Friday, September 29, 2017

Chugging through life or zooming... which track are you on?

The Museum of Transportation is a fascinating place for children as well as adults. When I told Liam I was taking him to the big trains he did not want to go. He was anxious and afraid I was going to put him on a big train by himself. "I do not want to go. I'm afraid. Let's just go to the playground."

Life is all about perspective. How seldom we view life from our little ones' perspective. As adults, we have years of experience, larger vocabularies, and high expectations. In our efforts to teach our young ones, we sometimes forget they don't have our knowledge base and have to learn what we already know. It is our job to prepare them for what's ahead, but also to allow them to be free to explore and learn at their own pace, and to comfort them when they are ill at ease. This is the stage for building and developing trust, kindness, and confidence that they will take into the world.
Liam discovered we could actually ride the miniature train, but even better, we were allowed to climb steep steps and tour the inside of old trains. He was delighted "driving" me to the red, green, or blue playgrounds he likes to visit. He enjoyed playing with gauges, levers, knobs, switches, and steering wheels.
 He met a little buddy named Carter who was 12 days younger. These two little  guys were birds of a feather. They giggled, took turns, shared snacks, and laughed uproariously each time one of them shouted, "banana peel" (which they did a lot!) The two little monkeys tried to climb a tree!

Observing the innocence of these little boys made my heart swell with pride and thankfulness. Liam is bright, kind, caring, and friendly, and so was Carter. They became best buds.

Carter's mom, Lynn, and his grandma, Sandy, and I sat and watched these little guys who had no preconceived notions about one another, no biases, no prejudices, not an ounce of hatred in their little bodies. They could have been any color, any size, any religion or nationality...the only things that mattered was that they connected intellectually, emotionally and socially. They were both highly verbal, and over-active. They had a zest for learning and love of life. Their antics helped me forget the world situation for a while.

When it was time to leave, they joined hands and walked the path down to the lower level.
 WHY can we not live in peace in this world? Why is there such divisiveness? Why can't we find our common thread, seek our sameness, walk alongside one another, holding hands, uplifting each other?

Why aren't  we satisfied with having enough, instead of always wanting more-more-more? Why in our developed nation, where we have an abundance of everything... WHY are there hungry children, homeless people, aching hearts? We need more Carters and Liams.

 My neighbor and late friend Lisa once told me that generally speaking, people under age five and over age 65 do not care about the other person's race, religion, or creed. Folks in those age brackets seek their likenesses. Under fives haven't been influenced and indoctrinated with hate, etc. Those over 65 have lived long enough to know those things that divide us are less important than the things that unite us.

As the boys bid farewell, I smiled knowing that Carter and Liam WILL make a difference in this world. They will fight for social justice, set good examples, and be leaders. I taught PreK for almost 40 years, and I can see the goodness in these boys. I could always spot our future leaders.
May we all make a difference in someone's life today. Start with a smile, a kind word, a donation, a prayer or positive thoughts for those hurting and in need of a helping hand. What the world needs now is love. Seek peace.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Christmas is three months away. How about a book and some dark chocolate?

I am proud to announce my story will be included in this book. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Toys for Tots Marine Corp campaign. 

That makes 27 Chicken Soup for the Soul books in which my stories have been published.  

This is our  (almost) 18 year old granddaughter, Morgan. She made me laugh out loud when she came to visit us the other day. I offered her and her girlfriend, a snack, a cookie or something sweet, maybe some chocolate. She laughed and said, "You know what, Nana? When I was younger, I remember you told me that dark chocolate is healthy for you and it helps put you in a good mood. So I kept a chunk in the freezer, and when I was...well, let's just say, I'd go to the freezer and nibble a bite in the mornings." 
Now if that isn't proof that kids are listening... even when it seems they don't hear you. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Flat on my back in the dark

Over the years we've spent many stifling hot Labor Day extended weekends at Sherwood Forest with sometimes a hundred family members and friends. We stayed in primitive cabins with bunks and no air conditioning. There was a shared bathroom/shower house, and a communal kitchen, where everyone gathered to prepare family meals for their own. Some of us would sneak into the walk-in freezer for a reprieve from the heat. But on those memorable holidays, regardless of the heat, there was always a soccer, volleyball, or baseball game going on in the open field. Kids ran freely and explored. They connected with cousins and enjoyed the sights and sounds of nature. When the kids of all ages FINALLY settled down at night, after chasing and teasing one another, everyone slept good from fresh air and exercise.

The highlight of those holiday weekends was laying stretched all across the field on our backs  at pitch dark, stargazing. Whispers rippled as someone pointed out a constellation or spied the space station. Treasured moments in time. As the kids grew up and went off to college, and families had other obligations, the holiday gathering drew less and less family and friends. Today the memory resides deep in my heart.

I wrote a poem about those days. It won a $100.00 award and will be posted on the Metro buses and Metro Link rail cars for one year. I am honored to have been one of the 14 winners selected  from over 200 poems submitted. A reception was held at Regional Arts Commission on Thursday evening.
I stood at the lectern and lost my thoughts. I mean total brain blip! I asked the audience what the holiday was in September. They looked at me like I had lost my mind.  I said, "Not Memorial Day, the other one, oh yeah, Labor Day!"  I laughed at my own brain freeze. Makes me human. Then I went on to explain what inspired me to write my poem. 

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.