Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What's green on the outside and red inside?

If you are a St. Louis native, you probably recognize the name Ted Drewes. His business is an established icon in South St. Louis. People stand in lines twenty deep at a dozen or more windows  to buy ice cream (frozen custard) on hot summer nights. To think, all those years when I was a teenager
I avoided it because I thought it would taste like that egg-yolk custard pie my parents bought.

There's another name that you might recognize, Sam the Watermelon Man. He had a watermelon stand on Natural Bridge in North St. Louis when I was a kid. He hung a string of bare light bulbs that auto dealers used to have on their lots. He sliced those oversized oval shaped melons into eighths and sold them 50 cents a slice to families who sat at old wooden picnic tables. That was the sweetest, ice cold  watermelon. Kids would spit the seeds onto tin pans. When my kids were small he opened a stand near us in South city, and we would take our children there on hot summer nights.

Sam the Watermelon Man was famous. Bob and Dororthy Hope would drive to St. Louis, load up their car with watermelons from Sam's and drive back out West.

These days watermelons don't even have black seeds. But when they did, I used to serve chunks to my summer camp school age kids. I taught them this song to the tune of Frere Jacques:  Watermelon-watermelon how it drips, how it drips, up and down your elbows (fingers dancing up and down arms) up and down your elbows, SPIT OUT THE PITS! SPIT OUT THE PITS! spitooie!
Then of course we had to ... have a watermelon seed spitting contest. Those days were fun.

My hubby and I have been eating one, and sometimes two watermelons a week. Well, it's better for us than ice cream, and oh so delicious. Do you like watermelon? The backyard birds sure do.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A sign in the sky

Dawn had barely crept up the horizon when I tiptoed out the back door to the patio with a cup of weak coffee and a snack pack of Scooby Doo cinnamon graham cracker "bones" that Nicole had left here. I sat on the porch swing to pray for my cousin who is having breast cancer surgery today, for my boss who lost her dad over the weekend, for my brother who is all alone celebrating his birthday today. So many hurts and pains, worries and aching hearts. A cloud burst high and a brief sprinkle
plinked a tune, but it ended too soon to even give the flowers a drink.

I called my brother to wish him a happy birthday, remind him about our cousin, and to tell him about my boss's dad...and then, right before my eyes, a rainbow appeared. An incomplete arc, like a call answered mid-ring from heaven on high. As fast as that rainbow appeared, it was gone. I am thankful for the message.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wasn't it only yesterday...?

We went to my cousin's today for a barbeque and to welcome her new granddaughter, Paige Ellen into our clan. Our mom's were sisters and I could feel the connection through my cousins, Donna and Diane, their adult kids, and their little children: the family nose, the expressions, the strong personality traits that we females have in common. We looked at our family genealogy book with photos of our grandparents and great-grandparents.

The ties that bind us together have just looped another little 5 1/2 month girl into our fold. We shared memories and told stories about our grandma. My contribution: while visiting her once, she told the mailman that I was her first grandchild and I was her little pest. I could spell, and she tried forever to convince me that she had spelled PET, but I was a smart little coookie. 

It seems like only yesterday my cousins and I were the little girls in the family; now we are the old ladies. As it should be. If we could bottle some of the kids' energy. It was fun listening to them giggle and play in the wading pool, and it brought back memories of our childhoods.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dramatic flair

Last night my three and four year old preschoolers took to the stage dressed in their finery. They received a rainbow badge with the words, "I Am Special" emblazoned on it, and they sang, "I am special, yes I am." They held large yellow suns with their names glittered in gold (they'd notched the triangles around the edges) and they sang, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine..." Nicole says, SHUNSHINE and is very dramatic, and cannot carry a tune, but my oh my does her voice carryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy. 

I reminded parents that they truly are their child's sunshine. It is because of them their child flourishes, blossoms and grows. The audience loved the song as much as the kids enjoyed singing it.

