Sunday, August 30, 2015

Culture in the big city

Sunday dawned bright and humid, but that did not stop us from taking a shuttle to the International Institute's Festival of Nations, a cultural event held for the last 15 years in Tower Grove Park in the inner city of south St. Louis. When we passed a pavilion where my daughter danced when she was Liam's age, I almost cried remembering. The singers and musicians were delightful.
I especially enjoyed this duo, Four Shillings Short, who sang world Celtic/ Folk songs. What voices!

There was a food court with 43 booths featuring diverse foods from 43 different countries. There were craft booths, kids activities, demonstrations of native sports in the World Sports Meadow, world religions, craft demonstrations, belly dancing demonstrations, henna artists, a beer garden. Everything you can imagine. This man was preparing mussels and rice, and I don't know what else.
there were so many languages being spoken, and it felt so welcoming with lots of laughter, families.

There was fun-filled entertainment on several stages around the grounds, ethnic dancers and singers and performers. I could have stayed all day, but didn't. The heat got to us as we roamed around perusing the wares for sale. Look at these handmade baskets. The clothing and jewelry were a buyer's delight.

And as we were leaving I thought this man was giving pony rides, but when I looked closer, I noticed this gentleman was just bringing his dog to a dog friendly event. His pooch was bigger than Marmaduke.
And my blog post would not be complete without a photo of Liam. I bought him a new shirt for fall.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Creating masterpieces

When I was a child, I had a box of ten crayons. I so wanted that box of 64 with built in sharpener, but my parents could not afford it. So I created with what I had. I loved to color.

When my children were small, they had color and paint by number sets, and they used felt tipped markers to color in designs printed on black felt. Not much creativity allowed, but the finished product was the reward for the painstaking fine-motor task of not letting the paints or colors blend when they touched.

Many years ago when my friend Rose was dying of cancer at age 52, I sat with her in her kitchen and we colored with crayons in individual coloring books. We were focused, together, but lost in our own thoughts, sometimes reminiscing aloud about how our children used to color when they were small. How the kindergarten teacher wrote "Needs Improvement" on their report cards when they colored out of the lines.

It was a time when we could just BE, to fill the long hours. We didn't need words to express what was on our minds. We didn't focus on the chemo and radiation, the pain and suffering. We sat, happily, together, lost in our individual works.

All the while, we were working. Working to simultaneously hold on and let go.

These days coloring has had a resurgence. It is a way for adults to relax, get lost in thought, unwind, and release their creativity. Granted, the patterns are fine-detailed and more complicated. This morning the news featured a coloring group where women gather for fun and friendship.

Seems like a wholesome and fun activity. When is the last time you colored?

Note to parents and grandparents of young children: they need lots of space to sprawl because they do not have well developed fine motor control, and staying in the lines is not necessary, so ditch the coloring books for preschoolers and allow them to DRAW not just color.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I chose to write this incident as a poem so I could play with words, but if I had written it in essay form I could give you more sensory details, nuance, and you would laugh yourself as silly as I did so many years ago when this happened.

In the Squinted Eye of the Beholder
We sat in the restaurant across from one another,
my back to the window, the sun’s glare in his always suspicious eyes.
“Scoot to the left,” he requested, squinted and shifted to the right,
mirroring our lives, me leaning this way; he leaning that.

He interrupted my expressed opinion with one of his own.
“Must be something wrong with that guy. Lean the other way.”
I complied as he compiled reasons why the loon outside was nuts.
“Crazy! I can see it in his eyes; he keeps mimicking everything I do.”

He never saw things my way; and I rarely saw things his, until
I turned around and saw the crazy, frowning knucklehead in the window
making the same expressions as the guy across from me...
hexing reflections of himself on a sunlit pane of glass.

Do you write free verse poetry?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

On the tip of my tongue, top of my head, in my purse... you get the picture

My story, On the Tip of My Tongue, has been published in the Brenda Elsagher collection of "tales of life, longevity and laughter," Your Glasses are on TOP of Your Head.

Pre-sales going on now at discount price.

Order at Release date is September 15

This is Brenda in action. She is a highly respected, in demand speaker who has published several anthologies.

Please pass this information to friends, if you would please. Thank you for helping us promote this humorous collection.  Admit it, you or someone you know has searched high and low for their glasses, while all the time, they were...on top of the head.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What was that smell?!

