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Showing posts from 2016

The Annual Christmas Letter

Every year it shows up under the guise of a Christmas card.  I open it to enjoy the card within and out it drops – the pompous Christmas letter.            You know the one – the letter that goes on and on about all the Wonderful, Amazing, Aren’t we cute,newsy letter about all the accomplishments the “family” accomplished in one human year.            The trips, the awards, the marriages, the babies, the usual whoop-de-does that are really wonderful accomplishments, but that we already heard about on Facebook, through phone calls, and the usual family grapevine. We already ooohed and aaahed over it.  We smiled.  We congratulated.  We paid homage.            Why must we be reminded of it all again?           I scan the letter to make sure I didn’t miss something, but also, I look for typos.  I read between the lines.  I wonder if the uninformed know the real story behind the stories printed there in 12-point font, Times New Roman.           What no mention of the DUI?  The six…

My Twelve Days of Christmas

One day before Christmas, my raucous, blended family dropped by to see me. Two bathrooms to clean Three entrees to cook (turkey, pork loin, vegetarian) Four mopey teenagers Five employed, married, live-in-their-own-house, grownup children Six rolls of Costco wrapping paper Seven phone calls from funny-sounding people wanting my Visa pin number Eight bottles of delicious, soothing on the nerves, red wine Nine pairs of pajamas to buy for grandkids Ten pounds gained on the bathroom scale Eleven funny Santa hats waiting for little heads And twelve months to recover my bank balance, goal weight, and sanity.

Feliz Christmas, y’all!

The Last Pair of SweatPants on Earth

For fifty years of my life, for six, sometimes seven days a week, I wore what my grandmother called “Sunday best.”  I dressed up daily, put on makeup, fixed and sprayed my hair.  I wore heels.  And then I retired.           Except for church on Sunday, I no longer needed to put on makeup daily.  I stopped fixing my hair and only ran my fingers through my short do.  I wore flip flops and house shoes, but every three or four days, I ran out of things to wear. I needed more play clothes in my rotation.           Before I went shopping, I assessed what I had available and found a box of hand-me-downs my sons had given me when they moved away. It was full of extra-large tee-shirts and a stack of men’s, large, gray sweatpants.           Up to then, I had ignored my weight gain; my dress slacks cut into my middle and I sometimes wore them without buttoning or hooking the waist.  I bought the larger dresses that take up the back half of the dress rack in stores.           The moment…

Caldo

Every Saturday, regardless the season, my father made caldo de res, beef soup, for our lunch. He would quarter a whole cabbage, halve corn on the cob, and add potatoes and carrots to the beef soup bone broth.  He sometimes, but very rarely, made caldo de pollo for he preferred the heartiness of beef over the lightness of chicken.           We groaned over his caldo de res, wanting hamburgers or pizza, anything but watery soup, but he ignored us.  He recounted an old child’s tale about a mean stepmother who served the broth to her stepchildren and gave the drained meat and vegetables to her own.  She wondered why her hated hijastros looked healthy and robust and her querido bebes grew listless and pale.           We didn’t care that the broth was healthier than the other caldo ingredients, we wanted to sink our teeth into food and not slurp our way to the bottom of the bowl.           It has been almost half a century since the days of my father’s Saturday afternoon caldo, bu…

Eulogy

When I am gone, I hope everyone misses me for a long, long time.  I hope my life was not a ripple but a big splash, and no one will be able to “get over it and move on.” I hope I am missed and not dismissed. I hope folks will set a place for me at their table, reach for their phones to text me, or add me to their Christmas list before they remember I am no more. I hope folks will smile, feel sad, and stop what they are doing to remember me for one second.  I hope I made a difference in their lives and it was all good. Nothing sadder than having existed and not lived a good life, one that is remembered long after I am gone.
I hope that even when those who knew me have joined me in the afterlife, my splash will have reached the generations after.  No need to have known me firsthand.  No need to recall my name like some person in a text book.   What I hope is that my love for others, my words of well-earned wisdom, my kindness will have been sown forward, and a little bit of ME will still…

THE BLOG on BLOGGING: ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR WATSON

So, you’ve decided to blog.Let us ponder your options. 
OPEN THE POD DOORS, HAL Why do you want to blog?What do you have to say or share that isn’t already being said or shared by the other 200 million bloggers out there? Who is your audience? Is it a family-and-friends-only journal or a me-only diary? Maybe it’s an advertisement for a product/creation/business, and you wish to attract awareness/admirers/customers? Is it an exercise in creativity and you are searching for an audience or an outlet for your opus? It is crucial you decide this before you blog.

