Tuesday, January 26, 2016

My chin can do WHAT?!

When I called for my routine mammy whammy last week, I asked for the first appointment of the day, thinking maybe 8:00 a.m. The receptionist said, "Okay, we'll see you at 7:10 a.m. on Monday."
Well I am an early riser, so no problem. Except the problem was at 4:00 a.m. Kitty No-No was gagging in the hall way. I made a mad dash to catch him before he hurled a fur ball up on the carpet. I tossed him onto the kitchen tile floor. He didn't hawk up anything. He made his way to his dish and proceeded to ask for food. Easier to give him kibble than to quibble.

At 6:00 a.m. hubby saw me snoozing on the couch. I said, "Been up since 4. Wake me at 6:30."
At 6:45, I woke myself, went into the study and asked him WHEN he was going to wake me up. He replied, "I have four more minutes, see?"

I see the computer says 1/26.

"Yeah, 26! so I have 4 more minutes."
I shook my head and made a mad dash to meet my mammy whammer.

The receptionist tried to run my insurance card, hemmed and hawed, mumbled to herself, then looked at me and said, "Hmmm, no you weren't born..." Her voice trailed as she scrolled.
I wasn't BORN?!

She finally found my correct birth date, entered it, and my insurance was approved. She asked, "So are you still employed at ...?"
"No, no longer working."


"Then you're still working."
Sometimes it's best to smile and nod.

Then it was time for the compression. I looked up at the ceiling as the technician was positioning me and the girls. She said, "You don't have to look up like that."
"It's okay, I said, "it's a neck exercise, gets rid of double chin."

"Yeah, but when you stretch your neck that taut, it pulls the breast tissue up and we may miss something high on your chest. Look at the wall and relax."

If the next time you see me stargazing, or cloud naming, or counting ceiling tiles, just remember my chin is working overtime, doing what my bra straps can no longer do.
Ladies, have you had your mammogram?

Lower your chin now, and shake your head yes or no.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Write to your reflection

What do you see when you look at your reflection? Do you point out flaws and tell yourself that you can't...? Well, I am here to tell you, if I can, YOU CAN! You have to believe in yourself.

You have a personal story to tell. Don't shrink away. Uncover those dusty stories in your drawers, in a computer file, or in your mind. It is difficult, and I can attest; revealing too much feels like hitting the beach in a bikini when you want to be wrapped in the towel, or in my case the beach blanket.

I felt short of breath when I even imagined telling my stories, much less sharing them. Uncomfortable topics are relatable because we all have skeletons in our closets. I've sold stories to The Salvation Army War Cry Magazine (on abuse), Releasing Times Magazine (family mental illness), and Chicken Soup for the Soul (divorce). I've also sold many upbeat and positive essays.

Don't wish to write for publication? Write to your reflection. Or address your younger self. Reach forward, into your future hopes and dreams, or back into your past where your stories reside.

In order to improve your craft you have to get messy. You will be surprised at what happens when you mess around with sentence structure, eliminate passive verbs, rearrange paragraphs. Too often we provide surface information, hide facts, hesitate to share the messiness of our lives. In delving deep we face our fears and learn our truths.
Try it, write a sentence for your eyes only. Then add details until you have a paragraph. Keep going until you develop a story rich in sensory details and strong emotions. Almost all of us have dealt with loss. Perhaps a job, loved one, an object. Don't be afraid to get messy. Truth is buried in the mess.
 Read your story aloud.
Now, I am going to share something with you.
 Put your cursor over this link to find many freelance publishing opportunities.
I am always willing to help a fellow writer, so if you need an idea, or help getting started on a sensitive topic, email me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Command Central and you are at the controls

I find my motivation in the month of January. I come out of hibernation. I hang a plaque on our front door: Let it snow....someplace else.

I know that in two weeks I will be hanging my heart shaped  grapevine wreath on the front door and spring WILL arrive.

 January cold leads me to expound on anything and everything. I want to write. I have to write.  I was looking at my submission calendars for the past ten years, and can't believe how prolific I am in January. My January submissions vary from 12 to 33. Does that mean I have been published that many times? No, of course not. Do I get discouraged and overwhelmed? You bet. But I do not allow negative thoughts to stop me. When I taught preschoolers (and their parents) I demonstrated how to get better results by using positive speech patterns. These tips apply to general life.

 Retrain your brain. It believes the messages you send it.

If your messages sound negative like this:

No, I can't write today because...

There won't be writing time this afternoon.

