Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

As the old year fades away and we ease towards a new year, I harken back to one of my most memorable New Year's Eves. It was in the early '80s. My kids were small; my mom was babysitting because we were going to a party. Three lousy drinks in four hours did this teetotaler in! When we returned home at 12:30 a.m. I insisted my ex drive my mother home. She said she'd be fine. I talked incessantly about the dangers of being out after midnight. I pointed at my husband and then at my mom. I ordered her to get in and him to drive. She got in the car and he drove her home, three doors down.

Folks, don't drink and drive tonight, not even three doors down. Mom and I laughed about this incident for years. That is why I do not drink.

Happy New Year 2010. Blessings and publication credits to all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why patience pays off

It is good to be patient. I submitted a story to New Love Stories Magazine in Feb.'08and forgot about it. Almost two years later I received a reply that my story is under consideration for future publication.

Santa brought us new cell phones and I read this email on the phone while we were at lunch today. You should have seen the people watching me do the victory dance in public. Well, I was somewhat subdued, but honestly couldn't sit in my seat and pumped my arms a few times. This is a high paying venue. Shoot! Even when it's a low or no paying venue, if it means publication, I jump for joy.

I heard from Beth, a long lost writer friend who has vowed to submit two things per month this year. That is a reasonable amount, and a great goal to set. A few years ago at a writer's guild meeting they asked what our writing goals were. At the time I wanted to get twelve things published, six for money, six for publication credits. Once you set your mind to it, you can succeed. Conceive, believe and achieve...let that be your mantra for 2010. Hope you have a safe and fun New Year' Eve.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Cookie Caper

The cookies are dwindling; there might be a dozen chocolate chip left. Bill can have them. I love those deceiving, bite-size peanut butter cookies. I kid myself into thinking I'm only actually eating the equivalent of four cookies when I pop those dozen little morsels into my mouth. If I still harbor guilt after cramming them down my throat, I tell myself they are paper-thin this year, because I got the bright idea to use a cake decorating tube instead of a spoon to drop the dough onto the baking tray. I'll be glad when these crunchy, melt in my mouth morsels are GONE. But do you think I will toss them? Not on your life. I so enjoy these little high protein (peanut butter), high energy (dark brown sugar) discs that elevate my mood.

In 1982, my friend, Rose, and I got on a sugar high that lasted from Thanksgiving, when we baked enough holiday cookies to supply the army, through the twelve days of Christmas; into the New year; until a day after Valentine's Day when we dashed into Walgreen's and purchased a decorative, heart-shaped box of Chocolates for our mothers, at 50% off! At that price, we could afford an extra large box for ourselves. A double layer of chocolates that we hid from our kids and spouses, lasted us until the first day of spring. Then we were only a few days from chomping the chocolate ears off our kids' Easter bunnies. That was the year that was.

My wonderful brother, John, a fabulous cook and baker, who lived in Reno, sent me a box of homemade chocolate chip-nut cookies the size of large saucers via UPS next day delivery. Two days before Christmas, Rose and I sat on my porch swing freezing, as we waited for the UPS driver who always made his daily rounds in our neighborhood at 11:30 a.m. We spied that brown tank-truck as it rounded the corner. We leaped off the porch steps, ran to the curb, and darted into the street hoping to save the guy a few steps. He swerved to miss us two crazy ladies. We waved frantically to flag him down. He waved back, honked and continued on. Rose and I looked at each other, dismayed. We watched his tail lights disappear, and then, like a wonderful vision, the truck reappeared way down at the end of our double long city block, on the other side of the street. The young fellow in his mud-colored uniform hopped in and out of his truck like a jack rabbit as he inched his way up the street.

We yelled like two sugar-deprived junkies waiting for their dealer. "Hurry up!" As he nosed to the curb half a block away, with only five houses to go, Rose and I waved our arms overhead like we were flagging a Boeing 747. The driver hopped into his truck. We dashed into the middle of Oleatha Street, prepared to accept the package through the driver's window. The poor guy's eyes widened; he gunned the engine and made a sharp right turn, right in front of us, down a side street.

