Monday, May 30, 2011

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream

What does ice cream and the Mother Road have in common? This establishment is an institution, a St. Louis icon, a mingling place, a summer night's paradise, located on Chippewa, a stretch of old US Highway 66. Photo taken last evening.

Ted Drewes opened TED DREWES FROZEN CUSTARD in 1930 in North St. Louis city. He'd learned to make it while working a carnival in 1929 in St. Petersburg, FL. He moved his business to south St. Louis in 1931, and the South Grand Avenue location became his flagship store. It was located near Cleveland High School. I cringed at the sight of Ted Drewes sign advertising fresh custard. The thought of it took me back to childhood when my parents used to make me eat custard pie. Yuck! All I could think of was that eggy-tasting custard filling, that once in a while wasn't quite as solid as I preferred. So the thought of biting into FROZEN CUSTARD made me nauseous.

Then one day in my twenties, when my kids were little, I took them to the Chippewa location (shown above) and noticed it was not that yellow yuck afterall, but soft serve ICE CREAM. Oh my gosh, I was hooked.

A local television reporter, Tom O'Neal was doing a feature on Ted Drewes and asked if he could photograph my kids for a story as they ate their ice cream sundaes. My kids had a moment of fame on the 10:00 p.m. news.

Ted Drewes custard is made with honey. The hot fudge sauce is one of a kind delicious, no other has ever compared. They are famous for concretes which are sort of like malts that are so thick you can turn the cup upside down, and the contents do not spill. At Christmas they actually sell Ted Drewes cups filled with real concrete and a gift certificate. What a novel present in the middle of winter when St. Louisans are longing for hot summer days.

The ice cream business dies down in November, but the store remains open and sells gorgeous, real Christmas trees through the holidays. The store closes in January, but reopens in February.

One cold November day, when my best friend was dying from cancer she was craving a Ted Drewes, so I went to get her one. I was the only person at the window when an Asian film crew pulled up and exited a van with a microphone boom and began to interview me. They were thoroughly confused and wanted to know where the crowds were. They had heard about T.D. and were doing a documentary. I had to explain that the crowds come in summer, (as you can see). This location is on a four lane busy street, and the lines are ten deep at eight-ten windows and move quickly. the parking lots of surrounding businesses, across the street and next door overflow with people lounging on their cars, perched on stoops, curbs, anywhere they can to enjoy an ice cream from Ted Drewes, who by the way, still works here sometimes. This activity is a throw back to the days when people sat on their porches and visited with neighbors on hot summer nights.

They serve ONLY vanilla custard and any variety of flavors and yummies you can think to combine. Pumpkin pie, no problem, they'll slice a piece and mix it in your concrete. Apple crumb pie too, topped with whipped cream, yum! A variety of nuts, fruits, candies, the possibilities are endless.

When my grandson was a baby, a journalist from the local newspaper asked if we were going to give Nicholas ice cream. He was hoping for a good photo of someone having a brain freeze from ice cream. Luckily Nick didn't have a brain freeze and the photo journalist moved on. Those film guys seem to follow me, don't they?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Make your own music!

My youngest granddaughter, Nicole, at the Magic House Children's Museum making music, plinking away on the bells.

Composing thoughts, words, music,
playing her own tune,
doing it her way.

This photo reminds me of the latest book I am finally getting around to reading, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is a proven fact that when little girls are young, they have wonderful hopes and dreams, and then as they mature and find a boyfriend, they trade their dreams for the collective dream and yield way too much and too often to their partner. I was talking to some women (mothers) the other day who all wondered where THEIR dreams had vanished, if they'd ever recapture them. In the name of compromise, women often lose themselves.

In my twenties I devoted myself to motherhood.

In my thirties I was dissatisfied, but I didn't know what I wanted; I only knew what I didn't want.

In my forties I knew what I wanted and pursued my dreams and happiness.

In my fifties I discovered a whammy load of self-confidence aka: I don't care what you think of me; this is who I AM.

Now, in my sixth decade of life, it is not through rose colored glasses I view life, not blindly I follow, no longer shading my eyes from the truth; it is as though I have progressive lenses through which I clearly see my past, present and future.

I have the correct balance of hindsight and foresight. Hindsight is illuminated, and I can see clearly all the muck and reasons why I waded through it way back then. I am as much to blame for my issues as any other person I might have blamed.

I enjoy and appreciate every moment of the present as the gift it is.

I know my future holds greatness, heartaches, hopes and more dreams ... collective dreams for all of our children and grandchildren who will deal with their own issues in all of the relationships of their lives. I do hope they can each march to their own drummer, toot their own horn, instead of allowing someone to play them like a fiddle.

