Thursday, July 31, 2014

RAK ~ Random Acts of Kindness

Many things shared on Face Book have value.  Ok, I skip anything regarding political views, regardless of which party is trying to invite me to join their games, but many of the posts do make me stop and think.  

As a child, I tried to memorize the Ten Commandments for a Sunday school assignment.  After the first five, I had trouble keeping the order straight.  My Grandpa Vaughn was a preacher and taught me to read from the Bible. I knew that Adam and Eve left Eden as a punishment and why Noah built the Ark. I did not want God mad at me if I forgot His commandments.

Then my amazing Grandma Lucy calmed my fears.  She explained that if I learned and lived the Golden Rule, to treat others as I wanted to be treated, that God would be happy.  By following that one rule, I would pretty much cover all of the Big Ten.

This is the recent post on Face Book that grabbed my attention and won’t let go.  It is one simple sentence that expresses the Golden Rule as an idea that can have tremendous impact on many. 

I purchased a journal type book to record my daily "feel good deeds." I hope my actions will make others feel good and I know it will help me. Writing things down helps me track what is important especially when overwhelmed with everyday stuff. And when, not if, I miss a day, I will remember to catch up. Also on those days when I do not feel like being nice to anyone including myself, it will remind me of my goal.   

Will my actions actually change 365 lives?  Probably not in a big way or for a significant period of time, but each day, I will connect with another soul and we will share a moment that for me will be pleasantly memorable.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July

I miss celebrating Independence Day in Modesto. Each year, we were excited about watching the parade. The night before, Dad and a friend would park one of their pickups along 10th street to reserve a spot to view the parade.  Early the next morning, the two families would arrive in another vehicle, park as close as possible, and then we would unload and haul folding chairs and ice chests to the waiting truck.

Regardless of when we arrived, it was always hot. The temperature would reach 100° and continue to climb, but we kids ignored that.  We were too excited about the parade.  We wanted to wave at the people on the floats, hear the bands and maybe pet the horses. Mom was a not a fan of the heat and to please her, Dad rigged a shade awning over the top of the open truck bed.  It successfully created an illusion of cool rather than a reality, but Mom appreciated his efforts.

After the parade, family and friends would gather for food and fun to last until the lights went out at Del Webb Field and fireworks lit the sky.  Each 4th of July, I remember those wonderful low cost, but cherished celebrations and wish I was there again. 

John and Mary Ann Sanders, Grand Marshals of the 2013 Independence Day Parade

Mary Ann was my 6th grade teacher.  I am thrilled she and her husband, John were recognized for their years of service in Modesto.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Malady of Age Continues

Due to popular request, a re-post

“For one million dollars, is that your final answer?” 

Music and audience voices combine into a blast of noise that almost masks the drumming of my heart. Am I right? Do I trust my memory of high school history or should I use a lifeline to confirm the answer? 

“I, I … I need to pee.” 


The brilliant lights, noisy people and uncomfortable studio chairs vanish. I’m in bed with a pressing urge to hurry to the bathroom. Drat! This is the second time tonight. I know not to drink anything after dinner and still each evening, I swig a variety of beverages until bedtime and a few hours later, I get to berate myself for another night of interrupted sleep.

Over the years, I’ve gathered vast knowledge regarding my body. I know that drinking fluids in the evening will result in midnight visits to the porcelain throne. It doesn’t matter what type of beverage I sip, any liquid has the same effect. 

I also know that eating food spiced with more than a pinch of salt will hatch a sea urchin in my stomach to undulate through my intestines. The creature’s journey causes heartburn, indigestion and frequent stabbing pains. 

The outside of my body has betrayed me too. The face in my mirror is not the image I carry of myself in my mind. The reflection cannot be mine, but of an unwanted roommate who lives in the space on the other side of the glass. Except for the wrinkles, gray hair and frown lines she looks somewhat like me, but older, definitely older.