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” ~ Helen Keller

Baby powder. Baby poop. Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Roses in full bloom. My son's stinky tennis shoes when he was ten, my daughter's Love's Baby Soft body spray...

Aromas are evocative; they take us everywhere we have been. I don't know why, but I can still remember the smell of spray starch. Half a century ago I starched and ironed shirts and blouses before high school.

I can still smell Aqua Net Hairspray, and the odor of engine grease and motor oil in the garage. The smell of my grandma's basement, damp from a metal wash tub of hot rinse water draining into the sewer. This aroma takes me back to early childhood. I still love the smell of a damp (not musty) basement. The smell of  hot, Spic and Span mop water makes me envision my mom as a young woman. How DID she wring that mop in such hot water?

This morning I opened a magazine and found a sample of ORIGINAL SCENT JERGENS  Lotion.  When I ripped the corner and the lotion oozed out, so did the memories.

After my own little girl scent of Ivory Soap, and my teenage odor of Noxzema, I graduated to my mom's JERGENS Lotion. It served me well for twenty years. Then I made good friends with pink Oil of Olay. Now it's Ponds, but in my mind, I return to JERGENS Lotion time and again.

My favorite women wore it. Mom slathered it on her snake skin legs, transforming them to soft and supple, like magic in a minute.

As a young mom, I washed dishes by hand, then I coated my hands with JERGENS.

When my grandma was hospitalized and dying, she asked me to massage her face with my Oil of Olay. I worked it over her cheeks and chin, and when I stopped, she said, " My whole forehead, my eyelids." So I rubbed it in.

I didn't like the outcome. Grandma smelled like me, not herself.

In my childhood when she kissed me goodbye, she had red lipstick on her mouth and JERGENS Lotion on her cheek.  She always left a red lipstick kiss print on my cheek along with the faint fragrance of JERGENS from her super soft cheeks.

Yes, scents are evocative. Do you use the sense of smell in your writing? Some of you are not writers, but even if you email instead of write letters, why don't you trip somebody's olfactory sense?

How about mine? What smells transport you?     

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Lovie dovie and some of the women who love him

Liam is testament to the fact that babies cannot be rushed. No amount of coaxing or insisting will cause a baby to crawl, walk, talk or get his teeth before he or she is READY. Readiness is what it's all about. You should hear him jabber, giggle and talk. He says, "What dat?" His vocabulary is increasing by the day, and he is a smart one. Little blue eyes had been zooming on his ride on toy for a month, strengthening his back and legs, and then on his own, he crawled a week before his birthday. He's on the verge of walking, taking steps around tables and furniture. Watch out world! Look at his cool haircut from his aunt Chelsea.
He got all of his top front teeth last week at 13 months. Is he ever putting them to good use. He had his first "GRANDMA'S COOKIE", no not mine, this is a soft snicker doodle from a famous shop in St. Charles, MO. Historic Main Street is lined with old homes which have been converted to shops and businesses. My daughter and I went there for lunch, and of course dessert!
As we waited for the rain to stop, Liam had to catch the raindrops. He is a giggle box.
He and his Nana Tracey, my daughter, danced on the covered pavilion while we waited for the cloud to pass. We stopped in an ice cream shop for a yummy toasted coconut cone.
It was a day of go-go-go for the three generations of women who go ga-ga over this precious boy. Liam has a gentle, sweet and sometimes timid personality. Life is hard, and I say babies should be babies for as long as they can. The world will make them rough and tough way too soon. Baby days pass all too quickly, and you can never get them back. No one realizes that until they're long gone. I so loved my kids' and grandkids' baby days.
We met my first granddaughter (Liam's mommy) after work, and we took him to Suson Park/Farm. He loved looking at the horses out in the pasture. He fed a goat a long stemmed weed, and he giggled. He went trip trapping across a wooden bridge, and he was in awe as a flock of geese lifted off and flew overhead.
  He and his mommy played on the swings, and then he played on the slide and climber and took the steering wheel and boy did he drive! This kid is going places. 
Yes, there are times he drives mommy and daddy crazy, as all babies will, but most of the time he drives our love for him into over drive. One day he will zoom away from all of us, but right now he is our cutie baby boy, and in a blink of an eye he will be all grown up.
I used to tell my students' parents, hug them once, then hug them once again. Love is free and it is the best gift you can give a child. Love them for who they are, not who you want them to be. This baby boy is LOVED for who he is!

