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Happy News!

Today I received exciting news from WOW, Women on Writing. This international online journal for women writers sponsors a flash fiction contest every quarter, and the story I entered in their Summer, 2014, Flash Fiction Contest is now published on their website!

Several months ago I heard that my story was in the top ten out of 300 entries! Of course, I was thrilled!

If you’d like to read the three top stories and read my story, which is the first one published in the Runners Up, you may click on www.wow-womenonwriting.com. Scroll down until you see the 2014 Summer Contest Results listed in a sidebar on the left, click on “More,” and that will bring up the top ten stories. I feel so honored to be among these winners!

Robin and I will give away our Christmas tree this year. That was a big decision, but we finally realized we had reached another milestone along our way. Lugging inside the huge carton, unpacking and wrestling the three sections of the artificial tree into position, checking the lights, replacing the duds, and then decorating with all our paraphernalia was becoming more and more of a chore. Now we will simplify things.

Next Tuesday the truck from Habitat ReStore will come to pick up the tree and three boxes of tree decorations. I’ve sorted through all of those and saved many keepsakes, but it feels good to donate the other things so maybe a younger family can enjoy them.

Several days ago the Village Men’s Garden Club delivered two beautiful poinsettia plants, and we’re happy to have those to brighten our holiday. I’ve also set out many pretty Christmas items that we’ve accumulated through the years—most of them crafted by family members or given to us by special people in our lives.

Robin and I will travel to be with our children and grandchildren and extended family during the holidays. Someday, that, too, will become more of a chore than a pleasure, but, thankfully, not this year. Soon we’ll be heading to Tennessee and then to Mississippi for plenty of hugs, good food, and fun.

Merry Christmas, dear friends! May the Light of the World be with all of us on our journeys!

Ghost Story

With Halloween right around the corner, I thought I’d have fun and share a ghost story with you today. Those of you who have my book, Views from an Empty Nest, will recognize this short story. It’s fiction, but it sprang from a newspaper article I spotted several years ago.  I hope you will enjoy this!

GHOST STORY

Madelyn F. Young

From a first floor window, Deputy Jasper Franklin watched the crowd gathering on the courthouse lawn. At straight-up nine, he unlocked the front entrance and moved to one side as visitors poured into the lobby and wound their way up the creaky wooden staircase to the second floor.

He stood erect, in full uniform, but there’d be no need to swipe anyone with the metal detector today. Young and old streamed by his station to hand him their tickets, and he greeted each one with a smile. The tale these folks came to hear would curl their toes. People loved a mystery, especially a good ghost story like this one.

When all were inside, he closed the door, made his way up the stairs, and took his seat in the back of the courtroom.

Up front, his friend called for everyone’s attention. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Cloward County. This is the tenth year we have hosted storytelling sessions at our historic courthouse, and the mystery is still as fresh as ever. My name is Sam Lawton, and I’m the founder and manager of a company called Paranormal Investigators. We look into reports of unusual occurrences—spirit sightings, voices from the dead, all kinds of psychic phenomena—to verify their authenticity.”

Sam paused and surveyed the crowd. His listeners sat motionless, ready.

“As of today, P-I has investigated at least a dozen cases here in Cloward County—people claiming they’ve encountered the ghost of a man named Joshua Jacob Clark. Most of the sightings have been right here on these premises. We’ve brought in our cameras, infrared lights and other recording devices to collect evidence. And ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you, it’s absolutely true. The spirit of Joshua Jacob Clark is alive and well.”

A murmur passed through the audience, and an elderly couple in front of Jasper nodded to each other and smiled.

Deputy Franklin knew the story by heart, but he still loved to hear Sam tell it. His friend had been entertaining crowds like this every fourth Saturday for years, and no question about it, all the folks in Cloward County reaped the rewards. People came from all around, even from out of state. Restaurants and motels did a booming business, not to mention Jasper himself. Each month he collected a nice little paycheck from the P-I group for helping out. Yes, sir, as far as he was concerned, Joshua Jacob Clark could haunt this place as long as he liked.

