Monday, June 27, 2016

I was almost a jail bird

Continued from previous post. This is an excerpt from my memoir.

Jeri's beautiful head shot photo and fabricated life story attracted numerous responses from gentlemen in the lower forty-eight. She ripped open one envelope after another from guys of all ages who subscribed to the Lonely Hearts Club Magazine. They were intent on not only corresponding with her, but meeting the Alaska beauty who allegedly owned a sprawling horse ranch, sled dogs and even a gold mine, I think.
We laughed out loud at their responses.

"Aren't you afraid of getting caught in all these lies?" I asked.

Sheila said, "Aw, Linda's a goody two shoes. She's paranoid. A chicken! Afraid of her own shadow." She looked at me, "Aren't you? You think guys don't make up stuff all the time and tell us lies?"
Well, it wasn't my problem and I wasn't on the prowl, so I laughed right along and helped Jeri construct her next personal ad.

Our conversations veered in every direction. Sheila and I shared with Jeri the details of our experience the day before at the trailer court up the road. While waiting for a load of laundry to dry at the Evergreen Laundromat, Sheila  had suggested we visit Janet and see their litter of puppies.

"I'm telling you, Jeri, it was like stepping into a litter box," Sheila said. "A damned litter box.  We walked up to Janet and Sonny Boyd's  ramshackle trailer and knocked. Janet shouted, 'Come in.'  I swear to gawd, we opened the door and stepped into a mound of soft puppy poop. Everywhere we looked there were puddles and piles, and the place reeked." Sheila wrinkled her nose and "ewwed".
I continued, "Yeah,  we slipped and slid through that mess. The whole litter was running wild so we got out of there. We scraped our shoes in gravel all the way through the trailer court and back to the laundromat. Didn't we?"

Sheila nodded. "It was wicked filthy, a litter box like you couldn't believe."
Jeri said, "A litter box, huh? That gives me an idea. I'm really good at art. I could make a big sign and hang it at the entrance to their trailer court as a practical joke. What do you say?"

Sheila tossed her auburn hair back and laughed, "Ah ha-ha-ha, YES!"
"I don't know about that. What if we get caught? Mac and John could get an Article 15 because of us."

"Quit with the paranoia. You worry too much." Sheila dismissed my comment.
Jeri took her Lonely Hearts Club Magazine and said she'd be back the next day to show us her art work.

Sheila and I happened to be walking across the parking lot at Diehl's store when Jeri pulled alongside us in her small car and shouted,  "Hurry, get in. Don't let anyone see my sign."
The 3 foot high by 4 foot wide illustration took up the entire back seat and lay heavy against our legs.  The likeness of  Pluto was definitely a Disney patent infringement. Jeri painted Pluto lifting his leg and peeing a stream onto a kitten.

"Wow! You ARE an artist. This looks professionally done," Sheila bragged. We laughed giddily as she drove across the parking lot, across the highway, and down School Road to Sheila's red trailer.

The foot high, bold, highlighted lettering in red, black and yellow read: BOYD'S LITTER BOX. The three of us snuck that sign into Sheila's trailer and laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks. When our husbands came home we showed them. Practical jokers themselves, Mac and John wanted in on the fun. 
At 10:00 p.m. Mac knocked on our door. "You guys ready? I've got the hammer and nails. Come on. 
It's pitch dark and no one can see us; let's go."

John and Mac carried the sign between them as though they were each holding an end of a banner in a hometown parade. We marched across an open field. "This sucker's heavy. What'd she use, half inch plywood?" John asked.
"Listen Jawn, here's the plan," Mac said. "I'll stand at the base of the telephone pole and give you a lift. You climb on my shoulders. Sheila can help lift the sign, and Linda will hand you the hammer and nails. Pound that sign as high as you can get it, and we'll get the hell out of there, FAST!"

We were half way across the open field across the road behind Jack' s gas station heading towards the highway when I chickened out and started babbling. "Listen, John, I don't think we ought to do this. Let's not get involved. I mean, we could all be in jail by morning for this crime."
"Jeeze, Linder! What crime? All we're doing is hanging a sign," Mac barked into the stillness.

