Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dedicated to her craft!

Jennifer Brown Banks at Pen and Prosper dedicated her post today to ME. I am so honored, but more than that I am inspired and want to share her article with all of you. When I first read it a few years ago it made me sit up and take notice. I always knew I had writing ability, but I lacked self-confidence. Yes! After reading Jennifer's article, I stepped out in faith and earnestly submitted. That year I received several acceptances from a variety of publications, along with rejections. I crossed genres and compressed long essays into one page poems which were published, much to my amazement.

I am a believer. I believe in positive energy, I believe in myself, I believe in helping others, and I believe the worst that can happen when I step out in faith is an editor may reject my work. I believe that there is a power greater than mine at work in this universe, and when I send my work on its way, I ask for blessings.

I am blessed to have so many supportive and wonderful writer friends in my life. I would like to encourage you to write something before you go to sleep this day, anything, even if it is a note.

One of my students gave me a stack of three note pads, by Lady Jayne, Ltd. Each has an inspirational message printed on it. I want to encourage you to do just this

Please post the first line of your work in progress and inspire all of us. My email is, so if you do not wish to post on my blog, feel free to share privately.


At 6:30 a.m. there is a steady flow of traffic outside on our four lane road, and it's SUNDAY. My bet is motorists are not heading to church, but most are doing a lot of praying.

"Catastrophic" is the word the weather-kid used to describe the half inch of ice and 6-15 inches of snow headed our way. No doubt about it, this is the big one! The weather service is predicting 6-10 in our immediate area preceded by the sheet of ice, followed by extreme cold and wind on Wednesday.

Hubby is going to hit the floor running when I tell him we have to join the throngs at the grocery store. He is going to pull on his trousers, brush his teeth, haphazardly button his flannel shirt, lace his tennis shoes, and toss on a jacket in record time. Excitedly he is going to rush out that door, keys jingling and head right to the shed where his brand new snow blower (doc said no more shoveling) and older generator are parked.

I'll say, "We need to go to the store."

He'll say, "Not now. Yay! I get to use my new snow-blower! I have to gas up the generator."

I'll say, "Not now!"

I'll have to do a lot of persuading to get him out of that shed once he enters. I think I'll hide the keys and 'find' them when we get back from the store. I'm heading out to buy some high-carb foods.

I'll keep you posted and will be adding to this blog post later today. Hubby will stay home and tinker with his toys, oops, tools, while I head off to a bridal fair with my daughter and granddaughter.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I am happy that my last post made so many of you laugh. Thank you for your comments. I have two more "looking glass" stories to add.

My coworker told me a story about her mother who lived to be 89, had all of her faculties and was active. They lived in a rural area and her mother seldom shopped for clothing. This happened awhile ago. It had been a long time since she had bought a new winter coat, so at age 85 she went to town. She selected a coat, and entered a dressing room to see how it fit. When she turned around she was astonished. "There's my MOTHER over there!" She pointed, then demurely tucked her pointer finger and all the rest into the pocket when she realized she was seeing herself in one of those new-fangled three way mirrors.

Jack and Henry identical twins, were former students. They had never been apart for the first three years of their lives. Mother took one of them to the department store with her. Jack took off running, arms extended, yelling, "Henry!-Henry!" when he caught a glimpse of himself in a full length mirror.

Some of you may have read this before, but it is a "LOOK" back at my life.

Published in Sasee Magazine May 2010

Reflections of Me
by Linda O’Connell

Through my teen years, I had no idea who that plain girl was looking back at me in my hand-held mirror. She had occasional blemishes, straight hair so thick a clamp couldn’t hold it, and about an ounce and a half of self-confidence.

Throughout my twenties, the gal in my oval dresser mirror wore sensible clothes, an artificial smile and a stern mommy look when necessary. My sense of self was completely defined by my roles as wife, mother and preschool teacher. I needed to be needed.

During my thirties, every time I glanced in my car’s rearview mirror I saw a woman merging into her own. I no longer wanted to be needed; I wanted to be wanted. I became more daring in my manner of dress. My self-esteem over-flowed like my hormones, and I was driven, on a quest of self-discovery.

