Friday, December 31, 2010

What makes us say and do these things?

It was another day of belly laughing for me. My coworker and I had a two hour lunch with a dear friend. She is hysterically funny, has a wonderful and sometimes warped sense of humor. She is so fun to be with. She said she is concerned that on the verge of her fiftieth birthday, she just might be on the verge of menopause. "What ARE hot flashes? I don't think I've ever had one. Everything in the lady department seems to be regular. But I think it's menopause causing my erratic symptoms."

"Well, then, what are your symptoms?" we asked.

"This crazy snake lady comes out of my head, (she entwined her hands overhead like she was doing the Flamenco), wraps around anything or anyone that gets in my way and makes me say things I would never say. I am losing my filter."

It's excusbale, we told her. In fact, I read somewhere that elderly Native American women are forgiven all of their foibles. They can get away with saying anything after menopause.

"Since my husband lost his job, he tends bar sometimes at an upscale restaurant. I am not jealous. I knew he would be out late, so I went to bed. During the night I was awakened by our six year old who had climbed into bed with me, rolled over and plowed into my gut. When I sat up and looked at the clock, this snake-head lady erupted out of my head. I dialed my husband's cell phone. He answered after a few rings and sounded groggy (or drunk). I tore into him. "Do you know how unfair it is of you to make me worry like this? A phone call is all I ask for. There are only two places you could possibly be at this hour, either at a bar or at someone's house. It is 2:30 in the morning and all I want is the truth from you. Where the hell are you!"

Quietly, he replied, "In the other room, trying to sleep in our son's bed."

We were laughing so hard and loud, gasping for air. The manager at Panera Bread Company walked over to us, and when he saw that he did not have to dial 911 for three simultaneous chokers, he feigned interest in removing our dishes. I teach preschool, and I know the art of distraction vs. confrontation. I'm sure he would have urged us to take it down a notch or leave, except he caught a glimpse of the snakes unfurling from our peri-menopausal, smack-dab-in-the middle of menopause, and post-menopausal heads.

Care to share your embarrassing moment? Laughter is good for the system and soul.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year End Musings and Meanderings

I attended a family gathering with my aunts, uncle and cousins yesterday. One of my cousins had me laughing so hard, my sides still hurt today. She said that years ago she worked at a large corporation. It is so big that they have a bus to shuttle the employees from their cars to the door. She walked into the office one morning and everyone was gathered around the television with concerned looks on their faces. She asked, "What's wrong?"

A supervisor replied, "The shuttle blew up."

She shouted, "Oh my God, I just got off of it!"

They all turned simultaneously and looked at her like she was a space cadet. I laugh, because that could have been me. I am forever inserting foot in mouth.

She said, "As soon as I realized they meant the Space Shuttle, I chuckled and said, 'Well there goes any hope I ever had of a promotion.'" Sometimes all you can do is laugh at yourself.

As this year winds down, there are some things I ponder. I get annoyed with Reality TV. There are harsh realities across the globe that deserve our attention. I want to shout at the boob tube, "So, you think you can dance? Write? Tell a joke? Run for political office? Find the man or woman of your dreams, one who will tolerate your screams? You think you can affiliate with freaks and not have a bit of their stink rub off on you?"

Life can be such a mystery. I know that in order to make it in this world, you must believe in yourself, but some people are totally delusional. I am not implying any of the following are delusional. Just making some observations and expressing my personal opinion.

I have a friend who worked really hard to earn a Masters Degree in Psychology, then, she took a job as a master gardener. I wonder if she coaxes the greens out of the ground with gobbly de gook? “Oh pretty blossom, do you feel like unfolding today? Did that bee sit on your stamen wrong? Poke your pistil too hard?” PUHLEASE! The woman is a shingle away from being a shrink, sitting comfortably on a plush couch. Instead, she’s out there squatting all day, dabbling in the other kind of dirt.

Our adult kids cried poor mouth all year, and then at Christmas our young grandchildren came over with their heads down and their fingers and thumbs flying on electronic hand held devices. I Tunes, I Pad, I Pod, I Touch ... I DON’T KNOW the difference and I don’t CARE. What I do know is that I cannot afford a $250 poke it, scroll it, play it, sing along with it gadget. I can barely text and figure out a cell phone. By the way, what ever happened to hand held transistor radios? Paying to hear music? Mindboggling to me.

Those screaming mimis on reality shows, dance shows, and political talk shows make me crazy. I can’t bear to see or hear a particular presidential hopeful shoot off her mouth or her gun. I don’t care if her daughter or anyone else can or can’t dance. I don’t care which stick thin woman is the next top model or which crazed chef makes the cook cry. I think most politicians are liars, not leaders and most Americans are followers not independent thinkers. I don't give a hoot whose hooting about what Oprah is giving away to guests. I think Judge Judy lets her mouth overrule her rulings, and I think Judge Joe Brown should be in every school telling it like it is.

Whew! I am out of breath, but here are a few final thoughts on what I really think: My weight has increased, my memory is shot, my publications are fewer and my husband’s still hot. The weather is crazy, the world’s in a mess, Happy New Year to you all, and may you all be blessed. This post (but not the poem)was written tongue-in-cheek)

Monday, December 27, 2010

A writer's gift to all of my readers

I don't know which is my favorite photo. I like the one of Nicole yanking the snowman's nose, but I also like the one of her yanking her daddy's chain: "Daddy, Barbie's telling secrets in your ear."

Our grandchildren are growing up way too fast, so I am cherishing every minute with our last one, as she is a gift to me.

And click here this is my gift to you. Lot's of publishing opportunities on this website. Happy New Year! Happy writing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Playing in a winter wonderland

We had a white Christmas; it was a wet, heavy, 4 inch snow. The road crews had the main streets cleared, but the ground was covered, which made the young and young at heart very happy. I told the grandkids that I wanted a photo of them in the snow, and then Grandpa said, "Get Nana!" Oh yeah, there was laughter and squeals (mostly mine) and we made memories to last another year.

Nicole wanted to make a snowman, but the snow was too cold for her little hands, so she made a a snow bush. Was she ever proud!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Past, Present and Future

Top to bottom taken in 1990: Tracey holding her daughter, Ashley; Jason; Cousin Veronica, Cousin Michael, Cousin Jan

Cousin Veronica, Cousin Jill (in heaven with the angels now), Tracey and Jason singing, Away in a Manger Photo taken late 1970's

To Grandmother’s House They Go by Linda O'Connell

I love Christmas carols. I can’t carry a tune, but I keep my car radio tuned to the Christmas station during December and sing holiday music at the top of my lungs. One song in particular brings tears to my eyes no matter how often I hear it. The melody takes me back to Christmas Eves of long ago when my son, now 37 and my daughter, 40 were young. They stood on the decorated staircase with their cousins, each claiming his or her step. Their innocent faces radiated love, trust and hope. I taught them the words and hand motions to Away in a Manager, and every Christmas I photographed them in the same poses with their mouths open wide in song. I can still hear the blending of their tiny voices and see their interlocked hands nestled under their chins as they sang about the Baby asleep in the hay. Some were toddlers, there were the kindergarteners and even the big kids who made their fingers flutter in the air as they sang about the twinkling stars. They visored their eyes to look down where He lay. All of the relatives smiled proudly and clapped at the conclusion as their little hands cradled an imaginary infant.

The days of cradling my babies are long gone, but those precious memories unravel like a strand of loose red wool in a comfy sweater. Veronica was pie faced and smiley. Jill with her dark eyes and dark page boy hair-cut looked exactly like the Fisher-Price baby doll she received for her sixth Christmas –the last Christmas of her young life. Months later she was struck and killed by a car as she darted across the narrow one-way street in front of her house. There were the babies yet to come, Mike and Jan, but sadness, divorce and death scattered the family in all directions.

Whenever I hear the carol, Away in a Manager, I am reminded of those Christmas Eves of yesteryear when joy and laughter rang out as the children ran and played with one another and the adults enjoyed the festivities. On the way home, our kids excitedly watched the night sky for Rudolph’s red light. They hovered nearby as I poured a glass of milk and set two cookies out for Santa.

