Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Old Mrs. Young

This was first accepted and then rejected last minute by the National Education Association. So in honor of all good teachers, with a new school year underway, I am posting this essay on my blog.


Inner-city students who came into contact with Mrs. Young, a veteran 8th grade teacher felt her wrath and warmth. She cared and everyone knew it! Mrs. Young touched students in ways that other faculty members were unable to. She carried herself in a dignified manner. I once asked her if she were from the islands. She replied, “There are no islands in Kansas, but thank you for the compliment.”
She dressed impeccably and looked everyone directly in the eye. She spoke eloquently and distinctly, and she expected a like response. Pity the child she caught running in the halls who responded to her with, “Aw, man!”

“Man, you say?” She’d look over her shoulder then, she’d calmly respond, “Young man, I don’t see a man here. You must mean Ma’am. And son, if you want it your way, go to Burger King! Now walk.” She did not mete out punishment. Students learned from the consequences of their conduct with Mrs. Young. She did not admonish with a raised voice; she simply raised her eyebrows.

She and I taught in the same school. We were colleagues at opposite ends of the grade spectrum. Most of her students were thirteen through fifteen; mine were three through five years old. Sometimes battle fatigue made us both weary.

“Mine aren’t so different from yours, you know,” one of us would say to the other.

My students could be mouthy and rebellious and hers were sometimes as immature as a preschooler. The seventh and eighth grade students stampeded down the steps and past my classroom on their way to the lunchroom. Most of the faculty didn’t have the stamina or where-with-all to deal with that many out of control, sweaty teens in one place. The noise in the lunchroom was deafening and behaviors were out of control.

When Mrs. Young walked through the lunchroom door, she smiled sweetly at administrators and teachers “on duty” as they leaned against the wall, unable to control the middle school students who hurled food, fists and foul language back and forth. When the students noticed Mrs. Young, a hush fell. Deafening decibels droned to a whisper as she made her way through the crowd. She nodded at the student who earlier had poured out a heart-wrenching story of family illness. She slipped two quarters into the palm of a student who had forgotten his public bus pass. I observed as she prevented altercations before they occurred simply by distracting the participants. “I really admire your running shoes, young man. May I ask where you purchased them?” By the time the student finished bragging, the incident was forgotten. And she moved on. “Pull your pants up, gentleman,” she’d say to a boy wandering around with drooping drawers. The boy, whose actions were far from gentlemanly, would hike his pants up and sit himself down. She looked for a child without a lunch, broke the rules and placed a free lunch ticket in front of him. “Go get something nutritious for me now.” All she had to do was point her finger at a rowdy child clear across the room to get immediate results. Mrs. Young offered healing touches to hurting, abused teens and extra cartons of milk to pregnant girls who came to her for advice and baby booties. She gently tapped a gang-banger on the shoulder and without confrontation said, “Nice cap you have there, sir. No sunshine in here though.” She smiled broadly at him and thanked him when he removed his cap without a wisecrack. Students respected her as they would their grandmothers. She strolled among the hopeless, and the hope-filled, the passing, the failing, the hurting and the helpless. She hooked them one by one. She understood that there was no need to shout to gain attention or cooperation. She knew the school handbook rules – keep your hands off students and your nose out of their business, especially their personal lives; refer students to the social worker. She never played by the rules.

The day that a student flung an open soda can into my classroom, I ranted. “I’m ready to give up teaching. I can’t take it anymore. You’ve been teaching ten years longer than I have. How do you do it day in and day out? They barrel down the steps with total disregard for my students. Administration says they’re too old to be expected to walk single file as my little guys do. They destroy the bulletin boards outside my classroom and graffiti my students’ work.”

“Regardless of their circumstances, each one of these students is a child of God and
deserves the best I have to offer,” she replied. If you have expectations, children live up to them, especially if they know you care. You have to show them that you care.”

The next day when the lunch bell rang, I left my teacher’s aide in charge and walked into the hall with a bag of M&Ms and Mrs. Y’s words resounding in my ears: show them you care. When the kids –some who towered over me –crowded and begged for candy, instead of commanding them to stop running, I doled out candy to those who were walking. I didn’t reprimand those who didn’t comply; I merely thanked those who walked. Within a week, most of the students were proceeding, at least past my classroom, in orderly fashion. At first they complied in order to receive candy or graham crackers. Gradually I stopped with the tangible rewards. I simply thanked the children one by one. Hall duty became easier. With a sense of satisfaction, I walked back into my classroom instead of out the door!