Life is a symphony, be your own composer, make your own music!

Yesterday, I finally got my groove back. I wrote and submitted seven essays. Once the creative juices started flowing, I couldn't stop the outpouring.

Today, I have to write two early childhood articles for my column.

Tomorrow, I shall rest. These are my plans. Life has a way of getting in the way, so I will whistle while I work, play or relax this holiday weekend. And I shall be grateful for the many folks who gave their lives for my freedom to pursue my dreams.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Doctor-doctor, tell me the news

My appointment was at 2:15. I paced nervously for an hour before showering and getting dressed. I put my wide-band bracelet watch on and realized it weighs six and a half ounces, and the turquoise earrings which complemented my outfit weighed as much as the loaded omelet I ate for breakfast. Removed the watch, the earrings, slipped into barely-there flats, changed from my heavy weight black capris to my lightweight ones. Considered cutting a couple inches off my thick wooly mane, and then said, to heck with it. The face cream didn't erase a thing except a few bucks from my wallet. The lipstick didn't enhance my appearance, and no amount of suck-in-the-gut paraphanelia ever matters when the nurse says, "Disrobe."

So off I went for my annual physical, worried about my weight and blood pressure. All that junk food.The wedding cake, funeral food, birthday brownies, graduation cupcakes, and crappy lunches that I've eaten this past month! I originally referred to them as stress reducers. Stress enhancers they were as I pressed the elevator button.

Two weeks ago I ran out of my bone loss meds. My aunts all have dowager humps from osteoporosis. I just knew the doc would say that my back bones were collpapsing upon themselves after just two weeks of not taking my Fosomax.

The child-nurse weighed and measured me. The scale didn't scream, but I moaned a bit at the three pound increase. Next, I did what the kid-nurse said. I stood erect against the wall.

"Five feet, five and half inches."
"No, I've been 5'5" my entire adult life."

"NO, you are five-feet-five-and-a-half inches!"
"Last year this little liar said I was five feet four and half inches." (A full year I worried that I was shrinking!)

Baby face never cracked a smile, "It says 5 feet 5 and a half."
I didn't care for the brat-nurse. I do like my stick-thin doctor and all of the photos of her and her biking team, those runty looking medical professionals. My doctor is nice, understanding, doesn't talk endlessly, and she doesn't harp when she gets her point across.

"Been exercising?"
"Been a bad winter, no, I cocooned all winter."

"It's not winter anymore."
"Yeah, and I feel like dancing!"

"Why don't you just try walking?"
"I've been lifting hand weights."

"How often?"
"Morning and at night."

"Good, any questions or concerns?"
"Yes, why do the veins in my right upper arm look more prominent than the left arm?"

"Chest pains? Short winded?"
"No, and never :)"

"Right handed?"

"Been lifting weights?"

"Anything else?"
"I ran out of my osteporosis medicine two weeks ago."

"That's fine. I'm going to take you off of it for a while."
"WHY, because the Fosomax worked and I've grown an inch since last year?"

She looks up from the computer and stares at me like I may be a section eight case.
"No, because you've been on it five years, so in six months, we'll do a bone scan and see if the results warrant a new prescription."

My mind was racing, trying to process what she said. I could feel my neck bending, my vertebrae collapsing, my Dowager's hump forming ... and now she has a WARRANT for my WHAT?

"Look at my records. Last year I was five-four-and-a-half, and your little nurse tells me today that I'm five-five-and-a-half."

"Like that thing can't be wrong? Let me take your blood pressure. 112 over 76. Very good."
"GOOD?! When your nurse took it upon my arrival, it was 120 over 80. My blood pressure is going down; my height is going up. Are you sure I'm okay?"

She laughed, jotted notes, antecdotal, I'm certain. Then, she said, "In six months you're due for a tetanus shot, so why don't we give it now, the one with pertussis vaccine?"
Before I could put her off, she put that needle right into my muscular (okay, still flabby upper arm).

Yeah, my doc knows how to make a point alright!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I've never seen anything like this!

The wall cloud passed right behind our neighborhood, kept dropping down then lifting.

This hailstone reminds me of something from the Flintstones. Scary stuff, this was.

The tornado sirens blared all evening. The sky darkened about 4:00 (so glad I was home and not at work. I'd had the radio on all afternoon as the storm began to build down south of us) The news stations were giving the trajectory of the storm: heading up Hy 55, now at such and such.

