Sunday, December 31, 2017

Did Dennis get the bum's rush?

Our weather is freezing cold. Temperature has dipped to brutal degrees.

In the fall we noticed a  homeless man, along with his possessions, sitting or lying down under a tree near McDonald's on the Walmart parking lot. We've had a very mild autumn, but suddenly the weather was predicted to take a nasty turn.

The other day, outside Taco Bell we saw his three drawer plastic chest, a sleeping bag and duffel bag bungee strapped together. Inside Taco Bell I saw the man wearing a veteran's cap, sitting alone texting on a cell phone. Hmm. Made me wonder. I asked the counter girl if she knew anything about him. She knew his name and that he's homeless, hangs out there sometimes, and hadn't ordered any food.

I finished my meal and told Bill I was going to buy this guy something to eat. Inquiring minds like to know. Bill says I'm just plain nosy. Either way, I wanted the scoop and thought perhaps I could suggest social services for this homeless vet.

"Hi there. My name is Linda. I've seen you hanging around this area. I assume you're homeless."

The sixty-something year old guy looked up from his phone with a clear look in his eyes. He was clean.

"My name's Dennis, and my homelessness is temporary. I made a big mistake. I was married 28 years, but I screwed up. I admit it was all my fault. But my situation is just temporary."

I asked if he was from in town or if he had ever worked. "Oh yeah lived near here all my life and I worked at the newspaper." Then he lowered his head and said meekly, "But I only cleaned up the place." I assured him a job is a job. He said he is now on Social Security.

I told him the mild weather was over and a brutal winter was on its way the next day. He said he slept outside at the bus stop, and the police didn't bother him. I said, "Well it will be too cold soon. You need to get off the street."

He said with great assurance in his voice, "Well I'll be on my way to Kentucky in a couple days. I'm getting married again."

"Where did you meet her? On the Internet?" I joked.

"Yes, how did you know?" He was serious. "Her grandma died and left her a 2 million dollar mansion, but there's one stipulation. She has to be married to receive the house. She said she's talking to other guys on line, so I know I'm not the only one. She just contacted me, and said she is on her way to the bank now. So now, she can't make it up here to pick me up until the end of the month. She needs just $250.00 to complete the bank transaction so we can get the house, and then she's driving here to pick me up. You want to see her picture?"

"SHE" was a 21 year old buxom model, a picture pulled off the Internet. I said, "Dennis, someone is going to get 2 million if all you guys keep sending HER $250.00 dollars of your Social Security. This is a scam. I know people who have fallen for this same scam, and it is the same photo. There is some guy somewhere collecting your money. In a P.O. box, right?"

"Yeah, how did you know? Same girl?" It was obvious by now this guy was a bit challenged. Bill came over and explained how the scam works.

Dennis said, "Well you aren't the only people who have told me this. I was sure hoping she'd be here to pick me up, soon. She was supposed to be here last week, but she needed fees for bank papers to fill out for the inheritance."

I said, "Dennis she isn't coming. Take your $250, go to the Veteran's Administration down the road, and let them help you get a place."

"Yeah, I thought about that," he said.

So the man said his "fiancee" texted she'd be here by the end of the year to whisk him off, marry him, and plunk him right down in a 2 million dollar mansion in Kentucky.

We bought the guy a meal and wished him well.

"You really DO know someone else she sent her picture to? Same gal?"

I nodded and said, "The scam has been all over the news."

He dropped his head. I killed his enthusiasm, hopes, and dreams. I unwrapped his virtual present and showed him the contents which contained a virtual lump of coal. I feel terrible.

I went to Walmart yesterday. Dennis was nowhere to be seen. I would like to hang onto his fantasy that this young pretty little gal came for him, and he's wandering a mansion in KY.  But you and I both know better. All I can do is pray for the man.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Holiday fun at the O'Connell house

I absolutely love Christmas because our home overflows with family and friends. 

 Nicholas is going to be 16 soon. He and his best buddy, Parker, love fishing. Nick would fish everyday if he could. I made him this gift, and he claims it is his favorite.

