Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mistaken for a queen

 Summer is nodding the GO AHEAD to fall. Weather is delightful in St. Louis, low in the 50's and high in the 70's. Bill and I drove to the park and sat and watched the barges rolling-rolling-rolling down the river. This was a large sea worthy tug, so we imagined it was heading to New Orleans and out into the Gulf of Mexico. The leaves were click clacking in the breeze, the sun warmed us, and the hike did us good. This is my favorite time of year.

Liam has some good news. Doctor said he's healing fine and only has to wear his wrist brace during the day for two weeks. He will be glad to be free of it, but he has been a real sport.

I introduced him to Play-doh, and did he have fun poking beads from my bracelet into the soft clay.  

 I bought a bag of rice from the Dollar Store and divided it into four Zip-lock sandwich bags. Added a couple drops of food coloring and a couple drops of water, zipped the bag and shook until the rice was colored, then dried on a paper towel. This also works great using Kool-Aid; it adds fragrance.

The Bosnian lady next door has limited English, but tries so hard. She sat down to play in the pan of rice with Liam. She asked about his arm, and he babbled fast, "Lightning McQueen down steps." Telling her he rode his toy car down 5 carpeted stairs.

Her face flushed, she patted her heart, smiled broadly, laughed and said, "QUEEN?"

She thought he called her a queen. She was so thrilled.

I tell you this boy is a charmer. He saw two little girls visiting and said, "Hi friends, let's go play. My name is Liam, L-I-A-M.

He was playing at his grandma's today, looked up at the sky and said, "Wow, my Nana, look at the big clouds! So big, move so fast in the sky." He calls her My Nana to let the other day care kids know who she is to him. Ha ha.

 And this morning my other blue-eyed baby, Nicole, who is growing up way too fast, sang in her school's 3rd grade concert. We went out on the playground afterwards, and she snuggled on my lap as we ate chocolate covered coconut pieces. Never too big for a little loving.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Did you see a mermaid in the park?

We were surprised to see the American Queen Riverboat docked on the riverfront, here in St. Louis. Passengers boarded a large motor coach to see the sights around town. We've taken sea cruises before, but this seemed like a fun way to travel. Have you ever taken a river cruise?

Then we went for ice cream with my daughter and her husband, drove to a nearby park to sit and enjoy our treat. What delightful surprises we came upon in Francis Park. Today was the Art in the Park Fair. The trees were adorned with colorful paper globes.
 What a lovely sculpture, perfect for lovers taking a stroll or grandmas telling their special one how much he or she is loved.

The little dragon sculpture in the basin must trip every child's imagination.
 And look at this fantastic, tree top-high high, and oh so colorful piece of art.

This is  one of my favorites. 
 Here is a close up of the little mermaid reading a book. She's made of concrete and decorated with bits of mirror and cut glass. What a wonderful creation.

So many surprises to be found among all the gorgeous lily pads and flowers. Made me thankful.

There were so many artists displaying and selling their wares in this park and around town this weekend at fall festivals. One  was the Strange Festival. We did not go to that one. One of the artists was featured on the news. She makes jewelry out of human teeth, hair, fake eyes. Not my thing. I'm sure there were more strange things, but I wasn't that curious.

Summer is hanging on one more day and then making way for fall. High of 72 degrees tomorrow. I'm ready. Liam and I will surely spend it outdoors doing something fun. Have a great week, everyone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Mighty fine, but it's not mine.

This time it's not mine!

The easy-to-read, short chapters in Chicken Soup for the Soul Simply Happy, are gleaned from author, Amy Newmark's own life, as well as some of the thousands of stories from Chicken Soup for the Soul contributors. 

This 260 page book is filled with motivational thoughts and quotes, practical advice to improve one's life, and positive tips that lead to more self-confidence. Newmark shares family stories and photos, her personal strengths and weaknesses, and she graciously gives readers a glimpse into her company's workings. 

Amy Newmark, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul, intimately connects with the reader when she admits she suffers from what psychologists refer to as "Imposter Syndrome."
Short chapters, life saving tips, and topics on how to say no and when to say yes; inspirational unexplained happenings; dream analysis; and the power of forgiveness (to  name a few) provide a satisfying read.

Newmark playfully entertains as she shares her latest and greatest decision on her mode of  arrival at her upcoming vacation destination —a revelation that made me gasp. 