Ten minutes later as Rose and I sat in my kitchen pouting, and watching two pancakes sizzle a crust around the edges, we heard the sound of a large vehicle rattle to a stop in front of my house. "This must be what you two were looking for." The poor guy seemed embarassed and sounded relieved. As I signed for that box of cookies wrapped in an entire roll! of clear tape, I drooled, I mean, salivated onto the form, just imagining those wonderful cookies. It's time I thanked my brother and apologized to that UPS guy.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dressel's Pub

I have been invited to read at Dressel's Pub in the Central West End on January 5th. Please come enjoy a fun literary evening and good food.

Chicken Soup seeking devotionals

Here I sit at the computer, four days until the new year, looking at my December submission calendar. I have sent off eight pieces for possible publication. Realistically, I know that like much of the clearance merchandise at the mall, my essays will not be snapped up.

But readers, just because you don't publish everything you submit, it doesn't mean it is not publishable. It's probably that a particular piece doesn't fit the editorial needs. See, I KNOW this, but when those negative messages creep in: I'm not that great of a writer. They won't take a second look at this!... just remember that somewhere an editor is looking for your particular work. Patience pays off.

I have a short inspirational essay that I have repeatedly "reshelved" for eight years. Here I go again. My mind is filled with doubt. The call out is Chicken Soup for the Soul, Devotional's for Mothers, 600 words or less, including a Bible verse and a short three sentence prayer at the end. Here is my self-speak today, "Dummy,
they are looking for stories for mothers! You are a GRANDmother. BUT this particualr story is relevant to moms the world over." So, as I send my story into cyberspace, I send up a prayer that maybe one day in the New Year I will be blessed with a contract for $100 and ten free copies of the book. That's all any freelance writer can do: write, hope and pray. If my story comes back, I have an open space on the shelf just waiting.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

God Bless Grandchildren

In my grandchildrens' faces I see the past, the present and the future. In their blue eyes I see possibilities as endless as the sky, dreams undreamt, dreams fulfilled ... MY dreams come true! In their individual personalities I see distinct reflections of their mothers and fathers. I see my genetic code in their teeth formation and hair so thick it makes hairdressers and barbers cringe.

In Ashley's and Nicole's laughter, cries and squeals, I hear echoes of my thirty-nine year old daughter's resounding little-girl giggles and sobs, and I remember how my mom came to her rescue every single time, because she was "Nana's girl".

As Austin and Nicholas chase one another and wrestle until one of them gets hurt, I hear the echoes of my thirty-six year old son's little-boy boasts, grunts and groans and remember his daredevil antics.

When I look into their eyes, I can almost see the thread that weaves a connection through the generations. In the formation of their upper lips, their fingernails, their expressions, kindness, inner beauty and souls -I see my children, my brother, my parents and my grandparents, and yes, I see myself. Their strong will, determination and fierce declarations of independence they inherited from me!

Our Gang on Christmas

These are our delightful grandkids who have stolen our hearts, tickled our fancy and given us many laugh lines over the years. Left to right, back row: Madison,12; Sean,10; Nicholas,7; Morgan,10; Austin,12; front row: George,12; Ashley 20; holding Nicole,2; and Kyle, 16

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'T was the Night Before Christmas at the North Pole

Contemporary Version of 'T was the Night Before Christmas
by Linda O'Connell (with apologies to Clement C. Moore)

'T was the night before Christmas at the North Pole
Old Santa was edgy, feeling quite droll.
Mrs. Claus was baking and the house smelled yummy.
Santa walked to the kitchen, sneaked up on his honey.

He reached for a snickerdoodle still warm on the tray.
Big Mama said, "No more! You've eaten two dozen today.
Your cholesterol is up, your triglycerides soaring,
and while I'm at it, I'm tired of your snoring."

"You're going to have to start losing some weight.
And look at the time; it IS getting late."
Chubby old Santa said, "Oh woman, drat!
You're always complaining about this or that.

