Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What a wild three days it has been.

My apologies. I have been remiss in posting anything about writing. And these photos will explain why. Sunday we had a houseful of our children and their children.
I have been spending quality time with grandchildren who are on spring break. I took Nicholas and Nicole to breakfast, and we had the best blueberry pancakes in town. We went to Sky Zone, a fun high energy zapping place filled with trampolines. One area is for forward flipping into a foam pit, another is for dodge ball, another for basketball and so on. Nicole was like a little monkey. 
Nicholas who just turned 14 (I cannot believe it!) bounced and bounced, and is very competitive. He had a blast! After that, it was time for lunch and ice cream with Gramps, and then to his evening game of LaCrosse... a wild sport if I ever saw one. I am so thankful for all of our healthy grand children.
Of course my little darling, Liam, and I spent all day Monday together. I bought him a Little Tykes truck at the Goodwill store. He hauled a big rubber baby boy doll in the bed of the truck, and rode up and down the street. Semi truck drivers passing by honked their air horns at him and he tooted his little horn back at them and waved. I slept very well on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
Liam and I went to Suson Park in South County to see the farm animals. He loved the rooster that crowed at him, and he liked the turkey. We wanted to go into the barnyard to see the pigs and horses. We were disappointed to discover the barn was locked. But what a surprise to discover a man on a tractor transporting a pig in a crate. Liam watched wide-eyed as the driver raised the front end loader up high and lifted it over the fence and put the pig down in her pen and turned her loose. Liam and the pig squealed with glee.
Sometimes life is filled with unexpected surprises. A few moments ago I received an acceptance on a personal essay that will be published in Sasee May Issue, titled Becoming My Mom... in time for Mother's Day.

I have sent out ten submissions this month and want to share three free contests with you. is the email to send a humorous poem which has contest money attached, but no fees to pay. Isn't that a nice surprise?

And there is a call out for personal stories or poetry on how music has impacted you. Here is the link. Deadlines looming!

And here's another with an April 15th deadline

Thursday, March 24, 2016

That was some party!

Happy 80th Birthday to my twin aunts, Shirley and Dorothy.
They were born prematurely, weighing in at barely two pounds each. My grandma did everything in her power to keep those little girls alive. They were born at home, and Grandma kept them in cigar boxes, (my cousin said, but I always heard it was shoe boxes) on the oven door. Grandma heated bricks and surrounded the boxes with them to incubate her babies.

Speaking of babies. Liam saw the balloons and must have said the word, "balloon" a hundred times. Finally one of my cousins handed him one. He was absolutely in his glory. Coincidentally, there were four adult twins at the party from three different families: my aunts, one of their granddaughters-in-law, and my daughter-in law. 

Wow! What a flashback. I felt just like I did when I was a little kid. It was so noisy at Grandma's house when all my half Italian/half German aunts were talking at once. Imagine 40 people all yapping at once time about their memoires of the past. My aunts even got up and did a performance of their hand clapping childhood game and sang songs they remembered from their childhood. They had us in stitches.

What a blessing to be with my late mom's family; there were five generations present.

Our next get together will be this Sunday when the kids and grandkids come for Easter.  Can't wait!  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rocketing to fame: local launch and presentations

A huge shout out to Dianna Graveman who photographed our multi-author Chicken Soup for the Soul panel presentation on Monday evening at Kisker Road Library in St. Charles, MO.

She and her husband and co author, Don, will be signing their new release at Main Street Books Saturday, March 26th from 2-4 p.m. Their book includes photos and pertinent information about local residents. It is sure to be a hit with anyone interested in St. Charles and its history. Stop by Saturday to pick up a copy and say hello to our famous hometown authors.

Donna Volkenannt, Linda O'Connell, Sherri Stanzyk, Pat Wahler, Sioux Roslawski, and Cathi LaMarche (not pictured) have published 70 plus stories in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books. They have all participated in book signings and panel presentations to promote their work.

It was inspiring to listen to how each of us found our ways into Chicken Soup for the Soul books. 
In 1999 I saw an article in our neighborhood newspaper seeking gardening stories for Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul. I have the blackest thumb, ever, and I even mess up when I try to help Mother Nature take care of her rooted-to-the-earth babies.

