Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tail waggers and yappers

If I hadn't known better, I'd have thought it was Bark in the Park day instead of a craft fair around the lake.

That is the one thing I sort of miss about living in the inner city; every household had a dog or two. When I lived in the city, I could walk down the block and be greeted by several tail waggers and yappers. Now that I live in the suburbs, I never hear a dog barking.

There were almost as many dogs as people at the craft fair today which featured local artists, a band and food booths. Every kind of dog you can imagine from great Pyrenes, to a two pound (if that) pomeranian puppy. When the bassett hound saw a sheltie, he arrhooed, which made the standard poodle yap and the beagle bark and the great dane leap. Well, you get the pciture. It was a sight to behold.

I received an acceptance from Not Your Mother's Books...On Dogs. My story, My Fowl Little Puppy is about my first pooch having a fling with our feather pillows.

When I submitted her photo, dated 1968, I almost cried remembering that little stinker.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Now you know!

Do you ever watch that show, How Is It Made? It's fascinating. I know how candycanes are made, rubber tires and hundreds of other things I've wondered about. This evening I discovered how something else is made. I got an up close and personal view of how it happens.

We saw a bizzare looking car with a telescoping extension mounted on the roof that reached six feet into the air, maybe more, and on top of the pole there was a round hexagon sort of ball that looked like a scuba helmet/mask with windows all over it, and there were other metal gadgets, antennas, stairs? "What the heck? A crazy artist?"

When the car passed, we saw the words painted across the driver's side: Google Earth Camera Car.

"Hey, come baaaaccccckkk! Let me pose again. At least photoshop my girth out of the picture."

Please don't Google my address; I don't want you to see me like this.

A very hairy situation

My hair has often dictated my mood, especially in high school.

My earliest memory: I'm four standing in my grandma's kitchen gazing at the ceramic Dutch girl and boy figurines painted red, blue and yellow, hanging on the wall. She tells me they are images of me and my cousin, her first granddaughter/grandson. Grandma has me in her clutches, literally. She stares at me, we're eye to eye; she has a pincher grip on my chin. "Hold still. I'm only going to trim your bangs."

She runs a comb through my tangled tresses and I squirm. "You're tender-headed."

Yeah, well why didn't she lighten up? That certainly set my jaw and frown wrinkle.

When Grandma wasn't around, my mom did the dastardly deed, only she never stooped to my level. She had the same vise-grip chin hold, but she could never write on unlined paper without the words scrolling uphill. When she saw my lopsided bangs, she'd gasp and attempt to straighten the angle. Higher and higher she trimmed until I looked like I had a forehead mustache tuft.

Now if that's not bad enough, she wanted me to have banana curls for kindergarten. The curling iron had green painted wooden handles and a small metal barrel. When I saw the blue flame on the gas stove with no pot on the burner, I knew the singe wasn't far off. Mom heated the barrel, then wrapped a thick strand of my hair around it. She couldn't time it any better than she could cut straight. I hated the smell of burnt hair.

Last evening I went through a box of old stuff that has been tucked in the closet for years. The first thing I pulled out was that dumb curling iron. That was enough to evoke a nose wrinkling frown. But when I pulled out an old Barbie doll, I thought I'd hit the goldmine. I picked her up, turned her over and looked at the date on her neck; she was an oldie goldie, with platinum hair and a puckered, painted mouth.

I laid her on the desk, and when I picked her up again, she was bald. Not as in her wig fell off. Her hair disintegrated into fine blonde dust. It was enough to make me pucker up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A little dab'll do you

A very quiet little girl was doing her work today, alternating red/yellow bingo dabber dots along the edges of a sheet of paper (patterning is a pre-reading skill). She looked up and said, "This is sure making me ..." I thought sure she was going to say tired, but she said, "hungry."

I like unexpected responses. I also like this gorgeous weather. We hiked a trail that has been recently refurbished. Aren't the flowers beautiful?

Today after school Nicole came over and asked where the sand bucket and squirter toy was. She proceeded to fill the bucket with water and then she loaded the squirter repeatedly. She watered the flowers, bushes, trees, with streams of water that shot three feet away. Maybe not my way of doing it, but she is one determined child.

