Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wearing out my rocker

      Three reasons teachers work: June, July and August. Ha! After a stressful first two months of summer, my face is beginning to show a bit of wear. I look tired. I am tired. I'm usually level-headed, but I have been dealing with birth, deaths, family and friends' illnesses, new car troubles, kids' homes for sale, teens acting out and up, and damned chigger bites that have itched to no end for two weeks.
     Like a midnight locomotive, I awoke with my heart racing, knowing I can't fix it all. Heck, I can't fix any of it some days. I've always been on the right track regarding my looks and life: this is how I look, take it or leave it. This is life; roll with the punches. Somewhere along the way, I got derailed.  

 The one constant that makes me happy is baby Liam. I feel like a teenager in puppy love. But I worry about his colic. See, it never ends.

     Today I feel worn out from the stress of dealing with everyday living. During June and July I barely had a moment to myself, and when I did, I could hardly breathe deeply enough because I was so worried about everyone else in the family who had problems. I wasn't able to read a book, wrote very little, and so beginning Monday, I am stepping back for a week, and I am taking time for myself.

     I plan to sit outside and relax, not answer the phone, not check my text messages. I want to read, and I would like to write, but I am not putting that pressure on myself. Sure as I do, I will come inside and turn on the computer intending to sketch a story, jot a thought, and the next thing you know I will be lost on Facebook. 

I spent hours Monday readying my classroom for open house, so that is one less burden to have on my mind. Now, I am ready for down time. Today I am going to buy myself a new book or two. I will treat my honey to lunch after he returns from his six week follow up chest X ray after his bout with pneumonia.

Hoping for his clean bill of health.
Hoping my granddaughter can get her new LEMON of a car repaired or replaced.
Hoping her sinus infection clears up with new antibiotics so she can return to work.
Hoping my daughter gets a home buyer soon, as she has found her dream house.
Hoping my son's new home is built before school starts in three weeks.
Hoping my friend's dad recovers from his stroke, and my other friend has an easy grieving day on the loss of her son.

There I go again. Worry-worry-worry.
I once read that worrying is like rocking in a rocker, you can go fast, but you get nowhere. Oh, I know that. I just need to still myself. That is my plan and I am sticking to it. I'll be back though tomorrow to tell you about my book selections. Thank you for sticking with me.


Friday, July 25, 2014

You say tomato and I say tahmahto

I had to put my hand over my own mouth to keep from laughing while I was in a restaurant bathroom. Two elderly women came in complaining about the world situation and how everything is so expensive and people are mean. They both entered stalls and continued to talk to each other.

"I've been alone  for years and it's not getting any easier without him."

"You're telling me. I'm living off Ira these days."

"What? Who? Huh?"

"I said, "Ira. You know Ira."

"I don't know no Ira."

"Oh you do, too."

"So where did you meet Ira?"

"Ira's from work."

"You haven't worked in years."

"So what! Ira's taking care if me in my old age."

"How old is he?"

"It's not a he, it's my ira like your ira."

"You mean IRA?"

"That's what I said, Ira."

Maybe you had to be there.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Doll, you doll, you great big beautiful doll...

Since my great grandson Liam was born, I have been traveling two hours, once or twice a week to visit him and help my granddaughter. She has been overwhelmed with motherhood and a colicky baby, and she also had some health issues which landed her in the ER. She was seen by a grossly incompetent doctor. He SAW her but never examined her, even though she told him she was a new and nursing mom. She complained of severe pain, chills, nausea. He told her she probably had a virus and to take Tylenol. She had what nursing moms often get, mastitis. The nurse advised her to call her OB doctor. She did and was prescribed correct meds and recovered, but it was just one more thing! And another doctor/hospital bill, which didn't help the post partum baby blues.

I would leave at 6:00 a.m. at the crack of dawn and take her goodies. Then I'd spend the entire day with them while her husband was at work. It has been a very special time for me, an honor if you will, to pass on the elder wisdom, and to allow mama to sleep, and most of all to cuddle with my doll boy who loves when I sing "You Are My Sunshine" to him.

