Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A little Cat Nip

 This sassy cat talks more than any cat I've ever known. He mimicks us, he whines, he begs. And he has dozens of cat toys, but look at what he claimed as his prize, a piece of paper. He laid on it, rolled on it, scartched at it and was very content.

Sort of reminds me of my son when he was a little boy. He would receive lots of Christmas presents but preferred playing with the boxes.

Just goes to prove, you don't need fancy toys to make Sassy Boy happy.

When I reached over for it this evening, he nipped my arm. Well keep it then!

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Feelings Flag

 In commemoration of all the lives lost on 9/11/01

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 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.



Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A rare sighting, a rare gift

Our bedroom window looks down upon our backyard bird feeder, bird bath, a variety of birds, two chipmunks, and a trio of young squirrels that excite Sassy Boy, our fat cat. He sits on the chest of drawers and meows at the critters and wags his tail. Yesterday I was petting him and looking out the window. I saw a sight to behold, a pure white hummingbird. I did not take this picture. In fact I didn't have my cell phone with me at 8:28 a.m. But I will always remember the gift I received. Of all the people in the world, I saw a white hummer. They are very rare.

 It flew into my neighbor's yellow Canna Lily. Incidentally, these were my late best friend Sheila's favorite flower. It was almost like a gift from beyond. I feel so honored to have been privy to this oddity of nature.
Ah, there are changes coming. I feel it in the air, in the shortening days. Our hummingbird feeder has had three frequent flyers. I remember when we went to Mexico one year. I could not believe how many hummingbirds were at rest on a lush bush. I wasn't aware that they sit still for long periods. Their wings flap so rapidly; I thought they were always in motion.

Just think they have to load up on sugar and nectar to make their imminent long journey south, across the gulf waters, all the way to Mexico. Nature is amazing!

The ruby throated green one, and the brown one, and the mottled one are not afraid of us sitting outside, but they fuss at one another. I am hoping to see that white hummer again. I have my cell phone next to me now when I sit outside and read. I hope I can get a photo.

What have you noticed lately about nature?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Standing tall and proud

Somebody tell me when it happened. My son and his wife stopped by with Nicholas and Nicole. They have outgrown me, both are taller than I am. They are sweet as ever and still like my surprise treats. Today I melted Dove chocolate squares and gave them each a banana to dip in the dark chocolate. Of course I gave them a handful of squares to go.

It really is the little things that mean so much and are often remembered. They both love back rubs, and I hope they never outgrow that special little connection, because I will always be available for gentle loving touch, which matters when words aren't sufficient.

The world is getting crazy. Violence is everywhere, and it is getting closer to home. Yesterday two police officers were shot, one is critical, the other released. There were several shootings, murders, and a home invasion in nice parts of the city where I used to live and work. Places you would never expect.

Nicholas told me his best friend's cousin was traveling home from California, arrived in St. Louis, and was gunnend down in cold blood on the interstate, for no reason. I worry for my family.

And so I arm myself... with prayer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Forced marriage?

Ahh, that little boy of mine. Actually he is my granddaughter's little boy, but six-year-old Liam and I have a connection that wraps itself around each of us like his long legs that entwine my lower body when I arrive at his door, and he jumps into my arms.
Liam came home after his first in-class day of 1st grade and told his mama a little girl asked him at recess if she could be his playground girlfriend.
Ashley said, "Did you know I was sort of Daddy's playground girlfriend? We met when we were in school."

Liam looked at his mom aghast and asked, "You mean I'm going to have to marry her?!" And you think wearing face masks is the only concern for first graders? Ashley explained he'd have many playground girl and boy friends throughout school. He did not have to marry them.🥰

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Would you? Could you?

Not just writing a Good Reads or Amazon book review, but personally contacting a New York Times Best Selling author… 

Would you? Could you? Have you ever?

I have. 

When my grandson was a young reader he was thrilled with a middle grade novel, Saving Zasha, a story about a boy and his German Shepherd during WWII.

I contacted author, Randi Barrow to express my thanks and tell her how much her book influenced Nicholas, who declared after reading Saving Zasha that he was going to join the military when he finished high school.

Until recently he was still so influenced by Randi Barrow’s book, he considered joining the Army. I am happy he changed his mind and will be entering college on Monday. Saving Zasha is a book that will forever remain with Nick.  

Randi Barrow replied to my original letter, and I presented her letter to Nick, who still considers it a treasure.

 Lesley Kagen is a New York Times Best Selling Author of ten novels. 

Her books are written from the viewpoint of children as narrators and they are set in the ’50s and ’60. Recognizable places, things, and brand names make me smile at the familiarity. Page after page transports me back to my childhood. Her themes address serious adult issues and empower the narrators.

About the same time Nick discovered Randi Barrow's Saving Zasha, I discovered Leslie Kagen's first novel,Whistling in the DarkI felt as Nicholas did, enthralled, lost in the story, a part of it. I didn’t want it to end. 

I contacted her and told her how her book was the escapism I needed to get through a particularly difficult time in my life. My friend Sheila was suffering from effects of brain cancer and I knew we would lose her soon. Through the pages of Lesley Kagen's book, I imagined Sheila and myself as the main characters.  

Lesley Kagen replied with a heartfelt response. A week later her next book arrived in the mail with a lovely inscription… a complete surprise, which made me cry.   

Authors are people who have lives just like you and I.

They thrive on positive reviews and encouraging comments.

This week I picked up another of Lesley Kagen’s books, Land of a Hundred Wonders, and I intend to get lost on another great adventure.

Lesley Kagen's latest and greatest, Every Now and Then, will be released October 6, 2020.

Do you leave book reviews? If not, please do.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Oopsie again

So here is another oopsie of mine.

Sassy cat woke me before dawn begging for breakfast. Does he look like he's starving?! He banged against the closet door just because he knows the noise will wake me. When that didn't work, he went to sharpen his claws where he shouldn't. I got up and out of bed with narrowed eyes and achy knees to reprimand him. When he meowed sweetly and softly, I had to smile because he's been a real mama's boy lately. So I gave him some kibble to hush him.

 I saw a cup of yesterday's coffee in the pot and poured it into my dark mug in the dark kitchen and microwaved it. I grabbed a few Famous Amos mini chocolate chip cookies with pecans and settled in front of the TV to watch the anxiety-inducing news.

I dunked my five little cookies and sipped my coffee right down to the bottom of the cup, tipped it up, encountered cookie crumbs and pecan pieces, and chomped the last bit of sweet goodness. I thought! Only it was yucky old coffee grounds. Fat cat just sat and watched me sputtering and spitting into a tissue.

That was how I started my day. How was yours?

I have been writing stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul's new titles. The only one I can not think of a story for is for the collection titled, What I Do For Me.

Dare I write about how many cookies I eat?

If you are a writer, remember that sometimes the most mundane things can evolve into a 1,000 word publishable story.