Friday, November 4, 2016

Choose Wisely

It's a rare thing for me to wander off into the scary forest of politics on my blog, but that's what I'm doing today. So, why do I choose to do it now?

In case you haven't heard, we in the U.S. have an election coming up next Tuesday. We will be selecting a new president, and I've been told the world is watching.

I have many friends all across the political spectrum, and the last thing I want to do is offend any of them. However, I feel so strongly about this election, I truly feel led to comment.

We have two major party candidates, and one of them is Hillary Rodham Clinton. She is under investigation by the F.B.I. If you are a fan of hers, you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, "Oh, yeah, sure. This is just another smear against her. The F.B.I. found nothing the first time, and they won't find anything again. It's just those Republicans trying to get her."

If that is what you're thinking, that would be inaccurate. It's not any political party doing the investigating, it's the F.B.I. I don't know what they found this time, and neither do you. One thing I do know is the mainstream media is not covering this extremely important story as they should. They have thrown any pretense of impartiality out the window. If, again, you are rolling your eyes, google is your friend. For example, here's just one instance of media bias. There are many, many more. In a recent study, only 7% of journalists considered themselves conservative.This is important, because our media is not covering issues fairly. How can we be well informed if our media lets us down?

There is one monumental story the mainstream media has only given a slight mention to, if at all, and that is the story of the F.B.I's investigation of the Clinton Foundation. It's an investigation that has been going on for over a year, and seems to be more compelling than the email case. This is huge, because it appears Hillary used her position as secretary of state to further donations to the Clinton Foundation, a blatant conflict of interest. In a nutshell, it's suspected Hillary more or less said, "If you give us money, Bill and/or I will give you time, a speech, an interview," etc. This is what's known as "pay for play." How frightening to think our secretary of state may have given special favors to foreign leaders, billionaires, etc., for money, while she was in office. Even scarier, some of these foreign entities are not our friends. In short, it looks like she sold America. If you want to read more about it, you can find it here.

If Hillary Clinton is elected as our president, I'm afraid our country will be paralyzed. There will be investigation after investigation, and according to the F.B.I. sources, a "likely" indictment. This would be a criminal indictment. Criminal. I hope everyone understands that. She may not even be able to serve a whole term. We have things to do, things to fix, and things to work on in our wonderful country. Do we really want to add the burden of criminal investigations of our president and top leaders to our list?

I don't imagine I have swayed anyone by writing this. After all, our choices this time around for president are not wonderful. What I do hope is that people will prayerfully consider their choice before voting. And please, do go vote, if you haven't already. My husband and I took advantage of early voting. We've done our part.

BTW, if you think you know who I voted for after reading this, you might be wrong. I did not vote for Hillary. I bet that wasn't hard to deduce. But remember, most states have at least four choices and a write in space. I'm going to keep you guessing.

As always, respectful comments welcome, but I will not debate anyone. If you'd like to debate, you're welcome to write your own blog.

Because this is actually supposed to be a writing blog and I used some basic writing skills to pen this, I think I'm allowed to say:

Happy Writing!


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Visiting the National Museum of the Pacific War

My husband and I have just returned from an anniversary trip to Fredericksburg, Texas, located in the beautiful Texas hill country. We've been to Fredericksburg several times and enjoy exploring the German heritage of the town, the shops, the restaurants, and all the rest of the sights the town has to offer.

One thing we've never done until this trip is visit the National Museum of the Pacific War. It is a fairly new attraction, having only been open the last few years. Fredericksburg is a logical place for this museum since it is the birthplace of fleet admiral Chester Nimitz, who played a significant role in WW2.

Seeing the museum was on our list of things to do, because we'd heard it was well worth the time. Well worth the time. What a vast understatement. This museum is not "a" museum of the Pacific War, it is "the" museum of the Pacific War.

I've always been a little on the sentimental side when it comes to love of country, but this museum brought out feelings I didn't know I had. My dad was in the Pacific theater during WW2, in Okinawa. I am married to a Vietnam veteran, and I have other extended family members who have also served. Patriotism runs deep in our family.

