Vacation, Beach, and Children

August 3, 2015

(Re-blogged from the Authors of Main Street. Why write two different posts?)

It’s almost hard for me to comprehend not being at the beach, but I’m sure there are tons of children and adults who will be visiting the shore for the first time ever! For one of our authors here on Main Street, this coming week will be a family vacation to the Atlantic coastline. As we all wished her a wonderful holiday, I began to assemble what I thought everyone should know about traveling with children and the beach. I grew up going to the beach in the summer. And as I’ve probably mentioned, I was a surfer. Then as a teen, I moved to an island off the coast of New Jersey. I was in heaven! After I married, we moved to the SE corner of Virginia, where Virginia Beach provides some wonderful beaches tucked to the Atlantic by the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. So taking my kids to the beach was quite simple.

When you grow up with easy access to the beach, you do things almost without thinking. You assume everyone knows, but they don’t! So here are my tips for traveling with children especially for those headed for the beach!


Getting There:

  •  Turn off the DVD!
  •  Grab up a handful of plastic poker chips. The cheap ones from the dollar stores work just fine. (I’ll explain as I go. I know I was a bad mother. I even taught them to play 21. It sharpened their math skills.) Issue each child a few poker chips. Color doesn’t matter.
  •  Windows are there so children can look out and actually see something!
  •  It’s time to sing! I promise 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall can kill some time! And it teaches them to count backwards! Okay I really was a bad mother. I should have sung 100 Bottles of Milk on the Wall. But my kids learned to sing beer. They thought it was funny. If they goofed up and said the wrong numeral, they have to give up a chip. If you goof, you have to pay each child a chip.
  •  License plates are a great way of keeping them glued to what is around them especially if you are driving on a boring super highway. The person who can spot the furthest state/providence/county (must be verified) gets a chip. They learn a little geography doing this. If they are old enough to write them down, the one who sees the most plates gets a chip.
  •  And the ABC game, I’d forgotten until Pepper brought it up, is quite simple. They must do it in order. A is for automobile, B is for boat or billboard, C is for cat, chicken, corn, or cotton in the field. Take turns and each must find/see whatever starts with the next letter of the alphabet. It’s not easy! Oh, it starts easily enough, but after a while there are few letters that seem almost impossible. If they give up, they have to give up a chip! Then move to the next letter. I always allowed Dairy Queen (an ice cream/fast food restaurant here in the USA) for the Q. The X is another killer! It’s up to you if you will allow Exxon or FedEx – I figured it wasn’t exactly cheating – at least they found an X.
  •  Always travel with pillows and blankets.
  •  Super cheap cameras! There are tiny key-chain style digital cameras. Let them take pictures. A three year old can take a photo. These are their memories of their trip!

