Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year, good-bye old deer

Happy New Year to one and all. Celebrate sensibly and have fun. God bless you all in the New Year. Welcome to my new followers and thank you to my regular and occasional readers. I do appreciate all of you.

Beware of those resolutions!
Yesterday morning I poured myself a cup of coffee, reached into the bottom of the snowman cookie jar and gasped. I knew it would happen sooner or later, but I thought I had a couple more days left. "Someone" beat me to the last cookie so, I raised that rotund snow dude to my mouth, and dumped the peanut butter cookie crumbs onto my tongue and allowed them to dissolve slowly, deliciously.

"That's it! No more, I am going to behave myself," I said just before we left to have brunch with friends. I had an omelette, fried potatoes and English muffin with jelly. Well crap! I'd fallen off my wagon before I ever hitched my horse.

Later in the day, I ate a bowl of whole grain cereal, and towards evening when my hankering started, I told myself to behave. I popped a handful of green olives. That wasn't satisfying, so I retrieved my favorite healthy snack, an individual serving size cup of Del Monte Ruby Red Grapefruit in its own juice. I love that stuff. I once read that grapefruit juice causes you to burn calories.

I was heading to the fridge for a double dose of calorie burner when I burped. Lordy, something fermented in my gut; it was like corn pone whiskey shooting up my espohagus. Not that I would know, I am not a drinker but that stuff had kick. That belch was like a jet propelled explosion.

People, heed my advice, never ever layer these foods in your gut.

Reminiscing ...
When granddaughter Ashley, was three, my mom was babysitting her on New Year's Eve. I called her at midnight and said, "Grab a pot and spoon and go outside and bang on it and shout, 'Happy New Year. Go away old year.'"

She was a very bright little girl with above average language skills.

"You want me to really go outside and hit him with a pot and spoon and yell, 'Go away old DEER!'?"

Life can be confusing no matter how old you are. Bring in the New Year any old way you want, then tell me all about it. It is supposed to be 60 degrees here, so I am taking a hike, but I'll be baaaack.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

That was some road trip!

GUESS where my honey took me.

He knows how I love the shore, and he made my wish come true.

Sand castles and love letters in the sand ... and walking with my honey hand in hand.

We could hear the trickling waterfall, and then we came upon this wonderful surprise.

Although it wasn't Florida, he took me to the shore, half an hour from home, to a park named Creve Coeur. The day was sunny and fifty-five degrees. I feel renewed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oh what a night!

My computer is out, again, and I am at the library. Until the part arrives, I will not be posting. To say I am frustrated would be an understatement. Please continue to respond with comments. I can see them on my cell phone.

Not only did Santa arrive at our house, but we had a some extra excitement too. It was about 8:00 p.m. and many of the thirty people were still at our house. Bill's daughter's adult step son and his wife were sitting on the couch. He was playing video games on his phone. She was busy poking buttons on hers too. After an hour, I asked, How long does it take to play that game?"
She said, "He's playing the game. I am timing contractions."
"How far apart are they?"
"Two minutes."
She was hesitant because her water hadn't broken yet. We had to talk her into going. Little Ariana Noel was born about twelve hours later. Oh what a night! And I have been so excited to tell all of you, but the libraries were closed yesterday.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The way it really was, the night before Christmas

Contemporary Version of ’T Was the Night Before Christmas
by Linda O’Connell
with apologies to Clement C. Moore

‘T was the night before Christmas at the North Pole
Old Santa was edgy, feeling quite droll.
Mrs. Claus was baking, and the house smelled yummy.
Santa walked into the kitchen, snuck up on his honey.

He reached for a snicker-doodle still warm on the tray.
Big Mama said, “No more! You’ve eaten two dozen today.
Your cholesterol is up, your triglycerides soaring.
Absolutely no more, and I’m tired of your snoring.

“You’re going to have to start losing some weight.
And do you realize the time? It IS getting late.”
Chubby old Santa said, “Oh, Woman, drat!
You’re always complaining about this or that.

“Where are my long Johns?” he dared to inquire.
“For Pete’s sake,” she said, “They’re still in the dryer.”
She wiped her hands on her apron and turned with a jerk
Mumbled under her breath, “It’s all women’s work!”

“Now, go hitch your reindeer and load up the sleigh.
Get all the presents and be on your way.”
He tugged on his suit, and as Mrs. Claus watched
Santa had to loosen his belt another notch.

“Santa, remember when you had a pillow-gut?”
“Yes ma'am, and back then, you had a size seven butt!”
“I think you should leave now!”
“I think that I will, but first I need my cholesterol pill.

Blood pressure too and one for arthritis,
and another one for my sinusitis.
A Dramamine pill so I won’t get dizzy,
a calm-me-down pill, so I’m not in a tizzy.

Vitamin C so I don’t sniffle and sneeze,
Asthma medication so I don’t hack and wheeze.”
“Be on your way, Man! Get going; you’re done.”
“Wait,” Santa shouted, “I forgot just one.”

He popped a Viagra, climbed into his sleigh.
“Ah, the miracle drugs they have today!
I’ll be back in a jiffy,” he smiled with affection
I have forty-eight hours to get a…”

“LONG WINTER’S NAP!” she exclaimed as he drove out of sight.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Holiday hoots

As Hubby and I fought the maddening crowd this morning we had a few laughs.

Sign on a chiropractor's office: Ninety Minute Peppermint Massage (maybe it's legitimate but we used our imagination and cackled a bit at the candycane jokes).

Sign on a car next to us: Holiday Special, Back Hair Removal $15.00 (Talk about entreprenuership) Bill's wise crack, "Hans Weiman restores hair and this guy removes it. They ought to go into business together."

I said to a forty-something year old, female cashier in a retail store, "I'll bet you see it all."

"You wouldn't believe it. This guy came in yesterday dressed in women's clothes and high heels and brought the girl I work with, who he doesn't even know, flowers and candy." She lowered her voice and looked around. "Today he came in dressed like a man and tells her he is looking for a lesbian lover. And she's got the nerve to look over at me. Oh Huh-uh, honey! I told her to quit talking to him. Yes, I see it all."

She rolled her eyes at me, shook her head, and I almost choked laughing so hard.

There was a two car wreck on the corner as we were darting to the grocery store. We came home half an hour later figured the mess would be cleaned up. There was a four car wreck, same spot, different tow truck and emergency vehicles.

I'm taking a nap; this traffic and crazy stuff wears me out, or maybe it's all those cookies making me sluggish.

Come back tomorrow for my poem, A Contemporary Verison of 'T was the Night Before Christmas

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chasing down the UPS dude for my package wrapped in plain brown paper

Today as I am baking cookies and eating way too many misfits, I am reminded of my brother, John, who makes the best cookies in the world, chocolate chip cookies the size of Texas. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but they are saucer-size and an inch thick, made with real butter.

When my children were young, and I was too, my best friend and I waited and waited for the U.P.S. delivery truck for a package my brother sent from Reno. This was before computers and tracking devices, but somehow I knew the date they were to arrive. Maybe there was a phone number that I'd called. All indications were that the box of coma-inducing cookies was on the truck and would be delivered that day.

My best friend and I took turns peeking out the front door everytime we heard a truck clunk by. Our street was an east-west bypass, so there was fairly heavy traffic. Rose and I sat in my kitchen crabbing about our husbands and drank black coffee. I fanned her cigarette smoke out of my face, and we giggled about everything and nothing. Her laugh was like a machine gun, rat-a-tat-tat. Hearing her laugh, made others laugh.

We sat on the porch swing until our teeth started chattering. We let more cold air in the house fanning that front door open and closed. We had several false alarms. Then, I spied that mud brown box truck and squealed, "Here he comes!"

Both of us wild-eyed women bounded off the porch, down the concrete steps and darted out into the middle of the street, in front of the UPS truck. The driver honked. We waved joyously and smiled. He swerved to avoid us.

All we wanted to do was save him a few steps so he didn't have to run up on the porch. The poor young fellow looked us up and down, swore under his breath and kept tooling down the street, leaving us in a cloud of exhaust fumes.
"Hey, come back here, we want our cookies."

We couldn't run fast enough.

"What's wrong with HIM! I know our cookies are on that truck." I crabbed.

We went back in the house resigned to waiting one more day for the delectable box of calories.