She and the other children sang about six songs, recited a new version of Hickory Dickory Dock (rhyming poem with motions) and they also recited, " Chitty-Chitty bang-bang, I can do karate (they make chopping actions with hands) Chitty-chitty bang-bang, I can move my body (they kick and karate chop) Chitty-chitty bang-bang I can turn around. Chitty-chitty bang-bang, I can sit right down." Then they took turns going across the balance beam. Let me just say that one little girl who happens to be related to me, dismounted with flair.

Grandparents complimented me on a job well done and parents thanked me for a wonderful school year. One mom said, "It is always fun to watch our children perform, but this year it was difficult not to watch the Nicole show." She laughed, because her daughter is also dramatic, so much so, that she was chosen to be the mama bear in our play, The Three brown Bears.

Yes, it was night to remember, and now, I have a long weekend to unwind before returning to school for four more weeks of summer fun learning. I think I'll kick up my heels like Nicole. On second thought...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A fishy story

Thirty one days...yes I am counting ... until I will be splashing in the Gulf waters. Can't wait to snorkel, feel the sand between my toes, the salt air on my face. It renews me. One year we went to Mexico with another couple. The guys were more adventurous than we women. While we clung to our snorkel masks and flippers and begged for a sturdy flotation device, the guys were convinced they didn't even need one. The captain told everyone on the snorkel tour to line up to board the small watercraft. The guys got ahead of us somehow, and the captain slammed the gate and zoomed off with our husbands, the last passengers crammed onto the boat, everyone waving good-bye and smiling. My friend and I stood on the dock scared witless waiting for a second boat. Our captain took us to the general vicinity, but not close enough that we could find our guys. We swam a bit with our super-duper life jackets, inhaled salt water, fogged up our masks, got fed up and called it a day. We headed back to the boat, pulled ourselves up and plopped onto a seat to wait for the tour group.

We planned a big fat adventure story to tell the guys. But they beat us to the punch. Obviously something had actually happened to them. They'd had an up close encounter with a school of fish that kept getting closer and closer, circling and circling. The guys swam as fast as they could and the four foot-long fish closed in. My ( sometimes not too) bright husband remembered his pocket was stuffed with fish food from one of those 25 cent machines on shore.

He left a trail of pellets as he and his buddy made their great escape.

Any story my friend and I concocted wouldn't have compared to their whopper of an adventure.
I am one month away from a new tale. I am getting anxious.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Here comes the bride...

The wedding was beautiful, the day was beautiful, the bride was beautiful.
Justin and Ashley (Nana's girl)

                                Ashley and Nicole (Nana's little girl) hiding under Ashley's gown.
After the bride and groom danced, it was Papa Bill's turn. Ashley chose a song that they used to dance to when she was four years old, Little Bitty Pretty One...and you should have seen them spin and fast dance to that 1950's hit. I cried remembering how he used to spin her and make her giggle when she was little girl. It really was a night of old memories and a time for creating new ones.

Friday, May 18, 2012

It takes all kinds

Over the years I have taught as many parents as preschoolers. It just so happens that when a parent has a personal problem, they sometimes come to me. I like helping people.

Got to thinking about all of the informal counselors who coach and coax and give advice. Yesterday we went to a casino lunch buffet (buy one get one free coupon) and I listened to the restroom attendant, cleaning matron. She asked a pretty young blonde how old she was.

"Honey at twenty-four I'll bet you have problems."

The floodgates opened and the attendant could have grabbed a mop and bucket to sop up what that young girl released. "My boyfriend..."

The wise counselor said, "Baby, at twenty-four you should be loving YOURSELF, because if you don't love YOU first, you can't expect anyone else to. No way should you be tolerating..."

I smiled because I realized, that woman with a menial job was attending to personal needs in a way most attendants don't. And when the twenty-four year old left, there was another lady for the "couch", and so it must go for her every single day. That dear woman does an outstanding job, and she attracts people.

On the way home we saw a young woman in a car ahead of us at traffic signal. She appeared to be upset, pounding the steering wheel. When we pulled alongside her, her bebop music was deafening. In her right hand she was drumming to the rhythm, on her steering wheel witha silver serving spoon, oblivious to those around her.