I HAVE ALWAYS DEPENDED ON THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS Study other blogs and glean information that will help you decide how to best set up your site and its operation. See what works and doesn’t for your purposes.Come up with a quirk or innovation that will make it different from the many others. If what you envision is beyond your technical savvy, then enlist/hire/beg for help. Will it have links, photos, interactive options? Tabs?Severa…

Starting up a Blog or Newsletter

I. Your blog or newsletter A.Is your opening page/landing page too busy?  Keep it simple and easy to read and use. B.Offer only a few options but lead your readers where or what you want from them.  Make sure there is a “Call to Action.”  Provide buttons for readers to sign up as members, to sign up for the blog or newsletter, to leave a comment, or to purchase and item.  (Use different color buttons or bars for this to attract the eye.) C.Add videos, podcasts, images, pictures, etc. It increases the amount of time a reader spends on your site and it increases your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which then leads to Google preference when someone does a search. Make your own videos, create your own pictures, and label your work so they will be credited to you.  If they end up elsewhere, you will own the property and they will link back to you and your page(s). You will own the property and it will not be reliant on other advertisement. (Almost everyone owns a phone, especially people…

Writers’ Group Dynamics

I belong to a writers’ group.  We meet once a week for two hours.  The first hour we meet as a whole group; the second hour we meet in genre-specific, critique groups. This group has met for over fifteen years and the membership has changed but the group itself has continued with great success. I joined six years ago and have learned an immensity about writing, and writing well for publication. Of the many, varied writers’ groups I have belonged to (and started) over the last thirty years, this group has taught me more than all of them combined. The question is why? What makes a successful group? 1.Does the group have meaningful goals? Are they clearly stated to old and new members? Do they draw people to attend meetings and do they return week after week? Does it meet a need or fulfill a purpose for its members?   2.Do they feel accepted and welcomed?  Do they feel part of the group? Do their goals mesh with those of the others? Is there trust that their views and opinions will be acc…

Moving to Canada!!!

Not really.  Regardless who wins the election for President this coming Tuesday, I am not moving to Canada like so many others claim.             One, I don’t know anyone there.           Two, I suck at French. I was so bad at it that I dropped out of the class during my second week as a college freshman.           Three, I cannot stand the cold.  I become totally physically disabled when it comes to cold weather.           Regardless of who becomes President of the United States (and I do not like either one of the two major candidates), I am stuck here in the US of A along with all the other inmates.           I could try moving to Mexico but I don’t know anyone there.  My Spanish is notably not my first language, and the heat might be bearable but the crime cartels might mistake me for a rich American and no one in my family has enough cash to pay a ransom for my safe return. At least, that would be their excuse.           I guess I will take my chances here regardless of w…

Criticizing my Baby

My husband and I have been doing craft and trade shows now for one whole year.  It came about because of several things.  One, we started on this huge “downsizing” kick.  We wanted to see if we could live with half the stuff we have collected over the years, so I went room to room in the house and cut our belongings by half, but he had to do the same in his wood shop outside.  He has stacks and stacks of lumber castoffs from the preschool furniture he builds for a living that he cannot bring himself to throw away.  Two, he has greatly reduced his “day job” over the last few years and wants to transition into something to keep him busy and active when he retires.  Thirdly, he loves being creative, making things for our five kids, their spouses, and our nine grandkids, so he decided to turn his hobby and his skill and his scraps of wood castoffs into a new business.           For the first six months, I helped him organize and work the once-a-month craft shows.  We were learning the bus…