My sweet Nicole is 10 and still loves Nana's hugs. She piggy backed Liam upstairs. She's my girl!

Liam loved his garage and cars and especially the dinosaur Transformer.

Ashley, my first grandchild, and her husband Justin with their boys, Alex and Liam.

Bill's grandchildren, Kyle 24, Morgan 18, George 20.

 Granddaughter Madison, 19 who just returned home from the Navy and changed her look completely. Not pictured is her brother, Sean,18 who is also in the Navy.

 My daughter Tracey and son Jason. Seems only yesterday they were my babies.

 Bill with his girls, Robin and Michele playing a rousing game of Phase 10.

We had a wonderful holiday. 

Be sure to come back and read how I ruined one man's holiday dream and left him devastated. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Fitz is fixed!

The cat's owner, a young-sounding male, telephoned and said, "Hello, I finally got around to opening my mail and found your note on the bottom of the pile. Does the cat you found have a little nip out of its ear?"

I answered, "Yes, it does. Do you want him back?"

He said, "Well I'd sure like to see him. He's been missing since Thanksgiving."
I asked if it was an inside or outside cat. He said, "He likes to go out a lot."

I said, "Well I'm hesitant to bring him to you if you allow him outside. It's subzero weather and snowy this week, and I'm afraid it will freeze if it gets out. It was so afraid when we found it. We're a senior couple who have had your cat inside for two weeks. It's adjusted so well, and we love it so much." I started crying because right before he called, I received a phone call that my aunt had died. "Could we keep it?" I sobbed.

"You WANT him?!"

"Yes, we sure do. Could we keep it?"

"Well yeah, I guess so. I have a bag of food here for him if you want it." (I did not reply. I didn't want to make any personal contact.)

I asked the cat's name. He said, "Fitz." (No way!) and he said it had been "fixed," so we canceled the surgery for next week. The cat is three years old. We'll take HER for a well visit, and claim Sassy as a family member.

Someone is confused. I don't see any evidence of this kitty being a male. What I see is a female. But the guy sounded young, so maybe he's been calling the cat BOY like Bill has.

In any case, Sassy is ours.   

Saturday, December 23, 2017


  This stray cat has hung out by the shed in our back yard for the past two weeks. 
Bill said, "Do not start feeding it. That cat belongs to someone."

 It was timid, yowled, and ran off when I came close... unless I had food. Each day it allowed me to get closer without darting away. I sweet talked and coaxed it.  
 "You have to stop feeding it." The big guy insisted. Yet every morning I saw Bill sneak outside with the fried egg yolks from his breakfast and leave them for the cat.

Winter temperatures were imminent. I felt sorry for the cat. I made it a shelter using a styrofoam cooler, added a blanket and enticed it inside the box with food. It gulped, ran out, and skeedaddled.

The next day, guess who greeted us at our back door. I opened the door.

"Here baby, come on Kitty." But it was scared, yowled, and ran off to hide by the shed.

"Do NOT let that cat inside this house." The big guy said. "We do not need another cat."

"That cat needs us." I replied. "Poor thing is going to be out in the cold, and it's going to snow soon. Today it has a scratch on its nose. It has had a rough way to go. It's hungry and so scared."

The big guy walked away shaking his head. I coaxed the cat inside, and...

 it ran right to Bill who was resting in his chair. He tried to be a hard nose. He furrowed his brows. Then the cat jumped up on his lap. Look at my big bad honey trying to tame a smile.

"Well you poor little thing. If you'd quit that caterwauling and yowling... no forget it! You aren't staying in here. And you'd better not have claws!"

I sat on the sofa and listened to him feel sorry for the cat with claws. "You are on borrowed time, buddy. You are going outside tonight, so don't get comfy. We cannot have another cat. You are cute though, but that mouth of yours! Aww,  poor baby, you like your ears rubbed? Who attacked your face? You aren't much of a fighter are you, bud?"

The cat crawled up into the crook of Bill's arm and buried its head and snoozed for two hours. It was terrified of every sound and shadow. So this was probably the only peaceful sleep it's had in a while.