At forty, my self-esteem was as on fire as the flaming birthday candles that lapped at my youth. I gazed into my full-length mirror. I tilted it this way and that and examined myself from all angles. I liked what I saw. My confidence was emerging. I knew for certain what I did not want, but I was unsure of what I really wanted. It was a time of introspection, of self-discovery. I travelled to the ocean in my fortieth year. On the rippled waters and pleated sand, I saw a reflection of the woman I had become. I learned how to say no, and yes, and to trust. I learned to ride the waves of everyday trials and tribulations and wait for the waters to calm.

At fifty, I hung a decorative mirror with etched oval frames in my living room and displayed photos of my grandchildren. As I passed that mirror, I saw my own features reflected in their faces, my joy and enthusiasm reflected in their souls. Every once in a while I glanced directly at myself, still a work in progress.

Sixty years of living, and as many brands of face cream purchased over the years, have made me realize that the wrinkles on my face are proof positive that I have lived a full life. I have come to love the skin I’m in. There’s a woman who knows me very well these days. When I greet her in my bathroom mirror, I see a twinkle in her heavy-lidded eyes. I wink at my reflection and remember how my life began at forty. I remarried. I became a grandma. During that decade I released my children’s hands, clung to their newborn babies’ hands and grasped my soul mate’s hand. I evolved. I took ownership of my feelings and vigorously declared my intentions.

As I reflect on my life, I realize that the phases I went through helped me to evolve into the woman I have become, the woman I can look in the eye, whom I respect and admire. I have learned a lot about myself and life in general. As much as I need and want my husband and family to be forever in my life, I know that letting go is as important as hanging on. We must let go of the negative self-speak, the pains of the past and eventually the loves of our lives. I resolve from this day forward to make every day count, for it is not the future or the past that matters, but the moment.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do you see what I see?

I received a cartoon email. A gray-haired, softly-rounded couple are sitting on stools at the ice cream parlor. He nudges her and says, "Honey, see that couple sitting down there on the end? That's how I imagine we'll look in a few years when we're that old."

She looks at him in disbelief and says, "You do know that is a mirrored wall, don't you?"

I can't tell you how many times I have caught that old gal in the mirror. She mocks me. I'm wise to her though, and I avoid those mirrored walls when I enter any establishment. If I open a dressing room and see a three way mirror, I slam that door and run in the other direction. The last thing I need is three images of my hind end or a microscopic image of my crinkle face. In fact, I take my glasses off before I ever enter a dressing room and only put them on when I need to see the different size tags on the three identical garments.

My daughter was at the mall getting a manicure. The Asian employees were speaking their language and laughing. My daughter said she felt self-concious, as though they were talking about her. Business was slow. She looked around and convinced herself that they were discussing "this gal at the other end of the shop with a big fat double chin who kept imitating me."

Regardless of the language spoken, she now holds her head high and keeps her neck taut when she goes for a manicure.

When the children were very young, my ex husband took us to a restaurant. He asked me to shift my position several times, but he grew more irritated with each of my moves. "Lean to your left. That's better." Then I'd see him frown again. I thought that the sun was in his eyes and asked if he wanted to switch seats. He said, "No, there's a nut outside the window who keeps staring at me and making faces." I asked how he knew the guy was a nut. He replied, "He has crazy eyes."
I turned to catch a glimpse of this wild-eyed man. When I realized he was sitting across from me, I laughed uncontrollably and couldn't even order my meal.

Watch out, your refelction is out to get you.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Something to make you smile

Anybody else notice how young the police officers are these days? I do not believe in stealing, but well, you know how expensive nursing homes can be. I am sure the woman was planning for their future. :)

An elderly couple was celebrating their sixtieth anniversary. The couple had married as childhood sweethearts and had moved back to their old neighborhood after they retired. Holding hands, they walked back to their old school. It was not locked, so they entered and found the old desk they'd shared, where Andy had carved "I love you, Sally ..."

On their way back home, a bag of money fell out of an armored car, practically landing at their feet. Sally quickly picked it up and, not sure what to do with it, they took it home. There, she counted the money - fifty thousand dollars!

Andy said, "We've got to give it back."

Sally said, "Finders keepers." She put the money back in the bag and hid it in their attic.

The next day, two police officers were canvassing the neighborhood looking for the money, and knocked on their door. "Pardon me, did either of you find a bag that fell out of an armored car yesterday?"

Sally said, "No."