For nearly forty years Mrs. Young taught language arts and a different set of three R's than many of her colleagues. Her students learned the power of respect, responsibility and reassurance. Within each child she planted not only the seeds of learning, but love and hope. She taught me how to fertilize each student’s heart and soul.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What is a gorget?

The male ruby throated hummingbird has a bright red gorget, the colored area on its throat and chin.

These are two of the six hummingbirds in our backyard.

Have you ever wished you could fly? Hummingbirds flap their wings fifty times a second, and they have the ability to fly left, right, backwards and forwards and even upside down. Our visitors arrived a couple of weeks ago, and it appears that they are going to be long term guests for the next month,anyway.

Typically hummingbirds arrive in Missouri in April and depart in September, gone by October 1st. They fly at 27 m.p.h. if there are no tail or head winds. Some migrate south to the Florida Pennisula and island hop, others follow the Texas coast or fly 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, which takes about nineteen hours. That is why they feed every ten minutes and may consume up to 2/3 of their entire body weight in a day.

I thought that hummingbirds ate only sugar water and nectar from flowers, but I learned that they have grooves on the sides of their tongues so they can catch insects in midair or snatch spiders off leaves. They need insects for protein for their long journey. Hummingbirds also eat pollen.

They dive bomb one another, chirp and utter shrill sounds. The males are very territorial. But they also do this wild mating dance, and the female hangs upside down while they mate. Hubby put up three feeders, one of the feeders has a perch on it. It is amazing to watch them sit perfectly still and feed on the one with a perch. The other two feeders do not have a perch and the birds flap their wings as they feed. They prefer the roost, lazy little pudgies. They are bulking up for their long journey. I am told that they will return next year, the same birds! Now isn't that one of life's little mysteries?

We enjoy sitting on the patio and observing their activity, which can get quite raucous. They come precariously close to US and I am afraid I'm going to find a beak stuck in my cheek. The largest, fiercely territorial male spends so much time fussing and fighting, it seems a waste of energy. Hubby bought additional feeders, but their bickering has only increased. I just read that they share better when their is one feeder. I'm going outside to take all of them down but one. I'll let you know.

If only we writers had the diligence of the hummingbird, wouldn't we be accomplished?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Head on over to The Ivory Tower

I have a gift for all of my writer friends. No longer will you have to spend hours searching for places to submit your work. Have fun perusing the market listings at The Ivory Tower Click here

I have been helping a new blog buddy learn more about the writing world, and I have spent a few days editing for her.

This evening, I found this wonderful resource. Call it Karma; I call it an unexpected gift.

I babysat all day yesterday. My 3 1/2 year old granddaughter, Nicole wore me out, but when she took my face in her hands and said, "You my best friend, Nana," I melted.

A few days ago, I walked into her room and saw hair on the floor.

Who cut your hair?" I asked in a non-threatening voice.

"Nash." She blamed the dog.

"I don't think Nash can hold scissors with paws. WHO cut your hair?"

"Nick." She kept those big blue eyes on my face.

"Nick's at school. WHO cut your hair?" No reply; chin on her chest.

"Did you cut your own hair?"


I had to hug her.

Now she looks like the little Dutch Boy with way too short bangs.

Usually children chop their locks just before picture day or holidays.
She did hers just before starting preschool. One more thing to add to her journal.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wash and Wear

Always be prepared! That has always been my mantra. Every day I prepare projects, activities, and choose a selection of books that pertain to the lesson plan. I plot my entire day minute by minute in my daily plan book. I am prepared. I was so well-prepared my first few weeks as a preschool teacher that I always had fifteen minutes left over at the end of each session. I was proud of my ability to wing it and come up with some activity on the spur of the moment. I prided myself on being creative and innovative. I used pasteboard boxes to create a telephone booth (now obsolete) in which children learned to dial and recite their phone numbers, and I created a pretend television media center for the drama area where children reported their news about daily events and happenings at home. (Did I hear some stuff!) My mentor praised me constantly for my creativity and being on the ball.

One morning though, just as an administrator walked into my classroom, I was totally unprepared for what happened. I knew that my performance was being observed; my interactions and classroom control were being judged. A quick gaze around the room assured me that all of the children were busily engaged in the different learning centers. There was no disruptive behavior, no potty accidents or potty mouth. I smiled broadly. The administrator and I made general conversation, and as Mrs. W. turned her back to the class we continued to chat about an upcoming seminar on child sexual abuse and molestation. When I noticed a student behind her walking in our direction, my eyes widened and my jaw dropped in mid sentence. I quickly regained my composure, but I’m sure that Mrs. W. must have thought I was a victim in childhhod (Not!). In that split second I went through every emotion imaginable.