When I got home, Hubby and I looked out our back window and saw the wall cloud right behind us, less than a mile away. This view is of our neighbors' back yards. Then all hail broke loose, first nickel-size then grew increasingly bigger until it was ball-size with spikes. The next door neighbor lady was out in her yard when it started pelting. As these ice bombs began to fall and hit roofs, it sounded like gun shots. She grabbed a plastic picinc chair and used it as an umbrella as she ran to her porch.

This storm was an incredible demonstration of nature's strenghth. Neighbors have car damage, some property damage through town as this beast made its way North and across the river. When the news people reported it was headed downtown and towards the Arch, I had visions of that structure toppling, but the storm swung east and into Illinois. Yikes! What a night.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reading between the lines

Anybody else besides Cathy Hall and me having problems leaving blog comments on friends' blogs? What is up with this now?

After half an hour of frustration, I clicked on and off my home page, not Blogger, and watched the pop ups. I harrumphed, chuckled, laughed, then gasped, fearing that the next thing to pop up might actually be a likeness of myself. Fortunately it was a cartoon guy with an incredibly shrinking gut. I belly laughed, and in doing so, realized I'd better go do some sit ups.

Try this great form of cheap entertainment. Here are the first four pop-ups I saw today.

Hungry for Laughs?
Come and See

How do yours compare? Care to share?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rejections are a matter of opinion

We all know how many times Stephen King's work was rejected. Jack and Mark of Chicken Soup for the Soul also were rejected hundreds of times. If you are feeling lumpy, grumpy and in the dumpy because of a rejection consider this: agents, publishers and editors are only people with opinions. In my opinion...
We'll keep that for another day, but realize you are in a club of other 'rejects'. Don't let it get you down.

A newspaper editor once told Rudyard Kipling, "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just do not know how to use the English language."

An editor's comment to Anne Frank on The Diary of Anne Frank, "The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception of feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."

And an editor's comment to Dr. Seuss on his submission, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, "Too different from other (books for) juveniles on the market to warrant selling."

You know what they say about opinions... don't stop, shop your work around.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Time to read a book and see a movie

The computer whined and roared like a helicopter about to lift off. It was becoming so cantankerous and slow, we ended up having to get a new one. Modern technology is a curse for me. I have been trying to retrieve documents and replace my favorites for so long, my brain hurts. Hubby can have his turn with it now. All these gadgets appeal to him. "Honey," he calls excitedly, "come here and look at all these functions..."

This has been the first day that I have actually been able to relax all month and return to a wonderful book I have been reading. Anybody read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, bestselling author of Amy and Isabelle, and Abide With Me?

Back of the book blurb, published by Random House: "Olive Kitteridge provides insight into the human condition -its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires."

The main character is a salty, retired teacher in her early seventies. The story is told not just in chapters but in short stories revolving around her interactions with different characters in her town throughout the years. I feel as if I know this woman. Hope you are reading something fun or interesting, too.

I just completed an almost 2,000 word article that I will submit to Parent's Magazine. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they accept it, but if not, I will send it elsewhere. Now, it is time to go sit outdoors in this warm summer breeze and wait for the tornado warnings to sound. We are under another watch.

Hubby and I went to see Bridesmaids and laughed ourselves silly. Younger people won't understand the layered depth, but this movie, like the book I just finished is about the human condition.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gala School Fundraiser

Last night was the Allertini, a fundraiser for our early childhood center, so named because our center caters to children with mild to severe food allergies. There was a silent auction with many nice items, gift cards, spa treatments, restaurant certificates etc. But the most fun was auctioning the childrens' art work. Throughout the year one of the teachers frames some of the most interesting free expression art. Some of it is incredibly beautiful. Last year I had my students do a collaborative piece on a large canvas. I painted their palms and then they placed their hands all over the canvas. The colors were stunning and I am pleased to tell you that this work of art auctioned for $200.00 and hangs prominently in the restaurant that hosted the event.

It was fun to dress up and to schmooze with current and former faculty and the parents of former students, but most of all I enjoyed sampling a variety of those delicious mini cheesecakes!

Friday, May 20, 2011

In my honor and a gift for you!

Have I got news for you! No I am not one of the 'Weather Girls" and it's not raining men, but it is raining opportunity and I want to share it with you. Krissy Brady has a website. Have fun and do submit to one of these publications. Search her site HERE'

My good news is rea$on for you all to join me in my happy dance. I received an acceptance from Kim Pletticha, eidtor at Parent Wise:Austin on my poem, Dancing With Daddy. It will be in the Father's Day issue, and I am thrilled. A few years ago I made it into another of their Father's Day issues with an essay about my granddaughter, then four, who strummed her toy guitar at my dad's grave, wearing his western hat, singing him the Barney song. The editor called and told me my essay, Grandpa's Little Sugar, brought her staff to tears as they all had little , blonde, blue-eyed girls and could envision their daughters doing the same.

