Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Words are powerful. Are you ready to impact others?


Whether your goal is to start a blog, finish a novel, increase your social media savvy, or your bottom line, you'll find needed courses and resources at the Coffeehouse for Writers! Since 1999, Coffeehouseforwriters.com has provided quality, affordable, online classes for writers of all levels and genres. The upcoming session, which starts May 1st, includes classes on blogging, writing for Chicken Soup publishers and other publications, grammar boot camp, and how to quit your day job to freelance full-time.


Learn more at Coffeehouse for Writers at: http://coffeehouseforwriters.com/ (mentioned in Wall Street Journal)

 Personally, as a writer and instructor, I have heard and said it all:

·         I've always been interested in writing, but...

·         My life is harried, and I'm going in too many directions.

·         Nobody would be interested in my life experiences.

·         I don't have time for One. More. Thing!

·         I have students, spouse, parents and kids who need me.

·         I cannot write on demand, and class participation is not my thing.

·         I don't want to sit in class for two hours. I'd probably fall asleep.

Your personal story has the potential to earn you a writer's by line and/or extra bucks.

On line writing classes offer students the opportunity to work at their own pace and receive one on one attention. Students can sit at their computers in pajamas, sip their favorite beverages, and spend time tending to their own needs instead of everybody else's.

I look forward to assisting you or someone you know in crafting a personal essay that could possibly lead to publication and potentially change yours or someone else's life.   

I would so appreciate it if you could link to this post on your blog or website. Thank you for passing this information on to anyone you know who may be heading in the "WRITE" direction.

Thank you Cathy C. Hall for the following testimonial and shout out. 

 Linda, aka the Queen of Chicken Soup for the Soul Books, will be teaching the fine art of essay writing and I can’t think of anyone better suited for the task. If you’ve been trying and trying and trying to get your essays published, try taking this class. I promise you’ll improve with Linda leading the way to publication.

Thank you Sioux Roslawski for the following kudos and encouragement.
I've seen you--in a matter of minutes--deftly rearrange someone's essay, along with giving suggestions on how to rework the beginning and end. And it's all doled out as suggestions and padded with praise.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Some days it depends which side of the counter you are on.

When I was young and worked in a film company, we had an entire department devoted to customer service. Times sure have changed.
Hubby and I went to a different car dealership than the one I previously wrote about. We drove in his car. A very young man invited us into his office and we discussed a trade in. I asked for a ballpark figure for trade in value on my make and model. He said, "You don't have your car here. So I can't answer you. We have appraisers who decide that."

I said, "A rough estimate? A blue book figure?"
He looked at me very suspiciously, then said, "FINE! But if you take me to court for what I am quoting you, I will sue you!" He glared. "Believe me. I will! Both of my parents are attorneys."

I laughed, thinking he was joking, and I said, "Then they probably would tell you not to be so contentious."
He said in a very staccato voice, "No, my parents do not say that to me."

Then I realized, this young man is probably on the autism spectrum. Wonder how many cars he's sold for dealership? 
So I bought this car instead. Can't you see me zipping around town in it? Waving like the queen?
Not really! I saw it and had to pose beside it. The saga of poor customer service continues...

Midday, I went to a thrift store. Two young women cashiers worked an aisle apart.
# 1 says loudly to #2,"You really made $500  for one night bartending? Dang, soon as I turn 21 next year, that's what I'm going to do."

#2  "Yep, made $500 last night. Nothing to it."
#1 "No you did not, girl! I cannot believe that kind of money for pouring drinks."

# 2 "Well you better believe it... blah-blah-blah"
A man wishing to check out asked #2 if her register was open.
#2  "Hey, there are only three people in that line. Go over there with her."

He cursed under his breath as I stepped in line behind him.
Meanwhile the four people in line ahead of me were getting more and more upset at the girls bantering. Why would #2 be working at a thrift shop if she earns $500 a night?

First customer in line checking out had a cart full. Cashier #1 started talking about the customer's merchandise, holding items up and showing them to #2 who was popping anti-theft tags off used clothing, probably bound for the rag pile.
I bristled for five minutes, and then I could take it no more. I tossed my merchandise and murmured to the guy in front of me, "And this is why I no longer shop at this store."

He called them a few choice derogatory names and said loudly to me, "I don't blame you!"   

