Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Calling all moms...

It isn't any easier being the kid than it is being the mom. We've all gone through the trials and tribulations, the good, the bad, the fun, the funny, the sad, the sappy.

EVERYBODY has a story to tell. Maybe yours will be about being a mother. Or maybe you could write about your own mother.

You do not have to be a writer to write your personal story for this wonderful stage presentation, Listen to Your Mother St. Louis which is part of a national event.

I participated last year, and I can assure you that the stories were amazing; some made me weep, some made me guffaw and some made me smile with contentment. The entire charity event was life changing. Participants and attendees were impacted by personal stories about overcoming obstacles, cherishing mothers, struggling with motherhood, honoring motherhood.

Even my husband commented about how diverse and heart touching the stories were.

Emotions ran high as women read their stories aloud before a live audience.

Get your story in. The deadline is three weeks away. Write from YOUR heart. That's what I did. here is a You Tube link of me reading my story.

Linda O Connell reading "A Working Mom's Retirement Plan ...
Linda O'Connell, writer and teacher always wanted to be in the creative and performing arts

Please feel free to run your story past me if you have any doubts or if you want me to preview it for you and make suggestions before you submit. Best of luck to all of you.

While I'm thinking about it, Chicken Soup for the Soul is also looking for moms stories. Start writing.

Monday, January 27, 2014

This old house...

Crazy unpredictable weather! Sunday it was 60 degrees and within hours it was 6 degrees. Winds were whipping at 50mph. But, while it was balmy, we got outdoors. We drove across the Mississippi River to Columbia and Waterloo, Illinois, both historic little towns.
 I like taking pictures of old houses. This Victorian appealed to me, but I couldn't get a full shot so you can't see the cute little attic dormer windows.

I imagine dozens of scenarios when I see large old homes like this. Did a farmer and is wife raise a dozen kids out here in the flat lands?

And what about this beauty with a wrap around porch? Writer friends, you can use visuals like these as prompts to help create scenes in your prose or poetry.

Which is your favorite? Why?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shiver me timbers and warm my heart

This is what we've had to contend with in early January. A foot of snow on the bird bath!

Wind gusts that blew 4 ft snow drifts up against the garden fence.
Temperatures so cold hot water tossed into the air returned to snow form.

My critique buddy and friend, Lynn Obermoeller, helped me edit one of my stories that I had intended to submit to Chicken Soup. My theme throughout was "Home Sweet Home." Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when she presented me with the wall plaques. I've had that little bear for years, and my New England friend, sent the wind-up pig timer.

On bitter cold days, when I am feeling down, all I have to do is look up at this grouping to feel the warmth of friendship. It really is the little things in life that matter most to me. However, a little sunshine would be nice!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Is it worth your time? This is a link to several contests, which means there is a fee, but there are also prizes. It's up to you. I usually do not pay reading fees.

I did spend $15 to enter the Erma Bombeck contest and also to enter Missouri Writer's Guild Conference contests. I know my chances are as good as the next persons and I am willing to take my chances.

I just saw a call out for "car-free" poetry. Attach a PDF file of your poem and email to with a short bio. Write Poetry submission in subject line. Google "Car free poetry" to read one of Ted Kooser's entries.

Not a poet? Neither am I, although I write poetry. I am not a trained poet. I am not educated in how to write poems. I just write from my heart and try to connect with the reader.

If the editor happens to have high academia expectations, my poem will be ruled out. But if it is a person looking for a poetic experience with word play and meaning, then mine might be considered. Either way, I am willing to take the chance.

It is a new year, folks, and you should try something new and different, stretch your writing muscle.

What are you working on? I personally am working on trying to stay warm. It is -7 degrees.

Those of you who like winter, help me see your point of view. Would you please take a look at this gal's blog and leave a comment? On the recommendation of C. Hope Clark Funds for Writers. Thank you!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Is it still January?

Two slogans that made me take a second look yesterday:

Teach your girls to be somebodies
instead of somebody's.

An obese man wearing a T shirt imprinted with
Fat people are harder to kidnap.

Right now there's freezing cold, whirling snow, whipping wind, accidents on the highways.

Winter’s Breath
by Linda O'Connell

Here you come again!
You snare me, draw me into your darkness;
beckon me to sugar up and snuggle down.
I’m sluggish day and night.

I look a fright.
You dehydrate my creativity, zap my inspiration,
prune my face, take me by my cracked dry hands and whisper,
“You’re a wannabe, a never gonnabe."

