Tuesday, September 19, 2017

From tiny to towering

Despite a roomful of toys, this measuring stick is the first thing our grand kids darted for when they were little. They were so excited when they could move their name which indicated growth. Sean is 18 and George is 20. Last month our house overflowed with family for Bill's birthday. The first thing all of the grown kids went for again was the measuring stick. George is 6'5". Sean's 6'

        Kyle 24, Sean 18, George 20, Ashley 27, (9 months pg with Alex), Madison 19.
 It seems like only yesterday I was nuzzling their baby necks and kissing their baby toes.
                                                                       And now this!
I cannot believe I get to do it all over again. Also can't believe that one day Liam and Alex will have big, old, stinky feet, too.
I am so smitten with this tiny kitten.
 And so is Paw-paw Bill. There is something about his voice and happy face that is magnetic to children. We are so fortunate to have reared our own children, had a hand in shaping the lives of our grandchildren, and now we are so blessed to have a chance to do it again with these tiny boys.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Tongues were wagging

Four dynamic motivational speakers!

                               Gianna Jacobson, Kim Lozano, Kelli Allen, Linda O'Connell

I participated in a panel discussion with these writers, editors, and professors on the topic of why or why not to submit to literary magazines and university journals. The St. Louis Publisher's Association meeting room was filled. My critique group members, who were supposed to be at our own meeting, walked in and surprised me. I am proud to be a member of the Wild Women Wielding Pens critique group. Sioux, Lynn, Kim, and Laura are the most supportive friends.

Gracious hostess, Peggy Nehman introduced us. Since we were presenting in alphabetical order, I knew I would be speaking last. I was concerned that the others would cover most everything on the topic of literary magazines, so I talked about my personal journey and mild success with lit mags. I explained that I do not have a Masters in Fine Arts. I consider my MFA and acronym for Mighty Fine Attitude. I admitted I have been a successful freelance writer because I chose to take a chance.

You are not too old.
It is never too late.
Take a chance.

Those were my key points as I admitted my vulnerabilities and shared some of the mistakes I have made along the way.

I benefited from this event as well. I learned from my fellow panelists, and I received positive feedback after the meeting. I also received private messages, emails, and gained a few blog followers. You never know where life will take you, what connections you will make and  what a difference you can make in another person's life. A word of encouragement can have a long reach and inspire others.

"The panel was knock-your-socks-off terrific. They were four of the most prepared, intelligent, creative women I have met in a long time. The program was well worth attending, just to hear them speak." Bobbi Linkemer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

As the clock moves forward...

The simple things in life make me happiest.

Bill and I took a leisurely stroll through the interior walking path at Francis Park, alongside a shallow lagoon. When we first met, we used to walk the perimeter of this park three times...almost three miles every Sunday. First lap we walked side-by-side, second lap hand-in -hand, and the third time, his arm wrapped around my shoulder, me tucked under his arm. We were a perfect fit 28 years ago. 

 This pretty lily pad and the gold fish swimming about brought such a peaceful joy, a soothing calm.

This fragrant bush in one of my late friend's favorite color made me think of Millie. I remembered the fun we used to have together, her favorite song, her laughter. The summer of our discontent.
The doctor says my honey and I need to exercise more. When I suggested strolling through this park, Bill said, "Why do you always wait until after I eat to ask me to walk? That's bad for my heart."

I replied, "I think the ice cream is bad for your heart." And he retorted, "Yours, too." LOL
Midway around the inner path, my king found a work-of-art throne where he could sit and rest.

Those were the days when we could hustle around the park three times. We were getting to know one another then, discovering each other's likes and dislikes. Our similarities.  Yes, we were a perfect fit back then.  And I'm happy to say, we still are...albeit a bit heavier, happier, older... yet still content.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

What is your method, big or small?

As a writer, do you think small? 
This is Howie when he was a puppy.

                                                                   Or do you think big?
Howie is a full grown Golden Doodle boy. I say boy, because he still wants to hug Kyle who has to kneel down for a loving embrace. Howie has not outgrown his puppy personality, and possibly never will. He is sweet and playful, and he thinks he's a lap dog. He's so big he has his own large otttoman to snooze on. He loves going to the dog park and gnawing on his hard rubber toys.

When you tackle writing, do you think small or go big? I'm reading What Comes Next and How to Like It, A Memoir by Abigail Thomas, a writer and writing instructor.

Every writer has their moments of self doubt. Here's what happened to her. Sound familiar?

I had written poems in the seventies, but the poetry dried up. When I tried to write words that went all the way across the page I got discouraged; "Who do you think you are?" I'd mutter, balling up the paper and tossing it into a wastebasket ~ Abigail Thomas.

She gave her students an assignment. They were instructed to select a ten year period of their lives, and write two pages about that time using only three words sentences.

Think of the tight writing, the poetry that might evolve, and the possibilities for future stories. She says you either run away from the truth or toward it. I imagine this exercise can produce outstanding writing.

You do not have to stretch words all the way across the page, no paragraphs or formatting. Just three words at a time. Less intimidating. Abbreviated revelations. My own examples.

I loved motherhood. Kids my happiness.
Rotten stinking marriage. Tossed the garbage.
My great escape. Could breathe again.

