Southern Writers Magazine

Today I'm a guest at Southern Writers Magazine, and I couldn't be more excited to be included. After working in public education for twenty-two years, I began a new life as a writer. Of course, that meant I went from being an expert in my field to starting over on the bottom rung of the ladder. I'd be honored if you'd head over to Southern Writers Magazine and read The Face of Success.



Bridges and Trolls

     On a recent road trip I crossed an interesting, yet disconcerting, bridge across the Ohio River. My sister was with me, and we approached the bridge after dark. There was a toll booth.
     "Seventy-five cents," said the attendant.
     I scrambled to find the change.
     "Or a dollar round-trip," he added.
     My sister was behind the wheel. She glanced at me, and we communicated telepathically, as sisters do. She handed him a dollar.
     Being pitch black out, we couldn't see much, but we heard plenty. The bridge shook and rattled as the heavy SUV rolled upon it.
   "Go faster," I said. "Let's get across this thing before it falls in."
     She sped up, and the rattling increased. From out of nowhere, something bright and shocking appeared. There was a traffic light looming ahead on the bridge, and it was red.

      "Where did that come from?" I asked, as my sister applied the brakes and skidded to a stop. I checked to be sure the doors were locked. Just in case of trolls, you know.
     The red light trap was only toying with us. After scaring us silly, it released us to continue the journey. We rattled and shook on across.
     This frightening span is known as the Newell Bridge. It connects East Liverpool, Ohio, with Newell, WV. It was not as disturbing in the daytime, but only a wee bit less.

     The bridge was built in 1905, and if you do the math, that was 111 years ago. Around that same time, trolls were all the rage. The Norwegian tale The Three Billy Goats Gruff made its way to America in this time frame. Maybe a few trolls came along for the ride. The Newell Bridge would be the perfect place for a troll to make his home.
     I have a theory. Back in the day when the bridge was built, transportation was different. Few cars would have used the bridge then. Horse and buggy would have been more popular. Who's to say goats didn't cross, too, making a tasty meal for a troll. Later, after cars replaced wagons and foot traffic, the troll saw some lean years. He needed a new plan.
     The toll booth must belong to the troll. Trolls have evolved, somewhat, and no longer live under bridges. They still control many bridges, though. If you see a toll booth for a bridge, you can bet it's troll-owned.
     So where are all the trolls now, if they no longer live under bridges? I'm pretty sure they've gone into politics.


Books and Friends

Books were some of my first friends. As a child, I slept with my cherished books nearby, lined up in the bookcase headboard of my bed. When my brother and I were allowed to shop the Ben Franklin store alone on a Saturday, I headed straight for the book section. Touching the spines on the shelf, I would check for a new Trixie Belden book. If I could locate one, I snatched it up, lest someone else come along and buy it first.

My love for a new book has connected me with some great people over the years. Friends old and new belong to my book club, and they have all become dear to me. At our most recent meeting, we were honored to have the author of our selection present. We read The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee, and Talya Tate Boerner's attendance was exciting for all of us. Being able to discuss the book with the author gave our meeting an added dimension.  The gracious and patient Talya Tate Boerner answered our million questions. By the time the meeting was over, we counted her not only as an author, but a friend, as well.

The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee is the story of a 10-year-old girl growing up in rural Arkansas in the 1970's. The inconsistencies of life and the hard questions trouble her. The author captures Gracie Lee's heart in this compelling read.

Two of my favorite things -- a good book and good friends.



A Candidate With Integrity

So many Presidential hopefuls tossed their hats in the ring a few months ago, but, one by one, they have been pushed aside with only a few left standing. The field has been narrowed and soon we will know the identity of the candidate each party will nominate.

I believe it's important for individuals to exercise the right to vote. The chances are looking slim, however, for there to be a candidate worthy of a vote. I prefer to cast my vote for a person of integrity who inspires my trust and confidence. I hope such a person's name will be on the ballot.

In following the various campaigns, I have been reminded of my granddaughter's first school. When she started kindergarten in Arlington, Texas, she went to a school called Children's University. I loved the school for many reasons, one of them being the live animals on-site. The animals had appropriate living and roaming quarters, and the youngsters enjoyed seeing and learning about them. Every year, the students chose from among the animals and voted for a new President for the school. That process, of course, was a learning experience in itself.

In thinking back on the animals at the school, I believe the donkey, the goat, the pony, and the llama were some of the most well-liked. If it's not too late, perhaps we could get one of them nominated to run in our Presidential election. After all, these animals have years of political experience. I've seen some of the current candidates exhibit much worse behavior than these gentle animals have shown. This might improve our pool of candidates for the Presidential election looming ahead. I, for one, have a lot of confidence in the llama.

