Monday, July 31, 2017

Wild animals need love, too.

I went outside last evening at dusk to water the thirsty plants. I was rolling up the hose when I heard a guttural growl. I froze, looked around, but I didn't see a thing out of the ordinary. As I laid the nozzle on top of the wound up hose, I heard an angry animal grumble. I looked behind the large plastic trash bin thinking it might be the over-sized raccoon I saw climbing the fence the other night. Nothing there!

I grabbed the closest thing I could find, a beach towel on the patio table. I armed myself, crept into the driveway, bent down and looked under the parked car, ready to swat at that thing if it came at me...and that's when I saw his legs. He knew I saw him, and when he tried to snarl, he bared his teeth and laughed out loud.

I think playfulness is important in a marriage. My honey and I are forever playing "Gotcha!" This time he got me good. All work and no play...well you know the rest about how dull it can be.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A couple of reasons to SMILE

My greatest thrill this week has been receiving an award-winning acceptance from Metro Arts in Transit.

My poem, Family Reunion, will be riding the rails in 2018. It will be posted on Metro Link trains or Metro buses, along with other local writers' poetry.

Perhaps my words will convince someone else to try their hand at writing a poem. Many people shy away from poetry for various reasons. I hope this demonstrates how simple it can be to connect with the reader through plain speak and imagery. Not all poems are indecipherable or ambiguous. I can't wait to share it with you, soon.

Another honor! My wonderful dentist, Holly Ellis, said she enjoyed reading my previous blog post about the killer dentists I have known, and she wants to post it on her website.

She and her staff are  remarkable. They are intuned to the patient's every need, and connect on a personal as well as professional level. I feel as though I am visiting old friends when I go for my appointments. If you are looking for a new dentist, this state of the art dental practice is for you. She's located in Crestwood, MO.

Link to my KILLER DENTISTS post.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

It's not just what you say. It's how you say it.

In my previous post I asked you to write one sentence to describe an approaching storm. Thank you to those who participated.

Few words or many words... any way you choose to paint your word pictures, remember you're writing for the reader who wants to feel the storm, see what you saw, hear what you heard. They want to experience your experience.

Here are some of my memories of being caught in a summer storms. The beach storm came out of no where. An ebony cloud spilled like grape Kool-aid across the sky as I was walking alone in sugar white sand.  All of the condos looked the same. I was half a mile away from ours. I could not distinguish one from the other, plus I had no cell phone. Thank goodness my honey was on the balcony motioning  for me. I never felt so terrified and alone trudging through sand, trying to "outrun" a storm barreling down.
  • My nose twitched with the detection of ozone, as the bruised sky flung palm-size spiked hail at the parched yard.

  • The wind whipped our red bud saplings like half a dozen frenetic ballerinas, and deforested their limbs.

  • The old porch swing chains rattled when the jet-black cloud raced up the street, splintered the wood, and snatched anything not rooted.

  • Thunder bombed, ricocheted my guts; lightning sizzled, and wind whipped beach sand at me like ammunition.

  • The sky unleashed chaos as the summer temperature drastically dropped, causing a steep rise in my blood pressure.

  • Thunderclaps rattled me. Streetlights at noon?! Tornado sirens squealed. Wind vortexed. I ran for my life.

What's your style? Do you prefer one of these sentence structures over the other? 

Often short sentences create more of a dramatic effect and pack a real punch. 

As you can see though, I am a fool for commas. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whipping up a storm

Will you please help me?

Paint a word picture about an approaching summer storm.

Be as creative as possible using few or many words, but no more than one sentence to make the reader feel the effects.

The wind grew stronger as the sky darkened...  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

He is in for a rude awakening!

I HATE television commercials. I know... a dreaded necessity.

I despise some more than others. I can't stand the Progressive Insurance gal.

Bill can't stand the Gillette razor blade commercial where there are two guys with shaving cream on their hands and faces who are ordering razor blades on their cell phones. One speaks into his cell phone and the other pokes cell phone buttons with his nose.

That doesn't annoy him. It is the fact that their hands AND their faces are covered in shaving cream. He says, "Why do they cover their entire hands? Nobody puts that much shaving cream on their hands. You dab and smear, not coat your hands. Plus, why don't they just wash their hands? They already have shave cream on their faces."

I couldn't agree more. Most product advertisements are ridiculous, and umm, dumb.