Diligence, that's a requirement for writers too, don't you think?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fall festivities

Summer is officially a memory and fall is definitely in the air. The hummingbirds are frantically feeding, the bees are buzzing and flitting from flower to flower.
The air was crisp and the breeze delightful when we came upon a neighborhood festival Saturday. Kids were as frenetic as the critters. They bounced and climbed and ran in and out, up and down the inflatable climbers and bounce house. They giggled all the way downhill rolling-rolling-rolling as  a blues band belted out music that rocked the soul. Artists displayed their handicrafts in booths. The aromas of fried banana splits (don't ask me!) and funnel cakes and hot dogs permeated the air. I walked a trail through the park, came back out of breath to sit beside my honey on a huge boulder on a hillside. We observed the crowd, relished the sunshine and enjoyed the afternoon.
We saw huge logs in a fire pit and we also saw the haywagon, but we didn't stay around for the evening hayride and activities. Ahhh, fall, it makes one glad to be alive! On this day I am grateful for my eyes so I can see the beauty of it all, my mobility so I can take a hike, and my husband who makes me smile with his clever observations.   

Friday, September 21, 2012

I am not a klepto

I have a confession. Don't judge me too harshly. Don't hang a label on me. Please don't like me less.

I get sticky fingers when I eat at a particular buffet in town that piles platters high with buttery, mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies. Whenever we're planning to visit any of our children after our meal, I nonchalantly make my way to the dessert bar and fill my dessert plate with 3-4 cookies, depending on whose house we are going to visit. If it is a daughter with 3 kids, I snatch four cookies; if it's a son or daughter with two kids, I snatch three cookies. The math doesn't add up, you say? Well, let me explain. I always order a cup of coffee and make a big production out of dunking and devouring one of those cookies. I reach for the napkin holder, pretend I'm wiping the crumbs from my mouth and throw the wadded napkin over the stack of grandkid cookies, then I shove them in my purse.

The kids are older now. I honestly haven't had sticky fingers in a while, because the kids are mostly teenagers. They always thought of those delightful treats as Nana's cookies, even though their parents laughed in my face and said, "Been to the buffet, again?" The grandkids never caught on. The oldest grandson, 19 came to visit. I asked, "Want a cookie, Hon?"

You know what he had the nerve to say? "Oh did you and Gramps just come from the buffet?"

"How long have you known?"

He laughed!

Okay so now you know my secret. Confession is good for the soul. One can only hide from the truth for so long before it catches up.

All of our kids have dogs. Lately, every time we visit, the dogs go crazy sniffing my purse. I haven't snatched a "grandkid" cookie for a long-long time. Tic Tacs? Did that do it for dogs? I couldn't figure it out until the other day.

When I dumped the contents of my summer purse, bacon bits sprinkled the Tic Tacs, the tissues, the loose coins. I was flabbergasted. "What the heck? How did bacon get in my purse?"

Bill looked at me from his recliner, smiled wickedly, and said, "How indeed?!"

Honest! I have never swiped bacon. Then I remembered. On vacation we ate at Shoney's breakfast bar. I placed three strips of crisp bacon on my plate. I set my plate down and there were only two strips. I accused you know who of stealing a piece of MY bacon. It must have fallen off the mound of hash browns and landed in my purse, so many weeks ago.

Maybe now the dogs will leave me alone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No Kidding

Click HERE for more information, but if the link is broken, Google 91 word memoir

No entry fee contest, no long diatribe to write, just a 91 word story, and the winner gets $91.00, which is a dollar a word, No Kidding!

I just heard on the news that somewhere in the world a document was discovered indicating that Jesus had a wife. Nicole thinks she has it all figured out. She said, "Yeah, Jesus lives in the clouds with his godmother and their three girls, and she takes care of everything."

Uh-huh. I smiled at her. "No kidding?"

"I not kidding!" my big blue eyed little thinker said with a harrumph.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm on a roll

Now Available!

