Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two Gifts: Airborne and Edible

1. For the community: I wrote my presentation for the AAUW event this coming Tuesday:

When I got married in 1955, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s eloquent and elegant book, Gift From the Sea, had been on the New York Times Best Seller list for 19 weeks. It went on to remain there for 80 weeks all together.

I read it not long after coming home from my honeymoon on Catalina Island, off the California coast. I had grown up loving the ocean, so I was entranced by the idea of a few weeks in a beach cottage.

In those days, Charles Lindbergh, the first man to cross the Atlantic nonstop from New York to Paris in The Spirit of St. Louis, was still famous, but Anne, a pioneering aviator herself, nearly equaled his fame with this book. In it she addresses issues that are timeless: essentially how does a woman fulfill the roles of citizen, artist, wife, partner, mother, career person, friend, family member, and balance all of that with the time and self-commitment for spiritual and emotional nurturing.

I’ve returned to this book half a dozen times over the decades, and its words always speak to me in a new way and shed light on how I structure my time. To pay homage to Mrs. Lindbergh, five years ago I volunteered to be a grant reviewer for the Lindbergh Foundation. As a reviewer I was able to ask Mrs. Lindbergh’s youngest child, her daughter Reeve, a writer herself, if she’d be interested in signing bookplates for the AAUW award recipients. She agreed to do so.

She wrote: “It is good to know that my mother’s writing has meant so much to you over the years. I feel very much the same way about it and return, as you do, to this little volume for comfort and for inspiration. All my best to the scholars. Warmly, Reeve Lindbergh”

I hope you’ll treasure this little book as much as I have.

2. For my freelance anthology work:
I wrote a last minute story to contribute to the Redbook competition on couples, about how much I miss Ken's delectable, delicious cooking for me. Ken was a first class chef.

It's been a good writing day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

High Hopes

There's a few stories simmering, but just not ready to cook yet. I've got tomorrow to get at least one actually on paper, and it's gotta be Winging It.

1. Ken and chicken wings.
2. Kendra's christening and grandmahood.
3. A tale of forgiveness...I know this one will reveal itself soon.

Meanwhile, this week I revised some orphans and sent them out to charm a publisher into adoption. I've renewed hopes for The Crave Slave, Ugali by Golly, An Astonishment of Unicorns, Suds 'n Solace, Right on Time, Choosing Shoes Blues, The Double Sawbuck and At Home in My Heart.

And High Apple Pie in the Sky Hopes...

Yesterday I chatted with an entrepreneur who is a sponsor of an organization that encourages youth to realize their potential. He's looking for a writer/editor to help with a proposed book. I think we have similar views on youth development, and am hoping for a second chat next week with him or one of his partners. It's about mindsets...and I bet I could write that book, if I set my mind to it!

I'm also looking forward to writing poetry again, and have signed up for a workshop in Colville with Susan Woolridge, author of Foolsgold and Bathing with Ants. Hey...ants! They can move a rubber tree plant!

Oops, there goes another problem, kerplop.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Give and Take

You've got to give a little, even if you are a freelance writer. So just about two years ago I contributed stories to three anthologies intended to be fundraisers for causes I care about.

The first book, to be published in Ireland, solicited stories on care giving. Since my late husband had been ill for some time, I contributed a story in 2008 about how he surprised me by having his portrait painted so I'd have something special to remember him by. The caregiver group accepted my story and indicated they anticipated immediate publication.

Months passed, and I never heard any updates. My e-mails bounced back and their website had disappeared. I worried that I had been scammed, and subsequently submitted my story to two anthologies in the States. They both offered to buy it, and I went with the one that would be published soonest, hoping my husband would live long enough to see the tale in print. Ironically, he died the day my contributors' copies arrived, but he'd made a list of friends he wanted me to send the books to. Of course I did.

This morning, over a year and a half later, I got notification that the book, 24/7:How Much We Care, will be published within the next two months, and will include my story, The Legacy. It's heartening to think that Irish eyes will be smiling at my husband's sweet gesture. The group will provide a contributor's copy in thanks. But I'd already been paid $200 and given ten copies of the book containing the work by the other publisher.

A pastor in Canada developed her anthology as a fundraiser for grandmothers who are raising HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa. The book, Grandmothers' Necklace, sought "jewels," poems and stories on the grandmother theme. I sent Grandma Gertie's Pickled Peaches, complete with recipe, and soon received notice it was accepted. The editor asked contributors to purchase copies, since all proceeds were earmarked for the charity... so I bought three. One is ensconced with the several other anthologies including my stories, between the black A and Z bookends atop the entertainment center. The others dwell temporarily in the box where I store gifts for yet undesignated giftees. My charitable contribution amounted to $60, plus my time to write the story. Yet I'm pleased because I'm not certain I could have found another publisher for this particular tale. As a bonus my picture is on the cover, as one of the "jewels" in the necklace.

The third editor sought stories about what we have learned from our mothers. My mom was a walking encyclopedia of lessons to be learned, so I sent a tale, It's About Time. The editor, who also billed himself as a publisher, indicated he would give the proceeds to combat domestic violence, though he was vague indeed about exactly how that would work. He sent an acceptance letter, but said he needed to edit my contribution, since he wanted to include as many stories as he could crowd in. I offered to edit myself, but he declined. Instead he removed whole paragraphs, which interfered with the continuity of the story, eliminated any backstory, and left one line in the conclusion nearly incomprehensible. I'd discovered the latter only after signing the permission release.