“Don’t forget a carrot for Rudolph.” They stood at the front door shivering as I tied a carrot to the knob. Then I hurried my little girl and boy through the tooth brushing routine and into their footed zippered pajamas. “Listen, I can hear the faint tinkle of bells. Hurry, hurry, climb into bed. Let’s say your prayers.” I was as excited as they were.
“Are you sure Santa can get in? We don’t have a fireplace.”
“Don’t you worry, Santa has magic. He can squeeze into any little boy’s or girl’s house.”
“What now?”
“I love you, mom.”
“I love you too.” I peer down into their faces and say the same thing to each, “I know you’re excited about Santa, but don’t ever forget, this is the night the baby Jesus was born.”
“Okay Mom, I won’t.”
“I know, Mom.”
I back out of their rooms smiling, singing softly, “Away in a Manger.”

Tonight I snuggle on the sofa wrapped in a holiday afghan with sugar plums dancing in my old head. Holiday music plays softly, Scrooge blurs on the TV as I travel to my own Christmas Past. I feel my little boy’s bear hugs and sloppy goodnight kiss. I smell my little girl’s freshly shampooed hair and kiss her soft cheek. My eyelids droop as I envision myself young, tiptoeing into their childhood bedroom, pulling the covers up to their chins. Satisfied with their rhythmic breathing, I dim the lights … goodnight my babies, Merry Christmas.

I awake to Christmas Present: my babies are parents with babies of their own. The phone rings at daybreak; the little ones want to tell me what Santa brought. I am Nana to a blended family of nine little darlings. I prepare a feast and await their arrival. The house fills with laughter, aromas of baked goods and fragrant, flickering holiday candles. One by one, the four families arrive. Adult children resurrect their individual childhood holiday memories. We eat until we’re stuffed. The youngsters huddle on the floor and rip open their gifts on the count of three. Later children are sprawled everywhere, the older ones play video games, the younger ones play board games, share toys and make memories. The adults laugh at the antics of Ralphie in our favorite holiday movie. One by one they prepare to leave and we kiss them good-bye. Our hugs last a bit longer than any other day of the year.

The last family leaves as the outdoor Christmas lights automatically illuminate the bushes. I sit on the sofa and smile at my husband, satisfied to my core. I gaze at the tree glistening with ornaments –some razzle-dazzles made in factories, treasured handmade ornaments from our children and grandchildren. Priceless, age-old heirlooms that belonged to our parents and grandparents hang from the highest branches. The angel atop the tree reminds me of God’s love and the meaning of all this hoopla.

Before I lay me down to slumber, I gaze into Christmas Future, and I know that despite all of the hardships they will have to endure in life, our children and grandchildren have a foundation built on love, faith and family that will see them through. Merry Christmas my darlings, Merry Christmas to you all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spread the Word

If you carry only one of these verses in your heart and pass it on to someone else today, you will be spreading the WORD.


Jesus is Better than Santa
Santa lives at the North Pole.
JESUS is everywhere.

Santa rides in a sleigh
JESUS rides on the wind and walks on the water.

Santa comes but once a year
JESUS is an ever present help.

Santa fills your stockings with goodies
JESUS supplies all your needs.

Santa comes down your chimney uninvited
JESUS stands at your door and knocks.. and then enters your heart.

You have to stand in line to see Santa
JESUS is as close as the mention of His name.

Santa lets you sit on his lap
JESUS lets you rest in His arms.

Santa doesn't know your name, all he can say is "Hi little boy or girl, What's your name?"
JESUS knew our name before we did. Not only does He know our name, He knows our address too. He knows our history and future and He even knows how many hairs are on our heads.

Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly
JESUS has a heart full of love.

All Santa can offer is HO HO HO
JESUS offers health, help and hope.

Santa says "You better not cry"
JESUS says "Cast all your cares on me for I care for you.

Santa's little helpers make toys
JESUS makes new life, mends wounded hearts, repairs broken homes and builds mansions.

Santa may make you chuckle but
JESUS gives you joy that is your strength.

While Santa puts gifts under your tree
JESUS became our gift and died on the tree.

It's obvious there is really no comparison.
We need to remember WHO Christmas is all about.

We need to put Christ back in Christmas.
Jesus is still the reason for the season.

I found this on Sandie's blog at

Monday, December 20, 2010

Writing contest

For all you dog lovers out there, wouldn't you like to win $500.00 for writing about your pooch, mutt, doggie, pup? Deadline is Jan. 31, 2011, so you have time. Check out the guidelines here.

It is the 25th Annual Dog Lovers AKC Publication Fiction Contest.
Pat, this is right up your alley!

I was thinking about my dog who went blind at the end of her life, but she could smell me peeling an orange from three rooms away. She'd always come find me and I would give her a slice. I also had a cat who loved the pimentos from green olives.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Now, where did I put that?

I am getting forgetful. Not the normal age-related forgetfulness. I often ask where my glasses are, only to find them nestling on top of my head with my sunglasses. I walk into my walk-in closet at school, and I can't remember what I wanted until I walk out! I lose my keys all the time, and I even lost my husband's new car key. OUCH. I never did find his, but I find mine all the time in the oddest places. These things I can deal with.

I don't know if it is the cold weather that freezes and destroys more of my brain cells each year at this time, or if there is a grinch living in our house.

We had a very large, beautiful tree with beautiful glass ornaments for many years. The tree took up too much space, and taking it apart and reassembling it each year got to be a pain. Even using a magnifying glass didn't help me figure out which letter on each artificial branch was a "C" or a "G". So, we downsized, bought a used six foot tall but not half-the-room-wide tree. It was beautiful too, but taking it apart every year became a nuisance; the branches scratched my hands up. So we decided to remove the ornaments, cover the tree in a large plastic bag and store it upright in the basement after the holidays. We did that for three years.

Well, last Christmas, I went downstairs to get the tree, and it was gone. G-O-N-E. I searched the family room, the laundry room and hubby's work area. G-O-N-E. I called him, and by the end of our search we were accusing one another of playing a joke. We even called our adult kids. The tree became a bone of contention and we both quit talking about it. We were driving down the highway, when I saw a beautiful pine tree off to the side of the roadway. AHA! I remembered what had happened to that tree last Christmas. We were taking it downstairs, the bottom section dislodged and we'd said, "Enough!" We'd dismantled it and sent it to the trash heap in sections. When we remembered, we laughed out loud and pointed the finger at each other. We laughed about that incident into January.

Another Christmas, another issue. Last night as I lay on the couch gazing at the tree, I felt that old familiar stirring. "What is missing? What did I forget? Although we gave all of the fancy ornaments to a granddaughter who moved out, and we kept the sentimental ornaments for our brand new small table top tree, I KNOW I did not give her my thirty year old beloved, pain-in-the-butt-to-put-on-EACH-Christmas-light, bulb covers. They refract the light and increase the brilliance of each colored light. I love-love-love them.

I have searched the house over, twice! I did find some things I'd lost, like that Wise Man's noggin that got knocked off three years ago. Nothing like a headless wiseman to scare the heck out of a toddler. Now she'll be confused that he regrew his head.

But those bulb covers are G-O-N-E. If I go to my oldest granddaughter's house and see them on her tree, I will just smile and pretend I remember giving them to her. I have to go find my cell phone. Now, where did I put that?!

Friday, December 17, 2010

An old fashioned-tree with sentimental ornaments

It's a bit old fashioned; it's not fancy, it is not decorated with expensive ornaments, and the angel atop is slightly askew, but our table top tree makes me smile when the lights are on. We used to have a very large, six foot tree that took up half the living room. It was beautifully shaped, but it was just too big for us. Last year we downsized to this little bushy tree. It is such a relief not to have to remove an end table, and move our furniture around to make room for a tree. The only thing that was removed was the lamp.

