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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

He's the man!

In honor of Father's Day, I am posting this, because my husband Bill, a dear father, grandpa and great grandpa has been a strong foundation in the lives of all of the children in this family. He loves unconditionally, dispenses wise advice, teases and aggravates just right! He's always been our favorite BIG KID. Love you, honey.

Paw-Paw Always Believed 

Published in Sasee Magazine March, 2013

By Linda O'Connell
There’s something very special about experiencing all of the “firsts” with your first grandchild, especially if she is as verbal and precocious as ours was. Four year old Ashley was madly in love with the first guy she ever “dated.” She showed him off to her girlfriends, and she bragged all evening about how much fun he was.
Ashley’s only consistent male role model had been my husband, her step-grandpa, whom she adored and called Paw-Paw Bill. The Dad’s Night invitation came home from preschool in her book bag. It stated: If Dad can’t come, your child should bring any other significant male.
Four year old Ashley didn’t hesitate a moment. “Paw-Paw Bill, would you be my date? My escort?”
“What on earth? Where did you hear such a word?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Paw-Paw, don’t you even watch videos? The prince was Cinderella’s escort; he took her to the ball where she lost her glass slipper. But I’m not going to wear glass slippers. Please, will you take me to Dad’s Night?”
“Of course, my princess,” he replied.
I dearly loved my second husband, but my love for him grew ten-fold when I saw my granddaughter plant her petite hand in his giant paw, and I watched him escort her to the car. Out of that entwined grasp evolved a powerful love.
Ashley proudly strode into her preschool classroom that evening beaming from ear to ear. Her six foot two inch, two-hundred-forty pound Paw-Paw shadowed her like a gentle giant. He knelt beside her and colored pictures, built block towers as high as Jack’s beanstalk, and held back tears when he read Ashley’s heartfelt essay about the most important man in her life. Her teacher had transcribed as Ashley dictated: “Paw-Paw is my best friend. He’s big as the refrigerator, and he can lift me all the way to the top of it. He lets me help him make ‘shawshage’ and scrambled eggs every Sunday. He’s so silly. He tickles me, and we play wrestlers and he’s a good dancer; he twirls me around and around. He gives the best hugs, and he makes me laugh all the time. I love him ten million, this much.” Her teacher drew a stick figure with arms outstretched to indicate Ashley’s endless love for her Paw-Paw.
“He’s my bestest silly friend,” she told each of her classmates as she led him from center to center. Bill rolled play dough cookies with her and made the entire class laugh when he pretended to eat them. He rocked bald dolls dressed in frilly dresses the same way he rocked Ashley when she was a bald baby.
Paw-Paw Bill was there the day she was born, and he has been there for her ever since. When her mother and I lectured or scolded, he tried a consistent, calm approach to discipline.
Paw-Paw Bill was there the day she was born, and he has been there for her ever since. When her mother and I lectured or scolded, he tried a consistent, calm approach to discipline. He never towered over her. He scrunched his body down to her level. With his big jolly face close to her tiny cherubic face, and with his sincere hazel eyes gazing into her blue eyes, he talked to her in ways that she could grasp. He used metaphor, and she listened.
From the moment she was born he carried her facing forward. She perched like a parrot high atop his left shoulder and mimicked words he taught her. Bill believed that she should be able to view the world around her with wide-eyed wonder. When she began toddling, he wrapped her little hand in his and reached out to catch her every time she stumbled. Although he had to eventually let go, he held her in a grandpa’s grasp no matter how big she grew, or how near or far she ever was from him. Through childhood, he bounced her on his belly, cuddled her in brawny arms and gently bear-hugged her. When she grew older, he wrapped his arm around her shoulder as they walked through the mall or down a winding wooded path. He taught her how to treat others and how others should treat her. He allowed her to experiment and learn from experience. He took her places her imagination led and he always followed, if not at her side, then a step behind.
Paw-Paw taught her many concepts and skills but the most important lessons he taught her as she grew up was that an apology and one’s word are the two most important things a person can give another. Through his own interactions with her, he taught her how a boy should treat her. He taught her to respect herself, and he taught her to expect respect.
During the difficult teen years, when all children spread their wings and sometimes fly off in the wrong direction, everyone stepped in to guide her. No one, not her mom, grandma or great-grandma, nor any teacher or preacher who ever spoke to her during those difficult teen years has had as great an influence on her as Paw-Paw Bill. Before a date or a dance or a party, he always said only three words to her that every young lady needs to hear. When the three generations of women in her life finished lecturing about the do’s and don’ts and curfews, Paw-Paw Bill would take the phone, or he would look her in the eye if she were in his presence, and he’d say, “I trust you.” That’s all. No lecture. No more words. She always lived up to his trust and beliefs in her ability to make the right decisions even when the wrong ones were so available.
It is with dignity and honor and many laugh lines along the way that Ashley reached adulthood and recently got married. Paw-Paw escorted her down the aisle. Our granddaughter is the young lady she is today because of the gentleman who believed in her…always! Sometimes Dad is another name for Paw-Paw. These days Ashley calls him Grandpa Bill, and she readily admits, he is still her favorite big kid.

