Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jefferson Barracks Park

Today it was so gloomy and overcast, but by late afternoon the weather cleared and the sun came out. By evening, my favorite part of the day, I was restless to get outside and do something, so hubby and I hiked a two mile trail at Jefferson Barracks Park, on the banks of the Mississippi River, just a five minute drive from our house. The park is spacious, 405 acres, and because of all the rain it looks like a jungle; the trees are thick, overgrown and the trail was mostly shaded. Every so often we'd step into a clearing where the sun dappled the tree tops and glistened through the leaves like diamonds. A spotted fawn grazed and kept a wary eye on us, but its mama was nearby and didn't raise tail and run, so the fawn took its cue from Mama.

As we hiked the trails and huffed up a few small hills, we imagined how the park must have been in its hey day. Jefferson Barracks is an historical park; it was the first permanent, active U.S. Army Post West of the Mississippi River. It has played a prominent role in every American confilct for 120years, from 1826-1946. During the Civil War it housed the largest military hospital. Not only did Civil War generals, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, spend time there, but so did my mom. Not during the Civil War and not in the capacity of soldier.

I remember her telling stories about when she was 16 or 17 during WW11. She and her sisters and girlfriends lived in Walnut Park, in far North St. Louis. On Friday nights they would board the Broadway bus and ride south to the end of the line, which was Jefferson Barracks. The girls would meet young soldiers who would take them to the movie theater or to dances, and then afterwards, escort them on the return bus ride to make sure they got home safely. She always said, "Times were different then; it was all so innocent and fun, and everyone just wanted to have a nice time. No funny business." I could almost hear Mom's echoing laughter floating through the park.

The main gate, a small, white, stone house still exists. I visualized soldiers and young ladies milling around the entrance on Friday evenings during the 1940's. A wave of nostalgia rushed over me, and I had to sit on a bench and let my thoughts wander over the hills, across the meadows and into the open fields where soldiers once trained, where people now leisurely stroll and the deer feed and frolic. Tonight, I miss my mom. I wish I had asked her so many more questions that didn't seem important at the time.

Friday, July 30, 2010

My simple decor

Some women go to fancy stores to purchase home decor. I go to thrift shops and yard sales and am just as happy with my slightly crooked wall groupings. It's really the camera angle. Click on the picture of the baby and it will enlarge. Read the caption. I tell all of the grandchildren that it's Paw-Paw Bill and he was so cute his mom had to hang that sign on him. It's not him. These displays are on either side of the window in our guest room. Tomorrow is Saturday, and you know what that means, yard sales. Have you ever found a simple treasure at a yard sale? Tell me about it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Anne Lamott's book GRACE (EVENTUALLY)

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly at night. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself at sunset. ~Crowfoot Quote

Oh the Lord's been good to me! I feel so blessed when my eyes behold a sunset such as this. Bunnies make me smile too. Late evening is my favorite part of the day. I've had a lazy, realxing day. I read Anne Lamott's book, GRACE (EVENTUALLY) Thoughts on Faith.

Anne has a way of laying it on the line and she has the unique ability to be reverent and irreverent simultaneously. This is not a book about religion. It is about facing fear, failure, family problems and finding faith. Sorry for the alliteration, but it is one of the finest books I've read in years. Her collection of personal essays speaks to the reader's heart and soul, especially if you are a mother. Her stories will make you laugh, nod in agreement, sigh with satisfaction or shed a tear. I guarantee you, you will want to call a friend or family member and read an excerpt aloud. Put this book on your reading list. It is a must read.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MO Writer's News

I just got word that The Missouri Writer's Conference in April will also feature Nancy Pickard, New York Times best selling author of Virgin of Small Plains, and the Scent of Rain and Lightning. They have quite a line up!

We've been trying to eat more healthy foods, fruits and veggies. This morning my hubby prepared egg whites for himself, walked into the living room where I was sipping coffee and watching the news and asked if I wanted something. I looked like a deer caught in the headlights. I shook my head, no. He asked what was wrong. I swallowed that stale Oreo cookie I'd found stashed on top the fridge, stood up and said with chocolate in my grin, "My name is Linda and I am addicted to sweets no matter how stale or old. If it's in this house and I find it, I'll eat it."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Where do you find rhythm?