Hoarding

My sister-in-law collects Christmas ornaments from all the places she and her family have visited.  She keeps all these beautiful items in a chest of drawers she chose specially for them.  It resembles the cabinets libraries use to keep maps, long deep drawers that run the length of the width of the cabinet.  At Christmas she decorates her tree with these exquisite pieces and can tell the story behind each ornament. A good friend collects tea cups, not sets of teacups but single cups and saucers in beautiful colors and designs.  She keeps hers in a glass étagère that keeps them dust free and easily visible. I collect a variety of things.  My favorite are my Willow Tree angels, the original beauties that started the trend.  My husband made me a corner cabinet where I can display them, but I know my limits.  I prefer to collect and not hoard. A collection is controlled by the owner; hoarding controls the owner. To own something or hold on to it just because of obsession is hoarding, and…

Finding Time to Write

Saturday mornings was my writing time.  I would stay in my jammies, make a huge pot of coffee, and sit at the computer until I came up with a weekly blog.  Some days were more successful than others and I would store two or three blogs for future use.            Throughout the week I would fit time to write on my latest manuscript. My study, my desktop, and my flash drive are full of unfinished work, all waiting for me to get back to them.           But life has interfered.           I have been told that is not a valid excuse, but then what the naysayers say does not count.             My husband needs me.           It is not something drastic or dramatic; he has started a new venture in his life and needs my help. Since he has always been supportive of my needs and wants, I have to reciprocate in kind. In the last few years before he retires, he wants to transition into a new career.  He owns a carpentry shop, making kindergarten furniture for huge school districts.  It was …

Hobby Fun

Remember that pesky section on the college application that asked you to “list” your hobbies?  The humiliating bullet on the job resume form you have to fill with the “many ways” you fill your leisure time?  How about the moment Tall, Dark, and Handsome at the company get-together wants you to share “what you do for fun?”
And you realize your answer will be as interesting as how you organize your separates on wash day.  Whites here.  Delicates there. 
I read fiction.  I write a weekly blog.  I love crosswords and Family Feud.

So you embellish, embroider, exaggerate.  You lie.
I hike the countryside on weekends.  I love nature.
Hey, I own a pair of hiking boots.  I wore them once and I plan to wear them again one day as soon as my bunion heals. I do love nature even though I have to take allergy meds before I venture outside my house.
I go to the gym three times a week.
Once again the truth.  I dress, show up for thirty minutes (just long enough to be seen by a few regulars), then I clo…

September 11th – In Retrospect

Even after thirty years in a dysfunctional relationship, I missed being married. I was sad, lonely, and lost. My kids were all grown and gone, and even the family dog had died.         I was in the middle of teaching a poetry lesson to a group of high school juniors when the teacher next door came running into my classroom, yelling for me to turn on my TV.  A plane had just crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. Our country was being attacked by terrorists. For the rest of the school day the whole school, the whole nation, watched as all hell broke loose on our safe, complacent world.  It was Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Purgatory all rolled into one. I don’t remember getting home, but I do remember assuring my three kids (all in their early twenties back then) that if worse came to worst, we would all gather at my house, we would all live under one roof, and we would all look out for and protect each other. I remember checking on the two useless “rifles” we kep…

Do Unto Others

My husband and his sons rented a salt water fishing boat for the day off the Texas coast.  The captain took their money but griped about the cold, rainy weather the whole time they were out fishing.  He wanted to cut the fishing trip short and said so. My men ignored him and enjoyed their day, returning with stories about the grumpy captain, the fish they almost caught, and how their dad kept tossing his cookies over the side of the boat for the majority of the time.           Why do people work at jobs where they do not like what they do and do not like their clients?           I have known teachers who hate children, doctors who turn their noses at their sick patients, and sales clerks who get upset when a customer asks for help.           My advice to all these unhappy people:  quit your job and go find one that fits your personality. And good luck.           Captain Ahab took the money when my men went fishing.  At the price they paid for his service, it should have come with a sm…