Anyway, I was getting all weepy yesterday morning as I drove the lonesome highway for the last time alone to her small rural town. Truck drivers usually all peek in cars to see the "seat covers", especially when a woman is by herself. I saw a semi truck coming alongside me and wanted to avoid eye contact even in a mirror. I turned my head to the left and scared myself silly. I looked into the eyes of a dozen male prisoners in a van with bars on the windows. They were headed for the correctional facility in the next town. I prayed for them, and then I asked God's protection for little Liam and asked Him to help our new addition make wise choices in his life.

Ashley and I took the baby out for the first time together. We went to lunch and shopping and had girl time. She found an over the counter colic remedy that works, and everyone is in a much more relaxed and happy state of mind. She told me to pull over and stop on a church parking lot when he screamed in his car seat. She changed him in the car and said, "Nana, that's his I'm wet cry." I was so proud of her.

She returns to work next week, after a weight loss of 65 pounds! Daddy will have the baby on Mondays, and my daughter, who is a nanny, will be able to take Liam with her Tuesday through Friday. Everything works out.

Ahhh, I told them it would. My dear readers, a little extra prayer for the family as they begin a brand new routine Monday would be most welcome. Liam looks just like 25 year old Justin, don't you think?

Today Ashley posted on Face Book that she put Liam on his tummy on an incline on his padded Boppie ring. He pushed himself forward as though he wanted to crawl. She said, "Five week old baby's are not supposed to try to crawl." He looked at her, pushed off and growled. Ha-ha.
She said, "Already doing things his way, LOL."

You should see this kid's grin. It would melt your heart!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Animals do it, too.

Are you a follower or a leader? There was a time in my early writing career when I was more of an observer than a follower or a leader. I 'd have been the duck sitting on the bank taking it all in. I am not much of a follower, don't often fall into formation and do things the cookie cutter way just because everyone else is. I learn from others, and then I decide what works for me. I recognize my strengths and weaknesses, and I am not afraid to step out of my comfort zone and try things my way. Rules were made to be broken. Some risk-taking makes you stronger, and my own philosophy has always been, NO is not a stop sign; it's a detour.
Early on, I joined writer's groups, sat back in the shadows and listened and watched. Then when I felt less nervous and more comfortable, I shared. I'd rather have honest feedback than sweet talk. A critique is meant to be helpful not hurtful, a negative comment, if need be, should be sandwiched between two positives.

At first I thought a child was injured or protesting having to leave the petting zoo. This loud mouth Billy goat (below) reminded me of some of the blowhards I have encountered in my writing life. From family members to agents expressing opinions about my work, I have heard it and seen it all. Bleating, I call it! Disturbing if you focus on it, but learn to tune it out and believe in your capabilities. All of us are smarter, stronger and more resilient than we think. We may not know it yet.

NY Agent: "Why would I even WANT to read your novel about the 70s? I lived it!"

Family member: My daughter and I read this on a camping trip and we can't believe how unlikable your main character is! This is the 20th century; people don't haul their own water any more!"

Editor #1: "Well I've seen everything! You killed off your protagonist! Automatic rejection."
Editor #2: I disagree, and like the way she did it and added the twist.

Literary magazine editor: "Holy shit! We were neighbors in Alaska, but I was just a kid attending the school there. Can't use your work, but remember...?"

I received a rejection yesterday, one like I have never received before, and it made me chuckle. Instead of the editor tearing my piece apart, the response was, "We read your work and we enjoyed it very much, and that is no bullshit! It's just not what we need for this particular issue."

I was encouraged to submit again in the future.

That person, while maybe a bit crass, spoke from the heart, and I appreciated that rejection. That's what I mean by breaking the rules. When I was very young and dumb, instead of sending a resume to a school board, I sent a heartfelt, handwritten letter telling this small school district about my willingness to do whatever it took. They called me in for an interview. HIRED!