Bill waited until I was in the bathroom with door ajar, and shouted, "I need help."
I flung the door open and there he stood, his hands covered in shaving cream as though he had on mittens, his face soaped with white fluff. "Honey, I need to order more razor blades."

He doesn't know it, but sometime when he least expects it, "Flo" is going to get him.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Killer dentists I have known

When I was a kid we visited dentists and doctors only when we needed attention; there were no well visits or preventive checkups. Often dentists and doctors operated drop-in businesses out of store fronts. Some dentists even offered extractions "with" or "without numbing agents."

The first visit I can remember was when I was a freshman in high school. I walked five blocks to a neighborhood dentist because I had a toothache. Oh my gosh! It hurt unbearably. I probably didn't have the extra dollar for the Novocane. That OLD guy nearly killed me.

Next dentist visit was when I was 17. I unwrapped the yellow paper wrapper and foil off a stick of Juicy Fruit gum, slid it into my mouth, and screamed in pain when I bit down. I walked to a different dentist, a few blocks from home. He was probably in his forties. Nothing unusual about him. Soft-bodied, round-faced guy. Two rooms, separated by a floor to ceiling curtain. After he yanked my tooth, he asked, "Is there anything else I can do for you?" I shook my head. He prodded. "You in any kind of trouble? I can take care of that, too in the back room."

I mumbled, "No."

He looked into my eyes, and asked, "You sure?"

I wasn't even sure what he meant until years later...when I discovered my dentist, who had been married at least three times, was a father. Glennon Engleman died in prison, a convicted sociopath and murderer. This guy was a serial killer.

He believed his one true talent was killing people by various techniques: gunshot, bombing, bludgeoning... and having absolutely NO REMORSE. He murdered for insurance money, and because he was bat shit crazy. 

My girlfriend went to him and was in the chair numbing when there was a knock on the back door. He left the room. A loud, threatening shouting match ensued with a male about an unpaid murder-for-hire debt.

My next dental exam was in Alaska when my ex husband was in the army, and I was pregnant with our first baby. The dentist said I had an abscessed tooth, but he was hesitant to treat me, because the military base had no X-ray equipment, and also a shortage of antibiotics. IMAGINE THAT! He said extracting it could kill me. But after much pleading, he yanked another one of my molars. My face bruised and swelled as a result of his twisting and tugging.

I was scheduled for my OB appointment later the same day. The nurse was aghast when she saw me and questioned me as if I were an abused woman. I'm not sure I ever convinced her one of her colleagues did the damage.

Upon our return home, I began regular dental visits, most of them routine and uneventful with Dan Patrick O'Brien, DDS. After twenty years of being his patient, he sent his patients a killer letter. "Mary and I have decided to retire and move to Colorado. We are leaving tomorrow... "

Another memorable visit happened about twenty years ago. Young male dentist. Steve Branham, DDS, married man, with photos of his three children and beautiful wife posted all over his new office. He examined me and then broke the news: my bridge (which had originally replaced lost molars) was broken and needed to be replaced. When he said, "$1,500, I cried. He asked what was wrong. 

"I'm falling apart: head, shoulders, belly, knees and toes."  Poor young man didn't know how to handle me, so he sent in his receptionist. It about killed me to hand over our vacation money to him so he could take a nice vacation that year. He sold his practice and we both moved on.

I am scheduled for my dental check up soon with my young, #1 dentist in St. Louis, MO

Dr. Holly Ellis and her team. They are a supportive, fun and friendly group of professionals. 

They kill me with kindness and laughter. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Well, EXCUSE you!

Way back when I used to be a contributor to the South Side Suburban Journal, not an opinion shaper, but a paid correspondent, I wrote a travel article about going on a whale watch in Boston. When the ship's captain apologized because we didn't see any whales, I felt disappointed. When he suddenly shouted, "Starboard!"  everyone darted to the rail.

Twenty yards from the fishing boat, a young humpback breached the surface and began to "perform." What a delight to watch Fracture, so named because he had a fracture line across his tale. He dived, slapped the surface of the Atlantic Ocean with his flipper, dived and resurfaced, breached again and again.

It was breathtaking, I was awe-struck. It felt akin to spiritual experience... I wrote all about it. Three other excursion boats came into the area, cut their motors, and passengers observed quietly and filmed for twenty minutes.