Then, we heard it, the rumble of that same UPS truck coming up the street from the opposite direction. When we heard it screech to a stop out front, we darted to the driver's side, laughing, giddy as two kids. The poor guy froze in his seat; he looked like a deer caught in headlights.

"You have our cookies! We're waiting for our cookies."

He spoke but one word, "COOKIES?" Then he went right to work, handed me the package and I signed for the jerk!

Rose and I ran up on the porch and ripped into the plain brown wrapper. We laughed until our sides hurt wondering what that poor guy must have imagined about us and the contents of that package.


To this day, those were the best chocolate chip cookies ever!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What a night! What a day!

The preschool Christmas program was wonderful. Two parents called early to say their children were sick. The two I needed! Since November, during practices, the little girl carried the class of boys in singing. The little boy, who is extremly anxious over new things wanted to be in the play. I was disappointed for both kids and myself.

My heart nearly skipped a beat when both students showed up. The little girl sang beautifully and the ten boys kept time. The little boy did an outstanding job as one of Santa's elves and Santa didn't have any misphaps this year, except...ten year old Nicholas, whispered in my ear, "I think that could be Grandpa!" I said, "SHUT UP!" like Elaine on Seinfeld, but, I didn't shove him, because Nicole had jumped up on Santa's lap and was nuzzling her cheek into his beard. I will post a photo as soon as I can.

She bellowed her songs louder than her classmates, and was as animated as one of those battery-operated holiday toys. It was a great program, a fantastic after party with faculty, staff and a wonderful boss.

I slept until 7:00 a.m., which I never do. Then I got up and cleaned the house top to bottom. Doesn't it just make life seem good when the house is sparkling and the toilet seats are down and the tub is scrubbed?

I opened my emails and received two acceptances, a final on the Chicken Soup Messages from Heaven, and also one from Princess Dominique for her shoe anthology titled, The Perfect Pair, which has been in development for nearly two years. I had almost given up on it. Both pay well. AND I received payment for my story in CS Food and Love. I'm going shoppping.

YAY! My kind of day. Hope yours is good too. I am blessed.

Tomorrow I am baking (and eating) cookies.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Almost an R-rated Santa

My husband graciously agreed to don the Santa suit and play Ho-Ho for my preschool classes when the dad who usually does the job had to have knee surgery.
"Make sure I have a mirror," Bill said.
He had a closet!
"You can't leave me here to get dressed by myself."
"You'll be fine." I had more faith in him than he did in himself.
"Wait, come back here and help me get the wig on straight!"
Pull the hat down over your ears and no one will notice if it's cock-eyed."
I click-clacked away on my high heels and greeted the audience, of over two hundred.

As my little students performed, one baby climbed up on stage like a chimpanzee escaping from her mother. I had to rescue her.

A little boy sang louder than all the rest, "Let's all do a little jumping." At that, his pants fell of his skinny little butt and pooled around his ankles. He laughed, his mother hissed from the audience and ran up on stage to hike his drawers when he refused.

A seated litle girl flipped over backwards from the riser and landed in the velvet curtain, feet int he air, stuck like a flannel board character, velvet to velvet.

The show was becoming a comedy. I talked about the fun of Santa and the true meaning of Christmas. We sang about Baby Jesus. Then, it was time for the big guy to exit the closet on cue: Jingle Bells. I forgot he was hard of hearing, and when he didn't bound into the room, I worried. I invited the audience to sing a rousing rendition of Jingle Bells. Hard of hearing Santa heard them and came Ho-Hoing into the room with his sack upon his back, and as he came close to the stage I saw it!

I gasped and jumped off the stage and bellied up to Santa. "X-Y-Z" I shouted in his ear. He grabbed the mike and obligingly sang, "A-B-C-D-E-F-G"
NO! I shouted, Santa, X-Y-Z!

He finished the ABC song as I shook my head and screeched,"eXamine Your Zipper, X-Y-Z!"

He looked down and saw that in his haste to get dressed, he had cinched the bottom of his Santa jacket into the belt, his red velevet draw string pants wide open, exposing his blue jeans, thank goodness.

He shouted in my ear, "Why didn't you just say, "Your barn door's open? I don't
understand your lingo. I thought you wanted me to sing the A-B-Cs to the kids."

It was a pageant to remember, one that is being talked about all over the world. This true story was published in The Ultimate Christmas 2008.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa was a dork, a perv, a lover boy?

HO-HO-HO....Santa Claus is coming to town again. Over the years I have had some experiences with the big guy.

We have a home movie of Tracey at 18 months old. The neighbor said if we'd leave a toy on the porch, he would dress as Santa and deliver her special gift which she could open in his presence.

The honking Super 8 movie camera was loaded and ready. Santa came through the door and the camera panned to our little girl who was very excited and tore into her present. She loved the dolly in it's little battery-operated walker. Only problem was, Santa couldn't figure out the operating instructions. You could see him getting more frazzled as the moments wore on. Finally I jumped in the picture, flipped on the switch and watched our baby chase her baby doll. Years later, viewing the movie, she asked if Santa had been a bit challenged and on the verge of a breakdown.

Another fun Santa episode was when my granddaughter was four and caught Santa (Uncle Joe) in the act of kissing Aunt Michele in the back bedroom after assembling Ashley's kitchen set. He ran past her and out the door leaving her dazed and confused. She was a lot more excited about the kissing than her new kitchen set.

"Nana, I want to write a letter to Santa and tell him never to kiss Michele again. And I have to tell HER never to kiss him again, because if she's kissing him when he puts his finger aside his nose, she'll fly right out the chimney with him."

The grandpa of one of my students used to play Santa for my preschool program. Only problem was, he didn't say, "Ho-Ho-Ho," he would look at the kid's moms and say, "Heh-heh-heh."

I'll save the best for last and tell you more tomorrow.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

From our home to yours

We have downsized our tree, and now it is perfect for us and our small home. In the past we would have to move furniture, take out a recliner and a table in order to display the six foot tall tree. Now, we put this plump little tree on an end table and I hang the ornaments that are senitmental to us. I gave the delicate, red, green and clear, frosted ornaments to my granddaughter.

These handmade ornaments made by the grandkids mean more to me than crystal ones. The little heart with the two chipmunks swinging is a gift from hubby on our first Christmas.

This angel is a reminder of my late mom who had so much love in her heart. After all, Christmas is all about love.

I love snowmen. Bill made the largest one years ago for me. I have collected the others over the years. These are on the top shelf. There are five more shelves, but the one that makes me happiest is the man in the Norman Rockwell reproduction. He reminds me of my late dad.

My stuffed snow family collection came together over the years as I found one here and one there at thrift shops and yard sales. They make a nice blended family.

I recently found this cute little guy at the Goodwill store for $2.00. He just happened to match a candle snuffer that I already had, and they look happy to be together.

It is the meaningful messages on the candles and figurine that mean the most to me.
May you and your family feel the peace and calm, love and joy that is Christmas.

Which is YOUR favorite?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thank God it's Friday

TGIF! (Thank God it's Friday) The kids are wound up, and I am winding down. There's one little girl who talks like a Chatty Cathy doll with high powered batteries. No, she's more like a See and Say toy with its string being continuously pulled. Then there's the little boy who I guarantee you is at the top of Santa's naughty list, but his mommy and daddy thinks he wears a halo.

There's one certain little girl who stole my heart the day she was born. She loves her pink cowgirl boots as much as I love her, but sometimes she gets a bit confused. I'm drilling her on the Christmas story everyday as we drive to school.

"Which baby was born at Christmas?"


"No, Baby J-."

"Jason!" she shouts her daddy's name.

"No, Baby Jesus, and his mom is named?"

"Mary! And is dad is Jofuf."

"Yay! You got that right!"

"So, Nana, Jesus is a superhero and angels are fairies?"

"WOW! Look at that giant blow up Scooby Doo and snowman on that lawn."

My husband snored at deafening decibels last night. When tugging the blankets off him and poking him in the ribs didn't wake him, I tossed from my left side to my right and back again. On the cruise ship, he liked the swaying movement. Hmm!

He mumbled, "Having a little trouble sleeping, are we?"

"WE sure are, because YOU are snoring like an old bear."

"Am not, ssssnuuuuuuggghhhhhh." He didn't miss a beat and went right back to sleep.

