Thursday, October 18, 2018

How important is a title?

I met with a writer friend the other day. Seems great minds think alike. We are both working on personal collections. I am convinced readers will purchase his book before mine, simply because his title is a hoot. I am not at liberty to share the title at this time, but trust me, if you are a writer, you would laugh out loud.

Do titles sell you on a book?

Do you have a preference for long titles or short?
Do you like titles that sound like a newspaper headline?
Does a title capture the essence of what's to come? Does it entice? Evoke emotion?
Have you ever been impressed or misled by a title?

I am reading three books: Folly Beach, by Dorothea Benton Frank; We Are Water, by Wally Lamb; Save Me, by Lisa Scottoline. Three different genres, two I chose because I like the authors. One book has not lived up to my expectation, one surprised me, and the other is written in my preferred writing style.

One of my favorite books is, I Know This Much is True. I read the jacket flap but had already decided, based on the title, I wanted to read this book.

What is your opinion?

If you were going to write a collection of personal essays based on your own life, what would your title be? Come on give it a try. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What are your triggers?

What are you allergic to?

You say you have no known food or prescription drug allergies?

Think about what you deliberately avoid and share a couple.

I used to teach at a school that served children with food allergies. A news crew came to film my class. You wouldn't believe the chatter among classmates who had no food allergies. When they were interviewed they named all sorts of things they were "allergic" to; bedtime, spinach etc.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Did you ever look back at your old stuff?

 Days drag, but years fly by. Wonder why. 

Happy birthday to my bright, grown up now, first grandchild who continues to bring me joy, sometimes annoy, and shares her little boys with me.

Did you ever look back on your own writing? Manuscripts, short stories, essays? 

Were you impressed and did you wonder, " Wow! Did I actually write this? Not bad."

Or did you cringe and wonder how you could have written such fodder?

Both have happened to me. Going through old files, I couldn't believe I made such strong verb choices and how swell I turned a phrase.

I've also cringed while reading some of my earlier writing. I couldn't believe how many unnecessary words I used. 

An example in overwriting: 
I enjoy walking early in the morning when the bright sun rises seemingly from the earth, into the vast sky, climbs the horizon, and lingers until late evening, when it slides back down and makes me equally happy.

An example in cutting unnecessary words:
Sunrise walks and sunset strolls bring me joy.  

An example in creative rewriting:
I'm thrilled at the first glint of sunlight as I stroll in stillness. Twilight holds the promise of a brisk walk and good night's sleep.

Now it is your turn:
If you have a few rotten nuggets on file, go back and rewrite. It is okay to use as many words as you need to get your point across. 

But THEN pare down. 

Does your reader not know that the sun is bright? Seems to rise from the earth or ocean? The sky is vast? The sun seems to slide back down?  

Tight writing makes for good reading. Now, pull up one of your own pieces of writing and slice and dice. If you want to run it by me, I will take a look privately. Let me know.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

It's the great pumpkin Charlie

Last Saturday I joined these and other poets in the park to read at Manchester Arts Fest. The day was cool and breezy, and the poetry was as diverse as the readers. An enjoyable event that included music, a variety of arts, and campfire story telling. 

Wednesday, I spent the day with this cute little two month old doll boy. Charlie is such a jabberer. I wish I could say he was this sweet the entire day, but ...

he wailed when I laid him down to take his picture.
After I picked him up and showed him around the pumpkin patch, he calmed down.

Once he realized he was the star of the day, he chilled and enjoyed himself.

 I am so in love with this little guy and his brothers. Alex is walking, Liam is always running, and I am enjoying my retirement.

How about you? What have you been up to?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

How a wink and smile prefaced Mom's words of wisdom

Read all about how Mom's advice was always accompanied with a wink and a smile.

All of us harbor thoughts of yesteryear, and have lived full lives. Submit your story to Julia, and perhaps your story will be accepted for publication. I enjoyed reading the other stories, and I am sure you will, too.


Music, Literary and Art
I will be one of the poets reading from 12-2 pm 
I read at 1:40 (outdoors event)

Saturday at Manchester Parks and Recreation
358 Old Meramec Station Road
Manchester, MO 63021

Near Hy 141 and Manchester

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Take a peek

 Nature in our backyard provides science lessons for Liam. We have flowering sedum which attracts insects of all sizes. Bees and butterflies coexist peacefully and share the nectar.

This is what Liam experienced:

 A yellow butterfly (his favorite color) landed on a flower and thrilled him.

A cricket hopped by and he chased it until it hopped away. 

He crept up on a fly, ran away from a bumble bee, and expressed empathy for a dying ladybug.