Check out this round piano with keys that actually worked. This week we attended thirteen year old, Madison's string concert. She plays the bass. The concert was lovely. Listening to the violinists reminded me of my grandfather, who I only knew briefly when I was a child. My earliest memory is of stepping into his two room, musty smelling cabin on the banks of the Missouri River in St. Charles. He chewed tobacco, and I was amazed that he could aim a stream of grasshopper juice right into his brass spittoon from way across the room. He was a fiddle player and wow, could that old man with a shock of white hair play.

Bill and I often go to the free concerts on Sunday evenings in the park. We listen to a variety of music and bands from bluegrass to big band. My favorite, of course is old time rock and roll. Makes me want to boogie. But the older I get the more I have discovered music everywhere ...not just in the Ipods in our kids ears, or is that MP3 players? I don't even know the difference. In my day they were called hand held transistor radios and you didn't have to pay to download your songs.

I hear music in the thrum of the lawn mower outside, and I hear rhythm in the slapping waves at sea. When a thunderstorm roars through it is like a cacophony of sounds, cymbal crashes, lightning flashes, pounding rain, slapping windshield wipers.
We drove home in a storm last night, and it made me think of this piano and the almost imperceptible rocking rhythm of the ship. Back home, for two days, I sat at the computer and had the urge to gently, almost imperceptibly move my head from side to side. I've got rhythm. I've got music down in my soul.

Other than an instrument or a song, what is musical for you?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What was your wedding like?

I know that just about everywhere in America the temperature is nearing 100 degrees but come on! we just returned from lunch at Arby's and Bing Crosby was crooning White Christmas over the intercom.

For those of you who are steamy romance writers, check out a new site I stumbled upon, True Vows by HCI books. I'm unclear if they are doing an anthology or are looking for book length manuscripts, but ladies, it is all about you and your wedding. They are a legitimate company; they publish the Ultimate Series. I am published in three of them: The Ultimate Christmas, The Ultimate Mom and The Ultimate Gardener.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Yesterday afternoon it was almost 100 degrees, so we decided to go to the $3.00 show to see Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. It was a comedy, but the underlying theme was everyday relationship problems which affect married couples with young children. It was so cute, we laughed aloud, so I called my son and surprised him, told him I was coming over to babysit because he and my daughter-in-law had a date night. I purchased tickets for the next showing and gave them a night out. Upon their return, my daughter-in-law laughed and said, "I told Jason you were trying to send us a message. That couple was just like us!"

"No," I assured her, "they were just like all married couples with young children; those are universal problems. Every couple experiences these feelings." They enjoyed the show and I hope it minimized the hum-drum fizzle and lack of appreciation that we all feel from time to time, and I hope it put a spark into their lives.

Everyone thinks kids need electronic gadgets to keep them happy. I sat down with eight year old Nicholas, and his little eight year old buddy who was spending the night, and two year old Nicole to play a homemade game of color Bingo using their names. In order to include Nicole, I let her pull the bingo letters. She'd excitedly name the color, then she would repeat the letter after I called it: Red B. Blue N. I'd say, "Blue, I" and she would say, "Bwew, YOU". She is learning to insert pronouns into her language and so whenever I said I, she'd say YOU. It was too cute!

The kids sat at that table and played old fashioned games for an hour. I showed them a game I played as a kid. Players take turns drawing only one line dot-to-dot in order to connect the 100 dots spaced an inch apart on a piece of paper. Once you complete a square, then you print your initial in the box. Yes, it took a little energy to entertain them, but less energy than it would have taken to referee their arguing. The boys thought this was the greatest game ever. They even put down their Wii controllers, and they learned a bit about strategy. It was an hour well-spent, and we made wonderful memories.

What sort of 'simple' things did you do as a kid? Mother May I? Red light/green light? Paper dolls? What else?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

SNEAK PEEK MO. Writer's Guild Conference Lineup

Yes! It's true. In the next few days will list information about the Spring 2011 writer's conference to be held in St. Louis, MO at the Sheraton Hotel in Westport Plaza.

I have the scoop! Remember, you read it here; please tell others about my blog.

C. Hope Clark, yes THE Hope Clark from Funds for Writers will present a 90 minute Early Arrival seminar on Friday afternoon, as well as the break out on Saturday and Master's Class on Sunday. Elaine Viets (former St. Louis Post-Dispatch humor columnist) will be the keynote speaker for the awards banquet on Saturday night, and Mary Troy is the keynote for the luncheon. Four agents, six (possibly eight) editors are on the list. Linda Apple, who has published over 200 Chicken Soup for the Soul stories will be presenting,(and you all thought I was the chief chickie because I laid a dozen CS eggs). Also presenting are award nominee, Morley Swingle, and a 2010 International Book Award winner as well.