Nana at 40. Ocean-deep baby love.
Watched friend die.  I cried ugly.
Met soul mate. Delighted each day.
Never been happier.

Me a writer? Didn't take classes. Took several chances.
Success with anthologies. Credits piled up.
Me a presenter? Who you kidding?
Speaking gigs everywhere.

See how easy? Will you give it a try, maybe a leave a sentence, or two or three?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hands on learning vs worksheets

Make learning fun!

Right now Liam is a mommy snuggler and baby brother kisser, but when she returns to work he is going to be so surprised with this activity board. It cost me $1.00 to make. I picked up the large cardboard which separates stacks of food items at Sam's Club for free. I picked up the foam leaves and golf tees at a garage sale, 50 cents each. I drew a tree and tinted white glue with food coloring to draw the grass and flowers and to outline the tree top and Jack-o-lantern.

Won't my little buddy be surprised to find himself seated on the Jack-o-lantern? I can hear him now when he discovers his very own dogs, Mack and Riley, hiding among the flowers.

The preschool teacher in me comes out at the beginning of a new school year, and I must create.
I will teach him beginning letter sound, matching letters, alphabet recognition, concepts big/bigger/biggest; above, below, and other pre-K concepts.

You can make an activity board at little or no cost. The only problem I encountered was the golf tees are so long they bump the wall. I solved the problem by hot gluing a foam block to each top corner. Now it leans against the wall perfectly.

The other side will be decorated with a large Christmas tree and he will be able to hang A-B-C ornaments in December.

There's a song that goes along with this fall theme:

Leaves, leaves, yellow and brown (flutter fingers above head)
Leaves are falling down to the ground (touch floor/ground)
Leaves leave yellow and red
One leaf landed right on MY HEAD! (Child shouts it)

So, who is going to Sam's, Costco, or another big box store to pick up a piece of cardboard?

Monday, September 4, 2017

My husband was in hot water, not I.

Click this safe link to read my latest story, A Real Blast.


The September Issue of Sasee Magazine features beautiful cover art by artist Celia Wester.

If you have time, please read my latest essay, humorous now, but certainly not when it happened.

My husband always means well, but he almost pushed me over the edge with this incident.

Would you be so kind as to leave a comment on Sasee's page after reading my story? Thanks.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Whose joy ride did I pay for?

I have been remiss in keeping up with my blog and others because I have been enamored with a newborn, dealing with car repairs, and trying not to "Oohh" and "Oww" too much when I sit, lie down, or stand.

My honey and I went to lunch at a restaurant Monday, and I slipped in an unseen water spill, went down hard on my hip, elbow, knee. The paramedics said, "Nothing broken, just banged up good." Understatement: "You will be sore."

A nurse friend told me I'd be surprised at all the muscle strains. I can tell you I am  glad for the padding. If ONLY I had landed on my bottom. My left side below my hip is black, my knee is a beautiful blend of purples and blues. But I am healing. Can;t keep this old gal down.

I dropped off my rental car at the dealership to pick up my car after repairs. Short story: I got way too excited as we hurried to the hospital for Alex's birth. I plowed into my daughter's Mustang which was parked behind me.  The story that will grow over the years.

Anyway, my cars is good as new. I left the dealership and went to a store across the street. Going home, ten miles away, I spied the rental car, (identifiable by the out of state license plate I memorized) and observed a young woman recklessly driving it.

I called the dealership and asked about the gasoline refill charge since I chose and option with the car rental company to replace the gas at $2.00 per gallon regardless of  increase. The receptionist said, "The car rental manager just picked up the car. I can give you her number."

I asked the "driver" how my gasoline fees and usage would be billed. She said, "Our computer shows the car arrived with 3/4 tank of gas."

I told her I have photos of the mileage and gauge which shows the tank only half full, and I used only a quarter tank. When I mentioned someone driving the car shortly after I dropped off, she changed her tune and said, "Well, let me see if I can adjust this down." And she did. How many other people have been duped?

Pretty slick, that I would have to pay for her joy ride.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Liam, Alex, and Harvey

The big brother is getting too big. 
Liam has been very helpful with his little brother and wants to kiss him all the time.

Well who wouldn't want to kiss this cute little face? He is such an alert baby. He looks like his mommy's baby picture here. Going to be another smart one.

Keeping all those in the path of hurricane Harvey in my prayers. This looks like a devastating one. Just heard 20,000 people on several cruise ships are unable to head in to Galveston and cruise lines are making accommodations. Many folks on board are concerned their cars parked at port will be washed out to sea. I can't imagine 36 inches of rain after Harvey makes landfall and then spins around again. Stay safe, folks.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words...or DOLLARS

Saturday we celebrated two lives.

Paw-paw Bill is celebrating a milestone birthday, and baby Alex was introduced to all of his relatives.

Naturally the women and little girls hovered over the four-day-old baby. One little six year old girl (like an adopted granddaughter) held him, and whispered in awe, "Go get my mom! Go get my dad! Go get everyone. I can't believe this!" It was such a thrill to see everyone having such a fun time. We have a small ranch house, and our living room (furniture and floor) was covered with mostly big kids sprawled wall to wall... and as you can see, Liam's popsicle sticks.

Kyle who is 24 let all the little kids climb on his back when he was on the floor. What a good sport.