I was slightly distracted by the author "telling" the reader she was going to tell us something at the beginning of the chapter. I prefer to just read about the topic. But other than that, I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. It is so much more than a self-help book! It is an inside glimpse into who Amy Newmark is: a likable, down-to-earth, author, Editor-in-Chief, and owner of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Other than an advance copy of the book, I am not being compensated for my review.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

But what if...and, and, and...

My story Two Little Words With a Big Impact, previously published in Chicken Soup for the Soul My Resolution, and also in Chicken Soup for the Soul Raising Good Kids, is one of 19 stories selected for Chicken Soup for the Soul Guided Journal. 

According to Amy Newmark, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, guided journaling is the next big thing to the adult coloring book craze. This new format is called a "bookazine." Like magazines, they're displayed in the magazine area of stores and newsstands, but like books these are designed to be kept, not tossed or passed on after they're read. They will be available only for a brief few weeks before they disappear from newsstands and become collectibles.

I was surprised when I opened the mail and saw this beautiful cover. The size and weight of the book is different form the typical CS collection, and I couldn't imagine why I had received it. I flipped through the pages and saw a completely different format. Then I read the enclosed letter and realized what an honor it is to have my story included in this inaugural edition.

 Along with a companion page to my story (which is about choosing to rephrase and use the word "and" instead of "but") there is a journal page where the reader is encouraged to write five sentences  using the word BUT, then rephrasing by eliminating the word BUT and using the word AND.

As I flipped through the pages, I noted places to doodle, color, write personal notations, one word thoughts, paragraphs, inspirational feelings, honest self evaluations. On and on and on.

That is when I decided that Chicken Soup for the Soul is onto something! Most readers, unless they authored one of the 101 stories included in the typical CS books, often pass the books on to friends or family. You can find them in thrift stores.

These journals are different, they are the owner's legacy to be treasured and eventually bequeathed to  family members and shared by future generations. Wouldn't you love to read your mom's or grandmother's thoughts and personal comments in her own handwriting?

Each of the 19 stories has a companion page. Mine has space to write five sentences. This is my first entry on that page. Think positive.

I have an 80,000 word fiction manuscript that needs to be revised, but why should I bother? An agent told me, "Who cares about the 60's? I lived through that decade. I certainly don't want to read about it!"

I have an 80,000 word manuscript that needs to be revised, and even though an agent rudely rejected it, I feel as though the daughters of those who lived through the 60's may be interested in what their mothers experienced.

My dear readers, the journal is affordable at $9.99 and will be collectible, and would make a great gift for someone you love, and don't forget one for yourself. Leave your legacy for future generations.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Have you noticed any changes lately?

Despite the fact that I was stung by a bee on the side of my forearm Monday and am having a reaction, as in red, raised, hot welt, itching and burning, I still went into the yard among the winged stingers as promised, so I could bring to you the blooming Sedum flowers and all the insects they attract. That is not dirt near my elbow; it really is a shadow.

 This is a Cercropia moth. I know because I used to "hatch" one in my classroom. Moths have feathery antenna as opposed to butterflies which have spiky ones.

I ordered a cocoon from a science lab and kept it in a screened cage for weeks, and on Show and Tell day, I would remove it, gently place it in each child's hand and shake it a bit so they could feel movement inside. One day we came into the classroom and it had nibbled its way out of the cocoon. We read about and observed, and acted out the metamorphosis of the caterpillar. A couple days later, we took the moth outside, placed it on a bush, recited the caterpillar poem, and sang the butterfly song, and watched it fly away, high over the rooftop of our school.

My friend, Sioux, who knows how much I love the beach,  gave me this wonderful shell hanging wind chime. I sit on the patio gaze at it, reminisce, hope, wish, pray, and observe nature all around. 

This week the yard activity is spectacular, because the sedum is in bloom, attracting many insects. Birds are chattering and cardinals are frequenting the bird bath as fat rabbits sit and watch.

This is a patch of wildflowers at the St. Louis Zoo, recently named the best FREE zoo in the U.S. I just thought they looked pretty. Don't you?

 I loved this view through the bushes. Don't know if the water fowl are pelicans, cranes or storks, but I know that orange bird is a flamingo. Did you know the more shrimp they eat, the more pinkish-orange they become?

I spied this black Colocasia (kol-oh-KAY-shah) nearby. I always called them elephant ears. I had never seen black ones. There are six species of tuberous perennials from the rain forest and are grown  in tropical Asia as food. "Black Magic" seems an appropriate name. Don't you think?
As the days grow shorter and cooler, observe the activity in nature as animals, birds, insects and the land gets ready for autumn and winter's big sleep.