I was definitely not a gardener, and had nothing to contribute. Then I got to thinking. I had an experience they might consider, and it was about a flower. A long shot, I admit, but I was willing to take the chance. Read my first published Chicken Soup for the Soul story here.
  Click on the story to read it in its entirety.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It's been one of those days

I will be participating in a panel discussion with five other writers at Kisker Road Library in St. Charles on Monday at 7:00 p.m. We will be discussing how to write a story for Chicken Soup for the Soul books. We will also have books for sale. If you are nearby, come on out and say hello!

On the first day of spring the freakiest things have happened. First of all we have had two installers for a new internet provider here for two days; they've worked a total of six hours trying to get  one router to work. Everyone is perplexed. I hope this issue can be resolved today. I am techno challenged, but it is terrible to hear the techs say, "I don't know what it could be. This is weird. Never had this happen before." UIGH! How am I ever going to print out my papers for our presentation?

Mother Nature went goofy. It is snowing great big snowflakes. But in another day the temperature will be in the 60s and 70s for the rest of the week.

Early in the morning, I was in the bathroom, when I saw the door open slowly and close several times. I thought the mister was playing a joke. Kitty No-No kept entering the bathroom hind legs first and darting out. I yelled for Bill to see what he was up to.

Well, see for yourself.  From now on, I will not hang my unmentionables on the door knob. He is a sweet kitty but could not figure out how to get untangled. It has been one of those days. I need chocolate.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Be still my heart...

The growing season is here a bit early this year. We've had an unusually warm March, broke a record with 82 degrees. I am not complaining. These images are what gets me out of the winter doldrums and makes me glad to be alive, renewed, and ready to tackle exercise. I walked a brisk mile in the neighborhood yesterday and snapped photos of signs of spring. My mom used to love the Bradford pear blossoms. She said they reminded her of little dainty buttons. When I see those white frills, I remember Mom, and the warm fragrant air blends with my memory of her vanilla scented perfume.
This tulip tree (magnolia?) made me sigh with satisfaction. I am witness to it slowly but surely, bud by bud, awakening. I always told my students that trees do not die when they lose their leaves. They go to sleep in winter. When I see these images, it is an awakening for me as well.
Forsythia bushes and daffodils are blooming along highway fence lines and yards all across town. Happy, hopeful, giddy, energized...that's what new life does for me.

Imagine my joy because of this little growing guy. Liam is 21 months old today. He jabbers all the time, sings and says, "There you go." and "Here you are." My daughter is his caregiver; she has an in home day care, and he calls her My Nana, to distinguish his position among the other kids I suppose. He sings, "Old MahDonald fahm,  E-I-E-I-O." He uses hand motions to indicate what I should do when I sing The Wheels on the Bus. He loves balloons and flags, and points out every flag he sees when we're in the car. He repeatedly says, "Hi Fwag, bye-bye fwag." REPEATEDLY. He hugged Pawpaw Bill goodbye on his own, which made Bill's day. He's standoffish with men, and hides his eyes, but we have had a breakthrough. Maybe it was because Paw-Paw pushed him on the swings earlier.
He came into our house in the morning and went right to the bathroom, pulled the shower curtain back and got out his bathtub toys. He is very loving, sweet and independent. 
I think he may be smiling so brightly because he got his first real kiss the other day. One of the little girls in day care is a month older than him. My daughter said to her, "Go kiss your baby sister; she's fussing. Aww, poor baby."
The little girl ran over, grabbed Liam by his cheeks, and planted a big one on his mouth. He looked stunned, then threw up his hands, laughed and said, "There you go, My Nana!"
She had to stop him from reciprocating.

Friday, March 11, 2016

An idol? Are you kidding me?

Before Donald Trump, there was Archie Bunker. I mean that literally and figuratively. Hubby and I were more interested in viewing Archie's fictional bigotry than the real bigotry of a certain candidate in the Republican debate last night.

After All in the Family went off, I grabbed the remote and switched to a news channel. There was a commercial on. Hubby looked up from his cell phone as Trump was hyping a crowd, shouting, "We will take America back!"
I asked Bill, "Who is WE?"

"I guess he and his wife."

"Ah, he should be arrested for inciting a riot! Those people think they are included in the WE." I left the room for a moment, and the next thing I hear is Bill shouting, "Come here! You won't believe what he's doing now to get attention. Look at the moderator showing all she's got!"
I gawked in disbelief at the scantily-clad woman seated and speaking into a microphone.
She said, "And we will soon know who the winner of this season's American..."