Stocky little Daniel –whose shock of reddish-orange hair was growing out wildly from a buzz cut -beamed proudly. He flashed his dancing blue eyes. I talked loudly to distract my superior, and I prayed silently, “Don’t let him take one more step our way.” I willed Daniel to stay behind Mrs. W. I figured if I didn’t meet his gaze, he just might parade back to the housekeeping area and continue his role play activity.

At the age of three, it is not unusual for little boys to wear little girl dress-ups; it is not unusual for little boys to clomp around in too big high heeled shoes. It is not unusual for little girls to wear Batman capes and daddy’s neckties instead of princess dresses. I had taken multi-cultural training and I had learned ways to avoid gender bias. I did my best to use multiple pronouns in my conversation and correspondence instead of the word, HE. I was well prepared for any situation that would arise, or so I thought. On this day, however, I was completely unprepared. Daniel kept coming, closer and closer, tromping towards us wearing only his Underoos and tennis shoes.

All I could think about was the topic of our faculty seminar, child abuse and moelstation awareness. Finally, I had to address the situation.

“Where are your clothes?”

“You know!” He smiled as I tried to swallow the lump in my throat.

“I don’t know. Where are your pants?”

“Where you told us to put 'em.”

I felt woozy.

“Daniel, what did you do with your clothes? Where did you take them off?” I tried not to shriek.

“I took ’em off where you said, in the laundry mat. My pants are washing, and I’m going to dry 'em next.”

Daniel took me by the hand and led me back to the housekeeping area where he hand cranked the homemade cardboard washer and dryer with hurricane force.

“Here’s the iron and ironing board,” I said as I removed his clothes from the circular, cardboard ice cream container rotating on a dowel rod inside a large box which had been tumbling his clothes “dry.” As he pressed the wrinkles out of his clothes with a little toy iron on a little wooden ironing board (also now obsolete), I eased the frown off my face.

I laughed with relief when Mrs. W. guffawed. I helped Daniel put his clothes back on and seated the entire class. I told them that they could only wash and dry the doll clothes or dress-ups.

Daniel piped up, “I did dress up, all by myself.” I wished he’d hush his wishy-washy little mouth. Sometimes, no matter how well prepared a teacher thinks she is, the most unusual things can occur.

Last night was parent orientation and open house. I am sure to have more stories as the year goes on.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The great persuader

One of our grandsons is twelve, a young twelve, a VERY intelligent twelve. He is a loving, amazing boy diagnosed with ADHD. He has original out-of-the-box ideas.
He gives bear hugs that feel like a boa contrictor squeezing the life out of you.
He is kindhearted and thoughtful, and science is his bag. He is like an encyclopedia.

When he was two years old the family was at a pizza place which had a very small arcade. He ran off to follow his older sister and cousins. They were all within view, almost within reach.

I like playing Skee Ball, a game similar to bowling (uphill) with hard wooden balls. The goal is to get the ball into round pockets. I dropped my quarter into the coin slot; the wooden balls click-clacked out of the holding chute and into position. I picked one up and drew my arm back.

"Hey, kids, watch what Nana can do. I am a Skee Ball pro...ohhhHHHHH my gosh, HELP!!!!!"

I couldn't believe my eyes. BEHIND the plate glass of the machine I was playing, in the top ball pocket, sat Sean like a mannequin in a store display window. Smiling.

I was out of control as the crowd gathered. "He's going to get electrocuted! You climb out of there right now! Someone unplug the machine!"

Still smiling, he slithered out from under the gap and scooted down the ten foot wooden alley.

That is one of many such incidences reported in the persoanl journal I keep for him.

The most recent: I aksed him how school was. He said he had a teacher who finally understands him, and he is so thrilled he is going to have a really good year. I asked his favorite subject.

"Science, but I also am very good at public speaking."

"What do you want to be when you grow up? A scientist?"

"Maybe. Or since I am so good at convincing people, maybe I could be lawyer or a judge, but that requires too much schooling."

"So, tell me about your public speaking class. Do you give oral reports?"

"It's not a class."

"Well what do you mean by public speaking?"

"See, Nana, I'm really good at starting riots. For instance, if the cafeteria food is bad, I am able to persuade others to rise up and follow me and we can protest and make changes."

I think he must be studying politics in history or social studies.
I think he is going to be a world leader.
I think he is awesome, if a bit misled on what public speaking is.

On second thought ...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In my humble opinion

Have you ever been so engrossed in a book that you could not put it down?
I have spent every free moment for the last two weeks reading two books,
Whistling in the Dark and the sequel, Good Graces, by Lesley Kagen.