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.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Jumping to conclusions

In this day and age, you can't be sure about pan handlers. My heart goes out to those in real need. I have bought many meals for hungry people in fast food restaurants, and I have given money to bums on the street.

People have asked if I realized the recipient might buy booze or cigarettes. I say to that, I have my own vices, and if I was down and out and someone handed me a dollar, I'd buy M&Ms and be grateful for the opportunity to eat chocolate. So when I give, I give in good faith, without strings attached, and what the other person does is on his or her conscience.

I have been taken, and so has Bill. One day there was a family with small children at Target sitting outside their van in a grassy area at the stop sign. They were receiving a bundle of money, what with every one feeling sorry for the children, and the van out of gas as the man's sign stated. THEN, I saw the same family the next day and the next at other shopping centers. At dark, they got in the van and drove away. It was a way of life for them.

A woman came up to Bill on a parking lot and told him a story about her timing chain breaking and she had to get back home 30 miles away and needed $20 more bucks for the repair. I saw her on the parking lot and asked how she was going to get home. She claimed she would take a bus and said she had come to our area to purchase the timing chain. My man (and many more) fell for her shop talk about cars, and they dished out the dough. I watched them do it. I insisted she return our $20, and she said she had spent it. We were taken.

Downtown we've seen four young guys work four corners. It is obvious they are well dressed panhandlers, and not homeless. The guy who sits in a wheel chair on the highway on ramp claims to be a disabled vet. But he folds up his sign when he sees the police and wheels merrily away.

We are more cautious these days. BUT Saturday we were going to Walmart when I saw an older woman at the stop sign with cans of soda in each hand. A short distance away, there was a car with a younger woman sitting inside with the door open. A child stood outside the car with a suitcase.

"Turn around!" I told my honey. "That looks like  two women traveling, and they must be broken down. I'll buy one of her sodas for five bucks."

Bill whipped the car around, and we went back. That's when we saw a parking area filled with vehicles, kids with luggage, and adults kissing them good-bye as they boarded chartered buses for a camp experience. The woman with soda was giving a can to each camper as they drove onto the lot.

I stuffed my five in my purse and chuckled at myself. You never know. Listen to you heart.   

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Payola, a haul, a bonanza of gifts

I had a wonderful birthday. My family showered me with gifts, cards, and text messages, which thrilled me. My hubby wrote me a poem, took me out to eat and enjoy a little recreation, then Nicholas and Nicole came by with the cutest little garden boy and girl planters.

My son wrote a heartfelt message in his card which had an attached keepsake book mark. I was near tears reading what he wrote. He thanked me for shaping his character and teaching him about humility, love, compassion, encouragement, and how important it is to always be available to your children.

Then he added, "Thank you for the life lessons, especially the hard ones, like the time I was 13. I hung out the car window, and wolf whistled at three girls walking by. SCREECH! You slammed on your brakes, threw the car in reverse, stopped in the middle of the street, and made me apologize."

I asked what he learned. Always the joker, he said, "Not to whistle at girls when YOU were driving." I told him I didn't remember the incident. He said, "I do!"

He admitted he learned his lesson that day. He's a very respectful man. Now he and his wife are teaching their children life lessons.

My daughter knows how much I love the beach. Her gifts are always thoughtful and too expensive. I loved all of them.

Then there is my all time favorite gift, always the youngest child in the family, which means at some point in their lives, they each get to be my FAVORITE!

Liam realized birthdays and presents go hand in hand. He came in from outdoors with his hands cupped and said, "Here's YOUR present, Mommy."