John laughed. Sheila taunted, "You big baby. Come on, what are you scared of?"
We darted across the two lane Richardson Highway. When headlights illuminated the four of us standing at the side of the road, I plastered myself behind the wooden light pole.

"See what I mean! I'm not getting caught! I'm leaving. That might have been somebody who recognized us. Or the State Patrol."
"Go on home then. Go!" Sheila snapped.

When the car passed and we were certain we were in the clear, I decided I had nothing to lose as I was already an accessory. I stood passively and watched John shove his combat boot into Mac's cupped hands and mount his shoulders. Sheila helped balance the sign, and we all lifted it. I stretched to give John the hammer and nails. He pounded-pounded and bounded down in a single leap. The four of us ran laughing breathlessly into the night across the highway, through the field, and into our own trailers.
The next day when the guys went to work, Jeri drove Sheila and me onto the highway to view our combined handiwork. We giggled like kids, proud of our prank, and we bragged on and on about her professional artistry.

At the end of the day, Sheila and I ran outside to greet Mac and John as they came walking down the gravel road after work.
"Anybody mention our sign?"

The guys laughed hysterically and doubled over. Hacked and coughed and spat. Hot headed Bob who had a hair trigger temper, was storming down the road ahead of them toward home, the last trailer on our road.
"What's so funny and what did you guys do to him? he wouldn't even say ho when he passed us."

Mac guffawed and sputtered. "Sonny told us on base today about the sign with his name on it.

John hee-hawed, hacked and coughed. "Bob said,  'That was a lousy damn thing to do to Boyd and if I find out who hung that sign, I'll help Sonny kick their asses."

Mac cackled and hacked. "And Jawn here said, 'Start kicking ass, man, 'cause me and Mac did it.'
Dumb ass here admitted to it."

John snorted. "Yeah, but he called me a damned liar and stomped ahead of us cussing. He doesn't believe us."

The next morning Bob stormed up the road ahead of Mac and John headed toward the highway to hitch a ride to post. He glared at them.

"Hey, Bob, we did it!" They taunted him.

"Yeah, sure! Screw you!" he shouted over his shoulder.

A week passed and the buzz on base was that Sonny was bragging  that tourists arriving at the end of  the Alcan highway spied his sign: Boyd's Litter Box. They pulled into the trailer court and asked about puppies for sale. Sonny loved the sign, said he might be able to get rid of all the pups because of it.

Weeks later, with the mutts all sold for probably five bucks a piece, Sonny climbed that telephone pole in broad daylight and removed Geri's sign. The next day on their way home Sonny told Mac and John he like the damned thing so much he had nailed it to the paneling at the head of his and Janet's bed. 

"I sure wish I could find out who did it," he said. John and Mac laughed and back slapped one another.
"Yeah-yeah, I know, Bob tried to tell me you guys did it, but he's crazy and I know damn well you guys can't paint like that."

Transient soldiers were forever coming and going, moving into and out of the four trailer courts around town with their families. When Sonny and Janet headed home to Ohio, Jeri's sign sold right along with their trailer and its contents.

I was tempted to give the next family a heads up about the headboard, but sometimes it's best to just let sleeping dogs lie.

Those were the days...

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Embellishing, or how's that again?!

Reported on Good Morning America today: a father in Utah has posted a newspaper ad seeking a wife for his 48 year old son. All because he wants grandchildren.
This reminded me of someone I met when I lived in a tiny Alaska wilderness town in 1969-'70.

Jerilyn was a bored local who grew up in that town. She was unmarried, 20 years old, the same age as my neighbor and best friend Sheila and me, both soldier's wives. There was no mail delivery in town. We met Geri at the tiny closet-sized post office where townspeople trekked everyday to pick up mail from individual post office boxes. She looked a lot like present day actress, Melissa McCarthy. She was very artistic and had a great sense of humor and adventure. Jeri provided many hours of entertainment for us.
The population numbered less than 500 permanent residents; Jeri's dating pool was limited. She decided to seek a boyfriend through a magazine called The Lonely Hearts Club. This was before internet dating sites or cell phones.