You think I should have called for a supervisor?

Kids are bosses. Many are running fast food restaurants, goofing around with one another in front of customers. Customer service is not what it used to be.

In the evening, we went to Taco Bell for dinner. We were the only customers inside. The young man waited until we sat down and then started mopping the floor area right where we were seated, not across the room. I don't understand it. I suppose that yellow caution cone that announces WET FLOOR is supposed to prevent a law suit.
Hey, I know a guy whose parents are both attorneys.
Have you had any customer service concerns lately?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Check out his name tag

I saw a sign for a church rummage sale and decided to stop. I was a bit over dressed in black slacks, blazer and lacy white blouse. I was on my way to the memorial service for a woman I went to college with. I worked with her daughters who are teachers, and her granddaughter who did her practicum with me in my class.
I saw this little cutie with a rather expensive  $5.00 price tag, since most things were a dollar or less. When I saw the shirt embroidered with his name, I KNEW I had to have Little Ricky Ricardo. He is an original 1953 vintage American Character doll, with rubber body, fixed straight legs, jointed arms, and original clothing, including a felt diaper with  old pins. He drinks and wets, too. Ricky, Jr. has been loved very much as you can see. Do you remember when Lucy was really expecting Little Ricky? This baby doll takes me way back.
I wonder what his value is. I am certain my granddaughter, Nicole will inherit him from me someday, unless someone can tell me he's worth a mint...and then I may sell him and move to the beach where I can hide my embarrassed face.
I drove to the memorial service in the inner city. Wondered why the church parking lot was empty. Tried the front doors. Locked. Saw a group of men congregating near the rear entrance. Wondered if Evie had a very colorful past, but didn't dare head that way. Got back in my car, checked the information and realized the service is 3rd Saturday in May and the men were homeless, waiting for a food handout. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

You too could be a winner with Automotive Experts

When I opened the scratch off ticket that came in the mail and noted that my ticket was eligible for the $5,000 prize, I screeched. We rushed to South County Dodge Chrysler Jeep, at 7127 South Linbergh Blvd. in St. Louis.

Hubby said, "There's a catch. Nobody gives you anything for free. If you won $5,000, you will likely receive a check to apply to the purchase of a car. There's always a gimmick."

I knew he was probably right, but I put the brochure under his nose and tapped on the words, $5,000. CASH. I was already spending my big bucks.

When we noticed traffic control people wearing neon shirts, directing drivers into parking spots, I knew something was up. There was already a line of winners at the white tent. You guessed it. They too had winning scratch offs, and all were eligible to win the monetary prizes. A lot of them were excited, showing each other their cards and imagining aloud how they would spend their five grand.

We entered the tent and talked to a very nice retired gentleman, originally from NY, so you know we had fun conversation. He asked if we were interested in purchasing or trading in a car. We talked business. He gave us a good trade in price. He had our attention.

He asked when we'd be ready to purchase, and I said, "When I am handed my cash winnings." Then he was needed by someone at the computers, so a young fellow, Josh Redden, came to assist us. He was courteous, pleasant, helpful, a real gentleman. He walked us to the dealership where he checked our wining code number against those posted on the window. Needless to say, we did not walk away with $5,000.00. He offered us a another scratch off, with the possibility of winning $25,000. I told him we'd talk business if  I won that amount.

He pointed out the enlarged copy of the brochure's disclaimer, THE FINE PRINT. The rules specifically said, even if we had a winning scratch off, our code had to match.

Fair and square, it was not a bait and switch, but it was a baited enticement. With the economy tanking, all businesses use gimmicks to draw customers. Plain and simple, that's what was going on.

Reputable representatives from Automotive Experts are at the dealership through the weekend, and they are wheeling and dealing. If you or someone you know is in need of a good new or used car, stop by and ask for Audra or Josh Redden; one is in sales and the other in finance. They are a great team.


Admittedly, some folks were irate and rude, but the sales reps were all polite and engaging. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Seeking a caption

Liam is 22 months old and talking up a storm. He walked into our kitchen and pointed to fruit on the counter, and labeled each correctly: apple, orange, banana.
When he saw his favorite zoo family he shouted, "Dada, Mama, Baby Elephant." When the baby elephant left a pile, Liam shouted, "Poop! Poop!" He's a wise one, this little guy.
He squealed with excitement when the penguin swam underwater at his eye level.
He enjoyed being so close to the "Buhd, BIG Buhd."
But this photo below is my favorite.
I don't really know how I happened to take a black and white photo on my phone, but I am glad I did.