It is nice to know my words were far reaching and impacted others.

Yesterday I received another unexpected phone call at school. A woman called to ask if she were speaking to Linda O'Connell. I said, yes. She said she was calling from Delta Dental Health Theater (a one of a kind unique childrens' 'musuem'.) They offer field trips and use a varierty of media and activities to educate children on dental health. They used to have marionettes, and movies, and the highlight of the visit was not only a viewing of this cheesey looking tooth fairy singing a song (I swear they found my 1950s bride doll and put her behind plexiglass) but the GIANT set of teeth that would actually fit inside a giant's mouth. They are three feet tall and rest on a pink carpet (the tongue) and can be illuminated individually as the presenter tells the children the uses for each tooth in their mouth. This field trip has been free and sponsored by the dentists in our area for years. The giant teeth are one of two sets in the entire world. It is a unique place to visit on the St. Louis riverfront. It is $1.00 per person, open to the public. If you're ever near the Arch or the Old Spaghetti Factory, you should stop in and see this place.

They recently did an update and renovation. When the caller told me this, I figured she was soliciting donations or trying to sign my school up for a trip. No such thing.

She said she was at a conference out of town, and they had nomintaed me as Educator of the Year to be honored at their first gala extravaganza unveiling of the new facility and then at a banquet afterwards. OMG I couldn't believe it. Granted I have been bringing students on this field trip for more than two decades, maybe three. And I have had my mitts all over the strings of Mr. Tooth Decay and little Willy with a toothache. I know how to pull strings! Often if the presenter's assistant was absent they asked for a volunteer to help with the marionettes. All those times I raised my hand have paid off. That's the good news.

The bad news, I will be out of town on vacation. So my principal/boss and her husband will attend and accept the award in my honor. They want a photo and statement from me. They have a three foot parrot now who banters back and forth with the presenter and students. I am afraid MY words will come out of that bird brain's mouth. I'll have to weigh my words carefully. Have a good day. Awwwkk!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How you say it

It really isn't what you say, but how you say it. Impact comes from voice inflection, decibel level, and wording. These are lessons that apply to all aspects of life.

How many times when my kids were little, did I say, "How many times have I told you to pick up these toys?" Ha! They couldn't even count that high. How much more effective it would have been to say, "Toys in toybox."

How often did I shout to get my point across to family members who refused to hear what I had to say? My voice and blood pressure rose in tandem. I've since learned that with children, whispering is more effective, and stating it, not debating it is the real answer to every issue. Speaking in a friendly soft voice with a friendly face confuses the opponent. When people/kids can read you too well, you are too predictable, they know what you're going to say and how you'll react before you do.

How did I ever expect cooperation when all I did was point out what the kids were doing wrong, instead of telling them what TO DO right? Instead of, "You are shouting/running/making a mess again," I could have said, "Talk softer, walk your feet, toss your scraps."

How come I feel the need to expound? Brevity works with people of all ages and most children process only the last four words of a sentence anyway. "Don't you dare jump on your bed!" So much more impact to say, "Jump on the floor." Instead of, "No running in the house or jumping on the bed, you might break something or get hurt." blah-blah-blah

Ever go to an open mic reading? Poetry is concise and makes my ears tune in. Listening to lengthy prose makes my mind wander and tune out. It is the same way when you or someone else drones on and on in conversation. The condensed version may be more effective.

Someone sent me a video that illustrates how what you say is important. Creative writing/speaking can be applied to all aspects of your life.

A blind man sits on a corner with a tin can and sign that states, I AM BLIND.
People rush past and a few people drop a coin every now and then. A woman walks by, turns his cardboard over and writes a new message which gives new meaning to his condition and gets desired results. People start tossing him coins and soon his can fills. The sign reads, TODAY IS BEAUTIFUL, BUT I CAN'T SEE IT.

No matter how rushed or aggravated you feel, SEE the beauty in the day, create your own success however small, put a positive spin on what you say to yourself and others. Blessings.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is your ball rolling?

Did you ever wonder about the origins of common phrases?
KEEP THE BALL ROLLING means to maintain momentum. As writers we all have to do that whether we announce our intentions, publications and book signings through social media or in person. High visibility is imperative.