If you click and scroll on top of the photo you can enlarge and see the ornaments. Notice a tiny yellow gauzy angel in the center. She is a treasure. She belonged to Bill's mother and of course is an antique. There's a miniature stocking to the left that belonged to my grandmother. But most of the ornaments are merely gifts from students or are sentimental gifts from children and grandchildren. There's a decorated tuna can on the bottom of the tree with a photo insert of my step daughter, Michele, as a little girl. There's the paper bell shaped ornament that my son, Jason, scribbled on in Sunday School when he was two and a half. When my daughter, Tracey, was five she chose a Christmas card cut-out of Mary and the Baby to be inserted into the top half of a blue L'eggs (pantyhose)egg. The glittered wooden ornaments take me back to the day my first grandchild, (21 year old Ashley), then six, sat out front on the steps one autumn day and helped me paint and decorate them. There are the paper ornaments that each of the babies scribbled on, the hand drawn picture of my cat decorated by grandson, Austin, at age seven. The paper and the foam snowmen made by grandkids, make me aware of how fast our children and grandchildren grew up.

My favorite and most treasured ornament is not the Eskimo as you might imagine, since I lived in Alaska and had my first baby there. It is the ornament just below and to the right. There are two little chipmunks swinging inside a heart. Bill gave it to me. It has a little red heart that says OUR FIRST CHRISTMAS TOGETHER.

If you look to the right of the creche, you'll notice a pink paper with a hand- drawn Nativity scene. My daughter drew it thirty-two years ago when she was eight years old. It has graced the bottom of our tree for over three decades.

God bless you and your family. May the spirit of Christmas shine on your past, brighten your future and dazzle your holidays. When the lights are ablaze on my tree I am reminded of the light in our childrens' and grandchildrens' eyes each Christmas. I'll never forget the one year when Tracey was five; she opened a package, held up her little purse and shouted, "Look Mom! Santa shops at Target too." Ug! I fogot to clip the tag off.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Simple Treasure, snowmen, warm my heart

As winter hammers the midwest with a bit of freezing rain and ice, I have a snow day. My simple pleasure today is sipping a cup of tea and gazing at my collection of snowmen.

The preschool children cut out paper snowflakes and we displayed them on the school window with the caption: Frosty's Baby Pictures.

Snowmen all start out as flakes, and these soft little snowmen make me smile.
Check out Dayle's blog You will lose track of time over at Dayle's Simple Pleasures.

Take a look at the top photo. It is different from the bottom one, because I have replaced the juvenile snowman with a more suitable mature snowman.

We live on a main street which was clear today, so Hubby and I ventured out, and I found this tissue box cover snowman for a dollar at the thrift store. He is the perfect mate for Mrs. Snowman. Up until now, she was a single mother with all those kids. They make a cute couple and look thrilled with one another, don't you agree?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How do you handle a bad day?

My daughter has car trouble, two friends had to have their dog's put down, a blogger friend got a big fat rejection on her book, and someone stole the nativity scene from the school around the corner from mine. I mean, life can really get you down sometimes. And I haven't even begun to address the miserable cold weather that's sweeping the nation. Sometimes we all feel like chucking it all, crawling under the covers and not coming out until Puxatawney Phil makes his prediction, which we all know will be more bad news.

Funds for Writers is a wonderful web site with valuable information. Hope Clark wrote today about having one of those WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER?! days. We all have them. Check out her site and send her a word of good cheer. Let her know how much she is appreciated. If you are not a follower, you should be.

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Life is 10% of what happens and 90% how I react to it. ~ John Maxwell

Don't let a bad day last more than 24 hours ~ Linda O'Connell

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chicken Soup for the Soul, Canned Food for the Body Event

Becky Povich, Theresa Sanders, Linda O'Connell, T'Mara Goodsell and V.P. of Missouri Writer's Guild, Deborah Marshall in back.

The Chicken Soup for the Soul book signing was a huge success, we practically sold out. Becky, Teri, Tammy and I shared laughter and friendship. Thanks to all of our friends, shoppers, my students and their parents and grandparents, my family members,(Aunt Dororthy, cousins, Jeff, Liz, Dororthy, Bradley and Anna) and David Lucas from St. Louis Writer's Guild, who stopped by for a visit or purchased books and brought non-perishable donations for the local food pantry. Deborah Marshall, vice president of Missouri Writer's Guild attended. We shared hugs with Lou Turner, owner of High Hill Press and outgoing president of Saturday Writers and also Donna Volkennant, VP of Saturday writers. These women are all great writers too. Bea Siros covered the event for

Outside, it was a wintry day with occasional light drizzle. There were families bundled up to watch the parade, but inside Main Street Books, the percussive beats of the drum corp reverberated, and we could hear the colorful and charismatic entertainers (the sugar plum fairy, angels, Santas from around the world and more) whooping and hollering. It brought out the child in all of us. We rushed to the windows to watch the gaiety.

If you happen to be on Main Street in St. Charles, MO for next weekend's parade, stop in and say hello to Vicki Erwin, proprietor of Main Street Books, and purchase a book or two for a loved one or YOURSELF.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Shhh! Be the first. Google "The Cookie Chronicles Linda O'Connell". Belief has my story on its page as top story today. The book release is 12/28/10 Please buy a Chicken Soup for the Soul Book for yourself or someone this holiday.

Today is the booksigning for four of us Chicken Soup writers, from 1-3 p.m. at Main Street Books in St. Charles, MO. Press coverage by Last year Santa dropped by to say hi. Bring a canned good and receive 20% off entire purchase at Main Street Books.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gingerbread Family

That happy faced wooden gingerbread man on the top shelf makes me smile. He is an old guy who watched my kids grow up. He sat on a long shelf that held "teacher mugs". The kids moved out, I gave the mugs away, but I could never part with smiley. I took him to school for learning games every December when we did a unit on the Gingerbread Man. The students placed him in on and under, beside, and in between as they learned positions. They'd laugh like silly when I ended the unit by saying to the last child, "Place him on top ... of ... my head!

I came across the four gingerbread boys at a yard sale. Then I happened into the Dollar General store and found gingerbread GIRLS, and why not? So I bought one for every section of my shelf. The stuffed Mr. & Mrs. were just cute and different, and so I added them to my collection. There's a small shellaced gingerbread house made out of crackers and frosting that a student gave me in 1994 and it is still in great conditon. So this is my gingerbread collection, nothing fancy, but they all struck my fancy, and I just had to have each and every one of them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do you want my autograph? Do you just want to have fun this Saturday?

Not rain, not sleet, not snow, let nothing keep you away from the Second Annual Chicken Soup for the Soul, Canned Food for the Body booksigning event at MAIN STREET BOOKS, 307 Main Street in Old Town St. Charles, MO from 1-3 p.m.

Bring the children to see the magic on Main Street. Get up close and personal with one of Santa's live reindeer; sorry the one with the red nose is busy at the North Pole. There will be chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, carolers singing, drummers drumming, marching bands marching, and last year there was a life-sized angel making her way down Main Street. It drizzled last year but the crowds were spectacular. I saw babies sitting on their daddys' shoulders and toddlers bundled up like Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story (You'll shoot your eye out with a BB gun). I even saw a replica of 'the lamp' in one of the windows. This is a magical time of the year, a family activity, sure to create memories. Visit the craft shops, stop and talk to a Santa from another country (not all Santa suits are read and white). Support the local economy and have lunch at one of the quaint restaurants.

Three other local, Chicken Soup for the Soul writers, Tammy Goodsell. Becky Povich, Theresa Sanders and I will be doing a book signing from 1-3. Anyone who donates a canned food item ( chicken soup is nice) will receive 20% off their entire purchase at Main Street Books. Please stop by and say hi. Do tell a friend about this event.

Please post a link to my blog on yours or pass this information on. We'd love to sell a few books, but even more so, we'd like to stock a food pantry with nourishing soup!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I am lucky to be able to squat on the floor with my students to play a game or tie a shoe. There's no way I could hold a yoga pose for any length. When I actually sit on the floor, I have to roll to my hands and knees in the friendly dog position (if there is such a pose) to get up. These old knees have some wear and tear on them; my legs have carried me places you wouldn't believe. I've climbed what seemed like insurmountable troubles, walked a tightrope of heartache; hiked trails that have led to nowhere; and I hopped, skipped and jumped way too fast through my kids' childhoods. I am reminded of how quickly life goes by, especially after hearing the terrible news about Elizabeth Edward's cancer being untreatable now. Her days are numbered and she readily accepts that. As she says, "For all of us, our days are numbered."