Some people go about their day with blinders on. Others are aware, sensitive and open to others. Pause for a moment and take a look around. Observe and write a character sketch of someone you ran into today. Please share a sentence or two. I am doing a workshop and may use your material as an example, with your permission, of course.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Boys will be boys

This photo is proof positive that at any age, competitive boys will be boys. My son and his family visited on Mother's Day. They wanted to show us their latest purchase, a tetherball game. Ten year old Nick challenged Grandpa to a game. The kid is good, but the big guy was relentless. I had to nudge him and say "Lighten up; let him win."

Bill sat down and laughed at my antics as the kids beat me at their game. I could see he was itching to get back up there and whack that ball. He looked next door at our Bosnian neighbor who speaks limited English.  Bill called his name. "You. Me." Hand motions of a power hit, a finger wiggle to come on...that's all it took. These two guys played as though they were competing for an Olympic gold medal. They socked each other in the head a time or two with that ball; they laughed, grunted, strained, wound that rope to within an inch and then managed to undo it over and over again. We sat on the patio laughing ourselves silly. I don't know who won, but by the time the game ended, they were both panting and clutching their chests. Silly boys preening and strutting their stuff...for two days now.

Sometimes I think we writers are like this. We sit back and observe, test the waters and then jump right in, fist pump at our success, smile for a few days. All it takes is a challenge, a prompt or a call for submission. I'm wiggling my finger at you. Come take the challenge. Won't you send me a story on the topic of family? I want the down and dirty. Don't send me sweet and fluffy. If you short-sheeted your brother, swiped your sisters boyfriend, scared your crazy aunt out of the bathtub...write about it. I'll help you edit before you sumbit to the database if you want. Guidelines above for: Not Your Mother's Book...On Family, and also NYMB...on Being a Mom,  and also NYMB...on Being an Expectant Mom. They have over 35 titles in development...dogs, cats, kids, grandkids. Check it out.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My simple pleasures

Susan, of Christian Writer/Reader Connection is featuring a writer you may know on her blog today. If you'd like to read tips on how I write for publication, check out Susan's blog, scroll down until you see my picture and please leave her a message.

My Mother's Day weekend was delightful. Friday evening, my oldest granddaughter visited. Saturday, my daughter and I went to yard sales and lunch. Sunday morning my son and his family came over.

Sunday afternooon hubby took me to Magpie's in St. Charles for my favorite lunch on the patio, then a sack of Grandma's Cookies from the best bake shop in town, followed by a stroll along the river in Frontier Park on a balmy sunny day.

I received gifts: a pretty bracelet, my favorite candy, a cute pair of jammies, a photo of my great-grandmother...oh let me tell you about the surprise photos. My aunt Lu moved to St. Charles, so I stopped by to see her and my cousins, Jerry and Jim. I thought I would surprise her with a copy of  our family history. She surprised me with family pictures of my mom and dad, and my brother and me as toddlers. I  have been in my glory all weekend.

Welcome to my new followers. I am so glad for every visitor.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you...

When I was a little girl I wore dress ups, played with baby dolls and emulated my mother. On hot summer evenings, I’d sit on the gentle sloping lawn, thick with clover flowers and listen to my parents talk about the day’s events. I’d sit at Mom’s feet and admire her shoes. Back in the 1950’s I always wanted to clomp around in what Mom called her “wedgies”. While other moms wore make-up and teetered on high heeled spikes, my plain Jane mom balanced on chunky heels. The same style shoes are back in style. Yesterday I slipped my feet into my new pair of wedges and strolled down memory lane:

I’m a freshman in high school. Mom and I wear each other’s clothes and swap purses. On Saturdays, we walk a mile to Cherokee Street, the six block shopping center with a variety of individual stores. She forbids me to wear make-up like the other girls, but for the most part, Mom’s okay. She sits on my bed on Sunday mornings and we talk like friends. She sure doesn’t act like a mom, I tell her. We enjoy one another’s company.