This morning he swears it never happened. My pillow and blanket on the couch are proof that it did.

I just devoured a pancake, (because I have devoured all of the cookies) and as I was smothering it in syrup, I looked out at the bird bath and shouted.

"Bill, come quick, put on your clothes!"

"What?!" He came running.

"Go outside and unfreeze that little sparrow stuck in the frozen bird bath, poor little thing."

He looked at me. I stared right back, eyebrows arched.

"Go! Please. Go help it."

"You need help. That's a big leaf sticking up out of the frozen bird bath."

With that, I spun away from the window and kicked my left foot with my right big toe and nearly tripped myself carrying that flat pancake. (Not fat, FLAT. As Flat Stanley. It didn't rise to the occasion like I did."

Toodle loo, I am heading off to school. TGIF!(Things Gotta Improve Fast)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Readers and writers

The turnout was wonderful, even though there was a glitch with the launch party for St. Louis Reflections. Robin Theiss, the book publisher sat up front taking orders, but the book was not available until the next day. However, in just a few minutes, the St. Louis Writer's Guild sold fifty-one books. Other local authors sold their own books displayed on tables around the train station. A night of fun, for sure.

We are having literary fun at preschool too. This is fun learning, not forced learning. The pre K 4 & 5 year olds learn ABC's and the letter sounds by May. Most are so ahead of the game, though. My little future authors are identifying alphabet letters, learning phonics letter sounds, matching letters and hanging the letter ornaments on the tree.
Two of my students are actual readers, but the rest think that they are readers too. They choose a word card, sound out the first letter and match it to the holiday picture. We do this activity with the words on a table first, so they can read left to right. The project is now on the bench, and looks overwhelming, but they can all do it and choose this as a free time activity. This is what I hear.
A "Hey, this word is "A, like apple." They walk up and down looking for a picture. Then I say, "A has another sound." They squeal, "A, angel."
B "I know-I know! This one is Baby Jesus."
C "Cuh-cuh...cookies" or Caa-caa, CASTLE."

And who doesn't enjoy trying to figure out what is in a wrapped present? It is my delight to watch their animated faces when they've 'read' a word or matched a picture to its package.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I hear the train acoming

Tonight, 7:00 p.m. at Kirkwood Train Station; yes, the real station,other writers and I will be reading aloud and signing copies of the St. Louis Writer's Guild anthology, St. Louis Reflections, in which my story appears. Cost $9.99, what a deal!

Other local authors will be selling their own books, so this will be a great oopportunity for last minute holiday shopping and a way to support local authors.

I hope to see YOU. The trains will be zipping down the tracks, rattling the walls, stopping traffic, interfering with our readings for brief interruptions, and it will be sooooo much fun to be this close to a train and published writers. Congratulations to all forty-five who made it into St. Louis Reflections. If you can't make this event, you can purchase a copy from Amazon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Soul book signing in St. Charles, MO

Our third annual Chicken Soup for the Soul booksigning/Canned Food for the Body food drive was a huge success. T'Mara Goodsell, Theresa Sanders, Linda O'Connell, Cathi LaMarche gathered at Main Street Books in St. Charles, MO. Vicki Erwin, proprietor.

The Christmas Festival and parade were an added attraction for visitors who flock to this quaint little historic river town during December to browse the independent shops and purchase from local merchants and crafters. Thanks to Dianna Graveman, Lynn Obermoeller, and Sioux Roslawski, fellow writers who came to support us.

Jack frost was nipping at my nose, and I was in a hurry to return to my car. I had to stop in my tracks at dusk and take a picture of this gorgeous tree.

This lovely angel was a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.

Right out of Charles Dicken's novel, walking directly towards me, came characters portraying Bob Cratchit and little Tiny Tim hobbling with his homemade crutch.

This young lady represented Sweden where the celebration of Christmas lasts two months beginning with Advent. December 13th is St. Lucia's Day. The eldest girl in
the family wears a white robe and head wreath with lit candles. She serves the family St. Lucia buns (lussekatter) and coffee in bed.

The holidays would not be complete without a visit from the Sugar Plum Fairy.

He does not look like our jolly Old St. Nick, but this is one of the many 'Santas from around the world' who were on hand to greet the children. Perhaps Pere Noel.

Not a one horse open sleigh, but certainly a lovely carriage ride down Main Street listening to the clip-clop of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets and taking in the sights, sounds and aromas of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and Grandma's Cookie shop selling freshly baked saucer sized cookies on the street corner.

There were groups of carolers on every block wearing period clothing singing the traditional Christmas carols in perfect harmony. We wish you a Merry Christmas...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A famous author personally responds

Kudos to authors who really care about their readers, not just their sales. High fives to any writer who responds with a personal letter to his or her number #1 fan.
Accolades and hugs to Randi Barrow, author of Saving Zasha.

Nicholas is nine and a half years old. He is kind, caring, has a winning personality and smile, a thick shock of dark hair and large feet that he is finally growing into. His lofty goal is to be a professional hockey player. He and his dad, my son, watch St. Louis Blue's Hockey. It is not uncommon to hear him cheer when the players get into fist and stick fights. I used to be appalled at the violence and feared he would incorporate these actions into his daily life. Well, he IS a rough and tumble kid on the football field. His team was undefeated until the playoffs. He participates in and loves all sports and he prefers outdoor play with the neighbor kids, which usually ends in a dispute between someone. Nick either defends his position or the underdog. He likes wrestling with his dad, but he also enjoys snuggling with his mom. And he teases, as much as helps his little sister. He is fond of his large reddish brown dog, Nash and his cat, Tweeny.

This kid will defend to the end a bullied student on the playground. He is not afraid to preach his convictions of right and wrong, and he is proud to be a Christian. He is a member of Student Council, and he attends meetings an hour before school when he'd rather stay tucked under the covers. He is passionate about everything, so I was not surprised when I came to visit and he began to expound on a book he'd been reading.

"Nana," His green expressive eyes widened. "I'm reading the best book I have ever read in my entire life, and I have read every one of the Captain Underpants books. I'm telling you, this is the best book EVER and did you know that in World War I, we fought the Germans? Well this book is about a dog that was in the war, well he wasn't a soldier-soldier, but he came to this kid..."

Nicholas has given me DETAILED snippets of this book for two weeks. The book is set in Russia and involves a German shepherd dog. The main characters are boys and, I could tell you the whole synopsis, but I think you should purchase a copy of this book for the preteen or tween in your life.

Nick is usually dropped off first at school and his mom brings his little sister to our house at 8:00 a.m. Nicole is in my preschool class. I am used to her 'surprising' me with a big hug in the morning. I was completely surprised when Nicholas came through the door and directly to the computer room where I was busy writing. I knew I would have to listen to more of his wonderful tale.

"Nana, since you're a writer, do you think you could get me an autograph?"
I'm thinking Blue's Hockey Player. "Sure, I can try. Which one?"

"Could you look up Randy Borrow? This guy is the best writer I've ever read. His words got into my emotions and I feel like I am in every scene in Saving Zasha."

I did a Google search on Randy Borrow. Then I searched the title and came up with Randi Barrow. I found contact information. I told Nick he could write to his favorite author. He wrote from his little heart. Then, I showed him the author's photo.

Those darned stereotypes. His eyebrows shot up. "Huh? Wow, this is different than what I expected. Oh wow, I don't care; she is the best author, EVER."

Amazingly, Randi Barrow, author of "the best book in the whole wide world" responded. Her friendly email included confidential information, "Shhh, Nicholas, it's our secret, but you haven't heard the last about Zasha."

I took the email to him after school and I have never seen a happier, more stunned, surprised little boy. That night ...

"Can I take the email to school?"
"YES, be proud of it."

"I don't think I should, because then I would be telling 'our secret' and she told me shhhh! So that means don't share the information, and I'm worried I might ruin it for her."
"It's OK, Nicholas. Share it only with your teacher then, not the class."

"Nana, would you write her back again and tell her I would prefer her autograph, because she said I could have EITHER a book OR her autograph, and I want this author's AUTOGRAPH not an inscription."
"Nick, inscription means she'll address the book to you AND sign her name."

"Nana, I feel bad that she has to pay to mail the book, so tell her to just sign a paper with her name on it."
"NICK, it is past your bedtime, and mine. I'll offer to pay postage."

