Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's all in a name

My granddaughter works the front desk at a rural hospital. She saw a new mom being released with her newborn, and they conversed while she waited for her ride. Ashley asked what the baby's name was and the young girl said, "I finally just decided on a name a few minutes ago. I named her Podj-jah-mah."

Ashley asked, "Oh, is that French?"

The girl replied, "I don't know, I saw it written on one of the cabinet doors, and I liked the way it sounded."

The quiet, older, very dignified woman who works with Ashley turned around and almost choked when she realized what the young mother had named her baby.

When the new mom left, Ashley's coworker stood up, slapped her desk and roared, "Ashley, she named the baby PA-JA-MA. Pajama!"

I laughed; I cringed; I pitied the young mother, but think of what that poor baby will have to deal with.

Now, here's something for you writers to deal with. All of us have a story to tell.
Glass Woman Prize
Deadline: September 21, 2011

“The Tenth Glass Woman Prize will be awarded for a work of short fiction or creative non-fiction (prose) written by a woman. Length: between 50 and 5,000 words. The top prize for the tenth Glass Woman Prize award is US $500 and possible (but not obligatory) online publication; there will also be one runner up prize of $100 and one runner up prize of $50, together with possible (but not obligatory) online publication. Subject is open, but must be of significance to women. The criterion is passion, excellence, and authenticity in the woman’s writing voice. Previously published work and simultaneous submissions are OK. Authors retain all copyright is retained by the author.”

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you

I'm back! Two and a half weeks of beach vacation, what a treat! I am satiated. I've had enough salt water, an abundance of good food, wonderful weather (one day of rain)and I've left miles of footprints on several beaches.

On our way to Florida, we stopped in Georgia so that I could meet three of my blog buddies, Cathy, Debra and Lisa. I then realized there were so many more who live in the Atlanta area. Sorry I missed some of you.

I no sooner opened the restaurant door, and I could hear the slap-slap-slap of footsteps as Cathy C. (funny girl) Hall came running towards me and grabbed me in a bear hug. Lisa was next in the welcome line, and Deb, a home schooler was sweet and somewhat reserved. It felt like I had known these women all of my life. We laughed, exchanged gifts, and swapped stories, and laughed, and teased and laughed, and took pictures. My hubby pulled a chair up to the booth and added to the conversation.

"We travel well together. She doesn't say too much. But you should see her sign language. Usually I know that this means slow down, back off, get over...but when she nearly stood up with her seat belt on and flapped her arms wildly..."
He had everyone laughing.

It is really a good thing I do not live closer. You all know, I would be an instigator in getting us all in messes. I wish I could have spent more time. But memories of a lifetime can be made in a moment. This was one of the best half hours of my vacation.

Note: Cathy on a stick travels far and wide and has lots of experiences.

Note: I look like a big fat cardboard cut out, like Flat Stanley compared to these tiny women. That's it, next time you see me there will be a twenty pound difference, ten pounds either way :)

My next post will be on the topic of what I learned about writing while I was at the beach. And no, I didn't do one iota of writing, other than jotting ideas.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

bye-bye blog...maybe baby, we'll see

Found a wonderful store in Florida, Ross for Less, which we do not have in St. Louis. Poor hubby and several other hubbies sat up front and chatted for a couple hours while we women oohed and ahhed at the bargain racks.

Played in the ocean at Ft. Lauderdale Beach, collected interesting seashells.

Interesting people on the beach and in this town and hotel. Lots of writing material anyway. Made Bill drive me into rush hour traffic to a 7-11 store to buy a piece of chicken for a starving cat that wondered out by the hotel pool. I have a good hubby.

As we were driving down the highway, we saw an Amish father and three young sons wearing straw hats, stopped on an overpass in a horse drawn, flat bed wagon. The boys were thrilled and waved when a car honked at them, so of course, we made their day. Sort of reminded me of years ago, when we were on vacation and my kids indicated to the truckers to honk. The truckers would blast that air horn and scare me half to death while the kids fist pumped and laughed uproariously.

Life is good, the weather hot and sunny, skies are blue. I am going to relax and see if I can stay away from this blog thing for a few days. I know I will have withdrawls. Talk to you all in a few days.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Po-poe-poetry? Breathe deeply...

Poetry? Me? Now way! Long gone were the days when I poured my angst onto paper. But when I heard a well-known local poet read his prose-poetry/free verse, I knew for sure, if that was poetry, I could do it.

I had submitted an essay to my critque group which did not garner the responses I had hoped for. I went home, cut the essay in half and the next week I submitted it in the form of a poem. The comments made me realize that I was on to something.