Maybe I need a checkup. Frequent urination, irritable bowels and pain can indicate a serious health condition. I would look up the symptoms on the internet, but the variety of diseases they match would overwhelm me and keep me awake. I’ll be 59 in a few days, I need my beauty sleep.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Love at First Sight

In fairy tales, the hero and his lady fall in love at first sight and live happily ever after. Can that really happen?

Once upon a time, New Year’s Eve 1952, Leon Vaughn was back in Modesto. He was home on leave from the Korean War. After hugging his parents, he went in search of his brother, Jack at a community dance.  He entered the hall, spied his brother and swaggered across the floor. Young women noticed the sailor in dress whites, with wavy black hair and bright hazel eyes. “He’s cute,” they whispered loud enough to attract his attention.  He flashed a laughing smile and noted where the girls sat intending to dance with them later.
Leon & Blanch 1953

Jack introduced his big brother to a group of friends including Blanch Trammell, a beautiful brunette.  When Leon first saw Blanch, he thought to himself, “She’s mine.”  For the rest of the evening, the sailor and the brunette danced only with each other. Later, Blanch bragged to her friends, “Leon is so handsome he’s pretty.”  

A few days after the dance, Leon arrived at Blanch’s home to see her leaving with another man. Leon asked her, “Do you want to go with him or me?” Blanch drove away with Leon and that night they became engaged. Blanch was 16 and according to Lucy, her mother too young to marry anyone. Lucy’s brother-in-law, Harper Trammell convinced her that without her permission, the young couple would elope to Reno.  

Leon’s leave was almost over; he had to report for duty in San Francisco. On January 18th, 18 days after the dance and 61 years ago today, Pierce Leon Vaughn and Aletta Blanch Trammell wed. The ceremony took place on Lucy’s front lawn. Due to the lack of time for planning and the lack of funds for fancy extras, the ceremony was simple, but strong enough to bind two lives together. For my parents, Leon and Blanch, love at first sight did happen in real life. Leon died Aug 30, 2011, leaving his sweetheart, but the love lives on.

January 18, 1953

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Happy Birthday !!!!!

May 1992

January 16, 1992 the world changed forever, Joshua James William Skaug was born. You were eager to explore life. You wore your dad's baby shoes to attend your first dance at four months old.

You've explored dreams of what to be when you grew up. Work as a model? Nah, too much standing around waiting on others.

Join a gang and be an outlaw? No, you can't help it, you are a good guy. Perhaps become a martial arts expert? You tried it for a few years then it stopped being fun. Maybe a magician? You were a terrific assistant. 

Dreaming with Wally / Savage Talent / Old Tucson Studios / Kempo class / A Magical Birthday

A chef is a tasteful choice, you published three cookbooks by 13 years old. Stretch your creativity as a writer; your talent impressed Michael Blake, the academy award winner for best screenplay Dances with Wolves.

Sahuarita Sun newspaper / At a writing event with Michael Blake

Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile 
You've had many fun experiences to feed a hungry imagination. You played basketball with the drivers of the Oscar Meyer wiener mobile parked in front of our home.

You explored the Star Trek Enterprise and sat in the Captain's chair, and even survived a Borg attack.

Star Trek Experience in the Las Vegas Hilton

Whatever you decide, I bet it will involve music. You have performed in various choirs since 2nd grade and earned an invitation to sing in an honor choir at Chico State. 
The Producers cast named you the best singer in the play.

Chico High Choir / playing a box harp / The Producers cast

Now, you are attending college and uncertain as to a degree. Know that whatever you do in life, your Dad and I will be excited for you. We will be and always have been proud of you. We love you.

Josh and Gabe, his best friend / Kissing Bella, the dolphin / Hugging cousin Christy

Happy Birthday Josh!

Monday, January 6, 2014

R. P. Dahlke ~ Modesto Author

R. P. Dahlke
I love to read and I love my hometown, Modesto.  When I can combine both loves by reading about Modesto, I am happily entertained.  R.P. (Rebecca Phillips) Dahlke is the author of the Dead Red Mysteries series based in Modesto.  Her atypical sleuth is Lalla Bains, a former fashion model, who stumbles upon murders while trying to run a crop dusting business in the San Joaquin valley.