“Come to me and cuddle.”
You muddle my thoughts,
deepen my doubt,
annihilate my ideas, quash my spirit.

You glaciate my prose
penetrate my poems;
my ideas freeze solid as
elongated wordcicles.

Thaw’s coming;
spring’s an ellipsis away.
Words will start flowing again
and blossom all over the page.



Monday, January 20, 2014

I pulled the board out from under him

We broke down and replaced the broken down mattress with a new and improved one from a reputable furniture store. My advice to anyone purchasing from one of those mattress stores popping up in every strip mall: don't do it. They are strippers, barely there, with unstuffed interiors. The mattress in the show room was a high quality version, quite different from the one delivered to us, which lasted all of 18 months. Live and learn.

The fine print warranty guaranteed replacement for a $25 examination fee and declared the mattress would be replaced only if there were indentations 2 inches from the edges, not sagging in the center from normal body indentations.

We stood that mattress on end to take it out the door, and the stuffing collapsed, slid from the top to the bottom, and we laughed. We examined the box springs: a joke. Not really a laughing matter when you realize you've been had.

The drama continued. Our new heavy duty mattress is extra firm. One night in that bed and I was aching everywhere and awake most of the night.

So, we bought a three inch Novaform memory foam mattress topper from Costco. We feel like we are sleeping on a cloud, every inch and joint of our bodies cradled. Sleeping is wonderful, and we don't even wake during the night. Eight straight! Rested, restored, relieved, relaxed. Really happy!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Has this ever happened to you?

Have you ever had word visitors? I was coming up from the laundry room praying about a loved one who will be going to the doctor today.

A word popped into my head that I have never used and can't remember reading. WHY did this happen? I couldn't define the word so I went to the dictionary.

preternatural: exceeding what is natural; inexplicable by ordinary means.

Maybe it was just a brain blip, but I would like to believe it was a preternatural message that this loved one will be okay.

Have you ever had word visitors?

Monday, January 13, 2014

What could he be plowing?

 This happened yesterday morning when I could have slept in.
My body, mind, and vision may be slipping, but I have acute hearing. At 4:00 a.m. I heard a revving motor. A big, loud, trash truck engine...on a Sunday? Perhaps a repo man hitching up to a neighbor's car in the dark? I am too nosy to wonder. I must know! I went to the front door and saw blinding headlights aimed right at me. I think, Oh no! Not again.

Then the driver gunned the engine and backed a monster MODOT truck (Missouri Department of Transportation) out of our driveway. It rained yesterday which removed most of last week's 12 inch snowfall on streets, sidewalks and especially lawns. There's maybe a foot high snow bank by the mail box, nothing at the curb or in the gutter. The snow is not hampering mail delivery (after five days of no delivery). Our main street is clear.

The guy had his snow shovel down, plowing wet pavement as he swept by a second time. What is he plowing? Maybe HE's plowed? Maybe he's punch drunk from snow removal on the night shift. Maybe I'll go out there and punch him if he flips a U turn in front of our house one more time.
After a drive yesterday, I now think he may have been plowing he contents back into the pot holes.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

If I were a betting woman...I'd lay odds I was in the rec room of the state mental institution

After being cooped up all week in a snowstorm, we thought we'd take a chance Saturday and go to the movies to see a recent release, but it was sold out. We decided to take our 20 bucks to the casino for recreational fun.
We found a bank of penny machines with only two of the twelve seats occupied. We left two seats between us and them. I sat to the right of my big happy guy. To his left, a middle age man with a full head of plastered hair and a nose like a shed roof overhang, sat hunched feeding the penny slot machine $1.20 a whack.

Every time our 20 cent bet paid off 15-60 cents with whiz bang bells, he looked our way. Not lovingly. When our 7s lined up and we hit a BIG jackpot of $8.00 (oh wow!) he craned his neck to see the tally. Then he turned away, looked at the man on the stool to his left, and muttered loudly, "Been sitting here two hours and haven't won a  jackpot." Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement. He clenched and unclenched his jaw. I don't like to sit by frustrated gamblers. I had to keep an eye on this guy.

At second look I had to look away, sickened, appalled at his rapid stroking. I couldn't help myself. I glanced again. Does that make me a voyeur or a roving reporter? I couldn't believe his disgusting behavior. He ramped up the action: back and forth, back and forth. Was he unaware that he was massaging the tip of his nose with his protruding wet bottom lip? OMG!
I had five bucks left, so I went around the corner where nobody else was sitting. Wouldn't you know it?! An unkempt woman with more wrinkles, messier hair than mine and a scowl that would curl your toes (not in a good way) plopped down next to me. She shoved her card into the slot, and started poking the keypad. She bellowed, "What's wrong?! What is WRONG with this machine? Why can't I access my account?"