When an odd-shaped bug landed on me, I told him it was a stink bug. He got down on his hands and knees and tried to sniff it. Oh yes he did! 

Life is good for this four year old and his old nana.

He is becoming such a gentleman. Paw paw Bill surprised him and took us to breakfast at McDonald's. Liam was by himself in the Play Place for quite a while. Then two husky boys, 7 and 10 joined him. Liam is a people person. 

When the boys had to leave, Liam stuck his head out of the playroom door and called them back. He shook each one's hand and said, "Thank you for playing with me. It was nice to meet you."

Their mom, a limited-English-speaking Hispanic woman smiled at him, turned and beamed at us. 

I captured that moment in my mind to remind me that children have no racial biases.

He likes to watch cartoon Daniel Tiger on PBS Kids. I am pretty sure gentle and kind Daniel (based on one of Mr. Roger's characters) taught him how to shake hands and express emotion. I am proud of this little rascal who has too much energy and is too mouthy for his parents, but he's my little angel.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Up, Up and Away!

Friday afternoon I took Liam to the Hot Air Balloon Glow (which was to take place at dusk) in Forest Park. We arrived at 3:30 p.m. to beat the crowds, but parking close was impossible.  It was a very long, hot (90 degrees) walk along winding, gravel paths, that all looked the same. I couldn't imagine how I would find my way back to my car in the dark.

By evening there were thousands of people on Art Hill and throughout the park relaxing on lawn chairs, blankets, and having picnics. But Liam never relaxes!

 He also has never met a stranger. He thinks everyone is his friend, and he asked the kids next to us to play tag and hide and seek with him. I am old and experienced. I brought food, beverages, bug spray, and I packed a wet wash cloth in a zip loc bag. We sure put that to good use.
 About 5:00 p.m. the balloon owners started pulling in and unloading their balloons onto sloping Art Hill, in front of the St. Louis Art Museum, where generations of kids have sledded in winter.

 We went right up to the fence so he could watch the balloons slowly inflate bigger than a house. Liam was so excited and exhausted from running all around. At 6:30 he asked to leave. So we headed back down the gravel paths and across foot bridges. I told him he would miss seeing the balloons glow when they illuminated them all at one time. He said he was too tired.

As we crossed the last bridge, one of the balloons lit up. He was as thrilled as I was. It took us an hour to get out of the park, because at 7:00 people were still arriving enmasse. When we pulled out into traffic we caught a glimpse through the trees of all the balloons glowing. Even though we did not stay until 9:30 for the fireworks display, we still had a thrill!

I told him the balloons would lay flat on the ground overnight, and on Saturday afternoon at 4:15 they would have the fox and hound race. All balloons would inflate again. One balloon would lift off, then fifteen minutes later, all the others would fill the sky as they chased it. He so wanted to watch them, but unfortunately I told him we would not be able to go, because his parents were picking him up at 5:00 p.m.

Liam woke me up at 6:30 talking to himself about the Balloon Glow. When his mom and dad came to pick him up, he was excited to tell them all about it. As they put him into the car seat, I yelled for them to let him out of the car. Off in the distance, the hot air balloons were drifting directly toward us. Liam was one happy little boy. Wind changed their predicted route and they came East instead of West... just for Liam.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Compelled to do SOMEthing

The Feelings Flag by Linda O'Connell

published in Chicken Soup for the Soul The Spirit of America, 2016

I stood in my living room and cringed at the sight of the first plane hitting the first of the Twin Towers. I thought, what an horrific accident. I felt terrible for the people on that plane, and for those in the World Trade Center building. I did not realize that the horror had only just begun.
I turned on my car radio on my way to work and listened intently to the reports. Then, I heard that another plane had made impact.

I arrived at school a few minutes later. No one was quite sure what was going on. Teachers were asking one another, "Did you hear about the plane crashes in NY?"
The gravity of the situation -America was under attack- was like a punch in the gut. We all felt winded, worried, and wounded.

My preschool classroom was in the lower level of an inner city middle school. What I remember most is the panicked young man in the hall who shouted at me, "America is at war!"

"Calm down," I said. "Don't jump to conclusions. Nobody knows for sure what's going on. This does not mean WAR."

They insisted they saw it on TV and that military jets were intercepting other planes.

I walked into my classroom, and watched as my students went about their school day, unaware of the attacks, I knew they were okay. My aide, Amy, was capable, so I left her in charge.

I felt compelled to do something patriotic to relieve the mounting tension and confusion the middle school students were feeling, although I was not in charge of any of them. I cut twelve-inch by two-inch strips of red, white and blue construction paper into strips, the kinds  kids use to create paper chains. I did not consult the principal or counselor. I acted on impulse. I visited each classroom and intruded on each classroom teacher. I asked each if might have a moment, then I said, "Nobody knows exactly what is going on. We've all heard rumors and news reports. It's a frightening time for all of us."