Lima and his mama were picking a peck of peppers from paw-paw's garden. Say that five times. The last good tomato was snatched by a fluffy tailed squirrel. He carried it off in his mouth, wobbling down the fence because that tomato was as big as his head.

Look closely and you can see this monarch's probiscus as it sucks nectar from the flower.

And this is my favorite butterfly. If you haven't guessed, it is a solar powered garden butterfly with LED color changing lights that flash all night long, a gift from my son and his family.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Whiling away the week

Saturday evening we joined my daughter Tracey and her husband Dave, and their neighbors for a concert at a park. That 80s Band rocked those old songs, and yes, we were all compelled to get up and get our groove on. We left before the concert ended at 11:00 p.m. intending to beat the crowd.  

The van in front of us got stuck in the mud, and it was like watching Laurel and Hardy trying to hook up a tow rope and get it out of the muck. 

Liam is on a dinosaur kick. I took him to the Science Center on Monday, a free attraction in our town. This animated dinosaur scared his mama half to death when she was his age. I prepared him for it, gave him a  frame of reference. I told him the dinosaur was not real, and it was so tall its head was up at the top of an apple tree and it could eat an apple with one bite.

He loved it! He ran up to the Stegosaurus and said, "Aww, rhinoceros, you night-night?" His vocabulary is amazing for a 2 yr 2 month old wild child. He now calls it stegosaurus.
 Friday was a rainy day. Liam asked, "Go see the big dinosaur, Nana?" How could I say no?

He looks like a sad little waif here, but actually he was jabbering away looking up at the huge creature, preparing his own dinosaur. "Big dinosaur not hurt you. It's not real, Big toy. Robot toy, dinosaur. Don't be afraid. It's okay."
He kept saying, "Wow! Big teef!" So, a docent came over and allowed him to touch a real dinosaur tooth fossil. He saw a poster of a dinosaur and showed me the big teeth.
 There was a motion activated movie viewing wall. As Liam approached, a woman and man scientist appeared on screen and said, "Hey, come over here and we'll tell you more about dinosaurs." Liam ran over and stopped abruptly, touched their images, turned around and looked at me, confused. He shrugged his shoulders and went over to the dinosaur dig filled with bits of  shredded tire material, shovels and paint brushes to unearth the fossils.

He grabbed a paint brush and ran over to the big T Rex, raised the brush in the air and shouted, "Big dinsoaur, I paint your big teef?"  Paint brushes have one use according to him: painting. One day he'll learn all about paleontology.

There is a glass enclosed pedestrian bridge over the interstate which connects the Planetarium and Science Center. Kids can use real radar guns to see how fast the cars are speeding by. There are also plexiglass viewing windows on the floor. Liam identified each shape and ran to look down on the cars zooming by. "I see the triangle window. Wow! Nana, look at the cars."

 Back home, his dinosaurs watched as he did some busy work. I placed him in his booster seat to contain this overactive little guy. I made holes in one of his cardboard building blocks and gave him a handful of golf tees. He thought he was just playing, but actually when he pokes one tee in each hole, he is developing hand eye coordination and small finger muscles which he will use one day for printing...and writing cursive, because I will insist upon that.  No keyboard is going to replace his penmanship. Leave it to Nana.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A wee bit of frivolity from the old folks today

I saw a photo on Facebook of President Obama in a suit lying on his back on the floor, his arms extended, holding a baby wearing a bunny snow suit above him. They are looking into one another's face. It is a precious image.

Triggered a memory I had almost forgotten. Twenty-three years ago we were babysitting Bill's first grandchild. Grandpa laid on his back on the carpet, extended his arms and lifted baby Kyle above his head. Face to Face, eye to eye...I wish I had taken a photo of that special bonding moment of Grampy jostling the baby and the baby cooing. Bill turned his head to the side. Talk about getting an ear full. Baby Kyle filled Bill's ear with spit up, and I laughed until I cried.

One time my honey was babysitting, and he called me at work to ask when I'd be home. He had a major issue. So I hurried home to discover month-old Kyle had pooped and was wearing a long legged onesie that had only four snaps at the crotch. Bill was frantic because he could not get Kyle's newborn bent legs out of there to change him. Again, I laughed.

Another time, he carried sleeping Kyle, in his pumpkin seat with a baby blanket tossed over it. He placed the baby carrier on the couch, and when I uncovered him, the baby was upside down. His head was at the bottom of the seat and his tiny legs were at the top. Did I laugh? Well, you know me.