I pressed my 20 cent button and ignored her. I figured she was talking to herself. She wasn't. I hit a jackpot. Ding-ding-ding...those machines mess with people. $2.00 doesn't excite me like it did her. She shouted, "What are YOU playing? Oh, I see. Okay."
I did not look in her direction as she continued to punch the one armed bandit's buttons. An attendant finally came over and helped her retrieve her $25 free play money, which indicates she plays a lot.

She invaded my space with her extended left hand. "Look! What is WRONG with me?"

You think I was going to take a stab at that?!
She said, "Look at how I'm shaking. WHY am I shaking so bad? Every time I come here I get the shakes. What could be the matter? Look at me! What do you think's wrong?"

I looked at her. Both arms were vibrating worse than the guy's lip on the other side. "Maybe you have diabetes or low blood sugar. Try eating something sweet."
"NO! I'm going to hit a jackpot." She jacked her bet up from 20 cents to $1.20. She pulled that lever nine times, her luck on low. Then on the tenth pull, it happened.  She shouted, "Yay! I did it! I got me a jackpot! Look at this. Twelve dollars."

I got myself out of there before she could do the math.
Things just weren't adding up yesterday.
On second thought, hubby did walk out with fifteen bucks out of his twenty, so that was our pay off.



Friday, January 10, 2014

I saw the light, and the neighbors did, too.

One of the reasons I married the big guy was his sense of humor. He's my funny honey, but he overshot the runway this time.

All over town, due to the BIG snowstorm, power has been out, water mains have broken and, well it's been a mess. We're all on alert now waiting for failing electric and flooded basements, as a heavy rain is expected to wash away a foot of snow.

Wise guy was already in bed. I shut off the lights and double checked the door locks. As I came down the hallway a flash of white light nearly blinded me. The overhead light must have blown was my first dumb thought. The light was already off. I flicked the switch and the hall lit as bright as a summer day, (how I yearn for summer.) So, I checked the bathroom. Surely the motion night light wouldn't shoot a beam that bright. No possible way.

Maybe...oh no...maybe it's paranormal activity. Someone died? A last flash as they dashed past on their way to the great beyond? Hmmm.

I walked into the bedroom and stood at the foot of the bed. A commercial was on TV and he was snoozing. Maybe he had been watching a murder and mayhem show and something exploded on the movie. I waited a minute and decided to forget about it. I turned to get my fuzzy socks out of the dresser drawer, and a blinding flash momentarily illuminated the room.

"Bill? You awake?" No answer, no movement. I trotted to the bathroom for my last trot of the night. I pondered and wondered and gave up on an explanation. When I returned, white light illuminated his entire head.

"BILL! No!" No movement.

OMG! Did he die? Then the bed began to shimmy. Is that his soul departing?

That's when I saw the mini LED flashlight in his hand positioned above his head.

He was glowing with delight at my fright, laughing so hard he had to get up. I chased him into the kitchen. I backed him up against the counter, and pretended to beat him about the head with my cloth robe belt. He raised his hands in pretend self defense as we both laughed ourselves silly.

His back was to the window. I had a clear view of the couple behind us standing at their window watching me beat the heck out of the big funny guy. We will now be the talk of the neighborhood.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Was that really an oops?

My sleeping habits are worse than a newborn's. I lie down at 7 p.m. to read or watch TV, wake at 11:30 p.m., up a while, down a while; wide awake at 3:00 a.m. Lie on the living room couch and watch episodes of M*A*S*H until I doze. I'll be glad when winter is over. Water mains broken all over town, pipes in schools, churches and court houses broken flooding buildings.

This morning I woke at 4 and turned the TV volume low and Closed Captioning on to watch the NEWS.

The reporter said, "It started snowing again at 1:00 a.m. Roads are slick, and freezing rain is expected by noon."

I was ready to cry when he went on:
"Road crews are out plowing and salting the roads."

The Closed Captioning (which probably operates by voice command) read: ROAD CREWS ARE OUT INSULTING THE ROADS.

That is probably the truth. I laughed out loud.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Positive changes

I was speechless when I saw this in my E-mail. I am honored to have received this private newsletter, Chicken Soup for the Soul Communique, distributed only to multi-published Chicken Soup writers. My story, Two Little Words With a Big Impact, (but/and) was published in Chicken Soup My Resolution in 2008. Six years ago! And my words are still circulating and impacting others. We never know how far a reach our words will have or for how long a time our words (good and bad) will last.