I'm so busy I'll never be able to find time to write.

I'm stumped and might as well stop.

I am not getting anywhere with this story.

I don't wake up early for ANY reason, especially not to fit in writing time.

I was wrong about being a writer. I didn't think I could swing this writing stuff.

No, I'm not a real published writer.

Change your don'ts to dos:

Yes, I would like to write today but I have to___, so I will squeeze in five minutes to jot a thought.

Yes, I am so busy today, but I will take a few minutes to write, even if I have to lock myself in the bathroom.

Yes, I'm busy but sometime today I am going to write a sentence or two.

Yes, I feel like quitting, but I will always try to fit in some writing time.

Yes, it seems like I am stumped, but I'm convinced I will figure it out.

I do like to sleep in, but I'm going to get up fifteen minutes early and journal a positive message.

I'm right, writing is difficult, but I do think I can be a writer if I invest in myself and reward myself with five minutes of writing time today.

Yes, I am a writer, so today I am going to write something, instead of talking about writing.
Tell me something you have written this month, blog post, personal letter? It's a beginning.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Cheap show or Cineplex, what's your style?

In the middle of the day we decided to go to the $3.00 theater. We selected the movie, Love the Coopers, which started out really slowly but ended up having a good message. It was narrated, and we didn't care too much for that, but overall it was a pretty good Christmas movie about realistic family life. Drama, humor, romance, nostalgia. Not bad for three bucks.
The ticket booth was vacant. We stepped inside and stepped onto bare cement floor; the carpeting had been ripped up and the glue stains were evident. Bill asked the girl behind the candy counter selling tickets and junk food, "Is the show doing okay in this economy?"

She smiled and nodded. All of us avoided addressing the ripped up carpet. Who knows? Maybe they are remodeling instead of taking their last gasp. They have full houses on weekends.
We walked into our theater and noticed it was completely empty. Several of the seats were wrapped in trash bags, an indication that the ceiling was leaking after that 11 inch rain we received a couple weeks ago. The candy case was filled with dollar store candy, but the price was inflated three times.

Hubby and I reminisced about movie houses in our day when fifty cents went a long way: ticket, popcorn, a large candy bar, and a soda.
We used to go to the show twice a week in the '60s. Cartoons aired before the previews, and there were always two feature films.

I fell in love with Elvis and Frankie Avalon at the Gravois Show. I loved their singing more than their poor acting. I was jealous, not of Priscilla, but Ann Margret.
I adored the classic, Dr. Zhivago and experienced such a  range of emotions, when I came home I recaptured so many scenes in my school notebook.

Paul Newman with his baby blues, was the biggest hunk around, unless Clint Eastwood (back then) tripped your trigger. One day when my friend and I were fifteen we wanted to go see The Hustler starring Paul Newman. We were turned away because we were not of age. We considered asking a strange woman to vouch for us, but we chickened out.
I  hated chariot races and Roman Empire movies, even walked out of those barbaric flicks. Westerns were very popular during the '50s and '60s, but I loved comedies most.

I couldn't believe it when the actors in West Side Story started singing and dancing! That was my introduction to musicals, which I could take or leave back then.
I saw Grease at the movies with my kids. Nowadays there's grease on the floors and stains on  the old spring-loaded seats which flip up and notify everyone you need a potty break. If we sit too long our knees aches and we have to walk the stiffness out before we can manage the stairs.

Times have sure changed. At least we have the cheap show nearby. Most young people think nothing of spending up to 12 dollars for a movie ticket at the multiplex cinemas and at least that much for treats.
We're happy with the cheap show. have you seen any movies lately at the theater?  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Really! It is not X-rated

I have kept a writer's journal for almost 20 years in which I briefly detail my ups and downs, acceptances and rejections. I have never let a rejection stop me for very long. I view rejections as rocks, not boulders. If you consider every "huh-uh" or "no thanks"  a roadblock, you have choices: climb that sucker, find a way around it, or allow it to stop you in your tracks.

One step at a time, whether you're climbing a mountain or detouring a boulder. Never give up. Tune out your inner critic and know that rejection is usually less about you and your writing than it is about editorial needs at the moment.

I have written for inspirational and religious markets, nostalgic, educational and literary publications... a variety to be sure. I never thought I'd write, much less place a risqué poem.

I didn't even like the publication's name. In fact, a blog friend told me "the rat's ass editor was tinkering with my words." In my reply I referred to him as "the rat's ass"' unaware that was the name of the literary magazine seeking women's sensual/ sexual poetry.

