Sunday, May 29, 2016

Call it what you will

In one week I will be older and my story, The Feelings Flag, will be released and on shelves in this collection of stories, Chicken Soup for the Soul The Spirit of America. Perhaps you know a veteran who would enjoy this book. Release date is June 7th.

My grandparents are buried in family plot in a corner of a farmer's field in Jefferson City, MO. Dad called it Decoration Day; school called it Memorial Day. Dad would toss my mattress into the back of his panel truck/car and off we'd go on a road trip to decorate the gravesite and to visit my country cousins.

Most Americans will be outdoors this weekend, weather permitting, celebrating fun and family, and  remembering those who fought to keep us free.

I used to pledge allegiance to the flag, and I loved to sing patriotic songs without giving much thought to the meaning of the words or my freedoms.

Today I thank those who serve and have served in every branch of service.

I was a military wife. I remember hand washing my soldier's woolen uniform in a tiny trailer wash basin in Alaska, back in 1969-'70. That wet uniform weighed more than a sack of potatoes. Wringing it out was a challenge. Drying it indoors took days.

Dealing with the climate was a challenge, but nothing compared to the challenges of others who served during that period. While we were at the top of the world, others were battling in the Vietnam conflict.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The ride we've all taken

The link will take you to my latest publication about a ride we've probably all taken, a bike ride.

 I watch Liam bravely lift his little legs when he zooms down the driveway on his ride-on bike or little car, and I imagine him in fourteen years, zooming into the love zone like the 16 year old character I am writing about in my work in progress:

Puppy love and first cars are equivalent to a fast ride on a figure eight track, all consuming and completely confusing. At the ragged edge of aggravation, with his engine gunning, sixteen-year-old Luke roared around the bend. Hit a road block at the intersection of Leave-me-alone! and No-I-won't-give-up-on-you.

He disregarded every glaring amber warning sign, and rushed headlong to prove himself. At a red light, he slammed on the brakes, flung down his cell phone and spat, "Forget about Kate!" 

At a stand still, he surveyed his love life, questioned his options, contemplated his rapidly depleting gas gauge. Running on fumes, emotions idling high, he waited for a signal.
 At the ping of a text-received, he unclenched his fists, revved his motor and exceeded all speed limits. Supercharged, he muffled a plea bargain.

Kate heard the sincere purr of his engine and gave him the go-ahead. She'd take him for another spin. One more chance. This was it.

He sped off, thrilled to have one more lap on the double back track.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Watch your words!

Words are powerful. They carry such weight. I was thinking about the laugh lines from my granddaughter, Ashley, now 27. Liam's mommy has some competition. Her little boy is just like her.
Three year old Ashley saw pictures of missing children and shouted, "I know their mother! 
Old Lady in the shoe had lots of kids."

Ashley ordered her own taco without tomatoes. She opened it, and shouted, "Yuck!
They gave me grass!" (lettuce)
Walking along a nature trail, Ashley,4, spied new saplings with pink ribbons tied to trunks.
"Look at all the newborn girl trees!"

 At 4, she was the flower girl at my wedding. She was also in my preschool class. My mother told her my name would change once I married Papa Bill. Ashley cried and cried. She said, "I don't want her name to change. I still want to call her Nana."
When she was five, I asked her if she wanted to visit the Lewis and Clark exhibit.
"No, thank you. I already know about it. Lois is Clark Kent's girlfriend on Superman."

Ashley, age five stated, "I know what everything in the world is called when
it goes on and on and on and on... INSANITY!"

During presidential debates a newscaster broke in her TV show with election results.
"More on candidates at 10:00."
Eight year old Ashley gasped, "Nana, I didn't know they could call politicians MORONS on T.V."
Reader's Digest paid me $100 for my smart girl's mix up.

Well, actually, she wasn't far off, was she?









Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Someone has an eye on me, and if I find out...