"Nana, when you write her, be sure to tell her this is the best book I have ever read, and I cannot stop thinking about Zasha."
"I will, Buddy. Love you."

"Mom, you can't believe how happy Nicholas is about contacting this author."
"Son, I am so happy for him. Do you know how many times he's called me tonight? Isn't it past YOUR bedtime? Love you."

Next day, I pulled up after school and handed Nicholas her note stating his book is in the mail. His grin was slow; it grew clear across his freckled face, and I thought he was going to cry. Me too.

Randi Barrow is a former adoption attorney who has also written, Somebody's Child:Stories from the Files of an Adoption Attorney.Her books can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and

I am certain her books have deeply touched adults, students and little boys like Nicholas, the world over.

THANK YOU, Randi Barrow, especially for making an impact on me and my grandson!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Saturday multi-author event, can you help us?

Multi Author Event ... please pass this information on to others.

20% off your entire purchase at Main Street Books, 307 So. Main Street,
St. Charles, MO

THIS Saturday, December 10th, from 1-3 for those who make a purchase and donate a canned good. Please come out and support local authors at the

2nd Annual Chicken Soup for the Soul book signing/ Canned Soup for the Body food drive to benefit the local food pantry.

Theresa Sanders, T'Mara Goodsell, Cathi La Marche and Linda O'Connell will be signing Chicken Soup for the Soul books on a variety of topics.

Come, let's take another tour

The Chatillion-Demenil House, rich in French Cultural history, is on the National Historic Register. It is located in a neighborhood known as Benton Park in South St. Louis. The mansion was built in two sections, a modest two story brick house was built in 1850 and owned by Henri Chatillion who was a guide and hunter for the American Fur Company. He was immortalized in Francis Parkman's bestseller, The Oregon Trail about an expedition the two men made together.

The Chatillons sold their house in 1856 to French native, Dr. Nicholas DeMenil, a physician and pharmacist. He married Emelie Sophie Chouteau, a descendant of our city's founding family. The Greek Revival portion of the mansion, pictured here, was completed in 1863.
The furnishings are original and date from 1820-1880. Ceiling medallions, marble mantels, parquet floor and the front hall, gas powered chandelier are original pieces.

The DeMenil heirs retained title to the house until 1945. Lee Hess then bought it and capitalized on the natural system of caves under the property. This area was home to several large breweries that used the caves as a refrigeration system and underground connecting walk ways tot heir businesses. Hess opened and operated Cherokee Cave from 1950's-1960's. I toured that cave when I was ten years old. It is one of my fondest memories, as my overprotective mother allowed me to ride the Broadway bus from North St. Louis to South St. Louis with a teenage neighbor and her sister to tour the cave.

The path of Interstate 55 closed the cave and threatened the demolition of the mansion, but $40,000 doanted by Union Electric, allowed Landmarks Association of St. louis to purchse and oversee the restoration. The formal dedication took place in 1965 when the house was turned over to Chatillon-DeMenil House Foundation. It is open to the public for tours Wednesday through Saturday for a nominal fee. There is an indoor and patio cafe on the premises.

I was distinterested in local, national and world history when I was young. Now, I am awed by the significance of these historic local structures and the street names of founding fathers and land owners. Take a tour with me through the Chatillon-DeMenil House.

The piano was built specifically for the family and has always been in this place.

The gas lamp is original. This is a depiction of Aphrodite and she holds a sprig of mistletoe. Can't you imagine the glorious holiday parties back in the days?

How would you like to write your correspondences from this desk?

The candelabra are original pieces, a bit too elborate and ornate for me, but oh those crystals.

I certainly could have sat a spell in this antique chair after climbing so many flights of stairs in so many houses on this wonderful Soulard Historic House Tour.

Which picture is your favorite?

Monday, December 5, 2011

A glorious historic tour in my own town

I attended a holiday house tour and this church was one of our stops. I was astounded at the beauty, the history and this altar.

This is the interior of Dreieingkeitskirche, now known as Trinity Lutheran Church, and earlier, as Trinity German Evangelical Lutheran Church. It is located in Soulard, an historic neighborhood.

Trinity was founded by Saxon immigrants in 1839. It is just a few blocks from downtown St. Louis and a block from historic, Soulard Farmer's Market which is still in operation. It cost $117,000 to build the church. Note the intricate carving on the white and gold carved altar and baptismal font.

Rev. C.F.W. Walther pastored the early church in 1848. He also founded a school, the oldest elementary school still in operation in St. Louis. Other recognizable local institutions established under Walther are Concordia Lutheran Publishing House, Lutheran Hospital (no longer affiliated) Concordia Seminary, Missouri Lutheran Synod. this was the Mother Church.

In 1917, with the onset of World War I, there was bitter anti-Germnan sentiment in St. Louis and unruly folks hurled rocks through the stained glass panel that was inscribed with the word Dreieingkeitskirche. The sermons originally preached in German were then preached in English until after the war, when the church returned to their native tongue. To this day, 172 years later, on the last Sunday of each month the sermon is preached in German, continuing the founding fathers' tradition.

Today Trinity Lutheran has an outreach and is a diverse and caring Christian community serving homeless, needy, wealthy and every soci-economic group.

This 100 year old diarama (about six feet long)was imported. The Nativity figurines were designed by an artist. An electrician designed the backdrop and installed a carbon arc light bulb. On Christmas eve, when the congregation is singing Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, the day sky, turns to night, and the sanctuary dims as stars in the night sky illuminate the diarama. The congregation sings Christmas hymns, and at the conclusion, the "star" shoots a beam of light throughout the church. It must be magnificent to be in that congregation and feel so connected to the first Christmas when Jesus was born and to feel what the shepherds felt.

Look at the intricate artistry. Lest you think that these are ceramic, let me assure you that each figure in this nativity scene is made of paper mache`. Aren't they incredibly beautiful at 100 years old?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lay down your sweet heads

The children on the stairsteps are not mine, but the story is. It is near and dear to my heart as those days were so precious to me.

Please click HERE to read my Christmas story in Sasee Magzine.

I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Naked sneezing and no more people pleasing

I teach at a school designed specifically for children with life-threatening food allergies and asthma, although not all of the students are affected. I am forever washing my hands and know better than to put my fingers near my eyes or nose, one of the fastest ways to transfer germs. I teach my students to cough or sneeze into their cough/sneeze catcher, the inside crook of their arm. But we all know that the world is a preschooler's tissue, so I am careful not to touch a sleeve at the wrist. If someone forgets to cover their mouth and they release their germs into the air, I fan it back to them with a piece of paper and laugh and say, "You keep these germs, they're yours. I don't want them." It's a nice way of saying, Cover it!

With cold and flu season upon us, I have more control in my classroom than out in public. Adults who were trained to cover with their hands, think they are doing the right thing, but those hands transfer fistsful of little buggers (not boogers) to shopping cart handles and every other thing they touch.

So many times I've been tempted to use non-verbal communication, raise my arm and point to the crook. But they'd think I was deflecting, asking for the time, or merely a confused old lady. I've thought about actually saying what's on my mind to the dumbasses who hack and cough and naked sneeze (completely uncovered) in tight spaces, but I figure if I let loose with my words it would be more viral than their sneezes.

Did you ever turn the corner at the grocery store only to run into someone who speaks thisclose in your face? " 'scuse me, hack-hack-hack, do you know where the cold medicine is?" I mean, really!

I was in the toy aisle when a woman coming directly towards me, and not two feet away
bellowed at my eye level for her kids ... out of her mouth into mine. Yuck!

I used to smile, be friendly and speak, you know...'tis the season and all that. But now, when I see someone approaching, I turn my head, and exhale through my nose until we pass.

I've had to swallow enough of my own words over my life time. I am not about to start eating other people's.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I had a vision

I embarrass myself!

A couple years ago I went to the ophthalmologist and received a good report. She asked if the Dollar Store reading glasses were still doing the trick, and approved their use. I didn't admit that I have two pairs, one for reading small print and one for watching TV.

Last evening I awoke from my three hour! nap on the couch with my TV specs perched cockeyed on my nose. I proceeded in a trance-like state to the bathroom, the dim motion light barely illuminated the room. I sat down, looked down and screamed like a banshee. I reached for a magazine and beat the heck out of a piece of black sock lint on the floor, then I looked at the wall and attacked the plug on the curling iron (the cord had unraveled and was hanging off a shelf).