The Beach!beach DSCN0820

  • When taking the kids to swim at the beach, make certain that they have the brightest swimsuits. No cute blue, white or green ones that allow them to blend in to the ocean! You want florescent orange, brilliant yellow, day-glow red, and super hot-pink ones. When searching the beach, you want your kids to stand out!
  • Pack baby powder! And a bottle of alcohol. Baby powder removes the sand from the body especially the toes! Flip-flops and sandals feel horrible when there is sand between the toes! Or between the feet and the straps. Alcohol is for everything from cuts to jellyfish stings. It’s cheap – don’t dab, just pour.
  • Bring lots of sunscreen. I love the new ones that come in colors. You can see if you’ve missed a spot when applying. Okay, you’ve now painted your child pink, purple, blue, or green. Of course they look like freaks. It goes away in a few minutes and they will return to their normal color. Be careful, there is a one that does hold the color, but it’s meant more for those who live in the sun such as lifeguards. Don’t forget to do the part or cowlick in their hair, and to go under their suits. Bathing suits have a strange way of slipping down or riding up. And Mom, get your cleavage! OMG! It hurts if you get burned there! There are spots down there that have probably never ever seen sunlight!
  •  Oh, and salt water will remove sunscreen so darn fast! Reapply frequently. I don’t care what the bottle says. The ocean is full of sand and it just lightly sandpapers off anything on the skin! Reapply when they get out of the water! Remember, when at the beach, they are probably getting triple the amount of sun compared to what they would get in their backyard or neighborhood pool!
  • If the children have blue eyes make certain they have sunglasses – it’s harder on blue-eyed children than brown-eyed ones – same goes for adults! Be prepared. Someone will loose his or her sunglasses. Cheap ones work just fine on the beach. The sun is reflected off the water and the sand! But reflected sun in their eyes will make them tired and cranky.
  •  And, Mom & Dad, don’t forget to wear sunglasses – good ones! Trying to look across the beach or into the water to see your children with all that glare… Nope! You need good sunglasses that will cut the glare. You need to see your children. Wear a really cheap pair in the water if you don’t want to take your shades off. The ocean has a way of snagging that favorite pair of sunglasses!
  •  If you have three children, but only two adults, take turns taking them out into deeper water. Let the other two splash and play at the edge. No deeper than their knees while an adult takes one out. Mine could swim, so tossing them into the waves or letting them body surf towards shore was fun. (They have to hold their body very rigid with their hands stretched in front of them to body surf. And I guess it helps to know exactly when to push them in front of that wave.) If they aren’t swimmers, just let them jump the waves while holding your hand.
  •  Never let the children sit in the sand where the water rolls up onto them. That will pack 5 pounds of sand into their bathing suit bottoms and stretch it out of shape! Have them sit on their knees. That also means they can rise up faster if a bigger wave washes onto them.
  •  Ask the lifeguard if there is a shelf where the land drops away, sandbar, or anything you should know about. Each beach is different and most of the time lifeguards are assigned to a particular beach. They know the water and where it drops off or if there is any undertow. (I promise, most lifeguards are very well trained!) Where there are waves, there will be undertow. Most beaches will shut down if there is sufficient undertow to be a problem. But it can happen quickly and without warning. Never go out where you cannot touch the bottom!
  •  Take an overcast day and people think they won’t get any sun. Ha! You can burn quicker on an overcast day. Some people think thebeach_DSC3081 clouds filter something out which allows the burning rays to come through. (I have no clue!) See that person who is fried to a bright lobster-red crisp? TOURIST!!! But sometimes people just don’t know. Ever try to get a severely sunburned child to sleep? They are miserable! Prevention is everything! Sunburn is just as bad a burn from anything hot. Pink is a first degree. A burn that blisters later is a second-degree burn (quite common among sunbathers) and third is an instant blister. Those with super fair skin, usually found on blondes and redheads tend to have third degree burns.
  •  Mom, if you are pregnant…beware! I’m not sure what it is about the female body and hormones, but you will burn like crazy if you are pregnant! Read over all medications, including birth control before you hit the beach!
  •  If someone does get burned…Apple cider vinegar feels good and is cheap! Aloe straight from the plant or a bottle of pure Aloe juice is the most healing. There are also commercially prepared sprays available at any drug store.
  • Bring a couple of long-sleeved shirts with you. I promise someone will start to burn and those long sleeves will keep everyone much happier! Grab hubby’s long-sleeved, dress cotton shirt. It’s a great beach cover-up! It’s sexy, and with those long tails, it can hide all sorts of bumps, bulges, cellulite, and extra pounds! :-)
  •  Always make sure the children have bathed after being in the ocean. A shower may work fine for adults, but children usually do better with a bath, especially little girls. (They have all those little nooks and crannies where sand and seaweed will get caught.)

Naps, Evenings, and Meals:

  •  Plan for the children to take early afternoon naps. Or what we called siesta! My girls had to be quiet. Maybe watch TV in the hotel room? Or you could go completely quiet and have them read or do puzzle books. Do this hotel time at 12:30 until about 2:30. After siesta they can do the beach thing again. You don’t want them out during the hottest, sunniest part of the day. This also keeps them out of the strongest sunshine. If they are older, try visiting a museum or a lighthouse.
  • Be prepared to get chilled in the evenings! Extra warm skin from the day’s sun and a cool breeze off the ocean is a recipe for getting the chills. Someone will wind up with the shivers and blue lips! And I’m not talking about blue from the cotton candy.
  •  If there is a boardwalk, let them do it at night! The lights, the sounds, and the fun! A few rides and they are in heaven! There’s something about cotton candy, saltwater taffy, fudge, etc., while walking the boardwalk! It will never taste better! Try not to buy cotton candy on a really humid night! Oh does that turn into a sticky mess! If they get it in their hair, it will wash out! If it goes down the front of that pretty white dress, it usually washes out without a problem. It’s sugar and food coloring! (We won’t discus red food coloring, which seems to stain everything!)
  •  Remember, it’s vacation. Try not to fuss too much. If all they want is french fries for dinner – it’s vacation. It’s a few days. They aren’t going to get rickets from it or die of malnutrition! If they are really picky eaters consider getting one plate of food and an empty plate so that the food can be divided or order off the appetizer menu. My kids hated the children’s menus. They wanted the good stuff! Don’t buy what they won’t eat! If they want codfish balls, and crab cakes let them eat it! I had one that would inhale a 1/2 pound of shrimp and one that wouldn’t touch seafood, Chinese, hamburger, hot dogs, or pizza. Go figure! I’d rather spend a little more and have them eat it, than to fuss when they refused something.
  •  Ask! Most restaurants can fix the tuna without blackening it! They can fix a steak without seasoning, etc. If your kids drink skim milk and the restaurant is serving 2%, the kids will balk! ASK!
  •  Kids feel stuff. If you are uptight, they will be uptight. Remember it’s a vacation. It’s supposed to be fun! It’s supposed to be filled with good memories, and lots of giggles!

Back to those poker chips! At the end of each day, give them some additional chips. If they’ve been extra good, they get five chips. If they had a melt down at breakfast, they get four. Tell them why. But give them a chip just because you love them. On the last day or evening, allow them to turn in poker chips for fun stuff. Let them buy that silly, twirling, whistling, whatnot with their chips! A value can be assigned to the chips depending on your budget. That twelve-year-old daughter might want a puka bead necklace as her souvenir, whereas a son might want a plastic shark! This is their decision and let them make it. It’s their money that they earned. It gives them a chance to understand value and earning something. And it’s a great bribe!

Take advantage of whatever the area has to offer! If it’s morning bike riding on the boardwalk or an aquarium, do it and have fun! Mornings on the beach and afternoons at the hotel pool, and if you think you are tired at night? For every step you take, they have taken probably two or three. If their idea of a perfect dinner is pizza and yours is lobster, have the lobster one night and pizza another. Everyone is supposed to have fun on vacation!

Will things go wrong? Of course. There is no such thing as a perfect vacation, especially with children. The number of things that have gone wrong while I was on vacation would fill a book and no one would believe me. (A crash landing in a jet? Yep!) But I promise a vacation is what you make it. So be sure to bring your sense of humor, look at the bright side, and count your blessings. At least you aren’t home looking a the same old walls!


July 17, 2015

It’s been eight years today since I lost my husband. Eight long years. Part of me wants to cry and a few tears have already been shed. Will I ever get over it? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am strong. He never coddled me. I hated handling the budget but he said I did a great job so why should he take it over? Because I hated it! He reminded me that he worked long hard hours to provide for us. The least I could do was disburse the money.

He taught me things about cars. No one will rip me off! And he taught me to stand on my feet. I’m standing!

They say most widows are broke in seven years no matter how much they are left. Um, left? What the heck is that? We were broke most of our married life. Has anything changed? No!

But the one thing he left me that is totally priceless is his belief in me and my writing. That belief has kept me going when I wanted to call it quits. It’s kept me writing and kept me pushing forward and following my dream.

I realize I had something that many people never will find. I had true love.  I had that incredible unconditional love.That doesn’t mean we never disagreed  because we did. It just means we managed to get over it. And most of the time it ended like this.

Are you still upset?


Are you going to kiss me goodnight?



You know it’s not fair to snuggle when I’m angry.

Yeah, I know.

You know I do love you.

Yeah. Do you still love me?

Of course.

Then why don’t you kiss me goodnight?

Because I’m still angry.

Okay. Just go to sleep. We both have to get up in the morning.

You know it’s not fair when you do that to me.

I know but I love you. Don’t ever forget it.

I’ve never forgotten it!