Knowing all this did not prepare me for what I felt touring this museum. To start with, it's very well done and it's HUGE. Your ticket is good for 48 hours, and besides the main museum, there are two other locations. The main museum gives a thorough history of events leading up to WW2. It's educational, and the displays are interesting. Those are things any good museum should offer. What sets this one apart is the feeling that you're actually seeing things unfold right before your eyes.

The section describing the bombing of Pearl Harbor was unforgettable. A Japanese midget sub is on display. The sound effects are so realistic I almost wanted to duck and run. And that is just the beginning of this fantastic museum.

Authentic news reels and newspaper articles are used throughout. You can hear President Roosevelt speaking. You can find almost anything military related that was used during WW2, big or small, including everything from uniform patches to airplanes.

While all of this was quite interesting, I was also very moved and humbled. I've heard stories all my life about what an honor it is to serve one's country. Also what a sacrifice it is for the person serving, and for his or her family as well. I grew up knowing this. I'm the person who stops to thank military personnel in a restaurant or anywhere I see them. I feel a deep sense of pride when I hear The Star Spangled Banner. Still, all of this did not make me realize what our brave troops faced during WW2. Of course, unless you were there, no one can possibly ever know exactly what it was like. I feel touring this museum gave me a better idea, though.

Nothing was sugar coated. It was factual and historically accurate. Some of the pictures were not pleasant, but they were authentic. There were pictures of young men, some only teenagers, lying lifeless on a battle field, both ally and enemy. They served for love of country; for a cause. It wasn't the same as seeing soldiers lying on a battlefield in a movie. These men were real. They left loved ones, probably promising to return, but they didn't get to. Instead, they paid the ultimate price.

Others things I saw were uniforms in lighted displays, splattered with oil, and torn. There was also a hatch from the USS Arizona showing damage after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, among many, many other things.

I watched videos of people tell their personal stories of what they went through as a family. No one could possibly know the pride a mother felt when all five of her sons joined the navy to help the war effort. And, no one could possibly know her sorrow when all five were lost after their ship sunk.

All military personnel have sacrificed, and all should be proud of their service. I want to thank them all right now, but I'd like to offer a special thanks to those who served in WW2. A majority of the veterans of that war are now gone. The rest are elderly and we are losing more every day. I want them to know their efforts were not forgotten. Until I saw this wonderful museum, I only thought I knew a little bit about the war they served in. History books can only tell so much.

If you are blessed enough to see a WW2 veteran at a Fourth of July parade or Veteran's Day event, shake his hand. Let him know you have not forgotten him. We owe him and his fellow veterans our lifestyle, our freedom, and so much more. Those tears you see on his face are there because he remembers his eagerness, indeed his excitement, to serve his country. He was going, no matter where he was sent, and no one was going to stop him. That's the way it was then. He remembers exactly what he fought for, and he would do it all over again. For you. For the United States. He remembers. We should, too.

One final thought: it is hard to put into words how poignant this museum is. All I can say is if you are in the area, go. Take your camera, and maybe a few tissues. You may need them.

(And because this is primarily a writing blog) ~

Happy Writing!


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Reunion Ramblings

We've just returned from a trip back to my hometown, Robinson, Illinois. In case you're not familiar with it, Robinson is a small, friendly community which is the birthplace of the Heath candy bar. Since this is supposed to be a writer's blog, I should also mention it's the hometown of James Jones. It's known for a few other things as well, but what I want to focus on is the purpose of our visit.

Many of my family members are still in Robinson or the surrounding communities, so I always have a reason to go back. This time, along with a 50th wedding anniversary in the family, I went back for a 45th high school reunion. That's right, 45 years. Sheesh. How did I get so old? Well, however it happened, as long as a couple of years ago, I started telling my husband Don I wanted to attend this reunion. I missed the 40th and had no intention of missing this one.