Ashley graciously accepted when he dumped it into her palm. Then she screamed bloody murder and stomped his present, a huge black ant. Oh my, these are the things kids remember. One day he will remind her that she squished his gift.

I hope you have a happy and blessed day. I am focusing on the positive.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Top of the morning... O'Connell is over the moon

Writing outside your comfort zone can feel intimidating, exhilarating, depressing.

When I worked, I had to find time to write. I woke early every morning, searched markets, and wrote from about 5:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m. before I went to school to teach little learners and budding writers.

 I did writing projects with them all the time using picture prompts, encouraging their good ideas. "Tell me more. Then what? where? why? when? how?" It is never too soon to develop a love of writing/reading. Kids love to see THEIR words in print.

I have been retired two years, and I've found myself dawdling instead of doing. By the time I piddle half the morning away watching news, reading blogs, and fooling around on Facebook, I decide it's time to write. Just about the time I sit down, my funny honey decides to go to the store, or out to lunch, and off we go... and there goes another day.

I am in the process of doing a final edit on my dust collector, my novel. My self-imposed deadline is this week. I will finish it TODAY!

Last month I challenged myself to submit to places I have never considered, and to write in genres that require more construction than writing memoir. Rejections  kept pouring in, but that is part of the game.

Did you ever try to write 100 words flash fiction? Every word has to count. I tried my hand at it. I submitted a condensed version of a 1,000 word story to Lagan on Line. Click the link to decide if this is a place where you would like to submit.

This morning when I read, "Thank you for your submission..." I shrugged and thought, "Eh, here's another rejection."

It was an international acceptance! This literary magazine is in Northern Ireland. I am beyond thrilled. And it will be featured on 6/24, a significant loved one's birthday. Happy dance.

Have you written anything lately? I presented Sean, the recent graduate, with his journal (photos included) which I have written for him since he was born.

Do you keep journals for grandchildren?
Do you jot an idea and write on topic later? Why wait? Write something today.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A tribute to my dad

My story, Yodel Little Lady Who is in print and also on line at the following link. Please check it out if you want to learn more about me and my dad. Also, read some of the other feature stories which will trip your memory and make you nod enthusiastically.

Please leave a comment on Sasee's web site if you have time. Thank you so much for your support.

This issue is for Father's Day

Friday, May 26, 2017

Love grows in our yard

My favorite place to be is on the patio swing, reading a book, feeling a warm summer breeze.

Oh, if you could have seen the surprise on Liam's face when he found a fairy garden in our backyard right next to the planter filled with Gerbera daisies that he and his Nana Tracey decorated for me.

Fellow writer and friend, Sioux, gave me the seashell mobile last year because she knows how much I love the beach. I found this plaque for a dollar, added more seashells, and glued it to the hanger. It makes me so happy to gaze at it and listen to the shells tinkle.

Love DOES grow in our yard. Just look at this busy little boy who laid out sea shells and sprayed them with watered down paint. When dry, we removed the shells, and their outlines remained.

My son, Jason, and his family gave me this solar light. It reminds me of the bluebird of happiness. When I look out at night and the blue globe is glowing, I'm reminded of family and so many people and things for which I'm thankful... and I say a little prayer of gratitude and protection for all.

Bill's daughter, Robin, gave me this lovely hanging basket for Mother's Day, and it is thriving.

My rose bush, from Bill's daughter, Michele and family, not so much. We have sprayed it with a safe pesticide, but as you can see, we fought the pests and pests won. Any advice on how to save the rose bush? It is still blooming. Can find no visible insects except teeny little bees.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Back to being Froggy

This big guy towers over me these days. We were present the day he was born. When he was placed in Grandpa's arms, Bill gave me "the look" and motioned me out into the hall. Alarm registered on his face. He whispered, "Did they tell his parents? Do they know? I can't believe everyone's so calm."

"What's the matter?"

Sean was bundled as any newborn, and he had the cutest little face. I didn't see a thing wrong with him.

"This baby's only a foot long. He doesn't have any legs. I'm telling you, I cannot feel his legs or feet. Didn't the doctor's tell them?"

I laughed out loud. "He still has "frog" legs from being positioned in the womb. They're drawn up."

Confusion, relief, and embarrassment flooded his face.

Baby Sean's legs grew and grew, and when he began to walk, nobody could keep up with him. He would dart to whatever caught his fleeting toddler attention, investigate everything, and talk to strangers. One day, the family was at Happy Joe's Pizza Parlor and Arcade.