 I passed out strips of paper to the students and asked them to write what they were feeling at the moment. Any fears, any words— anything would be acceptable. Some asked about spelling, and some asked if they should sign it.

"If you want to," I said.

I collected more than 200 strips and rolled them into  loops, then I stapled them to the bulletin board in the cafeteria. I read an outpouring of emotional comments. "I am afraid." "I want to kick their behinds." "Bomb them." "Why did this happen?" "What now?" "I want to go home."

I posted one after another, row after row, until an American flag took shape. Some of the comments were laced with misspelled words and profanity; some were smeared with tears. I did not censor. I stapled every single one. I stood back and admired that "feelings flag".

At lunch I stood against the wall and observed teens and preteens, who were usually destructive with bulletin board displays, as they searched for their piece of that flag. I listened to them read their words aloud, owning their emotions, giving voice to their fears and frustrations, initiating conversations.

On that horrible day, when America came under attack, I didn't know if my actions would do any good. It just felt good to do something. 

My friend Tammy said, "With that spontaneous action, you gave children a voice when no one knew what to say."

The bulletin board flag stayed up for more than  a week. Then the strips began disappearing as individuals claimed their sections... and their feelings.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Nature at its best and worst

Did your curiosity ever get the better of you? And were you able to conquer a fear?
We've seen cicadas flying about lately. Liam and I found a live cicada on the ground. 

 I picked it up and asked if he wanted to hold it. At first he said, "NO!" Then he saw it crawling in my hand and asked, "Will it bite?" I assured him it would not, so he asked to hold it. He was thrilled.
"Wow, Nana, his legs are spikey." He meant, sticky. I explained they are sticky so the cicada can cling to trees and other things. I told him he might find cicada shells on trees, as they shed them and emerge anew. Sort of like when a caterpillar leaves its "old clothes" in the cocoon and comes out a butterfly with wings.

At the park he told everyone the cicadas were going to leave their old clothes on trees. He and his little buddies searched the trees for cicada "clothes," but he found a painted rock, instead. Science and nature in your own backyard. Sometimes folks are in a big hurry and don't slow down long enough to discover the little things.

Are you trying new things? If you are a writer, are you considering a new genre or submitting to new venues? I have been stretching my wings, and waiting for a response from five publications. Waiting is the hard part. Writing is easy. Read about a hurricane at the link below. Click on this safe link to read my latest story in Sasee Magazine. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Seek and you shall find?

Does it ever feel like you're searching in the dark? The scope of your vision is limited? No matter where you shine your light you cannot locate the elusive?

Well that's how it's been all day here. I have a self-imposed rule of 5-7. If I do not send off that many submissions per month, I am upset with myself and have no one else to blame. Well, as you know, the end of the month is imminent and I have been writing, revising, seeking markets, searching high and low for paying markets.

Just when I spotlight a market perfect for my submission, I find in small print there is a service fee of at least $3.00. Or the deadline was last night at midnight. Worse case I had all the blanks filled in on Submittable when a header popped up stating they were NOW closed for submissions, had received enough material. ARGH!

On a good note, I have submitted six pieces, and one more day to seek and find. By the way, those Seek and Find word books give me a headache. LOL

Chicken Soup for the Soul has extended their deadline for Grandparent Stories and I think also Mom Knows Best.

Friday, August 24, 2018

But-but-but butt...

Charlie is three weeks old.
At first, all he did was snooze and eat, but now Charlie is awake and alert more, and he is interested in people and his surroundings.

Liam started preschool/daycare two days a week and is making an adjustment, but he is so tired.

Alex is changing in appearance as he is getting his top teeth. He is quite miserable but oh so cute.

Bill has been going to physical therapy for sciatica pain in his lower back and leg. He completed his morning floor exercises and walked down the hall rubbing his rear end.

I asked, "What's wrong? Are you in pain?"

"No," he said,  "I'm just feeling to see if I'm developing a Kardashian butt."

Friday, August 17, 2018

I'm not in diapers, YET!

Instead of posting more photos of my "great" boys, I am going to talk about how life is a great big circle. You start out in life like baby Charlie, toothless, completely helpless, totally dependent, and in the end, you're right back to square one. In the beginning and at the end you have difficulty walking just like Alex. Hubby is at therapy right now.

Alex is learning to walk, giving it his best effort like Paw-paw... both holding onto things for support.  He's cutting top teeth, one is his incisor. Hubby just got rid of a tooth he's had for 7 decades!