I’m a high school senior, and suddenly I don’t want to be anything like the woman I strongly resemble. Complete strangers stop us and comment that we look like sisters. The last thing I want to hear is, “You look just like your mother.” No matter how accurate the statement, there is a twenty year gap between us. I am my own person, seeking my own identity and independence. Soon, I plan to get married and start my own life. I cannot wait to get away from Mom’s rules.

I’m twenty-two and Mom is forty-two. She walks a mile every other day to my house to adore and spoil her first granddaughter. They idolize one another. I enjoy Mom’s company again. I can do my own thing, wear make-up if I want. She’s always available to babysit at a moment’s notice. I’m very blessed.

“Mom, why don’t you let me put make-up on you?” I beg until she finally gives in. I poof her bouffant hair, tint her lips, rouge her cheeks and smudge sky blue eye shadow across her lids. “There, let me see. You look beautiful,” I say. My puzzled expression makes her dash to the mirror.

“I look painted. This is not me,” she insists, but she leaves the make-up on to please me. As we sit across from one another dunking Danish – she always brings bakery goods – I can hardly bear to look into her face. One of her heavy eyelids sinks into the socket, and the blue eye shadow disappears into the fold. She looks like a clown with one bright, blue lid. “You’re probably right, Mom, you look just as good without make-up,” I agree. Mom tells me that a little lipstick is good; as a woman ages it brightens her appearance. So I always wear lipstick and Mom wears it only when she’s going out. The other day she smiled at the neighbor with bright pink lips and no teeth. She had forgotten her front teeth partial dental plate, and her mouth sunk in like a collapsed clay pot. I was totally embarrassed for her and myself. “I’ll never be like that!” I vowed.

Mom is sixty; I am forty; my daughter is twenty, and her little girl is ripping wrapping paper off her first birthday presents. I overhear my daughter talking to my mom. “Gram, I adore you, but Mom drives me crazy!” This from the daughter who used to beg to go everywhere with me and now depends upon me to help care for her baby. That's the thanks I get.

I ask Mom if she has a nail clipper. I rummage through her purse and discover a bottle of Jergens moisturizer and a razor wrapped in a paper towel. “What is this for?” I ask. She smiles self-consciously and taps her top lip, rolls her eyes and says, “Ever since menopause. You just wait!”

I cringe. NEVER-EVER will I be this way. Mom is becoming a real embarrassment with her bristly lip, droopy lids, sometimes toothless grin and unfiltered comments.

Mom is seventy-five, surrounded by three generations singing happy birthday so loud, the doctor pokes his head into her room and laughs at the sight of a birthday cake with candles ablaze. My fifteen year old granddaughter shares a confidence with her great-grandma and me.

“My mom doesn’t know anything! I can’t wait to go to college and get away from her!” Here we go again.

I clean up the party mess, and as I wash my hands I look in the mirror and see that I bear a striking resemblance to my mother. I massage moisturizer into my facial creases and wonder when my eyelids got so heavy. I listen to the conversation in the room and smile when my daughter jokes, “Gram, we all have the same family traits: your sassy mouth and heavy eye lids.”

My granddaughter moans, “Mom!” She utters the same phrase that has been repeated by four generations of us women, “I will never look or act like you.”

I hug and kiss my children and grandchildren as they leave the hospital. After everyone departs, I walk over and plant a kiss on Mom's wrinkled cheek. “I love you.”

She taps her lip, points at mine and says, “My razor’s in my purse if you want to use it.” Mom’s always been a spunky little, fun-loving woman who speaks her mind. I enter the hospital elevator, send up a silent prayer and rub the space above my top lip. I realize that in more ways than one, I am becoming just like my mother.

My daughter is forty-two; I am sixty-two. She telephoned today to tell me she is becoming just like me. It won’t be long before her twenty-two year old daughter calls and says the same words to her. No matter how we disagree, we all know that our mother-daughter bond is unbreakable and sealed with a kiss.

Mom’s been gone five years now. What I wouldn’t give to feel the slightly abrasive brush of her lips across my cheek; I would cherish one of her sandpaper kisses.