"Where are my long-johns?" he dared to inquire.
"For Pete's sake," she snapped, "They're still in the dryer."
She wiped her hands on her apron, then turned with a jerk,
grumbled, "Everything around here is woman's work!"

Santa reached for more cookies, munched two, three, then four,
and got cookie crumbs all over the counter and floor.
"Go hitch up the reindeer, go load up your sleigh,
get all the presents and be on your way!"

Santa tugged on his suit, and as Mrs. Claus watched
he loosened his belt another notch.
"Santa, I remember when you had a pillow gut."
"Yes dear." He smirked. "And you had a size seven butt!"

"Santa, I think you should leave now!"
"I think that I will, but first I need my cholesterol pill,
blood pressure too, and one for arthritis
another one for my sinusitis.

"I need Dramamine so that I won't get dizzy,
and a calm-me-down pill so I'm not in a tizzy,
a vitamin C so I don't sniffle and sneeze,
asthma medication so I don't cough and wheeze."

"Be on your way, man! Get going; you're done."
"Wait, my dear, I forgot the last one."
Santa popped a Viagra, climbed into his sleigh,
"The miracle drugs, they have today.

"I'll be back in a jiffy," he smiled with affection,
I have forty-eight hours to get a..."
"LONG WINTER'S NAP!" she exclaimed as he drove out of sight.
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

While Santa is the fun part of the season;
let us not forget that Jesus is the reason.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rocking around heaven

It is that time of year when I reminsce about Christmas past, when I was a young mother, new teacher, and Rose, my best friend and next door neighbor opened her home and Tupperware container filled with chocolate chip-nut cookies to me.

I worked at a small private school back then within walking distance, and on the last day of class before holiday break, I would carry my box of goodies down the street and stop by Rose's. I'd dump all of my gifts, ornaments, holiday towels and trinkets on her table, and we'd sort through them like two kids in a toy store. Those memories weave their way into my heart. I can visualize her kitchen with dark cabinets, orange counter top and her eclectic collection of over a hundred salt and pepper shakers. I can almost taste those cookies, and hear her voice and one-of-a-kind rat-a-tat laughter, and smell the stench of those skinny, little, brown cigarettes that she chain smoked. She died at age 52 of lung cancer, just before Christmas.

We used to dance to old time rock and roll songs. We thought we'd never get old, and said even if we did, we'd always be skipping down the street, not hobbling. We used to say that when we made it to heaven, if we were too feeble to actually dance, we'd be rocking in our rocking chairs to Bob Seger's song, Old Time Rock and Roll. Gosh, Rose, I hope you have that rocker rhthymically moving! And I hope that you are surrounded by your mom, my mom, your sisters and your brothers all singing, "Today's music ain't got the same soul...I love that old time rock and roll!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Charity with a click of your mouse

This morning I finished Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, and I must say, as the tension mounted and the action peaked, the outcome was most satisfying and the ending was superb! I was rooting for the 93 year old main character, and I burst out laughing as I read the last few pages. This is one of those books that stays with you forever.

We all know how fun word games can be. Well, I received my AARP The Magazine in the mail today and want to share info published on page 16. You can make a charitable donation simply by playing a word game.

"FREERICE.COM feeds the hungry as you build your vocabulary. For every word you define correctly, this UN World Food Programme site donates ten grains of rice to countries coping with cronic hunger - more than 68 billion grains of rice thus far." FREEKIBBLE.COM gives food to dogs in shelters and does the same for cats.

Please post this info on your website/blog or tell a friend.