Perhaps I had the wrong pair of readers on. Perhaps it's the dreaded winter doldrums that causes these sleep-induced panics. When the sun goes down, so do I. No wonder I wake up refreshed at 4:00 a.m.

Now that I am bright-eyed, let me tell you about a call for submissions. Go HERE to read an interesting interview with Rhonda Penders, Editor-in-Chief of Wild Rose Publishing. She gives a thorough breakdown of the many romance sub-genres they publish, everything from short-story to novel length; hot and steamy to sweet, sweaty and sticky (implied sex); to hot and bothered (explicit); and everything in between. Put your "readers" on and get to it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How about you, front or back

of a book, a football player, a dress, yourself?

Usually The Front. I purchased Mama Makes Up Her Mind and other Dangers of Southern Living, by Bailey White. The picture of a cute cottage with vintage car parked ON THE PORCH along with a bathtub and rocking chair made me chuckle. I read the first paragraph of the back blurb and gave the book a thumbs up. I got home and began reading. Bailey has the writing style of Flannery O'Conner and Fannie Flagg, which I like. It was an easy read, but I kept getting frustrated at the end of each chapter. There was no continuity into the next chapter. I must be a slow learner, because I was on page 48 before I flipped the book over and read the entire back cover blurb. "Bailey White's indelible VIGNETTES of Southern eccentricity..." well, Duh!

I've done a whole lot of football watching since Thursday. So uhmm, ladies, you all know it's The Back. Unless it is my nine year old football playing grandson I'm watching, and then it's The Front because he has the cutest face.
Ahh, if only Spandex pants did for my hiney what they do for those pro jock tight ends.

Dresses: The Front
Saw some of the cutest dresses this weekend. They MUST drape across my midsection ... uhm, Okay, my midriff bulge, an old woman's version of a young girl's "muffin top". I found several that I thought did the trick, and then I looked in the mirror to discover buttons, zippers and puckers in the wrong places in the back. I walked out of the dressing room and saw an old friend from many years ago. "How are you doing?" I asked.

"Getting older, wiser and fatter," she said with a smile.

"I still think of myself as when we were young. I have this image of how I will look in these dresses. Then, I try them on and get my real age come-uppance in that dressing room mirror," I complained.

She rubbed her belly and said, "Me too. Enjoy the holidays."

I patted my belly and said, "Yep, going home to finish the pie."

"See you round," I said and headed down the aisle. From a distance you couldn't tell if I was coming or going.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I ask for your forgiveness before you read this

Bill slept with his ex-wife for nearly twenty-two years. I am embarrassed beyond words to tell you that I have slept with her, too. Let me lay it out for you.
On Thanksgiving, Bill's daughter invited her sister's family and her parents to her home for dinner. We sat around and watched big-screen football games.

Bill's ex-wife and I complained that we don't get it anymore.

We ate a big dinner.

She and I, elbow to elbow, washed and dried the dishes.

And then everyone else, five kids and six adults went to the diningroom to play Phase 10, a long-lasting, noisy card game.

That is when it happened. She and I were alone in the living room and ...

Bill's ex-wife and I slept together.
Bill's ex-wife and I slept, together.
Bill's ex-wife and I slept, together, after Thanksgiving dinner.
Bill's ex-wife and I slept, together, after Thanksgiving dinner, in the livingroom.
Bill's ex-wife and I slept, together, after Thanksgiving dinner, in the livingroom, on separate couches.

And now it is a scandal; someone took a picture of us, curled up, together, after Thanksgiving dinner, in the livingroom, on separate couches.

She is a very nice woman and we get along well. (No offense intended.)

There you have it.
The moral of my story: use your commas, and be careful of tabloid headings, unless you are trying to reel your reader in, and then you'd better be careful that you can pull it off, or you might tick them off. See what I mean?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving, circa 1969

On this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for my abundant blessings, and I am thankful for you, my blog friends.

I awoke at 3:30 a.m. this morning with Thanksgiving, 1969 on my mind. I was three months pregnant, a soldier's wife, living in a trailer the size of an old city bus, in Delta Junction, Alaska. It was a wilderness town, population 500, situated at the end of the Alcan Highway. We received Down the Road Pay, an extra monthly stipend of about forty dollars because we lived off post in a hostile environment. No, we didn't have to dodge bullets like the soldiers in Viet Nam, but danger lurked and our enemy was the extreme climate, fifty below zero degrees with unbelievably strong winds. Caribou, moose, a herd of buffalo and an occasional bear roamed freely.

Winter sunrise occurred about 8:00 a.m. and illuminated the town with a forty watt glow. Pitch dark enveloped the town by 2:30 p.m. There were no porch lights and no street lamps, like back home. Walking outside on a clear moonlit night was literally breathtaking; our exhaled breath crystallized. The stars looked so close it seemed I could reach up and pluck one. The aurora borealis spilled pastel streaks across the sky. But on cloudy nights, (3:00 p.m.) when I walked outside, my visibility was zero. I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face. I could hear and feel the thundering from the herd of wild buffalo tramping down our gravel road.

I stayed inside and watched either PBS, Public Broadcast Station or AFS, the Armed Forces Station. I viewed a lot of Sesame Street, a brand new childrens' educational program, and when I tired of that, I watched army reels. At 6:00 p.m. we were able to watch the NEWS, live from a local TV station in Fairbanks, 100 miles away. The male reporters were often caught licking their hands and smoothing their hair -talk about Candid Camera! Then Walter Cronkite would report the nightly world news. The only problem was, it was the news from the night before. There was a twenty-four hour delay because the newsreels had to be flown in from Seattle each day.

Thanksgiving, 1969 was one for the books. Every military family living off post had difficulty stretching their paychecks 30 days. We all ran out of something by the last week of the month. Often we didn't have six cents for a postage stamp to write home.

The day before, I'd purchased a roasting hen and stuffing at Diehl's, a general store, bookended by a tiny post office and bank. At 10:00 a.m. I put the chicken in the tiny oven and sat down to write a letter.

Dear Mom,
Happy Thanksgiving. As I look out the window I see an older Eskimo couple in their mid-forties walking down the road wearing parkas. They are arguing loudly in their native language. Most of the people around here are transient young military couples, and most of the wives are in various stages of pregnancy. This native couple must live nearby. I see them frequently, and he is always verbally abusive to her. I should invite them in for Thanksgiving dinner, but I know you'd lecture me about strangers. I've invited Bob and Karen from down at the end of the road. I like her, but her husband is more hot-tempered than mine. Have to go baste the bird ...

That's when my Thanksgiving took a turn for the worse. I opened the oven, anticipating the blast of warm air, but the oven was cold and the bird uncooked. My former husband and I pooled our pocket change, and came up with ninety-four cents. We scrounged around the couch, searched high and low and found three more pennies. He unscrewed the small propane tank (which fueled the cook stove) attached to the front of the trailer, and we headed up the road to the gas station. It cost $3.00 to refuel the tank, but my Ex explained the situation to the attendant, asked if he could purchase a dollar's worth of propane, and promised to pay him the three pennies later. The man filled the tank, and said, "Happy Thanksgiving, kids. Come see me on payday."

As we sat down with friends to a delicious chicken dinner, I said a long-winded prayer.

Forty-two years later, my kids and grandkids are scattered in all directions, visiting relatives. I will join Bill's children and grandchildren this afternoon and send up a prayer of Thanksgiving for good health, a good husband, good kids, good grandkids,and good gravy, because Robin makes the best!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

They THINK they are just playing


Nicole and Daniel in front of the tee-pee which they decorated. They are ready for a bear or buffalo hunt. They shot the nerf bow and arrow at turkey, bear and buffalo targets. If a messy desk is a sign of brilliance, well, please disregard the messy classroom. It is the end of the month and we collect a lot of clutter. Oh, but experiential, hands-on learning is so much fun and is developmentally appropriate. Little children should be moving and exploring, not sitting at a desk doing paper/pencil work.

Creative dramatics, Nicole and Nina rowing downriver. All we needed was a box, cardboard oars, and a blue sheet. The boys insisted on fishing poles. We also sat on carpet samples, paddled our canoes and 'tipped them over', that is, WE tipped our bodies backwards and spilled out. You should have heard the gleeful laughter.