'Tis the season for counting down and crossing off numbers on advent calendars. The weeks and finally the days until Christmas unwind like an end roll of wrapping paper. Rushing about, cramming in, making appearances, buying gifts, forcing a smile, decorating our homes and offices to get the "feel" of Christmas or Hanukkah makes us feel flustered, and we wonder if it's worth it.

My bogger friend, Allison has a terrific post titled Creating Space. Take a moment to read her message today about "remembering what is instead of what's next".

As we rush here and there, to and from buying or delivering presents, keep in mind that sharing freely of the gifts you possess love, kindness, joy and your spirituality, are the ones that really matter. Treat yourself to a gift today, read Allison's blog.

Our loved ones, children especially, may want presents, but what they really need is our presence. The gift of time is more valubale than a gift that costs money.

When you feel upset or burdened, see red! STOP, sit still, pretend you are at a traffic light, and ignore the fools behind you honking and wanting you to rush on. Have a pleasant day. Peace to one and all.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Angels and the Power of Prayer

Blogger friend, Claudia, said that a friend told her that angels are closest to the earth at Christmas. Do you seem to feel the presence of deceased loved ones more at this time of year?

I bought this sweet, little creamic angel after my mom died, and it is a constant and vivid reminder of her. I believe that angels are forever near and speak to our hearts when we are still enough to listen. When the world or your life seems crazy, noisy and chaotic, quiet yourself and listen to the angels whisper.

We met friends for dinner and as always we enjoyed ourselves and laughed a lot. They told us about a young teenage girl who developed brain cancer and was sent to a cancer hospital out of state. She met another girl there who was the same age, with the same type brain cancer. They discovered that they both had resided in the same house at differn't times of their lives. Coincident, or angels at work?

Please send up prayers for our friend's brother, Eldon, who was diagnosed with severe leukemia and will begin aggressive treatment tomorrow. He lost his wife to cancer two years ago this month. Prayer is powerful. Thank you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Smell that?

A scent can evoke so many memories. I have been looking for just the right candle to fragrance the computer room. I spent a few bucks at Yankee Candle, a few more at department stores, and I even burned several candles that had been gifted to me. The 'balsam fir' made my nose run and when my husband opened the door and walked in, I took one look at him and prayed his face wouldn't freeze in that grimace. I swear some clown poured tuna fish liquid into the 'beach candle'. The 'cheery-cherry' candle made my teeth ache, it smelled so sweet. I went to Wal-Mart and found this eight inch tall candle in a jar with a ceramic shade for ten bucks. The fragrance is caramel pecan, and I love it. That aroma reminds me of walking through little shops in Kimmswick, a town about thirty miles away. All of the old turn of the last century, small, wooden homes have been converted to craft shops,and they all smell wonderful this time of year. The messages painted on the shade make me as happy as the fragrance: LOVE, PEACE,HOPE,JOY. These are my wishes to all of you.

Little things make me so happy. Do you have a favorite candle fragrance?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Snow happy you stopped by!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukka, blessings from our house to yours. When hubby retired eight years ago, he decided he might want to do woodworking. This is the project that we worked on together. I drew them, he cut them out of heavy wood, and we both designed and painted the snow couple. We think they resemble us, and I just love them. They stand out front greeting passersby. She wears a neck scarf cut from my deceased friend's robe, so the significance is meaningful only to me, but it looks cute from the street. I will be posting a few of my favorite holiday friends on my blog, and most of them are snowmen. What are your favorite holiday decorations?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Won! I Won!

What do Richard Simmons and I have in common? He and I both have a personal essay in the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul book. He also wrote the foreword for,
Shaping the New You. His story is on page 1 and my story, The Cookie Chronicles is on page 79. I received my box of books yesterday. My story is humorous about hiding a stash of Christmas cookies.

Then I looked at the stack of mail and spied my SASE from Lucidity Poetry Journal. I hate to see an envelope addressed to me in my own handwriting. I opened it, saw the folded small yellow rejection slip, or so I thought. It was a list of winners. My name is on the Honorable Mention list. Woo Hoo! There were 236 entries from across the USA and four foreign countries: Ireland (home of the O'Connells), Canada, South Africa and the Netherlands. First, second, third place winners took a nice monetary prize. There were also twenty Honorable Mentions (a small stipend, copy of the book and certificate). I am ecstatic and so inspired that I checked out Hope Clark's post (on the right side of my blog) and discovered a limmerick contest for The Saturday Evening Post. I penned three limmericks pertaining to the photo of a child clinging to her mother on what appears to be the first day of kindergarten. Having taught for over three decades, I wrote from all three perspectives, the teacher's, mother's, child's. This is a no fee contest, and wouldn't you like to say that you have been published in The Saturday Evening Post? Why don't YOU write a limmerick too, but nothing naughty.

My odds are getting better. Out of thousands of Chicken Soup submissions, mine was one of the 101 stories chosen, and my poem was one of the twenty-three chosen out of 236 entries in Lucidity. Oh yeah! I'm happy dancing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Run-run as fast as you can...

"NO! Do not eat my gum drop buttons." ~The Gingerbread Man

Today my students will hear the story of the Gingerbread Boy. I hated that story when I was a kid, but I make it fun for my students. We bounce a large stuffed gingerbread boy on a sheet and we catch a small gingerbread boy that is suspended on a string from the ceiling (hand-eye coordination). Yes, I know it appears as if we have hung the Gingerbread Boy for some dastardly deed, but it is all in fun. The children outline a brown tagboard gingerbread shape with tiny beans. This is hard work for little hands. Then I outline their work in puff paint: equal amounts of glue and shaving cream, and then they sprinkle it with white glitter. These little keepsakes are so cute and make great parent's gifts. I'll post a photo this evening. Meanwhile, dunk a gingerbread cookie in milk and bite off his buttons.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Quiz

A Thanksgiving Quiz with my responses!

What do you do on Thanksgiving after stuffing yourself with dinner at a relative's?
Eat pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Sample a tiny sliver of the pecan.

What do you do the day after Thanksgiving?
Shop at 4:00 P.M.

What do you do the Sunday after Thanksgiving?
Prepare own turkey and repeat #1.

What do you do the Monday after?
Eat cold turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and cranberries for breakfast.

What do you eat for lunch AND dinner the Monday after?
More leftovers. Freeze anything that's leftover, and gag at the thought of turkey.

What do you do the rest of the week at 6:00 a.m.?
Crank up the sound and dance to the oldies like nobody's watching: jitterbug until the house rocks, the pictures shake and your jelly belly shimmies.

Oh the price I pay for over-indulging.
Ahem, I almost forgot, the Christmas cookies are next on my no-no list.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


My dearly departed mother, was five foot two until osteporosis robbed her of a couple inches in her later years. The presence of that tiny little woman looms over me everyday. Sometimes a memory jabs a chuckle out of me, brings a tear to my eye or makes me want to squeeze my eyes shut and ask myself or her, Why?

Mom had a loving heart, a wise cracking mouth, some quirks, problems, issues, secrets (who doesn't?) and a heart of gold. She loved her children, adored her grandchildren and obsessed over her first great-grandchild. She lived down the street from me for a few years. I would call to borrow something.
"Mom, do you have any eggs?"
"No, but I have mayonnaise. Come on down."

Oh, I used to get so upset with her. I knew she didn't want me to use mayonnaise as a substitute. I thought she acted like an attention-seeking child. The two things weren't related. When I would tell her that, we would engage in lengthy conversation.

That was when I was a young mom. Now that I am a grandmother who also feels lonely at times and wishes for a visit from children or grandchildren, I too find ways to entice them. I just don't use mayonnaise.

Readers, please drop by, CLAUDIA MUNDELL's blog and tell her, "Linda is so happy with the book she won from your drawing."

Thinking About Memoir, by Abigail Thomas is a 110 page how-to, fast read, packed with ideas and starting points for journaling life stories. Abigail Thomas is a former editor and literary agent, the author of, A Three Dog Life and several other books. As I read this book I felt like I was listening to a new friend share glimpses of her own life. Thomas teaches fiction writing in the graduate program of The New School in New York. I wish I could take her class. This book is one of the most helpful that I have read. She writes, "My life didn't feel like a novel, it felt like a million moments. My truth doesn't travel in a straight line, it zigzags, detours, doubles back."