Monday, December 21, 2009


I slept like a hibernating bear under my fuzzy blanket. It was delightful. But today was frightful, or I should say, tomorrow will be when I step on the scale. I sabotaged my weight loss. I baked cookies and ate the first dozen, shame on me!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

babies, blankets and bears

Some things are just meant to be. Today I went to exchange a duplicate gift, finally got to the service counter and handed the clerk my receipt. OMG! It was from the package I had mailed at the POST OFFICE! I apologized and before heading home for the real receipt, I strolled through the bedding department. I have been wanting one of those plush microfiber blankets ever since I fell asleep under the covers with my robe on. I slept twelve hours snuggled in that baby-soft material. The selections were brown, off white and green. I wanted blue to match my bedroom. On my return trip, I had decided I would buy the off white one. I made my exchange and went to get the white blanket, but it was gone and in its place was a BLUE one.

Yesterday, I babysat my two youngest grandchildren, 2 year old Nicole and 7 year old Nicholas. She wore herself out climbing through tunnels and zipping down slides in the play place at McDonald's. She had a tantrum when it was time to eat and also leave. When we got home, she tried her best to fall sleep. I finally laid down beside her; she snuggled up to me and was snoozing in two minutes. No better feeling in the world than the caress of a sleeping baby's breath on your cheek.

Her brother cracks me up. He has a real sense of right and wrong. He policed every kid who came near his sister in the play place. Back at our house he was reading a poster that our oldest, 20 year old Ashley, had made for Grandpa when she was five. Nick said very seriously, "Nana, if any cops come to your house, Grandpa had better watch out. Ashley has it in writing that he let her ride up front in his car. That's against the law." He is a hoot. He walked over to the jewelry display case at Sam's when Bill took him there and said, "Hang on a minute PaPa; I'm checking out what kind of ring my wife will wear someday."

I had so much fun with them. My son called me at 5:30 and asked when I was bringing them home. We'd had them since 10:30. "Soon," I said. I just had to take them to see the Teddy Bear House near Grant's Farm. Turn onto Eddie and Park Road off Gravois at Grant's Farm and it's half a block down---their entire exterior, lawn and even the interior is the most gorgeous and UNBELIEVABLE teddy bear Christmas display designed to steal the hearts and tickle the fancy of young and old alike.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I can't make this stuff up!

The oddest things happen to me. My LIFE is a story. Last evening I presented a parenting class to a group at my school which is in a residential area. The doorbell rang sporadically and I had to interrupt my presentation three times for late arrivals. Half an hour into it, the doorbell rang again. I asked a young female coworker to please answer. I could hear a male voice, so I went to investigate. The skinny, "strange" guy next door, in his late 30's-early 40's, asked if I knew who a particular car belonged to. I replied that I didn't. He said, "Well this is simply a courtesy request that you ask the person who owns the car to move it from in front of my house, because my mom is old,60 (MY AGE!) and she's coming to drop off a grandkid and I don't think it's right that she has to be out in this freezing cold walking half a block at night with a kid. Just a courtesy, if you don't mind."

Flabbergasted, considering community relations and not wanting to rock any neighborhood boats, I stepped into the classroom and asked who owned the car, explained that the guy said, blah-blah-blah. A woman says it's her car. A nice dad offers to pull her car out of the tight spot and park it down the street. Everyone seems happy. The class continues. Fifteen minutes later, the doorbell rings again! This time there is a heavy set man at the door. I refuse to open it. Two dads look over my shoulder as I ask the fellow what he wants. He asks, "Do you know who owns the(SAME FREAKING) car parked down the block?"

Fed up, I shout through the glass, "No! Why?" He says, "I just hit it, and I want to report it; it's the right thing to do."

Such is my life.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Acceptance and rejection

Oh the ups and downs of being a freelance writer. I received a rejection from an editor on a humorous poem and an acceptance from an anthology. My story, The Pigs Took the Cake will be included in the spring anthology, Patchwork Path; Wedding Bouquet.
Usually it's the bride that steals the show, but on my wedding day, the pigs took the cake!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Doug did double duty to earn his dole this day!