Monday, August 10, 2015

You don't say!

This morning as I was watching the NEWS, I saw a clip of the interior of the church our family attended when the children were small. Seems our old neighborhood has high crime statistics now, and activists had gathered in the church for discussion.

When I saw that railing at the pulpit, I laughed out loud remembering...

Jason was a two year old talkative terror who couldn't sit still during the service. I gave him a quarter to play with, which kept him busy for awhile rolling and dropping it on the pew and carpet. When it was time to take communion, he accompanied me to the railing where we kneeled and waited our turn for the pastor to walk down the line and offer the wafer and wine.

My two year old spoke loud and clear when the pastor stepped in front of us. He slammed his quarter on the railing and said, "Buy my dad a beer."

I almost choked on my own saliva. I swear, his dad only drank an occasional beer while he watered the garden after work, not even one a night.

I swore I'd never go back. Be careful what you swear. I ended up being a teacher in the church preschool, my first teaching job.

My boy's little boy also had a mouth. He came home from 2nd grade and said, "My teacher's going to have her baby any day. She's not nice anymore because she's hormonal."

I asked what that meant and he replied, "Meaner than Judge Judy."

The boy is following in his dad's footsteps.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Talking to the animals

We've been visiting our town's free tourist attractions with our out of town guests. These photos were taken at Grant's Farm. Ulysses S. Grant's cabin remains on the site of the Anheuser-Busch estate, which is now an animal compound. Visitors ride a tram through the park and view wild animals. There is a mini zoo with huge tortoises and these gorgeous birds that can outlive their owners. An ounce of milk in a baby bottle costs a dollar, but imagine how much fun it is to go into the goat enclosure and feed baby goats from a bottle. The baby goat I fed, chewed the nibble right off.
There were animal shows and bird performances...all free.
The camels were at the fence begging for food pellets, which can be purchased from a dispenser for a quarter. As you can see, this Dromedary was opening her mouth and waiting for someone to toss her one. She was a great catch, too. Look at that pellet at her top lip.
About ten years ago, I took my grandson here, and as he stood at the fence holding his soda cup, the camel reached over the fence, snatched the cup, turned it up and emptied the Mountain Dew into its mouth, then discarded the cup at Austin's feet. It happened so quickly, we just looked at each other and laughed all the way home.

Do you visit your town's tourist attractions? We have so many free places to visit: the Science Center; a world class zoo; Suson Farm, a park with stocked fishing lakes and barnyard animals; Art Museum, Muny Opera which is an outdoor theater; History Museum; Ralston Purina Farm with animals, cats and dogs; the Botanical Gardens had free admission two days a week, and we have so many parks offering free concerts, and outdoor movie viewing after dark. Our taxes pay for most of these.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Go ahead, rub it in!

I suppose you each have your own ideas about the many uses of Vaseline and baby oil.

In the '60s girls tinted a bottle of baby oil with iodine and tanned with it! OH MY!

In the '70s I used Vaseline to coat my baby's bottom when he got a severe case of chicken pox.

In the '80's I made my elderly next door neighbor's jaw drop when he overheard me say to my then-husband, "Get the jar of Vaseline. Go slow at first and let the lubricant work for you. Quit shoving, it isn't working, you need to grease it first. Oh wait, I'll go in the house and get it." I returned to the garage and helped him grease a black hose and fit onto the radiator.

In the '90s I used an entire bottle of baby oil each week on my escort. I applied it generously, massaged every crevice and hard to reach place. After every application, I felt a real sense of accomplishment, pride in fact. People would ask me what was different. I'd smile knowingly, and say, "I'll never tell."

Only thing is, my kids told! They told everyone how I rubbed baby oil into my old, neglected by-its- former-owner, Ford Escort. It used to have a red shiny paint job, but the paint had oxidized. It looked like an old red wagon that had been left out in the elements for years...until I gave it a full body massage. Did it ever perk up. Yeah baby!

I'd pull up to school and teachers would comment on my new paint job. Neighbors would ask if I had a new car. The pretty sheen lasted about three days. After the third day, the pollen and dust was so thick it looked like a hairy car. But oh for a few days, baby oil did the trick.

So, any oddities of your own to add to my recollections?