"This sounds like the essay you read last week, but this poem is so much stronger and visual."

That's the key. Eliminate flowery description and get to the meat. You can still show emotion without over talking. If this sounds scary to you, try writing a 100 word paragraph. Okay, do not fear if brevity is not your thing. It might be two hundred words when you begin, but figure out a way to cut it in half, and THEN put those 100 words into poem layout. Simply write from your heart on a topic of importance to you.

Let me know if you were successful and if you were as impressed with your poetry as I was with mine the first time I tried this. I have won many poetry contests. Perhaps you will too.
Feel free to post your poem here with your blog link and share with others, if you'd like.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

blog buddies

I had SO much fun in Atlanta visiting my blog buddies, 'Grasshopper", Cathy C. Hall, and "Buttercup", Lisa Claro Ricard, and Deb Mayhew, a homeschooler and writer, what a busy group of ladies. They were all so funny and fun and we laughed and joked and it made me realize how genuinely we ARE connected if only through a computer. It was as though we knew each other for years.

Beach day tomorrow. Long drive and thunderstorms today. Full from dinner and I'm going to unwind and read, because no matter which of us is in the driver's seat, the other has his or her nerves in knots :) I need to relax, because well, when I say, "lOOK! There is our turn," he says, "My GPS says..." and then we have to swing a U turn. But I keep my lips clamped and let HER do all the talking. beach day tomorrow, did I tell you?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cute, kooky, kindred spirits: DEB, LISA, LINDA, CATHY...AND CATHY ON A STICK. So much fun meeting my blog buddies in person. Good thing we don't live closer, we could get into some messes. Sioux, I genuflected AND bowed. Pictures posted later. Becky, you will love them. Ladies, It was such a treat. HUGS

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

He showed us the way to go

We're heading South, be back in a while. Hope this year's vacation starts out better than the one a few years ago. True story. Leave comments, I will "check in" once in a while.

We reared four children with the mantra, plan ahead and always be prepared. But the year we officially received the senior discount, we decided to chuck it all and travel without an itinerary. The only preparation was packing our suitcases. We agreed to be free old spirits wending our way South, the same direction our bodies and minds are heading.

While the sun was still teetering in the west, and before evening traffic died down on our busy four lane street, my husband drew the curtains, set the alarm and we settled in for a good night’s sleep in anticipation of our fifteen-hour drive to surf and sand and turquoise water. He began to snore soon after his head hit the pillow. I lay awake for hours thinking about our week-long Florida vacation.

The alarm blared like a fog horn and stirred me from my barely hour-long snooze. Oh well, I figured that I would sleep in the car. We sat in the living room and drank a cup of strong coffee, a caffeine kick to keep us awake, and then we were on our way.

Before my honey even started the engine, I realized I had forgotten something. Bill offered to go back inside and get the camera. When he returned he had a sarcastic tone to his voice.

“Were you going to leave the house unlocked the entire week? The back door was unlatched.”

Getting old has its discounts and advantages, but something as serious as forgetting to lock up the house is seriously a disadvantage. I apologized sleepily and we were on our way. As we backed out of our long driveway and turned onto the street, I shouted, “Stop!”

“Why’d you do that? I saw that rabbit!”

“Did you see our front door standing wide open?” I asked, finally wide-eyed. That is the door that YOU forgot to close and lock.”

After a hearty laugh we turned onto the interstate. I propped my pillow behind my head and fell into a fitful sleep. Every trucker’s air brakes blasted me awake.
The slightest swerve of the car caused my arms to flail like a newborn with startle reflex. My head swayed like a flag in the breeze and I finally gave up on sleeping.

We stopped briefly for meals and fuel, because hubby is driven to drive. We arrived in Clearwater, Florida late that evening. We both needed to stretch our locked-tight muscles, I was loopy from lack of sleep and Bill was exhausted from the long drive. We trailed a trolley making its way through the quaint little town.

Towering hotels dwarfed little retro Mom and Pop motels nestled up and down the strip. Marquees read “No Vacancy”. We located a two-story hotel sandwiched between high rise, big name hotels. The peeling pink exterior was as pale as the interior of a sea shell, and the trim was a muted mold-green. The only thing that attracted us was the neon sign in the window flashing, “Vacancy”. A hand-painted sign read: Eight Efficiency Apartments. There was no covered drive to wind through like those monster chain hotels. We pulled into the sandy parking area alongside a hitching post fence and gulped at the sight of the old building and turquoise water. We agreed it didn’t matter where we stayed, as long as we had the lapping ocean in our backyard and the beds were clean.