I'm thinking specifically about myself, though. When I was a baby I wore cloth diapers which my dad dunked in the toilet, and my mom washed out and hung on the clothes line with wooden clothes pins because there weren't dryers back then. I imagine those diapers were a bit scratchy, but can't say I remember. I wore rubber pants over my diapers. Not leak proof by any means, but better than nothing.

When my kids came along in the '70s, I vowed to cut something out of the grocery list if necessary, in order to afford Pampers. Disposal diapers were the newest baby product along with the Playtex Nurser, with "a nipple just like mother herself."

Now with environmental awareness, many moms are back to using cloth diapers. And most moms these days provide breast milk, an elixir for newborns.

Everything seems to complete a circle. I am not in diapers (yet) but I am back to wearing rubber-like pants. I just finished hand washing and hanging my stretchy black Capris and jeans made of Lycra and spandex, almost feel like rubber when I wash them.

You knew I couldn't resist. Here are the Three Musketeers.

 Liam discovered a small waterfall in the park and was launching rocks down the "rapids." His vocabulary is superior to most four-year-olds, and he talks ALL the time.

Alex couldn't decide on a carrot for teething or his bottle. He babbles ALL the time.

 Charlie, at two and half weeks smiles and responds to voices. We have three talkers. Pity their mom and dad. They all have blue eyes, but different hues of blue.

I've been babysitting Liam and Alex  a few days each week since their mama came home, thus my absence. Thank you for reading my posts. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

What 's your load?

Here's to motherhood!

Liam has a cold; Alex is teething, getting his top teeth all at once; Charlie eats every hour or two, and mama has had little sleep. Thank goodness for grandmas! I will be spending my days this week with Ashley and the boys. My daughter was her support system this weekend. Women need women as friends, confidants, and helping hands. Embrace the chaos. It will pass.

I call them Sneezy, Teethy, Pee-pee, and Weepy, but shhh! don't tell my granddaughter, Nana's girl. Life can pile up on you, take you on a ride you didn't expect. Life is unpredictable. One thing at a time! 

You may feel overwhelmed, too. If you are a writer, you may feel like you are being pulled in all directions. You have an idea or a thought, and you just don't have the time to jot it down, much less develop it. By the time you do have the time and try to recapture it, poof! Vanished.

There are times when you will feel like giving up or giving in, but believe in yourself, and KNOW THIS TOO SHALL PASS! Take one thing at a time. "Chunk it" we teachers used to say when there was so much to do and so little time to do it. A little at a time, or you will burn out. 

Whether it's your work load or your wash load, you can get through it if you do a little at a time. Don't be afraid to reach out.

Friday, August 3, 2018

He arrived!

 Ashley was in labor all day AT WORK.  She was in no hurry because she was sent home with false labor last week. This time the contractions did not stop.

She  called at 8:00 p.m. and said  she was heading to operating room at 8:30 p.m.

 When the doctor held the baby up to show mama, he clutched the sterile drape.  He weighed 8 lbs 10 ounces and was 20 and 1/4 inches long. And did I say CUTE?!

 I cannot believe I feel the same kind of emotional and deep love all over again.

 Look at this pudgy little guy. He is a jabberer already, and grins. He has blue eyes. He was in a milk coma here, but he is very alert and precious.
 Liam was thrilled to see his baby brother. He  is such a loving little boy.

 Daddy Justin introduced Alex, and he nearly climbed up his daddy's arm trying to avoid Charlie.

 But once we were all in the room settled in, Alex was very interested; Liam was very protective, and Nana Tracey was very thrilled with our precious new baby boy.

 Liam NEEDED his mommy and asked to be close to her. So she snuggled him, too.

He cried at bedtime when he was tucked in at my house and at Nana Tracey's. We showed him the photo of him and his mommy and he said, "That is just what I needed. Thank you." He is such a sweet, sensitive little guy.
 He and Alex are inseparable. They are forever giggling, wrestling, and playing together. Just wait a few months when Charlie is tumbling and rolling with them. God bless baby Charlie.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Oh what a miracle!

Charlie arrived last night. I have photos to download and stories to tell. Please come back tomorrow and meet the little pudgie doll boy.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Pineapple induction? Something is going to hit the fan.

I have had stomach issues for about a week or more. Finally straightened out, so I hopped on the scale and panicked at the readout: 13.2 pound weight loss. I screamed-cheered.

I Googled "Sudden 13 pound weight loss. "The results were catastrophic. I worried until I realized I had weighed Sassy Cat in my arms two weeks ago. Whew! What a relief that was.

Some days you have to laugh at yourself.