The time: late 1950's

The place: Milwaukee, WS

The main characters and the voice: two preteen, precocious sisters, Sally and Troo O'Malley

The plot: an historical thriller. The girls are out to investigate and solve a mystery about a hometown crime. A playmate has been molested and murdered during summer vacation. Sally and Troo set out to discover who the murderer is.

In the sequel, there are more shenannigans in town, and the girls who fall vicitim, are on a quest to discover the shocking truths. Even more shocking is what the girls do.

Lesley Kagen is my author-hero. I want to be able to write with her passion, her eloquence, her wit and humor. I want to be able to develop characters so real that they leap off the page, stay with you long after you close the sequel, make you guffaw days later remembering what they did. I want to layer plots as effortlessly as Lesley Kagen does.

These novels address real life emotional issues that folks didn't talk about in the good old days. Issues that were as prevalent then as they are now. In doing so, Lesley Kagen empowers two young girls in a time when females didn't have a voice, when children were to be seen and not heard.

I have been completely captivated by the colloquialisms, the product mentions, brand names, the blast from the past references, the nuances, the laugh out loud humor; and you will be too. From the first page of Whistling in the Dark to the last page of her sequel, Good Graces, Lesley Kagen is in the driver's seat and the reader is along for the best ride of his or her life. In my opinion, these books should be on the big screen. Check out these books and see if you don't agree.

I have not been paid in any form to write this review. These are my personal views and opinions.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Critique Group

Okay, so you all think just because I get published that it is easy? I am one of those people who do best under pressure, last minute, on deadline. But sometimes, not even a donut infusion can entice my brain cells. These hunt-and-peck fingers start and stop more than a fifteen year old popping a clutch on an old car. I hit Delete more than the E key. When I TRY to write, I speed down the page with a great idea and then, I hit a speed bump that doesn't just slow me down, it lays me out flat like a road block. Especially, when I try to write fiction. I write a thousand words of good stuff and then my plot sputters like a clunker out of gas. I tell myself I am a wanna be, not a real writer, or I would easily cross genre, write as smooth as frosting on a chocolate donut. I listen to friends talk about how they sold their vacation story/photos to magazines. I sulk. I feel inadequate. I'm a chuckle writer, a feel good chickie. And Stephen King confirmed it in his book, On Writing. He said that Chicken Soup writing is not real writing. Ouch! I eat another donut and mope.

So, I have joined a critque group (again after a couple years)to get me on track. The leader, Sioux, is a powerful writer. That gal doesn't just ignite a keyboard; she has the power to yank a chair right out from under a writer. She's not a push over, she's a knock you down kind of gal. I want her in my corner. She scares me. Uhm, I mean she knows her stuff.

The other four members are outstanding, published, brilliant writers too. I am so looking forward to our get togethers. We are a critique group that really clicks and I want to thank SIOUX for leaving me with one good arm. I can at least dunk a donut ;)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

HELP us one and all

I watched a movie with my heart, not just my eyes, and I took away a profound message...separate but equal...so wrong!

The Help took me back to 1954, Walnut Park, a middle class white, melting pot neighborhood. My German grandmother, tall and thin, lived in a four room frame house on Plover; we lived in a smaller house in back. One day I fussed at my parents because I did not want to go to the store with them. They said, "FINE, stay here. Go to Grandma's if you need anything until we get back...." They called my bluff, and I called theirs.

"COME ON! Get in the truck, we won't even be gone five minutes," my dad barked.

"NO!" said I, a wisened kindergartener who had been given a choice.

Vrooom, away they peeled down the alley. I could not believe that my parents would actually leave me in a cloud of dust. I watched them turn right instead of left. They drove around the block. I sat on our steps and just KNEW they would come back and demand I go with them.

They drove on. I was no longer in control. I was all alone and I was scared. I heard a large truck coming down the alley. I peeked around the side of the house to see who it was, and two men, black as the darkest night, hopped off the garbage truck. Back then, households had small garbage cans for food items, and an ash pit where folks burned their solid trash.

I shall never forget that man's round face and white-white teeth. He hunched over and pretended he was going to chase me; he laughed and playfully said, "Boo!"

I thought my heart was going to thump out of my chest. It was bad enough that the old, white, By-Lye Man (rag collector) rode down the alley at noon each weekday on his wagon pulled by a horse. He would shout, "Bye-Ly-lye-lye, any rags today?" He was my equivalent of the boogie man. I could hear the horseshoes striking the pavement and the rickety wooden wagon before I could hear the rag picker's sing-song shout.