This phrase comes from the presidential election of 1840, which was won by Whig party candidate, William Henry Harrison. The campaign included pamphlets, buttons and banners and one unique, giant, six-foot paper ball with all the Whig slogans written on it. Harrison's first supporters took it from town to town, rolling it down the streets shouting, "Keep the ball rolling!"

So my fellow writers, whether it is a sheet of paper that you wadded up and tossed in the trash, an acceptance or a rejection letter, add it to your collective ball and roll out the words. Broadcast your news. Others will relate, celebrate and gravitate to you. If your ball has been at a standstill, give it a nudge, get your ball rolling, because for every uphill there's a downhill.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Building character in little characters

I write a regular bi-weekly parenting column for a local sports newspaper, Hockey Stop, published and edited by Sean Hazelton, which can be found in local rinks. I suppose I never mention this as a publishing credit, because it is on going. But today's column in particular resonates with me and I hope it will with you too.

As parents, we prepare our preschoolers for early education. We fill their little brains with facts, letters, numbers, shapes and concepts. As educators, we build on what your child knows, and believe me, they know more these days than they ever have. As my thirty-fourth year draws to a close, I can attest to the fact that little Susie's ears are likely pierced, and I've had little boys with piercings too. They prance around in the latest scaled-down teenaged fashions. Where did those little ruffled bloomers go? Where did civility go? We live in a world of negativity and rudeness instead of grace and kindness. I believe that parents should be developing positive character traits in their little characters. My parents do a good job of this but in the larger community I witness some shocking things.

Young children are schooled on the latest television shows and movies, some with more adult content and frightening images than even I care to view. Little kids are highly verbal and act too big for their britches. Their parents want to please them and often give in; they forget that PG means parental guidance. Students are subjected to too much too soon.

My philosophy is let them be little while they are young. Parents think they are raising their child for a competitive world. Actually, they are rearing a small person who will become an adult whose feelings, actions and interactions will effect future generations. What a kid learns from Mom or Dad will carry over for years. What a kid learns in the classroom won't always stick.

If you fill your child's social-emotional tool chest with the things he or she needs, when a future problem arises, he will be able to retrieve the necessary tool to deal with a difficult situation.

The things parents teach or FAIL to teach impacts the future. Over the summer, why not engage in character education? Print a character word, such as HELPFUL or KIND in large letters on computer paper. Have your child trace the word five times with five differnt colored markers and talk about the five things he or she did that targets the word. "Red is for the time you fed the dog. Blue is when you shared your toy."

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we all wrote down a character word and traced it in a different color everytime we caught ourselves (or our kids) doing the right thing? Just a thought. I love rainbows, why not make our own?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Journey of independence

Last night I read a Facebook post from a very nervous new mom whose preemie has learned to roll over and sleep on her tummy. Mother is so worried and probably didn't sleep a wink all night. I know that feeling. I don't think I slept a full night all through my kids' childhoods. I would drink a full glass of water before bed so that I would wake up during the night to make sure my babies were breathing and their toes were tucked in. When they were seven and ten, I was still downing that last glass of water after the late news.

There is a fine balance between letting go and hanging on. Looking back, I think I held too tightly to my children, but I wasn't nearly as controlling as my mother who continued to have an influence in our lives as the children grew up. She was a nervous Nellie who always feared the worst would happen. She thought prevention was better than cure therefore, she and I both limited opportunities for our kids.

Many years ago, my best friend's sixteen year old daughter was a summer nanny for a wealthy couple who took her with them to Europe on their vacation. My big concern at that time was whether or not to allow my sixteen year old daughter to go to the mall unattended. I would never have considered allowing my kids to be so far away.

My mothering was somewhere between protective and overprotective. I wonder if my actions helped or hindered them.

Hubby says he raised his kids with this comment: "I trust you'll do the right thing." My comments were lengthy and detailed and ended with, "You'd BETTER do the right thing." His two daughters and my daughter and son all tested their limits and as adults, now admit to doing things we would have sworn they didn't. Which parenting style was best is hard to say. They all survived and we did too.

This morning when the alarm blared at 5:00 a.m. hubby and I rushed through our morning routine and out the door with camera in hand. The robin who built her nest on our carport flew away, leaving her four fledglings exposed to the elements
(45 degrees and drizzling). Their little heads popped up and their mouths opened wide in a beg. My mother instincts kicked in and I wanted to rush to our garden and help her dig up a worm so she could quickly return to her nest.

In the stillness of the early morning, just as the sky was lightening, I was reminded of all the times my kids begged and I responded with an automatic mother-NO. Not to food, heaven knows they fed half the neighborhood kids the way this mother bird feeds her young. But I do believe I said no too often.