Last night I mentioned that a bug had bit me. My funny honey said, "That bug must have good taste in women." HE is the reason for many of my laugh lines.

Want to share anything that made you laugh or smile big.

Local writers or readers interested in guest speakers at the library in Frontenac on Lindbergh? Mary Karr, memoirist (The Liar's Club) will be speaking Thursday evening.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Cultivating your craft

On our evening walk, hubby and I discovered some delightful things on the school playground in our neighborhood. At the base of a tree, we found all these little decorative fairy stones probably designed by kindergarten students. 
Are you using your creativity to bake a yummy dish, create a fall craft, or craft a story?
This stepping stone reminds me of the photo albums of long ago when I had to lick the little black sticky triangles that held each corner of the picture in scrap books.

 It is your job as a writer to be observant. I imagine an older teacher was in charge of this classroom project, and the students were probably in 8th grade from the size of those thumbprint bees. What other things can you deduce from examining this photo? Leave a comment.                                                                                                                                                      
Last spring before school was dismissed for summer break, we noticed a community garden at the back of the school. We watched it wither in the oppressive summer heat, snap back after a rain, and against all odds, because Mother Nature was its only caretaker, produce produce.
 Did my last sentence make you stop, stumble, go back and read? If you are writing a manuscript, you do not want too many of these kinds of speed bumps. They cause the reader to stop and reread to discover where emphasis should be on which syllable.
Take a look at the foreground of this picture. See the parched hole in the ground from which this vine is growing? Trail up that one skinny vine and discover the lone prize tomato it produced. I am certain one of the classrooms is waiting for it to ripen. One day someone will notice a glimmer of red, and every student will be so proud. That is unless a squirrel makes off with that Big Boy, as they have been doing with our garden. They waddle down the fence carrying tomatoes as large as their heads.
The message here is good things come to those who wait. And sometimes, no matter how great a masterpiece you produce, it doesn't make it to the desired end result. In a writer's case, that would be publication. What if every disappointed gardener decided not to try again the next year? If you are a writer, don't give up. One day your story may crop up in a magazine, book, or on line.  
This sunflower has taken nourishment from the soil to provide nourishment for insects and birds.
Writers are a community of strugglers who persevere, give up, plow on, and  share their bounty. If you've been dormant too long, spent the summer away from writing (or whatever creative endeavor), get back into the swing of things. Cooler days are headed our way. Refreshing, cool morning air is one of my inspirations. What are yours?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The colors of September

The last days of summer are dwindling, and spending time outdoors in nature makes me feel so happy. This picture was taken two years ago. Our leaves are not changing yet, but before you know it these colors will be debuting again. Meanwhile, I'd like to share a few vibrant or dull colors with you.

Years ago I had a royal blue swimsuit, and the top of it was colored with a spray of bright, pink flowers with yellow centers. 

We were at Johnson Shut Ins, a place where granite boulders jut out of the land and river. They form natural pools and slides.

I was lying on my back in a shallow natural pool. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them a few moments later, I held my breath and hardly moved a muscle. I could not believe my eyes. That floral design had attracted more than a dozen dragon flies. I observed as they tried in vain to get nectar from those fake flowers. The picture is still vivid in my mind, but there is no way to prove it. No photo.

The other day Liam and I were walking around a lake, and a beautiful black and blue butterfly landed at his feet. I told him when he sees something beautiful in nature, he should say, "Thank you, God for my eyes." It was so cute to hear his little voice raised in praise. Then he asked the butterfly, "I hold you?" 

He ran after it, but of course it flew away, and he was off to chase the ducks.

Mother Nature is just about finished with our tomatoes. The birds and squirrels have been devouring them, and we really don't mind. They've already lost their flavor on the vine. 

The apples on our neighbor's tree are sun kissed and ripening.

And the squash is overtaking everything.

Someone gave me BLACK petunias. Those yellow ones are artificial flowers to add a bright color. Liam's sweet little doggy statue watches over them.

The sedum is ready to erupt any day now in pinkish-purple blossoms, and when that happens, they will be covered with all sorts of insects, from bumble bees to honey bees, butterflies, moths, flies and every kind of winged insect. See my sweet little birthday plant, (an impatiens?) from Nicole. 

I am so grateful for my eyes and all the wonderful colors I see each day. Yesterday after a downpour there was a vibrant rainbow. I did not get a photo in time. You can bet when the sedum is in full bloom, I will post photos of that.