I said, "Imagine how grateful this poor baby is to be inside where it's warm and safe."

Bill looked over at me and said, "Oh you know I'm a softy at heart, but it better quit howling, or it's going!"

IT WENT! Back to sleep again.

"Yes dear," I said. "It's going to a vet in the morning to see if it has an ID chip."

It did! The cat had been adopted from the Pet Smart nearby. They provided contact info. The phone number was disconnected, so we went by the house (2 miles away) and left a note and our contact info in this guy's mailbox.

I had first seen the cat across the street in the farmer's barren field. We assumed it was his barn cat. The farmer recently passed away, so we thought sure the cat had been abandoned. We now think the cat's owner probably dumped it in the farmer's field ( two miles away.) Poor baby was so afraid, and obviously not an outdoors cat. It has been stressed, on high alert, and in survival mode.

We waited and waited for a phone call which never came. So we went to the store and purchased a litter pan and food.

This little loud mouth GIRL is ours, or should I say Bill's. She adores him. Her yowling has ceased but she is quite a "talker" so I think we'll call her Sassy, because she has such a sassy mouth.

Three days, and she is adapting well.

Bill? Well he cuddles her and and calls her "boy" and "buddy" but she doesn't mind. He murmurs, "Yes, I know you're a girl, but you're going to be my little buddy, aren't you?"

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

I messed up!

Cookie baking is like having a baby. Okay, not really, but the pain and aggravation I go through every December is forgotten by the next year, and I do it again, and again, year after year.

The urge to bake has been all-consuming this week. I have been waking at 5:00 a.m. baking cookies until 8:00.

Now that I have dozens and dozens of cookies stacked to be distributed to the teens and
twenty-somethings on Monday, I am convinced this is the last year for cookie baking.  My last batch did me in! I used three cups of butter to make what I thought was tinted red and green butter cookies with a marachino cherry on top. Somehow I copied a recipe for drier-than-dirt shortbread cookies instead!

My mom and I used to go to the neighborhood bakery to purchase saucer-sized melt-in-your-mouth butter cookies.

I so had my hopes up, and you can only imagine my disgust when I bit into dry, tasteless shortbread, despite the almond extract. Oh well, I saved a dozen and dipped them in melted dark chocolate. The rest...well, not my best.

Have you been baking?  

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Little Romance with author, Lisa Ricard Claro

    Interview with author
        Lisa Ricard Claro

Welcome, Lisa. Congratulations on your newest release, The Write Man. 

THE WRITE MAN is sitting at #4 on Amazon's Kindle Worlds Hot New Releases list and #7 on the Kindle Worlds Best Seller Contemporary list. 


What inspired you to write your novellaHow did the premise come to you? Was it a voice, a character, an event, a location?

Hi Linda! Thanks for inviting me to be on your blog. This is one of my favorite places to visit, especially when you post photos and stories about your grand-kids. :)

When invited to write a novella for Roxanne St. Claire's Barefoot Bay Kindle World as part of her December 8th release, I jumped at the chance. The Barefoot Bay books are classic romances, they're popular, and it presented a good opportunity to introduce my work to new readers. Additionally, Barefoot Bay and Mimosa Key, though fictional, are set in the Naples, Florida area---only two hours away from my home. Since I live ten minutes from the Gulf, I was excited to write a love story in this setting.

I can't say exactly when the premise came to me, but part of what pushed it along was thinking about author pen names. In particular, I've always loved Lemony Snicket---it just rolls off the tongue---and while thinking of other creative pseudonyms the story began to develop. The next thing I knew, Scurvy Rickets was born. Once that name lodged itself into my brain the romance took off, and there was no turning back.  

Did you have any challenges with developing your characters' personalities? Did you have to omit or strengthen anything? 

Oh, yes, this was a challenge to write. For one thing, though I love writing nano stories/micro-fiction because of the challenges they present, my novels have all fallen in the 90,000-100,000 word range. The challenge of developing a full and believable love story between two characters in less than 40,000 words was something I'd not done before. I've written short romances topping 5,000 words, but those brought the characters into a relationship, not into a lifetime. So writing a satisfying love story and creating strong characters was a challenge, and it did require a lot of revision along the way.