She spoke a truth that has hampered me for quite sometime, "Poor little me is not a good motive to write memoir." I have written a skeletal memoir from that perspective. I am now ready to tuck it away and forget the chronological timeline and all of the woe is me stuff, and simply travel the winding road, thanks to Claudia and Abigail.

Thinking About Memoir is the first volume in the "Arts of Living " series from AARP. It should be on your reading list.

Okay, just had to share this. As I clicked off my blog, this advertisement popped up: Remember Your Loved Ones. All I can say to that is, Hi, Mom.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Nostalgia

Thanksgiving has come and gone, but it hasn't begun at our house. Old Tom doesn't want to thaw, so it might be tonight or tomorrow when we roast the bird. This year, Bill's daughter invited us over for a delicious meal. We are looking forward, not to another big meal, but LEFTOVERS. I am sure that by mid-week we will be tired of turkey ten ways, but today, we are anticipating those butter whipped mashed potatoes and turkey and dressing ladled with gravy.

I was thinking about a long ago Thanksgiving tradition. When my children were small, and downtown St. Louis was a bustling shopping area, we would pile in the car after the meal; my mom always came along, and we'd head downtown. Everyone would pile out of the car all bundled up and we'd walk a square block stopping to look at the animated characters and working model trains in all of the windows at Famous-Barr(now Macy's) and Stix. It was fantasy land for young and old as we all stood shoulder to shoulder gawking through windows oohing and aahhing. I can visualize my babies young, my mom all giddy to be going along, myself with long hair and head full of dreams.

Downtown is not flourishing in the same sense. There are no animated characters in windows. Times have changed. Now, after Thanksgiving meal, the kids retreat to play video games. I don't know if times were better then, but they were sure simpler.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Shopping

I am doing the happy dance. I received an acceptance from Silver Boomers for a poem I wrote about the children's book, The Poky Little Puppy. My work will now appear in three Silver Boomer books.

I spent a few hours typing and editing my daughter-in-law's memoir. Still have a lot to go, but having time off made a difference. I put up holiday decorations, but not the tree yet. I'll wait a week or so on that. I came across a candle that had been packed away since last Christmas. When I inhaled the gingerbread fragrance, I developed a terrible migrane headache and had to lie down for a couple hours. That candle ended up in the bottom of the trash can. I never get bad headaches, but I sure had a reaction to that fragrance.

I felt better by late afternoon, so hubby and I went shopping. He found two pairs of dress pants for 70% off, and also, he recieved a ten dollar discount at the register. He was happy.

I bought a dressy Jaqueline Smith blouse that I had searched everywhere for last week. Heading to the register, I said, "I think these will be on sale by the weekend." What a surprise, even though they were not listed as on sale, they rang up as 20% off. I saved eight bucks. So, I bought two fleece night gowns for myself as well. We were like two kids going home. My hubby and I are lucky; it doesn't take much to make us happy.

Anyone else get really good deals today?

Oh yeah! It was a good shopping day, and I didn't fight the maddening crowds at all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I consider my blog buddies a blessing. You don't know how much it means to me to find an inspirational post on your blog, a beautiful picture, a cartoon, an astute observation, a woo-hoo for your publishing accomplishments, or a humorous remark that breaks open my day with a smile.

I hear you when you're lonely, aching, suffering, or hurting for someone else. And, I send up a silent prayer for you. Today I thank you for signing on as a follower, (I'd hoped for 75 followers by Thanksgiving), for your comments, and just for being a reader. Blessings to you.

This year I will roast a turkey so that Bill and I can have leftovers, because what is Thanksgiving week without cold turkey and dressing and cranberries for breakfast the next three days? I am not preparing the family meal, but I did for years. The past few years I have encouraged my children to celebrate in spirit with me and Bill, and in person with their dad and his wife who live in the country. Used to be, all of the kids had to drive miles and miles to visit everyone, rush through a meal and head off to the next house. It was no fun for them or us. Now there are grown grandkids who have to trek around as well. I'll wait until Christmas for my turn. On that day, our house overflows and I am in my glory.

I wrote a couple of poems. One is sentimental. I was reflecting on a Thanksgiving when my parents were alive and we had little babies in the family. The other poem I wrote for a writer's guild open mike and is a bit risque, filled with innuendo. It is harmless. I was afraid that it would bomb when I read it, but the audience laughed loud and long.

Thanksgiving Feast
A mouthful:
Toothless baby grins,
little kids with missing teeth, shoveling it in,
great grandparents nibbling with false teeth.
All of us devouring tastes, textures, smells, sounds and sights.
Me, bowing my head,
grateful, full, content, smiling.
Gobbling up four generations,
wishing this scrumptious moment could last

Tomorrow, I have a date with Tom. His broad chest makes me smile.
I'm going to oil his skin and massage his pecs a while.
I'll get his juices flowing and really make him hot.
Then, I'm going to grab his giblets and cook them in my roasting pot.

Happy Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kids of all ages flock to our own little Disney

You know you've always been a little bit envious that the kids are allowed to play in McDonald's Playland and adults are not. Admit it, you've had a teeny hidden desire to climb through a tunnel and investigate WHY mothers can't get their toddlers to come down out of the little airplane area. Well, I had the opportunity to visit the most fun place in town. Talk about tunnels, hidden nooks and crannies, airplanes, ferris wheels and so much more.

Typical teacher on a field trip exiting the school bus? Where might I be? What is your guess? If you think this was an educational adventure you would be correct. But if you think this is a field trip, you would be wrong.

No, not a school related function. I was at St. Louis City Museum in downtown St. Louis for a grandchild's birthday party. The front end of the bus is suspended off the roof of a ten story building, and yes, visitors are allowed to sit in the driver's seat, open and close the front door which is fenced in. And yes, although I have lived in St. Louis all of my life and have always said, "I'll never do that!" I did.

Then, I ventured further up on the roof where there are platforms and towers and outdoor tunnels which are actually coils and springs. Notice the person climbing through the spiral tunnel?

The praying Manthis looks like it is about to snap my head off. Thirteen stories high, eleven year old Morgan and her birthday guests rode the ferris wheel. No, I did not attempt that.

This place is simply indescribable, although I will try. If you or your children are not ADHD before entering, you all will be by the time you leave. In my opinion, this is not a place to turn toddlers loose or even try to keep track of them, although I saw lots of little ones. This is a kid's playground and I mean kids of all ages, mostly preschool through high school and lots of adults who haven't outgrown childhood, or want to return to that free, explorative time in their lives. The City Museum is a place where a kid (of any age) can be a kid.

Words really don't do it justice; this is something you have to see to believe, and like Disneyland, spending all day is never enough.

This is not a museum of exhibits that children look at, although there are animals and birds on display that have visited the taxidermist. This is not a place where you have to whisper. In fact the noise level is worse than a kindergarten classroom at indoor recess. This building used to be home of The International Shoe Company, a huge warehouse in downtown St. Louis. The fifth floor has residential lofts/condos, but the first three floors have been converted to a giant playland. There is a human hampster wheel to stand and spin in. So many families cooperated to keep the big wooden wheel spinning, and they left there laughing. There is an area where children and adults can sculpt with clay, paint, design, cut, color and paste recycled materials and let their creative juices flow, and then take their creations home. There are demonstrations of glass blowing, and pottery making and a shoestring machine which is always noisily chugging multicolored threads to create three foot long shoestrings. There is a kiddie train for young children, a free aquarium, (also a paid aquarium) an inside and outside ball pit, think huge rubber balls and twenty kids squaring off tossing balls at one another. There is a real bank vault to explore, exhibits to view, some significant architectural pieces rescued from regional and national historic buildings.

The man-made cave is one of the highlights for kids of all ages, but be sure if you go, that you are not too big to fit through the tiny passageways, tunnels and underground crawl spaces. Kids absolutely squeal with delight as they investigate every corner, every stalagmite, stalagtite, lizards painted onto oddly shaped tree branches. This place is a an artist's dream. The entrance or exit, (depends on which way you go in or out of the caves,) is a giant, concrete whale's head/mouth. Visitors can actually tell friends they've been inside a whale.