 George, 20 years old, is home from his college internship at University of Alabama and will be heading back to New York for his junior year at Vassar.

He has always loved babies, ever since he was a baby. Just look at the joy on his face as he held Alex for the first time.

Nicholas, 16, our la cross champ, insists on wearing his hair in this "flow" style like the  professional players. I think it looks pretty cool. Parents don't always agree with grandparents. Nick is a softie for babies, too. Just something about these big guys bonding with their newest cousin that touches my heart.

But THIS is the picture that brings me to tears.

 Ashley texted me this photo and said, "I am so in love with him, I think my heart will break."

And speaking of breaks... I'd really rather not tell you about what broke my heart on Tuesday evening. My daughter pulled onto the parking pad behind my car in our drive way. She left adequate space between our cars. We waited for the phone call which we knew would be coming any moment. At 6:00 p.m. Ashley called and said, "The doctor said you have one hour to make it here before I deliver."

We rushed out to MY car, buckled Liam into his car seat. I started the engine, threw the car in reverse floored it, and plowed right into my daughter's MUSTANG! My car is much worse than hers. 

Talk about a Keystone Cops episode! I will certainly have a story for Alex when he's older.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

And baby makes four.

 This was how my precious granddaughter Ashley and her husband Justin looked one month ago.  

Ashley was in labor all day Tuesday at WORK! Contractions 3-5 minutes apart. (KIDS!) She left work an hour early, drove home 50 miles, (KIDS!) met her husband when he walked through the door, and off they drove  back 50 miles to the hospital. Baby Alex arrived at almost 38 weeks. If she had carried him to due date, Alex would have been almost 10 lbs, like his big brother, Liam.

This photo of our latest little blessing, Alexander Scott, and Mommy was taken on August 16, 2017 when he was one day old. He's a sleeper and a keeper! Ashley said, "I couldn't imagine loving another baby as much as I do Liam, but Nana, I do. I love him SO much." Bless those hormones!

Alex weighed 8.3 pounds and was 21 inches long, alert and calm, turned his head toward mommy's voice, and latched on like a pro. He is a smart one, like his big brother, Liam. And did I say CUTE?!

 Liam observed him from afar. I sat Liam on the bed with his mom and placed baby in his arms, but Liam cried. He was afraid of him. Last evening, during visiting hours, Liam brought Baby Alex a blue stuffed animal fish (tossed it to him!) and wanted to hold his brother. 

He told his Nana Tracey earlier in the day, "Baby Alex is so cute, and he's so little. And he's MINE!" 

I think Liam likes him!

My daughter, Tracey, has an in-home day care center. She is ecstatic. When Ashley goes back to work, Tracey will be able to snuggle, cuddle and kiss Alex, to her heart's content, just as she does Liam. The kids in her care call her Miss Tracey. Liam addresses her as MY Nana.

 I am absolutely in love again. This photo was taken minutes after his birth. Someone observed, "I think he looks like Paw-Paw Bill. How can that be?!" Paw-paw isn't blood related, but he sure has been a positive influence and will be a wonderful great-grandpa, again. 

He and Liam are best buddies. Paw-paw Bill sneaks him Oreo cookie thins. At the hospital, as we waited  for the birth, Bill did a little magic and pulled an Oreo cookie from behind Liam's ear.

Last evening Bill stayed home when I went to the hospital. Liam asked, "Nana, would you look behind my ear and see if Paw-paw left another cookie?" I said, "He did! He sent it to you in my purse."

Liam told all the visitors about Paw-paw Bill's magic. LOL God bless these little boys.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Watching the cherubs and waiting for an eviction

Here I sit, waiting, anticipating...
My honey and I went to lunch today and sat out on this lovely patio.

I enjoyed watching and listening to this fountain with cherubs. I sent up a little prayer for Nana's girl and Baby Alex, Liam's unborn baby brother.

 Little mama and expectant daddy are mighty discouraged. Ashley worked yesterday and had steady contractions all day. I went to the doctor with her after work. Okay, it's more like I dropped in unexpectedly and got the evil eye. But she did indulge me and allowed me to come into the exam room. I may have been a wee bit exuberant when the petite, sweet, young, female obstetrician asked, "So how are we doing?" I replied, "We're having a baaaaaabyyyy."

My baby rolled her eyes and grinned.

Doctor examined her and said if the pains worsen and are continuous she should go to the hospital. Meanwhile, she was directed to go home and eat a good meal, then put her packed  bag in the car. Baby Alex was as uncomfortable as Ashley. At one point she saw the imprint of his foot as he gave her belly a swift kick. Ashley read somewhere that pineapple has properties that can induce labor. She ate it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Maybe there's something to it, because that got the action going.

I started Alex's baby journal last evening, wrote that I thought I might meet him in a few hours. Hours passed. Day turned to night. Night gave way to today. Contractions intensified. Ashley woke at 4:00 a..m. dreaming of having a baby. She was in the throes of a hard contraction. She got up and got ready for work. (KIDS!) and by the time she got to work, her contractions ceased. Completely.
She's so disappointed, she said she's ready to cry.

I'm thinking of running to the grocery store for a fresh pineapple. To heck with the canned stuff.

UPDATE: (According to her Facebook post, since lunch: contractions three minutes apart. She may have eaten pineapple for lunch.)