It's sort of like writing. You can be verbose and over-describe people, places and events colorfully, using fifty cent words, in minute detail; or you can speak simply and plainly, and allow your reader to use his or her imagination.

I could tell you all about this last picture, but the story you imagine might be better than the real one: the keeper threw a fish to a penguin, and Liam watched with interest.

Does this photo transport you back to another time?

Care to caption this picture for me?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Goodbye, old friend

Take a look at these photos and try to figure out how they are associated.
 My dad used to have a panel truck like this one. When I was little girl, I knew we would be traveling the Mother Road when he placed my mattress in the back of his truck for my brother and me to sleep on. We travelled wherever Dad's rambling soul led us.
Notice food trucks lined up in the background? They surrounded the perimeter of the parking lot.
The farewell party which went from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. was breaking up, and the band was unplugging when we arrived, but prior to this there were thousands of people in attendance.
The demolition of Crestwood Mall, on historic, Old Route 66 will begin soon. Crestwood Plaza opened in 1957 and closed it's last door in 2013. The property has become a neighborhood eyesore, a testament to tax increment financing battles, brouhahas, failed wheelings and dealings.

There is a Chicago-based developer now for this St. Louis landmark, which will entail a 104 million dollar redevelopment, retail and eating establishments, and talk of housing.

Generations of St. Louis inner city families travelled out Chippewa, which turned into Watson Road at the county line, to shop and dine indoors, visit Santa Claus, listen to politicians. Many watched movies at the theater, played video games in the arcade, or celebrated the Fourth of July with magnificent fireworks displays.

Good-bye Crestwood Mall/ Plaza located on historic Old Route 66, the Mother Road. The memories abound. Out with the old...in with the new. A bittersweet occasion as folks strolled the grounds, ordered from food trucks, danced to live music...

Friday, April 15, 2016

You won't believe what grew in Grandpa's garden

The weather is delightful here in St. Louis, 78 degrees and sunny. Hubby tilled his vegetable garden and is itching to get his crop of tomatoes and peppers planted. Our weather is unpredictable and usually  everyone waits at least until April 30th to put in tomato plants.

I am reminded of a time many years ago when our first grandchildren were young. Kyle was three and Ashley was seven when they helped plant

Grandpa’s Garden

published in The Ultimate Gardener, HCI Communications, Inc.  2009

       Along with a healthy crop of tomatoes and peppers, one season compassion grew in my husband’s garden.  After our children grew up and married, we moved into a condo. When our grandchildren started arriving, we purchased a small ranch house with an even smaller back yard. Although we gave up the luxury of a community pool, we absolutely felt like we had traded up. We were thrilled with the 6’x15’ patch of rich, dark soil at the far corner of our backyard. Bill had his idea of gardening, and I had mine. We couldn’t wait to get our hands in the dirt. He had grandiose visions of a garden boasting the reddest, roundest and plumpest tomatoes, and crunchy green and yellow peppers. He even generously planted a few extra tomato bushes for the wildlife and neighbors. I envisioned my garden as a small artist’s palette of petunias, marigolds and miniature rose bushes – just a strip of soil along the perimeter of the patio. It was very satisfying planting, nurturing and watching our gardens grow.
       When the tomatoes and peppers were ripe, our grandchildren couldn’t wait to help Grandpa

pick his veggies. Kyle, then three, nibbled as many elongated banana peppers as he picked, and

Ashley, then seven, harvested tomatoes until they overflowed the crook in her arm. They ate ripe,

red, juicy tomatoes as if they were apples. Forget the toy box in the guest room. The kids were

anxious to get into grandpa’s garden every time they came for a visit that first summer. Bill

showed them how to walk on the stepping stones between the rows, and he taught them about

roots and shoots, leaves and stems. Every visit was a hands-on, fingers-in-the-soil nature lesson

when they came to our house.

“We love it in Grandpa’s Garden,” they both said. They loved the dirt, the worms and the buried

treasure they discovered.