Rebecca grew up near Modesto on an 80 acre almond ranch and attended Ceres High School.  Her memories bring authenticity to the books’ descriptions of Stanislaus County.  Her experience in running a crop dusting business adds a spice of truth to the troubles Lalla faces in trying to make a profit.  Three books are published in the series; Dead Red Cadillac, Dead Red Heart and Dead Red Oleander.  Fans are awaiting a fourth book, Dead Red Alibi due in March of 2014.  
Dead Red Mystery series
I read Dead Red Cadillac in one night. With Modestans love of cars, (remember American Graffiti) the title alone should garner interest. The variety of characters and the suspense of “who done it” kept me eagerly reading until the last page. This weekend, I’ll be reading Dead Red Heart. I will try to read slower to savor the story.

Excerpt from Dead Red Cadillac used by permission of R.P. Dahlke
Twice-divorced New York model Lalla Bains now runs her dad’s crop-dusting business in Modesto, California, where she’s hoping to dodge the inevitable fortieth birthday party. But when her trophy red vintage Caddy is found tail fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask why a widowed piano teacher, who couldn’t possibly see beyond the hood ornament, was found strapped in the driver’s seat.

Reeling from the interrogation with local homicide, Lalla is determined to extricate herself as a suspect in this strange murder case.  Unfortunately, drug-running pilots, a cross-dressing convict, a crazy Chihuahua, and the dead woman’s hunky nephew throw enough roadblocks to keep Lalla neck-deep in an investigation that links her family to a twenty-year-old murder only she can solve.

Chapter One:                                                              
“Can you hear me, Miss Bains?”
“Yeah, I can hear you.” I was lying on the ground, my shoulder hurt like hell, and when I tried to get up, my leg buckled under from the pain. I looked up at my Ag-Cat, its fat nose cone planted deep into a row of tomatoes like some giant burrowing beast.

I groaned at the conflicting emotions—I didn’t make it as far as that restricted airstrip I was hoping to land on, I’m alive, but when my dad sees this he’s going to kill me.

Visit to discover more about Rebecca and her writing. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Blessings in 2014

I woke this morning under a water tight roof, in a warm bed with a loving husband lying next to me. After a hot shower, I selected an outfit from a variety of clean clothes.  I walked into a kitchen with a refrigerator and cupboards filled with food.  I hugged my son, petted the dogs and sat down with a laptop.  Rather than listing resolutions, I’m counting blessings. 

New Year resolutions are about making changes. I know the changes I need to make in myself, the “to do” list has remained the same for years.  When I fail to accomplish the resolutions, I disappoint myself.  Focusing on blessings instead of my faults encourages me to smile.  The positive energy empowers me to help others.  This morning, family called asking for help.  Their request honored me by respecting my abilities.  I hope I helped as it felt good to be needed.  I wonder what blessings tomorrow will bring?

Count your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings
song written by Irving Berlin

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 1963

In late November 1963, all the news was about President Kennedy’s assassination.  I knew the grownups in my family were upset, but at 8 years old, I did not understand the significance of the continuous news reports.  I was only a witness to the events of those days; I was not emotionally invested, not until I saw tears on my beloved Grandpa Johnny’s face.  He cried as he watched the television and I stood close to his chair with my head against him.  I wondered if Johnny knew Kennedy personally, because why did the death of a stranger upset him so much? 

Years later after Johnny died; Grandma gave me several black and white photographs.  They were grainy images of the flag draped casket laying in state in our Capital’s rotunda and the horse drawn caisson procession to Saint Mathew’s Cathedral and then again to Arlington National Cemetery.  Johnny had taken Polaroid photos of the screen of his black and white television as the news telecast the funeral events. 