Andy said, "She's lying. She hid it up in the attic.

Sally said, "Don't believe him, he's getting senile."

The officer turned to Andy and began to question him. "Tell us the story from the beginning."

Andy said, "Well, when Sally and I were walking home from school yesterday ......"

The first police officer turned to his partner and said, "We're outta here!"



She is steeped in snow, flooded with followers, funnier than Erma, a sassy-classy blogger from MinnesOta and if you visit, you will lose yourself reading her previous posts. Check out Pearl and tell her Linda O'Connell sent you. Pearl, Why You Little! Then stop by Sioux's Page She's the person who mentioned Pearl on her blog.

We have non-english speaking Bosnian neighbors on either side of us and a four-acre, barren truck farm across the road. I miss having a go-to neighbor, and I consider YOU, my blogger friends, "my neighbors" no matter how far away you live. You provide the friendship, the support, the encouragement, the hilarity, the kick in the pants I sometimes need. Thank you all.

I'd like to thank Donna for doing an excellent editing job on one of my half-baked essays.

Are you still strutting your stuff? or is it as Maxine says, "Ever feel like your stuff strutted off without you?"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Snow days, THEN and NOW

Proof that I am not a snow hater! When daughter, Tracey (40), and son, Jason, (37) were small I would bundle them up and take them out to play in the snow. Together we built snowmen and snow babies. Look at the base of the big guy, and ahem, ignore the big guy's mop.

When their dad came home from work we would take them to Carondelet Park and zoom down slopes that seemed like mountains to them. Then, when we were so cold we couldn't feel our cheeks, noses or toes we would pile into the car and drive to White Castle (Crytsal's for y'all down south), fill up and warm up with hot chocolate, burgers and fries.

Last evening my son called and invited me to go to Art Hill with him and his eight year old son. I have a cold, and declined. I didn't tell him the real reasons. Mama's weight has increased since the days of his fond early sledding memories. If I were even able to plop down on the sled, and by some miracle it didn't get stuck in the snow, I just know that all this weight behind me would propel me at warp speed, a quarter mile down Art Hill and right onto the frozen lake. I didn't want to embarrass my grandson by alternately screaming, "Get out of my way!" to the hundreds of other people climbing back up the hill, and "Please, God, let that lake be frozen solid!" These days if I had to huff and puff back up the hill, my breath would fan the bonfire flames to new heights or extinguish them.
"Have fun, honey, hack-hack, snuffle-snuffle, maybe some other time."

When they were little we stayed out in the cold for hours and made igloos big enough to accomodate two children and the dog when they could catch her.

Last Christmas Eve I imagined Mother Nature tugging a big red satin bow, unwrapping a giant gift and dumping snowflakes fat as pancakes from the sky over our house. This is my favorite photo of our house. The snow was beautiful for a few days. Now, after several accumulating snows, salt-covered cars, clumps of refrozen dirty slush, I want her to snap the lid back on that gift box and tuck it away till next winter.

Yeah, I've had enough. This little plaque hangs on my front door during January. I took the picture last evening on one of the bushes out front, so you can see the lingering snow. And more is predicted!

I was a good mother, and my kids remember these fun times. I'll bet you have fond memories of your mom. There is a call out from Wisdom Has a Voice Wisdom has a, Every Daughter's Memories of Mother. They pay in copies, are open for submission until February 1st, and essays should be between 2,000-2,500 words. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, I wish you success.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Down, Riley, Down!

This is Riley, my great-granddog. My 21 year old granddaughter, Ashley, got her when she was no bigger than a handful and just a few weeks old. Riley thinks she's still a boxer pup, and she tries to climb in your lap. She hears, "Down, Riley, Down!" quite often. She has a new bunk mate, a white boxer named Mack. They snuggle and entwine their legs when they sleep. Each has his or her own bed, but Riley thinks Mack is her play toy. She is a bit high strung and he is exactly the opposite.
Mack is having a wonderful calming effect on her. Look at him snoozing with his head on his back!
They are both happy to be indoors after frolicking in the snow. We received about five inches, but twenty miles west, they received nearly a foot.
Why is it when dogs and children are sleeping they always seem more precious?

It is Simple Pleasures Thursday, so please Stop by Dayle's Simple Pleasures blog at A little of This and That and check out the posts today here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How Embarrassing!