I challenged the preschoolers to a game of skee ball.  Sean was seated in his high chair at the table with Bill and his two daughters, the kids' moms.

"Come on kids, I'm a skee ball champion." I dropped a token into the slot, drew back that wooden ball and was ready to prove my prowess when someone shouted,  "Sean's missing!"

I found him immediately. He was sitting behind the plexiglass inside my skee ball machine. His little bottom positioned in the 500 point cup, he gazed out at me with a mile-wide grin.

I shouted, "Unplug the machine before he gets electrocuted!" People gathered to see the kid who had scooted up the skee ball alley, slid under the gap, and plunked himself in the high-point pocket.

That is only one of many of his antics which caused someone to run to him. He has never outgrown his curiosity, his sense of humor, his zest for life. He loved scouts and Venturing and is always ready to lend a helping hand. In fact he told me at Christmas his after graduation plans were to live with each set of grandparents for three months and help them with whatever they needed. How sweet!

He has leadership ability, a good heart, and a desire to see the world. And I guess we'll still be doing our own chores.

Today he is going to the recruiting office to take preliminary tests and prepare to enter the Navy, as his father and grandfather did when they were his age. He is probably going to follow further in their footsteps and become a paramedic-firefighter. Our young man has goals! We are so proud of long-legged Sean. He now will have to grow "sea" legs. I think I'll call him Froggy.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

FREE brings them out of the woodwork!


The word is a magnet. I saw an advertisement for free skin cancer screening at a local cancer center from 8:00 a.m. ─1:00 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. I arrived 45 minutes early and happened to be the fourth in line. Inside the building I realized there were two women ahead of us, which made me the sixth in line. We were instructed to take one of the fifty seats in a reception area.

Now, having taught for many years, I know what happens when everyone wants to be the leader, be first in line, or loses their place. I knew the six of us would line up accordingly, but what if more people arrived? They arrived in droves. A woman about 80 years old, announced to the people in charge, and the entire room, she had been the first one here at 7:00 a.m. and should be seen first.

Nobody was going to deny her line leader. Having dealt with people who get butted out of line, I knew the best system would have been to hand out numbers like at the supermarket deli counter. But nope, the people in charge continued to direct everyone to take a seat. With every new butt planted in chair, #1 got more and more antsy and kept announcing SHE was the first. In fifteen minutes all of the seats filled.

The people in charge handed out clipboards with registration forms attached. I could see a problem. The five of us is "line" behind #1, were younger and filled out our forms in less than three minutes. We were instructed to give the completed forms to a receptionist and move to the other side of the room and occupy one of those fifty chairs.  #1 complained, finally completed her form, joined us on the other side, and told every new arrival, "I am first."

As we waited, people continued to file in like ants at a picnic, and soon there was standing room only.
My husband says I'm nosey...

I gazed around and decided there were enough characters in that room to fill a book.
A very well-dressed woman, about seventy-five, had Betty Davis eyes. Over each bulging orbit rose a replica of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. I'm not just talking arched brows. Much like the real Arch that towers 630 feet over the city, her brows rose into the skyline up onto her forehead, which gave her an astonished expression.  

The couple seated behind me sounded like young, squeaky-voiced newlyweds, sweet talking one another, teasing with love words. I turned around to see a couple of gray haired hippies. She was lovingly flicking breakfast particles off his face, and he was responding like a cat, raising his chin for her to scratch, and she did... as he purred in public. 

In waltzed a couple in their fifties, California dreamers wearing flamboyant caftan shirts, white Bermudas and flip flops. They discussed their wealth, their Mazarati, golf dates, and generally flaunted their high lives in high volumes. 

The more I gazed, the more I gaped, so I focused on the woman with an armload of clipboards. She stood before us and called, "Arlene Smith." Several times she repeated the call out, scanned the room, sing-songed, "Arrrleeene." 

Finally, I pointed to #1 who was busy telling the people around her she was first. She stood, slightly bowed to the room, and announced, "I told you I was first!"

I was called fourth. I was in and out of my clothes in record time, and the doctor was in and out of the exam room in a flash. She left me with a pink piece of paper declaring me skin cancer-free. I left her with a blue paper gown, got dressed, and  hustled out of that place. 