One more scoop, Early Bird Registration will begin August 15th, so sign up early. You know this conference will fill quickly.

I am not being compensated in anyway to promote this event, I simply feel like one of those TMZ or National Enquirer reporters giving you the breaking news.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What changes will you make? Be your own editor.

Only I can change my life. No one can change it for me. ~Carol Burnett

This quote certainly has a ring of truth. To illustrate, let me tell you about a woman I met on the cruise. Debbie is a nurse in an OB/GYN office. She said the doctor she works for used to be a veterinarian. How about that for a change? When he got bored tending animals he went back to medical school and became an obstetrician. He is much happier.

You must be the editor of your own life. What would make you happier? If there is something you have always wanted to do, why wait? If you have fences to mend, essays to write, a new creative pursuit, realize that you have the ability to make the changes.

I am so excited that C. Hope Clark, of Funds for Writers will be the keynote speaker at the next Missouri Writer's Guild conference. Check out her website and take time to listen to her interview. You will be amazed at the wealth of information she provides on the many unexpected ways to obtain funds for writing.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Physically I may be seated in front of a computer in this desk chair, but in my mind I am still sitting in this window seat. My intention was to write and read in my spare time, but there was no spare time. There were activities all day and into the wee hours. Most people napped everyday. I did finish a book, but the other two weren't even opened.

In the Cayman Island (owned by the queen of England) we passed the Ritz Carlton on
our way to the beach. We were informed that Bill Gates has the entire second floor where rooms range from $2,500 - $4,000 per night. Can you even imagine how the rich and famous live? They fly in and have access to a BMW or Rolls Royce.

I'd be satisfied with a thatch roof hut and a beach at my back door; I don't care about the fancy hotels and cars.

I think I must be having withdrawls. I'm sitting here thinking that someone else is sleeping in 'our bed', eating at 'our table'. I hope their entertainment is as delightful as ours was. That evening after swimming in the Caribbean, when we were back on board, we learned that Marcus Anthony, singer and opening act for Naomi Judd and back up singer for Dianna Ross and the Supremes had boarded the ship and was the highlighted performer. He put on one heck of a show, actually two! He sang one Motown hit after another as the audience shouted out song requests.

Sittin' on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away ... that's where I am right now, drifting on a memory.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Oh what a feeling!

THIS is what relaxed, worry-free and stress-free for a week looks like. Ahhh, that Caribbean Sea! We had so much fun, ate too much food, gained five pounds, but I did walk five flights of stairs several times a day. For our evening dining room arrangements we were seated with four couples from Alabama. I don't have time now tell you all about the fun we had with these wonderful people, Wayne and Bootise, Rhonda and Randy, Johnny and Debbie, and Bill and Debra. Suffice it to say, my laugh lines are much deeper. More later; right now it is back to reality and seven loads of laundry.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To my whole blooming bunch of readers

If things are tough, remember that every flower that ever bloomed had to go through a whole lot of dirt to get there.~ Barbara Johnson

We all know how difficult the writing process is. No matter how easy the ideas and words come to you, no matter how talented a writer you are, you still have to invest the time to write, format, submit, wait and deal with rejections. I have been writing for about thirteen years, and I have had quite a few flowers bloom, but there sure have been some weeds. If anyone is interested in reading some of my published personal essays, and clips from other publications, Google

Linda O'Connell Chicken Soup for the Soul

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grammar Girl and Grandma's Girls

Check out Grammar Girl for "quick and dirty tricks" on writing. Every writer has those commom puzzlers that send them running for a writer's guide or style manual. This is a wonderful on line reference guide.

This afternoon, I had lunch with my oldest granddaughter who will be 21 in October. I can hardly believe it! That precocious little blonde, blue-eyed girl was raised by three strong, mouthy women, and she learned quickly how to tell each of us (mom, nana and great-grandma) what we wanted to hear. I admire her so much because she is goal-oriented and intelligent and determined. I worry about her vulnerability, because when I look at her and listen to her, I see myself and past generations of women in our family. I am concerned that she will repeat our mistakes. Then, at the most unexpected times, like today at lunch, she pops up with some brilliant comment, like, "Nana, I'm happy. At least I recognize at a young age, what I'm getting myself into in my life, school, relationship, job etc. I will be fine." And somewhere deep in my soul, I know that she will.