I’m at the Authors of Main Street’s Blog

July 6, 2015

Stop by and read about my love of coffee table books and how I used to them to lay the foundation for my daughter’s education.

See you there!

Remember when?

June 28, 2015

We’ve all seen those emails that say how we grew up in such a wonderful time, when kids played safely, didn’t get cooties from drinking water that didn’t come from a bottle, etc. Well, this was my response when some of that ‘remember when’ sort of stuff circulated on a loop with a bunch of authors. I’ve added to it and thought my blog readers might enjoy it.

I’ll preface this with I lived in the foothills so very hilly!

The swings at school were over asphalt. We learned to hold on!

I roller skated all over the place with no protection! I was an excellent skater and actually won some state competition as a junior champion. I was probably sixteen the first time I was really hurt while skating. Some sort of school function, a young child tripped and fell in front of me. I pushed my non-skating friends out of the child’s way and jumped the child, but that sent me into a wrought iron railing that I flipped over! I hurt my arm.  I helped the child off the rink floor. The rink put a sling on my arm and let me go back to skating. The child was fine! I went to the ER the next day.

I fell off my bike and scraped my knees. I have no memory of it but my mom said I lost my footing on the peddles when I was about three three years old and went flying down the hill until I fell off and scraped both knees. I could ride my sled down roads for over a mile before I had to drag it back up to the top again.  We learned not to shoot through an intersection with an oncoming car even if we were on ice! In the summer, I used a friend’s red wagon and we’d do that same sledding route except in a red wagon with no brakes. I walked a busy road for over a mile to get to my girlfriend’s house. I walked to school and often accepted rides on rainy days.  I drank from the hose. I hated the taste of that rubber hose and the hot water that came out of it. But if I went inside, I was usually forced to stay there. Some sort of water was better than nothing!

I played under the forsythia bush where no one could see me. At the age of eight, I was taught to use a rifle.  By the time end of summer, before I turned twelve, I had my junior or whatever they called it marksman and sharpshooter certificates from the NRA. Yet I grew up in a house where there were no guns. My dad had been raised on a farm, but I think he preferred not to think about how we got meat on our plates. He fed the wildlife around us and often took me to a friend’s farm so I could play with the piglets, etc.

Saturday morning was TV just for me! Sky King, Lone Ranger, Sea Hunt, I Love Lucy, Captain Kangaroo, Bullwinkle, Road Runner, Popeye, etc. I’d sneak out of bed and turn it on low and sit way too close according to my parents who were sure I’d die from some sort of radiation or ruin my sight. Maybe I sat close because I could see the tiny screen at that distance. I didn’t get glasses until I was about ten. (Guess what? I was near sighted!) As I got older there was American Bandstand, and Dark Shadows. My mom watched As the World Turns. Then there was Payton Place. Oh how risque!

I think it was too darn cold for any sandwich I might have carried to school to go bad! Sandwiches were wrapped in waxed paper and places in a paper bag! When I started school, the dairy was next door to the school. My milk was fresh from the cows. It came in small glass bottles. It wasn’t homogenized and probably wasn’t  pasteurized. When spring came and the grass turned green, so did the milk! Apparently cows love onion grass! I was thrilled when I discovered chocolate milk, it hid the green color but nothing disguised the taste of onion in the milk.

I hated PE or what we called gym in those days. The guys got to do all the fun stuff but not the girls! We had a horrid gym teacher and we slurred her German name into Outhouse. I’m sure she’s long dead! She was a total witch! We had stupid uniforms. They buttoned or the newer ones snapped snapped down the front and went to a full skirt with bloomers underneath. They were supposed to be gold – think putrid, mustard yellow except faded! They required ironing! If you did anything that had you upside-down, you had a skirt in your face!

In elementary school, I had a male gym teacher who got mad at me because I couldn’t swing the bat and hit a baseball. My neighborhood friends said to just hang tight and let them walk me to first base. (Seriously I couldn’t actually see that ball to hit it! But oh I could throw a baseball!) So this male teacher got angry because I wouldn’t swing at the ball. He decided that he’d throw the baseball (not softball or plastic Wiffle ball) and he hit me in the jaw. OMG! Blood poured from my mouth and my not so little temper flared! The neighborhood boys kept me from attacking the man.I think one of them tackled me because I had that bat in my hands and I knew how to swing it!