As we exited the car, we noticed two men ahead of us. One man had his open wallet in hand and the other toted a suitcase. We watched as they entered the sliding glass doors. The office appeared small, so we waited outside on the weathered wooden porch and gazed at the gulf waters as we waited our turn to register.

The salty ocean breeze and evening air enticed me, but I knew if I plopped down, I wouldn’t get back up. I watched the sun dip slowly towards the sea.

“What’s taking those guys so long?” my husband asked as he paced restlessly.

“Let’s just squeeze into the office.” I said and tugged on the door. It wouldn’t budge. The setting sun reflected off the glass. Bill cupped his hands and peered into the office. The door slowly slid open and one of the gentleman peered at us.

“Can I help you?”

“We would like a room too; been driving all day.”

“Did you want first floor?” the man asked.

“No,” I piped up. “We would like an upstairs apartment with a balcony

overlooking the water.”

“Well, you’ll need to register.”

“Okay, that’s what we’ve been waiting here to do.” Bill’s voice registered tired

and aggravated.

“At the reception desk,” the man said politely. We stepped forward to enter. The

man blocked the door. Bill took a step back and said, “Excuse me, sir; go right

ahead.” He waved his arm indicating that the man should exit.

“Sir, ma’am, uhm," he looked pained, "this is our apartment. You’re standing on

our deck. You’ll need to register at the office on the... other... side of the building.”

Then he showed us the way to go.

This stuff only happens to ME! I don't make it up; my life is a comedy or a tragedy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Work Out

A friend emailed this to me today.


This is dedicated to every woman who ever attempted to get into a regular workout routine.

Dear Diary,
For my birthday this year, my husband gave me a week of personal training at the local health club. Although I am still in great shape since being a high school football cheerleader 43 years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and give it a try. I called the club and made my reservations with a personal trainer named Christo, who identified himself as a 26-year-old aerobics instructor and model for athletic clothing and swim wear.

Friends seemed pleased with my enthusiasm to get started! The club encouraged me to keep a diary to chart my progress.
Started my day at 6:00 a.m. Tough to get out of bed, but found it was well worth it when I arrived at the health club to find Christo waiting for me. He is something of a Greek god-- with blond hair, dancing eyes, and a dazzling white smile. Woo Hoo!!
Christo gave me a tour and showed me the machines... I enjoyed watching the skillful way in which he conducted his aerobics class after my workout today. Very inspiring!
Christo was encouraging as I did my sit-ups, although my gut was already aching from holding it in the whole time he was around. This is going to be a FANTASTIC week!!
I drank a whole pot of coffee, but I finally made it out the door. Christo made me lie on my back and push a heavy iron bar into the air then he put weights on it! My legs were a little wobbly on the treadmill, but I made the full mile. His rewarding smile made it all worthwhile. I feel GREAT! It's a whole new life for me.

The only way I can brush my teeth is by laying the toothbrush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I believe I have a hernia in both pectorals. Driving was OK as long as I didn't try to steer or stop. I parked on top of a GEO in the club parking lot.

Christo was impatient with me,insisting that my screams bothered other club members.. His voice is a little too perky for that early in the morning and when he scolds, he gets this nasally whine that is VERY annoying.
My chest hurt when I got on the treadmill, so Christo put me on the stair monster. Why would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by elevators?

Christo told me it would help me get in shape and enjoy life. He said some other crap too.
Butt hole was waiting for me with his vampire-like teeth exposed as his thin, cruel lips were pulled back in a full snarl. I couldn't help being a half an hour late-- it took me that long to tie my shoes.
He took me to work out with dumbbells. When he was not looking, I ran and hid in the restroom. He sent some skinny witch to find me.
Then, as punishment, he put me on the rowing machine-- which I sank.
I hate that jackass Christo more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world. Stupid, skinny, anemic, anorexic, little aerobic instructor. If there was a part of my body I could move without unbearable pain, I would beat him with it.

Christo wanted me to work on my triceps. I don't have any triceps! And if you don't want dents in the floor, don't hand me the darn barbells or anything that weighs more than a sandwich.

The treadmill flung me off and I landed on a health and nutrition teacher. Why couldn't it have been someone softer, like the drama coach or the choir director?
Satan left a message on my answering machine in his grating, shrilly voice wondering why I did not show up today. Just hearing his voice made me want to smash the machine with my planner; however, I lacked the strength to even use the TV remote and ended up catching eleven straight hours of the Weather Channel..
I'm having the Church van pick me up for services today so I can go and thank GOD that this week is over. I will also pray that next year my husband will choose a gift for me that is fun-- like a root canal or a hysterectomy. I still say if God had wanted me to bend over, he would have sprinkled the floor with diamonds!!!