Whether you are a rejected writer, a grieving widow, mom, dad, divorcee, or pet owner; or if you have just lost your job, don't curl into a ball and give up. Deal with it your way, in your own time. Each of us is different and it takes some of us a little longer to get back up on our feet. Ultimately it is up to you though, to stay down or make the attempt to stand up, to step out in faith, to address your pain, lick your wounds but not wallow in the coulda-shoulda-woulda muddy pool of despair.

I firmly believe everything happens for a reason, even if we don't like or understand it. In my personal life, I try to put myself ahead of any negative situation and imagine healing and positive change. Easy? Not at all,  but it is a survival technique that works for me. I wish you peace and healing if you are hurting, despondent, sad, ill, uncertain, afraid.

Look at those dirty piggies. They are all the same age. Now, look at the next picture.

This nearly weaned piglet walked over to her mama and latched on. She did not suckle. Her mom did not reject her. She needed the comfort of closeness, not mud to wallow in like her litter mates.
Don't be afraid to ask for what you need.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Oh What a Night!

Not Your Mother's Book...On Family 
Not Your Mother's Book...On Being a Mom
Publishing Syndicate, Ken and Dahlynn McKowen (2014)
Dianna Graveman and I had a very successful double book launch party at STL Books at
100 W. Jefferson in Kirkwood, MO. This intimate little walking community boasts everything from beautiful Victorian homes to new houses. One of the most famous structures is the Magic House, a renowned children's museum housed in a refurbished historical mansion. 
Kirkwood is progressive and contemporary, a blending of old and new, young and young at heart, and it has that small town feel. There are indie business and many restaurants. It is a family friendly town with outdoor farmer's market and much more. I encourage everyone to visit.
Thank you Dianna for your continuous support!
Thank you, Robin Theiss (below) for hosting our event. We sold so many books and also raised money for The Family Resource Center. 10% of all sales that night was donated to the worthy cause.
Contributors each wore a corsage. They also received a STL Books note pad and participated in a drawing for a basket and an attendance prize. 

Refreshments included sweet, salty and savory snacks, wine and soda.

Dianna and I gathered with some of the contributors:
Laura Graf, Cathi LaMarche, Sioux Roslawski, Tammy Goodsell. Where are you Jean Whatley, author of Off The Leash?
We had a huge turnout in a very small bookstore. We were elbow to elbow. I counted fifty indoors,
but because our party overflowed to outdoors, we probably had about 75-100 in attendance.
Jenny Beatrice (left) read her humorous story from the Mom's book. She brought her sisters,  
the wonderful NUNS from St. Joseph's of Carondelet.
 Melissa Fouss (below) read her very funny story about her mom and the Hell's Angels. Sioux Roslawski and Renee Hughes also read.  Laughter and applause rang out!
Alvin Reid, local award winning journalist and public television personality on Donny Brook, who debates current events on Channel 9, hammed it up with Kimberly Curran Cole, who put her kids to bed at 8, left them with hubby, and drove all the way from O'Fallon to support us. She arrived just before closing. What a friend!
 Thanks to Ron Theiss (far right corner) co owner of STL Books for tending bar, and thanks to Linda and store manager, Erin, and Sam for EVERTHING!
We left a few books on consignment, so if you didn't get a chance to stop by, drop in and purchase one or both of these funny books, and be sure to say hello to Robin and staff.
Contributors in attendance:
Candace Carabus, Cathi R. Lamarche, Donna Volkenannt, Ellie Grossman, Jenny Beatrice, Laura Graf, Marcia Gaye, Mary Horner, Patricia Wahler, Renee Hughes, Sioux Roslawski, T'Mara goodsell, Sheree Nielsen, Jamie Krakover, Lynn Obermoeller, Lauara Ray, Verna Simms, Melissa Fuoss, Victoria Nichols, Dianna Graveman, Linda O'Connell

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mama said there'd be days like this

The things you learn at family get-togethers. I had no idea my mom was a drug dealer, a pusher!
My cousin (our moms were sisters) said, "Your mom was so much fun. When she came to visit my mom, she and I would always sneak outside and smoke. She told me once her doctor had prescribed Percodan for her pain, and she offered me one, so I took it."

What! My sweet innocent little mother? I'm sure she meant well.