Writer Looking for Room to Let

Now that I bought my fancy-schmancy, portable laptop, I need a cool-schmool place to write my ever elusive novel that has yet to see the light of day. I looked up “places where famous and filthy-rich authors” have written their novels, and it seems I have been doing it all wrong.  No wonder I have not been discovered by the powers that be. I was chained to the house using my old, trusty PC. It seems famous authors hang out in cafés, coffee shops, and bars, and when it comes to launching their first book, they hold their debuts at these places, giving them well-deserved praise for boosting their muse.  The atmosphere at these cafés created memorable characters, the strong aroma of Colombian brew at the coffee shops evoked passionate plots, and imbibing hard liquor loosened the lexicon.   I am looking for a cool schmool place to write my novel AND be seen by the adoring public.  I cannot afford much, so there will be no renting of solitary hotel rooms, relaxing condos on the beach, or in…

Bonus Babies

Eight years ago, my daughter fell in love and married a single dad who alone was raising his two elementary-age children, a little girl and her younger brother.My grandbaby count doubled from two to four overnight. With Christmas around the corner, HB and I did not hesitate about adding them to our Christmas list, but we were surprised when others did. Our families are blended.  We were ALL married, divorced, and married again, and the innocents in all this drama are the children.  HoneyBunch and I decided to look at it from the perspective of the child and not from the ex-in-laws. We would never separate the grandchildren we acquired through birth from those we acquired as a bonus. God entrusted us with this gift, and we honor it. Our daughter added to her family with two little boys, and one year after that, my youngest son introduced me to his fiancé and her son.  We added him to our Christmas list, jotted his birthday into our calendar, and considered ourselves blessed once again. …

It’s That Time of Year

Parents are frantically running around, waving their credit cards in the air, trying to get their children ready for school.I don’t envy them.That was me for nineteen years, and it all had to be done on a teacher’s salary.           I learned early to be resourceful.  I spaced out doctor and dentist and optometrist appointments throughout the summer, sometimes starting that huge expenditure the week after school ended in May.  I did the same when upgrading their wardrobes.  I bought them nice jeans and shirts, underwear and shoes throughout the summer, and we used the back to school sales for only a few new items. Hand me downs were acceptable, so my kids often swapped clothes, and even I inherited rock band t-shirts that no one else wanted.   I made my three bring back all their unused school supplies instead of donating them to their teachers or throwing them in the school dumpster.  They were horrified that I saved their old rulers, protractors and compasses, those little watercolor …

Friend Request

As a child, my playmates were my older brother and younger sister, my cousins, and the neighborhood kids.  I didn’t have a best friend until the fourth grade.           Delma walked up to me one day during recess and announced we were best pals.  I was stunned and delighted.  Someone who wasn’t related to me liked me.  She didn’t need me to play third base or be “it.” She just liked me. This was new territory for me.           Delma showed me the best bud basics.  She saved me a place in the cafeteria.  She sought me out at recess.  We swapped school pictures and the Valentine cards reserved for “best friends.” She talked to me about boys, her family, and her favorite things; and as my confidence grew, I reciprocated her kindness.           At the end of fourth grade, she told me she would not be returning to our parochial elementary.  Her parents found it too expensive and she was going to public school.  I was broken hearted.  I was losing my one and only best friend.           When…

Losing a Child

July 25, 2012
I lost a grandson a few weeks ago.  His death was caused by a freak household accident that claimed his life within hours.  No one had time to do more than react and pray for the best. For once in my life I had no words of wisdom for my daughter, no remedy or solution that would make everything better.  I stood by while she heard the words no parent ever wants to hear – her child, her baby, was not responding to everything the trauma medical team was  frantically trying.  Her twenty-two-month-old child was dying. One moment her fearless little boy was bombing around the house playing and climbing on furniture, the next he was injured and quiet. What should have been a boo-boo made better with mommy kisses, ended up a fatality. I try not to relive the horror of that night, but I struggle to sleep.  I wait until my eyes close from exhaustion and I wake a few hours later with a start.  Sadness and fear chase me in my dreams. I do not dare imagine what goes through my daught…