There is a real circus; the Children's Everyday Circus has several performances, and the acrobats are local children of all ages who have mastered the smae kinds of moves as those of circus performers under famous Big Tops.

I haven't even begun to describe the outdoor jungle gym or the ten story indoor slide which usually has a long line. The outdoor jungle gym is a series of welded spirals, coils, that arch overhead, connect to real airplanes, take you to the roof where you can slide down to the next level. All of this takes place several stories above people who are seated below. Don't be fooled by the image of the tree; you are by no means at ground level, or even tree level; this is a potted tree. A cell phone dropped from a kid's pocket six stories above my head and crashed to the ground beside me. Up on the roof, there is a lily pond where kids walk the footpath of protruding lily pads (stepping stones) and walk under the water streams without getting wet, Yeah right!

This is a paradise for the young or the young at heart. Imagine skating ramps where kids use only their bodies to maneuver the twists and turns, running, slipping and sliding down vertical drops where gravity pulls you down the ramps and slides. Oh my it is hard to describe. Adults have claimed to have played hard at this museum and come away with bruises that are like badges of honor. It is a playground for adults on weekends from 9:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m.

If you go, I will tell you one thing to look for. Check out the bathroom exterior wall on the first floor. It is constructed of thousands of metal lab specimen trays, and by specimen, I mean mice. If you find yourself a floor up at the deli, check out the support posts decorated with thousands of watch bands. Or valances made of mens' ties. The mosaic fl;oor tiles are incredibly detailed. Look high and low and you will be amazed by Bob Casilly's and his crew's creativity. I could keep going, but some things are better seen than said/read.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rubbing elbows with a best seller

Last evening I attended a St. Louis Writer's Guild event. Guest speaker St. Louisan, and best selling author, EILEEN DREYER who also writes as Kathleen Korbel spoke to us about romance and mystery writing. She said there are three rules, and nobody can agree on what they are. :)

Yes, you too would have enjoyed this personable writer who worked for years at local hositals as a trauma nurse. She said the only way she could make good things happen in her day was to write in her spare time. See, readers, it can be done.

Her web site has a wealth of information. Be sure to check out her travel site too. Eileen is as down to earth as your next door neighbor, and she is spirited, funny and helpful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Publishing opportunity

Every person has a story. If you are a female memoir writer you may be interested in a publication opportunity, no $ but two free copies of the book and reduced purchase price. Check out There are three upcoming books that you can contribute to. Best of luck.

Boogie woogie me

A friend sent an email with an video attachment: Take Me Back to the Fifties

Oh my goodness, it is better than a birthday and Christmas present all in one. There are snippets of many old time rock and roll songs that make me want to jump and jive. So now, instead of moping about my laziness and wishing I had more time to exercise, I bee bop right here in front of the computer as MY music moves me to shake rattle and roll. Gotta go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What did you say?!

This is a fun and exciting week at preschool. I ask the four year and five olds if they can read,and they all say, "NO!" I show them that they can all read their names. They agree. I spell M-O-M and they all tell me what I spelled. They get excited when I tell them I know they can read more words. I hold up a McDonalds logo with the word, and they all shout, "McDonalds!" Then I hold up a Taco Bell bag with the words/logo and they giddily shout, "Taco Bell." So we continue. I have a rebus story. That is, there are symbols or pictures with the words below. They 'read' each picture as I tell the story of a little Native American boy. Some of the symbols are arrow, tree, water, fish, horse, deer, berries. They then draw the symbols on large paper and we wrap it around the tee-pee frame which sits in the middle of the floor. Two children are allowed inside to look at books about Native Americans. I have a large narrow box with two cardboard paddles that serves as a canoe for two children, and I have costumes, beads and coffee-can tom-toms for them to play with. They also have a table where they can play with small manipulative themed toys: stuffed buffalo, horses, dolls, etc. There are an abundance of photos on the walls at eye level for them to look at and discuss. November is a fun month for me as well as them. I get many laughs. Yesterday after we pounded out the syllables in each child's name, I heard a little girl expanding on the lesson. She knelt over a tom-tom and rhythmically sang and pounded the syllables. "Hap-py Birth-day to be-long in a zoo, with the el-e-phants and mon-keys who look just like you." She was so intent on counting the measured beats, all I could do was laugh to myself. Nothing ranks higher though, than the year that I was showing photos of Native Americans and one child said, "My daddy is a NAKED American too." I smiled and nodded. I could never look at her daddy again without visualizing.

I just submitted an essay to AARP. They were seeking essays on Why I Have The Dream Job. If it gets rejected, I will post it on my blog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Doozy of a dream

I have just begun reading Running With Scissors, a memoir by Augusten Burroughs. Has anyone read this book? Maybe reading about some of the bizzare people, places and things in his life, triggered a crazy dream I had last night. It was so realistic. I feel like I had a starring role in an I Love Lucy episode.

I was in my thirties, seated on stool at a counter in this very long chrome diner watching a little fat man make layer cakes. He dropped this huge, five-layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting, then he tried to retrieve a large square chunk that hadn't shattered, but he couldn't balance it, and was ready to toss it when I shouted, "Hey, that's a perfectly good cake; my kids would eat that."

He told me I could have it if I'd help him clean up the kitchen which was off to the left, no door. I said, "Sure." He ran and looked out the front door and gasped, then he ripped off his apron and took off running and said, "The inspectors are here. Stall them. You have to save my business. It's all up to you."

So, I quickly refrigerated the three dozen warm eggs he had on the counter. I'd plunged my hands (up to my elbows) into a sink filled with soapy water and dirty dishes, just as a tall British inspector walked in with a clipboard and asked for the proprietor. I said, "May I help you?"

He flirted, "Yes, come away with me." I felt embarrassed and babbled about the wonderful cakes served in the establishment. Then I bent down to wipe the filthy floor, and he peered over me and smiled. He started talking gibberish. I reached up to brush my hair back and realized I had pink sponge rollers in my hair. I gasped and apologized and he laughed. My eyes were scanning left and right for that chicken little owner to come save me. I was so uncomfortable. Soon the inspector's gibberish became intelligible and he said he was smitten with me and my antics.

I said, "Here, if you want to be smitten, try this cake." I shoved the milk chocolate frosted cake at him and ran out the door.

HONESTLY! I have to stop reading before bed.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Are you a magnet?

My hubby and I have driven a lot through the U.S. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how large or small the town we stop in, regardless of time of year, every Saturday the shopping center parking lots are nearly full. We were in small town Ohio once when Bill asked what the big draw was, and the clerk said, "Shopping at Wal-Mart is a sport. Everybody across America engages in it every Saturday." We laughed. There is some truth to this.

Yesterday, Big Lots had a grand opening in Fenton in the Wal-Mart plaza. Traffic was as thick as flies on a jelly sandwich, but we finally found a parking place between Gordman's and Big Lots. Hubby went to one store and I went to the other. As I headed to Big Lots to meet up with him, a woman a few paces behind me called, "Hey Miss!" I turned around. She looked like "Mama",and I don't mean Vicki Lawrence from the sit-com, Mama's Family. She looked like Mama from the movie, Throw Mama From The Train. Her voice was gravelly, probably a life-long smoker. But she had a nice approach. Better to be called Miss instead of Ma'am these days.

"You know what a duster looks like?" I looked at her puckered puss and wild gray hair. Puzzled, I tried to figure out if she had lost her car and was looking for an old Plymouth, or maybe she was seeking a feather duster. I really didn't want to stay engaged as the brisk air was nippy.
"Well do you?"
I smiled and said, "No."
"You don't know EITHER?" She screeched. "I asked the woman at K-Mart and the one at Wal-Mart and they never heard of a duster. You know those dresses that snap down the front?" She was irritated, and keeping pace with me.
I nodded, "Oh sure," I said. "I know what you mean. You might try the Dollar General store. I know they carry them."

She stabbed her finger in my direction. "Damned foriegners selling us their junk and you're just like the rest of the dumb Americans, buying it."

I ducked into Big Lots and locked step and arms with my hulking husband.
Watch out if you're out shopping on Saturdays; "they" are out there, and if you have the same magnetism that I do, you might attract a few too.