I saw a  lanky, six-feet-tall, elderly woman with flowing, wiry, platinum hair, wearing a blouse, baggy micro shorts exposing skinny legs, wearing red high heels!!! She was riffling through the trunk of her car. As I drove away, she straightened up and exposed a painted face: heavy bright blue eye shadow, red cheeks, and a beard... HE was a cross dresser. 

And they say kids these days dress and act crazy! Next time I see a sign for FREE anything, I think I'll pass, unless it's dark chocolate, but with my luck it would be Ex-lax.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Babysitting "Baby Alex"

Liam and I went to Kirkwood park, a lovely wooded area, with two playgrounds and a lake. We stopped to examine the activity of hundreds of bees and butterflies on purple flowers. Bumble bees were buzzing, and butterflies were flitting. He was fascinated and said, "I want one." 

 He dropped one of his crackers, and three mallard ducks came to gobble the crumbs. We heard quacking from across the lake and were delighted to see this mama duck with her eight ducklings. Of course we had to feed her, too. Then, it was off to the playground with "baby Alex."

 This bald baby doll, which is about the same size as Alex, who is growing inside his mommy, used to belong to Liam's mom. So when I showed it to him, he claimed it as his brudder. What better way to get him ready to accept a tiny intruder into his life who will require lots of attention?

Liam climbed the rock wall with him and took him down the slide, and

on the dinosaur rocker. He tried to show him to a little girl named Heidi, but she was "too cranky" according to the roving reporter who thinks everyone is his friend. Heidi's mom laughed and said, "Liam is going to be that boy who chases the girls who are hard to get." Probably.
 He wants me to fill a dozen water balloons when he comes to visit, and then he shares them with the children at the playground. Amazing, they don't pop right away. The kids toss and chase them and giggle. Parents seem to be as thrilled as the children.

At nearly 90 degrees, he went "swimming" with baby Alex. See that trickle coming out of Alex? Liam ( who is almost potty trained) said, "I'm going to take off his pants and show him how to go potty."  I convinced him this was a doll and he wouldn't be able to. Thank goodness my curious little guy listened to me. I so appreciate every precious minute with this little wise guy. Look at how long his legs and arms are. He will look like a giant compared to Alex, who is due in late August.
Wishing you a happiness.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day to my mama

Ten years ago my mom, Virginia, aka: Nana Ginny, Maw-Maw, went to Heaven. I miss her everyday, especially THIS day.

On Mother's Day 2007, we went camping because nature has a way of easing me over rough spots. 

I awoke at dawn, mounted my bike, and sped across the concrete dam at Lake Carlisle. I was trying to outrun my overwhelming sadness and blow the stench of guilt off me. 

I  looked to the sky, searched the lake, yearned for a sign. As a tear trickled,  I got a sudden whiff of Mom's signature vanilla fragrance, and then... she touched me.  

Mourning Mom

High atop the dam
I pedal hard,
 feeling low.
Boats below with billowed sails
ripple the lake.

I tag the wind and search the sky for you.
A tear springs hot; I bid it not to splash.
I do not want to rock a boat,
especially mine.

As I bike away from
anguished thoughts.
wind gusts snatch my sorrow,
storm clouds swallow silent sobs.

I pause and mouth a simple prayer,
“God, let her be okay.”
I whiff a burst of hope and promise
on the early morning breeze.

Gentle tug upon my hair
tingles down my spine.
Did I really breathe your scent
and feel your tender touch,
or was that the universe caressing me?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Was it a coincidence?

I have been writing and publishing humor or upbeat memoir for more than twenty years. I should have been writing dark stuff last week, because I sure was singing the blues. Ready to quit writing.

Rejections are a part of the writing life. I usually shrug them off, and send my submissions elsewhere. I am resilient and determined.

It was like a Domino rally of rejection slips last week, one after another, day after day. The constant rejections collapsed my eagerness to write. I moaned and groaned on Facebook and derailed for a few days, but I am back on track, thanks to a supportive community of friends and writers who allowed me my pity party. THANK YOU ONE AND ALL.

Most would consider what happened to me Saturday night a coincidence. I had a haunting dream that bothered me for two days. I dreamed my late, elderly dad climbed into my bed and laid on his back next to me. He was frail and failing, and he gave me an ominous message in a very weak voice. "Just wait. Wait till Tuesday."

Then I woke up. A sense of doom hung over me as I expected to hear the worst on Tuesday.