I am proud to announce that one of my poems has been published in this book published by Silver Boomer Books. I really did not want to contribute because I am not a widow. I thought I might jinx myself. Then, one night last winter Bill had to babysit grandkids and was away overnight for the first time in 20 years. I can't tell you how much I missed him. His presence and reminders were all around the bedroom...and a poem evolved.

Do you know of someone who has lost a spouse? This would be a great book because it is filled with uplifting stories about survival after widowhood. The messages are hopeful and empowering.

RELEASE DATE: Tomorrow, and in bookstores Oct. 16th

My story, Finding God's Message in the Sand is about my pleading and praying as I walked a beach. At sunrise I came upon a lone woman writing in a prayer answer to my prayers when she chased after me and prayed for me.

I hope you will purchase this book and spread the inpsirational messages, not just my own.

My story is about believing in myself, even though the message I believed was a complete fallacy. True! It helped me get to where I am today.

Check out the wonderful stories in this book.

I also have received a contract from Mozark Press, Bad Hair Day Anthology.

I am also working closely with the editor and creator of Stepping Up: Stories of Blended Families on one of my stories she is interested in publishing.

I am now writing ...hold your breath...drumroll...FICTION, and having so much fun.

My submission for Fifty Shades of Santa (no R-rated or X-rated material) has been one of the most fun pieces I have ever written. I am practicing my classroom motto: Never say, "I can't!" Say, "I can try!"

It is good to stretch your creative muscles and write cross-genre. Please, be kind and pass this information to others. Thank you for your continuous comments and support. Hugs to all of you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Connecting the dots

I don't know about you, but I am tired of hearing about so many people dying. Maybe I'm at an age when that happens, but I don't like it one bit. I've also received so many FaceBook prayer requests from friends for family members. I feel so helpless. During the day when one of these people come to mind, I offer up a spontaneous prayer.

This evening at dusk, a writer friend phoned while I was working at the computer. She mentioned that she was taking a walk. That was the impetus I needed to get off my duff and outdoors. "I'm going for a walk too. We'll walk and talk," I said.

Two blocks from home, I came upon an elderly neighbor in a wheel chair. His legs were amputated, his dentures lay on the ground and he was firmly stuck ina groove on the ramp to his van. He sat and smoked a cigarette, looking forlorn. He called me over and asked if I'd help dislodge the wheels. I was unable to, so I called hubby who came to the rescue. While I waited, I asked the man if he lived alone. He told me he did and his wife was in a nursing home. He'd just come from visiting her. He'd brought her candy because she loves sweets. I could tell he loved his sweet.

He told me that when he'd pulled in, he was unable to swing wide enough because the trash man had placed his cans where he parks. I dragged those two, big red plastic bins to the side of his house, and right about then hubby arrived on scene.

The old guy thanked us for getting his wheel chair unstuck and he assured us he could make it from there. I hope so. I fear he'll get stuck again, or he'll burn his house down. Sometimes I feel helpless. When there's nothing I can do, I just say a little prayer.

Tonight I was busy writing, prepared for a long evening in front of the computer. Then my phone rang, my friend mentioned she was taking a walk ... you connect the dots.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teaching what?

I attended a St. Louis Writer's Guild open mic reading last evening. A retired elementary school teacher read a personal essay that spoke to my heart. I don't know your position on teacher performance based on standardized test scores. I know mine.

Children are so much more than test scores. When public schools only teach to the test, everyone fails: teachers, students, administrators. In my opinion, the only deserved "F" should be given to the adults, many with a string of titles and letters such as Ph D. after their names. Some of these specialists have high degrees and no temperature! Yes, I am upset.

Paula told how teachers were instructed not to interfere at all with students during standardized test taking. They were not to offer an encouraging word or pat on the shoulder, no interaction whatsoever, not even to the little third grade boy who was balled in the fetal position under his desk suffering from test anxiety. When handed a twenty page booklet and told to read, he had a melt down. He stayed down, and I can assure you that his DOWN was lower than the floor. Paula said she did the right thing ... for her. She retired. I am not judging her.