But after that, that male teacher steered clear of me. He knew I was p*ssed and knew he screwed up. I’m not sure my parents actually believed me when I said the gym teacher did it. If they had, he probably would have lost his job! I had a pretty black eye for days!

When I made it to HS, he was the assistant principal by then. If he came near me, I snarled at him. Oh, he knew! And I’ll admit it was fun to snarl and know I had something on him. To watch Mr. Super Stud cringe when you don’t weigh 100 pounds (seven stones) is quite heady. I really didn’t snarl that much. I’d just look at him and he’d look away.

My dad owned a Willy’s Jeep and he bought an Army surplus WWII airplane’s seat belt for it so he could strap me into the seat during the summer when he ran around with the top off and the doors off.  He was afraid I’d fall out! I promised I wouldn’t, but I truly think it was Mom’s idea to strap me in. Thinking back on that is enough to make me shudder! Even that little lap belt probably wasn’t enough to really protect me.

I went swimming/skinny dipping in the duck pond! Do you know what it’s like to swim in a duck pond? Let’s just say never put your feet on the bottom! There was several inches of duck poop down there to squish between your toes! It’s a wonder I didn’t get some horrible infection or whatever from that pond.

We’d Trick or Treat through the neighborhood and ate along our way . We knew which houses served hot chocolate or hot apple cider and freshly baked cookies! We planned our stops so we could warm up! Without fail, I swear we had our first serious hard freeze the week of Halloween! Okay, here I’ll admit we knew our neighbors and they were all good people! Most were parents of my friends or my sister’s or my brothers’. No one ever poisoned an apple or stuck needles in anything. That was unheard of in those days.

I played tennis in white PF Flyers. I never hurt my legs, ankles or feet. They were known as tennis shoes! Never used sun screen and I turned so darn dark. If it weren’t for my white hair, I think my mom would have disowned me. :-) It was her German blood that probably protected me from the sun. Even after my hair darkened to a brown, I still would tan until I was a dark mahogany color.  So far no skin cancer and I can only remember ever getting seriously burned twice, once in Miami and once in Hawaii. Otherwise it was pink in the evening and I’d wake up brown. Everyone else fried!

I had red measles, black measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, mumps, strep throat, etc. There were no vaccinations for them. My brother had polio so when that vaccine came out my mom marched me to the doctor to be vaccinated. I had a shot, then a few years later, the sugar cubes. Then they gave the cubes to everyone at school so I took it again! I’ve been vaccinated for small pox and a variety of diseases because we traveled abroad.  If I got a fever, I stayed in bed! Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem about the Land of Counterpane meant something to me. My mom gave me aspirin to break the fever. But through all of it I was raised on Adele Davis nutrition. I’m glad I was. I grew up knowing more about foods than most people.

Soda and juice were treats! I drank milk, tea, or water! And it wasn’t sweet iced tea! It had a touch of sugar in it. In the summer, Mom would make two gallons and it had three tablespoons of sugar in those two gallons. I thought that was sweet.  My dad carried a gallon of it to work and often turned over the salt shaker and generously sprinkled it with salt when it was really hot.  Sunday dinner or any important meal came with wine. I drank it, too.

By the time I was was ten, I was using the ride-on lawnmower. Afterwards, my dad and I would have a beer. Drinking never thrilled me. I can remember teen kids getting excited because they’d get their hands on a six-pack. I could have fixed anything I wanted at any time growing up. But I didn’t. I never understood getting drunk or the excitement over alcohol. I’d get the brilliant idea to fix a pitcher of beer and lemonade and no one said a thing.

I could ride the miles of bridle paths on private property, but I was told if I used them, I had to be responsible and take care of them. That meant clearing branches after a storm, etc. My girlfriend’s mom got the idea one summer that we needed to plant more bulbs along the paths so she ordered bulbs from Holland. (No it wasn’t their land either. But for any of us who rode, we just did things!) For a solid week, we planted bulbs.

I’ve been stepped on, head butted, had a saddle come loose and wound up under the horse, but never actually thrown or kicked. I owned a that black velvet over steel riding cap that was supposed to protect my head. Mostly it protected the top shelf of my closet.  (I also ice skated without a helmet.)