That was the day I received an acceptance that helped pull me out of my doldrums. My story is about my dad, and it will be published in Sasee Magazine for the Father's Day issue.

As sure as I know editorial rejections are a certainty, I am also certain this message came directly from on high. Thanks, Dad.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Creme in the middle, coconut on top

When I was a little girl, our home was located right behind a neighborhood confectionery. Oh those chocolate Hostess cupcakes! I loved those creme-filled delights, and I never understood why Dad peeled off the chocolate icing which had a little white squiggle down the center.  

He only liked the cake. To tell you the truth, I prefer the cake with only a small taste of the too-sweet icing. That little white dollop of creme in the cake center makes me salivate thinking about it. Dad also liked jelly roll snack cakes, but his favorite was 

Snoballs originally were white, but now come in a variety of colors for special occasions.

Pink − Standard, year around

Green (Lucky Puffs) – St. Patrick's Day

Lavender (Hoppers) – Spring

Neon green (Glo Balls) – Halloween

Orange (Glo Balls) – Halloween

White – Winter 

In case you haven't purchased a Sno ball in a while, they have melted, um, shrunk, to half their original size. 

First introduced in 1947, the coconut-covered, marshmallow-frosted cakes were white, and they lacked creme filling until 1950. At one time manufactured and owned by Hostess, they are now owned by private equity firms, Apollo Global Management and Metropolous & Co.

When my children were in elementary school, I accompanied them on a field trip to the local Hostess Plant. We rode through the factory on a tram and watched how Twinkies are filled and packaged, and we observed how a machine put perfect white squiggles atop the chocolate icing on the Hostess chocolate cup cakes.

A supervisor came into a break room with a selection of snack cakes for everyone. I was as thrilled as the kids. Ding Dongs, Banana Flips, Ho-Hos, mini chocolate donuts, fruit pies. I could go on and on traveling down Memory Lane.

We were at the grocery store and came across a little Snoball gem all by itself on the bread shelf. Discarded by a hectic mom who snatched it from her toddler? A second thought cast off, reconsideration from someone whose jeans are getting snug? A leftover from St. Partrick's Day or dare I say, Halloween?

WOW! Did the hand painted windows at the restaurant take me back to when I was eight years old. At holiday seasons all of the neighborhood merchants selected 8th graders to paint their windows. I so wanted to do that, but by the time I made it to eighth grade, the practice had faded. 

When I became an early childhood teacher, I'd get out the tempera paints and allow the students to paint "fireworks," and flowers, and holiday decorations on the windows. Yes, of course I participated!

Talk about brilliant, almost blinding light. Look at this! The sun made an appearance.

So, Thursday night, at 8:00 p.m., on a very cold and cloudy day, this is what filled the sky. I can't tell you how I rejoiced. The flood waters have receded and the cleanup has begun in our town. We were fortunate not to have been affected by the two month's worth of rain St. Louis received in a few short days.

I know you may think I am "snowing" you, but during the stormy weather, Western Kansas was receiving four inches of snow per hour. Crazy weather!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Here we go again!

 In December 2015 St. Louis had a 500 year flood that wiped out homes, towns and devastated areas all across the Midwest. This week major rivers and tributaries are rushing out of their banks, breaching levees and overtaking towns across the Plains. It is still raining and the rivers have not crested.

Sixteen months after the last major event, we are experiencing another historic flood. This time residents were more prepared, and volunteer sandbaggers worked hard to save the businesses in historic Eureka, MO and other towns. I have friends going through this horrible devastation, again. 

Major highways and over 100 roads have been closed.  Authorities and officials are telling people to choose a side. Literally. You will be stranded to the north or south of the Meramec River which is again swallowing homes, bridges, towns. We live at least five miles from the nearest river, which is shown in  this newspaper clip. Our family members are affected. Trying to get to work has been a tremendous battle, as secondary and rural routes are going under and being closed.

At noon Wednesday we were headed to the grocery store and Taco Bell for lunch. After stopping at three different CLOSED Taco Bells because employees were stranded, it made us aware of the economic impact this flood is creating for individuals and businesses. Many employees, staff and faculty members from businesses and schools on high ground cannot get to work. They live on the South side of the Meramec River which has bisected our town.  Many who work or live in Jefferson County are stranded or choosing to stay put there. This flood is separating us.

Those on the North side of the waterway who live or work in St. Louis County are also hunkering down there. Some have no choice. Hospital personnel are staying at work because they cannot get home and are afraid if they do make it home, the rivers will rise and cut off their road access. 

