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!

Betty

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,

Betty




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! 

Betty

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!

Betty






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,

Betty






Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Writer, a Baker, a Wooden Egg Maker

My guest today is Mariane Holbrook. If you aren't familiar with her, keep reading and get acquainted. She's quite a lovely, funny lady.

Mariane is not only a witty, humorous writer, she is also a talented artist. She paints gorgeous wooden eggs, many of which she very generously gives away to her friends. I am the proud owner of a few of these. I can't pick a favorite, but if someone put a gun to my head and made me post a photo of one of my favorites, I might choose this one:



That stunning egg is only one reason why I adore this lady so much.


Mariane's grandson Charles is in the photo below with her, because she says she loves being his grandmother. I think he's a lucky boy. (And I want to add I happen to be privy to the fact that her grandsons love her homemade chocolate chip cookies.) So, without further nonsense from me, meet Mariane.


Mariane and Charles



I've been writing ever since my high school days, from newspaper columns to humor pieces in Reminisce Magazine, from stories in the "God Turns Your Lemons Into Lemonade" series of books, to chapters in "Chicken Soup For the Soul," inspirational pieces in religious periodicals, a few modest wins in the Editor's Choice of FaithWriters Challenge, and poems for church bulletins.  

 I ended up self-publishing two books of my work and sold two copies (both to my mother).  The rest I gave away.  I maintained a website  for my stories and poems but gave it up when someone suggested that as a writer, I'd make a great seamstress.  

But it was fun while it lasted and I wouldn't change a thing.

                                                                               §§§



THE LINUS IN ALL OF US
by Mariane Holbrook


My husband, John has a gray, tattered T-shirt that's been laundered so many times it has the exquisite texture of Burberry silk. It's frayed and has a few holes in it. He can't sleep without it.

I want it.

No matter where or when or what condition he's in, he drapes it over his eyes at night like a bandana or a skull cap. It's his "Linus blanket," his throwback to some wadded up blankey he cuddled with when he was two years old. The instant it touches his eyes, he's off to lala land, and the most perfect picture of contentment you've ever seen. He should be in a baby commercial.

I've tried everything to wrestle that T-shirt from him. I've argued, cajoled, pleaded that I need it more than he, that my chronic sleep disorder requires it, that basic compassion demands he surrender it to me. He gives me his "Na na na na na na" response and goes back to his REM sleep thing.

Unarguably, the most popular security blanket of modern times belonged to a cartoon character. Ever since Linus was introduced on September 19, 1952 into my favorite cartoon series, Peanuts, I have loved Linus. He has the quiet philosophical wisdom of a grownup while tenaciously holding onto a beloved remnant of his childhood.

Entire college courses have been fashioned around that now-famous baby blanket. If the blanket had been real and not a figment of writer Charles Schultz's vivid imagination, millions of Peanuts fans would have bid exorbitant prices at auction for just one square inch of it. It's that symbolic and valuable in the eyes of the world.

Isn't it nice that as Christians, we have a far greater Security Blanket? We can't lovingly rub it against our cheeks for comfort as Linus did. We can't fold it and place it over our eyes, luxuriating in its soft, smooth texture as John does.

But the ageless Security Blanket of God's love wraps itself around our fragile shoulders, tucked firmly in and around the chambers of our trembling hearts, warming us against the piercing winter gales and the blinding rains of life. It cools us from life's unbearable heat of pain and distress. It's an all-weather comforter; it's passed every known test imposed on it by man through the centuries. It wears heaven's highest Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Its strength is not in enclosed fibers of manufactured steel but in fine-textured threads woven from the very heart of God who gently wrapped it cocoon-style around His infant Son in the lowly manger. With tears spilling from His ageless eyes, God tenderly wrapped it around the trembling form on the cross, and then used it to quietly cover the prone body in the tomb.

Today, God's Security Blanket of Love is wrapped around the tendrils of my heart for comfort, around my head and body for protection, and around my life for purpose. His Security Blanket warehouse is packed to overflowing. And it's available for all. 
 

                                                            §§§

I hope you enjoyed today's post. Leave a comment and let Mariane and me know you stopped by.

Happy Writing!