Left to right: Tammy, Linda, Becky

I left my winter coat in the car, and even though it was 35 degrees and I was wearing only a light fleece, I was willing to walk the six blocks to the restaurant along South Main Street in St. Charles after our booksigning. But No! Despite my protest, Becky spied Doug pedaling past in the opposite direction, and she flagged him down. The poor guy gave a quick look over his shoulder to assess the situation (ahem, our sizes), decided he could haul us in his single seat surrey bike and hung a U turn. We laughed so hard trying to fit three of us onto a seat built for two. Our behinds overlapped onto one another and Becky's derriere hung off the edge as a big red bow flapped in her face. Becky, you had a great idea!Thanks for the fun experience.

Tune: Jingle Bells
written by Linda O'Connell

Dashing down Main Street in a surrey built for two,
past the shops we go, giggling like three fools.
Becky took her seat, Linda hiked her big butt in
Tammy plopped on Linda's leg and did the fun begin!

Doug on bicycle pumped, straining all the way.
"Oh what fun it is to ride on this Christmas holiday!
Pedal hard, pedal hard, pedal all the way.
These gals had better tip me well, that's all I have to say!"

Chicken Soup for the Soul book signing at Main Street Books, St. Charles, MO 12/12/09

Pictured from left to right: Patsy Zettler, Sherry Stanczak, Teri Sanders, Tammy Goodsell, Pat Wahler, Becky Povich, Linda O'Connell

Thirty-five degrees, sporadic rainy weather, parking places a commodity -none of these things kept the crowds away. The sidewalks and shops along historic South Main Street in Old St. Charles, MO were packed with families enjoying the holiday season. Babies bundled like polar bears perched on their daddy's shoulders and little kids snug in their coats, hats and mittens stood curbside as young and old alike watched the Christmas parade. The fife and drum corp, led by the color guard, rattled windows with their rooty-toot- toots and rummy-tum-tums; Christmas carolers and street performers dressed in period garb made beautiful music. A life-sized female "angel" wearing huge feathered wings crossed the street in front of my car, an experience to remember. Everyone enjoyed the nostalgia of Christmas Past as Santas wearing costumes from many countries interacted with passersby. Nothing more appealing than those blazing fire pits, and oh, the blending aromas of chestnuts being roasted and sold by the bag; freshly popped popcorn in 34 enticing flavors, and the tempting homemade cookies being sold on street corners. Two melt-in-your-mouth snickerdoodles and one chocolate chip cookie later, I knew I had blown my diet! A block east, on the riverfront, ice skaters zipped around the rink as carols blared from a loud speaker. Truly, this was a day to remember.

The Chicken Soup writers donated a gift-wrapped box of canned soup to a local food pantry.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chicken Soup book signing

Main Street Books in St. Charles tomorrow from 1:00- 3:00 p.m. Hope to see you!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter, here and there

I am reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I am only a few pages into this book and can't put it down. Don't you just love when that happens?
I enjoy snuggling up and reading a book. I despise winter and wonder how I survived winter in Alaska forty years ago. When the temperature was forty below zero, I huddled under a woolen, olive drab army blanket. Television reception in our little town at the end of the Alaska Highway consisted of three shows: the evening news from Fairbanks one hundred miles away, Sesame Street or the Army channel during the day. The newscast was live and often the camera would pan the male anchors as they licked their palms and smoothed their hair before they went on air. The World News reels were flown in from Seattle a day after they aired in the lower 48, so Walter Cronkite's news was always a day old.

The cold wind always whispered under our door cracks during all four seasons, and when it whipped at gale force in winter, it ripped off the crank-style kitchen windows and shook the city-bus-sized trailer and wannigan (a wooden addition, the length of the trailer). The dark enveloped us eighteen hours a day; quickening hadn't occured yet, as I was in my first trimester of my first pregnancy. I slept through most of the next three months. Tonight feels like one of those biting cold evenings so long ago in Delta Junction, Alaska.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Mom Writers Lit Mag, (now called MamaZina) just accepted my poem about my son, My Wild Child. It will be published in print version in summer 2010. I am thrilled because last year they published a poem about my daughter.

Saturday in St. Charles

Another pleasant surprise, I was invited to read at a local venue in the new year.