 It is an absolute mess here.

There was one passable lane on a secondary road in South County yesterday, and the semi trucks were heading convoy-like in that direction. What would have taken minutes to travel, took hours.

This is what we came upon as we drove five miles south to the grocery store. Interstate 55 southbound was completely shut down just past Highway 270., two exits away from us.

And this morning, the news channel showed an aerial view of the Arch grounds. The Mississippi River is at 40.6 feet and still rising. The muddy waters are almost to the top steps of the Arch grounds, which have been newly replanted and designed for future outdoor use. And...

It is still raining! Our local weather guy announced this closing, "Noah's Ark Daycare is closed due to flooding."

It's either laugh or cry around here.

Next week's weather prediction, sunny and 80 degrees. Wow! What a ride.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

No horsing around

The year was 1972. Tracey was two. I was expecting our second child. Her daddy and I placed her baby bed mattress in the back seat of the car, and off we went to visit my dad and brother in Reno, Nevada.

What a road trip. We traveled the Northern route going through Utah and saw the opulent Mormon Tabernacle and gold pavement. 

We came back home the Southern route, on Highway 66. At one point, I wish I could remember where we were, maybe Wyoming or Colorado, there was a detour on the highway. There were torrential rains, the kind we are experiencing now. The unpaved, two lane road was a muddy mess as we traversed it through no man's land. I fretted that we'd get stuck.

Off to my right, ahead in the distance, I noticed great motion. A herd of wild horses, perhaps Mustangs, came thundering at full speed right past us. It was an unbelievable sight to behold. An image forever ingrained...because I had no camera, or was it flash cubes? This is a stock photo. 

That herd of free spirited wanderers took my mind off the fact that I was having a miscarriage. The following year, I had Jason, and three years  later we took the kids to Disney Land in California. I so hoped we would see those wild stallions again. But we didn't. Closest we came to a horse, was riding the Merry Go 'Round with Mickey.

Funny isn't it how a memory sneaks up on you?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When the fish is bigger than YOU

We are fortunate to have so many low-cost or cost-free attractions in St. Louis. On this beautiful spring day, when the temperature climbed higher that 80 degrees, Liam and I spent the morning exploring the Missouri Botanical Gardens for a total of $4.00.  

 This little dinosaur lover and I had so much fun strolling part of the 79 acres of horticultural displays, and we especially liked the Japanese Garden. Liam liked Pioneer village, a children's multi-level fort built into the trees and surroundings.
 He wanted to smell the flowers, and he watched a big bumble bee gather nectar.
 The peonies are gorgeous and blooming. They remind me of a lush peony bush we once had.
 And were we thrilled to be able to count 10 turtles sitting on a log. Then we heard a bull frog "gallump."
 Liam was excited that he could step over the stream, and sit on a rock. He was amazed and shouted, "Nana, I in the middle of the water, and I am not wet!" He was on the lookout for wildlife. Just wait until you see what he saw. Keep scrolling.
 Three years ago when he was still in his mommy's tummy, I almost fell off this platform while taking "maternity pictures," and his daddy had to catch me. Walking there again gave me the willies. I love this pensive pose.
 Before we knew it we were being visited by the koi in the lake. Look at that huge one! We fed them fish food pellets. Liam kept saying, "Here's some more cohn." He thought it was corn kernels. Then he said, "Wow they got big moufs!"
Ducks on top the water, fish in the water. What better way to learn positions?

This little daredevil thinks he can do everything the big kids can. Yes, I was holding my breath. He is determined and was successful. When three school groups came in, we left, much to his chagrin.

Need you really ask if he got wet? Although it was a breezy 70 degrees when we arrived, he could not resist temptation, and within minutes he was scooting through the sprinklers. Good thing I brought TWO changes of clothes for him and his Crocs.

After a picnic lunch we headed home for a nap.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Park it!

I penned a poem in honor of Earth Day. Things change when one parks the car and becomes a pedestrian.

Trade In

Had a head on collision with my conscience
during rush hour gridlock, as I inhaled motorists'
tobacco smoke and engine exhaust.

Popped the clutch, took a great escape exit.
Twisted my ring, vowed to hang up the key,
trade my lead foot for a flat foot experience.

Swapped my speedometer for a pedometer,
raised my metabolism, lowered my blood pressure
racked up the miles, added more smiles.