Don is a quiet sort around crowds, so I knew I had to get him used to the idea early on. He also hates long drives in the car, so I started watching for reasonable flights a few months before the reunion. The problem was, I couldn't find any. The prices for two people to fly the 1100 miles from west Texas were through the roof. Even I couldn't see spending that much to sit on a plane for a couple of hours. So, slowly, and as gently as I could, I started to get him used to the idea of driving. I said things like, "It won't be too bad. We can enjoy the countryside." Wrong. All we saw were interstates and a bunch of really big trucks in a hurry. I even tried, "We can take whatever we want. We won't be limited to a few ounces of liquid and we won't have to go through security." We did, however, have to go through some turnpikes in Oklahoma. We got off a couple of times and had to get back on, paying double in some cases. Once when I was driving, we came to a 
turnpike toll booth, and I accidentally started to speed through the Pike Pass lane. I immediately pulled over and my tolerant husband climbed out of the car, over the concrete curbing, and knocked on the back of the booth to pay while I hung my head in shame. He's a gem.

While driving through Missouri, one of us who was not Don, followed a road sign I thought was our route. It had the same route number, but in retrospect, I now know it was the business route. So, instead of sailing right on through, we ended up driving through a series of traffic lights and speed zones that slowed us down considerably. Concerned, I said to my tolerant husband, "This doesn't seem right." I knew for certain it wasn't right when I looked up ahead and saw the gates of Ft. Leonard Wood right in front of me. There was a humongous sign stating, "Security clearance required." Uh oh. I pulled off the to side of the road, got out, and told my tolerant husband I was not driving anymore. I refused to be the crazy great grandma on the evening news who tried to crash through the gates of Ft. Leonard Wood. Thankfully, there was a visitor's center to our immediate left, and my tolerant husband got us out of there by driving through the parking lot and getting us turned around in the right direction.

When we passed attractions, I said, only half kidding, "Do you want to stop at the Comanche Casino, Meramec Caverns, Six Flags, the candy factory, etc.?" We didn't stop, but my husband was still tolerant. He even put up with my "seat dancing" to the oldies on Sirius.

We finally made it to Robinson to attend the family and reunion festivities. Saturday night was the main event for my class reunion. I hate having regrets in life, but if I have any for that night, it would be that I didn't get to speak to everyone. The time was short, and I just missed some people, even though I made an attempt to mingle. For those I did get to visit with, thank you for taking the time to say hello. We are aging well, and I truly believe we have one of the friendliest classes ever. With the exception of family, I can't remember when I've been greeted with so many warm smiles and hugs. I've talked to others who don't enjoy their reunions because they say no one talks to them. Not us. I have never attended a reunion and felt out of place. For those of us who had teen-aged angst and issues, it seems we have gotten over them and have to come to appreciate each other. I, for one, am proud to be a part of such a great class. So, for the record, I want to thank the Robinson, Illinois graduating class of 1970 for a great reunion. I had a blast.

Oh, and special thanks to my husband who sat at the table while I flitted around. He's very tolerant.

Happy Writing!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Blue Ribbon Mom

My mom, Freda Pout

Mother's Day is just a few days away, so instead of  "writing about writing", I'm going to do something a little different.

I've been thinking about my mom a lot lately, as I'm sure a lot of people have. Not everyone had a kiss the boo-boos, home made cookies kind of mom, but I believe an awful lot of us did. If you didn't have a great relationship with your mom, I won't pretend I know what you went through. Mother's Day can't be easy.

For now, I want to focus on the "good" moms, which I honestly believe is the majority. Like most of you, I have great memories of my mother. So many, in fact, I really don't know where to start.

One thing I remember is her baking pies. She was an expert pie maker, a skill handed down from her own mother. It runs in the family, because I've recently found out some cousins are also expert pie makers. All of her pies were delicious, but her best was her coconut cream. People used to ask her to make it for them. She made it all from scratch, crust included. My mom wins for making the best coconut pie. Your mom can have the blue ribbon for beef stew, sugar cookies, maybe even chocolate pie, but not coconut cream pie. Nope. That ribbon goes to my mom. Forget about it.

Mom's daughters and granddaughters can also bake great pies, but I'm not sure any of us can claim to make coconut pie quite as good as she did. She gave us her recipe, and we've come close. Very close. Maybe we have earned the second place red ribbon, but we haven't quite duplicated her pie.