This poem came about by mistake. Another writer and I accepted a prompt to write about the ride we've all taken. That night as I was going to sleep, I was watching a Seinfeld episode. Kramer saw a gal with very long fingernails and begged her, "One lap around my back? Just one lap?"

The poem wrote itself as I mapped with "long fingernails" an imaginary lover's body. I submitted it Tuesday morning and had an acceptance that afternoon. After perusing the site, I realize there are some very influential poets being published by Rat's Ass Review. Click on Love and Ensuing Madness.

My poem, Mapping Ecstacy, should be on line this weekend in the Love and Ensuing Madness section. Not autobiographical, folks. If you don't want to wait, let  me know, and I will email it to you.

Talk about stretching my writing muscles. Would you be willing to step this far out of your comfort zone? Be truthful.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The meteorolgists made me do it!

I attended a St. Louis Writer's Guild meeting on Saturday. Bob Baker, former president of St. Louis Publisher's Association, a self-made writer, musician, entrepreneur, presented a workshop on empowerment. It was just the kick I needed after receiving a rejection.

So often we get discouraged and undervalue our work. Discouragement and under valuing trickles down and affects our self esteem, our worth as a creative artist. Do not allow fear to stop you. Give yourself permission to succeed.

I was quite certain I would be leaving his lecture early, because all of the meteorologists: the Botox injected stiff-lipped older weather gal; the confident head honcho with the honking nose and chutzpa; the bald guy who skips around in tennis shoes and plays songs with all his forecasts; the dizzy blond with painted clown mouth who slurs her words; the middle age woman who likes cheap costume jewelry; the sweet young woman who takes her job seriously; and the tall drink of water whose voice rises and falls like she's reading music notes off the teleprompter, all predicted two to four inches of snow.

My daughter, who was babysitting Liam, was so excited about showing him his first snowfall.

As I drove to the meeting place, rain drops plunked, then splattered flat and turned to big fat snowflakes. Now, you know I am not fond of winter, but if you're going to broadcast a prediction of 2-4 inches and it's the first snow, the kid in me gets a little excited.

I looked out the window of the meeting room as hamster-size snowflakes fell. Fifteen minutes later, it was over. Seems a gust, or a whoop, or a gulf stream, or some other thing swung high or low, and the snow dissipated for those living east of Highway 44.

I sneaked peeks at Facebook and  read about accumulations in friends' yards. They were busy making soups, stews, hot bread. I called home and asked my honey to stop by the bakery for me. I like to dunk a treat in coffee, ESPECIALLY when it snows.

I am reminded of my next door neighbor and late, best friend, Rose, who got me started drinking coffee. She introduced me to it on a snowy day when we came inside after igloo building, having snowball fights, sliding down the front lawn with our kids until our noses were dripping and bright red. For years, the only time I had coffee was when I dunked donuts or her delicious banana bread at her house. Then I'd dump out the rest of the coffee.

Now, I eat double the donuts, and perk a second pot of coffee when it snows. Only, this time it fizzled. The meteorologists fouled up, and so did I. I ate a fat, custard-filled chocolate iced donut in the afternoon. And a Danish after dinner.

Those darn meteorologists! 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Toe tapping happy

We went out this New Year's Eve with another couple and had an enjoyable evening. The Facts of Life Band was entertaining, but more show band than a dance band. They did play tunes from the 40s through the present. The crowd was older, so they played a lot of slow songs.  I have a bad shoulder, and slow dancing with my honey sometimes gets painful, but by golly Miss Molly, old time rock and roll talks to my soul. Here is a piece that was published in Tiny Lights Journal a couple of years ago. Sadly, the magazine has folded, as have so many others. The markets are shrinking, at least the paying markets. If you have any clue as to any publications that pay for personal essays, please share.

When I hear an old time rock and roll song, my past comes alive. It begins with the tap of my toes, then rhythmically tingles up my spine all the way to my shoulders, and I must boogie, shimmy, shake... even if I am sitting in a chair.

Like a rap at the door, I answer the knock and am greeted by my younger self. The past is in every musical note, every sh-boom, high pitched singer's voice, every rat tail comb that I ever used to tease my hair, every mini skirt I flounced in, and every 45rpm record I ever purchased. Every flail, twist, twirl and mashed potato stomp comes rushing back in an open-armed greeting, and it is all I can do to restrain my boogie-woogie self to not get up and bring the past to life.