I swear ever since we've changed internet providers someone has had an eye on me. I banged my belly on the key board as I shoved my chair close to the computer and got a pop up in bold letters: HOW TO GET RID OF BELLY BLOAT. Really?!
All these ads are convincing me there's a spy in our computer (which does not have an attached camera by the way.)  Hewy with the worn off key board letters must be in on the conspiracy.

While the baby napped yesterday, I crept into the kitchen, removed a caramel crunch pastry from the white bakery bag as quietly as possible, so as not to alert Liam or his name sake snoozing in the recliner...losing weight. You heard me.

I diet. I gain. He eats light, and loses pounds, and apparently stamina, so he naps.

I poured a cup of coffee and tiptoed into the home office holding my Danish on a paper towel. I set my coffee down, eased into my chair, and dunked a piece of that delicious sugary dough. Quietly. I didn't want anyone to discover my contraband, ask for a bite, or nag me that a bite was too much. MY belly. MY bloat. MY scale.

Turned on the computer and there it was: ONE EASY EXERCISE DESTROYS BLOOD SUGAR. As I blew a quiet raspberry, a piece of caramel crunch splattered on the monitor. I wiped off  the screen so I could see the next personal attack.
FOUR STAGES TO A HEART ATTACK with a photo of a big toe. Odd. I'd gone to the doctor the day before for excruciating big toe pain, which lasted 24 hours and completely subsided when I sat down for the exam. Doc and I both thought that a bit strange, but strange things have been happening ever since we've changed internet providers. She diagnosed a bacterial infection from a tear in the cuticle bed. She gave me eye drop antibiotics and told me to use two drops every four hours...On. My. Big. Toe! Really?!

Now I know I am old and have one foot in the grave, but the next ad pushed it too far with bold letters: CREMATION vs. BURIAL. I almost died when I saw the price comparisons. Convinced me one day I will finally have a smoking hot body.
The next ad's enticement: TRIPLE X NOT SOLD IN STORES!
I averted my gaze thinking it might have been... well you know.

The visual was an extra large T-shirt imprinted with O'CONNELL...AN ENDLESS LEGEND.
In his own mind, maybe, and no I am not going to buy him something that would make his head swell too big for his own T shirt neck hole.

If I admitted to my doctor I occasionally feel conflicted...well forget it...I am not taking any more of her mismatched medications! Mood altering drugs would probably make me paranoid.

And if I find out who's been spying on me...

Monday, May 9, 2016

Life's lessons aren't always learned the hard way

Some of the best life lessons are learned when you least expect it...not from a book, but simply by observing. The first lesson I learned on Friday was time is flying way too fast. Also count your blessings and appreciate the little things. To be able to spend quality time with a special, little, personable, person not quite two, is one of my greatest  privileges.  

Since Liam got a haircut, it's as if he has grown a neck, which makes him look like a big boy, not a baby anymore. He is stringing words, and he is going to be verbose. He sings You Are My Sunshine with me. I sing a few word and he fills in the blanks in a singing voice. Baby nuzzles have been traded in for cheek smacks. He poufs the air out of my inflated cheeks and belly laughs. He goes up to strangers and says, "Hello." His latest obsession is American flags. We'll be driving and he says, "Oh flags, where are you?" When he spies one, he says, "Nana, another flag." I never realized how many flags there are blowing in the breeze. "Another one. Another one. Oh three flags Nana!"   

I took him to Grant's Farm, a free mini zoo on the property owned by the Busch Brewery folks. On the tram ride through the animal areas we saw buffaloes and two newborn babies, long horn steer, and lots of others.  The female ostrich is perched on twelve eggs. Because the male is willing to help with the sitting at night, the farm is going to hatch the eggs. The guide said usually the males aren't interested, but this big guy isn't allowing the eggs to cool at all. Teamwork is important! 

After the tram ride we fed the baby goats milk from a baby bottle. Um...Liam plopped that nipple right into his own mouth, because that was  his only frame of reference. Widen your horizons. Learn something new. He was amazed to see baby goats nursing from baby bottles. He spied a kangaroo and shouted, "Hello kangaroo!"