My right thing would have been wrong according to the officials, but I have always listened to my heart first and my administrators second. Good judgment should supersede good grades. When we received a memo that teachers were to only side hug a child, I understood why the rule was designed. But when a preschooler came to me with arms outstretched in distress, do you think I turned him or her to the side? I embraced that baby. Maybe it's time to implement and embrace new changes.

Our American public education system is broken, for a variety of reasons. Some people think parents are to blame; others blame teachers and their unions, some societal norms.

I believe it is some head honcho who has come up with a new model or method to raise test scores, thus masquerading the "improvement" of teachers' performance. I taught in a public school for 17 years and can tell you some stories. I can tell you about the good teachers who had poorly performing students and the bad teachers who appeared to have outstanding students.

We squelch creativity when we teach children what to think and not how to think. In classrooms across America, at every educational level, students are being "taught", but what are they learning?

Your take?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 eleven years later

Eleven years ago, I stood in my living room and cringed at the sight of the first plane hitting the tower. I thought, what an horrific accident. I felt terrible for the people on that plane, and for those in the World Trade Center building. I did not realize that the horror had only just begun.
I headed to school and turned on my car radio. Ilistened intently to the reports. Then, I heard that another plane had crashed.

No one was sure what was going on. Teachers were asking one another, "Did you
hear about the plane crashes in NY?" The gravity of the situation -America was under
attack- was like a collective punch in the gut. We all felt winded, worried, and wounded.

My preschool classroom was in the lower level of an inner city middle school. What I remember most is the panicked African American youth in the hall who shouted at me, "America is at

"Calm down," I said. "Don't jump to conclusions. Nobody knows for sure what's going on. This does not mean WAR."

He insisted he saw it on TV and that military jets were intercepting planes.

I walked into my classroom, made phone calls to my family and then stood in stunned silence as my preschool students went about their school day, unaffected by the attacks. I knew my students were okay. My aide was capable, so I left her in charge. I felt as though I HAD to do
something patriotic to relieve the mounting tension in the middle schoolstudents, although I was not in charge of any of them. I came up with an idea. I did not consult the principal or counselor. I cut 12 inch red, white and blue construction paper strips, like kids use to make paper chains at Christmas. I visited each classroom. I passed out a strip to each student and asked them to write what they were feeling at the moment about the tragedy; any fears, any words, anything would be acceptable. Some asked if they should sign it.
"If you want to," I said.

I collected the strips and rolled them into loops, then I stapled them to the bulletin
board in the cafeteria. I assembled more than two hundred of them into an American flag. I stood back and admired that "feeling flag". I read, "I am afraid." "I want to kick their asses." "Bomb them." "Why did this happen?" "What now?" "I want to go home."

I felt the same way. At lunch I observed students looking for their piece of that flag. I listened to them read their words aloud, giving voice to fears and feelings, owning their emotions.
I don't know if my action did any good. It just felt good to do SOMETHING.

I mentioned to my husband a couple of years after 9/11 that I felt as if the color had drained from America. I first noticed it on highways and parking lots. Most new cars were gray, beige or white. Emotions ran the gamut, people were depressed; everyone seemed blah and everything
seemed bland. Now, eleven years later, I notice that there are so many red cars and trucks on the road. Color is returning to America. People are blue from being homeless, hungry, jobless and hopeless. The "haves" have more green, while the "have-nots" shrivel, their egos bruised, deep,
purple. There is an underlying current that runs through the population as orange as a flame; fire rages in the gut of all who are suffering during this recession. We're desperately missing the color yellow, sunshine yellow, happy face yellow.
My plea to politicians at every level of government is do SOMETHING, reach across the aisle, the great divide and extend a hand. Come to some agreement and shake on it.
"I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony..." Remember that commercial where people of all colors, creeds, religions and ethnicities joined hands?

My heart aches for the victims, their families and all of us.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saving the best for last

I have been remiss in posting on my blog and visiting others'. This is my first week back to school. We had terrible storms Thursday evening and power lines came down, so we were without electricity. I've been reading two manuscripts for two different writers, wrote a blurb for one of the novels, and I have been editing the other. Plus, Not Your Mother's Book...On Family is coming up on deadline. I NEED more stories. Please tell your friends. I am receiving lots of Chicken Soup type stories. I want exactly the opposite.