Daddy Justin didn't get much sleep, and he probably won't for awhile. Alex's scheduled delivery date is 8/24. We thought sure he was going to escape sooner. Send some positive vibes.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Just down the road... a step back in time

A hop and skip and jump from downtown St. Louis, MO is a quaint little town known for its huge crowds at the Apple Butter Festival in the Fall, Strawberry Festival in summer, and Witches Night Out at Halloween. If you've never been to Kimmswick, MO and you prefer less crowds, go during the week. You might encounter a tour bus or two unloading in front of The (homey) Blue Owl Restaurant. But the town is less crowded than on weekends.

After a yummy meal at any number of restaurants, you can take a walk back in time. That's what a dozen of my relatives and I did recently when five generations, ages three through 87 strolled the small town.

Mr. Kimm bought the property which is just South of St. Louis in 1984. The town of Kimmswick was incorporated in 1871. This little, historic river town consists of many small stone buildings. The  former residences have been converted to shops which sell everything from candles, and lace, to apple butter, mile high pies, and unique arts and crafts.

As we strolled past the post office, we met Mary Oster, the personable post mistress of Kimmswick Post Office.
She explained that the mail originates from St. Louis' Downtown Main Post Office.  The U.S. Postal Service delivers the mail for the 100 or so Kimmswick residents to the U.S. Post Office in Imperial, MO, a few miles up the road. Imperial P.O. delivers the mail to the old fashioned little post office in the town of Kimmswick. A step inside made me feel as though I were in a Norman Rockwell painting.

I assume Mary Oster knows everybody in town, and I'm certain she has many friends. She has a bubbly personality, and a flair for decorating. After a brief conversation I felt like I'd known her forever. She's one of those people who have never met a stranger. Look at her winnining smile.

When I lived in Alaska, this is exactly the way our daily mail was delivered... into individual post office boxes. I felt like I had stepped back fifty years in time and was picking up my mail from P.O. Box 157. I loved receiving letters from home. My mom sometimes stuffed a dollar or two into her letters. I made a beeline to the general store to purchase a package of chocolate cookies. The post office in Delta Junction was no bigger than this one in Kimmswick, MO. I certainly experienced deja`vu.

Mary came out to collect the mail from the postal box. She invited my cousin, Jeffrey, to help Liam and his cousin, Benjamin, choose a book from the little free library. She told them they could have a book to keep. What a thrill for the boys who are 4th cousins, I think.
 The Kimmswick P.O. Building was established more than 100 years ago.

If you would like to learn more about this town, which is about half an hour away from downtown St. Louis, click on the link and learn all about the town's history and upcoming events. If you happen to drop by the post office, tell Mary, Linda sent you.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Almost a decade later... never too late!

What a pleasant surprise! 

I went out to get the mail today and discovered a large manila envelope with a return address from Leesburg, Virginia. I don't know anyone from there, so I ripped it open and discovered a book: Rhyme On Adult Poetry Writing Contest 2017, by Symington Press.

I read the acceptance letter. I had submitted this poem back in April to Luodoun County Public Library contest, and I had forgotten about it. I assumed it had been rejected. 

They received 76 entries and published 20. Mine won in the humor category.

I wrote this about Nicole when she was a baby. She's all grown up, now, and soon to be ten.

Replica of Me

My little baby granddaughter somewhat resembles me.
Her big blue eyes are sparkly; mine look tired as tired can be.

She has a double chin like mine; hers you want to nibble.
Mine hangs loose and fleshy and catches all my dribble.

My little baby granddaughter has a roly-poly belly.
Hers is soft and solid; mine is just like jelly.

I love her many dimples, and I love her baby sighs.
My dimples look like lemon peel up and down my thighs.

My little baby granddaughter is as cute as cute can be.
When I look at her, I see a perfect little me.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Where you going, honey, and what do you have there?

In all our years together, I have never experienced anything like this. This was a first with my honey.

He woke at 2:00 a.m. got out of bed and stood up with his arms extended, palms up, as though carrying something fragile. He rummaged around in the bathroom closet, walked into the study, flipped on the light, and bumped into the tall book case. Flipped off the light, walked (arms still extended) into the hall, spied me in the bathroom with the door open and said, "Excuse me, ma'am, I thought there was another bathroom on this floor."

I said, "Use the bathroom in our bedroom." He looked very confused. I asked what he was holding and he replied, "A baby dragon on a plate. They said the guard wanted it for his kid. I'm trying to find the guard."

That is enough of his Sci-fi TV viewing before bedtime!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Math was never my strong point.

What the world definitely needs now is a heaping helping of kindness. 

My story, Filled with Kindness, was selected for inclusion in this collection of 101 stories.

This is the 26th Chicken Soup for the Soul book in which my stories have been published. Yes, I know I have been shouting 25th, but I discovered a CS book that had fallen behind the others on the bookshelf. That was a pleasant surprise this morning.

I had great English teachers in high school and college, but mostly I am a self-taught writer who writes from the heart and connects on an emotional level with the reader. My very first CS acceptance was a fluke, or maybe divine intervention. I saw this headline in our neighborhood news in 1999: Chicken Soup for the Soul Seeking Stories for the Gardener's Soul.