On Saturday, I will be signing Chicken Soup for the Soul books along with six other local Chicken Soup writers at MAIN STREET BOOKS in Old Town St. Charles. Those who donate a can of soup or other canned good will receive 10% off their entire purchase. Take a walk down Main Street and bask in the nostalgia of Christmas Past. Stop in and say hello or buy a book for a loved one. I hope to see you there.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

You never know what you'll find

I Googled my name in quotation marks and discovered a nice little surprise. In October, I had entered a fun, no fee contest on the VERB's web site, Reading Writers. The contest was to write an essay about a song without using any words of the song. So I wrote an essay about one of my favorites, The Final Acclaim, (You're In My Heart) by Rod Stewart. The website listed my name and entry, Last Declaration of Love, as one of the first round finalists. No compensation; only the first place winner was published in their print version lit mag. My thesaurus came in very handy for that little project.

This weekend we bought new end tables and a smaller Christmas tree. We live in a small ranch house, and in order to have our 7' tree, we always had to move an end table out for the month. We opted for a smaller, 4' bushy little tree which sits upon one of the new end tables. I also decided to get rid of half the decorations, and I must say, I am very satisfied with the outcome.

Snow! NO!!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday gathering

Today I attended the St. Louis Writer's Guild Christmas Party. Holiday open mic readings were nostalgic, poignant and humorous. It was a very enjoyable time, good food and terrific friends. Lynn's story, Black Cake was outstanding; we were laughing aloud. It is one thing to write memoir, but it is difficult to stand before a group and read personal essay. She did a great job. My little tome was about my grandchildrens' Christmas pageant. Three year old Austin shouted in church when he saw his sister in costume, "Here comes Ashley and she's a German Shepard." The pageant went downhill from there, but it was one of the most memorable performances ever. If anyone wants to read it, let me know and I will forward it to you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Guest author at library tonight

Insomnia is miserable! I have been awake since 2:00 a.m. You'd think it would be a productive time for me. I rewrote a nostalgic Christmas piece which I will read at the St. Louis Writer's Guild holiday party this Saturday, and I rediscovered some of my old stuff that I should recycle again. I am still wide awake. I'm thinking that I am still on a high because the doctor was so impressed with my 20 pound weight loss in one year, that she said I did not have to have my blood work up done yesterday. My cholesterol etc. numbers were good last year and she anticipated that they could only have improved. That is good news for sure.

Author, Wally Lamb (She's Come Undone, and MY ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOK, IKnow This Much is True, is featured speaker at the county library on N. Lindbergh (across the street from Nieman-Marcus)at 7:00

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Significant dates

I have a little decorative calendar. Each day I change the two wooden number blocks. Today the first thought that popped into my mind was how much I hated history classes - memorizing dates made me crazy. Once I got older and travelled to many of the places I'd studied, I'd wished I'd paid closer attention. To this day, I have trouble recalling dates with historical signifigance.

Today's date was a fateful one for me. Forty-two years ago, at the age of eighteen, I married my first husband who had just turned nineteen. The small church was where his parents had been married by the same old minister. It was a freezing wet, blustery, late afternoon. The sleet started as I stepped out of the car. My tears started as I walked down the aisle. The pastor offered me his handkerchief. When you are eighteen and your heart is battling with your head, you don't have enough wisdom or courage to do the right thing. During premarital counseling, the pastor stated that marriage can only survive if both people bring their own ropes, join them together and tie up their lives in a square knot that will not slip when times get rough. He demonstrated a slip knot and a square knot. The analogy sounded musical and made my brain spark with excitement because I love words. The message itself was lost on two kids trying to escape dysfunctional households. We succeeded, and we went on to create our own.

We were bound together for a quarter century with two frayed ropes, yet we never felt connected. The knot slipped, and when we came unbound, our lives began. We are both happily remarried and have two wonderful children and four delightful grandchildren as a result of our union. I regard this day not with sadness, anger, regret or melancholy; it is part of MY histoy.