Still waiting for Charlie's arrival. His mama said she read eating pineapple induces labor, so she is eating an entire pineapple today.

I told her not to panic if she notices sudden weight loss, because eating an entire pineapple may induce more than labor. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The final countdown

Liam is finally interested in his "kit-tar", the ukelele I have had in his play room for three years. He sat on the bed with Alex and me, strummed, and sang, You are My Sunshine... three times. The first time he was embarrassed and barely moved his mouth. Second time he sang it to Alex, who laughed and climbed all over him, and the third time Liam was very animated and sang to ME. I asked, "Who is your sunshine?" He replied sweetly, "YOU are." I could eat him up! I told him he was soon going to have another brother, and he replied, "Then he will be my sunshine, too like Alex."

He is the BEST BIG BROTHER ever!

Alex continues to have the most placid personality. He is such a good baby. He thinks he's one of the big boys at the playground these days. He gets excited when I pull into the parking area.

He holds onto the bars and laughs when kids run across the hanging bridge and bounce him. He likes to go down the baby slide and also loves to swing. He's crawling all over and will be walking very soon. Not sure if we should discourage or encourage his mobility...

because baby Charlie has moved into birthing position and is on the count down...two weeks or less. Ashley's fun, friendly, female obstetrician is on vacation in Italy, so Ashley will see Dr. Dreamy tomorrow. He looks like actor Matthew McCoughnahy. He delivered her other two boys, C section and told her if her OB was in, she would likely move up her delivery date, but HE cannot. That bummed her out.  

Little mama is going to have her hands full. Alex's first birthday is less than a month a way.
Imagine blonde, wavy, shoulder-length hair on Liam, and that is exactly how Ashley looked.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Walk a bit in my shoes

I took a neighborhood walk yesterday. The corner church has been completely razed, and now the process of building a gas station is happening.  Noise galore from all sorts of excavation equipment and endless dump trucks transporting mounds of dirt up and down our street, into and out of the building site.

 I kicked up a chunk of metal with crimped edges, no bigger than a quarter. It rolled across the sidewalk releasing many memories of long ago.

When I was young, we used to go to the shoe repair store. YES there were actually cobblers who made, repaired, and resoled shoes. People didn't toss their shoes when they were nearly worn out.

High school kids, boys and girls, went to the shoe shop to have silver, metal taps nailed onto the soles of shoes, a tiny crescent moon shape tap for the toe and a wider one at the heel. The purpose was to prevent the soles from wearing down. I loved the sound the taps made.

We younger kids wanted taps, too. So we placed two bottle caps, crimped edges up, on the ground, and then we stomped on them forcing them into the heels of our soles. We clomped around like the cool kids until our taps fell off.

Bill remembers collecting bottle caps from his dad's tavern. He and his buddies used to play Bottle Caps in the alley. A pitcher tossed bottle caps to the batter, who used a broom stick as a bat, and the pitcher and catcher tried to catch them to call the batter out.

Those were simple days when we played outdoors and made our own fun.  Check out this short clip, and discover what my childhood was like. Many people tell me I am very creative. I attribute it to this.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

An encounter with swerving

Witnessed a most confusing traffic scene. In the evening  we were driving on four lane, busy Telegraph Road.

It looked like mass confusion at first glance. The oncoming two lanes of cars were swerving en masse, like a wave. 

Left, right, then halting abruptly. Nearly bumper to bumper. Nobody was honking or upset.

A dozen cars appeared to be slow moving in choreographed formation. 

Then I saw it, a small shaggy little dog running down the road BETWEEN the two oncoming lanes. Drivers were trying to keep it from going into our lane of traffic. A man hopped out and rescued the shaggy, little black and white, dirty, exhausted dog. It was heart warming 
to witness goodness in action! 
Not this dog but similar.

Then we went to Taco Bell. Three college age guys, one Hispanic, an African American, and a baby-face, chunky, white kid entered wearing backpacks and name badges. The Hispanic guy spoke to an older gentleman waiting at the counter, who either didn't have his hearing aides on or did not speak English.

 "We're not from around here. You must experience winter, what with all those pine trees."

The old guy replied, "They're on the counter."

The dude rolled his eyes. When he sat next to us, I asked if he was from a warm climate. he looked confused, perhaps a bit offended as if I were suggesting Mexico. 

I smiled and told him I'd overheard his conversation about winter. He said, "We're from Ohio." Then he flipped his badge on a lanyard and said, "Working out of Clayton. Hired to obtain signatures to  get three initiatives on the ballot here in Missouri. They pay us VERY well to lead the "sheeple" who don't realize they are being led. Everything in politics is about money and campaign contributions."