"Bye Lye man's coming, so you'd better take your nap," Mom would say.

That perceived threat was enough for me to hide my sweaty little body under the covers on a 100 degrees summer day, clench my eyes shut and pass out.

Imagine, my fear at seeing the garbage men up close. I had never been so near to a negro(the polite word my kindergarten teacher taught us to use, unlike family and neighbors who bandied another N word about). I was terrified that the stout one was coming to get me. I ran as fast as I could, my little legs pumping down the walkway to my grandma's. I ran up on her porch and pounded on her door. No answer! I lay face down, flat as I could make myself.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, as I was waiting for the garbage collectors to find my hiding place, I saw HER. For the first time in my life, I looked right into the face of an African-American woman walking down the street. She was wearing a black and white uniform and apron. She was on the corner two houses away, on the same side of the street. I crouched, trembling in a corner, trying to hide behind the wooden porch slats with two inch gaps. I had never seen a black woman, but I knew for a fact she had seen me, because I had seen the whites of her eyes. As she approached, I knew my fate would be the same as Hansel's and Gretel's. Terror like I have never felt before or since clutched me. The HELP,(maid) casually walked past and on down the street without acknowledging me.

I bang-bang-banged on the door over and over. Grandma flung the door open, looked over her glasses at me and wiped her hands on her house dress. She wanted to know why I was on the front porch by myself.

"I was knockin' and knockin'." I said breathlessly.

"I've been down in the basement putting clothes through the wringers of my Maytag. Come on inside."

I was completely wrung out. Grandma gave me a devil's food cake cookie and a glass of milk. She turned on the Muntz TV; as the picture tube warmed up, the dark screen lightened, Howdy Doody came into focus and the black faces faded. However,I have always carried them with me like a negative of a long ago photograph ... if only someone had taught me.

That evening, my parents tuned our wooden, floor model, Philco radio to The Jack Benny Show. I didn't understand the humor, but we all laughed, especially at gravelly-voiced Rochester.

Life was different back then. We are enlightened now ... or are we?
Love one another ... if only everyone practiced everyday of the week what they preached and learned on Sundays.

The Help is one of the best movies I have seen in years. I cried, laughed, awed, ooohed, uuhhhhed, my emotions ran the gamut. If you've seen The Help, or read the book, please share your thoughts.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The dadblasted drip

I stopped by to visit my blog friend, Val at Unbagging the Cats (not about cats). If you've ever had to deal with a drip or a trickle, you'll understand. Visit her and tell her Linda sent you. Maybe you'll have a "solution" for her.

Her dilemma reminded me of one that I had a couple years ago. Hubby was regrouting the bathroom tile, and redoing the floor, so he rigged up a temporary shower in the basement. He's a real Tim the Tool Man, no really, he is innovative. I am more like Lucy. He hooked a short piece of garden hose and a hand-held shower head to the sink near the washing machine. Then he bought a flimsy, DOLLAR STORE, clear plastic drop cloth and made a circular frame to suspend it from and mounted the showerhead on the frame. We were both proud of his ingenuity.

I went downstairs with my body wash, forgot the scrubby, ran back upstairs. Clomped back downstairs, stripped, and THEN I remembered that I forgot my razor, so I wrapped (most of) myself in a towel and trudged back upstairs. Stomped back to the basement, hung up my towel and kicked off my shoes. Then, I decided I would rather wear shower shoes than stand on the slick, painted, cement floor. Up I hobbled one more time, slipped into my thongs and flip-flopped back down those stairs. I hung up my towel, loaded my scrubby, turned on the faucet ... a trickle of overhead water was just enough to wet that wad of pink netting. I lathered my face and body with so many soap bubbles you couldn't see an embarrassing part of me. Eyes squinched closed, I reached out, but I couldn't find the razor on top of the washing machine. So, I turned that sink faucet on full blast to rinse my face, and the overhead shower head went dry. At that instant, my mind told me something dreadful was wrong. The hose blew and shot a stream of blinding water at my eyes. I screamed, backed up into the cheap plastic drop cloth and it wrapped around me like shrink wrap on a plucked, plump chicken. I twisted and turned and was stuck.I could hear my husband at the top of the stairs shouting, "Don't turn the faucet on full blast."

He ran downstairs when I screamed, "Help!" But he couldn't help me or himself, because he was laughing so hard.

I blasted him for days.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why do I do it?