I have a cold. I am using Kleenex by the box full sneezing, blowing and laughing aloud as I read a humorous book by Liz Curtis Higgs, Help! I'm Laughing and I Can't Get Up. It is a book of stories she collected from people across the U.S. One is about a woman named Deanna. It reminds me of something that happened to me long ago.

Deanna says she was on a first date with an older, refined gentleman who took her to an Italian restaurant. She wore a navy suit and a lovely, light blue, silk blouse with a long flowing tie that forms a bow at the neckline. She tucked her napkin in her lap, fearful of spilling spaghetti sauce. She took small bites and dabbed her mouth frequently. Each time, the gentleman smiled broadly at her. She felt thrilled that he liked her. At the end of the meal she reached for her napkin which had slid down into her lap, and she jerked up one of the tails of her bow. It was covered in red lipstick and marinara sauce.

My children were young. I was taking them to McDonald's. I grabbed my zippered sweatshirt out of the clean laundry and threw it on. While eating our lunch in a very crowded Mickey Ds I sneezed, a great big aaaahccchhhooo which drew a great deal of attention. I felt that wad of kleenex in my pocket and reached for it. Out came a pair of my silk granny panties that unfurled with static electricity like a noisy surrender flag.

Come on, tell me what it is that you can now laugh about, the thing that made you cringe with embarrassment then.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's your genre?

Be careful of the labels you wear. I learned this lesson Sunday night. I read at a new and wonderful open mic venue, Hartford Coffee House. I read six of my poems. During the break, people came up to me and said, "I thought you wrote humorous and inspirational Chicken Soup essays. Wow! That was great. I didn't know you write poetry."

That is my fault, not theirs. That indicates to me that I need to visit more poetry reading venues to get my name out there. Establishing a platform doesn't have to mean niche writing. Podium, platform, table, wherever you can be heard, create a platform for your multi-genre writing. I have read at senior citizen meetings, bars, coffee houses. Have you considered reading at open mic events? At first it's unnerving, but after awhile your hands stop shaking and your papers stop vibrating :)

Matthew Freeman, local poet and anthologist hosted the event and sold his latest and greatest book,Flood Stage, an Anthology of Saint Louis Poets, by Walrus Publishing. No, my work isn't included among the well-known, because I have restricted my reading to mostly prose and hung the label, "essayist" on myself. Those in attendance now know I can write poetry. So maybe, just maybe, I will have a shot at the next anthology. Following is one of the poems I read.

Linda O’Connell
10/07 published in Sacred Fool’s Press


Spring intoxicates me with memories of a bygone era
When every day was a childish adventure for Dad,
and he ran with wanderlust
when the winds spoke to his Native American soul.
I was along for the ride.

Snake-like Route 66 hummed under my body.
In the back of Dad’s old panel truck
I lay on bare, blue and white ticking,
mattress buttons and little brother
poking my bony ribs.

Tallied white lines
and Guernsey’s grazing in pastures
as we headed nowhere, somewhere, anywhere
Dad’s rambling soul would take us.

With a dollar in his pocket and a dream in his heart,
the four winds tugged him hither and yon,
cast us into unknown towns where temporary day jobs, thrift stores
and restrooms with cold water sinks provided vacation basics.

Dad didn’t have a dollar to spare
or a dime’s worth of sense.
We lodged on the run;
my mattress a communal bed.

Mom wrapped herself in a comma
around Dad’s exclamation point limbs.
I snuggled in a fetal question mark,
my brother scrunched in a period at my feet.

Nowadays, when cherry blossoms blanket the ground,
Old Route 66 wraps me up in asphalt arms
snakes me down winding roads that lead to long ago.
I feel the hum and I must

What labels do you wear proudly?

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'm following the Golden Rule

Thanks to all of you who repsonded to my last post. It was like a group hug. I so appreciate your support and following.

Now folks, you have one week left to win a couple of great prizes in random drawings from my friends' blogs.

Click on Cathy C. Hall to take a chance at winning a $20 B&N gift card. All you have to do is sign on as a follower, comment about any of her posts. Info on her Jan 3rd post. If your name is drawn, you and I both will win a gift card, so please, check out this sassy little southern belle. She writes with wit, whimsy and substance, and she'll make you laugh out loud. Contest ends 1/24. Be sure to write that Linda O'Connell sent you.