The three of us sat in my kitchen and devised a great personal ad for the lonely men in the lower 48 states. We couldn't wait for Jeri's visits. We lived vicariously through her correspondences. As she read her letters aloud, we giggled like school girls at the innuendo, propositions, the pleading, the promises these fellows of all ages made.
It's no wonder she received dozens of letters daily. Who could resist such temptations?

Twenty-hours of daylight in summer;  hundreds of acres of wide open spaces to ride the horses that I raise. I enjoy big game hunting and fishing in fall. Aurora Borealis to light up our winter night skies as we snowmobile across the tundra, then snuggle by a blazing fire in my cabin.   
Jeri still hadn't selected a partner or met any of her suitors by the time we left in October 1970, but she certainly received many proposals.

There is a difference between embellishing, stretching the truth, and outright lying. Jeri always wanted to raise horses. There were hundreds of acres of wide open spaces, but she didn't own them. Big game hunting was a possibility, but she never participated. Snow mobiles were the only mode of transportation for the bush country, but most residents in town pulled up to the general store or post office in pickup trucks with Huskies barking in the back. Jeri's "log cabin" was an old trailer home.  
Part of storytelling is painting a word picture that keeps your reader interested. There is a time and place in your writing for embellishing, but I think truth must be told when placing a personal ad.

What do you think?

A year after I returned home, Jeri married a man from Fairbanks, a town an hour a way. They divorced a few years later, and we lost contact.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Happy Birthday to a special lady

Happy birthday to my sweet, fun, and funny mom in heaven. I'm sure the angels are rejoicing.

One year my mother accompanied me and my class to the Magic House Children's Museum. At the end of our tour and play time, we had story time. The story was about a baby bunny. The presenter brought out a baby bunny for the children to pet. She placed that cute little fur ball into my mom's hands and asked her to walk around with it so each child could stroke its fur. The rabbit bailed, hopped right out of Mom's hands and as she bent down to pick it up, the bunny hopped.

Mom hopped after it, and just as she was about to grab it, that little critter took off again, hop-hop-hop, then Mom bent over and hopped-hopped-hopped. She chased that little bun-bun  all over the room.

The kids were laughing themselves silly, and admittedly, so was I.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

He's going to make a big splash one day!

Waiting in line for pool to open.     Enjoying the pool.
Sorrow hangs heavy on my heart today, and my eyes brim with tears. I fear for my great-grandson's safety and future, because this world is in such chaos. My prayers are with the victims, survivors, the families of the Orlando massacre, and also all those across the globe who are suffering in so many ways.

Please keep my writer friend, Claudia Mundell, in your thoughts and prayers as she battles cancer.

I feel blessed with this little boy in our lives. I absolutely know Liam will make a difference in this world. He has a depth of understanding, love, humor, communication, and compassion that is way beyond his years. He sings complete songs and has a great repertoire.

I took him swimming yesterday at the pool. He kept saying, "Fun, Nana."

When he awoke from his nap, he sat on his potty chair and was successful.  I jumped up and down and cheered. He burst out laughing and said, "Oh Nana, you so fuuuunnnnyyy!"

I am thinking about writing a children's book titled the Old One and the Young One. Liam and I so enjoy each other's company. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I am still touched by him.

Stephen walked into my classroom at age three, shorter than a yardstick, weighing less than a sack of potatoes, sprouting a mop of hair the color of a new penny, wearing an ear to ear grin. His green eyes conveyed mischief. He had an elfin charm, and he was quite the character, despite his congenital birth defect. Born without a pulmonary artery, he tired easily and struggled to keep up with his peers. I had to make many accommodations for him. I became very attached to this little boy.  
By age five, his weakened immune system made him susceptible to childhood illnesses and resulted in frequent hospitalizations. When he was too tired to be tutored, I allowed him to teach me – about his favorite television program, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He was an expert on every aspect of the show, especially his favorite, Michael Angelo, who wore a mask that was the same color as Stephen’s hair.