She was always dishing out advice...and OMG drugs...but she never took advice. The doctor would prescribe 10 milligrams of something or other for this or that, and she'd say, "No, I am only going to take five, because I know my body better than you do."

I just visited Val's blog, She's on summer break, trying to escape her shadow, other wise known as Hick, her husband. Where she goes, he follows. She slid down the pew at the funeral to talk to her aunt and he followed like a handcuffed prisoner. I know of what she speaks.

I am also on summer break. My late mom, the drug pusher, told me there would be days like this. I thought she was just irritated with my stepdad, her husband of forty plus years.
"You just wait. When they get older, they follow you around."

Not my big guy. He's a busy body. He yaps at the neighbors, his ripening tomatoes, the rabbits procreating in the backyard. He watches sci-fi or OH MY! TV dramas. There's always someone screaming or being shot at or captured in our house. Whatever makes him happy, as long as he allows me time to write in peace.

This evening I went to the kitchen to take my calcium. He stood behind me, CLOSER THAN MY SHADOW and towered over me, and reached into the cabinet for HIS meds.

I went to the computer room to do some writing. He left the moaners and groaners blaring in the living room, and followed me into the office. I sat down to write. He turned on his laptop and cranked up the volume on a You Tube Video about Ford cars or GPS devices that won't take his commands. He looked over at me, "This going to bother you?"

I grunt, "Huh-uh."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure."


I rolled my eyes.

He said, "God bless me." I didn't know if he was asking me to do it, so I allowed him to ask for his own blessing.

Then he rhino blasted again clear across the room.

I stopped typing.

"Bless me. (Not excuse me!) I must be getting old. I only sneeze twice in a row, lately."

"Bless you!" I say as he horse snorted the third one in my direction.

"Is this video bothering you?"

"No, honey." I shut down the desk top computer. He shut down his laptop.

Shadow dancing, that's what we do when we both shove our chairs back and exit the room.

I love my big old guy, and I know he loves me, but sometimes it gets stuffy. Do you know what I mean? 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The guy barged in!

JC Penney had some really good summer clearance buys today.
Of course, nothing fit, or else it looked better on the hanger than it did on me.

JC Penney had some colorful characters today. This guy, about 40 was walking around with a phone in his ear, completely unaware of others.

"But what am I suppose to do when a guy walks in on me at 6:30? My wife and I weren't doing anything, nothing, and still this guy walks right in and goes off on me because he's unhappy with the guy who lived here before we moved in. That's not my problem. So what do you suggest I do?"

I listened to his nonsense with his landlord/lady for about fifteen minutes. I wanted to say, "LOCK your door, that's what you should do!"

But I didn't. I observed his mannerisms, his frenetic pacing, his wide-eyed amazement at the landlord's/lady's response. A good case study for character development.

You can find writing opportunities and ideas where you least expect it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Playing house

I am writing snippets for my memoir, and I keep coming up with the same theme: the many times we moved during my childhood. My connecting thread seems to be residences we lived in, which always leads me back to my playhouse, or as I like to call it, My Great Escape.

Although I was a very assertive 10 year old (okay, bossy) my playhouse, a back porch, was the only "home" where I was in charge when my parents' marriage was unraveling and nothing seemed certain.

Did you have a playhouse? 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

He was in command, but she is in (or out) of control

So who knew that a GPS has only so much memory? Hubby found out the hard way when he went to update his Garmin. He ended up having to buy a new one. He decided to buy a voice-activated system. He's a gadget man, and he loves anything technologically challenging, the more functions and buttons on the device the better.

We had to go to the grocery store, and so he decided to give his GalPalSweetie a trial run. He spoke distinctly.

"Activate voice control." I looked at the expression on his face; I'm sure he thought he was at command central of a Star Wars craft.

The gal said, "State a command."

He said, "Goodwill store." (It was a mile away)

She said, "State a command."

He said, "I did."

She said, "Do you want to find a location? Say, 'Find a location.' "

He said, "Find Goodwill Store, then."

She said, "Did you say, "Goodwin Store Diamonds?"