Another school year is almost here. Every year in June I swear, "This is my last year!" I have been saying that for at least twenty years. Those words exit the mouth of a very exhausted teacher. It is not the voice of reason speaking. After summer vacation I am energized, rejuvenated.

Retire? No way. The adoration of my preschool students and witnessing their individual growth and development are perks that make my job worthwhile. When they move on to kindergarten, my former students, who were like puppy dogs following me around, morph into aloof 'cool cats'. They stand quietly in the big-school hall and nod in my direction. If I mosey over for a hug, they nuzzle me and purr a greeting, but they no longer circle me, and yap happily all at one time. They live by big kid rules.

Each fall when I begin a new school year, I know in my heart that I have the dream job, the job that I have desired since I was ten years old. To awaken a love of learning in a young child is to foster a life-long thirst for knowledge.

I teach more than the pre academic concepts. I envision each little child as the adult he or she will become; therefore the greatest subject I teach is the Golden Rule. If students master but one thing, I say let it be this one rule, for learning to treat others as you would like to be treated is equivalent to paving the yellow brick road to future success.

I am not the wizard, nor am I a wicked witch. I do instill courage in the cowardly, fill little brains with knowledge, foster self-esteem, and I have been known to cackle. I prepare little tykes, who sometimes act like flying monkeys for the rigors of big school. I do this because I see positive results.

When the elementary schools have days off and preschool is in session, several of my former students, who range in age from five to fifteen, come back to visit me in the classroom. It’s rewarding to know that I have had an impact, and it is proof positive that I do have my dream job. I’ve been providing developmentally appropriate, comprehensive education experiences for more than three decades; no way am I planning for retirement. It's incidences like the following that keep me coming back.

Tommy, 3, had speech issues and would not participate at show and tell; for months I could not draw him out. Then one day he came in chattering non stop, so I immediately called everyone to show and tell.

Tommy: "My mama's water pipe broke."

Me: "Oh no. Where?"

Tommy: "Her water pipe broked in the kitchen."

Me: "Tell us more. What happened?"

Tommy: "Baby Gus slid right out Mama's water pipe onto the kitchen floor and I said,

'Mommy-Mommy-Mommy', and she said, 'Tommy-Tommy-Tommy, dial 911.' So me did."

True story! Tommy talked non-stop after witnessing his brother's home birth.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Full moon tug on my heart

There is a big full moon tonight, actually it's not completely full, but it brings to mind one of my former students from years ago. This is true.

The Man in the Moon
by Linda O'Connell

Stephen, three year old with elfin charm
shiny, copper penny hair, wasn't much bigger
than a sack of potatoes.

He would have been spunkier
than a spud spiced with jalapenos
if his ticker hadn’t been defective.

He whiled away his days in a hospital room,
watching helicopters whir-whir-whir
patients to the E.R. and his roommates
off to heaven.

On full moon nights, the ‘face’ tickled his fancy.
“Look, Mom! There’s the man in the moon. See him?”
“Uh hum,” she lied, because Ann never spied

what her little boy saw, until that night he died.
She walked outside, fisted her tears, sobbed and cried
at the sight of the Man in the Moon.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Announcing three new releases

I am proud to announce that my prose and poetry have been included in three newly released anthologies. These books would make great holiday gifts.

Regardless of your view on the war and world situation, I believe that veterans, current members of the military or their family members will be deeply touched by reading the first person accounts of what it means to be in the military, or in my case, what it means to be a military wife and develop a life-long friendship. I have been published in four of the five Silver Boomers anthologies. Please check out the website of Silver Boomer Books website to learn more about The Harsh and The Heart edited by, Greene, Haigler, Riley-Bishop, Rollins.

This Whispering Angel book is filled with essays and poems about the big and little critters who lay their paws on us and forever touch our hearts. My dog, Dusty, will always be my first four legged love.
Check out the website to learn more about Nurturing Paws, edited by Lynn C. Johnston.

This Whispering Angel anthology is a collection of remarkable stories about how God has touched lives. My story involves a series of ocurrences, (I do not believe in coincidences) that happened on the day of my mother's funeral. Find out more about Hurray God, edited by Jeanette Sharp, here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It''s easy to be misled

For many students school will be resuming this week or next. I love this stop sign. I think it is a great reminder to be kind to one another and sing a happy song.

Today I wish to share some family smiles with you.
Nicole is three, and loves Disney videos and wants to be a ballerina, and talks non-stop. I told her one day I wanted to take her somewhere for a few minutes.
"A surprise?" she wanted to know.

"Well, it's someplace you've never been."(It was a new thrift store.)