 I bought him his first snow cone, and he shouted, "Purple!" What an experience to watch the joy of tasting a snow cone through a toddler's eyes.  "Collllld! Oh yum!"

Observing him was akin to reading a terrific essay where the author allows you to glimpse every emotion and sensory detail captured in a particular moment.   

We watched the bird show, and he kept saying, "Bird, Nana. Big bird. Red bird. Fly bird." He squealed when the trained macaw flew inches above the audience. Then to discover there were more macaws living in a shady compound nearby...well you can only imagine his delight.

We stopped to have a snack. When Liam dropped some of his crackers, the chickens skittered  around us and devoured the crumbs. It is good to share with others...whether you're a toddler or a writer. 
When I ask him a question, even a basic one such as, "What book do you want to read?" He replies. "I don't know." It's okay not to know. As a writer, there's a lot to learn. Don't be afraid of research or discovering new techniques. Get out there and tackle whatever comes your way. And remember to be thankful everyday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Am I a hillbilly offspring? I'll tell you directly.

When I taught preschool and when my own children were young, I used ambiguous words in order to stall instant gratification or delay an immediate request. Kids ask questions all day long; they have the need to know. I know!
Soon. In a little while. Maybe. Possibly. Those stall words worked fine when my kids were young, but as they got older, they would say, "MAYBE isn't a definite yes or no."

My dad would have been 99 this year, and I can remember the way he said the word, "directly."

He used it in different contexts.
"Go dreckly to the store." I knew that meant straight there.

"You can go to the store dreckly." That meant something altogether different.
Dad's favorite put off was, "I'll let you know dreckly." WHENEVER.

My research indicates the word origin was British English and its meaning was as soon as.
Derived from proper English, it  found its way into hillbilly dialect meaning in a moment.

In my family directly had no specific time reference.

Any stand out or stand off words used in your family?


Sunday, May 1, 2016

What do you have in reserve? Becoming my mom.

I have renewed energy, vitality and drive in springtime. I'm excited and delighted to see all the rose buds blossoming; there are more each day. Looking at this little statue makes me count my blessings.
With the longer days, I write prolifically. Since January I have submitted 11 new pieces per month. I hope my submissions will be accepted and my writing will blossom like this little bush, but of course that's not realistic. I've received three acceptances since January. Such is freelance reality.
Hubby tosses his cooked egg yolks to a mocking bird that has been coming around for a couple years. It's so tame it lands on the patio table and waits for him to throw food. The other day Bill dropped the egg on the ground. A starling swooped in to snatch it, but a chipmunk darted out from under the shed and devoured it. The starling looks startled, doesn't it? Or maybe confused? I know the mockingbird perched on the fence was. The two birds thought it a sure thing. The little chipmunk showed them.

Writing and submitting can be confusing and disappointing when you believe you've written the perfect piece for a particular publication, and the editor rejects it. Almost immediately. Sometimes it's not about how swift you are and how clever your writing. It could be that someone else beat you to the punch. Or maybe your piece didn't suit editorial needs, wasn't the right tone or fit.

I've been trying to break into a new essay market which has a call out for personal essays on motherhood. I've submitted from three different perspectives: a mother's, a teacher's and a grandmother's. I was certain one of them would be a good fit, but so far I have received three rejections. "Not a good fit."

As an editor, author, and creator of an anthology, I know editors cannot respond to all inquiries.
I wrote and asked if they were seeking snarky or serious. I received a form letter rejection, not an answer.

Disappointing? Sure.

Will that stop me? of course not.

I now have three new essays which I can submit elsewhere.

Just like the chubby chipmunk who stores food, it's good for writers to have a reserve supply.

Do you have a folder filled with rejected material? Have you looked at it lately? Why not select something, revise it and send it out this week?

If it pertains to mothering, you might try Motherwell. I wish you success. 

My story about my mom and me is online for your reading pleasure. Please leave a comment. Thank you and enjoy.