Let me tell you, I am no gardener. Don't ever look at my thumbs. I can barely keep potted plants and hanging baskets alive, but I am not a gardener by any stretch.

I set the newspaper down, then picked it up several times, knowing I had no gardening experience. I did have a story about a flower that bloomed in winter, per a pact my late friend and I made when she was terminally ill. I knew THAT was not a gardening story. However...

I TOOK A CHANCE, submitted by snail mail back then, and they accepted my story right away. Click this link to read it.

I was stunned, inspired and vowed to get my stories in nine more CS books. My goal was to be published in 10 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I submitted to almost every title. I certainly did not get into every book, but to date I have surpassed my goal of 10. Now that I'm at 26, maybe I should set my sites on #30.

Am I a dreamer? Sure. Do my dreams come true? Sometimes. Should I stop submitting if I don't receive an acceptance? WHY?!

Don't be afraid to dream. My Chicken Soup for the Soul dream has led to speaking engagements, paid gigs, panel presentations, and published articles about my experiences. I am the former high school student who would rather take a failing grade than speak before the class.

It is never too late to accomplish your dreams, whatever they may be.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

What have you accomplished lately?

If he could have, Liam would have climbed to the top of this tree. He was so thrilled when we walked around the lake to discover this tree,  just the right size to latch onto.

Even though he was unable to do much more than swing his legs, he felt such a sense of accomplishment, and he talked about it all day.

We should all be proud of our accomplishments. What seems minimal to you may seem phenomenal to someone who is observing you. 

Liam's baby brother, Alex, will be arriving soon. Ashley has had contractions for four days. Her body is getting ready to deliver another great grandson to this nana who can hardly wait.

We had a diaper shower (and other things) for her. Liam gave his baby brother a gift. He was with me one day and I let him select a silly Halloween shirt for baby Alex.  He chose it because he liked the bright orange color. I allowed it because I like what was imprinted on the front: PLEASE DON'T SCARE ME. I POOP EASILY.

I decorated the cake to match the woodland creatures napkins and baby shower decor. I enjoy making cakes for family.  I feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment when I complete one, but I wouldn't want to do it for a living. I must say, it was delicious.

Tell me something you have accomplished lately. No matter how trivial it may have seemed to you. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wild animals need love, too.

I went outside last evening at dusk to water the thirsty plants. I was rolling up the hose when I heard a guttural growl. I froze, looked around, but I didn't see a thing out of the ordinary. As I laid the nozzle on top of the wound up hose, I heard an angry animal grumble. I looked behind the large plastic trash bin thinking it might be the over-sized raccoon I saw climbing the fence the other night. Nothing there!

I grabbed the closest thing I could find, a beach towel on the patio table. I armed myself, crept into the driveway, bent down and looked under the parked car, ready to swat at that thing if it came at me...and that's when I saw his legs. He knew I saw him, and when he tried to snarl, he bared his teeth and laughed out loud.

I think playfulness is important in a marriage. My honey and I are forever playing "Gotcha!" This time he got me good. All work and no play...well you know the rest about how dull it can be.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A couple of reasons to SMILE

My greatest thrill this week has been receiving an award-winning acceptance from Metro Arts in Transit.

My poem, Family Reunion, will be riding the rails in 2018. It will be posted on Metro Link trains or Metro buses, along with other local writers' poetry.

Perhaps my words will convince someone else to try their hand at writing a poem. Many people shy away from poetry for various reasons. I hope this demonstrates how simple it can be to connect with the reader through plain speak and imagery. Not all poems are indecipherable or ambiguous. I can't wait to share it with you, soon.

Another honor! My wonderful dentist, Holly Ellis, said she enjoyed reading my previous blog post about the killer dentists I have known, and she wants to post it on her website.

She and her staff are  remarkable. They are intuned to the patient's every need, and connect on a personal as well as professional level. I feel as though I am visiting old friends when I go for my appointments. If you are looking for a new dentist, this state of the art dental practice is for you. She's located in Crestwood, MO.

Link to my KILLER DENTISTS post.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

It's not just what you say. It's how you say it.

In my previous post I asked you to write one sentence to describe an approaching storm. Thank you to those who participated.

Few words or many words... any way you choose to paint your word pictures, remember you're writing for the reader who wants to feel the storm, see what you saw, hear what you heard. They want to experience your experience.

Here are some of my memories of being caught in a summer storms. The beach storm came out of no where. An ebony cloud spilled like grape Kool-aid across the sky as I was walking alone in sugar white sand.  All of the condos looked the same. I was half a mile away from ours. I could not distinguish one from the other, plus I had no cell phone. Thank goodness my honey was on the balcony motioning  for me. I never felt so terrified and alone trudging through sand, trying to "outrun" a storm barreling down.
  • My nose twitched with the detection of ozone, as the bruised sky flung palm-size spiked hail at the parched yard.

  • The wind whipped our red bud saplings like half a dozen frenetic ballerinas, and deforested their limbs.

  • The old porch swing chains rattled when the jet-black cloud raced up the street, splintered the wood, and snatched anything not rooted.

  • Thunder bombed, ricocheted my guts; lightning sizzled, and wind whipped beach sand at me like ammunition.

  • The sky unleashed chaos as the summer temperature drastically dropped, causing a steep rise in my blood pressure.