We pulled into the large shopping center parking lot in a rapidly changing neighborhood, and she spied it before I did. The minaret (mosque tower minus the mosque) standing at the edge of the parking lot made her gasp delightedly. For once she was speechless, oohing, ahhhing, panting looking skyward.

I said, "Do you think that's where Rapunzel lives?"

Poor baby, she unbuckled her car seat and shook her head up and down and excitedly bounced anticipating going inside. Then, I took her into the thrift store after we took a close up look at how high the spire was that Rapunzel was trapped in.

Her brother Nicholas is nine. My son said he had just pulled into the driveway when Nick ran up to him screaming, 'Dad! Dad! I hit it. I finally hit it!"

My son thought he'd hit a home run and said, 'That's good, Buddy. You are a slugger."

"No dad, I didn't hit a ball, I hit IT! I finally hit puberty." He yanked up his shirt and said, "Look, I found all this hair on my chest."

Son, that's just peach fuzz, everyone has that body hair. You'll know when you hit puberty."

"I know Dad, and guess what? I found another hair..."

"Whoa, Son, go play ball!"

I'm babysitting them all day Tuesday. I can hardly wait for more laugh lines.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How I choose to carry on

I have been channeling my energy into positive outcomes. Instead of crying one more tear over the end of my best friend's last days, I am pounding the keyboard. I ressurected a memoir, Frick and Frack, that I had written fifteen years ago about us. It has been a dust collector. Time now to dust it off and gasp at how much better of a writer I am today than I was then. I laughed when I read about our antics when she and her husband came to visit after twenty years. We adults! had a water balloon/gun/hose fight on a store parking lot/in the car/and at my ex husband's. Sheila got him with the big guns, the hose!

I have also written and sent off eight submissions in five days. When I get upset, I clean. Guess I'm cleaning cobwebs from my mind.

Talk about instant gratification. I received a rejection almost immediately on an article and I laughed out loud.

I have gained three new blog followers. WELCOME!

I read an adult book that I could not put down. Whistling in the Dark, by Leslie Kagen is set in the fifties and is written from a ten year old girl's perspective about the murder of two of her classmates during consecutive summers. It is nostalgic, FUN, fresh, funny, and the writing is snappy. I enjoyed this book because I grew up in that era, felt like I knew her neighborhood and all of the characters, and I could relate to Sky King and other references and sayings. A very satisfying summer reading escape.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Do you smell it too?

Matthew Freeman, St. Louis poet extraordinaire, was interviewed by Walrus Press.
"I like it all, the hipsters and the hoosiers."
Matthew is a cool dude. I know him personally. I like him and I like his philosophy. In St. Louis, hoosiers is not a geographical reference; it is a colloquialism that refers to white trash. Matthew likes everyone.

He also said St. Louis has its "smells". So true. Every ethnic neighborhood emits its own aroma. This is to be expected in any town in America. But a walk around the block in an inner city melting pot neighborhood is like removing lids from several countries. The aroma of oregano and spaghetti sauce takes one to Italy. Sauerkraut simmering emits a vision of the far away Rhineland. Meat grilling outdoors evokes visions of fourth of July picnics where barbeque sauce slathers burgers, ribs and shirtfronts. Bacon frying is a flashback to home grown tomatoes.

Drive past the brewery in St. Louis and smell the hops; it is a distinguishable odor.
Stop at the traffic signal downtown at Ruth's Chris Steak House and the smell of sizzling meat could make a vegetarian salivate.
How can anyone drive past a White Castle and not inhale onion?
Motor oil from garages out back of bungalows and grease from repair shops permeates the air in blue collar neighborhoods.
Downtown abandoned factories and towering, brick warehouses trip musty memories of yesteryear.
I could go on and on. How about you? Can you add any specific thoughts about your specific neighborhood smells?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My friend, Sheila, and me taken a few years ago

I have always been strong. I've had to be. I am stoic by nature, roll with the punches, take life as it comes, but underneath the facade, I am a fixer. I worry needlessly about my kids and grandkids, but deep in my heart, I know I don't need to. God will take care of them. Bad things will befall them, good things will come unexpectedly. Life happens to all of us; death comes to each of us.

Throughout my life, I have lost so many friends and loved ones, and each time, I have picked myself up and moved forward. Tonight I am profoundly sad. My best friend, Sheila, who is in remission from brain cancer is terminal. She has been "terminal" for twenty years. We recently learned that none of the medical professionals expected her to live this long. No one with her kind of tumor survived past a couple years. She's made medical history.

