Monday, August 23, 2021

Goodbye to the Red Dolly

I was finally ready to give away my well-used, well-loved, red, metal handcart a/k/a "the dolly." I bought it many years ago at Rolliers in Mount Lebanon with my father-in-law (who was also well-loved). It was a big purchase at that time.

Just to be sure to spell "dolly" correctly, I googled it, and a picture of Dolly Parton came up. She has definitely held up better. She's not bent or chipped, and her wheels aren't ready to come off in pieces.

Since Goodwill is overloaded with donations these days, I decided to give dolly and a few other things to VVA, the Vietnam Veterans of America. They pick up, and I'm grateful that they do that. 

I marked everything VVA.

I went to run errands, and when I returned, I could see that the pile of stuff was gone.

Except for dolly. 

Even tagged for removal, she refused. She's back in her corner in the garage. I'll try again next time. Or maybe I won't.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Teenie Tiny Trophy

I won a teenie tiny trophy in high school. It didn't have anything to do with sports.

Kane High School was such a small school that we didn't usually compete in anything other than the basics, like football and basketball. But our theater arts teacher, Mrs. Harman (about 4 foot 9, seriously, with cat eye glasses, skinny, high energy) decided to sign up some of us theatre (!) students for a forensics competition. Speeches, poetry recitation, that sort of stuff. She just told us we were doing it. She gave me a piece of prose to read--about 1,200 words is my estimate now (I didn't keep it!). It was a small synopsis from a piece of John Steinbeck's THE PEARL. "...a tiny furtive movement..." is the only line I remember.

Anyway, we all went to Bradford (oooh, big place!) for this thing. We walked into an auditorium, and there were school teams, like sports teams, groups of kids who did this thing instead of football or basketball. We must have looked like the Beverly Hillbillies. Murmur murmur. Kane!! Kids from Kane!

Robin Hollingshead did a dramatic piece about Charles Dickens. And I did my Steinbeck reading. 

Robin and I both won. The other teams were shocked. It was my senior year or I would have done it again and again. I got slightly marked down for things like "use a folder" and "don't have piece written on both sides of paper." But I beat 16 other kids who had done this type of thing before. 

I had always been the kid who read the introduction to parents for school plays, etc., starting in second grade, maybe even in first grade. They say (who the heck is "they" anyway), that the thing you love in first grade is often what you're meant to do, to be. I guess I'm doing some version of that, writing for children, doing school visits, running a children's book festival. 

Thanks, Mrs. Harman. My favorite teacher.

Here's an interview with her from 2019:

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Finding Family

Through 23andMe, I have found a branch of my family tree that I didn't know existed. 

My grandfather, Howard McConnell, is on the left, posing with his brother George in about 1904. I never knew if George had children, and it turns out that he did. He had two daughters. And now I am in touch with George's great grandson. 

My mother was an only child. Howard died when she was twelve. By then he had an artificial leg having lost one in a train accident whose details were never shared. At one point, he owned a pool hall. How was it that he married my classically-trained-pianist grandmother Ruth? Proximity, to be sure. Their families lived around the corner from each other. But I wish I could go back in time and hear the conversations they had. And I wish I could hear what the brothers had to say to each other on the day of this photo.

Mom adored her father. A daddy's girl, she undoubtedly became a different person after he died so suddenly. 

Friday, February 5, 2021

A Little Bit Alexis, in Gold

     Schitt's Creek fans, you'll remember Alexis's dress from her Little Bit Alexis dance. I realized that I have the same dress, only in gold. I almost didn't buy it, and when I got it, I no longer needed it. Here's what happened:

    I've been a member of SCBWI, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for 14 years. I had never had a chance to go to one of the two annual national events until last year. Exactly a year ago, I flew to NYC to hang with hundreds of other children's writers, and I was psyched.

    The conference has a "gold carpet" event where they announce winners of their prestigious awards. Everyone is encouraged to wear gold. Planning ahead, I found this beauty weeks before the conference and planned to wear it as a top as it's pretty short for somebody my age. They didn't have my size, so I ordered the right size and waited. It wasn't coming in. The local store (Free People) didn't know what was taking so long. It hadn't arrived two days before I was supposed to leave. Change of plan: they would ship it to the closest store in NYC where I could pick it up. 

    Nope. That didn't happen. I got to NYC, and it didn't arrive. 

    It was waiting for me when I got back home. I've never worn it. And, of course, there aren't any glittery, gold carpet children's writing events at the moment. 

    What did I wear?? Well, here's me with my bestie, children's author and candidate for best human ever, Donna Gephart:

    La-la la-la-la-la-la. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Smells in the Time of Covid

In March of 2020, I lost my sense of taste. At my favorite Mexican restaurant, my tacos tasted like cardboard, and I couldn't smell anything. And why was I so tired that I wanted to crawl under the table and pass out? Those symptoms lasted only a couple of days, and at that time, it didn't occur to me that maybe I had the Covid thing.

Maybe I did; maybe I didn't. It's too late to even check to see if I still have antibodies. I've been in great health since. But I have experienced a new unknown smell.
I just read that phantom smells are a real thing. For me, it started a month or two ago. A smell like sickly sweet cherries. Not exactly like cherry-coke (a drink when I was a kid). Not like cherry medicine or cough syrup. Not like Kool-aid. Something I had never smelled before. It was the middle of the night, and the smell actually woke me up. I wondered if it was the smell of Red Bull.
Fourteen years ago, my friend Sam died at the age of 14. He drank a lot of Red Bull in his beautiful burst of a life. My first thought was that he was reaching out to say hey. So I, in turn, reached out to his parents, and we agreed that it was possible.
I've gotten a few more whiffs at random times, but they are increasingly diminished. So I guess it was just a phantom, unexplainable smell.
I bet Sam had a good laugh.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Too Much of a Necessary Thing

 Goodbye, Cactus

As tall as me,

nestled in your pot,

wheels underneath.


Remember when we

brought you to the office?

Six caregivers

to keep watch over you as we moved

like a parade of tortoises in the desert,

you wrapped in paper,

in human arms.


You must have liked

your home.

A cactus baby

emerged from your roots.


Joy each morning to say



And then,

you were alone.


Ferns and violets transferred

from the university to

home offices.


But you,

you were too big,

and you liked the light in the conference room,

and that baby cactus,

your sprout.


Almost no humans on campus

and yet

Too many people tried to help you.

Too many people tried to save you.

Too many people offered you

a drink of water,

just in case.


Too much water.


Did you develop a cough?

Were your lungs tight?

Did you have a fever

dream that you were

living outside

in a rain forest?


I have missed you

these many months apart.

With time, though, it's gotten easier.


But death,

even from a distance,

is still death.


I won’t see you again,

but I will remember that day,

when you took a stroll around

your new home.

You loved it,

and we loved you.



Thursday, November 12, 2020

My Poem THE POINT(E)? on the website Writing in a Woman's Voice

Based on what I saw in Pittsburgh near Centre Avenue and South Negley Avenue in maybe 1986.