I received an acceptance on my story for the Chicken Soup Alzheimer's and Dementia book to be released in March. Humbled is what I am. If it makes final round selection, it will be my 21st Chicken Soup for the Soul published story.

Have you ever been unable to forgive someone for something they did or didn't do? Sit down and write about it as though you are talking to me. Then wait a day, edit your story and send it off to Chicken Soup for the Soul on Forgiveness.

A Note from Your Publisher 2014

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We

are going to put words on them ourselves. The

book is called Opportunity and its first

chapter is New Year’s Day.

~Edith Lovejoy Pierce


J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 4

People tell me that I’ve changed (for the better), and they seem to attribute
it to my work at Chicken Soup for the Soul. I guess you can’t help but be
affected when you read thousands of revealing, heartfelt stories every year,
submitted by people who are selflessly sharing their best advice, wisdom,
and experience with readers (and editors) they don’t even know.
All this advice from contributors comes in handy at this time of year, when
it gets dark early and there is plenty of quiet time to think about the
changes I want to make in my life. I have learned so much about making
resolutions from your stories and re-reading Chicken Soup for the Soul: My
Resolution. It contains many resolutions you can implement easily,
simply by deciding that you will.

So here’s an easy New Year’s resolution that you might want to try: Have you ever caught yourself saying something negative and wished you could stop? I certainly have. Well, we can stop ourselves. We are, after all, in charge of what comes out of our mouths.

One of the resolution stories that has stuck with me was by Linda O’Connell, one of our regulars, who made me think about the negative power of the word “but.” She wrote, “I’ve been listening to myself lately, and I don’t like the way I sound. As a veteran teacher, I know that praise can be a huge motivational tool.” Linda went on to admit, “My daughter called to tell me about a house she was interested in. I listened to her. I said, ‘Honey, I am glad that you’ve found something you like, but don’t you think, with the gas prices, you might want to buy closer to your work?’” As soon as Linda said the word “but” her daughter’s excitement faltered.

Thank you, Linda, for a great reminder. It’s amazing how many positive changes we can make in our lives merely by deciding to change. And one of those decisions can definitely be what we say or don’t say.

Your publisher, Amy Newmark @amynewmark

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How bizzare is that!

I know it is not nice to laugh at someone's problems, but this morning hubby and I couldn't stop laughing at what we witnessed.

The highways are still snow packed and treacherous after a 12 inch snowstorm three days ago that left high snow drifts. We had to go to the doctor ten minutes away. It took us thirty minutes. We saw lots of vehicles in the ditches.

We noticed what appeared to be a tire in the road and avoided it. Honey took me to breakfast at Denny's. When we came out, we watched a car run over the tire...which turned out to be the sliced retread that had come off someone's car. We looked on in disbelief as a guy continued to drive onto it. Doing so caused the "tire" to upright and wrap itself around HIS tire. How he didn't see it is beyond us. He looked confused and thumped-thumped-thumped to the side of the road and got on his cell phone, probably to call AAA. Can you imagine when they respond to fix a flat and discover it isn't even HIS tire? And it's not flat.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Say that again? Writer's market, too.

GRAND Magazine seeks articles and humorous quips from grandparents.

For a real laugh, especially if you are a grandma, click on this link and then the pop up that will take you to the page.  My friend, Alice Muschany wrote about her three year old grandson commandeering the phone. It is too cute! Her story reminded me of  mine.

It was 1975. I was sound asleep on a Saturday morning. My son was two and a half years old, and he had a little cousin named Jill. I heard him jabbering away on the phone. Back then, the phones were attached to the wall and had long spiral cords. He was pacing and babbling. I heard, "Hi Juh blah-blah-blah."

I wondered how he could dial her number correctly. And then I awoke fully and realized, he couldn't.

I took the phone as he cried, "Want talk to Juh."

I asked, "Who is this?" The little boy on the other end said, "Joe."

I asked him to put his mommy on the phone.


"Hi, our boys have been talking for a while. I'm in St. Louis, MO. Where might you be?"

"Uhmm, we're in New York."

We both laughed, and then I immediately dialed the telephone company and asked them to forgive the charges, which they did.

We are in the midst of an almost historic snow storm, expected 10-12 inches and negative zero temps, 20-40 mph wind gusts. More heavy, wet snow Wednesday/Thursday.