As we pulled into the school parking lot we saw two charter buses idling and a hundred or more sixth and seventh graders bustling about, girls (and boys) clutching teddy bears and pillows, Game Boys and I pods. I looked at the parents mingling on the sidelines snapping photos as their children stashed their luggage in the belly of the buses and climbed those steps on a journey toward independence. Granddaughter number three is headed to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama for a week. We've never seen her smile as broad as she did this morning. Two weeks ago she was one dissapointed little girl. The trip had been cancelled due to tornado damage down south. Now she is on her way. We sent her off with a hug and a prayer.

As we drove away, I heard a whisper from my past, "That bus could crash, or a tornado could rip through again, she's too far away for you to help if something happens..." I then heard another voice, "She'll be fine, I have her in My hands."

Friday, May 13, 2011

Scent of a memory

Did you ever discover something long forgotten that reminds you of your past?

I hold in the palm of my hand
a miniature, glass, lavender,
cosmetic jar, tucked for years
in a corner of the medicine chest.
I caress the smoothness of what once was
and the roughness of back then.
Hesitant to discover ancient heartaches,
I slowly uncap twenty-five years
of bottled up memories and release
the fragrance, pleasure-pain.
One whiff and I realize,
I should have tossed this decorative jar years ago.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

From my little princess

Nicole, age three, saw me open my blog and started dictating.
"Tinker Bell has wings, and flap wings like that. (She flapped her arms and conked me on the shoulder, then she laughed out loud). Tinker Bell's so soft. Tinker Bell's a princess. Me too, I'm a princess. Daddy says I am a princess. Tinker Bell (has) brown hair in a pony tail like me."

Every little girl should have someone in their lives who believes that she is a princess. So many women have issues with their fathers. I see it all the time. Their unresolved issues mainfest in physical and emotional problems.

Whether it is something your father did or didn't do, whether he was in your life or not, forgiveness is the first step toward moving forward and healing. I was fortunate to have a good dad. I am so proud of my son for being the fantastic father that he is.

Today, send a card, letter or prayer on your father's behalf.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Appreciating the little things

These last few weeks of school are hectic. Instead of winding down, we are ramping UP, practicing The Three Brown Bears play, learning songs and fingerplays for the Spring Sing and Family Night. I aslo have forty-five progress reports with narratives to do.

We attended the oldest grandson's senior awards ceremony last night. While we are very proud of him and his accomplishments, it was a long two and half hours that could have been spent doing what needs to be done.

Sometimes in my hurry up world I forget to appreciate the little things. Today my three year old granddaughter came over and saw me wearing pink.

"I LOVE pink, Nana. I love pink flowers, Nana."

"I love you", I said as I hurriedly printed and cut photos of my students and their mothers for a school project. Then it occured to me, my family is important too. I received pink flowers for Mother's Day and what better moment to PAUSE, slow my body, my mind, and take a picture with Nicole and her favorite flowers. It made her happy, and when she saw her photo on my blog she was ecstatic.

The little things in life really do mean a lot.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A mother can wish, can't she?

Regardless of age, it isn't easy being the mom and it isn't easy being the kid. The roles reverse as we age. The burdens shift from our shoulders to our childrens'. At some point we parent our parents and worry about them the way they worried about us.

Some moms are feeding and diapering their babies today, and some moms are feeding and diapering their mothers. Life comes full circle. God bless all of you mothers today.

I dreamed her into being. I knew her since I was a little girl. She was a mover and a shaker, high strung in utero, always jabbing and kicking, and I swear she came out with her dukes up. She's always been a get-it-done, do-it-my-own-way kind of girl. She has been successful in all she sets her mind to and she amazes me at her stamina and determination. I am so very proud of her.

I wish I had been less controlling and more patient through the years. If only I could go back and do it again. Now, I know. Then, I was learning ... and oh the mistakes I made.

I cannot explain the euphoria I felt after giving birth to my daughter almost forty-one years ago in an army hospital in Fairbanks, Alaska. I felt the way a mountain climber must feel when she reaches the summit after a long, hard climb. The reward was nothing short of miraculous. The nurses warned us that our newborns would sleep twenty-hours a day. They lied. My baby slept twenty-minutes at a time.

I would look at her tiny, perfect face, blue eyes and little hands and I'd cry. She was mine all mine, my dream come true. I shed a lot of tears those first few weeks and also as the years went by. Tears of joy, pride, frustration, anger, sorrow, heartbreak, forgiveness. I wish I had been more understanding, patient and less controlling. I only wanted the best for her. There are so many things I wish I could go back and change -about myself -not her. She has a heart of gold and will help anyone. She is a good and beautiful person.