Johnny and Kennedy were not personal friends, but like so many Americans, Johnny believed Kennedy truly cared about our country. Kennedy was not perfect, he made mistakes, he was only a human, but he was our President.   Johnny’s tears expressed his sorrow that a good man died, tenderness for the very young children who lost their father, and concern for a country that lost a leader, someone who cared about building a better tomorrow for everyone’s children.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Never too Old to Learn

Humans are living longer.  Medical conditions that years ago were death sentences are now curable or manageable with treatment.  Seniors today are staying active physically and mentally.  They are dynamic people eager to explore new experiences.  Occasionally, I will post about Active Seniors.   
Men and women in their 50s, 60s and beyond are returning to school.  Many universities encourage retirees to attend school by decreasing fees and tuition.  Developers are building retirement communities affiliated with Dartmouth, Notre Dame and Cornell.  Access to university facilities is a benefit for their residents.  Many state universities allow seniors to audit classes for free.
 An outstanding star among older students is Nola Ochs.  She was 95 when she earned a B.A. in history at Fort Hays State University.  Three years later, she added a master’s degree in liberal arts.  Nola followed that success by serving as a graduate teaching assistant in the history department at her alma mater.  In 2011, she celebrated her 100th birthday at a basketball game at Fort Hays and is now writing a book. 
 Nola said, “I would like, in the long run, to encourage people to keep on learning. Our education is never complete.”
 I agree with this nonagenarian In a few weeks, I will be starting classes at Butte College.  It will be an education learning to divide my time and energy between family, work and school.  Thank you to Tri-Counties Bank for awarding me a scholarship and to Linda Burkhart and Nancy Morgans-Ferguson for writing what must have been amazing letters of recommendation.

My son will also be attending Butte.  I promised not to embarrass Josh by sitting next to him in a classroom.  He scheduled all of his classes at a different campus. Guess he wanted to be sure I kept my promise.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Got Dreams?

      I was hiding in an elm tree when I first decided to be a writer. Chores were waiting, but I preferred to read in my leafy hideout.  I did not consider how to make my dream a reality; I only knew that I loved books and that someday I wanted to be a writer.

     There were few job opportunities for a teenage girl in the 1960s and writing was not a career option.  Stocking shelves for minimum wage at K Mart was monotonous, but a weekly pay envelope stuffed with cash was incentive to show up when scheduled.  As a teen living at home, I soon saved $600.  I bought my first car, a baby blue t-bird with white interior.  I owned it a week before I hit a police car while trying to parallel park.

     Since then my driving has improved and I’ve held many jobs.  I worked in retail, monitored alarms in central stations, balanced numbers as a bookkeeper, a tax preparer and payroll and human resource director.  I earned money, but I did not fulfill my dream.  

     Am I getting to old for my dream?  Nah!  Alex Haley published his debut novel, Roots at 55.  Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when her popular Little House series began. Norman McLean, Mary Wesley, and Harriet Doerr were all in their 70s when their first novels were printed. Jamil Ahmad earned fame at 80 with his novel, The Wandering Falcon and Toyo Shibata became a published poet at 98.

     Thanks to the encouragement of friendly authors, I am now seriously writing. These published professionals offer to review chapters, suggest editing and threaten to glue my butt in a chair until I finish a project.  Publishing has changed dramatically over the years and today few writers make big bucks. Money is not the reason I write, it is something I need to do.

     I have a career that pays the bills.  My husband and I own an alternative healthcare office.  There I wear the hats of bookkeeper, marketing director and certified massage practitioner.  I also schedule time each day to write.  Dreams do not come true by wishing on a star, they require work.  I'm glad I am old enough to have learned that truth.

Poet Toyo Shibata

Sunday, July 28, 2013

40 Years Later

     High school reunions can be exciting or excruciating, depending on your memories of school.  I am proud to be a Panther of the Modesto High School Class of 1973.  My class celebrated our 40th reunion last night.  Although I could not attend, I was still excited about the event.  As I recalled friends from school, I Goggled some names.   