Not missing the highway din, weaving out and in.
Enjoying my excursions and all the diversions.
Discoveries abound: curb appeal is money found.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Sabotaged by the thin one

A conversation with my alter ego

Me talking to myself: You know you really shouldn’t skip breakfast, and for a buck you can get a sausage/egg biscuit. Next exit, McDonalds! Pull in, sister.

No! No! NO! Fatso, you just keep driving. You know very well if you pull through that drive through, you’ll be pulling out with a cin-a-bun instead of a sausage biscuit.

Darn that crazy driver! I can’t get over; now I missed my Mickey D's exit.

Don’t worry Chunky Monkey, Schnucks Market is up ahead; buy yourself some fresh fruit.

Schnucks, yes, apples! Ahhh; their apple turnovers melt in my mouth.

Hey Butter Biscuit Butt, did you look in the mirror when you stuffed all that flab into your pants this morning? You’re not sucking in that gut as well as you used to.

Oh, whatever! I’m going to love myself the way I am.

The scale says there’s more of you to love, sugar dumpling. Still want that apple tart?

SHUT UP you little tart! I know I have 10 pounds to lose.

Heh-heh! 10? Kidding yourself again, Thunder Thighs?

Life is too short; I’m going to pull in and get an apple turnover.

Hey Bimbo, eat that turnover and soon you won’t be able to turn yourself over.

I am just going to love the skin I’m in.

Hey Pudge, they make Spanx that can suck in that skin you’re in.

Oh all right! I really don’t need the junk. I do need to eat better, and eat less. A lot less. I’ll be good and I’ll buy fruit, and I'll eat light all day today.

That-a-girl. Hey Fat Ass,


I just want to remind you there’s a free casino buffet coupon on your kitchen counter. They have a great selection of healthy vegetables, and oh those desserts: coconut cream pie, loaded brownies, eclairs, ice cream...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Kids gone wild

Seems every get together at our house ends up in water play. Usually Paw-Paw is the perpetrator of all things water. But this time, he was not involved. 

The parents don't like it, but oh the memories the kids make when they come for a visit. On Easter when they broke out the squirt guns, there were no holds barred. Nick had the advantage, which ticked off Nicole. Liam was just glad to be included.

Our Bosnian neighbor, who speaks limited English, thought he was helping Liam by giving him the upper hand over the big kids. He called him over and showed him how to use his hose which has a firefighter type nozzle.

He never expected Liam to accidentally turn the stream on him in all his excitement. Later in the day, Liam went over to him, lowered his head, and said, "I sorry."

He didn't tell ME he was sorry for deliberately turning the hose on me a second after I snapped this photo. There was lots of rollicking laughter and fun by spectators as well as participants.

 Amazing what a dollar can do to make a little boy so happy. He bought a bag of balloons, and asked me to inflate them one at a time. He was surprised when I tied them all together and made a huge balloon bouquet. He tossed them and laughed so hard. He cried real tears when one popped.
 Then he made his own discoveries with Paw-paw's flashlight. "Nana, light shines through my balloons. I made yellow light, blue light, red light. LOOK!"
 He wanted me to fill the rest of his balloons with water, so we took them to the park to share with two little boys there. We ended our day at the playground, then a bath, and I read Bunny Trouble, one of my favorite books about a bunny named Ralph, who would rather play soccer than decorate eggs.

I taught Liam this balloon poem: I had a round balloon, almost as big as the moon. It floated so high into the air, then suddenly POP (clap hands) it wasn't there.

I asked him to think of as many things as he could up in the sky that might have popped the balloon.

He replied: a bee, a fly, a flea, a helicopter, a cloud, an airplane, a red bird. This kid is a thinker!

When I taught preschoolers, I always prompted my students for three answers: What? What else? and think of one more thing? If you have a little one, try this activity. What can fly? hop? is green? etc.
What makes ME so happy? This little happy-faced boy. He was missing his mommy. He said he loves her soft hair, squishy face, and the ways she tickles his back. Now that is love times three!

I am back to writing and submitting. Warm, sunny days make me WANT to write. I am inspired by sights, smells, and sounds, memories, and doughnuts. I submitted a serious poem with innuendo to a doughnut-themed collection. Now that's a stretch. Also wrote about wind turbines. I am diverse and prolific. How about you? Has spring fever infused you with renewed energy?