This afternoon, I am going to the mall. I'll get back to you if my magnetism kicks in again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

One Nation

In honor of Veteran's Day I post this excerpt published in 2007 at Hot-Psychology.


When I worked in a public inner city school, we had a diverse ethnic population. One day, I received a new student from Thailand into my preschool class. I listened to a group of children at the playdough table discussing the new girl. One of the children said, “I think she is Chinese like me.”

“No, she is maybe from my country. Her hair is black like my hair,” said a little girl from Eritrea, Africa. Another child chimed in, “I know! She is Vietnamese; her eyes look like mine.”

I sat quietly and listened as the children continued their debate. It reminded me of times I have been in group situations. I attend educational seminars and I also facilitate at these events. I begin by asking teachers to observe other people in the room for a few minutes, and then I ask them to share what they have discovered. They usually do a head count and tell me how many people are in attendance. Typically, one by one they will begin to dissect the group by ethnicity, gender, age, hair color, even clothing. They seem confused when I smile and remain silent. I do not respond until the last observation is voiced. They are amazed when I make my own observations: “You are all human beings, all or most of you have hair, and you have eyes with which to see my teaching materials. All of you have ears with which to listen intently and learn something that you might impart to others. You are all able to speak, ask questions and share your information with me. Every single one of you have feelings that can be hurt or bolstered by what I say and do as your group leader.” They nod in agreement; most understand that I am trying to demonstrate the profound effect each of us has on others. I ask them to ponder a question: why is it that when we walk into a group, we immediately see our differences? The answer is simple; it is human nature to be a bit egocentric and ethnocentric. I remind them to treat others as they would want to be treated - with respect and compassion.

Nine years ago, I attended my grandson’s preschool graduation. The children pledged allegiance to the flag and sang a patriotic song. A nice gesture, perhaps a policy instituted after 9/11, not necessarily part of a typical preschool curriculum, I thought to myself as the kids sang memorized words. I wondered exactly what the youngsters understood as they belted out unfamiliar phrases: “My Country ‘t is of Thee, sweet land of liberty … let freedom ring.”

I remembered that child in my own classroom who said, “You guys are all wrong! I know what she is; she’s JUST a girl.”

If only we could all see one another as just a boy or girl, just a man or woman. After all, people are people. It’s not skin color, ethnicity or religion that makes one bad or good; it’s their actions.

Now, I completely understand why my grandson’s teacher taught her students the Pledge of Allegiance and that patriotic song. We do live in one nation, under God...

As Americans practice their constitutional rights to freedom of expression we unite on different sides of the immigration issue. Our country - land of the free and home of the brave - stands divided. Our government needs to get some things straightened out. In the meantime, we should all try to treat others as we want to be treated.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Listen carefully!

The adage goes, you have two ears and one mouth. It's good to listen carefully before you speak. Case in point, grandson George, who is thirteen years old and six feet tall, likes his man cave. He is usually hunkered downstairs doing homework to maintain his A average, or he is playing video games. His mom called down to him, "Do you want to go with us?"
"Where?" he shouted back.
"Going to Fro Yogurt" (new ice cream shop)
"No way!" he replied.
The family came back with ice cream and he said, "Hey! Why didn't I get ice cream?"
His mom said, "You said you didn't want to go!"
"I didn't! Where DID you guys go?"
His mom said, "I told you we were going to Fro Yogurt."
"I thought you said, "Going to workout."
So naturally, Grandpa and I drove over to get our little buddy who is not so little anymore, and we bought him an ice cream. Little sister, Morgan tagged along, smiled and said, "Grandpa, this is my fourth time here. But only two today."

What could we do but smile? It's a grandparent's job to sugar them up and send them home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Too much stuff

STUFF, we all have too much. Is your closet overflowing? Your junk drawer chock full? Do you have duplicate appliances and things you'll never use?

Several blogger friends are having give-aways on their websites. I am sure this benefits everyone, as the blog owner increases followers, and the readers get a little excitement and a bonus if they win.

We should all have give aways. Think of how happy we would make others, how connected we'd feel, and the self-satisfaction we'd derive when we actually witness how our generosity touches others. Many of us give to Goodwill and hand cast-offs to family members. That's not what I mean. I remember receiving a bag of nearly new clothes from a cousin. I loved them, but nothing fit me. I felt sad, upset, how unfair! But when I gave the entire bag of clothes away to another girl and I saw how happy it made her, my heart was filled with satisfaction.

Did you know that the Lakota Sioux women also have give aways? The Wopila is a Lakota Sioux tradition. On birthdays, weddings, funerals or special occasions, the woman gives away items that she has spent months collecting just for the event.

Recently I joined eleven other women in celebrating my friend Tammy's fiftieth birthday. We all presented her with gifts. She beamed at the written words and the lovely presents. It strengthens relationships when we give of ourselves. Giving doesn't have to be monetary, or even a concrete gift. The gift of time or the written or spoken word is just as precious.

Today, be generous in thought, and deeds. Go to your closet and find one thing to give to someone else for no particular reason. Don't expect anything in return. But watch how the giving begins to cascade. Blessings to one and all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We should all have a hairy attitude

I received this via an email forward and felt the need to post it here. It sure made me stop whining and complaining.


There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. "Well," she said, "I think I'll braid my hair today." So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. "Hmmm," she said, "I think I'll part my hair down the middle today."
So she did and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head. "Well," she said, "today I'm going to wear my hair in a pony tail."
So she did, and she had a fun, fun day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn't a single hair on her head. "YAY!" she exclaimed, "I don't have to fix my hair today!"

Attitude is everything. Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly. Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Word chaser

We have been gone all day. We stopped at a Dollar General store before going to a birthday party for a friend's one year old. I walked in and asked the high school-aged girl behind the counter, "Do you have birthday cards?" She looked at me like I was speaking gibberish. I stood and looked at her and she finally said. "Yes."

I asked, "Where?"

She replied, "With the rest of them."
HONEST! This young lady is one example of many others like her that I have encountered recently who know nothing about customer service.

We spent the entire afternoon outdoors. The weather was beautiful and Daylin, a little red-headed doll baby had a fun birthday. We are known as Nana Banana and Papa Apple, so named by her older sister.

Then, this evening we attended a Halloween party which had been postponed. It was also outdoors and we sat around a bonfire. It was fun to see friends in fantastic costumes. I have a selection of costumes, but just didn't have it in me to don a costume one week after Halloween. So I made impromptu costumes for us. Bill and I each placed a mat from an 8"x10" picture frame over our heads and wore them around our necks. I wrote on Bill's, FRAMED! and on mine, PICTURE PERFECT. They were actually a big hit, at least for creativity. I'm a word chaser, what do you expect?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I couldn't believe it when I saw this squirrel's nest perched on the very end of this tree branch. I wonder what makes one squirrel choose a secure fork in the tree near a supportive trunk, while another, perhaps, more inexperienced squirrel builds its nest on a dangling branch near the edge. It brings to mind a couple of quotes.

Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.~ George Seaton

Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond our control. ~Richard Kline.

Building a nest is sort of like writing and submitting. You do your best, you kiss it goodbye and you hope it's substantial and holds up, but it is really beyond your control.

This evening I'm doing the happy dance. I received a completely unexpected acceptance from well-published author, Linda Dominique Grosvenor from North Carolina. My essay (submitted six months ago) will appear in an upcoming anthology about women who love shoes. There was a time in my life when three girlfriends and I danced the plastic caps off of our high heeled shoes. We referred to that time period during the '80s as the summer of our lives. The book, as yet untitled, will be released in 4/11. As soon as I know, I will announce it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy birthday baby girl!

Nicole turned three years old the day before Halloween. She is somewhere between "I'm free to be me" and "I am the princess." She is obsessed with Jessie, the cowgirl character in Toy Story. She had a Jessie birthday cake, and had to put on her Jessie Halloween costume.

She's also my little princess. She quickly ditched her Jessie outfit when she received this fairy princess outfit. She makes me smile and laugh out loud. She is so loving. Today I babysat and took her shopping. She saw a Muslim woman with her little girl as we went into the store. The three year olds waved at one another. Nicole passed her by with a big smile, then she dropped my hand and ran back and said, "I've got to hug you!" The two little girls were so cute, a confirmation that prejudice doesn't exist at age three.