Now visit Karen E. Lange and take a chance on winning Saloma Miller Furlong's new book, Why I Left the Amish. Leave a comment and your email. Good luck! Karen's posts are informative and inspirational. Contest ends 1/23. Tell Karen that Linda O'Connell sent you. Check out Karen.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On Edge

I am afraid. It is normal to feel fear especially when you are on the brink of something. That is exactly where I stand, on the precipice. One step forward or one step back will make the entire difference, or perhaps no difference at all. It is the unknown that I fear. I have always been strong, a self taught writer, an eager learner, a go-getter, but now I feel vulnerable, unsure. Am I afraid of failure or success? Both?

I have had a work in progress for a few years. Now that I am on the final edit of my 84,000 word novel, and a few months away from pitching it, I am squirming, listening to all the self-doubt, those things I tell you all not to listen to.

I have always been satisfied to take baby steps along my writing path. I submit and wait. I don't simultaneously submit. I recycle as soon as something is rejected, and I am content to send it out and let it go, although sometimes I get impatient for a response. I am not devastated by rejections. I try not to tackle more than I am capable of. I plod along at my own pace. I market my own work; I do book signings, blogposts and have appeared on three TV channels. But the thought of a marketing campaign is unnerving.

I know what's ahead if I succeed. I personally know writers who have started their own literary magazines with gusto. I have a friend who has just been contacted by an agent who wants to represent her memoir. And I have another friend whose books have been optioned as Lifetime Movie Channel movies.

I have always been content to sit back and watch others ride those high waves. I've been content with the low ones because I am willing to take it slow and easy. Now that the pace is picking up, I'm nervous, ready to call it off or at least postpone it.

My novel, still untitled, is about four very different women friends in their late thirties, who simultaneously went AWOL from their unhappy marriages in the '80s. It has a layered plot with major twists. It is about their children, their pasts and their futures. It details their struggles, their humorous escapades and predicaments, the affairs of their lives. Oh yes, there is retribution for their cheating husbands, a crazy mother-in-law, and real, sometimes raw emotion. It is about their growth as women.

Early readers, especially women of that era, have given it good reviews and have given me advice which I have incorporated into my book. I feel like I am in my last weeks of my first pregnancy, back when I wanted to keep that baby inside me and not be forced to go through the painful labor and delivery. I knew the final product would be both awesome and an awesome responsibility, one that I simultaneously longed for and feared.

I feel that way again. I ask myself, what am I waiting for? Is it time to step out or step back? I am on the brink.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Woes

I wrote this last year, but it applies today. I am unproductive, uninspired, and undeniably

I can’t stay up past sundown. I’m wide awake at three.
All day I am lethargic; I know what’s wrong with me.
I ache for old friend sunshine who eases all my pain.
I hate precipitation, but I’d welcome summer rain.
I need a break from frigid, this deep freeze really sucks
I’m sick of slippery roads and salty cars and trucks.
I want to feel a trickle of sweat roll down my spine.
I’m sick and tired of goose bumps and freezing all the time.
I’m tired of wearing socks to bed and nightgowns past my knees.
I am sick and tired of winter; hurry springtime, please.
For all of you who love it
I have a word or two
WINTER- you can shovel it
That’s what you can do.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There-There, Beware!

Every writer has his or her own writing style. I usually edit as I write, and then go back and omit words as I try to write tighter. I am amazed at how many times I trip over 'there'. Compare the two paragraphs and tell me what you think.

Paragraph 1.

There were so many school cancellations scrolling all day across the bottom of the TV when I awoke before dawn. There were animal tracks in the snow that led under the shed where I think a raccoon has made its den, so I put out a bowl of water. There was less snowfall in our area than forecasted, so we went to the mall to walk. There was a rack of marked down sweaters at Macy's, and I bought one with my gift card. There was a good movie on TV when we returned home. There was plenty to do on this fun day off school.

There-there! Good writers know that action verbs propel their writing and passive verbs such as is/are/were drag the story down. I was once told that using the word there is a direct route to passive verbs and boring writing, so I try to avoid the word, there.

The first paragraph conveys the messages, but the second paragraph seems less bland. The difference is like eating a plain glazed donut compared to one with swirls and sprinkles. (Yes, snow and winter make me crave carbs.)