     MHS is located in a typical small town, not somewhere legendary like Hollywood.  Despite the non-celebrity locale, my classmates are special.  We followed various career paths as business owners and entrepreneurs, bankers, farmers, nurses, doctors, teachers, attorneys and even a judge.  Many enlisted for a hitch or two in the military and some served until retirement.  A few names achieved fame as artists and authors, but most of us are famous only to our families and friends. 

     As the years passed, we realized how much we are alike rather than different. We raised families, paid taxes, worried about the future and now cherish the memories of when we were young and idealistic. To have the vitality of teenagers combined with mature wisdom may be wonderful, but an opportunity to gather and reminisce about our youth is almost as good.  I was not there, but thanks to the web, I can see photos of the many smiling faces that mingled and asked the popular question, “Do you remember …?”

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Modesto High School Class of 1973

     The Modesto High School Class of 1973 is holding a 40th reunion on July 27th.  I am not planning it, but I am playing Sherlock Holmes to track down classmates to share the news.              Reunion Information

     Research helped me reconnect with “old” friends from my youth.  It also led to obituaries of former classmates, Linda Walker Freng and Trena Robinson Cambron.  They were part of a group that took turns hosting parties where none of us drank alcohol, smoked or took drugs.  We did play spin the bottle … a lot.  Our early teen years were so innocent compared to today.

     My 58th birthday was this week.  I am no longer young and unless I can figure a way to live to 116, I’m not even middle-aged.  I cherish memories of my youth and those dear souls who shared the adventures that made me who I am now.  

     Two classmates died before we graduated and since then eleven others that I know of.  Life is not finite, so let's stay connected to share old memories and make new ones.

All hail to thee, Modesto High; 
Let not thy soaring echoes die.
In black and crimson majesty, 
Thy colors stand for victory.
Thy loyal sons and daughters raise 
To thee in ever reverent praise.
A song sent singing to the sky: 
All hail to thee, MODESTO HIGH

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chapter One

The Witch in the Wheelchair

“Here comes a big butt bitch.”   Alice’s words attracted as much attention as fireworks in a night sky.  Like an incantation, the words slowed time and exaggerated each person’s reaction.  It allowed me to scan the reception area.  I identified each person and their purpose, healers, aids, residents and Alice in a wheelchair.  Everyone present had a legitimate reason to be in Life House, a rehab and retirement center.

A young man in pale green scrubs stood behind Alice.  He bent forward to scold the old woman, not a smart thing to do when the crone is an experienced witch.  I stepped in front of her chair and extended my arms to show a pair of elaborately carved bracelets.  He did not know me, but he recognized the meaning of the wide bands of silver decorated with etchings and jewels.  All Guardian Agents wear personalized wrist cuffs.  I nodded my head to the side that he should leave, he did.  Agents are the bogeymen used to threaten kids.

In my world, Sidhe warriors live next door to shape shifters, brownies and other beings, all with special gifts.  Once each group preferred their own neighborhoods, but interbreeding has blurred the boundaries; now everyone lives and raises families without concern over who lives where.  Most get along despite their differences.  When someone disrupts society, the ruling council, the Guardians, send someone like me to solve the problem. 

Alice watched me for a reaction to her unusual welcome.  Her smile stretched to show short white teeth, the only smooth surface in the wrinkled road map of her face.  Her color was grey; frizzed hair, raggedly cut short, tiny watery eyes and paper-thin skin, all dappled shades.

“Alice, wear your glasses.  My butt is not big.”  

 “Agent Stone, you’re ok being called a bitch, but you’re worried about your looks?”

“Bitch is a title I’ve earned. Use it with reverence.  Yes, I care about my looks I am a woman.” 

“You don’t dress like one.”  She stared at the toes of my dusty black boots and moving her gaze upwards, inventoried my appearance, black slacks, a white button down cotton shirt and a black leather blazer that did not meet her sense of style.  Her face broadcast her disapproval.

 “Alice, it’s surprising that no one’s killed you yet.”     
 “Is it a pleasant surprise?” She smiled again, bigger and more annoying.