Playing with Paw-Paw

Nicole and Paw-Paw have a growly relationship. He 'arrhs' at her, and she glares back, points her finger and says, "No! Paw-Paw" Then she runs to me. She'll hug him good-bye, but mostly they tease each other.

She was visiting one day. I was on the computer and she was playing in the guest room with her toys. I heard giggling and 'voices' in the living room, and there sat hubby and Nicole engaged in imaginative play, he was Woody, and Nicole was Jessie (from Toy Story). They were acting SO silly, using different voices and playing. Made my heart swell with pride for this man I married.

There's a wall of fame in the office dedicated to Paw-Paw Bill. Each child's photo is framed with a comment or essay about why they love him. Nicole's comment: "He chases me and says, "Bwaaa-haaa-ha-ha." Now she can add, "He plays Woody and Jessie with me."

So, all this time I thought she was afraid of him. I would tell him, "Be NICE to her." She was engaging him.

When our oldest granddaughter (21) was Nicole's age, she would say, "Paw-Paw is my favorite kid." Yep! It's unanimous.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Unexpected surprise!

Read it and cheep! This 12"x18" basket is twelve inches deep and filled with pages and pages of my typed Chicken Soup for the Soul stories. Makes this sign so appropriate.
My friend, Lynn,sent me this plaque along with a hand written letter. Her penmanship is beautiful, and her taste impeccable. Having just received a contract from Chicken Soup, I had to laugh out loud when I unwrapped this cute plaque.

I am sad that in America our education system doesn't think it's important to be able to write in cursive, learn geography, essay writing ...oh don't get me going! It is letters such as Lynn's that make a person smile (she cracked me up), touch someone's heart, make you realize that practicing all those loops and lines and connecting letters we had to do in third grade was worth it.

I had coffee with Julia yesterday, and it is amazing how even though we see one another socially once or twice a year, we have a strong connection that goes beyond blogging.

I am heading out of state soon, passing through the town of two brilliant blog writing buddies whom I have never met, but feel a strong bond and kinship with. We are anxiously counting the days until we can laugh together in person.

Life has a way of dusting happiness on you when you least expect it. This plaque is one of those gifts I shall treasure, always. By the way, if you enjoy cooking, Lynn has three blogs! You should see her cupcakes... yes really, cupcakes.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I'm cackling happy!

I want to toot my horn and beat my drum, but that would be a bit premature. It took me a long time to understand that. Chicken Soup sent me a (you made it to the final round) contract on a story for the Food and Love book. Chicken Soup has sent me sixteen preliminary contracts in the past, and I have twelve stories published in twelve different books. What does this indicate? My writing makes the cut, but, the final decision lies with the publisher. Even though this is hand-clapping, fist-pumping news for me, I know that thirty days before the November release, they will do their final cuts for book layout. Sometimes they've eliminated my stories.

Does this stop me from submitting? No way! It makes me more determined. I know that my work has as good a shot as the next person, and my track record speaks to that. So, here I sit (and have been sitting for way too long) keeping my fingers, ankles, and eyes crossed, in hopes that this story makes it into the book.

I dared to be different with this particular topic. I figured my story wouldn't have a chance because most people would submit stories about lovers and chocolate.

I wrote about a bad boy I loved and ran into thirty years after I had gotten his taste out of my mouth. When I discovered him in the deli, I tried to ignore him, but he enticed me again ... and I ate every bit of that apple-walnut cake. I went on to tell about an incident involving one of those cakes.

Do you see what I mean about writing out of the box, slightly off topic, tongue in cheek, sassy, with a vein of humor?

Now it is your turn. Chicken Soup has several call outs. Go to their menu and select Submit a Story to see the drop down menu.

Family Caregiver deadline 7/30. Get right on it if you aren't too busy BEING a caregiver.

Boost Your Brain Power 8/7. Let me know if you have a real solution to this one.

Say Good-bye to Stress 8/7. These deadlines induce stress.

Say Hello to a Better Body over Fifty 8/7. (Shock me, gals.)

Home Sweet Home 8/30.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Most Valuable Player

Jose` Alberto Pujols, Albert to his friends, Pujols to his fans, is St. Louis Cardinal's MVP. He owns a restaurant in West County where I took my grandson, fourteen year old, Austin, to lunch today. He was thrilled with the hometown hero's memorabilia in display cases. We had a great day at the mall, at lunch, and at the movies.

