Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Hey, Teacher!


 There is something amazing about friendships that survive pandemics, long distance division, and the imminent arrival of a hurricane.

Dianna Graveman, Mary Menke, and I met through St. Louis Writer's Guild. Dianna, a fabulous writer/editor moved to Florida six years ago, and Mary also a fabulous writer, who lives in town, has been busy teaching and editing.

Dianna and I each developed anthologies for Publishing Syndicate and produced titles in the Not Your Mother's book collections. We've done book signings and presentations together at conferences and writing workshops. We are writers who write! 

Former teachers (grade levels from prekindergarten through college) and published writers, we all felt a strong connection.

When Dianna mentioned she was coming in town for a brief weekend stay, we reunited. The best part about seeing our dear friend (and how much weight she's lost) was being able to pick up right where we'd left off six years ago. Now that speaks to our close friendships despite absences and life's ups and downs. 

Schlafly's outdoor patio on a fall afternoon was the perfect place to gather, gab, and grab a bite. 

I have lost so many friends early in life, so I know how important it is to stay connected. I treasure these friends. 

Dianna's family had minimal hurricane damage and now we are all off in our own whirlwinds doing what we do best, writing, editing, living life's crazy ups and downs. 

How do  you foster friendships?  


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Ups and downs

Life is fragile and precious, and I am feeling an abundance of emotions. I was going to post a photo of me with my late, best friend Sheila, who passed away on this day a few years ago. Our forty-six-year friendship began in Alaska when we were 19 year-old soldiers' wives and neighbors. 

I just reread old blog posts about us. I cannot bear to read about her last days of suffering side effects of brain cancer in remission. Suffice it to say we were best friends until the end, and the end came too soon. She would have loved my three great-grandsons. She loved all children, much as I do. The scarecrow is not one my great-grands. Liam is in school. So I will focus on my precious and precocious babies.

Yesterday, after a busy preschool morning and lunch, I took Alex and Charlie to the park.

The boys were convinced they would see Owen, a little boy their age who had befriended them last week. They'd chased one another up and down slides and all over for half an hour. They had so much fun, they talked about Owen for days.

When we arrived at the park yesterday, there were six little girls and one younger boy on the playground. I went to get Charlie from his carseat. He looked dejected. I asked, "What's wrong, buddy?" 

He replied, "I can't talk to you right now, Nana. I am too sad Owen is not here. I miss him so much."

I understood my little guy. I miss my dear friend Sheila who gave me years of friendship and happiness and a life line, via long distance letters, phone calls, and vacations when life got hectic. 

Those big Tinker Toy-type toys remind me not to cage myself into a sad, depressive state for too long.

Everyday has something to celebrate and be thankful for. FRIENDSHIPS are at the top of my list. If you read my blog, I consider you a blog FRIEND, and I thank you.


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Is it an ending or beginning?

Summer is coming to an end, and fall is right around the bend.

Alex and Charlie had fun at the pool, but now it's time for back to school.
We are having excellent mornings learning in Pre K, and we go outside every day.

I packed away the water toys, beach towels, and pool. Then Mother Nature went off the deep end... and so much for COOL! 

Yesterday should have been 80 but was 97 degrees. The boys said, "Nana, Nana, water PLEASE?" 

They chalked the drive way, their trikes, legs, and knees! 

Which is your favorite season? And what is your reason?

Sunday, September 11, 2022

A hero named Daniel

We met a man named Daniel on a cruise years ago. He and his wife were our table mates at dinner. He relayed a very emotional story about what happened to HIM on 9/11/01. 

He was a first responder at ground zero. He and his partner raced up many flights of steps to rescue people. Midway down he did something he  deeply regretted. He left his partner, something he was trained never to do. He continued down stairs and along the way found an elderly woman and carried her down many flights.

When his mental state of mind became fragile, his grandmother helped him along by telling him God put him in that place to save that woman's life. That is what helped saved him from alcholism and survivor's guilt. Daniel is a wonderful man, father, husband who was there and is now in a positive state of mind. I send him a message every year on this date letting him know he is in our thoughts and prayers. 

I DID NOT KNOW what TO DO, so I...

 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.

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.

 

 

Friday, September 9, 2022

Does your house need a paint job?

Sassy Cat and the boys are at an impasse. When they come near him, he sits and meows for a treat.
 Alex and Charlie tell me Sassy is "sassing" them and getting ready to strike out.
I have yet to convince them that he's merely begging. They refuse to go past him if he is in their path, and Sassy refuses to move out of their way. So several times a day I have to intervene. They know how to get a few morsels of kibble and put it in his bowl. But so far they ALL need my intervention.