Paragraph 2.

The TV news station should have listed the schools that were open instead of closed. The cancellation list started scrolling across the bottom of the TV at 4:30 a.m. when I spied animal footprints in the snow. I tracked them under the shed where I suspect a fat raccoon is holed up for the winter, so I put out a bowl of fresh
water. The meterologist was wrong again; our area received a scant two inches of snow, so we piled into the car and drove to the mall. I spied a rack of sweaters at Macy's reduced 70% and I had to have the bluish-green one. Speed walking and spending my gift card at the mall, then watching a TV movie made for a fun snow day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter got you down?

I came home and found a large white envelope on top of the mail. It contained a certificate awarding me Honorable Mention by the Springfield Poets and Friends for my humorous poem, Gym Dandy.

I also was asked to contribute an article for publication to the St. Louis Writer's Guild publication, The Scribe on essay writing.

And I had a personal essay about meeting Chuck Berry accepted by the St. Louis Writer's Guild for their upcoming anthology on St. Louis.

That's my twoot-twoot-twoot.

Yesterday the weather was gloomy and the sky bleak. We drove about an hour to Alton, Illinois and saw a few eagles on the river, not many. But it was fun to take a drive and stop for lunch.

I spied an eagle soaring above the car and told Bill to pull over. By the time we parked and got the camera ready, the bird had taken off in another direction. But it was one of those nature 'moments' that make me all mushy inside.

We walked along the river bank a short distance until our teeth started chattering. I was thrilled by the sound of the ice cracking as it layered and lapped up to shore.

We saw a large red dog or more likely a coyote, and this incredible tree which had been gnawed by beavers. Sometimes we all feel like we're teetering like this tree, but somehow we find the strength to stand strong, despite all the knicks and knocks.

If winter gets you down as it sometimes does me, just think, spring is 11 and 1/2 weeks away. Meanwhile, write something, anything for your own satisfaction, and stay warm.

Snow has arrived, 5:30 p.m. and I am going to snuggle in, eat a bowl of homemade chicken stew, and garlicy buttered hot rolls, and later a couple of mini chocolate donuts as I watch for school closings. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Yin and Yang of Freelancing...telling it like it is!

In addition to my day job as a preschool teacher, I am a freelance writer. I have learned some eye-opening truths about freelancing. All of those cute little kid quips I’ve been jotting down for thirty years with the intention of writing a book about the funny things children have said aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. They have all been published in, Kids Say The Darndest Things. Editors don’t care that kids nowadays say even darnder things. Art Linkletter beat me to the punch. He cornered that market, so I continue to plug away at targeting a variety of writer’s markets and working into the wee hours and spending a fortune on postage.

I have discovered that every positive aspect of being a freelance writer has a negative. Here are some things new writers should know. First and foremost, friends and family do not care that much about your latest and greatest essay, prose, poem or article, at least not in the same way that you do. You can tell when they’ve had enough because their eyes glaze over and roll back in their heads when you ask if they want to hear your most recent musing. I’ve learned not to give them a chance to reply; I begin reading fast and furiously until their heavy sighing begins. I trail them out of the room, and sometimes to the bathroom. Their sense of humor doesn’t even compare to mine; most of the time they don’t even ‘get it’. Oh, but my readers do. Once in a while an editor will contact me or forward a reader’s response. Or a reader will email me.

It’s not the fortune and fame that keeps a freelance writer going. I haven’t made a fortune, and fame has not found me, yet. I haven’t earned enough to buy a daily latte and a pastry. I settle for a pot of warmed over coffee and prepackaged cookies to feed my muse.

Writer’s should cross genre lines; you can be widely-published and broaden your portfolio with a variety of clips. You can also broaden your backside by sitting way too long in that padded desk chair. Send-send-send to a variety of publications, and when the rejections pour in, dump them right back out there. My letter carrier thinks I have a crush on him, poor old fool. He doesn’t realize the only reason I meet him on the street is because I don’t want my tome lifted from the mailbox by some thief looking for a check that isn’t there.

Be forewarned, when you’re writing on deadline, you may become maniacal. My family thinks I’m disturbed, because when they disturb me, I hiss, “Can’t you see I’m writing; what do you mean, ‘dinner’?”