One day, I am telling you all, this boy is going to be a famous ball player. He is a slugger, named MVP on his team. I am proud of this kid.

Whether you are swatting at baseballs or words; running the bases, or slowly cranking out dialogue; hitting homers or striking out whole paragraphs, be the best that YOU can be and keep your goals in sight.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

A version of this was published in Hot-Psychology in 2007

A few years ago, illegal immigration issues were being hotly debated in a nearby small community. While all this was being argued in the courts, there was an expression of strong opinion and ideas being expressed amongst my preschool students. I taught in an inner city public school with a diverse immigrant population. I received a new student from Thailand. The children playing at the play dough table observed her.

"I think the new girl is Chinese, like me."

"No-no, she is Vietnamese, like me; see her eyes are the same."

"Her hair is black like mine. Maybe she is from my country, Eritrea, Africa."

I listened, and I thought about how in any new situation we observe others and form opinions.

"You are all wrong," a child at the play dough table stated emphatically. "She is not Chinese or Vietnamese; she is just a girl."

If only we could all see past color, class, religion and regard one another as just people. When I do presentations at teacher workshops, I ask participants to tell me what they observe. Invariably, they begin to categorize.

"We're all early childhood teachers." Then they begin to dissect the group by ethnicity, hair color, gender. I listen. They look confused trying to figure out what I want. They continue.

When I speak, I begin with MY observations. "We are all people, male or female, we all have hair, eyes with which to see my materials, ears with which to listen, and feelings that can be hurt or bolstered by what I, as your group leader, say. We are alike in so many ways. Why is it that when we walk into a room, we begin to dissect by differences?"

Despite our best efforts, it is human nature for all of us to be ego-centric and ethno-centric. It is easier to be exclusive rather than inclusive. It's easier to pinpoint the negatives than the positives. I remind them that while they are teaching their students the universal message to treat others as they would want others to treat them, that they should also practice what they teach.

I had an older neighbor, Lisa, who told me, "When you're under five or over seventy-five, ethnicity or class doesn't mean a thing. When you're in your early years, all you want to do is play, eat your cookies and nap; you don't care what color the kid is next to you. It's how he or she treats you in the sandbox. And when you are in your senior years, it matters not what color your caregiver is, or what language he/she speaks. It's how they take care of you, feed and toilet you."

Why do we wait so many years to discover this?
On this Independence Day, let us all realize how interdependent we all are.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fun with the grandkids

St. Louis has so many wonderful free attractions. Suson Farm ( pronounced Sue-SAHN) is a county park that has two large fishing lakes and a couple of smaller ones for children. There are farm animals that are put to pasture every evening and go on display in their stalls during the day. There was a cow with her newborn calf, still wet and sticky in one of the stalls. There are many resident geese, ducks, horses, donkeys, cows and other barnyard birds. I gobbled at the turkey and it fanned its tail feathers which thrilled Nicole.

We arrived before 10:00 so the animals were still out to pasture, and Nicole was excited to see the horses and bull. She 'ewwwed" at the sight of a sow lounging in mud, but laughed at her piglet who came bounding towards her.

The sign says Do Not Feed The Animals, but we know that means, don't feed them our junk food. We always feed them clover, placed on the palm of our open hand, so they don't nibble our fingers. Nicholas was ecstatic and so was Nicole.

We sat in the grass under a shade tree for about half an hour watching a fisherman toss tiny fish he caught to a snowy white heron. What a treat for the bird who didn't have to work for his food, and for the kids who sat in awe and watched the bird swallow each little fish whole. Sometimes it had to step in the lake to get a drink to wash the fish down.

Nick was happier than ever when the fisherman tossed a fish to the bird just a few feet from us.

This is a black crowned night heron, about two feet tall and stocky with bright yellow legs. It flew to a tree when I approached.

What a fun memory-making trip for Nana, Paw-paw and the grandkids. Even though it was 98 degrees, we stayed hydrated and returned home by noon to cool off.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Case of mistaken identity

My granddaughter, who is getting married next May discovered that pictures can be deceiving. She found this lovely little place in the Smoky Mountains for her honeymoon and sent for the brochure.

She fell in love with the rustic cabins, the interior of the room, the hot tub, the landscape, the proximity to Dollywood, then, she saw IT and screamed.

"Oh, Nana, it has a small narrow building right next to our cabin. I'm looking on the map and I just told Justin, 'Oh No! absolutley no way am I going to be using an OUTHOUSE!' So, I went on line to check it out and I discovered that it's actually the woodshed."

I am still laughing at my funny honey.