We could do worse.


The Princess Rx

During the course of seven weeks of radiation treatments, the oncologist suggested to me that my family should be treating me like a princess while I'm enduring the daily ordeal. He said someone should be bringing my tea to me. My initial reaction was that he meant I was to be pampered. After I left his office I mulled over his suggestion, and I'm not so sure that pampering is the norm for princesses.

My knowledge of princesses comes mostly from fairy tales and movies, but from what I've heard, princesses aren't treated all that well. 
  • Often they are locked up in solitary confinement or imprisoned in a tower. The princess must wait, and wait, and wait for the right prince to come along and save her. Her freedom will come at a price, though. She'll have to marry the guy who broke her out.
  • Princesses do a lot of kissing, but many times they find themselves kissing frogs or beasts. In at least one instance, the princess had to lie dead in the forest until a prince came along and kissed her awake. I have to admit, this might help me wake up in the mornings.
  • The usual transportation for a real princess is horse and carriage. That might sound romantic, but who's got time for that? I'd never get half my errands run if I had to make stops to water the horses. There's not enough time in the day as it is.
  • Princesses are expected to attend formal balls and dance the night away. Some girls might be into that, but I'm too much of an introvert to enjoy the social scene on a regular basis, not to mention my two left feet.
  • A princess is often bossed around by a wicked step-mother or perhaps put under a vile spell by an evil queen. That does not sound like pampering to me.
Considering all the hardships princesses face, I hope my family will disregard the doctor's advice about giving me the princess treatment. I'll pass on the Rx and get my own tea, thank you.



One Hundred Years of Grammar

Some books that once belonged to my dad are now my treasured books. I have pleasant memories of browsing his bookshelf as a child. He didn't have a vast collection of books, but I believe that he kept and valued every book he ever owned. He built his own bookshelf to display and organize his books, and that bookshelf served him until his death.

One of his books was a Scott, Foresman grammar textbook. The book lists three copyright dates, 1917, 1923, and 1929. His textbook is almost one hundred years old. When this book was brand new, 1929, my dad would have been 8-years-old.

Over the course of years, I have purchased many books and guides to assist in keeping up with grammar rules. I don't know why I bothered to waste the money. My dad's 100-year-old textbook is still relevant. I turned through the pages today and couldn't see anything that had changed about grammar in the past hundred years. 

I won't be around one hundred years from now to check on standards of grammar, so I hope this textbook lands in the hands of someone who will keep it and value it like my dad did. Besides, it might come in handy.


A Walking Dictionary

During my teaching career, I utilized any method I could find to help children learn. I knew the more senses I could involve, the better chance that learning would take place. I taught third graders, so my daily curriculum included all subject areas. Vocabulary was an important part of all the subjects, and I delighted in watching the children's understanding grow as the year progressed. Instead of lecture, the prevalent learning methods in my classroom were demonstration, hands on, and interactive learning.

I left the classroom after eleven years to work in counseling, but I have always considered myself a teacher. I did not realize how much I missed teaching until today. After doing some shopping this morning at Target, I gave an impromptu vocabulary lesson right out front.

I'll try to repeat the lesson here for those who missed the Target version. The vocabulary word of the day is stumbling block. As any elementary teacher worth her keep would do, I opted for demo over lecture. Of course, to make it interesting for the students I came out of the store carrying an overweight purse and a hot cup of Starbucks tea. My attention was drawn to the sound of my cell phone ringing from the depths of the over-stuffed purse. Proceeding on my way, I encountered the object of demonstration in my path - a stumbling block. The part of the stumbling block was played by a rock. While fumbling with the cell phone, my foot connected with the large rock -- the stumbling block -- in front of me. With great ado, the three of us fell to the concrete -- the purse, the tea, and me.

I didn't have to say a word. I knew my lesson was a success. With flair, I had demonstrated that a stumbling block is an obstacle or hindrance to progress. The rock in my path had halted my progress. I resisted the urge to pick up the stumbling block and fling it across the parking lot. Instead, I picked myself up, dusted off, and continued on my way with a new respect for stumbling blocks.

I'm not sure how many students I was able to reach with my lesson today, but I'm guessing my effort didn't go un-noticed. It's always that way with teaching, you never really know how far-reaching your efforts may be. I only hope the vocabulary word tomorrow isn't snakebite.