I shook my head, “Nothing related to you is pleasant, especially not the bad news.”

“Bad news?   If you mean about the accident, you’re slow with your sympathies, it happened a week ago.” 

“It’s been four days and the bad news is that the explosion did not kill you.”

Alice’s smile disappeared.  She jerked off the white thermal blanket covering her lap.  Bandaged stubs extended just below the knee length hem of her hospital gown.  Trapped under debris from the blast, her legs suffered damage beyond anything a healer could repair.  “I lost my legs!”  

It was hard to decide which was colder, Alice’s tone of voice or the look in her eyes.  I‘ve faced scarier things.  I stared back.  She blinked first. 

She took several minutes to rearrange the blanket over her lap. I waited.  I’m good at that. When your expected life span is exceptionally long, you learn patience.  My Pops is an angel and passed along his good genes.  I can be killed, but not easily.  You could ask those who tried and failed, if any were still alive.

Alice was done playing games, “Stone, why are you here?”

“I’m  investigating the destruction of your home. That means I ask questions and you answer truthfully.  Let’s get comfy and chat, maybe we can become BFFs?” I mimicked her smile all teeth and frosty eyes.  Alice and I would never be friends.  

Our relationship is a history of me investigating complaints about her.  I researched every case and then settled the dispute.  So far, never in Alice’s favor.  We each have excellent memories and can happily recall every insult we passed back and forth. 

No torture could make me admit that we are more alike than different.  We are both loners.  Few people matter to me and I keep my personal life private.  It’s safer for my friends.  

Before the explosion drained her ability to alter her age, we even looked similar; each almost six feet tall, pale skin, grey eyes, and short dark hair.  Then she wore revealing clothes, too much make up and was prettier, but I’d bet she used glamour magic.

I pushed Alice’s chair down the hall to her private room where I closed the door.  Too many characters in this place had supernatural hearing. To create a calm ambiance, the institution’s decor was blah beige, and barely there pastels of pink and blue.  Alice’s few personal belongings that survived were scattered throughout the room adding bold splashes of orange, yellow, and purple.  I positioned her facing a faded floral print chair so we could both sit.

Alice grilled me, “Why are you assigned to my case?”

I wondered what I should tell her.  Information is power, and this old hag knew how to use power.  Would it complicate things, if Alice knew black magic destroyed her home and that the Guardians believe her innocent?  I didn’t agree, but I’m not in charge. “The Captain thinks this assignment will add to my job skills.”

She laughed.  It was ugly, like the hairless Sphynx cat that lay in the middle of her bed.  “You need to learn more ways to kill people?”

She shrank when I leaned forward and gripped the arms of her chair.  My jacket pulled against a bandaged shoulder, reminding me of an injury from this morning’s assignment.   I sat back and tried to relax, I failed.  “I only kill when necessary to save innocents from monsters like you.”

Alice’s anger heated and sparks flashed between us.  She spit each word at me, “I am not a monster.  You’ve interfered with my business, but you don’t know me.”

“I know enough not to trust you.  I’m stuck with your case, because I do know you.  I know your history and your eagerness to break the rules.  When a client cannot get any other witch to work with them, why do they end up at your door?”

 I visualized Alice’s record and coldly recited the facts.  “You were the only child of Charles and Miriam Lowell.”

The floating sparks flared into small flames, “Stop!  You have no right to say their names!”

Paranormal theatrics do not scare me, I continued, “A drunken college boy crashed his corvette into a restaurant where you and your parents were eating.  They died and you inherited more money than you could spend in multiple lifetimes.  After the drivers’ fraternity mysteriously burned down with him inside, you left town.”

“I had nothing to do with that!” Alice’s grey face was now red, burning bright as I heaped more fuel on the fire.

“You traveled seeking experts in longevity.  Eventually you returned home looking twenty years old and never aged, not until the explosion destroyed your house.  There is no evidence of a gas leak or other structural defect to blame. The Guardians believe someone used black magic.  What do you think?”  