Betty 



 


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Short Shorts



 


It's time. What a loaded statement. Time for what, you ask? World peace? Well, yes definitely, but that's not what I had in mind at the moment. No, actually what I'm referring to is a sneak peek at a new project I'm working on. I have a lot short stories - some quite short - just lazing around on my computer all dressed up with nowhere to go. Some have been entered in the faithwriter's.com weekly challenge, and some have not. As I was sifting through them the other day, I noticed several of them had something in common - they were all about southern women. I've decided to put some of these into a book of short stories. It will be a while before it is ready for release, but in the meantime, I'd like to invite you to read a story from the upcoming book. 

                                                                          §§§

                                        A Southern Girl's Guide to Teas and Soirees



It was unfortunate that my cousin Joyce wore black to a tea, bless her heart. The only explanation I have is that my cousin is from Boston and doesn’t know any better. I know people from Boston are very nice, but they’re just not southern, and that makes all the difference.

I wish she would have consulted me about her clothing choice first, but she didn’t. In fact, she grabbed me as I came in the door and gushed, “Cassie, don’t you just love my little black dress?”

The smile on my face was not genuine as I told the teeniest little white lie. I caught a glimpse of my best friend Lu Anne standing by the canapés. The look on her face said, You poor baby. I feel your pain.

Actually, there wasn’t anything wrong with Joyce’s dress. It was just totally out of place for a tea.

Because I don’t ever want to be embarrassed like that again, I have purchased a number of copies of The Southern Girl’s Guide to Teas and Soirees. It is my goal to spread them as liberally as honey on warm biscuits. There won’t be a doctor’s waiting room in the county that doesn’t have one. In fact, I’m willing to do the right thing and share a few of the finer points with you now.

First of all, let me say there is a difference between a tea and a soiree. Big difference. Huge. From Fort Worth to Jacksonville, teas are held in the afternoon. No self-respecting southern girl would ever host a tea after 6:00 PM.

Proper attire for a tea is a nice little sheath in a pretty pastel or jewel tone color. Be careful with red. While it’s not forbidden, red can get a southern gal in a world of trouble if her personality can’t carry it off. The one rule that is carved in stone is to never, ever show any part of your bosom before dusk.

Gaudy jewelry has no place at a tea. Discreet little two or three carat stones are fine in a brooch or necklace. The exception to this is diamonds, of course. Any size diamond is acceptable, and even desirable, to wear. And for heaven’s sake, if a southern girl is over thirty, it’s past time for her to put away her sorority pin.

Shoes can be wedges or low-heeled pumps, but spike heels are completely out of place in the afternoon. Please save your high heels for night affairs. We southerners believe there is a reason for the rule that states no white shoes should be worn after Labor Day. The reason has long been forgotten, but we stick to it anyway, because it is tradition, and that is what the south is all about. Brides, of course, are exempt from this rule. Open toes are fine, as long as your pedicure is fresh. There is nothing more disgusting than sipping tea next to someone whose toenail polish is chipped, unless it is seeing the Braves lose to the Mets.

By the way, the tea I’m referring to is iced tea; sugar-shocked, steeped-in-the-sun, iced tea. Girls in the south don’t mind at all if hot tea is served at northern teas. It’s cold up there. Self-explanatory, don’t you think?

Soirees in the south differ from teas because by all that is sacred, they must be evening, although perhaps early evening, affairs. They almost always have a purpose. A soiree might be held to view a lovely art exhibit, or perhaps as a meet and greet for the governor. Don’t let anyone convince you that soirees can be casual. Any good southern girl knows better. Wearing black to a soiree is fine and in some cases, expected.

A southern girl must exercise her creativity, though. She doesn’t want to blend in with all the other little black dresses. She must stand out without crossing over into Tacky Territory.


Although most any southern girl has a tiara or two left over from a beauty pageant win, she shouldn’t be tempted to wear it. Her head should be adorned only with the shiniest tresses and perhaps a tasteful 18 carat gold clip.

I believe I’ve made my case for my mortification when my cousin came to a tea dressed in black. Further elaboration is unnecessary.

In case you think this all sounds a bit snobby, let me remind you of one cardinal rule all southern girls live by: the difference between snobs and well-bred southern girls is the Mason Dixon line.


                                                                     
________________________________________________________________________                                                            


Feel free to leave me a comment and let me know if you liked the story. 

Happy Writing!

Betty