I'm not quite sure what made her pie so special.  Maybe it's because her hands touched the crust when she rolled it out. It could be because she had an uncanny ability to know exactly when to pull the filling off the stove as it thickened. Maybe it was the smile on her face when she took the pie out of the oven, seeing the perfectly browned flakes of coconut and meringue peaks.

Mom is no longer here, but her memory is alive and well. This has been said many times, but it's worth repeating. If you still have your mom, hug her. Tell her you love her. Call her if she's far away. Let her know you appreciate her. Your time with her will be over before you realize it.

Feel free to leave me a note and tell me why your mom is or was special. 

If you're a mother yourself, Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Writing,


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Just Dance

Today I want to welcome my good friend, Lenda Blackmon. We attend church together and have been in the same writing group. Lenda is a talented writer whose work appears at Faithwriters. She has agreed to share a poem with us today. Even better, she offers a fun writing exercise at the end.

Lenda Blackmon


                                                             Pencil Dancing

                                                          by Lenda Blackmon

As a little girl, like most I’m sure, I wanted to be a ballerina. We didn’t have money for dance lessons, but that didn’t stop me from locking myself in my room with my record player and some old records and dancing to my heart's content. Of course I never let anyone see me, but I could see the sold out crowd before me.

Years later as I put that dream away to become a writer, I did what is called a timed writing. In a timed writing you choose a subject like dancing, and write as fast as you can about that subject for a limited amount of time; say five minutes. This starts the creativity flowing, and sometimes a story or poem will emerge. For me it was the following poem.

                                                            Center Stage

                                                            Center stage
                                                            Curtains open wide.
                                                            Spotlight on me.
                                                            One twirl, then two.
                                                            A leap through the air,
                                                            And I’m through.
                                                            Until next time,
                                                            When I can be alone
                                                            With my music
                                                  And an audience that’s not there.
                        But they’ll give me a standing ovation, bravo, bravo, they’ll cry, next time.

I think I’ll go try another one now, how about you?  Write on the subject of love for five minutes, GO!

 See, I told you she was talented. I hope you enjoyed meeting her and if you have a minute, or five, try the exercise. Until next time ~

Happy Writing! 


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fighting the Gremlins

According to Merriam Webster, one of the definitions of discouragement is a feeling of having lost hope or confidence. I'd say that sums up pretty well how I feel when I get discouraged with my writing.

You know what I'm talking about. You open your work in progress all ready to write something profound; something the world can't possibly do without reading. You are going to knock out the great American novel, and be on the New York Times best seller list. While those may be lofty goals, I'm willing to bet my thesaurus at least one of those has crossed your mind.

The problem is, you've got a gremlin on your shoulder who insists on doing annoying gremlin things. He (or she; I try not to be sexist here), sits there and says all kinds of stuff to you. Give it up, sweet cakes. You can't write. Did you see that one star review on your last book? I bet you can't even get your mom to read that last piece of trash you wrote. Not only that, they're ripping you apart on Goodreads. Read the chapter you wrote last night. Are you kidding me? Delete it. Delete the whole thing. Try selling Avon, or something. You're no good at writing.

Writing can be lonely

Sound familiar? Writing can be lonely. Often there is no one around to encourage us. We can't stick our heads around our cubicles and ask our coworkers if something sounds okay. Even our coffee breaks are often solitary. There's probably nobody around to bounce ideas off of while we sip our brew and munch on a doughnut. I've actually tried asking my dog what she thought, but she lifted her head, looked at me briefly, and went back to snoring.

I'm no expert, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say discouragement is a normal part of writing. There have been a few times when I have had the opportunity to visit with other writers, and they have assured me that is the case, at least for them.

 So how do we get rid of discouragement? The truth is, I only know what works for me. Maybe you should re-read that sweet email someone wrote you. You know, the one that said your writing helped them over a rough spot or made them laugh. Read a positive review. Chat with other writers who are facing the same why in the world am I wasting my time feelings. At least you are not alone.

If you are writing, or attempting to write, there's a good chance you are called to this vocation. Don't let what God has called you to do seem insignificant, even if your offerings are not perfect.