I dreamed him into being. I knew him since I was a little girl. I worried that if he were a boy, I wouldn't know how to parent him. I was used to being mom to a girl. How would I care for a boy?

He was a slow mover, he rolled in utero, gently swayed, made his way into the world and has continued in his mild-manner for the past 37 years. The euphoria I felt when I first looked at him made my heart swell bigger than my belly. He was not my son OR my daughter; he was my BABY, and when I held him and looked at him, I cried. Over the years I cried tears of joy, pride, frustration, sorrow, heartbreak, forgiveness.

I wish I had been more understanding, patient and less controlling. I only wanted the best for him. There are so many things (one in particular) I wish I could go back and change -about myself -not him. I wish I could take back my mistakes, my regrets. He has so much love and forgiveness in his heart. He is a good and beautiful person. I am so proud of him. He has a good and beautiful wife. I wish I could have been her mother!

I wish for my children the patience and understanding that only comes with time and shows up when you truly believe your parental duties and responsibilities are finally over. It is about that time that your children present you with grandchildren, and suddenly you DO have the patience and understanding with their children that you didn't have with them.

I wish my daughter and son would quit saying, "Why weren't you that way when I was little?" or "Nana never let ME do that!"

I dreamed them into being, I knew them since I was a little girl. I did not have a hand in rearing them, but my stepdaughters are also my pride and joy.
Ever since I can remember wanting to be a mommy, my heart's desire was for three girls and a boy. I now have three daughters and a son; in marrying their dad, my wish came true. They are good and beautiful people. I am proud to be their stepmom.

I wish and pray that they all have good lives, good health, and goodness in their hearts for all the rest of their days.

I wish that today, the angels in heaven will give my mom a special hug from me and my children and their children. God bless all of our moms. In my childrens' hearts and eyes and expressions and attitudes, I see myself and my mother, and for that, I am grateful.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Suck it up!

Yesterday I had a "tea party" for all of our mommies at preschool. The kids drew pictures of their mothers and told candid stories about them. Those little darlings think their mamas are 13, 75, 21. They tell all of the family secrets, "My mama sleeps in the same bed as my daddy. She yells loud as a lion and she tells my dad and ME what to do." They explain why mama chose their daddy and give details about the wedding. "He was walking down the street and she liked his strong muscles. He smiled at her and looked nice. She calls him hunky boy and tells him to clean the floors."

Almost all of them say, "She got married fifty years ago (or last week) but I was in my mama's tummy then." The mother's all need tissues to wipe away the tears from laughing so hard; a few actually cry. These are precious mementos, and I have seen them framed and on display in former student's homes decades later.

So the party went well until the very end. I had to dress up because I was headed to a wedding right after school. I usually wear pants and flats to school, but I wore a black skirt and silky blouse and heels. I knew I couldn't suck in the belly for a long period as I was standing before the class addressing the mothers. The control top panty hose had about as much control as the mamas over their kid's secret-telling. So I scrunched my gut into an old fashioned girdle that looks like a belly band with about a dozen strategically positioned foot-long stays that allow me to giggle without the jiggle. I know these days Spanx are the in thing, but I figured I could endure the misery for a few hours. Just before dismissal, I bent to pick something up and my girdle unfurled, it rolled one way and my belly fat escaped like a muffin top the other way. I darted to the bathroom and removed the damned thing, and finally breathed a sigh of relief. Forget wearing that torture device to the wedding. Those people know me and my flab personally. I was happy to be unconstricted. I rolled that girdle jelly roll-fashion, folded it in half and shoved in under my blouse and into my purse. I thanked all the moms for coming and as the last mom was leaving I kicked off my heels and slipped into my flats. I tossed my shoes into my purse and almost screamed when that damned girlde popped up like a ghostly Jack in the box. She looked at my purse, and then at me. I looked at my purse and then at her. She graciously said, "Well, let me give you a hug and thank you for everything." Believe me, I wanted to thank her for not mentioning what she'd just witnessed.

Normally I would blow this sort of thing off, but this woman is a well known reporter on a local station. I am so afraid to turn on the news this morning and hear her editorial commentary.

Off to a graduation so I'm going to miss the news. If you all hear anything about a teacher with an escaping girdle, don't tell me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A little bit of magic for kids of all ages

I am taking my students on a field trip soon to The Magic House, a unique children's museum which originated in a three story, old Victorian house in Kirkwood, MO. My first grandchild always ended up in the attic with period furnishings, playing dress ups. I could hardly coax her to the other areas.