They have associated his name with a word they know: sassing. Language development and vocabulary in action! 

Sassy is a sweet, eight-years-old kitty who loves his "mama" but adores his "dad" and MUST be near one of us at all times. He sits at the back door and cries to come out when we sit on  the patio. He's content to just sit on the picnic table and watch the birds and squirrels in our yard. He doesn't dart or  need an outcome: chasing prey. He  enjoys the experience of observing. When Bill goes inside, his boy jumps up and goes with him.

Have you ever done something simply for the enjoyment of the process of DOING? 

Alex and Charlie have been "painting" the house with water, a roller, and a paint brush.
Process vs: product is part of our preK day. Some days their art turns out to be "something".  Other days it turns into a fun activity that allows them to simply enjoy the process and explore the use of the tools.
Not every paint project has to have an identifiable outcome. I refrain from asking, What is it? Often they don't know until they have manipulated the materials for a while, plus it changes as they explore. 

Have YOU done anything lately simply to enjoy the process?

If you are a writer, choose four words at random from the dictionary and play with them, just for the fun of it. You don't have to produce a poem or paragraph. Just do word play and enjoy the process. 




 

Friday, September 2, 2022

Do you know how to make an impact?

Summer fun was educational, adventuresome, and involved hands-on learning activities for Liam age 8, Alex who turned five, and Charlie who turned four-years-old. We visited so many parks, playgrounds, pools, and splash pads.

This particular park, The Heights, was our favorite. It is next door to Richmond Heights Recreation Center/Library just before Highway 40 at Hanley. It has an outdoor naturescape: trails, plants, trees, sand, oodles of places to discover and hide in, and a delightful playground.

This is one of my all time favorite photos because it represents innocense and brotherly love, even though they do argue frequently. Liam is a peace keeper and wonderful big brother. 
In May, when Liam was told he would be spending three days a week with me and two with my daughter, he was not thrilled to have to be doing "little kid stuff", as he called it. 

He soon learned age has its privileges. He had access to the downstairs freezer: ice cream sandwiches and mini sodas in our lower level fridge. He went downstairs to play video games while his brothers napped. He spent a couple hours relaxing and munching in the preK class area... being left alone. 

I did not push academics, but did insist he write a composition or essay before returning to school for third grade. He was SO excited to be going back to school.
I told him how in my day the teachers always asked students to write a theme on what they did over summer vacation. 

He and his family went to Branson, but he said he had most fun with them at the Science Center. Mom and dad allowed him to ride a flight simulator. He laughed telling me how his parents worked to assemble huge, soft blocks to form a tall arch. He laughed when it toppled on him and his brothers.

I mentioned how important a hook sentence is. He wanted to write: This summer I went to the Science Center. 

I told him instead to write: This summer my parents knocked the arch over onto my brothers and me.

He became irate and told me I did not know what I was talking about. He reluctantly did as I instructed, but he crabbed, "If anyone asks me about this dumb sentence, I'm telling them YOU MADE ME DO IT!" 

I smiled and said, "Great!"

After he finished his composition, I read it to him using HIS opening sentence. And then again with MINE.

He looked up at me amazed and said, "Yeah, I see what you did there. I get it now. That is a better opener."

I hope he takes that simple writing lesson with him throughout his life.

I hope if you are a writer, you too will write a dynamic hook sentence and make your readers want to read more-more-more.

I'm going to leave you with one more thought: surprise is a great element. On our last day together I said, "Buddy, I'll bet when I see you for Christmas break, you will have grown up to my chin."

He darted over to stand face to face with me. The top of his head reached my chin! We laughed and laughed at that surprise. He has grown in so many ways.

I wonder if he would have accepted this as another impact opener? This summer I grew another foot.
Or: My great grandma can now eat a bowl of ice cream off my head.

Have fun writing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Have you ever experienced the unexplainable?


I am proud to announce my story, The Moose, will be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul Miracles and the Unexplainable, launch date September 13, 2022 everywhere books are sold and online. 

This is the 33rd Chicken Soup book in which my stories have been published and shared world-wide.

My story oringinally titled, Heaven Sent, is very dear to my heart and almost unbelievable, but I swear it happened, and there were three witnesses who can attest. 

I have had many unexplainable events, prayers answered, and unusual occurences in my life, but this was truly a God send. I thrill at the memory.

The 101 stories in this collection will make a believer out of readers, cause them to nod, sigh with satisfaction, and touch them deeply. 

This particular title would make a great holiday gift for family and friends, your church or synagogue, a hospital or nursing home, someone going through a rough time... anyone. 

I believe life's mysteries are often heavens gifts. What do you think?