Happy Mother's Day to YOU!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Sometimes I feel as though I am delusional. I believe in goodness in a world filled with bad things. I believe in miracles. I believe in kids  and I believe in family even when they disappoint. And for more than forty years, I believed a big fat lie about myself ...which aided me in developing my freelance writing career.

My Big Fat Delsuion was accepted for Chicken Soup for the Soul Power of Positive. I hope it makes the final cut, because one of my critique partners has also had a story accepted.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I wrote this years ago, but it applies today. What are YOUR treasures?


I walked in the park today. My children collected a pocketful of treasures... pinecones, feathers, a shiny bottle cap, a razzle-dazzle piece of colored glass, and a sandstone rock.

"A real diamond, Mom; look how it sparkles!"

An old man with a metal detector unearthed his treasures too...a rusty nail, a key, a broken horseshoe and a few loose coins.

A young man sped by in a noisy red car, stereo shaking the trees...proudly displaying his treasures.

My treasures are not as tangible...early morning, summer breeze, my health, my eyes, my ears; a walk in the park, a whisper in the dark, daffodils in the spring. The older I get the more I realize that my treasures are still the same: peace of mind, aiding mankind, knowing that God is near; a child's
smiling face, a quiet place, sitting by the shore.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A smile can make your day

When I was a preschooler in Sunday School, the teacher sent a note home asking why I never smiled. I smiled! Just never when I was supposed to be serious. I laughed and played with cousins and friends, but at Sunday School I was quiet and obedient. I have always been one to sit back and observe, and when I feel comfortable, then I join in.

So, my mom told me that I had to force a smile at Sunday School. I remember going to the drinking fountain and when I saw the teacher I smiled ear to ear. She commented about my fake smile and asked if my mom had told me to do that. I didn't know what to say.

Over the years I have discovered that a smile can be disarming, warming, welcoming.

Yesterday I was at a stop light and a woman next to me had an overgrown puppy seated beside her. I smiled and she began chatting. Sometimes a smile is all it takes to make someone's day.

Sometimes a smile can be cause for alarm. One time, I had left the dentist after a root canal. I'm pretty much lost without lipstick; it's the one thing that colors my face. So, as I was driving, I reached in my purse for my lipstick, and applied it. Even if I couldn't talk right, I could nod and smile with a little color on my lips.

If only that were true. I came to a stop sign, looked over at the woman, nodded and her eyes widened in disbelief. Eh, not the friendly type, I thought. Next stop light a teenaged boy glanced over and winced. I looked in the mirror and saw that although I had applied lipstick a thousand times without using a  mirror, this time I should have looked at my mug in my rear view mirror BEFORE not after I applied it. I gasped at myself. I had outlined my chin and above my lip! Oh did I cringe and scrub.

I hope this made you smile. As I tell my prekindergarten students, "Even big people make mistakes."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Oh what a night of sights

Late evening has always been my favorite part of the day, and this specatcular sunset made me thankful for my eyes, my life, my family. The clouds were stacking into all sorts of characters. Bill and I both spied Neptune with his staff or pitch fork or whatever he holds. The more I gaze at this sunset photo the easier it is for me to spot an angel. Hubby and I were relaxing on the patio when I suggested I grab my camera and we take a drive to a local park. It was an evening of capturing images.

Whistle-Pig, woodchuck, land beaver... around here we call them groundhogs and they are as big as beavers. They are omnivores, excellent swimmers and although they are burrowers, they are also tree climbers if they are escaping predators.

 At dusk the deer in the park start running before settling in for the night. It was such a sight to  behold. We could see a herd on the move out in a meadow heading toward us. I waited patiently for them to get closer. They came barreling over the hill and stopped in their tracks on this ridge when they saw me with camera posed, my upper body extending out of the car sun roof. There were a dozen or more. They are used to humans, but I must have looked like a giant. Cautiously they passed behind the car.

On the way home we saw a carnival on a shopping mall parking lot. Toddlers tugged their parents, teenagers swooned over exhilerating rides and each other, adults strolled the midway. Police officers on foot patrolled the area.