I believe that literacy is one of the greatest gifts that we can give children, and so, I encourage story telling. Parents read aloud and the kids see their words in print. If you can enlarge it, read Daniel's to the left, on blue paper.

We are great story tellers, as were the Native Americans. You can certainly see which stories were dictated by the three year olds and those that were told by the four-five year olds. The 4's & 5's chose their Native American's Name by using their imagination. They closed their eyes, pretended they were in their Tee-pee (tipi) and peeked out. The first thing they 'saw' was what they named their main character. They also examined buffalo and bear pelts borrowed from the Department of Conservation. They learned how every part of the animal was used for food, clothing, bedding, shelter, etc. their parents were amazed at the facts they told THEM.

Albuqurque the Turkey targets many areas of learning.
Speech: we touch our throats to learn where the "Q" sound comes from, and we touch our mouths when we say the "T" sound. Otherwise they call it AlbuTurkey.
Finger strengthening: twisting tissue paper
Cooperation: working alongside a classmate
Empathy and generosity: the children help STUFF the food into the box and learn about donating to the needy (those who need it but do not have it).

The children think they are just playing, but sticking feathers in styrofoam develops and strengthens small muscles in the fingers/hands which children use when printing. Some of these had turkey heads. We also laid on the floor and blew feathers, stood and caught (the snipped off top, soft part) them as they drifted down, staying focused and in control :)

When people ask me what I do, I reply, "I teach preschoolers."
When they say, "Oh, you babysit," I want to bring them to my classroom for one day.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Did you ever shake the box to reveal the gift?

Christmas Surprise (100 words)

"I don't need nor want a new stove," Mom insisted when she came home and saw the appliance box in her small kitchen.

"Be nice. I'll call Johnny long distance. He sent me the money to buy you a new stove. We both went to great lengths to surprise you."

I dialed my brother who lived in Nevada. "Mom wants to say thanks for her present."

"Hi Mom, do you like the color?"

She frowned, stretched the phone cord, opened the box. My brother popped up with the extension phone. Her son in the box was her favorite Christmas present.
Check it out. If you can do it in 100 words, and your entry is chosen, you could win a $25 gift card.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Things are not always as they seem

I babysat Nicole for a couple hours while her dad and brother went to football practice and her mom went to school. She played with her little mermaid Polly Pockets.

"Nana, help me get her dress on."

Dressing those rubber mini dolls in rubber clothes is worse than stuffing that big-boobed Barbie in a too tight dress.

She came into the living room and snuggled with me under a warm blanket. We searched TV for something child-appropriate. No such thing at 7:30 p.m. So I turned on reruns of The Waltons. FYI, it wasn't all Utopia on Walton's Mountain. In this episode the preacher found one of the red haired sons in a road house (bar). Pa Walton, after being struck by lightning, walked into church, and then got up and walked out on a fire and brim stone, circuit riding preacher.

The Waltons all had their problems, just like modern day families do. Mama Walton not only had to put up with living with her in-laws, but she had to feed, clothe, referee and care for her brood, not to mention deal with a husband who wanted no part of religion and refused to attend church.

The entire town turned out for the annual revival and baptism. Pa steadfastly refused to take part. He said there was nobody going to shout at him to save his soul; he already believed in God, and no amount of river dunking was going to change the way he already believed.

I watched those stair-step Walton kids walk into that river one after another and get fully immersed as the preacher pronounced their souls saved. A song from my childhood, Shall We Gather at the River was being sung by all. Dang! That preacher held those kids under way too long as he invoked the Trinity.

I got to thinking on this cold night about how warm the ocean feels. I was lulled by the memories of floating at Maegan's Bay in the Bahamas. I could actually feel the warmth, and the wetness, and the heat. And then I realized, Nicole had fallen asleep and had just "baptized" me.

I am praying that I can save my sofa. First, I am going to immerse myself.

Hamming it up

The Pigs Took the Cake!

My wedding date coincided with my best friend’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We decided to repeat our vows together; she and her husband would renew their vows at my small, second wedding.

Brides go to great lengths to select the perfect wedding cake and topper. I am not a professional cake decorator, but every birthday cake I’d ever baked for my grandchildren had received rave reviews. How difficult could it be, I reasoned, to make my own small, three-tiered wedding cake? It actually turned out quite beautifully. I chose a unique and most appropriate ceramic figurine topper: bride and groom porkers smooching. Yes, pigs!

The reason for my selection began five years before when my best friend, who had been my former next door neighbor in Alaska, came for a visit. We had so much catching up to do. I couldn’t wait to introduce my fiancée and my best friend to one another. Even though twenty years had passed, it was as though we’d never been apart.

We visited tourist attractions. At one of our town’s animal sanctuaries, she saw her first pot-bellied pig and fell in love with it. Her obsession with that paunchy sow became the topic of every letter and phone call when she returned home.

“How’s my pig? When are you going to send me one?” We sent her pig photos, but in each letter she jokingly begged for the real thing.

My fiancée, with his warped sense of humor, decided to grant her wish. He called to tell her that her pig was on the way. He went to the pet store and purchased rawhide pig ears for her dog to chew, pickled pig’s feet in a jar and pork rinds in a bag. This went on and on until the two of them were swapping ceramic pig figurines for every occasion and no reason at all. His office study soon looked like hog heaven with decorative wooden shelves on each wall lined with miniature swine of every kind. One pig sat in a rocker reading the New York Times; another stood on a scale with an ice cream cone in hand, a reminder that our favorite vice is ice cream. Then a bikini clad pig with sunburned buns arrived after our beach vacation. She sent the pig in the hammock when we returned from Cancun where we’d taken daily siestas in hammocks. Each pig she sent had particular significance.

On the day of our mutual weddings, my friend admired the three individual cake layers on my kitchen table. She laughed aloud at my choice of cake topper, in honor of her “pig.” We drove the cakes to the reception hall. I stacked the three layers which were positioned on thin wooden dowels. As the wedding music began, she and her husband, and my fiancée and I walked down the white silken carpet runner and took our places in front of the pastor.

Standing with my husband on one side and my best friend on the other, we sealed our friendship with hilarity that April afternoon. The four of us had no sooner said, “I do”; “I do”; “I do”; “I do,” when I glanced over at the cake. Horrified, I whispered in my friend’s ear, “I do not believe it!” The minister solemnly continued to speak. We had to stifle our giggles when the middle cake tier collapsed. The pigs on the top layer tumbled … icing on the cake of our life-long friendship. Usually it’s the bride that steals the show, but at our wedding, even though there were two brides, it was the pigs that took the cake!

Published in Patchwork Path, Wedding Bouquet

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I wake each day with a prayer. This morning I had so many prayer requests and so much gratitude on my mind, I fell back asleep and woke up with a song on my lips not even related to the requests. I wonder if God feels as overwhelmed with all the major and minor problems. I often think my piddly problems are a nusiance.

I sometimes just ask His angels to guide and guard my kids, grandkids and friends in need. I think this is as direct a line to heaven, especially if you believe that each of us has a guardian angel.

Case in point, last evening my daughter had car troubles, and her husband was gone. She called Auto Zone who advised, but could not do diagnostics on a car in her driveway. She asked if they knew of a nearby auto mechanic. She telephoned the person they reccomended in her small town. He offered to stop by her house on his way home. That in itself is way beyond the call of duty. He looked at my daughter with surprise and she recognized him, but she couldn't quite place where she knew him from.

He said, "Years ago, you lived on my road, and you found my lost Great Pyerenes and you kept him for days and fed him, and then you found me! This is the least I can do for you."

The car ended up being a minor problem, but in a very big way, I know the angels were at work yesterday, for I do not believe in coincidence.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

For the birds

It is 77 degrees on Novemeber 13th, but the wind is gusting at 40 mph. It feels like springtime. I feel exhuberant, alive. The sunshine on my face warms me, the leaves letting go, floating and swirling, and the crunch beneath my feet are as good as chocolate in my mouth. Imagine my surprise when hubby and I were hiking in a county park this morning and came upon this. Perhaps some summer campers did it, maybe it is a neighbor child's gift to the birds. Whatever, it made me smile. It made my day! Little things do that for me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Memoir can be difficult to share

I was relcutant to read an excerpt from my incomplete memoir at Open Mike. I was surprised by the reaction of the younger people. They were interested. I told the group of twenty-somethings that I am sometimes embarrassed to share personal details about my "nomad" dad and my childhood. They encouraged me to lay it out there. They are right.