I said, "You are young to be learning this lesson. It takes some people years."

He replied, "And some people, NEVER. It's all about what money can buy."

That kid had moxie and a mouth and I can only imagine him on street corners pitching a political agenda, drumming up signatures. Wonder if he walks a straight or crooked line as he moves from place to place.  

Sunday, July 8, 2018

That's the way it goes!

I've been lax this week.  I blamed my lack of writing on the weather, my busy life, the world situation. You name it, I have been procrastinating. But today I sent something to a big house.

I used to tussle with that little brat inside my head who is as annoying as a gnat. "They won't even consider your work. Why do you keep submitting?"

Well I decided to shush that brat when I hit the send button a few moments ago. I fed myself affirmations and atta girls, because I know I can write and I have confidence and faith in myself.

And wouldn't you know it...

I submitted accidentally and prematurely without attaching my submission. The brat is saying, "When they see two submissions from you, they will disregard. You screwed up. Na na na na na!"

My retort, "What is meant to be will be. I know this for a fact."

This pesky voice reminds me of  the first time I visited my country cousins, and they invited me to sleep outside on their open air porch. Afraid I'd be eaten by mosquitoes, I begged, "Turn on a light!"

My aunt said, NO, but I cried and insisted. She said I was a hard head and would have to experience what would happen since I wouldn't listen to reasoning.

If I thought the mosquitoes were bad, I was terrified when moths and beetles bombarded, attracted to the light. It was like being dive bombed by wing flickers and fierce biters. This city girl wanted a bed indoors.

Today I am turning off my "porch light" and not listening to the buzzing pests.   

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Was it a bird or Big Bird?

Jefferson Barracks Park ( a former military installation) is near our home. I feel overwhelming
sadness when we drive past the thousands of tombstones decorated with American flags in the National Cemetery. I am proud of those who gave their lives or fought for our freedom. But the image leaves a heaviness in my heart.

 We have often gone to JB Park for a variety of events, concerts, fireworks, or just to see the wild deer roaming in the evening. When my 21 year old grandson Austin was less than two years old, I took his mom, my mom, and his sister to a Native American Pow Wow in the park. 

Austin was a smart, observant little guy with a good vocabulary. When he saw this little fella kicking up his heels and dancing, Austin darted for him and yelled, "Bird!"

Feathers...his  frame of reference. I darted right after him. Although this was a serious ceremony, we were invited to join in the circle dance with the group. I have no official proof, but my dad and his brothers all claimed to have Native American ancestry. I grabbed Austin's hand and we joined the group. For a moment I felt a profound connection to my late dad and "our" people as we shuffle stepped side to side.

On this Independence Day I am saddened by U.S. and world events, and I wonder why we can't be more inclusive and invite others to partake of our abundance. With the heart of a child, if we would all reach out in love and acceptance. Let the children lead...

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hello, Bob

Did you ever meet a stranger and "click" right away? Bill and I met Bob and Rhoda, a married couple about our age,  while on a cruise last Halloween. We dined together and attended evening performances, then sat and talked. As we got to know one another we found ourselves saying, "Me too!" about everything.

Bob passed away recently, and so Rhoda decided to take a road trip from Arkansas to Chicago to visit her daughter. She laid over one night at our house. It felt like we'd known each other all our lives. We dined out and then we watched evening news and a little late night TV.

At 11:00 p.m. Bill said good night and went to bed. We said we were turning in also. But as it often happens when women get together, we talked for nearly two more hours, finding more things we had in common.

At 12:45 a.m. while in the middle of conversation, the lap top computer which was off, lid closed, sitting on the TV stand, startled us when a late night host, whose show was on three hours earlier, blared at the highest volume. We were startled and shocked. I ran to turn it off, but it was OFF. Then the TV came on. I opened and closed the computer and clicked on and off the TV.

Confused, Rhoda and I stared at one another and shrugged. I finally said, "Hello, Bob we miss you."

When we told Bill in the morning, he did not believe us.

It happened, and there is no explanation for how two turned off electronic devices...

What do you think?    

Monday, June 25, 2018

Unload, go ahead, then upload!

Marc Crepeaux, the founder of Rusty Wheels Media, is seeking submissions for his next book, Letters Never Meant to be Read, Vol. IV. The contest for Volume III closed last month.

Send your submission to and write Letters in the  subject line or mail to Rusty Wheels Media, PO Box 1692, Rome, GA 30162

The call for submissions is ongoing.

Surely there is someone in your life who you would like to thank, praise, criticize, or yell at, for whatever reasons. An old love, parent, spouse, boss; been holding an angry grudge? This is an opportunity for possible publication, so let your work shine. Be real, be honest, emote! If accepted, you can publish anonymously.  