"AMERICAN FOOLS!" The big guy blurted.
I laughed until I cried when I realized the moderator was J-Lo, or was it Mariah, wrapping up an episode of America's favorite talent show before the News at Nine came on.

A few moments later the opening news image is of Donald Trump, very poised and calm, on stage with the other presidential hopefuls.
"Well, now he's toning it down." Bill said.

Tears were rolling down my cheeks.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Take heed!

                                          This reservoir sits on top of Taum Sauk Mountain in Reynold's County.
These warning signs are posted all over Johnson Shut Ins State Park. Locals pay heed. Following is an excerpt from an article posted by a local news channel, a little over five years ago.

 KSDK News-December 15, 2005
The upper reservoir at the Taum Sauk Dam failed early Wednesday morning, sending a wall of water rushing down the Black River. The reservoir is part of a power plant run by Ameren. A spokesperson says the break is 500 to 600 feet wide. The break sent a wall of water 200 yards wide down the side of the mountain, emptying the reservoir's 1.5-billion gallons in about 12-minutes. That's a rate of 125-million gallons per minute. Had it been summertime, hundreds of campers at Johnson Shut-ins may have been hit by the water. Company officials said Wednesday afternoon that instrument failure apparently caused the breach. The plant was maintained remotely during the overnight hours from a facility at the Lake of the Ozarks. Authorities in Reynolds County, Missouri say several communities have been evacuated. They say that as far as they know everyone has been accounted for.

A family of 5 was rescued shortly after the breach. The family was rescued when their home was swept away in the water. They live in the house because the father, Jerry Toops, is superintendent of Johnson Shut-Ins State Park near the base of the plant. Three of Toops' children, ages 5, 3, and 7 months, were hospitalized in critical condition. The children were found a quarter-mile away from their home, clinging to branches. The 5-year-old and 3-year-old were intubated with breathing troubles, meaning medical personnel are helping them breath. The 7-month-old was suffering from hypothermia. The older children were taken by ambulance to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, where they arrived at about 12:45 p.m. The youngest was eventually taken by helicopter, once the weather cleared, to Cardinal Glennon. A fourth person was also reportedly hospitalized.

A paramedic at the scene, Chris Hoover, said "We'll never see anything like it in our lifetime again." A truck driver, Greg Coleman, was hauling a load of zinc when he was hit by a wall of water. "I had no idea where it was coming from -- I travel this road every day," he said. Coleman climbed onto the roof and saw that another truck and a car were also submerged, with the drivers also on the roofs. The water receded within minutes. Coleman said he then heard a man screaming for help. Badly bruised, the man was clinging to a cedar tree while his young children held onto other trees. Rescue workers arrived and rescued the family. It is unclear if that was the family of Jerry Toops. Several vehicles, including a tractor trailer, were swept off of Highway N.

It could have been a terrible tragedy had this happened in the summer months.

Take a close look at these granite boulders where we used to swim in these natural pools and slides cut out by massive water and earth movement. In summer, those boulders are covered with people sunning, climbing and making their way into and out of the water. Bill's right; it's a young person's paradise.

We huffed and puffed up several flights on the refurbished trail. 

Bill took a look at the fallen log and dared me to walk across it. If I were younger...
You can't appreciate how high up we were, or how deep the ravine is from the angle of this picture.

When we were young we brought our children here and we all leapt from rock to rock.

Bill said, "This is a young man's dream and an old man's nightmare."
Hiking down to the water was much easier but still required a rest on the bench made of natural materials. 
 This is a wonderful place to visit of you want to take a day trip. There is a day use area and also a new camp ground across the road with paved pull in sites. A fun state park. Have you ever been to Johnson Shut Ins?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Quit playing tricks!

I took Liam to the zoo last Monday. He had just eaten scrambled eggs. When he saw this snake, he had no idea what it was because he has no frame of reference. He ran right to the eggs, and asked, "What dat?"  I said, "Those are eggs."
He said, "YUM!" and tired to pick them up, but of course they were part of the sculpture.
 Liam is an elephant lover, so imagine his delight when he saw this mama and baby eating.
He was very interested when the elephant swung at the container hanging in the tree. He laughed out loud when she used her trunk to knock unshelled peanuts onto the ground. Then she ate them. What a sight to behold.