I was driving on the road when I was fourteen, legal age was 16, but my dad had me driving that old Willy’s Jeep. He wanted me to have plenty of road time before I got my license. I had a car before I had my driver’s license. And the day I turned 16, there was snow and ice on the ground. I passed my test with flying colors.

At fourteen, I lived through a crash landing of an airplane/big jet. No landing gear! It was exciting. I was unsinkable! Maybe I still am. I hope I am!

I don’t regret  my childhood or any of the things that I did, including the time I took a bolt of oilcloth from my neighbor’s burn pile.  I knew my Girl Scout troop could make sit-a-pons with it. But oh did I get in trouble for stealing! Really? Off their burn pile? I was forced to take it back, knock on their door, and apologize. My parents scared me to the point I thought I’d go to hell over it. The darn bolt was heavy. At least the neighbors were nice about it and told my father they had tossed it out. They only worried about me climbing on that pile and getting hurt. They suggested that the next time I ask for one of them to get whatever for me. I was allowed to keep the oilcloth. My parents made mistakes and I knew it! That’s a story in itself!

Maybe it was a different time back then, but I really don’t think so. My mother had been raised by a butcher and kept a kosher kitchen. We had a bread board for slicing bread. You didn’t cut anything but bread on that board!  She had a stone board and a wooden board for dough. She had different knives for different things. I knew which one was which. Beef was cut on this, chicken on that, pork on another.

I hated the smell of bleach, but I knew it meant clean. It was used freely. So was Lysol. I didn’t share food or drinks. My mom was a germ freak. She’d lost a sister to diphtheria and my brother had polio. If we were sick, our dishes were separated from the general household and washed with bleach. If my crew was sick, I’d add bleach to the dishwasher. Okay, I’m a germ freak, just ask my children. They will roll their eyes and tell you about it.

Am I wacko?  Yes. Well, maybe not. According to a friend and psychologist, I’m not. Being a compulsive hand washer is a good thing, as is a germ freak. Hmm.

They say we eat a peck of dirt in our lifetime. I think I’ve eaten bushels of it. I loved the garden, and mud pies just called to me! Whenever my dad had a chance, he’d bring me a bucket of concrete. I could make concrete pies and I’d leave my hand print in them. Some even had a dog’s paw print! (My dog must have really loved me.) Dad used to put them in the garden. I’m sure there are a few hundred of them buried all over that property.

I made my granddaughter use a helmet and padding to ride a bike. (Never told her that I used to jump fences with my horse while bareback. But that was my life not her life. I was very protective of hers.) Yes, we know more now.

Does that mean we did anything wrong back then?  Of course we did, but no one knew it! Mandatory seat belts is a new thing, relatively speaking, but I grew up wearing one. I can’t imagine driving without one. Yet as a small child, I used to curl up in the back window of the car and watch the moon and the stars. There was no DVD player. I looked out the windows! I saw the United States and Canada!

Yes, I saw things. I saw chain gangs and whites only signs. I saw things I didn’t understand and to this day make no sense. I learned about life along the way. I knew what it meant to respect someone one, and I knew what it meant to at least act as though I did. I also learned to take a stand and stand up for what I believe is right. Life wasn’t black or white. It was shades of gray and it still is.

I was born of privilege and it was drummed into me that I should never take advantage of it. I was taught to give back and play fair. But I was allowed to play and get dirty. My childhood was a mixed bag. To some extent, I was a normal child who did all the normal things.  On the flip side, I did things that other people only dream about. And I lived through some real nightmarish situations. No one ever said dysfunctional family back then, but I think they used mine to to set the bar. The events are there and I try not to think about them.

By the time I was thirteen, I took the bull by the horns and often became the only “adult” in the family. That also tossed me into the thick of things and set me at odds with my dad, which created even more problems for me. It took me a long time to realize that my insecurities as a child were the result of the instability within my family.  Escape for me was found in books and that set the pattern that has kept me reading for my entire life. The difference is I no longer have to sneak out of the house and sit under the forsythia bush to do it.

Do you remember when?