Say a prayer, sit down, and just write. Let that gremlin know he's in for a bumpy ride. Better yet, knock him right off your shoulder.

Happy Writing!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Getting Personal

We've all heard it. Write what you know. A big part of that is another way of saying write from personal experience. Okay. There's only one problem. When I look back on some of my experiences, I'm not sure I want to share them, even though I could conceal them in the actions of a fictional character.

If I go way back, and I mean way, way back practically when we pedaled cars Fred Flintstone style, there is one incident that I could write about. I was about fourteen and flipping through a magazine meant for giggly, self-conscious, teen-age girls. The article said gelatin added body to your hair. Mom had Jello in the cabinet, so I grabbed a box of black cherry flavor, because it was my favorite. I wasn't going to eat it, but in my teen-aged head, this made great sense. Looking forward to the super model hair I was going to have, I dumped the whole package on my wet head and swished it around like shampoo. Did you know that gelatin sets up quite a bit faster in wet hair than it does in a bowl? The stuff in my hair was a sticky, horrific mess. Maybe the magazine didn't mean that kind of gelatin. I shampooed my hair about four times trying to get the stuff out, and still, it felt stiff.

I was already late for school, so I dried it the best I could. I left with my hair looking like the Scarecrow's from the Wizard of Oz. My friends all wanted to know what happened to my hair and why I was late, and I told them.

I have yet to live this down

I have yet to live this down. This story often resurfaces at class reunions, etc. Having an entire student body know about this is enough. I'm just not sure I want to put it in a book for the whole world to know.

Fast forward about fifteen years or so. It was my first time living outside the city limits, and I was dying to be a real country girl. I paid a visit to the local feed store and inquired about raising chickens. A breeze, I was told. They just needed shelter and food, and I would have fresh eggs every morning. As a matter of fact, I was asking at just the right time as they were taking orders for chicks. There were fifty chicks in an order, but they never could order enough, so I could split an order with two or three people. They assured me there would be people to share an order with me. Of course, I would need a rooster. There wasn't any way of telling the roosters from the pullets when they were chicks, they said, but each order had three or four; almost never more than five. If I was lucky, I would get one. So, eagerly, I put my name on the list and waited for the call to come and pick up my share of the chicks. When the call finally came, I was handed a huge box.

You guessed it - fifty chicks; an entire order with no one to share with me. Being young and not very forceful, I took them all. Trying to raise them was not as easy as I was told. A kind neighbor pitied me and took about two thirds of them off my hands. Hallelujah!

I could make this story more interesting by admitting there were nine roosters, but I don't see the point in that. Did I mention I almost went broke trying to feed all those stupid chickens? Who knew poultry could put away so much food? Chickens pretty much do just two things - eat and expel the digested food, sometimes at the same time. I know, I know. Eww. And if someone ever says to you "chicken feed" meaning something is cheap, slap them upside the head for me, would you?

One other thing I could write about if I was brave enough, is a much more recent event. After a doctor's appointment, I wandered out to the parking lot, my head buried in my diagnosis sheet. I barely glanced up to see where I was going and headed for the truck. Still reading and pretty sure I was doing it out loud, (okay, I was definitely reading out loud), I reached for the door handle. I almost had the door opened when someone said, "I'm Paul." I looked up to see a stranger sitting in our truck, his elbow resting on the open window, looking at me.

Not wanting to admit my embarrassment, I laughed and apologized

Stunned for a minute, I looked around and discovered it wasn't even our truck. Our truck was parked next to it. Now, in fairness to me, the two vehicles did look a lot alike, and I usually drive the car, not the truck. Not wanting to admit my embarrassment, I laughed and apologized. He laughed, too, and I told him he now had something entertaining to tell his family. I dropped my appointment card as I was getting in our truck. It was breezy, and the wind caught it. It fluttered underneath Paul's truck. Great. I was too mortified to get back out, bend down to reach under his truck and get it, so I just drove off. I could always call the office and get the specifics again.

So, I'm sharing these stories to say if you are brave enough to write what you know, go for it. If your life is anything like mine, nobody's going to believe they are real incidents anyway.

Happy Writing,