After one of his hospitalizations, when Stephen was strong enough to return to my classroom, I surprised him. I purchased an oversized stuffed Michael Angelo with classroom funds.  Stephen's laughter and squeals made my heart swell with love. Although he could barely see over the top of it or wrap his arms around it, he dragged his best buddy everywhere and told his classmates every last detail about his favorite Ninja Turtles episodes.
Stephen  eventually went on to big school and I continued my close relationship with him and his family. When he underwent reconstructive heart surgery, his recovery was slow. Some days were fairly good, but others were unimaginably painful and depressing for him. He lay exhausted, his face as bloated as the helium balloons swaying above his bed.

“I miss the good old days,” he’d say, “you know, before my face got so fat (from meds) and I had this trache.” He pointed to the breathing apparatus in his throat. During thunderstorms he’d matter-of-factly announce, “That’s my friend Katie up there bouncing on the clouds again.”

When frustration, pain and aggravation consumed him, he’d point with what he called his “E.T. finger”, his index finger with the red light indicator clip, and he’d yell at his doctors and nurses, “That’s it! You’re fired!”

His mom sat by his bed at night and gazed out the window.  Stephen tried his best to comfort her.

“Don't worry, Mom. See the man in the moon? He's smiling at us.”

Ann smiled, but she wasn’t able to distinguish the imaginary features Stephen and others claimed to see when they looked at the full moon.

 As he suffered one set back after another, Stephen declared one day, “I just want to go home to my real dad.” His mother assured him that his father would be arriving soon. He looked at his mom and clarified, “Duh! My real dad, GOD!”

On a balmy June day, at age nine and a half, Stephen finally went home to his real dad. Racked with unbearable grief, rage, and unanswerable questions, his mother, unable to sleep that night, walked outside into the yard and gazed heavenward. For the very first time in her life, Ann swears she saw it…the man in the moon smiling right at her.
This was originally published years ago in St. Louis Southside Suburban Journals.

Stephen would be 30 years old this week. As I was typing this, I swear I felt a nudge on my back. Looked around, no cat, no hubby, nobody I could see. But I think I know who it was.



Monday, June 6, 2016

The lessons they have taught me...

Are you timid? Afraid of failure?

 Liam is almost two years old, and it has taken him this long to get over his fear of Paw-Paw. The last two months he's come close and given him a high five when he leaves our house. But when Paw-paw talks to him, he covers his eyes. Then last week, he jumped up on Paw-Paw's recliner and went for a ride! I love this photo because it proves what I've been trying to tell him for two years, it's not as bad as he imagined. Now, they are best buds.
Sometimes our worst fears never materialize.Suddenly Liam has discovered self-confidence. He attended his great grandma's funeral visitation and walked up and down the main aisle greeting newcomers, waving and saying, "Hello!" or "Goodbye."
He threw me kisses that landed on my nose. I said, "Eww!" and pretended to wipe them off.  Repeatedly. It made him giggle from the bottom of his belly... and every one else laugh, too.

Sometimes it takes longer for some of us to come into our own, to find our voice, our confidence. If you have always wanted to be a writer, DON'T WAIT! Start writing.

Nicole is eight years old and quite an artist. Every one starts out a beginner. Her stick figure people  have evolved into two dimensional illustrations; she sees depth; her perception has improved. It's just like with writing. We start with simple sentences and move on to complex constructions.

