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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

He's the man!

In honor of Father's Day, I am posting this, because my husband Bill, a dear father, grandpa and great grandpa has been a strong foundation in the lives of all of the children in this family. He loves unconditionally, dispenses wise advice, teases and aggravates just right! He's always been our favorite BIG KID. Love you, honey.


Paw-Paw Always Believed 


Published in Sasee Magazine March, 2013

By Linda O'Connell
There’s something very special about experiencing all of the “firsts” with your first grandchild, especially if she is as verbal and precocious as ours was. Four year old Ashley was madly in love with the first guy she ever “dated.” She showed him off to her girlfriends, and she bragged all evening about how much fun he was.
Ashley’s only consistent male role model had been my husband, her step-grandpa, whom she adored and called Paw-Paw Bill. The Dad’s Night invitation came home from preschool in her book bag. It stated: If Dad can’t come, your child should bring any other significant male.
Four year old Ashley didn’t hesitate a moment. “Paw-Paw Bill, would you be my date? My escort?”
“What on earth? Where did you hear such a word?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Paw-Paw, don’t you even watch videos? The prince was Cinderella’s escort; he took her to the ball where she lost her glass slipper. But I’m not going to wear glass slippers. Please, will you take me to Dad’s Night?”
“Of course, my princess,” he replied.
I dearly loved my second husband, but my love for him grew ten-fold when I saw my granddaughter plant her petite hand in his giant paw, and I watched him escort her to the car. Out of that entwined grasp evolved a powerful love.
Ashley proudly strode into her preschool classroom that evening beaming from ear to ear. Her six foot two inch, two-hundred-forty pound Paw-Paw shadowed her like a gentle giant. He knelt beside her and colored pictures, built block towers as high as Jack’s beanstalk, and held back tears when he read Ashley’s heartfelt essay about the most important man in her life. Her teacher had transcribed as Ashley dictated: “Paw-Paw is my best friend. He’s big as the refrigerator, and he can lift me all the way to the top of it. He lets me help him make ‘shawshage’ and scrambled eggs every Sunday. He’s so silly. He tickles me, and we play wrestlers and he’s a good dancer; he twirls me around and around. He gives the best hugs, and he makes me laugh all the time. I love him ten million, this much.” Her teacher drew a stick figure with arms outstretched to indicate Ashley’s endless love for her Paw-Paw.
“He’s my bestest silly friend,” she told each of her classmates as she led him from center to center. Bill rolled play dough cookies with her and made the entire class laugh when he pretended to eat them. He rocked bald dolls dressed in frilly dresses the same way he rocked Ashley when she was a bald baby.
Paw-Paw Bill was there the day she was born, and he has been there for her ever since. When her mother and I lectured or scolded, he tried a consistent, calm approach to discipline.
Paw-Paw Bill was there the day she was born, and he has been there for her ever since. When her mother and I lectured or scolded, he tried a consistent, calm approach to discipline. He never towered over her. He scrunched his body down to her level. With his big jolly face close to her tiny cherubic face, and with his sincere hazel eyes gazing into her blue eyes, he talked to her in ways that she could grasp. He used metaphor, and she listened.
From the moment she was born he carried her facing forward. She perched like a parrot high atop his left shoulder and mimicked words he taught her. Bill believed that she should be able to view the world around her with wide-eyed wonder. When she began toddling, he wrapped her little hand in his and reached out to catch her every time she stumbled. Although he had to eventually let go, he held her in a grandpa’s grasp no matter how big she grew, or how near or far she ever was from him. Through childhood, he bounced her on his belly, cuddled her in brawny arms and gently bear-hugged her. When she grew older, he wrapped his arm around her shoulder as they walked through the mall or down a winding wooded path. He taught her how to treat others and how others should treat her. He allowed her to experiment and learn from experience. He took her places her imagination led and he always followed, if not at her side, then a step behind.
Paw-Paw taught her many concepts and skills but the most important lessons he taught her as she grew up was that an apology and one’s word are the two most important things a person can give another. Through his own interactions with her, he taught her how a boy should treat her. He taught her to respect herself, and he taught her to expect respect.
During the difficult teen years, when all children spread their wings and sometimes fly off in the wrong direction, everyone stepped in to guide her. No one, not her mom, grandma or great-grandma, nor any teacher or preacher who ever spoke to her during those difficult teen years has had as great an influence on her as Paw-Paw Bill. Before a date or a dance or a party, he always said only three words to her that every young lady needs to hear. When the three generations of women in her life finished lecturing about the do’s and don’ts and curfews, Paw-Paw Bill would take the phone, or he would look her in the eye if she were in his presence, and he’d say, “I trust you.” That’s all. No lecture. No more words. She always lived up to his trust and beliefs in her ability to make the right decisions even when the wrong ones were so available.
It is with dignity and honor and many laugh lines along the way that Ashley reached adulthood and recently got married. Paw-Paw escorted her down the aisle. Our granddaughter is the young lady she is today because of the gentleman who believed in her…always! Sometimes Dad is another name for Paw-Paw. These days Ashley calls him Grandpa Bill, and she readily admits, he is still her favorite big kid.

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.