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.

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.