After a series of e-mails asking his contributors to suggest publishing houses that might be interested in such a collection, he finally notified everybody that he would be posting updates on Twitter only. Though I doubted he'd ever find a publisher, just this week I learned that a friend who also contributed received the $100 stipend he'd offered. Since I hadn't, I looked up the Twitter account and learned that in January he had discarded a third of the stories originally selected. I inquired about my tale, and yes, it had been cut, and I'd not been told. Moreover, my friend inquired about a contributor's copy, and was told he planned to send them only to people who asked for them. It also sounds as if the contributors would be given a free copy only if they ordered more. The charity is still unnamed.

It's rare when I think that a rejection is a blessing is disguise. This time it is. I now can market my story in its original and comprehensible form.

Lesson learned: sometimes its better to give than to take...but sometimes it's not! Apparently I'm still gaining the wisdom to know the difference.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

No Two Alike: Fingerprints, Snowflakes and Grief

A Cup of Comfort for Fathers was released April 1. It contains my story, "Montana Bananas and Sure Shots," about how my late husband, Ken, raised his three sons to be non-gamblers in Reno, Nevada, while he and their mother both worked for decades in the gaming industry.

It's available at

I received contributor's copies weeks ago, and mailed them to Ken's three sons. I signed them "in memory of your dad."

Every day I remember their dad. A friend e-mailed yesterday that she now was a part time bachelorette, since her husband has taken a job in Spokane, and stays at an apartment there during the week. She said it's quite an adjustment. I responded that as a widow of less than a year I don't have trouble getting through the days. It's in the evenings when I miss sharing the day's events, watching the news together, taking turns cooking supper. Most of all, holidays don't seem like holidays at all when you're just home alone.

Tomorrow morning I won't be searching around the house to see where Ken has hidden my Easter bunny. I won't expect a chocolate egg. Most painful, I won't see his signature lopsided smile when he opens the funny Easter card I always had so much fun picking out.

Yesterday I received a packet from the Neptune Society. Since Ken's cremation last June, they've sent surprises to help assuage my loss...wildflower seeds to plant in his memory, a certificate indicating a teddy bear had been donated in his name to a child who was alone, scared or hurt. The packet contained a brochure with an article about how we use words to soothe those who are grieving. The article indicated that the words "recovery" or "resolution" may not be the most appropriate, because they suggest a return to normalcy.

Recently I wrote a submission for an upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul book tentatively titled "Grief and Recovery." My story is called "Not Quite Unbearable," and I won't know for months whether it will be accepted. But I recall thinking that there was something not quite right about that book's proposed title. When I did grief training for Arkansas Department of Health nurses who would be interviewing bereaved moms statewide when our Maternal and Child Health Division had a Fetal Infant Mortality Review grant, I stressed that we don't really recover from loss. We incorporate the loss and eventually move on...but the loss remains with us.

The Neptune Society brochure cites Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D., from the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Ft. Collins, CO. He suggests that the term "reconciliation" might be a better one to describe the process of moving from looking back to looking towards the future.

I especially appreciated this: "Remember, grief is like a fingerprint...It is unique. No two people will experience it in the same way. Be patient and give yourself time."

Tomorrow morning, rather than mourning the loss of Easter bunnies, and depending on whether those predicted flakes of snow actually descend, I might take Natty for a long walk around the Loop...or maybe even drive to town. A young pastor I've worked with in our anti-poverty Horizons group, will be preaching.

Easter blessings, bunnies or no.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Grandma Gertie Knew Her Stuff

This past Wednesday I attended a group session at the local community college, conducted by New Life Hypnosis. I'd decided it's time to shed the weight I've piled on over the past few years through Ken's illness and after his death last June. I should have been comforting myself with apples. Instead I'd favored toasted cheese sandwiches and late night chocolate truffles.

But now it's spring and Easter week, time for rebirth, resurrection, reconciliation. Rather than missing Ken's Parmesan garlic bread and barbecued rib eyes, I want to concentrate more on healthy rather than yummy. I intend to shed enough flab that I'll fit again into those cute outfits I bought back in 2006 when I was to be honored at UCLA.

Though it's far too soon to tell, I do feel more relaxed after the two brief hypnosis sessions our therapist conducted. And I'm devoting twenty minutes twice daily to the tapes I bought for reinforcement.

Here's the bright side of this gloomy weekend that even has snow predicted for Easter Sunday. Since I'm home alone I'm not faced with having to refuse second helpings of glazed ham and candied sweet potoates. Instead I'm going to bake some tarragon chicken and steam some cruciferous vegetables.

Grandma Gertie always claimed tarragon made things better. And she always urged me to eat my veggies. So I was delighted today to find this on the web:

If your grandmother ever nudged you to eat all your veggies, she was giving you better advice than even she was aware of. A new study published in the journal "Gynecologic Oncology" has found that a substance found only in cabbage-family veggies -- cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy -- represses cancer cells in the pre-invasive phase of sex-hormone related cancers of both men and women. The substance, nicknamed 13C, seems to work on the metabolism of estrogen sex hormones. More expansive studies are in the works, but in the meantime, follow granny's advice!

Happy Easter and happy New Life!