  • Thunderclaps rattled me. Streetlights at noon?! Tornado sirens squealed. Wind vortexed. I ran for my life.

What's your style? Do you prefer one of these sentence structures over the other? 

Often short sentences create more of a dramatic effect and pack a real punch. 

As you can see though, I am a fool for commas. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whipping up a storm

Will you please help me?

Paint a word picture about an approaching summer storm.

Be as creative as possible using few or many words, but no more than one sentence to make the reader feel the effects.

The wind grew stronger as the sky darkened...  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

He is in for a rude awakening!

I HATE television commercials. I know... a dreaded necessity.

I despise some more than others. I can't stand the Progressive Insurance gal.

Bill can't stand the Gillette razor blade commercial where there are two guys with shaving cream on their hands and faces who are ordering razor blades on their cell phones. One speaks into his cell phone and the other pokes cell phone buttons with his nose.

That doesn't annoy him. It is the fact that their hands AND their faces are covered in shaving cream. He says, "Why do they cover their entire hands? Nobody puts that much shaving cream on their hands. You dab and smear, not coat your hands. Plus, why don't they just wash their hands? They already have shave cream on their faces."

I couldn't agree more. Most product advertisements are ridiculous, and umm, dumb.

Bill waited until I was in the bathroom with door ajar, and shouted, "I need help."
I flung the door open and there he stood, his hands covered in shaving cream as though he had on mittens, his face soaped with white fluff. "Honey, I need to order more razor blades."

He doesn't know it, but sometime when he least expects it, "Flo" is going to get him.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Killer dentists I have known

When I was a kid we visited dentists and doctors only when we needed attention; there were no well visits or preventive checkups. Often dentists and doctors operated drop-in businesses out of store fronts. Some dentists even offered extractions "with" or "without numbing agents."

The first visit I can remember was when I was a freshman in high school. I walked five blocks to a neighborhood dentist because I had a toothache. Oh my gosh! It hurt unbearably. I probably didn't have the extra dollar for the Novocane. That OLD guy nearly killed me.

Next dentist visit was when I was 17. I unwrapped the yellow paper wrapper and foil off a stick of Juicy Fruit gum, slid it into my mouth, and screamed in pain when I bit down. I walked to a different dentist, a few blocks from home. He was probably in his forties. Nothing unusual about him. Soft-bodied, round-faced guy. Two rooms, separated by a floor to ceiling curtain. After he yanked my tooth, he asked, "Is there anything else I can do for you?" I shook my head. He prodded. "You in any kind of trouble? I can take care of that, too in the back room."

I mumbled, "No."

He looked into my eyes, and asked, "You sure?"

I wasn't even sure what he meant until years later...when I discovered my dentist, who had been married at least three times, was a father. Glennon Engleman died in prison, a convicted sociopath and murderer. This guy was a serial killer.

He believed his one true talent was killing people by various techniques: gunshot, bombing, bludgeoning... and having absolutely NO REMORSE. He murdered for insurance money, and because he was bat shit crazy. 

My girlfriend went to him and was in the chair numbing when there was a knock on the back door. He left the room. A loud, threatening shouting match ensued with a male about an unpaid murder-for-hire debt.

My next dental exam was in Alaska when my ex husband was in the army, and I was pregnant with our first baby. The dentist said I had an abscessed tooth, but he was hesitant to treat me, because the military base had no X-ray equipment, and also a shortage of antibiotics. IMAGINE THAT! He said extracting it could kill me. But after much pleading, he yanked another one of my molars. My face bruised and swelled as a result of his twisting and tugging.

I was scheduled for my OB appointment later the same day. The nurse was aghast when she saw me and questioned me as if I were an abused woman. I'm not sure I ever convinced her one of her colleagues did the damage.

Upon our return home, I began regular dental visits, most of them routine and uneventful with Dan Patrick O'Brien, DDS. After twenty years of being his patient, he sent his patients a killer letter. "Mary and I have decided to retire and move to Colorado. We are leaving tomorrow... "

Another memorable visit happened about twenty years ago. Young male dentist. Steve Branham, DDS, married man, with photos of his three children and beautiful wife posted all over his new office. He examined me and then broke the news: my bridge (which had originally replaced lost molars) was broken and needed to be replaced. When he said, "$1,500, I cried. He asked what was wrong. 

"I'm falling apart: head, shoulders, belly, knees and toes."  Poor young man didn't know how to handle me, so he sent in his receptionist. It about killed me to hand over our vacation money to him so he could take a nice vacation that year. He sold his practice and we both moved on.

I am scheduled for my dental check up soon with my young, #1 dentist in St. Louis, MO

Dr. Holly Ellis and her team. They are a supportive, fun and friendly group of professionals. 

They kill me with kindness and laughter. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Well, EXCUSE you!

Way back when I used to be a contributor to the South Side Suburban Journal, not an opinion shaper, but a paid correspondent, I wrote a travel article about going on a whale watch in Boston. When the ship's captain apologized because we didn't see any whales, I felt disappointed. When he suddenly shouted, "Starboard!"  everyone darted to the rail.

Twenty yards from the fishing boat, a young humpback breached the surface and began to "perform." What a delight to watch Fracture, so named because he had a fracture line across his tale. He dived, slapped the surface of the Atlantic Ocean with his flipper, dived and resurfaced, breached again and again.