Nicholas is 14 and heading to high school in the fall. He excels at sports, and shh! keep it a secret; coach is going to put him on Lacrosse varsity team in freshman year. He's that good. He works at his sport. In the past year, I don't think there's ever been a time I haven't see him with that stick and ball.
Same with writing; you can't improve if you don't stretch your muscles and learn your craft.
Congratulations to Madison, our most recent high school graduate. She is going to be a fine nurse one day. She has a caring nature, great personality, and determination. Nurse, writer, whatever occupation... one must persevere, learn as much as possible, and be open to new techniques.  
George has completed his first year of college, and he's  grown in so many ways. I don't know about you, but I wasn't ready for New York when I was 18. This big guy, now 19, has been travelling the country for three years. He was on a select and pro volley ball team. He plays varsity for his college and excels at his studies. Remember, those who want something bad enough will work hard and do almost anything to achieve their goals.
Sean, who is trying his best to outgrow Paw-Paw, is going to be a senior in the fall. He already knows he wants a career as a firefighter/paramedic and which branch of service he's considering. He is a determined young man, and we are proud of each and everyone of our grandchildren, even those not pictured.

How about you? Is there something you've been wanting to do?

Ready, set, GO!

Friday, June 3, 2016

All I need is an apple pie!

All I need is a great big lattice crust apple pie in this photo to represent some of the things that make my life in America great. Kitty No-No knows one word, and that is EAT. He runs to the kitchen when I say that word. He's my sweet old boy who rolls on his back for a belly rub. The book in this photo will be available Tuesday. My latest story is in Chicken Soup for the Soul Spirit of America. Baby Liam's image on a pillow in a beach chair reminds me of all the beach vacations I have ever taken. One day I hope to see his little footprints in the wet sand. America is changing. Agree?
"Only in America" is a phrase I've heard many times. Its implication is that our constitution assures citizens many freedoms. Lately those three words have taken on new meaning. 
The morning news covered political chaos and bloody riots at a rally. Hand to hand combat for differences of opinions?! What has America come to?
More than ten years ago we were at the airport waiting to board a plane. I was seated near the gate across from an attractive, well-dressed Russian woman and her male companion, about 30 years old. The woman's tone of voice (in Russian), her facial expression, and animated movements indicated agitation.

Takeoff  had been delayed due to a mechanical problem. Airport personnel made an announcement that repairs were underway and our flight would be postponed about an hour.
An hour had passed and the woman shook her head and angrily asked me in English, "Do you believe this delay!? In America you can say what you want. That's right? Yes?"

I nodded politely. "Yes, pretty much so."

"Not in Russia." She turned to her partner and sounded off again.
When she wasn't complaining to him, she paced the concourse, her high heels clicking. She stood at the window and stared at the plane. She flicked her long hair back off her face, click clacked over to me and sat in an empty chair beside me.
 "So, why you don't go ask them how much longer!? You are an American. You Americans have freedom of speech, no? You can find this out for me."

I smiled and nodded. "Yes, we have freedom of speech, but the gate attendant can't answer that question. They will let us know as soon as the repairs are made, and then we can board. It shouldn't be too long. See that mess out there." I pointed to a puddle of engine fluid beneath the plane. "The mechanics are fixing the problem. It won't be much longer."
"But, how long?! Why won't you go ask? You're not upset?!" She stared at me in disbelief, sized me up. Then she flipped her hair, raised her chin, moved back to her original seat, and complained loudly in English to anyone who would listen. With a broad sweep of her hand, she addressed the crowd, "Only in America! All you people, and not one of you speaks up. I do not understand this. What good is freedom of speech if you people do not use it?"

Most ignored her, and she finally quieted down. After a two hour delay, we boarded the plane for our long-anticipated vacation, and I had no further contact with her.

Although that incident happened years ago, it serves as a reminder of my right to dissent, to protest, to question, to express an opinion, to write about an incident and to question authority.

Yes, indeed, speaking up and speaking out are privileges and constitutional rights most of us take for granted. From the cradle to the grave we assert ourselves, mostly without fear of repercussion. Whether we are speaking, signing, blabbing face to face, or on cell phones, freedom of speech is our birthright.

I regret not explaining to the irate passenger that demanding and protesting loudly does not always bring desired results. Freedom of speech also involves making wise word choices. Tone of voice conveys as great a message as words.

I've taught my children and grandchildren that although they have the freedom to use hostile, demanding verbiage to assert themselves, calmly addressing a situation usually makes for a more peaceful outcome.

Where has civility gone?