Then Fracture disappeared. We waited and waited as our captain detailed whale behavior and shared how they had been tracking this juvenile for some time.  Fifteen minutes later, all boats started their engines and we began to idle away, set to sail. Then...

Fracture resurfaced so close to our boat we all laughed, especially when he opened his mouth wide, burped, and permeated the air with a cloud of fish breath. Undersea dining right under our boat.

Wouldn't you know it?! When I saw my article in print, I was disappointed to discover the editor had omitted the two sentences above. My punch line. I think it was due to column length, but maybe he didn't feel it was relevant to the story. Too late.

Lesson learned: don't hesitate to ask an editor if you can examine your work for editorial changes before it is published. Keep in mind, you can negotiate, but the editor does have the final say. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What's your name, again?

This is for my writing buddies. Did you ever use one of your  non-fiction pieces, such as memoir or personal essay, as a basis for flash fiction which is about 1,000 words?

I have been doing this lately, adding untruths galore, and having so much fun developing characters. Maybe it is the confidence building approach I need to again try fiction writing, which I always say I cannot do. I just submitted a flash fiction piece to Penn State literary journal, and am hoping I hear from them soon.

I may have to use a pen name if I keep tinkering. My parents had selected several names for me before I was born. Pearl, Priscilla, or Patricia. Thank goodness for my grandma who liked actress Linda Darnell and convinced them to name me after her.

Have you ever used a pen name?  Be creative. I used to think I would use a combination of my grandchildren's names.

 What name would you use? Come on, have a little fun.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Are you observant?

We were walking through a thrift store the other day when Liam noticed a mirror near the floor. He had to crouch to get a good look. He gazed at himself from all angles.  Then he looked up in the mirror and noticed me. Surprised, he turned around and looked at me. 

Perspective and vantage point can change everything. If you write in first person, be sure your character sees what you are describing; the object has to be within his/her field of vision. 

Paw-paw saw a mama bird feeding its baby in our backyard. He lifted Liam onto the counter, and together they talked in hushed tones and observed the action going on.

Good writers are observant and pay attention to fine detail.When I taught school-age summer camp, I covered a window with a roll of paper and used a pencil to poke a few small observation holes at different heights.  The students had to report what they observed through the limited vision field. Although they were all looking outside at the street, they each had a different vantage point.
 Be descriptive; use your imagination. Think out of the box. Ask what if questions.


I recycled six empty water bottles to make a cascading waterfall. Here's the procedure: Remove lids, cut holes on one side of bottle so the water will pour from the mouth of one bottle into the side of the next and continue to run downhill. Hot glue the bottles to a board or card board, with the cut out section facing up (you can also zip tie to a backyard fence).

Next, cut a coffee filter into six sections. Hot glue one piece of filter inside each bottle. Pour water and watch the cascading rainbow. Water can be contained in small tub or pool and recycled or let it spill onto the grass. When the colors wash away, add more food coloring. Hours of fun!

By the way, without scrolling back up, can you describe the mirror Liam was looking into? What was on our kitchen counter besides Liam? Take a guess if you aren't sure, then take another look. If you click on the picture, you can enlarge and see.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Cooking up a recipe for success

My thesaurus is akin to the array of spices in my cabinet, the gravy on my mashed potatoes, or the drizzle of raspberry vinegarette on my lettuce.

 When I have the meat of an essay, a hearty pile of information for an article, or a chunk of an idea, I like to enhance the flavor with improved word choices. My creative juices flow when I scan the pages of my well-worn manual. Like a chef searching through a treasured cook book for the perfect recipe, I feel a sense of satisfaction when I get the seasoning just right. I am proud to present the garnished product for consumption.

Although a thesaurus is a serious writer's tool, I sometimes use mine playfully to inspire my poetry. I fan through the book sort of like a child's cartoon flip book, front to back and then in reverse. I like the feel of words breezing by. I stop randomly ten times and peruse the copious salad of synonyms seasoned with sharp, spicy, pungent adjectives, vigorous verbs, and knock your socks off nouns. I select an interesting word from each page, toss them together, layer the stanzas, and dish up a poesy, a sonnet, or a rhyme.

My thesaurus has proven to be  a recipe for success.  Sometimes I am surprised at what I cook up. Do you use a thesaurus? Give this technique a try.