 This ferris wheel made me think of childhood. My dad would take us to a traveling kiddie carnival, set up temporarily on  a corner lot. As I got older, many school picinics were held at Chain of Rocks Amusement Park, and now, we have Six Flags.

Times were different then, not simpler, just not as rushed, and we appreciated little things, an occasional trip to the amusement park, not a daily pass. We didn't need police officers to patrol such events.

Roller coasters, ferris wheels and zipping spider rides...metaphors for a writer's life: ups, downs, stalls, going in circles, nowhere, fast. But once you get going, you zoom and the results can be breathtaking. Hope you have a productive week.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Married Life

I guess you could say I am tooting my own horn. My story, The Odd Couple made it into this book.

"Sometimes no matter how unintentionally you toss groceries onto a shelf, the two ingredients that work well together end up side by side, like a package of spaghetti and jar of Ragu. Bill is methodical and likes all of his canned goods and every other aspect of his life to be in order. My pantry was like my life: groceries tossed haphazardly on a shelf, corn curls unravelling in cellophane bags, and way more chocolate products than healthy foods. "

I was afraid to allow him into my pantry after observing his. We each still have our own way of putting groceries away, but no matter how we stack it, our love has held up for twenty-three years.

This book will be available on May 29th

Traveller's Tales is seeking submissions and they pay $100 for accepted stories. Sorry, I can't get my link to work.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Critic/critique be careful and don't self-sabotage

Pill Hill Press is seeking anthology submissions.
I am not affiliated, just passing along information to writers.

I AM ALSO SEEKING SUBMISSIONS FOR Not Your Mother's Book...On Family. Come on folks, tell me your stories.  I believe that you have something worthy of publication. Now, believe in yourself. I'll be glad to assist before you hit the submit button.

Last night at critique group we were awe-struck by one of the member's essays. It was the most beautifully written piece of prose, filled with imagery and senory detail and nostalgia. The topic was summer, and the words were lyrical, poetic, tear-inducing; we all agreed.

And still, this person didn't think her work was worthy.We are our own worst critic.

When you believe in yourself and your work, you present as self-assured. And we all know how unsure all writers are. I often tell myself I am a pretender, yet the publishing credits speak to my success. I am uncomfortable tooting my own horn. But you just have to do it. Toot-toot! Your turn.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Can you say party all day and into the night?

Ashley's bachelorette party began at a salon. That's me, Tracey-my daughter & Ashley's mom, Danae, Ashley, Chelsea, Emilia and Kim. The shocking pink feather boas were certainly eye catching, especially as we all paraded into Cracker Barrel for lunch. We ended up there, because the Mexican restaurant where we had reservations, whose door was wide open --- was closed. One of the employees held us at bay with his mop. "Not open, still cleaning."

So, we substituted iced tea for Margaritas. Upon leaving Cracker Barrel, we came upon a bunch of old boys in bibs parking their tractors. They were as fascinated with us as we were with them.

We had an hour to wait for two more girls, so we waited inside Wendy's childrens' party room, laughing and acting silly. That is when someone asked what one of the girls was allergic to. Another piped up, "How did you get sunburned there? Does it hurt?" It didn't take long for the old lady here to figure out that the boas were bleeding pink dye all over every body part, piece of clothing or purse they came into contact with. We all started frantically scrubbing our necks and laughing loud and long.

We drove out to St. Genevieve and spent the day at Crown Valley Winery, an idyllic spot on God's green earth. They have a large outdoor pavilion overlooking the vineyards. There was a band and a bunch of women wanting to boogie ... you can see what a blast we all had.

A large group of African-American women adopted my granddaughter, "Hey, white bride, come learn this dance!" Giggles, laughter, hugs, picture taking. "Girl, you are so much fun!"
It was a fun and memorable day. I enjoyed people watching.
We ended up at the nine bedroom Coffman House; what a set up! Horses at the fence, an old country church across the road. The young people partied, ate, sang karaoke, played games, opened gifts, and girl-talked into the wee hours.

What a memory maker. When these girls are my age they will be sitting in rockers reminiscing about this day, looking at worn photos and wishing they had the energy again to dance and sing all night.