Less noise and interruptions keeps the writer focused. When my hard-of-hearing honey watches television, I ask him to please keep the volume low, and then I scream for him and at the computer when it malfunctions.

Freelance writers have the freedom to choose their work schedule. On the nights when my husband goes to bed without me, I find myself slinking in my nightgown whispering sweet nothings at 1:00 a.m. “Come on baby, you can do it, uh-huh; don’t quit now, you darn printer.”

If you submit a lot, you will receive nice little checks in the mail when you least expect it. In fact, when I least expect it, that’s when my car engine light starts winking at me, the big flirt! And that’s usually when the check is nice, but way too little.

One more piece of advice, your family will be more likely to listen to your ‘latest and greatest’ if you use their name in print in a flattering manner. My husband may not be interested in everything I write, but if I refer to him in print, he’s all eyes and ears. The other night I went to bed early, and HE stayed up late and worked on the computer. He roused me from a sound sleep at midnight. “Honey, wake up.” He sounded very excited. “You have an acceptance on that story you wrote about ME, Goofy Willy.”

I rubbed my eyes, smiled, and patted the pillow. I let him down gently, “Bill, come to bed. Willy was a goofy dog I had forty years ago.”

Friday, January 7, 2011

Books of Knowledge tucked neatly into a hand held device

I just read on Yahoo that encyclopedias will be dinosaurs in the future for all babies born this year. With hand-held computers, knowledge is a click away.

The Encyclopedia Salesman (True story!)

When I joined my soldier husband in a tiny rural Alaska town, we were young newlyweds. I had a difficult adjustment period moving from a Midwest inner city neighborhood -where nearly everyone owned a dog, and nearly everything we needed was in walking distance -to moving to a remote wilderness town.

I was used to the sights and sounds of the big city where the aromas from ethnic cooking blended on the breeze. Pork steaks sizzled on open charcoal grills, the smells of garlic, green pepper and onion meant someone in the neighborhood was having spaghetti and meatballs, but my favorite smell was bacon sizzling on someone’s stove to be served up with a fresh home grown tomato.

From the big city to a rural town where moose and buffalo traversed our unpaved road, I was lonely and I missed my dog who was back home with my parents. From a lovely little apartment to a rundown trailer. A string of eight ramshackle trailers in eight crayon colors stretched down the gravel road - I felt alienated. From a thriving five block shopping district where small shop owners and five and dime stores displayed their wares to a tiny two block town with one general store - I felt displaced. It was the bakeries sprinkled throughout our Midwest neighborhood that I missed most. I craved pastries, but the general store in town didn’t sell anything that came close to fresh chocolate long johns or cheese danish. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway; we never had any extra money; none of the newlywed military families who lived off post did.

One Saturday morning, I heard a car pull into the gravel drive at the far end of the trailer court. I peeked out the window and saw a man lift a heavy satchel from the trunk. I assumed he was visiting a neighbor. A few minutes later he knocked on our door and asked if he could come in and show us his product. He was a traveling encyclopedia salesman. I nudged my husband in his ribs, knowing full well that we could not afford them, but he invited the man in anyway. He opened his case and handed us a book, gilded edged Volume A.

“What do you think of this?” he asked as he fanned the pages. Before I could speak my mind, the guy had five volumes spread on the floor. “Eight dollars a month, that’s all it will cost you folks. We can set up a payment plan and you will have this gorgeous set for your future children. I’ll even throw in a children’s set; now how does that sound for eight dollars?”

If we’d had eight extra dollars a month, I sure wouldn’t have bought encyclopedias. I was adamant and said, “We absolutely cannot afford these. They are beautiful, but not at this time.”

Then he started talking faster than an auctioneer, “Twenty-five cents a day, only twenty-five cents a day and you and your family can own this wonderful set. Twenty five cents a day and I’ll even through in a book case for you to display these treasures. What do you say, twenty five cents a day? Don't deprive your children. Twenty-five cents a day.”

My husband looked at me hopefully and said, “Babe, what do you think? It is a good deal.” He put me in an awkward position, and I wanted to scream, 'We don't have children and you hate reading!" but I simply said, “No.”

By the time the salesman had packed up his volumes A-Z, I had two men upset with me. I heard the car engine start up at the end of the trailer court, looked out and saw the salesman’s car pull away. I was relieved.