It was breathtaking, I was awe-struck. It felt akin to spiritual experience... I wrote all about it. Three other excursion boats came into the area, cut their motors, and passengers observed quietly and filmed for twenty minutes.

Then Fracture disappeared. We waited and waited as our captain detailed whale behavior and shared how they had been tracking this juvenile for some time.  Fifteen minutes later, all boats started their engines and we began to idle away, set to sail. Then...

Fracture resurfaced so close to our boat we all laughed, especially when he opened his mouth wide, burped, and permeated the air with a cloud of fish breath. Undersea dining right under our boat.

Wouldn't you know it?! When I saw my article in print, I was disappointed to discover the editor had omitted the two sentences above. My punch line. I think it was due to column length, but maybe he didn't feel it was relevant to the story. Too late.

Lesson learned: don't hesitate to ask an editor if you can examine your work for editorial changes before it is published. Keep in mind, you can negotiate, but the editor does have the final say. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What's your name, again?

This is for my writing buddies. Did you ever use one of your  non-fiction pieces, such as memoir or personal essay, as a basis for flash fiction which is about 1,000 words?

I have been doing this lately, adding untruths galore, and having so much fun developing characters. Maybe it is the confidence building approach I need to again try fiction writing, which I always say I cannot do. I just submitted a flash fiction piece to Penn State literary journal, and am hoping I hear from them soon.

I may have to use a pen name if I keep tinkering. My parents had selected several names for me before I was born. Pearl, Priscilla, or Patricia. Thank goodness for my grandma who liked actress Linda Darnell and convinced them to name me after her.

Have you ever used a pen name?  Be creative. I used to think I would use a combination of my grandchildren's names.

 What name would you use? Come on, have a little fun.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Are you observant?

We were walking through a thrift store the other day when Liam noticed a mirror near the floor. He had to crouch to get a good look. He gazed at himself from all angles.  Then he looked up in the mirror and noticed me. Surprised, he turned around and looked at me. 

Perspective and vantage point can change everything. If you write in first person, be sure your character sees what you are describing; the object has to be within his/her field of vision. 

Paw-paw saw a mama bird feeding its baby in our backyard. He lifted Liam onto the counter, and together they talked in hushed tones and observed the action going on.

Good writers are observant and pay attention to fine detail.When I taught school-age summer camp, I covered a window with a roll of paper and used a pencil to poke a few small observation holes at different heights.  The students had to report what they observed through the limited vision field. Although they were all looking outside at the street, they each had a different vantage point.
 Be descriptive; use your imagination. Think out of the box. Ask what if questions.


I recycled six empty water bottles to make a cascading waterfall. Here's the procedure: Remove lids, cut holes on one side of bottle so the water will pour from the mouth of one bottle into the side of the next and continue to run downhill. Hot glue the bottles to a board or card board, with the cut out section facing up (you can also zip tie to a backyard fence).

Next, cut a coffee filter into six sections. Hot glue one piece of filter inside each bottle. Pour water and watch the cascading rainbow. Water can be contained in small tub or pool and recycled or let it spill onto the grass. When the colors wash away, add more food coloring. Hours of fun!

By the way, without scrolling back up, can you describe the mirror Liam was looking into? What was on our kitchen counter besides Liam? Take a guess if you aren't sure, then take another look. If you click on the picture, you can enlarge and see.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cooking up a recipe for success

My thesaurus is akin to the array of spices in my cabinet, the gravy on my mashed potatoes, or the drizzle of raspberry vinegarette on my lettuce.

 When I have the meat of an essay, a hearty pile of information for an article, or a chunk of an idea, I like to enhance the flavor with improved word choices. My creative juices flow when I scan the pages of my well-worn manual. Like a chef searching through a treasured cook book for the perfect recipe, I feel a sense of satisfaction when I get the seasoning just right. I am proud to present the garnished product for consumption.

Although a thesaurus is a serious writer's tool, I sometimes use mine playfully to inspire my poetry. I fan through the book sort of like a child's cartoon flip book, front to back and then in reverse. I like the feel of words breezing by. I stop randomly ten times and peruse the copious salad of synonyms seasoned with sharp, spicy, pungent adjectives, vigorous verbs, and knock your socks off nouns. I select an interesting word from each page, toss them together, layer the stanzas, and dish up a poesy, a sonnet, or a rhyme.

My thesaurus has proven to be  a recipe for success.  Sometimes I am surprised at what I cook up. Do you use a thesaurus? Give this technique a try.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

You actually wrote that?!

Multi genre writing increases your chances of publication. Once I asked a well known poet in town why he hadn't considered my poetry for inclusion in his anthology.

He said he considered me a Chicken Soup for the Soul writer. He was stunned to discover I have won awards for poetry, prose, memoir, fiction, and have published educational articles.

At open mics I usually read inspirational or humorous prose.  Let this be a lesson to you. Be as diverse in your readings as you are in your writing.

The following two links will give you some idea of  my other writing styles. Nothing like what you might expect.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Romping in three parks

Rarely is a summer day so beautiful in St. Louis as it was on Sunday. The temperature hadn't reached 80 degrees, and the strong breeze had blown away the thick tropical storm clouds from the Gulf which had wrapped the sky for the past two days.