For instance, in the first version, Merry's mother was still alive and in rehab. In a full length novel I would have time to develop that character and story line, but in a novella, nothing could take time away from Merry and Nick---I simply didn't have the word count---so I had to ax mom while still making her a relevant presence to Merry and the story. The other thing was Nick's reason for not telling Merry that he was Scurvy Rickets. It had to be compelling and believable, even to readers who weren't quite on board with it, and the contract that ensured his silence was perfect---but had to be written into the story on revision, because in the first draft I hadn't figured it out yet. It was the scene in the bookstore that turned the bulb on, because Scurvy Rickets is a force unto himself. It was kind of a crazy scenario that I had to make believable even for skeptical readers. I hope I did that.

The Write Man stands on its own, but have you considered a sequel?

No, I haven't thought about a sequel, though if I'm invited again to write in the Barefoot Bay Kindle World, I'll do it. It would be a love story for middle-aged ladies, because I love the character of Phoebe Rice, Nick's agent. She's a real character, all personality, and I think it would be so fun for this 40-something, career-driven, "who needs a man?" woman to fall in love. Poor Phoebe---she wouldn't know how to handle it. Fun times. :)

Is there anything you would like to share about your writing process? New projects?

My writing process is simple: sit down and go to work. I edit as I go, which a lot of authors don't do, but it works for me. And you didn't ask me to give advice, but if you had, that would be it. People are different and what works for one might not work for another. If you find a process you're comfortable with, then do that and don't worry about what anyone else tells you is the "right way." The "right way" is that which provides you a satisfying result. For years I thought there was something wrong with me because after completing a novel I might go weeks, or even months, without writing. It was my "decompression" time. But so many successful authors insist that "to be a writer" one must "write every day." And then I read a wonderful piece by Anne Rice (Interview With A Vampire) on her Facebook page. She said:

“I’ve often said there are no rules for writers. Let me share the WORST AND MOST HARMFUL ADVICE I was ever given by others. 1) Write what you know. 2) You’ll have to polish every sentence you write three or four times. 3) Genius is one tenth talent and nine tenths hard work and 4) You’re not a real writer if you don’t write every day. — ALL OF THAT WAS HARMFUL TO ME. ALL OF IT. IT HURT AND IT SET ME BACK. —– So I say again, there are no rules. It’s amazing how willing people are to tell you that you aren’t a real writer unless you conform to their cliches and their rules. My advice? Reject rules and critics out of hand.  Define yourself. Do it your way. Make yourself the writer of your dreams. Protect your voice, your vision, your characters, your story, your imagination, your dreams.”

This advice by Anne Rice changed my life.

New projects? 

Thanks for asking. :) I have two completed novels, both romantic mysteries. The publisher of my Fireflies series has given me the go-ahead if I want to publish SECRETS BY THE SEA with them, but I'm considering self-publishing this and another novel, ICE COLD MURDER, which is the first in a series titled Cold Case Medium. There are benefits to having a publisher, but the publishing world has changed so dramatically over the last years that self-publishing holds appeal. I haven't decided which vehicle to use, but hope to have both novels published in 2018 one way or another. 

Thanks again, Linda, for inviting me to be on your blog! Wishing you and your readers a beautiful holiday and blessed New Year. 

Lisa, I wish you every success with this novella and all of your future projects. I am in awe of you! Thank you for the ARC. I have posted my review on Amazon and Good reads:

The Write Man is a is a fast-paced contemporary romance, a smooth read with memorable characters. This well-written, sometimes playful and light-hearted story unfolds with Merry and Nick who are children's authors. Merry is sweet, and like her book characters, The Foundling Faeries, she scatters sunshine in her wake. Conflict occurs between Merry and her nemesis,  Scurvy Rickets when he antagonizes Merry on social media with the fierceness of  the rotten pirates he writes about.
The romance between Nick and Merry begins with a wholesome, innocent attraction and evolves into mutual desire. When Merry finally trusts and feels safe with Nick, she discovers his secret in the worst possible way.