      One late fall day, they came for a visit and ran out the back door. They stopped abruptly in

their tracks. My flowers had all withered, and Grandpa’s garden was barren; he had ripped out all

of the plants.  Devastated, they stood on the dry earth and cried, “Our garden!”  Bill, a hulking six

foot two, two-hundred-fifty-pounder knelt down in the dirt beside the children. At their eye-level,

and with a gentle touch, he consoled them as he explained the life cycle of plants. He told them

to expect a new crop next year, and he promised them that they could even help him plant in the


      In March, spring teased our town with a premature warm snap. Bill tilled the rich earth in his

shirt sleeves in the hot sun; he was as anxious as the kids to dig in the dirt. He was wise enough

to know that a frost would destroy a prematurely planted tomato crop. Each time Ashley and

Kyle arrived they’d plead with him to plant the garden. Together they counted the days until May

15th, when they could plant again without the threat of frost.

      The week before the scheduled planting, unexpectedly, Bill had to have foot surgery and

was incapacitated. The planting had to be delayed two more weeks. Patience is not a child’s

virtue. So Grandpa gave them permission to go dig in his garden when they came to visit. I

handed each of them a big serving spoon and they happily darted outside. Every now and then

they came in to share a treasure they had unearthed. Then they’d rush back to the garden for

more fun. This went on for over an hour; the adults were content to stay inside and the kids

happily played outside. The last time they came in, they lingered in the guest room a little

longer than usual; then they slipped out the back door unnoticed for more fun in Grandpa’s


      When I peeked out the kitchen window to check on them, I gasped. Ashley and Kyle were

tromping though the plot of dirt, bent over, each of them digging and planting. There were

hundreds of flowers in full bloom, an array in every color and in every variety imaginable. A

rainbow of flowers blanketed more than two thirds of  Grandpa’s garden and they were still at it!

“Bill, come quick! You have to see this.” He hobbled to the window and chuckled loudly.

     “What are you kids doing?” he called.
     “We’re helping you, Paw-Paw, ‘cause your foot’s hurt,” Kyle said.

     “Yeah, Grandpa, we’re planting your garden for you!” Ashley exclaimed proudly.
     I soon discovered what they had discovered in the guest room. They had sneaked outside

with my shopping bag which was filled with an assortment of artificial flowers. I had intended

to use them with my preschool classes for a combined science, arts and crafts project. Bill and

I laughed with delight at the brilliant crazy quilt of fake flowers they had stuck in the dirt, a

compassionate gift, intended for their recuperating grandpa. 

      The grandchildren, now fifteen and eighteen, fondly remember playing Grandpa’s Garden.

Kyle grows his own tomatoes and peppers each summer, and eighteen year old Ashley still has

an affinity for pastel flowers - only now, they come from her boyfriend. Thanks to ‘Grandpa’s

Garden’ they both developed a deep appreciation for the good earth and what it can produce.

One very special grandpa planted the seeds of love that sprouted a crop of compassion.

Kyle is now almost 23 and Ashley is almost 27, and still this memory holds a special place in all our hearts.



















Sunday, April 10, 2016

Simple reminders a peek into the past

I am not advertising for Zulily, but when I saw this ad pop up on my Facebook page, I envisioned my mom. This is the style of dress she liked and looked so cute in when she was young and 5'2". Every time I look at this photo I see my sweet little mom's face and the way she held herself so tall, chin high, bright-eyed, smiling, teased hairdo. This image takes me back so many years and makes me feel melancholy.

Strange how clothing can resurrect memories. When I saw a man walk into a restaurant wearing suspenders, I envisioned my step dad. He loved his suspenders and wore them even with his undershirts when he was in the house. He was not heavy and did not require suspenders to hold up his pants. Just something he liked.

When he was older and suffering from forgetfulness, he would shuffle along and slowly navigate a shopping cart up and down the aisles of Aldi's, carefully selecting the best bargains.

Mom, wiry and impulsive, was always wishing he'd hurry up. Pops wished she'd go wait in my car, which she often did, as I was their transportation. I had to listen to her impatient prattling.

"He's so slow. I could have it all in the cart and packed up by now!"
I'd say, "Leave him alone. He loves this."
She'd say, "I'm going in there and tell him to come on!"
I'd ask, "Why? It will only frustrate him. Calm down."

Then we'd chat until she thought again about how pokey he was. I'd say, "What good is it going to do to go in there and frustrate him?"