I also saw the youngest granddaughter, two years old, this morning. I know she will experience the same bumps and bruises too, and I also know that despite my worries and possibly because of my influence, that little squirt will also be okay. The older I get, the more I realize that things works out, and I can't fix everything. I can finally let go and relax in the coming week. It is my time to take care of me, and have fun and enjoy these lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer. And that is what I intend to do.

"There is nothing better than being wrapped in a grandchild's hug or having your cheek moistened by granddaughter kisses."~ Linda O'Connell

Sunday, July 4, 2010

If you think you can, you CAN!


I saw this unattributed quote engraved on a paperweight and realized that this is true in every area of life. I am pretty much self-taught. Years ago when my kids were little and I wanted to decorate cakes, I did not go to classes, I stood in front of the bakery viewing window at Venture's and watched the cake decorator in action. Every holiday when my children are gathered at our house, they reminisce about how they had to stand for hours (never more than ten minutes) watching the department store cake lady decorate cakes.

My first attempt, I went home, baked a cake, frosted the top, put some frosting in a sandwich bag, snipped the tip of one corner in two directions, filled it with tinted frosting and made a fluted border on my cake. I added green food coloring, made grass and put two Easter Peeps and Jelly beans in the grass. That was the beginning of a labor of love. Over the years people often told me I should go into business. I did it for fun, friends and family, not for profit. My cakes rival the professional's. I sometimes personalize them with photos: a grandson driving a dump truck; a granddaughter in her pink prom dress posing as one of the Disney Princesses; a grandson as a pirate (I found a cute pose from the photo album, and I cut out a paper eye patch.) Were they ever thrilled to see themselves on their cakes! If you click on each cake you can get a close-up view.

I made Bill a cake for his 55th birthday and decorated it with his likeness and that of all of our grandchildren. Since then there have been four more grandbabies. Where has the time gone?

I have improved my decorating skills over the years, and I now have professional decorating tools, but I have never taken a class. IF YOU THINK YOU CAN, YOU CAN!

Someone gave me this frosting recipe and told me it was Miss Hulling's. She was a former, local restauranteur, famous for her cakes. It is scrumptious.

Beat together until fluffy:

A two pound bag of powdered sugar
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/4 cups Crisco shortening

Friday, July 2, 2010

Flower Mama

If I had a box of cigars, I'd be passing them out like a proud poppa (mama). We have lived in this house for fifteen years. The first year the hydrangea bush flowered, but every year after that, it refused to bloom, although the greenery was lush and beautiful. I don't know if my friend, Lynn, who is so thoughtful and spiritual, sent some good vibes this way, or if she had sprinkled fairy dust in the card she sent which included an article about why hydrangeas don't bloom. I went outside a few days later and, kid you not, the bush is flowering. I have not one, but three blossoms, and the one is a huge cluster of about five flowers. I am so happy. Every time I walk outside I get this goofy grin on my face and coo at my new babies. Last evening when I went outside, I didn't notice our new Bosnian neighbors seated on their patio, (literally, sitting on the the cement), but they sure saw me acting like a goofball holding that huge blossom in my hands and goo-gooing at it. I don't care. I am ecstatic, and indebted to Lynn for whatever she did. Photos: courtesy of my hubby, Bill O'Connell

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do unto others

I wish I'd had my camera handy. I just witnessed something in nature that applies to humans. If adults stay out of kids' squabbles, the kids usually resolve the issue. It is adults who teach prejudice and intolerance. Kids come to us with a clean slate; they learn from from our actions and even our inactions more than they do from our words.

As usual, I tossed cooked egg yolk to the family of mocking birds, and because there was a flock of black birds (starlings)at the bird bath and a mom with her screaming baby on the fence, I tossed some bread to them on the other side of the yard.

Then, two baby birds, a black starling and a baby mockingbird both left their mothers and flew towards a small scrap of bread. They inched closer and closer from opposite directions like two gunslingers in the old west, until they were face to face. The black bird looked down; the mocking bird opened its mouth. The black bird cocked its head back and forth as if to say, "What! You want ME to feed YOU?" This went on for about a minute and a half, and the black bird appeared to be ready to help out the little mocking bird. It was so cute! Then the mother starling swooped in and fed that scrap to her own baby, and the mocking bird flew in to chase the mother starling. If only they had waited another few seconds, I guarantee you, that little fluffy black bird would have fed that little speckle-breasted mocking bird.