In addition to the heart fluttering romance, breathtaking beach scenes, drama, and plot twists, Chula the pooch and her previous owner add another delightful dimension to the story.
Three simple words, "As you wish," will forever remind me of The Write Man— a delightful story with a happy ending.  Many thanks to author, Lisa Ricard Claro for the ARC of her novella.  

Friday, December 15, 2017

They're growing; it's showing

Alex (four months) loves when Frosty sings to him. He is the happiest baby ever! Paw Paw held him on his lap. Face to face they observed each other. When Bill talked to him,  Alex laughed out loud.  

 Liam, three-and-a-half, is a busy boy these days. I am doing fine motor development preschool activities with him. He is learning to stay on task for a non-preferred seated activity, with a little (lot) of nudging and encouragement from his loving nana.

Liam's large motor development is in the forefront. You should see him tackle this rock 'em-sock 'em. He is a mover and shaker. Liam prefers to be running and jumping through early childhood, as all little ones should be able to do. I always told my students' parents, "Your child won't be 23 and unable to hook chain links or print his/her name. Development is unique to each child. Readiness is the key word with little ones. Forced learning is the worst learning, in my opinion."

He's happily learning beginning letter recognition/phonics. He can READ the words bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, rat, and sat. When he reads the word FAT, I tease him and squeal, "Did you say I am fat? I will tickle you." I chase him all around. Lots of love and laughter when he's learning.

His vocabulary is exploding. He repeats what he hears on TV. He tripped on something getting out of the car and said, "Nana, let's get this bad boy out of my way." I had to laugh.

Come back soon. I have something special to share with you about writer and blog buddy, Lisa Ricard Claro.

Friday, December 8, 2017

When your life turns upside down

"What is he doing?" Bill asked when he caught three-year-old Liam bent over, gazing into a spoon, hanging his head upside down so close to the floor it looked like he might be going to tumble.

I knew right away, because my sweet baby had been in the kitchen rummaging through the junk drawer (everyone has one) mistaking it for the silverware drawer.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"That big magic spoon."

I handed him a shiny serving spoon, and he went off to play, or so I thought.

Hubby said Liam turned his head this way and that as he tried repeatedly to invert his image in the spoon. I guess he figured if he stood on his head it would happen.

How to explain the principles of curved surface reflections? Light travels straight until it hits a curved surface.

The concave bowl of the spoon bounces incoming rays back toward a central focus point lying between your face and the center of  the spoon. In passing through this point, rays from the upper part of your face are reflected downward, while those from the lower part are reflected upward, thus an UPSIDE DOWN IMAGE.

We've all had an upside down kind of day where everything seems backwards or goes wrong. 

Today I tried my best to leave a book review. I failed miserably after several attempts to sign in or even change the password. The more I tried to straighten things, the more upside down it all became. 

Sometimes you have to back off when standing on your head doesn't do the trick. After calming down, I tried a new approach and changed my husband's password and got into the website  that way. I will deal with him later. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

When the chimes ring out, I cry.

This time of year, I blast the car radio when I'm driving by myself, and I belt out Christmas music. Nobody cares if I can carry a tune or hit the high notes. I love holiday songs!

Some Christmas carols bring a lump to my throat or a tear to my eye. Not, I'll Be Home for Christmas, or Elvis crooning Blue Christmas. No, it's the craziest thing this year. My eyes sting several times a day when I hear one particular song.

Our cat died this year and I thought I had worked through my grief of losing our sweet boy. Then right before Thanksgiving I heard an age-old Christmas song featured on a television commercial which brought me to tears.  You see, several times a day, he would dart from wherever he was snoozing when he heard it.  He'd run  to the living room sit in front of the TV, cock his head this way and that, and watch the Hershey's Kisses (acting as hand bells) ring to the tune of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. (His favorite holiday show.)

These days I miss my purr baby. I remember him bounding in every single time that song chimed. He'd watch the Kisses dance, then return to his favorite perch to rest between Bill's legs on the raised recliner. WE miss our old boy.