The link below will take you to Marc's Face book video, where you can get to know this English professor, Captain in the US Army Reserves, and soon-to-be dad from Rome, Georgia.

Listen to him read a moving letter he wrote to his gram.

Please pass this information on to your writing groups and friends.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Break a leg

Sometimes things are not as they seem. Let me tell you how I got these bruises on my left upper arm, forehead, ankle.

Bill has a large comfy recliner which backs up to our front window. There is a four foot tall wooden  shelf  with five shelves and lots of ceramic frames which display photos of grand kids. It is against the wall to the left of his chair (as I am standing facing it.)

I saw a throw pillow on the floor behind Bill's chair. I reached for it, lost my balance, grabbed onto the upper part of his recliner and the dang thing RECLINED which sent me reeling into the shelf. The ceramic frames crashed like dominoes as I tried to upright myself.

"What have you been up to?" I heard Bill say.

"What does it look like? I busted my head and my arm, and I'm stuck. Why don't you help me here?"

"How long has it been?" he asked.

"How long?! Who cares? Just give me a hand!"

Then, the door opened and in walked Bill who found me crumpled in a heap. I had been interacting with a damned soap opera actor.

So much for my acting debut. I didn't even have an audience when I nearly "broke a leg."

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Touched by an angel

Winter slammed into the Midwest in December 2010. Snow-covered, icy roads did not stop Donna from her duties as a foster mom.

As a single mother, Donna was always extremely responsible. She reached out to help others: family, friends and strangers. With her engaging personality, gravelly laugh, and lively chatter, she left a great first impression: BUBBLY. 
Someone was goofing around with her in this photo, thus the arm around her neck. This is how I remember Donna,

With incredible determination, she not only provided for her baby, who required frequent surgeries for a birth defect, Donna worked harder than two women. In addition, she cared for her own challenged mother. DYNAMIC! Donna was a super charged woman when we were young moms. When her daughter grew up and married, Donna filled the void with work and selflessly assisted other mother's daughters.  She became a foster mother.

On December 17, 2010 Donna was not going to allow lousy weather to stop her from transporting one of her foster daughters. She was headed back home for her other foster daughter's birthday celebration. Her tires hit a patch of cinders, meant to enhance traction. Instead she lost control of her car; it careened backwards, down a hill and bounced to a halt in a ravine. The back of her seat broke, and Donna was trapped, flat on her back, strapped in, unable to move. She was most concerned she could not answer her frequently ringing phone. She KNEW it was the disappointed girl. Donna was more worried about her than her own predicament. Donna lay in that car for hours/days until she was rescued. As a result of the accident, Donna is still paralyzed from the chest down.

My children and her daughter are cousins. I married the older brother, she hooked up with the younger brother.

It had been years since I'd seen Donna. We were long overdue for a meeting. Sunday, we met at a half way point, coming an hour from opposite directions. We ate a late lunch (because I was late) at Long Horn Steak House. She was accompanied by her daughter, my sweet niece, Veronica, and also her home health care attendant, Melanie, who does an awesome job and is very personable. Eighty hours a week, she works with Donna. Kudos for the good care giving and friendship. I felt as if I knew Melanie.   

Donna has the same genuine smile and dynamic personality, even if the years have softened her voice. Her eyes sparkle and radiate joy. Her heart radiates love. She is an angel. Donna has use of her arms from the elbows down, but arthritis has crippled her hands. That doesn't stop her from strapping on a wrist fork and feeding herself.

Obviously she is a home town Cardinals baseball fan. Look at those fancy fingernails! I admired her many pretty rings; this one in particular. She removed it and handed it to me. "Here, it's yours. I want you to have it." Her selfless act brought tears. I tried to refuse, offered to buy it, but she insisted. I will treasure it always.

Two hours passed quickly. We shared life stories, old memories, and made some new ones. We laughed and reminisced... our younger girls came out in us old gals. I hope she enjoyed herself as much as I did. She has a devoted daughter, my sweet Veronica, and a caring family and support system. Nothing seems to get her down. I can't imagine being confined to a wheel chair, but Donna makes all of life seem easy. Lazy me, I think about exercise and complain about my flabby arms. Donna exercises her arms and proudly showed me how firm they are. She's been my incentive. If she can do it, I will, too.

I am so proud of my sister-in-law. She is an inspiration. While many would have given up or given in, Donna continues to give... to everyone she meets. I really do know an angel on earth. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

What should I do?

Decisions, decisions! Is it always about principle?