They have added on, and now there are so many wings, and things to do for people of all ages. It has quadrupled in size. Can you imagine a child-sized, fully stocked grocery store with pretend food and cash registers? A bank with vault? A T.V. station where your child can broadcast the news and be on T.V.? A pizza parlor where your kids can cook up and serve slices of pretend but realistic looking pizza? A music room? A fishing pond where you can see the little wooden fish you caught in the pond float (under clear acrylic glass on the floor) downstream and back home? There is a water play room, a sand table, baby and toddler area, three story slide, tons of educational stuff for older kids, science, exploration.

One of my favorites is the rainbow and shadow wall. As you dance and sway, your images are captured in rainbow colors on a blank wall; it is fluid movement, a delightful experience. The shadow wall is as it sounds. You jump and strike a pose and a camera snaps your picture and displays your shadow as you are suspended in air. I could play there all day.

One year my mother accompanied me and my class. At the end of our tour and play time, they had story time. The story was about a baby bunny. They brought out a baby bunny for the children to pet. They placed that cute little fur ball into my mom's hands and asked her to walk around with it so each child could stroke its fur. The rabbit bailed, hopped right out of Mom's hands and as she bent down to pick it up, the bunny hopped. Mom would hop after it, and just as she was about to grab it, that little critter would take off again, hop-hop-hop, then Mom would bend over and hop-hop-hop all over the room. The kids were laughing themselves silly, and admittedly, so was I. That is one of my most fun memories of this field trip which I have been taking students on for over thirty years.

If you live in town or are just visiting, this is one of the most unique children's museums I have ever been to. Plan to spend the day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An acceptance

Toot-toot! I received an acceptance on my poem, Army Wives, from Silver Boomer Books. It will appear in their newest anthology, The Harsh and the Heart--Patriots Dream to be released in August 2011.

Everyone knows the sacrifices a soldier makes, but many don't realize the sacrifices (and friendships) their spouses make. This poem is very special to me as it is about my best friend who has dementia. We met as army wives and newlyweds, forty-two years ago.

Check out Silver Boomer Books. They have a list of possible upcoming titles. I have been published in four of the Silver Boomer Anthologies. They just keep getting better. The page layout is unique. There are quotes that scroll across the bottom of each page and continue from first to last page. The quotes are as much fun to read as the prose and poetry. Do check out the Silver Boomer Books.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


What a week this is going to be. Pardon me if I don't post for a few days, although I will try. Tonight I have a poetry meeting half an hour away. Wednesday after school I have to set up 100 chairs for a school event. If you're wondering why a custodian isn't doing it, well, that's a long story. The event normally held in a gymnasium has been moved to MY VERY LARGE CLASSROOM. In the evening we have a funeral visitation for son-in-law's dad, who was the father of twelve, and Thursday is the funeral. Friday morning AND afternoon, Mom's Tea Party and performance at preschool. A family wedding at 5:00 p.m. an hour away. Saturday is Bill's daughter's graduation (Special Education teacher) and we have to be there at 7:30 a.m., Saturday afternoon a grad party, and Sunday another event, oh yeah, Mother's Day.

Yeah, I've learned two things not to say, "What next?!" and "Wish we had something to do."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Making Messes

Yipee! After a very long dry spell, I did the happy dance when I received a contract last evening from Whispering Angel Books. My dog poem will be published in Nurturing Paws, an anthology.


This poem about me, not my dog, was published a few years ago. Things haven't gotten any better. I still get more ON me than in me.

Linda O’Connell

When my children called me mommy
I was always cleaning up,
washing faces, wiping noses
and things they spilled from cups.

Couldn’t take them out to eat
without a spill or two.
Stains on shirts, forks on floors.
Then - they grew, and grew, and grew.

Now they take ME out to eat,
and it’s different than before.
I’m forever spilling things
on the table or the floor.

I cannot eat spaghetti
or anything with sauce.
It splatters down the front of me.
My shirt’s a total loss.

When I eat an ice cream cone
It drips and makes a mess.
I can’t lick it fast enough
you should see my fancy dress.

“Use your napkin, wipe your mouth,
There’s something on your face.”
My kids are saying that to ME,
and it’s really not their place.

I dropped my fork the other day
and my daughter shook her head.
My son had to pick it up for me,
because bending down I dread.

My clothes get stained and messy.
I change shirts twice a day.
I never ever imagined
My life would get this way.

I’m still cleaning up the messes
It seems like all the time,
drips and spills, spots and stains.
But now every mess is mine.