She also saw a little person, an elderly midget woman in line in front of us, and she thought she was a child. Nicole held up the new skirt she had selected and said, "You like my skirt? You wear one too?" Thankfully, the lady was nice and talked to her.

Nicole also made me belly laugh in the store. As we perused the toy aisle she kept saying, "Nana! Barbie's butt's broken." I tried to shush her. I thought she meant that she had broken the legs off one of her birthday Barbies. When I rounded the corner she spied Make-up Barbie, a bust with long flowing hair that little girls like to style. She shouted, "See, Nana, Barbie's butt broke off." You've got to love it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What is it?

Sunday, Bill and I took advantage of the beautiful fall weather and took a drive to the country. We stopped at St. Francois State Park about forty-five miles from home and walked through the campground. The leaves have peaked in color and are now mostly smudges of brown against the blue sky.

Most of the campers had packed up and pulled out by 1:00 p.m. The air was thick with wood smoke from campfires. I loved hiking and crunching through dead leaves. And there is nothing more inspiring to this writer than the sound of a babbling river.

We spoke with the campground host, Stanley Hicks, who was very informative when it came to my discovery. I happened upon these hedge apples, scientifically referred to as Maclura Pomifera. They are the fruit of the thorny, Osage Orange tree, native to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Years ago, before the invention of barbed wire, settlers planted the hedge apple seeds close together in order to grow thorny hedge rows to keep their cattle in and the wild hogs out. There are male and female trees, and of course, the female trees bear the fruit. It takes ten years for the trees to mature, and there is no way to tell the tree's gender until it grows its fruit. It drops it in the fall. The globes are about six inches around or better, have a green puckered, dimpled surface. When ripe, they fall from the thorny trees and give off a slight citrus odor. Cows and horses have been known to choke on them. Legend has it they contain a natural bug repellent, and scientists have discovered a chemical compound that does act as a repellent to roaches, but it is buried deep inside the heavy balls. Hedge apples stay green for about three months and then they start to rot and turn brown. Squirrels love these fruits and work hard to dig the individual encased seeds out. The Osage Indians used the wood of the Osage Orange tree to make arrows.

Mr. Hicks volunteers four months of the year in Missouri State Parks. One of his duties is campground host with the Department of Natural Resources. He explained that Missouri State Parks are funded strictly by sales tax revenue. While the sales tax-free weekend, right before school starts, benefits parents and students, it negatively impacts the park system. This year they’ve had to layoff several part time personnel.

Stanley Hicks knows his stuff. He told us that the buckeyes, persimmons and hedge apples were all early this year. He mentioned an interesting phenomenon about the persimmon which has a seed nearly as big as the sweet, orange, fleshy fruit. He said if you break open the seed, you will see either the shape of a fork, knife or spoon. Legend has it that if you find a knife shape inside, that forecasts a smooth, easy winter. A fork shape indicates a lot of ice. A spoon shape indicates an abundance of snow. Sad to say, he claims that they have been discovering more spoon shapes this year.

I had a wonderful day in the country. I urge you to take advantage of Missouri’s State Parks. Many are within driving distance and at this time of year, it is the perfect way to spend a fall day, especially before the snow starts falling.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chocolate can do what chicken soup can't

No-no-no, it had nothing to do with actual PMS, it was just that kind of week for this writer. Thank all of you for your words of wisdom and support. If you all were sitting in my livingroom I'd overdose you on chocolate too. It's amazing what the right combination of flavanoids and friends will do for a gal. I am on a writing frenzy, two poems and one short story half finished.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Anybody know how I feel?

Writer’s Dilemma
by Linda O’Connell

Retirement’s on the horizon, and I need to pitch my book.
But that means I have to promote it and come up with a unique hook.
Some days I want to be a writer and do nothing but compose.
Then, I sit down at the keyboard and what do you suppose?

My thoughts fly out the window, my muse runs out the door.
I sit and mope and flip through blogs to even out the score.
I tell folks that I’m a writer; it sounds really cool, but
the most I’ve written this week is reports, and that’s for school.

I recently published a biography, but it’s really not MY story,
I surprised myself the other day and wrote a tome that’s rather gory.
Fiction is not my forte, and killing grandma’s not too slick.
I asked a friend to look it over and she responded, “Woman, you are sick!”

I heard Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate. His words inspired me to write.
I planted my butt in a chair, and I sat there half the night.
I had a great idea, and then it left my head.
I told myself, you want to be a writer, but you’re a wanna be instead.

I laid in bed and pondered, I thought about my day.
I ought to stick to teaching, at least it’s steady pay.
No worry about point of view or metered rhyming verse.
At school it’s just the little kids, but sometimes that is worse.

This week it’s all about scary things: skeletons and witches.
One kid left me speechless and gave me involuntary twitches.
I said, “You and I have a skeleton, and we are not alone;
animals have skeletons too.” Little Johnny said, “My penis has a bone!”

I’m a writer who is wordless,
a teacher who is speechless.
I just want to cruise the globe
and lie on sunny beaches.

Anyone else searching for their voice? Muse? Purpose? Warmer weather?

This weekend I will post Halloween pictures of my adult costumes that have been prize winners. Now-now!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween Scarecrows

Today at preschool my four and five year old classes had their Halloween parties. Those little cuties had so much fun. They've been practicing songs and poems and fingerplays for the big event. Their parents stayed and watched them parade in costumes and recite. One of their favorite poems (with actions, of course) is The Dingle Dangle Scarecrow: I'm a dingle dangle scarecrow with a flippety floppety hat. My arms can move like this and my legs can move like that. I wish I could attribute it to a particular author, but after 34 years, I can not remember who wrote that little ditty. Were they ever surprised when I opened the door and the Dingle Dangle Scarecrow greeted them. (That's a fat little crow in bib overalls on my hat.)

Hubby and I went to a costume party as Mr. and Mrs. Scarecrow, and we won a prize! We did look pretty cute hanging out in the field together.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wow! what a weekend

What a glorious, balmy day, temperature 75 degrees, partly sunny, leaves bursting in tangerine, amber and ruby, nature's jewels. The wind kicked up and it became blustery; the leaves started raining down. Oh, the little girl came out in me and I just had to dance and spin and toss the leaves.

The leaves are breathtakingly beautiful and I am so thankful for my eyesight. This tree was one of my favorites.

I could have sat on this bench all day.

But, we moved to the river overlook and watched the Mississippi roll down to the Gulf. We also saw an older woman get out of her car, walk over to a bench and pull a chocolate cupcake and container of milk from her purse. She looked up and said, "What a fine place to eat my lunch." I agreed on all accounts,especially since she was eating my kind of lunch.

This is the perfect tree, the symmetry, the depth of colors, truly God's masterpiece.

I have the best husband; Bill makes me smile and laugh. He holds my hand, my heart.

The tree blew him a kiss! I love being outdoors and this was fun, but the whole weekend has been great. Friday evening I attended a poetry reading by Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser. His work is free verse and down to earth. He is the master of metaphor:"He was a balloon of a man who deflated when..." Those words made my brain ping!

Saturday night we volunteered at the cemetery for the last weekend of Voices of Valhalla hayrides. Valhalla Cemetery (provided the venue), St. Louis Genealogical Society (did the research), The St. Louis Writer's Guild (wrote the scripts), and the Hawthorne Players (acted out the scripts) collaborated on this first time event to bring St. Louis history alive. The hay wagon made ten stops to visit with the dearly departed and learn about the significant contributions they made. When I was a child we lived across the street from a large cemetery. I was never spooked.

At the end of the evening, just before the witching hour, I left Bill and writer friend, Mary(who had written one of the scripts) standing near the bonfire while I escorted a handicapped couple down the sidewalk. I had mentioned earlier that my grandparents were buried in the cemetery. As the full moon went behind a cloud, Mary came up behind me unexpectedly and called, "LIIIINNNDDDA." Holy moly! It sounded like my grandma, and now I know exactly what they mean by the hair standing up on the back of your neck. I had goosebumps!

As thunder rolls across the sky and night darkens this beautiful day, I am inspired to write. I am so thankful for my blessings and for all of you who stop by and leave a message, and to those who prefer to just read and not comment.