My honey drove to the river park where we enjoyed walking a short, circular trail. We sat high atop a bluff and watched the barge traffic on the Mighty Mississippi.

We laughed at the antics of a group of young people. The guy who appeared to be in his late twenties, wore a U.S. Army olive drab T shirt. The five girls with him were preteens to older teens. We laughed at their antics as they all climbed a fallen tree and walked across it to the wide end. Their squeals and laughter made us laugh. The youngest was the wisest. "HUH-UH! Get me down!"
 The older teen, seen here, a high school junior, had difficulty dismounting. Despite the soldier's assistance, she hit the boulder and gashed her lower leg wide open. I tired to treat her by dousing bottled water on the wound to get some of the contaminants off, but she carried on like I was killing her. So the fellow said he'd run home and get the car and take her to the urgent care. He really meant RUN home.

He said they had all run DOWN HILL from the main road two miles away. He was heading up hill when Bill offered him a ride. He was the girls' uncle who was home on leave. I sat with the girls while my honey transported the guy to his apartment to get his car. We wished them well, thanked them for the earlier entertainment, before the young lady injured her leg. They were on their way.

And so were we... to another park. We attended a graduation party for one of my former preschool students, an outstanding young lady, whose path I've followed through her mom's newsletters, She is headed to the University of Pittsburgh. I cannot begin to list Savannah's achievements and accomplishments. She had personality plus and leadership ability way back when she was four, and I know she will make a difference in this world. When I learned she would be studying Political Science AND writing, I was thrilled. It is nice to see how my students fare in life. Rock on, Savannah!

In the evening, we headed to another park, which features free concerts on Sunday evenings. Dirty Muggs was a lively band that played current dance music. There is a concrete pad in front of the pavilion which overflowed with a crowd of folks of all ages and ethnic groups shaking it to the left, shifting to the right, stepping forward, spinning and having the time of their lives. I love to watch people, and I was in the right places on this day, for sure.

 There is just something freeing about being in the park. As the white haired park ranger made his rounds, he boogied to the beat and even danced with many of the women standing near their chairs grooving to the music. Laughter is good for the soul.

Check out the middle age gal with the hula hoop. Her friend arrived on a red motor scooter wearing a red lady bug helmet. They shimmied all evening with their huge hoops. Many years ago I was on a beach in California, where I observed some very colorful characters as well. This reminded me of that time.

 As I gazed down the hillside at the fountain spraying diamonds of droplets in the middle of the fishing lake, I noticed this woman who had strung her hammock between a light pole and a tree.
What a way to spend a Sunday. Breakfast out with a couple we know, and then gallivanting in parks.
To top it off, I saw a fellow writer, texted her and asked if she were at the concert. She asked how I knew. I replied, Look over your left shoulder.

She introduced me to her male friends, then said, "Linda is prolific, she has written stories for 50 Chicken Soup for the Soul books."

 I laughed, and said, "No, just 25."

And this is my latest with a release date near the end of August.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Are you a poet and don't know it?

So you say you're not a poet? I'm not talking rhyming poetry.  Poems that have strong verbs and metaphor are not as difficult to write as you think. Give it a try. Are you cringing yet? shaking your head?

Self doubt gets in the way, and soon you start believing all the negative messages you tell yourself: I can't. I don't know how. I'm no good at this. Nobody would want to read my stuff.

Remember this, your mind believes what you tell it. I am not a trained poet, yet, my poems have been published numerous places, and I have won awards for them.

My classroom motto has always been,  Never say, I can't. Say, I can TRY!

I did just that. One of my poems was accepted today by the editor at Her Story Blog. I don't have details yet about publication date, but will post when I know. My poems are not all sugar and spice and artificially nice. They are real, honest, and evoke emotion. Male editors have told me my work made them cry. I write from the heart, and you can, too.

I also cut a 1,000 word story down to 100 words, and it was accepted in Ireland and will be on line this weekend. Details later.

Believe in yourself! Take a chance! If I can, YOU can... try. Amaze yourself.

HERE is a list of places interested in publishing your work. Author's Publish is a great resource.

What is the worst that can happen if you submit? Someone may say, "No thanks." Rejection is part of the writer's life and is often more about editorial needs than your writing.

Wishing you the best.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Peace and love

Our world is in such crisis. The times in which we live are troubling.

Whether directly or indirectly affected by violence,  our security is threatened even when we are home in our own sanctuary.

If only we knew when we're young what we learn when we get older, but life itself is a learning experience, isn't it? 

I have learned that what you give- whether it comes from deep within, out of your heart, or pocket- is reflected back to you. 

Anger generates more anger and has a ripple effect.

Showing love and kindness, seeking peace and calm also has a ripple effect. 

When your life seems to be spinning too fast, go to a quiet place in your mind, if only for a moment. 

My quiet place is a  shallow, turquoise lagoon in Mexico where I eased my body down and floated without a care one summer day many years ago. I listened to the surf pound the breakers hundreds of yards out and thought about how the ocean is my metaphor for life: daily living is sometimes like those breaking waves crashing into shore, knocking us down, but just beyond, there is a beautiful, calmer, quiet refuge. 

I wish you peace today.