I took him to the mall playground recently and put three quarters in a mechanical car. He screamed, terrified, and refused to ride. I thought he might be afraid of the zoo merry-go-round. He was so thrilled when that tiger took him around and around and moved up and down. I stood next to him and held him. I growled at him and told him the tiger was going to bite his arm. When I nibbled, he cackled. And to think, we have another Monday together. I am so blessed to be able to spend time with my great-grandson.

Come back later in the week to see where  Bill and I went last weekend. He said it was a young man's delight and an old man's fright. I assure you, you will enjoy the next post and photos. Locals will remember the horrific event related to this particular area in Missouri. Do come back.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Who stole our youth?

We attended a high school alumni luncheon last month for classes from 1942-1968. We were the spring chickens. Actually the people at the table in the background graduated a year ahead of us, so we all kind of sort of knew one another.
It was odd to see women in their 60s who had the same faces as the girls who used to be 17 years old, so familiar, but hard to put a name with. When we saw their name tags we realized, "YES! That's who she is. Bill and I sat with Ray, Phil and Pat (dated in high school and married after graduation) and Pat's sister, Sharon, a year behind our class. We share memories relevant only to us: the neighborhood where we turned in glass soda bottles for 2 cents per bottle refunds; the primitive football field, which was a lot, covered with cinders, a block away from school.
Following is an essay I wrote for the high school website.
In the mid 1960s, I lived near the wide intersection of Jefferson/Gravois/Sidney. On weekdays after school, I walked to Schmiemeyer’s Drug Store to purchase a newspaper for my parents. Outside of the drugstore there was a metal newspaper stand manned by a paperboy. If he wasn’t there, I simply took a newspaper from the shelf underneath and left the seven cents on top the stand, no slot, no locked box, just trust. On weekends around dusk, the distributor dumped bundled, 3" thick newspapers at the curb. Dozens of paperboys congregated on the corner to load their wagons; then they headed out on their particular routes. They tugged those wagons up and down the residential streets. The clanking of metal wheels, louder than the paperboys’ shouts, filled the night air.

Inside the drugstore, we swivelled on stools at the counter and drank fountain sodas with cherry flavoring. Late Saturday nights we hung out at the paper stand and “oohed” and “aahed”at the hot rods barreling down Gravois, headed to or from the drag strip.

Money was scarce, but we knew how to turn a dime. We’d scrounge around for glass soda bottles which often littered the ground. We’d turn them in at Mrs. Bean’s Confectionary on Sidney and Indiana and collect the 2 cents deposit on each 12 and 16 oz. bottle. We thought we hit a gold mine whenever we discovered a 32 oz. bottle; they were worth a nickel! When my future sister-in-law and I, both 15, came up with 50 cents, we’d head to Savorite Diner and order two Cokes and an order of fries to share. We thought we were cool in our pointy-toed Beatle Boots, white button-down shirts and turquoise stretch pants, our hair teased like a rat’s nest, peering out the plate glass window, hoping to get a glimpse of her boyfriend in his ‘57 Chevy.

Next door to the Jefferson-Gravois Bank, Hill Brothers Shoe Store had their slogan plastered across their front window. “Two for Five, Man Alive!” Those shoes wore out in less than a month. I bought flats in every pastel color imaginable, and also cheap white canvas shoes for P.E., required to be worn with those silly royal blue, bloomer gym suits.

The Gravois Show provided entertainment - a cartoon, previews and three shows, all for 50 cents; 35 cents on Tuesdays. The tiny “greasy spoon” next door to the show permeated the air with the aroma of fried onions. Two doors south of the show was the record shop where we could listen to 45 rpm records in a soundproof booth before purchasing. The proprietor displayed brochures, listing the top 10 songs on the Billboard Charts, and we often just went in to pick up KXOK or WIL handouts with the words to a hit song printed on the back.

Mimosa trees fragranced the summer nights as teen-aged boys and girls hung out on front porches on my block and talked until the wee hours, dreaming of tomorrow, planning our futures, wondering what would become of us. It was an innocent time; we were safe walking the streets and hanging out. Here we are in our mid sixties - my goodness, times have changed! But we haven't. Young at heart, we are still the kids of yesterday.