I have witnessed her steady decline over the years. Some days her speech is garbled, and it is difficult for her to process and respond and communicate. She was released from the hospital today (she was in over the weekend with a urinary tract infection) and as of today she will be at home receiving hospice care. I just spoke with her. We expressed our love and friendship for one another, and I grunted a hug through the phone, across the miles and into her ear. She won't remember talking to me. In fact while we were talking, her husband said, "The dog missed you while you were gone," and she replied, "I don't care about that. I was at Linda's."

I laughed out loud. "Yes you were!" I assured her. "And we had fun."
If she only realized how much she IS with me.

Our shared memories go back forty-two years. We were next door neighbors in a tiny, rural Alaska town. We were kids, newlyweds, expectant mothers, and we regarded ourselves as the only 'normal' army wives there. Even when we had to part and return to our home towns, we stayed connected through email letters; those red and blue edged, onion skin envelopes carried a week's worth of baby brags and marriage woes across country. When we could afford it we telephoned long distance. When I went through divorce I didn't go to a marriage counselor. I flew to visit her for a week and read aloud my angst filled poetry. I sat at her kitchen table admiring her china cabinet filled with cobalt blue glassware. And we shared our secrets. We got each other through births, life and death. And here we go again.

Her husband said the doctor told him she has weeks, perhaps months, but her time is tick, tick, ticking ... and I am so DAMNED MAD AT THAT TIME BOMB.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lessons I learned at the beach

Two weeks at the beach and I read two books, Jazz, by Toni Morrison, and The Mermaid's Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd.

I wrote this untitled poem:

Bared soul/soles, exfoliated,
scuffed across scorching sand,
a smile frozen on my face.

Purified my pores with perspiration,
incinerated my worries,
doused my woes with a wave.

Scooped buckets of happiness,
constructed castles
pounced on sea jewels.

Collected enough salt, sand and surf
to take me through another year,

I did not write a lot at the beach, but I stumbled upon some revelations applicable to writers.

There were twelve of us crammed into a van for a scenic tour to the top of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Island for a view of the Caribbean. When the driver rounded the narrow mountain road, riding precariously close to the cliff's edge, a young woman behind me spoke out.

"Jesus Christ!"

I turned with a stern look,and I saw that she had her eyes closed and her hands folded.

"Jesus Christ!" was a prayer not a swear.

1. Don't jump to conclusions. Words can be misconstrued. Praise God, share the space, the waves ... and also generously share writing call outs, and your knowledge with other writers.
Most vacationing beach goers hope to come home with a suntan. It cannot be done in one day. Tanning is a slow process, and staying too long in the sun on day one results in a sunburn.

2. Trying to write a book in a week, an essay in an hour or a poem in a minute is as impossible as getting an even tan in one day. It can cause a writer to burn out.

We had one day of torrential non-stop rain. Storm clouds gathered, lightning chased beach goers inside, and thunder rumbled. Storms dump on all of us when we least expect it. After the rain you can almost always glimpse a rainbow, maybe not the complete arc, but a spot of color is a promise of brighter things to come.

3. Seek colors in a bland day; look not sky high but in unexpected places.

Caribbean time is a slow ticking clock. I commented to our native driver, a young man of thirty, that he looked twenty.

"That is because I smile a lot, and when you smile and are happy inside, it shows on the outside."

He dropped us at an isolated beach where Princess Di once swam. It was one of 365 beaches on the island. Can you imagine one beach for every day of the year? A woman in our group had to use the restroom. She walked to a snack shack which was supposed to be open. She discovered a female employee snoozing on the porch floor.

"Excuse me, I thought you opened at 11:00. I have to use the bathroom."

"The owner is late. No problem. Go pee in the sea," the woman said and rolled back over.

4. Think positive, take it easy, make do; find a creative solution.

While walking along the beach, a gusty wind stirred. A beach ball rolled past me at a good clip. I kicked the ball towards the beach in hopes that the child who lost it might retrieve it. But the ball caught another groove in the sand and kept rolling. By the time I returned to the hotel, that ball was long gone.

5. Keep your momentum going. If you get stuck in a rut, find another way out.

A flock of docile seagulls waited quietly for someone to toss a morsel. There was nothing to differentiate one from the other.

An orange beaked bird joined the flock and squawked and squealed and made itself known, circled the sea and wasn't at all hesitant to dive in for a meal.

6. Don't wait for it to happen, make it happen. Dare to be different. Make yourself and your work stand out from the rest. It doesn't hurt to toot your own horn. GO FOR IT.

When you stumble, don't stop, just put one foot in front of the other, pen to paper, fingers to the keyboard. Keep going.

Glad to be back home.