Her eyes still blazed, “I would never do anything to end up crippled.  Do you think I would look old if there was anything I could do to change it?” 

I allowed disgust to show on my face, “Were you working black magic and lost control?”

“No!  Not all my clients wear white hats, but I am not a black witch.”

One of my talents is reading auras.  I can tell if someone is lying.  I hid the shock that Alice was telling the truth.  Her aura burned with the pain of reliving her parents’ death and sincerity.  

Why does it surprise me that the Guardians are right and that I am wrong, again? 

Alice was not stupid.  She knew I was holding back.  She did not expect me to believe her and wondered what my next step would be.  She decided on a new tactic, either to gain information or to get rid of me. “Be useful; get me a pot of hot water for tea and a lot of pain medication.”

I stood and walked to the door. “Ordering me around is a waste of breath and a really bad idea.  If you need something, use the call button.  The staff here will take good care of you.  Try something new for you; try to behave.”  

Alice spoke when I opened the door, “Stone, change the bandage on your shoulder.  Your energy leaked onto my chair.”

Damn, witches, they always get the last word.  Sometimes, it is easier to kill something than to save it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Novel Promise

     I love to read and I want to write. I’ve made friends with many wonderful writers in a variety of genres.  Some of these published pros have even read some of my writing and offered comment.  They said, “Finish it!”

     They are aware that I have started several, ok five different novels, but have not gotten past the third or fourth chapter of any of the handful of stories.  These writing folks have even convinced me that I may have some talent as a storyteller, so I’ve decided to get serious.  Rather than haunting posts on Facebook and playing online games, I’m going to spend my time drafting a complete story.  You know the kind where the protagonist identifies a problem and then solves that problem, a story that takes the readers through all the obstacles and traps along the path to success.

     Attention, please, this post is putting me on the spot.  By declaring to all of you that I WILL finish a novel, I must do so or be forever embarrassed.  Yes, I’ve been embarrassed before, many times actually and that is why I know I do not like the feeling. This is an opportunity for those I care about to nag me about my progress.  I write slowly so I am not promising a word or page goal per day, but I will write daily and post progress reports.

     The novel I feel compelled to complete is based in a world where everyone is something special and capable of great good or evil. No one is all white or black; we are each shades of grey and can decide how we choose to react to life’s lessons.  That is the true magic of life, our freedom to choose and work toward what we want. I will post the beginning of “Witch in a Wheelchair” (that is just the working title).  I would love to hear feedback or suggestions.

     FYI: This is not a takeoff of J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” with young witches or Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” with sparkling vampires and Native American werewolves. As a child, I created this world and exercised my imagination by interacting with its residents to entertain myself.  Since most of you know I am older than both Rowling and Meyers, my story is older than theirs is too.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas Hound

     Wally loved Christmas with its yummy smells, happy music and trees allowed to live indoors.  He was a curious little guy clothed in a black and tan fur coat and sported a magnificent beard. He was also a miniature, wirehaired, dachshund.  He did not understand the meaning of the holiday, but he knew the arrival of a tree in the living room signaled a time of delicious treats. 
     Each year, Wally watched intently as we decorated the tree. Once the branches glowed with lights reflected in shiny globes, presents began to appear at the base. He carefully walked a path among the boxes. Despite his lack of education, I believe he read the labels seeking his name.  He was well mannered and never disturbed the packages except to use one as a pillow while napping under the fragrant pine.  Each time more gifts appeared, he ran through the house to gather the family and lead them to the tree, insuring they did not miss the miracle of more presents.
     Christmas morning, exclamations of pleasure as presents were opened excited Wally.  He danced from person to person, wagged his tail and always managed to be included in the hugs of appreciation.  Then it was Wally’s turn, he held a gift in his paws and chewed off the paper to unveil the tasty treasure inside.   
     December 23, 2003, our Christmas hound died.  We took turns holding Wally as we promised him and ourselves, that somehow everything would be okay. The joy of the season dimmed with his passing, but we went through the familiar rituals, trying to cheer each other. We still miss Wally every day and especially during the holidays.  Time shrunk our sorrow and now when we decorate a tree we can smile imagining that in Wally’s heaven, Christmas trees are displayed every day and there are always presents to unwrap.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Red and White Flannel

     Grandma Lucy was a seamstress. She created beautiful clothes for those who wanted to wear something original. For many years, she presented her fourteen grandchildren with homemade pajamas for Christmas. The material was always red and white flannel and the pjs were always too big. Grandma believed kids clothes should have room for growing bodies.