Do not allow fear to hold you back. If you have a tale to tell, write it down. You can revise later. Sit down and free write. You may be surprised at what you find. Among all the junk in your life, you might find a nugget you can work up into a piece for publication. I did and you can too.

Traipsing Through the Decades
published in Tiny Lights, A Journal of Personal Narrative
by Linda O'Connell

Ahh, wanderlust! I inherited it from my father who had a third grade education and was functionally illiterate. He traveled wherever his wandering heart desired, and when he couldn't actually go someplace, he'd spin a yarn that kept adults and children spellbound with vivid details of people, places and things. His story telling was the catalyst for my writing.

Personal essay is my favorite writing genre. Writer's block is as painful as writer's cramp, but I have discovered that if I allow myself to travel into the past instead of plot a future story or article, I can write prolifically. Sometimes I am five years old smelling autumn leaves burning in the gutter and Grandma's homemade soup bubbling on the stove. Other times I find myself wandering into my children's childhoods. Remembering their baby days triggers a memory of nuzzling a newborn grandchild, and so it goes as I traipse through the decades.

Although I am planted in a chair in front of a computer, often I am walking across the tundra in Alaska where I left a little piece of my heart, or I am power walking on a beach listening to the ocean roar. I can almost feel the crunch of gravel underfoot as I stroll down Memory Lane with my best friend; and to feel lush grass on bare feet, all I have to do is kick off my shoes and allow my mind to wander. A short jaunt is all it takes to jog a memory. As I hop, skip and jump through the decades, I kick up dust-covered memories that result in nostalgic personal essays or blog posts. It does a writer good to take a short jaunt every now and again.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's THIS Sunday!

Please come out for a while to support this great effort. Stay a short while or a long while. Meet the authors, listen to them read their work. Please repost this and tell others.

Storm Country release party and book signing $10 per book
All proceeds benefit Joplin tornado victims to replenish their library books.

Sunday, November 13 • 7:00pm - 9:30pm

Regional Arts Commission
6128 Delmar Boulevard St. Louis, MO

Authors will read from their work and discuss their contributions to the anthology. Some of the authors scheduled to read include: Elaine Viets, Linda Austin, Lynn Obermoeller, Linda O'Connell, Donna Volkenannt, Anene Tressler-Hauschultz, Kelli Allen, Bill Hopkins, and others. Event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided by the Missouri Writers Guild.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wear your words wisely

Usually on Fridays, we go to a nearby buffet because I like the catfish. They also serve breakfast on weekends but we had never eaten there.

Sunday morning we drove past the new International House of Pancakes because there were picketers stringing a parking lot-length banner which stated SHAME ON IHOP. It was probably a union dispute, but how do I know they weren't putting a forbidden ingredient in their pancakes and omelets?

We drove to Denny's for their advertised Grand Slam Breakfast: two of everything, eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes. The line looked like Noah's Ark, two by two out the door.

We decided to try Golden Corral, the trough food place. I am a people watcher. I couldn't believe how crowded that place was, how overweight 99% of the diners were, and how delicious the maple flavored 1/2 slices of bacon were.

After our meal we sat and sipped another cup of coffee so I could take written notes. Some folks were dressed to the hilt and obviously had come from church. They wore glitzy dresses, sparkly shirts and suits.

Some people in their twenties, I'd bet money on, couldn't even spell the names of the universities embroidered across their sweatshirts.(Goodwill sometimes has good sales.)

Most teens wore product advertisements; branded with logos and company names. Unlike my kids who had to wear mix and match Garanimals until they were thirteen, these kids wore names of Fortune Five Hundred Companies. I'll bet none of the CEOs were stuffing their faces at a buffet.

Younger children wore T shirts with wisecracks printed on them.
What are you looking at?
If You're Looking for Trouble, Here I am!
I'm With Stupid. (That kid was being held in his seventeen year old dad's arms.)

As I looked around I noticed pretty teenage girls wearing granny skirts and ugly oxfords, not so pretty grannies wearing mini skirts and high heel shoes sporting an assortment of spindle legs, plump stumps, and turkey drumstick-shaped varicose-veined gams.

Males and females wore their affiliations and fondesses on their bodies in the form of art, tattooes ie: needles and ink, no thank you. I'm not one to judge; each to his own. I just know that no one is etching my neck, arms or legs. Not to mention other parts of one's body that I prefer to cover, unlike one gal who preferred to show her proud purchase off.

Emblazoned across her chest flesh, well let's be honest, breasts, was the word BEAUTIFUL.

I almost choked on my coffee when my husband said to me, "Hey, Beautiful, you ready to go?"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good news for all writers

I have more great news, some about me and some just for you! The editor at Sasee Magazine accepted my Christmas story for the December issue. It is a holiday story near and dear to my heart about my children. I will link to it here on my blog in a few weeks.

The great news for you is PROFESSIONAL, EXPERIENCED, MULTI-PUBLISHED WRITER, Jennifer Brown Banks is launching her writer's service. See details for the wealth of information she has to share. Jennifer is Managing Editor of Coffeehouse for Writers. Why not sit down, sip a cup of your favorite java and learn from Jen? She knows her stuff! I discovered an article penned by her in a writer's magazine about breaking all the rules. I have followed her wonderful advice ever since, and here I am today, prospering, multi-published in many genres. No wonder her blog is titled PEN AND PROSPER! (click on it for the link)

I received this email from Jennifer, and I am passing it on to you. Will you please pass it on to others?

From: Jennifer Brown Banks


You work hard for your money. Your money should work hard for you.
Which is why I'm pleased to announce a service that will save you time, money, and mental wear and tear.

I'm proud to announce JEN'S VIP CLUB.

If you like my Blog, you'll love my club!

Let me put the benefit of over 10 years of professional publishing, (and connections with others in the industry) to work for you!

For the price of a trip to Starbucks, here's what your membership provides:


...And more!

For 1 month the cost is just 7 bucks!
Join for 2 months or more, and the savings are even greater.
Not satisfied? Cancel at anytime.

Act now. The first 12 members will receive a free gift!

See the details and pay on line by clicking the BUTTON under followers at my Blog.

I can't wait to share what I have for you!
Discover the benefits of being connected... today.



Jennifer Brown Banks

Veteran freelance writer, Columnist, Pro Blogger
Managing Editor, Coffeehouse for Writers

Monday, November 7, 2011

This chickie is clucking!

I am so excited. I just signed TWO more Chicken Soup for the Soul preliminary contracts, Messages from Heaven and the Married Life . I am hopeful but realistic. I know that rejection can occur thirty days before the publication release date. If these stories are accepted, that will be fifteen (15) Chicken Soup for the Soul books my stories will appear in. I feel very blessed to have the ability to write a compelling, often humorous and or inspirational story.
This Sunday evening 7-9
Regional Arts Commission on Delmar
Storm Country, an anthology $10.00

I am joining Elaine Viets and other contributing writers who have been published in Storm Country, an anthology.

Deb Marshall, Kelli Allen, Dianna Graveman will also be on hand. All proceeds will be donated to Joplin tornado victims to replenish their libraries. Please spread the word. This is not about the contributors. It is a benefit for the people of Joplin.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Trick or Treat, or the joke's on you!

Last night we went to a belated, outdoor Halloween party. The weather was chilly, about 55 degrees, but there was a fire and a heater. There was also Karaoke, too much food, and lots of fun.

I wore my striped black and yellow, long sleeve pullover with black pants, and pinned a stuffed bee to my shirt. I went as BIG "B" and Little "B". Hubby wasn't about to wear an elaborate costume, and even insisted he would only wear a T shirt with a slogan.

I convinced him I would make him a costume that he could slip over his head and take off soon after we arrived. Bought a yellow disposable table cloth from the Dollar Store and cut out a bee pattern, drew some lopsided stripes. He tried it on and said, "I look like a wood bee."

"That's it! You are going as a Would Bee."

He had so much fun telling everyone, "I WOULD Be thinner if it weren't for my honey. I WOULD BE happier at the beach. I WOULD be ... "

He thought his jokes were hilarious because everyone laughed ...

when he walked away!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Give me a little hug, won't you, huh?