Sometimes I can't resist, and I two-step down the cookie aisle. I've even been caught shaking, rattling and rolling in the dentist's reception room. I can't help myself; when my songs come on, my past erupts like a volcano of memories, and I must boogie.

Does music speak to your soul?


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Forget resolutions, I have great intentions.

Up until last summer I taught little rug rats, and my daily routine was quite different. I'd wake about 5:00 a.m. and rush to the computer to check emails and Facebook. Then, I would cram as much as I possibly could into the next three hours, sometimes writing or researching until 8:30. My desk was covered in Post-it notes.
At the very last possible minute, I'd jump in the shower, get dressed and speed to school in under fifteen, and completely switch gears. When I came home, I was exhausted, and all those memos to myself often got shoved aside and unburied a month later when I cleaned my desk and the deadlines had passed.

I had this bright idea/dream that retirement would mean I would revise a dusty manuscript, write my memoirs and submit ten times as much as usual. The reality was, the more time I had in the morning, the more I piddled. When I was pilfering minutes, I was more productive.

My main resolutions this year are to wake up grateful, pray for others, and give myself permission to dawdle over the news, dunk a cookie (okay cookie dunking is over) and THEN get to work. I intend to write until 10:00, and then the day will begin for hubby and me. I will return to writing during the day at my leisure, not adhere to a self-imposed schedule, then feel guilty that I didn't hold up my end.

My great intentions for 2016:

            Write at least one thing per day, an idea/story/article.
            Start a writing tips and opportunities folder.
            Challenge myself to submit to a variety of publications.
So far so good. I have submitted to three bigger publications. I received a response in one day from one I suspected wouldn't even consider my work. When I received the email reply, I was disappointed to see it was my own document. Oh well, I supposed they were acknowledging acceptance. I reread my piece again...and there it was at the very bottom, a personal notation: "We will contact you if we can use this piece."

I am hopeful the editor read to the end, and their team is considering it. Having the courage to submit out of my league was a challenge I met.

I saw this quote on Facebook: I hover between, "What will be will be," and "I can make it happen."

My parents used to sing these lyrics from a hymn when I was young: "Faith, hope, and charity, that's the way to live successfully..." I try to live my life this way.
https://www.facebook.com/naomi.s.francis?fref=nf Check out this link to find an amazing local opportunity to showcase YOUR story.

Friday, January 1, 2016

One day at a time

Emotions ran high here in St. Louis this past week due to flooding. The Meramec River, which is a few miles from our home topped levees after we received 11 inches of rain in a short period.
All major highways and many secondary roads were closed as sandbagging continued nonstop by workers and volunteers.

Imagine idling for hours as one east-west highway after another closed down. Talk about an island. People were actually trapped as flood water topped levees and overtook interstate highways south of St. Louis.
This was an historic flood, reaching 47 feet and causing massive damage and loss of life. My heart goes out to those affected.
This is a photo of Interstate 55 shut down at Meramec Bottom Road as the river levels rose.

My son works at the utility company pictured below. He and the crew sandbagged and worked around the clock for days. They had a successful sand bag compound surrounding the plant when he left at 6:00 a.m. yesterday. I was on the phone with him, trying to keep him awake as he drove home. He received a call stating that the flood had overtaken the second of his company's sewage treatment facilities, and the workers had to run for high ground. All of the team's hard work was in vain. This is how it looked as the river overtook the plant and raw sewage spewed, making its way downstream.

We are being asked to conserve water, but not to boil it, yet. Oh what a mess. The river finally crested today. A massive cleanup effort will be underway as soon as the water recedes.
My friend's cabins, which have been in her family for years, suffered major damage. One is at ground level, but the other two are forty feet up on stilts. I can't imagine watching your summer homes go under water, and losing all the contents. One cabin down the road from her was swept completely away, and the news stations kept covering the horrific images of it and also cars, trucks, a loaded school bus, and semi tractor trailer trucks being carried off.

My granddaughter's office parking lot and the building's basement flooded. Unable to go to work.

What a way to start the new year. Life is unpredictable, like a flood. Sometimes we are flooded with wonderful surprises, and other times we feel doomed by the roiling waves and hard knocks.

One day at a time. That is all anyone can take. My heartfelt prayers are with all those affected.

Well, after that depressing report, let me share a funny by my honey.

Today he said, "Remember that tall woman on my old volley ball team?"

"No, which one? Tell me more."
"You know the one who was a half wife."

"What kind of marriage did she have?!"
"I don't know what kind of marriage she had. She delivered babies."

 With that, I will wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016. One day at a time.