I needed some R&R. This afternoon was gorgeous, the weather sunny and cool. We went to Bee Tree Park and I snapped photos of things that made me smile. We walked around the lake and I chuckled at the sun glistening on the surface like thousands of diamonds. "Looks to me like the fish are snapping pictures of us."

I love being outdoors. In our busy lives we seldom stop to appreciate nature's gifts. Look closely at the tree above. It was probably struck by lightning when it was a sapling. One side is completely smooth, and the otherside is covered in bark. Odd in appearance, but thriving none-the-less.

I stopped on the wooded path. Bill didn't see what I saw until I pointed out a skinny branch that was completely stripped of leaves, hanging on to a heart-shaped leaf, dangling a gift to us.
The monarch butterflies are getting ready for their migration. I swear this Painted Lady smiled at me.
It's a damsel fly wearing my favorite color. I stopped and thanked God for my eyes.
Can you imagine perching on the tip of ... anything? Look at those gossamer wings.
Bill spotted Charlotte or one of her relatives in this gigantic web. That arachnid was silver dollar size. The web was the size of a bicycle tire. And last, but not least ...
As we were heading back to the car, I spotted something in the grass that really made me smile. All I know about her, is she is Canden's mommy-to-be. I asked for her permission. She said, "Sure."
Don't you just love unexpected surprises like these?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Taken any trips lately?

When I scroll back to the previous post with Bill and all of the grandkids, I see pain in his eyes from something that happened an hour before the guests arrived. I did not share the "incident" on my blog then, but I'll tell you about it now that we can walk arm in arm again. My right arm is always linked in his left when we go someplace. It feels right to both of us.

We were setting up tables and chairs on the patio. He placed the portable waterfall at the edge of the patio and asked if I'd like it better positioned in the middle. I said, yes. So, he placed his right foot on a step and kept his left on the ground. When he shoved the ceramic fountain, his foot slipped on a flower and he went down hard and right into the hydrangeas with a lot of dead wood stems! He scraped his inner arm on concrete. There were abrasions and bloody cuts up and down his arm all the way to his fingertips. He also banged open his shin on the step. The knot on his leg swelled like a goose egg. I thought surely he had cracked a rib, broken his leg or hit his head. I told him we were going right to the doctor. Macho man said we were not.

I helped him to a patio chair. "I'll be right back! I'm going to get you an ice bag and products to clean your wounds."

I ran inside. When I came back out I had medicine in my hands and tears in my eyes.

"Honey, I'll be okay; I don't want you to cry over me," he said.

"I'm not!" I squealed. I showed him my right wrist and inner forearm which was bruising a pretty shade of purple-blue and was so painful I couldn't touch it. "When I stepped inside, I tripped and fell into the edge of the microwave cabinet and caught myself on my right wrist and forearm instead of going down face first."

I washed his wounds, poured peroxide and alcohol on them, bandaged them with triple antibiotic ointment. Then we sat down and each of us held our ice packs on our boo-boos and laughed until we both had tears flowing.

Today was the first day since our "trips", that we have been able to link arms. It feels right again.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Things always look different in the light

Oh good grief! I'm at it again. Getting old is no picnic.

I woke at 4:30 a.m. and tiptoed to the bathroom. The motion activated, low-wattage, night light came on. In my groggy state, I squinted in the mirror to see how last night's facial (new firming cream) did or didn't work. I rubbed my fingertips over my cheeks. My eyes opened wide. I swiped my nose with the back of my hand. I stared at the reflection of my honker. OMG. I grabbed a tissue and dug at my nostril until it was summer-cold red. Had a glob of face cream solidified up my nose? I flipped on the bright-as-a sunny-day bathroom light which has six, large, high wattage lightbulbs, because he who likes to save electricity got a real deal on this fixture.

Standing in the spotlight, I saw what I thought was up my nose was actually on the mirror ... merely a splat of toothpaste. I ran for the Windex. All that squinting and frowning has ruined my facial and set my wrinkles and the tone for the day.

That's it, I'm sleeping in my glasses.

If you don't laugh at yourself, everyone else will.