I was upset with my husband for even thinking we could afford such a luxury and I got tired of defending my position, so I went next door to complain to my best friend. I banged on her door. I rapped again. I called her name. She finally answered.

“What took you so long to answer? Sleeping in?" She stood at the open door but did not invite me in as she usually would. “I hope I’m not disturbing you. I just have to tell you this. Did you see the guy who got out of that white car down at the end of the road? He was some little weird encyclopedia salesman and I’m telling you he was a goof who had a bad comb over and bad breath and a bad sales pitch.”

She was usually as animated as I was, but she stood statue-like with the door narrowly opened and blinked nervously. She narrowed her eyes and shook her head from side to side.

“Yes, really!” I said. Her face contorted.
“Okay, I’ll hurry, I guess you want to get back to hubby, huh? Well listen to this first. The little creep sounded like an auctioneer trying to hawk these encyclopedias. ‘Twenty-five cents, twenty-five cents.’ You’re lucky he didn’t hit you up. Your husband’s like mine; he’d have signed on the dotted line just to make the guy happy. Now I’ve ticked off my husband and that goofy salesman.”

Her eyes flashed wide. She opened the door and her husband yelled, "Come on in." There sat the encyclopedia salesman with his volumes spread wall to wall.

“Hi there again." he shouted, "My partner took the car up to town. We always travel in pairs."

My friend's husband said, “I'm about to sign the contract.”

My face was as red as my friend’s trailer as I stumbled down the stairs backwards and shouted an apology to the salesman. I could hear him and my friend's husband laughing as I ran home.

To this day, my best friend blames me for their purchase of an obsolete set of encyclopedias, circa 1969 that her husband refuses to dispose of. If I were her, I'd throw them out, or at his head!

I'm glad that nowadays knowledge is a digital click away. Times, how they change.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ode to a new year

It only took me three days to go back on every word and start to fuss.
If I hadn't cracked my toe, no one would have even heard me cuss.

If hubby hadn't taken the detour past the very best bakery in town,
That cheese danish would be on someone elses' hips and my weight would be going down.

If only I had sorted the stuff on the desk into a pile of his and mine
I wouldn't have missed by one day! that writer's contest deadline.

If only I'd written my thank you cards, a few of them everyday
I wouldn't have a hand cramp from writing forty-two of them yesterday.

Okay so I've broken my resolutions; I swore when I swore I wouldn't.
Instead of eating oatmeal, I'm eating junk I know I shouldn't.

So, I missed a writer's deadline and could have kicked myself out the door.
It's January fifth and I've been busy, my January submissions now total four.

Don't hold yourself to resolutions that you know you're going to bend,
Forgive yourself and start over, today is a new one, not the end!

My toe is feeling a little better; today it's back to work I hobble.
I am living in fear that one of my little darlings will step on it and I will have to gobble. (Cursing's not cool at school.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Word origins

ETYMOLOGY: Origin and development of a word.

My word, "PAD"

In the 1950's I used to toddle and pad around in my stockinged feet.

In the '60s some girls in my class had to pad their bras with tissue. We also had to carry a pad in our purses.

In the early '70s some of my friends had their own pad and invited others to crash.

In the mid '70s I took my kids to the Botanical Gardens and Tower Grove Park, and we would stare in awe at a giant lily pad.

In the late '70s I would pad my college essays to make page count and so I would sound informed.

In the '80s I would pad $10 into the household budget.

In the '90s I wore cute, too tight shoes and ended up at any given time wearing a corn, callus or bunion pad.

In the 2000's I looked closely in the mirror and noticed a pad of fat on my left and right cheeks; yeah, those cheeks too.

I am a writer, so I always have a pen and pad nearby.

Today, I padded downstairs in my stockinged feet to the laundry room to do some hand washables. I know I should have worn shoes. I know that there is a slighty raised piece of PVC pipe that sticks out of the floor drain about an inch.

I know that I swore loudly when I stubbed by toe, heard and felt it break. It's my left foot, the toe next to my big toe is so purple and swollen. I am padding around with it wrapped in a big foam pad.

My husband says he can pad the walls if I need him to. Sometimes, I wonder.

From our pad to yours, Happy New Year!