I have been writing for many years, and have received accolades from far and wide. I have written for publishing credits only. I have written for money, and even chocolate... yes I won a contest on the theme of candy, and part of the prize was my favorite dark chocolate.

I have ghost written stories, letters, poems and articles that resulted in prizes of complete wedding packages, a scholarship, and publication for money (for others.) I created an anthology for a publishing company, and I have published in more than two dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

I have published for free for a cause, most recently on the topic of mental health to assist others. As a result of my words, I have been contacted by editors, publishers, friends and strangers in far away lands. I have made contacts and friends, and have helped others. I feel the need to give back, and I do. I present workshops, speak at libraries, conferences, and advise other writers.

I have been advised by well known authors that writers should never give their work away. I disagree. I have done so,  but this evening, I find myself reluctant to sign a contract. The misunderstanding is on my part. I mistakenly thought an acceptance came with a stipend as well as publication.

I made a decision based on the merit of my words, and I have to stand on conviction this time.
Have you ever withdrawn a submission. If I do not value my words...

Hope you are busy writing.


I inadvertently deleted a positive blog comment from the editor/publisher of the publication. Marc, please feel free to repost.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Six mug shots, and that doesn't include the newspaper clippings

Does the name Allen Funt ring a bell?
He was an American icon, a television producer, director, writer and television personality best known as the creator and host of Candid Camera.

TV's first reality show consisted of hidden-camera pranks when it aired in 1948. Camera crews headed to towns across the country, sometimes with assists from celebrities, on unsuspecting folks, then surprising them with the iconic phrase, "Smile! You're on `Candid Camera.' 

Versions of the show have played in every decade since; Peter Funt, Allen's son took over after his dad's death.

Candid Camera was one of my all time favorite shows. Many times in my life weird things have happened that made me suspect I was on Candid Camera, but actually every time I have been on television, it was always with my knowledge.

The first time I was featured on television was in the 1980s (when I had big hair.) The mother of two of my preschool students nominated me as a Class Act Teacher through our local TV station.  My classroom phone rang and a man said, "I'm calling from Channel 2 Newsroom. You have been selected to be interviewed as one of our class act teachers. I'm surprised I'm covering a preschool, because the contest is specifically for teachers of grades K through 12."

"Who IS this?!" I asked thinking someone was pranking me. Tom O'Neal convinced me he was the news anchor assigned to me and my classroom, and he was coming with a videographer the next day to spend a couple hours.

I was nervous, especially knowing I was on camera at all times. They interviewed two of my students— the child whose mom nominated me, and also a precocious little boy. Years later, I taught the same little boy's son. When the cameras weren't rolling, Tom and I made small talk about our teen daughters. Let's just say we had a lot in common, similar complaints.

The interview was pared down to a two minute clip which aired midweek and also on the weekend. They showed me in action teaching, and also discussing my teaching philosophy. I received mail from many. Email and cell phones were not in existence or the main communication devices then.

My next mug shot was with my last preschool's owner/director and several students. We were featured outside a newsroom window. The anchor came out and interviewed us about an upcoming community event in which we were involved. My mom called to say she saw me waving and smiling. I was wordless for a change.

Then when I started publishing in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, a media person from another local news channel inquired as to when three local, published CS writers and I would be available for a live on-air interview. We all went downtown and smiled for the camera and brief individual interviews.

My aunt made her husband take a photo of me speaking. She was so proud of me, she mailed me the picture. I was so nervous, I blinked my eyes way too much.

My next two TV spots were in my classroom while a film crew filmed me reading and doing actions to Chick-a-Chick-Boom-Boom with my students (shake your body.) They interviewed the owner about her one-of-a-kind school, which she founded specifically for children with food allergies. I received text messages and emails from many former students and moms.

My last TV appearance was a Mother's Day interview at another news station in town. The interview was to discuss a story I had published in The Ultimate Mom, 2008. 

Mama Left Her Hand Print is about the day our life insurance agent came to collect the premium for a policy. Mom asked me to tell him she wasn't home. So I did. "Mama told me to tell you she isn't home." Mama did leave her hand print...on my heart and soul, and in my story I enumerated the many ways.

The female news anchor was friendly and prepped me ahead of time. She asked me what I regretted most as a mom. I said, "Saying NO too many times. I wish I had been more flexible."

She wanted to go with that. She tried leading me several times, and for the life of me, I couldn't remember the word "FLEXIBLE." She finally had to say it, and then I agreed. Talk about a Candid Camera moment.

TV stations are no longer calling me. I wonder if I've been blackballed? 
 My mom's earthly birthday is coming up in a couple weeks. If you would like to read my story about us, I will gladly email it to you.