He: "NO, I said Goooood Will."

She: "Did you want Goo Foo Will?

He and she went back and forth about six more times, and finally he looked at me and said, "Stop laughing, you're messing her up!"

Then he tried again: "HOME!"

She said, "Home food will?"

My mild-mannered, soft-spoken husband blew his lid. His blood pressure was boiling, and he shouted an expleteive, "Dumb f**kin' thing!"

She said demurely, "Do you want Kentucky Fried Chicken?"

OMG! I laughed until I cried and wet my pants.

He'll get her in line, but not with me in the car, because as you know, it is all MY fault she can't find the Goodwill Store or even direct us home.

Friday, July 4, 2014

In 76 words or more

Happy 4th of July! It's been ten years since I lit up this town like a firecracker with my words.

Did you know that my signature was requested by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper for the Declaration of Independence front page story which ran on 7/4/04? The headline:

INDEPENDENCE DAY reflections on Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

I received a phone call from the publisher a few days before.

"We would like to include your submission to our request for readers' responses to, What the Declaration of Independence Means to Me in 76 words or less. Would you please fax your signature, so we can include your submission as one of the 14 signers?"

"Are you serious? My opinion was one of dissent. Are you sure you don't have mine confused with someone else's?"

"No, we need a variety of opinions and yours stood out."

"I'll fax it right away. Thank you."
I drove to Kinkos and spent $1.50 to fax my John Hancock, and then I bought several newspapers.
 There were fourteen columns/ bios. Here's mine:
We have the right to dissent
without fear of repercussion,
the right to seek a comfortable
standard of living and the right
to pursue personal satisfaction.
Our forefathers were well-intentioned,
but the right to pursue is no guarantee.
Many have suffered repression because
of their color, gender, age and class.
As America continues to erode from within,
I worry about the "inalienable" rights of my
elderly parents and my grandchildren,
all endowed by their creator.
Linda O'Connell
Hope you all are blessed with the best 4 F's: food, family, friends and fireworks! It is 80 degrees and sunny here. We will be gathering with friends and watching community fireworks.
I am very proud to be a citizen of the good old U.S.A. But I also believe that our country, one of the wealthiest, is in decline when we have people dying from lack of food, health care and housing. 
I am all for social justice, individual rights, religions and freedoms, but one look at our culture says a lot. Drug abuse is commonplace. The F word is bandied about and dropped in front of children and elderly so often it doesn't even have shock value anymore. Pre kindergarteners know the middle finger is the "bad one" and lack of civility is evident in movies, classrooms, boardrooms, among politicians and in homes. Is this progress? 
Respect for authority figures is going by the wayside. I am not talking blind obedience. It is rude to blast filthy lyrics at a stop light, or to curse like a sailor on shore leave when you are sitting in a restaurant. I am ashamed of the blatant disrespect for teachers, police officers and one another. Why are we afraid of offending others by asking them to alter their rude behaviors? Demanding respect? Expecting better?

Do we want a nation of Me-Me-Me instead of We-We-We, where the big dollar means more than the little person? I am hopping down off my soap box now.
I hope you all have a wonderful Fourth of July. Your two cents worth is welcomed, even if you have a dissenting point of view.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Oops he does it again

This past week it seemed like everything I read on Facebook from my friends and acquaintances had something to do with their loved ones or  pets being seriously ill or dying. I prayed for all of them. I believe in the power of prayer.

Today our family needs prayers, but I am not posting it on FB. My son had a motorcycle accident. He was riding his dirt bike on trails at a riding park with his buddies, and he hit a boulder and went airborne, knocked himself out and broke several ribs. He's lucky it wasn't worse.

About 14 years ago, he had a serious motorcycle accident coming home from work one night. He was hospitalized, but he recovered. He thinks this time he also knocked some sense into himself. He put his bike and trailer up for sale. The doctor says he will be in a great deal of pain, but thinks he will be alright. I just don't know if I will. A mother never stops worrying about her kids.

Appreciate any healing thoughts/prayers for Jason. At least he wasn't on the streets on a big motorcycle this time. Thanks everyone.