June 19, 2015

I love names!  Especially ones we don’t see very often. I had a wonderful neighbor for years who had a long, very different last name. She’d just laugh and tell everyone she couldn’t stand the idea of marrying a man with a name like Smith or Brown. She wanted something different and wouldn’t settle down until she found a man with an unusual name. Which wasn’t the least bit true. She’d actually begged him to change it before they married. Even her mom couldn’t pronounce it. It had too many vowels and not enough consonants.  She’d run out of those boxes that hold letters when you fill out a form. It was hilarious.

Her husband used to joke that his father been dropped at a orphanage with a paper attached to his bunting. The workers assumed it was his name but it was instructions in Lithuanian to feed him seven times a day and burp after each feeding. (And none of that was true!)

But finding the right name for a character is a fun process to me. It’s a good thing that we all don’t share the last name Smith or Jones, how boring and confusing that would be!

I know someone who grew up on a very small  island. Most of the inhabitants were related. He said in his classmates had one of three last names. The teacher had them sit in class by first name alphabetical order. He said he felt sorry for his cousin, Andy. That boy sat in the same spot in every class until he graduated!

I didn’t know I grew up in a melting pot, but I did. Polish, Armenian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Eastern Indian…toss those names at me and I can usually pronounce them without hesitation. So what might sound very different to you, to me is a normal name.

But I also learned at an early age that just because a name sounded one way, didn’t mean that name really reflected that person. That person with a typical English name might look more Spanish than English. Why? Because people marry other people! So the name Billy Cho might belong to a guy with red hair and freckles! And Lisa Smith might be from India.

I’m such a people watcher! Many times I’ve looked at someone and wondered where their roots are. Did they have South American blood in them or Filipino? Then there are the Eurasians. Don’t ask me to figure out what mix they might be. If I guess, I’ll probably get it wrong!

I met a friend’s mom. Oh, she’s so tiny and petite. An absolutely beautiful, sweet woman who has raised wonderful sons that grew to be seemingly twice her height. Aside from a slight tilt to the boy’s eyes, you’d never know their mother came from that part of the world. One day, I asked her son if she was from China. Wide-eyed, he informed me that she was Korean. (Oops! I guess I was supposed to be able to tell the difference.)

I want names that reflect the characters who I have created. So giving a freckled-faced redhead a name that doesn’t fit our stereotypes can be a big mistake, but it can also be used as a tool.

I have a wonderful secondary character in my book, Coming Out of Hiding, named Tommie. It’s short for Thomasina. I can’t imagine her name as being anything else! Once I had named her, she grew into fitting the name.

Do names matter? I think they do. In the book, With this Ring, I have Larry Krabbits. DeeDee mentally plays with the mayor’s name before meeting him. It takes what might have been a dull scene and helps to make that scene funny. Haven’t we all wind up in some sort of meeting that we would have rather avoided?

She listened to Cody and smiled at the cranky rabbit with two front teeth that almost crossed at the bottom. To call the man homely was either a compliment or an understatement.  The scene continues in a downhill spiral for DeeDee who doesn’t like beer, and is served a lousy grilled Ruben. She pulled her sandwich apart and tried to redistribute the ingredients that seemed to have been thrown on the bread from the far side of the kitchen. To make matters worse, she was certain she had a rye seed between her front teeth. She sipped her beer hoping to dislodge it. Then took a few more bites of the grilled sandwich before deciding it was a hopeless, greasy mess. 

(Someday, I’ll have to tell you about the last time I drank beer. Let’s just say it’s a mark your calendar event for me to drink a beer. Just ask my girls! Back to the subject!)

Giving Larry Krabitts that last name added to the scene. As I toyed with his name, the scene developed. It shows DeeDee’s discomfort, and we’ve all been in those situations! It makes DeeDee more realistic, because we can identify with her. It wouldn’t have mattered if she had been sipping a vanilla milkshake or a beer, but beer was an easier target. (Hmm, have I ever had a bad milkshake? Wouldn’t that be like bad chocolate? Does such a thing exist?)

To me, names are important to my characters. I take time to find the right names. If Larry had had another last name, that scene would have probably been deleted. He was the perfect foil for DeeDee.