In 1982 we received almost two feet of snow and the city shut down completely. They appealed to the public; 4 wheel drive owners were asked to transport hospital personnel and medicine to shut-ins.
My school was closed for two weeks. Obviously, there will be no school tomorrow. Here we go again.

So far I have had one cup of coffee, and one Oreo cookie at 4 a.m. One more cup of coffee and a small square of prepackaged raspberry crumb cake at 6 a.m. At 7 a.m. bacon eggs and English muffin with pink grapefruit for breakfast. I think I'm better off back in bed reading a book. At least I'll get drowsy and nod off. If I'm sleeping I'm not munching.

Where are you, and what is your weather like? At 9:30 we have 6 inches so far and expecting 1-2 inches per hour until mid-afternoon. Now that sounds like a record breaker to me.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Other "M" Word

The Other "M" Word is my latest personal essay published in Sasee Magazine. Please when you have a moment, will you read my story and leave a comment on their site? It really helps for future publication opportunities when the editor sees a writer has a following.

I'll give you a clue, the "M" word is not menopause; it's far worse.

Thank you to my faithful visitors, and new ones, too. I do appreciate your visits.


From fat to flat in four months? Hrmph!

My New Year resolution is to downsize. I've already donated half of our holiday decorations. I rearranged the living room, which left less knick-knack space, so I also donated the "pretties."

Right before Christmas we donated our old bedroom furniture to St. Vincent DePaul charity resale.

Bill called grandson #1 with a truck, and right before closing time, they pulled up to the dock. The manager said in no uncertain terms she was not accepting any donations. Hubby looked stricken, and the haggling began.

He:    "I know it's late but we will help carry it in."
She:  "No! Come back tomorrow."
He:   "Please? What if we just leave it here on the dock?"
She:  "We'll put it in the dumpster." (yeah right)
He:   "My grandson came from far away to help. We won't have this truck tomorrow."
She:  "We'll be closing in five."
He:   "We can have it off this truck in less than five."

Begrudgingly, she looked the gift horse in the mouth, nodded, nudged the dock worker and refused to meet my husband's eye.

Ridding ourselves of clutter makes the house look cleaner, especially with the new dresser top bare instead of overflowing with stuff.

I am not a minimalist, but I am becoming an "I Need Lessist."

What I really need is less black pants in three sizes. The pair I bought for New Year's Eve has a stretch waist band, because I'd rather see a letter on the tag than a new number!

We sat with two other couples. The younger, thin woman picked at her food, examined every morsel, discussed carbs, and dairy and sugars with her husband before delicately nibbling.

I told her I teach at a school for children with food allergies, and I asked if she had allergies.

"No, I am trying to control my sugar without experiencing keratosis... because you need fat to hold your internal organs, but the fats you need... blah-blah-blah.  People keep asking me how I have lost so much weight since September, and they do not believe my scale reads the same thing as it did back then. Look at my stomach. It hasn't been this flat since...blah-blah-blah...I can't believe I've gone from a size 14 to a size 4, and my weight hasn't changed one pound."

I haven't been a size four since I was four years old.

"You want to know how I did it?" she asked.
I bit...into a buttered roll, stuffed a spoonful of mashed potatoes in my mouth and asked, "HOW?"

"I don't eat carbs or processed food anymore. I eat a hard boiled egg and string cheese for breakfast. No breads or cereal unless it's Grape Nuts." Gag me! Egg yolk EVERY day? Possibly break my teeth on that rock cereal...I don't think so.

"Mid morning I snack on ham chunks. Noon, I eat a salad and piece of protein. Mid afternoon I eat no calories at all: peanut butter smeared celery, and then for dinner, sweet potatoes and lean meat. Never ever French fries or breads or donuts or..." I'm tuning your skinny ass out. I tunneled into my pasta.

I know that I do need to downsize my scale number, my bra size, my underwear size...oh yeah, did I tell you, while unloading the dresser, grandson pulled out one of the drawers and a pair of my bright white granny panties went air born and lit up the night? The 20 year old was so embarrassed Bill had to retrieve them and stuff them in his pocket before they landed at the kid's feet.

So, on Wednesday, January 1st, I came to terms with myself.  I got out the egg carton and removed a dozen eggs. I boiled ten.
I fried the other two, cooked up a pan of bacon, prepared a tray of biscuits and got out the real cream butter. My "new year" doesn't start until I go back to school. If the predicted snow arrives, I may be nibbling chocolate covered pretzels a few more days. Then, it's all over for me and my carb loaded bottom.

I will keep you apprized of my weight loss endeavors.