She'd agree. We'd belly ache or brag some more about my kids and grandkids.

There's a brand new Aldi's grocery store being built in our neighborhood. So many reminders...so many wonderful blessed memories. Today I am missing my parents. This morning I wanted to pick up the phone and call my mom. Does that ever happen to you?


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Never lose hope

My favorite beach photograph hangs above the couch in our living room. When I gaze at it, I visualize the beauty of the area and remember the elation I felt that day. We were heading home, and I didn't want to leave. I love Navarre, Florida. The beaches are pristeen. Our vacation had been wonderful. I took home enough memories to refill my happy reservoir for another year.

Years ago we used to camp on the tip of a barrier island right down the road, at Ft. Pickens State Park, in Pensacola Beach.

This picture reminds me of the fragility of life. In a heartbeat, the road was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, and there were no road repair funds for many years. The web site claimed the only way to the campground was by personal water craft or a strenuous 8 mile bike ride and climb over giant dunes which were created when the sand was displaced. We did not attempt either.

A year after the destruction, we drove down the road as far as we could go. Evidence of devastation was everywhere: piles of rubble lay curbside...complete hotels and homes in heaps at the curb. Not an exaggeration. Swimming pools were filled to the brim with sand, making them indistinguishable from land. Huge dunes scattered with metal debris were plowed twenty feet high at the edge of the sea, obstructing our view of the bay and the slapping waves of the Gulf water. I bawled at the residents' loss and suffering. The area looked like a war zone. The signs posted added insult to injury: Debris must be removed by tourist season which is weeks away.

Five years later, the washed out sea level roads, were finally repaired, restored, or replaced. We asked the park ranger if we could drive through the campground for old times sake. "Everything's closed. No restoration yet." She allowed us a quick drive through.

Every single thing was crusted white with salt and sand. Dead live oaks were stripped of branches. Palms with fronds white as snow bent to the ground. Electric box doors on individual camp sites were ripped off. Some hung open wide in a silent roar.

Our red pick up truck was the only bright color in the campground. Lost in our own thoughts, memories, and mourning, we got out with our cameras. I wanted to take home a sea shell, but I knew if I did I would feel like a grave yard thief.

 I walked on and recalled memories of a campground filled to capacity, where children's voices once rang out until sundown, and evening camp fire smoke lifted hopes, dreams, and prayers to the heavens. Odors of grilling hot dogs and burgers rode smoke plumes into the tree tops and permeated the entire area.

I was focused on the eye-level images when I heard a squeal. I recognized it as a captured memory of those happy days when kids peppered campsites and the beach. A time when a rainbow of colorful umbrellas and chairs looked like spilled splotches of paint up and down the sugary strip of sand.

"Did you hear that?" I asked Bill when I heard the familiar squeals again. "Or is my mind playing tricks?"

We looked high up into the cluster of dead trees and spied this nest. A bald eagle, I thought with excitement. Then I realized it was a young osprey. The presence of the male and female perched and screeching nearby, reminded me of the tenacity it takes to forge on, and the trust required to rebuild anywhere, much less in a tip top fork of a dead tree.

 We stood in that forsaken campground and ballyhooed back and forth at one another.

I was reminded of the comfort and protection young ones feel at the sight of their parents.
The promises of our heavenly father, even when all hope is gone. I began to count my blessings.

 Hope and renewal... regardless.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Only In America!

My story, The Feelings Flag, will appear in this book which will be released on June 7th. The story, which some of you know, is close to my heart. On 9/11 when unspeakable horror was occurring, and when nobody knew what to say or do, I was a pre K teacher, housed in a middle school. I acted on impulse in order to give the older students a voice.

I submitted several stories for this collection, but they were not accepted. I will seek other homes for them. I am ever grateful, as this is the 24th Chicken Soup title in which my stories have been published.

Never give up hope. Nobody buys all the clothes on a rack, and most writers don't sell everything they write. Rejection is often about editorial needs rather than your writing. So write on!
Chicken Soup for the Soul is looking for stories about The Joy of Christmas and also stories on dogs and cats. Just start writing your thoughts down and soon you may see a story take shape.

                                         Four generations on a very windy Easter morning.
                                  My daughter Tracey, Granddaughter Ashley, Liam and me.