     Each Christmas Eve, my brothers, sister and I opened one present. The rest had to wait until the next morning. Mom selected the packages and we knew they contained new sleepwear made by Grandma. The only surprise was the design printed on the flannel and if the buttons would be red or white. 

     As a young girl, I did not appreciate the hours of time Grandma spent sitting bent over her Singer machine sewing for fourteen different sized kids. After Grandma moved to heaven, I remembered her gifts made with so much love. I shared the memories with my husband and son. Last Christmas, they gave me red and white flannel pajamas. I received gifts that were more expensive, but none as thoughtful. When I wear the red top and striped pants, I feel loved by not only my husband and son, but by Grandma.

     What were some of your favorite gifts and or memories of Christmas?

Christmas 1957 with cousin Kathy, brother Jerry, me, and Grandma holding cousin Jean

Monday, December 3, 2012

Temptation and Redemption

     “Christmas is coming; the goose is getting fat.”  I don’t know about the goose, but I’m getting fat.  Homemade temptations that only appear during the holiday season are stronger than my will power.  The fantasy image of wearing a sexy dress on New Year’s Eve is eclipsed by the real smells of Christmas goodies.

     Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been making cookies, breads, pies, and cakes.  No, I’m not working on an apprenticeship as a baker.  My family has a tradition of giving homemade food items as Christmas gifts.  Decorated sugar cookies, pumpkin breads and pies, fudge with and without nuts, peanut brittle, and cocoa mixes fill the decorated tins and containers we give to family and friends.  No self-respecting baker can serve an item that has not passed stringent taste testing.  Thus each day finds us sampling our work with cold glasses of milk.  It is this dedication to quality that is responsible for the extra pounds I now wear. 

     At least, I know that my New Year’s resolution will be to lose weight.  It will be easy to remember.  I make the same resolution every year.  Generally, I start great.  A sensible diet, an ample supply of the appropriate foodstuffs required to follow the diet, and even an exercise video to guide me through the contortions that promise to result in weight loss.  Then Valentine’s Day arrives in February and the persuasiveness of chocolate convinces my willpower to take a vacation.

     Once I stumble while dieting, I do not pick myself up and continue on the straight and narrow path to the land of thin.  I’m not sure if the guilt is defeating me, or if I am looking for an excuse, any excuse allowing me to stop regulating what I put in my mouth.  Perhaps, I can avoid the guilt if I build a cheating loophole into my diet and allow myself a small portion of something I crave once in a while.  A reward system for sticking to the diet can include both food and non-edible items. 

     There are many ways a woman can pamper herself. Salon treatments including manicures, pedicures, even a shampoo performed by someone who delivers a soothing scalp massage can be an indulgence.  Of course as I lose weight, I must buy new clothes that will fit.  For a reward, I can go beyond the need of covering my nakedness by adding colorful accessories that are not a necessity, but another indulgence.  Hmm. I’m starting to like this idea. 

     OK, now I am making this official.  In 2013, I resolve to lose weight.  I am not going to stipulate a specific amount, but rather, I will promise to follow a reasonable diet that will result in realistic weight loss over the whole year.  Focusing on the positive when I succeed will be my re-enforcement to accomplish my goal rather than surrendering due to guilt. When I need incentive to continue changing my eating habits, I will allow myself a non-edible indulgence that will make me feel good about myself. 

     Excuse me, I must check the cookies in the oven.  It is a new recipe and I have a glass of milk ready to help with the quality inspection.