So names as stereotypes? Yes and no. Don’t depend on it. Not all my heroes are towering men with broad chests who can pick up a car barehanded. And my heroines don’t all wear a size three. I’d rather think I portray real life and the people who populate it.


The Poetry of Linda Swift

June 10, 2015

Linda Swift is a dear friend and probably better known for her fiction, especially her Civil War novel, This LS TTFTime Forever,, which has been made into a movie.

LS poems


But Linda also writes poetry, and has a book out titled, Potpourri of Poems  I thought I’d post one of her poems here. (With her permission of course!)

Linda and I write fiction but she swears that poetry is the window to the soul of the poet. Maybe she’s right.

For in our poetry we express ourselves – unguarded and without the mask of fiction. It is our deepest thoughts, frustrations, and joys, As writers, we play with words, but as poets we allow that private side of us to have a voice.

I hope you enjoy this poem. It spoke to my soul and left me in tears for I identified with Naomi Stuart.


(For Naomi Stuart)

She tended him with quiet dignity,

Became his buffer when the crowd pressed through

And would have drained his waning energy

As he was always wont to let them do.

She stood in his great shadow till he fell

Then like a sentry guarded where he lay

And though she succored him and willed him well

She could not keep relentless sleep at bay.

And so he slept and spoke no more, but she

Still nurtured him as she had tended flowers.

Who knows with what distress and agony

She kept her vigil through those long last hours?

And now the final sleep has claimed his life;

What then for her, the faithful tender, wife?

DSC_8614Note: Naomi was the wife of Jesse Stuart

Jesse Hilton Stuart (August 8, 1906 – February 17, 1984) was an American writer who is known for writing short stories, poetry, and novels about Southern Appalachia. Born and raised in Greenup County, Kentucky, Stuart relied heavily on the rural locale of northeastern Kentucky for his writings.Stuart was named the poet laureate of Kentucky in 1954.

Please visit Linda at:

Linda Swift

My Website:
My Amazon Page:
I’ve reblogged this from Among the Waters, which is the blog of my local writer’s group. Linda Swift is not local but she is a wonderful friend of mine.

My Daughter’s New House

June 9, 2015

I received a phone call yesterday afternoon and my daughter asked if I wanted to come see her house. She was going to be around the corner from me and I could follow her to her new home. It didn’t take me three seconds to say yes!

Of course, when she called I was sitting here in my robe. (Hey, I’m an author. Authors sit around in robes while we climb into our imaginary worlds and write.) I grabbed my clean jeans! Ten minutes later, my teeth were brushed, my hair was pulled into a bun, and I was ready!IMG_1033 new house

My daughter has moved to a new house in North Carolina. I’d seen the floor plans before it was built. I’d seen photos of it going up. Now I would actually see it!

It’s beautiful! She has a great room , a master bedroom area and two smaller rooms that will be used as a guest room and as an office. There’s also a huge FROG (finished room over the garage) with a half bath. They are still buying furniture for it.

To say I’m thrilled for them is an understatement. She and her husband have worked hard to get to this point. I’ve love to be her neighbor! But that won’t happen. I don’t even want to know what her mortgage payment will be!

I remember the joy of our first new house and I can see that same feeling in her eyes. There are still things that the builder has to do. There’s a wall that must be repainted and a door that isn’t working properly. But the thrill of everything being so new outweighs any concerns.

The backyard is barren of grass and there are no shrubs. I tried to explain what grows well in her sandy soil, but this is not the daughter who gardens. She looked at me with that blank stare. I promised I’d send her a few pictures.

file301312636890 lavenderIn blank spaces, I see luscious groupings of lavender and a dozen other plants. To me, it’s a blank canvas begging to be filled with color. All she knows is that the grass seed isn’t growing.

I guess it isn’t much different from looking at a blank screen on the computer.  I see an empty document as a place to fill with characters and life. Excitement courses through me.

But maybe it’s part of my personality. I need to fill things. It doesn’t matter if it’s an empty space in the landscape or a blank wall, I need to put something there. An empty tureen, a cake plate, a pretty butter dish, they all need to be filled. So to have a daughter who doesn’t want to fill things? Where did I go wrong?



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 87 other followers