Every person needs a daily dose. It has no monetary value. It is one of the most beneficial things in life; it is affirming, healing and transfers energy from one person to the other. It is a hug.

Four year old Nicole was over last night for a couple hours. She and I drew pretty designs on paper plates. Then she snipped the edges.

She played 'family' with three dolls. A big rubber boy doll (wearing her daddy's baby clothes) for Paw-paw, a chatty pull-the-string-doll for me (hmmm) and a Baby Beautiful baby doll for herself. She named them and gave them personality traits.

Paw-paw Bill being the male that he is, held the doll for a moment, and then he chased her, played monster, teased her etc. She would run to me with open arms shouting, "Hold me, Nana!" Then she'd yell, "Do it again, Paw-paw!"

She knew her safety zone was in my arms. How often we go through life unable to say, "Hold me." or "Hug me."

Later as she was snuggled with me in a blanket on the couch, she jumped up unexpectedly, ran over to Paw-paw, laid her head in his lap, wrapped her little arms around him and said, "I love you Paw-Paw Bill, let me hug YOU."
She sat on his lap and they snuggled for a while.

I think I disagree with my previous statement that there is no monetary value to a hug. Sometimes a hug is worth a million bucks.

When you are in the midst of a heated discussion with anyone of any age, and one of you says, "Stop that right now!" It is almost impossible to immediately switch gears. Human beings reason with emotions first and logic second. It requires a powerful shift in our emotional state to turn off what is bothering us. BUT...a hug first can lead to peaceful resolution.

Today, won't you give away one smile and one hug? The energy spent will be returned. Know that God loves you, and His door is always open even if yours isn't. He believes in you even if you don't believe in Him. My personal belief is, one God, one earth, many religions. HUGS to all of you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Stretch your imagination

When young children color on a flat service, they work different hand/finger muscles hand down, than they do with the hand up. I mount foam peg boards or puzzles and table toys on walls, ends of book cases etc, so children can exercise the area between index finger and thumb. When this area is strengthened it is easier to grasp a writing instrument.

Geo Boards are great manipulatives. Usually they are table top toys. Children stretch rubberbands between pegs to make different shapes. My approach is a bit different. I used a large sheet of cardboard, hot glued the center of buttons in three sizes, and added some happy face stickers. I glued a box on the bottom filled with colorful rubberbands and I mounted the entire contraption on the door with clothespins (the glue pops right off). Children stretch rubberbands to make designs. They use this game during free play; it is a self-directed activity and they play cooperatively, believe it or not.

Easy to make for pre K and elementary classrooms. Imagine the joy on your child's or grandchild's face if they were to come home and find one of these propped up against a wall or mounted to a door.

With a little imagination and few discards or reasonably priced items, you could be the star where you are!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Can you say OUCH?

It's that time of year for me again.

Ladies, be vigilant and get your

Mammy Whammy

“Disrobe,” said 20 something
“waist-up completely bare.”
I removed my shirt & bra
and awkwardly stood there.

“Point your toes now forward,
twist your body right this way.”
Maybe ten years ago,
but I can’t move like that today.

She lifted Mopsie and Flopsie,
manipulated my chest,
depressed that boob smasher
and said, “Honey, hold your breath.”

“All done now. Take those with you.”
She joked and continued to yap.
“Don’t worry,” I said sarcastically,
“I’m not leaving either one of these
flatsos in your booby trap.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

My former husband, an auto mechanic knew his stuff about cars. However, he had a disposition that I referred to as mechanic's mentality: lug nut, crank shaft, hammering piston, boiling radiator, speedometer in the red zone. We were like fire and fuel, and I admit, my mouth fanned the flames.

We lived in a brick house, in a middle class working neighborhood, on a one way street. The neighbors on either side of us were aging and had been long-time residents. The retired immigrants who lived to the right, kept their property immaculate. They were what was referred to as Scrubby Dutch. The missus would come out every Saturday morning with a bucket of steaming sudsy water and scrub the white marble stoop, four steps, and the porch. The mister would mow his lawn closer than a young man's crew cut. Often we found a big fat swath cut from our grass. This hint-indicator irritated the mechanic as he only mowed on weekends.

The retired white-haired couple on the left were an odd couple. He was mild mannered and soft-spoken; she towered over him figuratively and literally. Both sets of neighbors were friendly, but they knew that the mechanic was usually one spark plug away from firing off an opinion.

One Halloween, our daughter and son wanted to make a scarecrow. They wadded up newspaper and stuffed a pair of their dad's blue jeans, a red, plaid, flannel shirt and a pair of my discarded suntan colored panty hose which we used for the scarecrow's head and arms. I drew on facial features and added a mustache and a cap. We propped him outside on a chair on the porch and added a pair of work boots. Eight year old Jason, asked if he could give the scarecrow his rifle. Why not? I placed that rifle in the life-sized scarecrow's "hands" and took a photo of our masterpiece.

I saw the neighbors to the left drive up. I stood inside the open door and listened. I couldn't wait to hear their reaction. They did not park, they sped past the house, not once, but twice. The third time, they parked in the alley. I peeked out and saw them hunched over creeping quickly to their back door. I wondered what they were up to.

The next day, I was in the back yard with Dusty, our spaniel-mix, when the neighbor man walked out with Fee-Fee, his white toy poodle.

"How'd you like our scarecrow?"

"Well, to tell you the truth, yesterday when we came home, I started to park in front of the house when I saw your husband on the porch, wide-eyed, looking like he was about to go off half cocked with that rifle in his hands. I drove around a couple times, then decided to sneak through the back door. My wife looked out at him a time or two, and then we realized it was a dummy."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Out of grief came joy

Did you ever sew something with a loose, temporary stitch and then forget about it?
Pull a thread and unravel a hem?

That is what it felt like for me yesterday. So many years have passed since my childhood, since the day I sat at my grandma's table on my Uncle Frankie's lap. He was in his late teens, had a full head of thick, wavy hair. He tried to get me (a preschooler) to eat my chicken noodle soup. He held the spoon in front of me and told me to look away. Then he ate it. After that, it became our game, everytime HE looked away, I gulped "his" spoonful of soup.

He was my mom's younger brother and the only boy among five sisters. Spoiled? Yeah.

We didn't have too much interaction, but I do remember that he gave my dad his old Studebaker when we needed a car; he came to my mom's rescue a time or two, and when he was in his forties and bald, he decided what he wanted to be when he grew up. He became a police officer. He made the rank of lieutenant. He had odd pets, a pot bellied pig and a "depewed" skunk.

He visited me and my family at my home a time or two after I married. My kids were little but they remember him tooling around in a little red MG, experiencing his midlife crisis, probably.

I saw him at Christmas once at Grandma's but our family did not have a close bond. Everytime I tried to take a snapshot he'd cover his face, to keep from having his picture taken.

I spoke to him on the phone a year ago. He said he needed to have an artery opened, and after he got over his painful case of Shingles, he would probably have the procedure. He chickened out and his heart gave out.

In so many ways he made his family proud. He raised three step daughters, but he harbored a shameful secret. He had two children, a boy and a girl from his first marriage, and he was estranged from them. I felt sorry for my cousins whom I barely knew. I always wondered about them, especially after I had a granddaughter whose father abandoned her at birth. That kind of pain is searing.

Yesterday at my uncle's memorial service, I met my cousin, Brenda, and her daughter. We shared a common memory, our grandmother used to stuff us with cookies, although we were never at her house at the same time, that we can remember. As I shared my memories with Brenda about her mom and grandma, I felt as if I was hand stitching pieces of a patchwork quilt together with very large stitches, connecting our memories, as we hurried to wrap it up. Someone pointed her out to me at the conclusion of my uncle's memorial service. I gave her my business card. I hope I hear from her.

Clarence, my uncle's lifelong best friend, almost eighty, grew up on the same street as my mom and her siblings. Once this cracker jack joker started talking, it was as if he'd tugged at a loose thread and let out a hem on my old coat. Memories flooded from him to me as he told me things about my father and mother and grandma that made me laugh, cringe, frown and smile.

Out of sadness and grief came joy, a reconciliation of spirit even if we never see one another again. For a brief hour, I was three, my dad and mom were young; I could hear my grandmother's voice, and after half a century I finally hugged my long lost cousin, Brenda, who seems to be doing well.