest Job You'll Ever Love," has been the most personal for her. It is about her mom.

"My mom passed away two years ago at this time. I feel like this is a tribute to the woman who pointed my moral compass in the right direction."

How did you get involved in writing essays for books?
Ten years ago I saw a call out in the Suburban Journals. The editor for "Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul" was seeking true personal stories. I'm not much of a gardener, but I had a unique experience with a flower that bloomed outdoors in winter. They selected my inspirational story, and I have been submitting personal essays ever since.

Tell us about the story you tell in your essay for the "Ultimate Mom" book:
My story, "Mama Left Her Handprint," is about telling the truth. When I was 5 years old, my mother saw the insurance man strolling up the walk to collect his weekly premium. She said, "Honey, tell him I'm not home and to come back on Friday."
I was aghast! "But Mama, you said I should never tell a lie."
She said she'd step out back, and it wouldn't be a lie. Conflicted, my moral compass going crazy, I decided to tell the truth. I greeted the man and said, "My mama told me to tell you she's not home and to come back on Friday." With that, he guffawed and said, "Okay, Virginia, come on out. Your little girl just told on you." Mom gave me the "mother look", and I waited all day for the handorint on my bottom, which never came. Later she told me I'd done the right thing.

What did your mom mean to you growing up?
We didn't have many luxuries in the '50s, and sometimes we didn't have the basics. But mom made it clear that although we were poor in material possessions, we were rich in spiritual faith and love. I can remember sitting on the sloping lawn making clover necklaces with her on muggy evenings. At bedtime, she bathed my younger brother and me, tickled our backs and fanned us with a magazine to cool us off.

What influence has she had in raising your own kids?
My mother was very instrumental in my life; in fact after I had children, she was a constant presence. she drove me crazy with phone calls and visited every other day. She was very loving, doting grandma.

What's the biggest lesson your mom taught you?
Mom taught me generosity; she believed that what you give away comes back to you wheteher it is money to the needy, a material possession, a kind word or gesture. She taught me to believe in myself and never to judge people based on appearance or the initials before or after their name. She also taught me about God; her faith was very important to her.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Life in general~

What a thunderstorm this morning! This afternoon we attended 7 year old, Nicholas' school pageant about the rain forest. Looking at that little guy up there on stage made me have flashbacks of my son, his daddy, at that age. Eighteen month old Nicole was a character, singing and dancing in her seat. She recognized me and she shouted,
"Nana!" Be still my heart.

Good news on my daughter-in-law who spent two hours at the opthomalogist. He says he sees a slight clearing in her eye. No periphereal vision at all. The virus had been attacking her retina.

She told him she was going to college in August; he said, her eyesight may not be improved enough. We are thankful there is any improvement. Thanks for the prayers. He wants to see her twice a week now.

Lately, life has been like a thunderstorm; the dark storm clouds are edging their way out, the winds have subsided and there is a slight clearing. I'm waiting for the rainbow, because I believe in miracles.

TV & Newspaper

I'll be on Channel 5 morning news on Sunday, Mother's Day at 9:20 a.m. to talk about my story in the Ultimate Mom book. The Post-Dispatch did a story on me, which will also be in the weekend paper.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Off to the Magic House

I'm off to The Magic House with my students for a field trip. Every year at this time I think of my mother who accompanied me on one of these trips because my teacher's aide was ill. The story lady had a real bunny for the children to pet. She asked my mom to hold it and let each child stroke its fur. Well, the bunny jumped out of my mom's hands and as she bent to retreive it, the bunny hopped, then Mom hopped after it; then the bunny took another hop, and Mom hopped; all around the room she chased that rabbit and made the kids cackle and me double over in laughter. I hope they don't have a bunny today; I'm not about to do any hopping. I love these half days!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I want to take off my shoes and walk barefoot in plush zoysia grass, scuff across warm sugary sand, dangle my toes at the edge of a sparkling pool, but today, like yesterday, I will stuff my feet into shoes and get ready for work. I am days away from digging out the flip flops. As soon as this weather clears, I will release my plump hostages and set my tootsies free for the summer. Sandals are cute, but flip-flops are the real deal!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

There are characters everywhere.

I saw a teenager waiting for a bus on Watson Road; her arms were laden with two foot long boughs from a lilac bush. I noticed a lavendar bush behind her in front of one of the businesses. It was lush, in full bloom, the purple flowers hung like grape clusters. I can imagine her reaching into her cosmetic bag for her manicure scissors as the impulse hit her. I wonder what she did with those branches, present them to her mother as a gift? Place them in a vase in her purple room? Lay them on a grave? Scent a stench-filled house with the delightful fragrance of lavendar? I am sure there is a poem in that experience.

Be on the lookout for "characters" in your stories and poems.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Diagnosis on daughter-in-law~

My daughter-in-law just got lab results. It is not a bacterial infection; antibiotics were useless. It is a virus that has been dormant in her system which erupted in her eye. They can treat it with steroids once the swelling subsides and they discover whether or not the retina has detached. The best they can do is supress the virus; it will always be in her system, so she may have to take prednisone for a while. Thank you one and all for your concern and prayers.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Update on daughter-in-law

Jackie is still in hospital, has only a slight sliver of pin point frontal vision in left eye, no peripheral; no test results, no improvement. Her vision is clouded and dark gray she says. They are doing every test imaginable to find out what virus it could be. Don't think it is bacterial infection because the week-long course of antibiotics hasn't had any effect. Tomorrow may have to extract something from the eyeball with a needle, YIKES! The kids were snuggled in bed with her. Thank you for your concern & prayers.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Need Prayers

Our family needs prayers for daughter-in-law, Jackie Wenzelburger who was hospitalized today with a massive eye infection, resulting in loss of most of her sight in left eye. She is blind in right eye. Doctors ruled out occular toxoplasmosis (what Pg women get from cat litter)and she is not pregnant, but they haven't seen anything like this. They think it is viral infection but they have her on strong antibiotics and eye drops; they are testing her for everything under the sun. She is 35, and she and my son have a 7 yr old boy and 18 month old little girl. Thank you.

Writer's Guild meeting today

Just returned from the St. Louis Writer's Guild meeting, where Mike Eisenbath, former Post-Dispatch sports writer, discussed conventional publishing vs. self publishing. He discussed his coffee table book about the St. Louis Cardinals, and also detailed how he self-published a book about depression. He was definitely a motivational and inspirational speaker.

When I first started attending SLWG speaker's series, I'd look at the topic and think, I know about that already. I had little hope of learning something new, but I have always taken something away that I have used at some time in my writing. Today, Mike's snippet of writer's truth was this: get to know someone and find out THEIR story. I try to do that. I find a topic and weave another person's feelings and experiences into my own.

I am grateful for the support I have received from this organization and the many friends I have made.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Filling your writer's calendar~

It's May, and as I flip the page on my writing calendar, that blank page seems daunting. I've discovered that when I force myself to write I wear myself out. I must allow my thoughts to flow naturally, then the words gush like a waterfall. Sometimes I am inspired to write daily, and other times I go days without writing. Then, as if a dam breaks I produce a dozen pieces.

Don't despair if you have a case of writer's block, or other interests at the moment. Listen and observe the people and happenings around you, think of all of the roles that you play in your life. Then free write for a few minutes; meander on the page in all directions and see what happens. If you're still 'stuck' imagine a window and write a paragraph. Are you inside/outside? Describe the scene.

Today the photographer from the Post-Dispatch came to school to photograph me in action. He had such a good time in my class he stayed half the morning and even sang and danced with the kids. Bill calls me the Pied Piper of Kids; I guess that picture taking young fellow was just a kid at heart. Like me!