Storyteller Sam smiled at the crowd’s reaction. He moved away from the lectern, took a sip of water from a glass on the table, and then began his narrative.

“Joshua Jacob Clark was a black man who lived in this county back in the 1930s. He was a strong young fellow, a hard worker, and he and his folks sharecropped out on the Benson place. But Clark made a big mistake one day. He stepped out of line and spoke to a young lady by the name of Genevieve Parsons when they passed each other on the street. In those days, no black man would dare to approach a white woman in such a bold manner. That was considered an affront to gentility and social custom. Miss Genevieve was the daughter of Mayor Andrew Parsons, and she came home and told her daddy that Clark frightened her.”

Some in the audience began to squirm. Jasper smiled. There were always a few who seemed to foresee what was coming.

“The next night, Miss Genevieve spotted someone lurking outside her window—watching her undress, she said. She pointed the finger at young Clark. The mayor called the sheriff, and it wasn’t long till a posse rounded up Clark and brought him in for questioning. He denied being near the Parsons’ house—swore he’d been in a honky-tonk ten miles from there and witnesses could vouch for him. But a black man’s word didn’t count for much in those days. They arrested him for trespassing and slapped him in jail.”

Sam paused, cleared his throat and took another sip of water—mostly to heighten the suspense, Jasper thought.

“The KKK was an active group back then, and a few days later, a mob broke into the Cloward County Jail and dragged Clark out to that big oak in front of the courthouse. They strung him up and hanged him right there on the spot. Next day, the newspaper account, dated May 24, 1937, seemed to condone the lynching—‘a potential rapist getting his just reward,’ it said. Today, some people claim the ghost of Joshua Jacob Clark still haunts these premises because he’s angry—angry at the injustice and angry that he, an innocent man, was killed.”

A tall, bald fellow in the second row raised his hand. “Mr. Lawton, you said sightings of Clark’s spirit have been verified. Explain what you’ve got.”

“You bet.” Sam stepped to one side, picked up a screen, placed it in front of the judge’s bench, and pointed to Jasper in the back. “Deputy Franklin, how about cutting those lights now, and we’ll show these good folks some slides.”

While Jasper flipped switches, Sam moved to a projector in the middle of the room and clicked it on. A blurry black and white image flickered in the dark room.

“Here is one picture of what we believe is Clark’s spirit,” Sam said, adjusting the lens. “This was taken in the courthouse attic last year. Marlena Kirkpatrick, one of our most experienced investigators, spent the night to check out disturbances reported by a secretary in the county clerk’s office. Miss Kirkpatrick verified the noises—low groaning sounds, like someone in pain—and she noted a cool breeze swept through the room two times, although there are no outside openings in the attic. Using her infrared camera, she captured a hazy apparition moving beneath the rafters.”

Sam stepped closer to the picture and pointed a lighted arrow at the photo. “You can see a shadowy figure there on the right side.”

People leaned forward, moving left and right to get a better view.

“Excuse me, Mr. Lawton.” A woman’s voice rang out in the darkness. “My name is Gloria Wilson. That young lady in your story, Genevieve Parsons, was my grandmother. May I speak to the group?”

Framed in the dusty beam, Sam looked startled. “Of course. Jasper, let’s have some lights again.”

Sam moved to shut off the projector, the room brightened, and all eyes focused on an attractive woman in a red sweater standing near the front.

“All right, miss. Please go ahead,” Sam said.

“Thank you. I drove down from Springfield to attend today’s presentation. Recently, my mother, Amanda Wilson, passed away. In her lock box we discovered a journal that belonged to her mother, my grandmother Genevieve Parsons Brown. What is in this diary will be of interest to all of you, I’m sure.” She lifted a small leather-bound book for all to see.

“Absolutely, Ms. Wilson. What did you find?” Sam appeared to be a bit nervous now as he frowned and took another sip of water from the glass on the table.

“After Joshua Clark was hanged, my grandmother must have suffered tremendous guilt. She knew she couldn’t be sure the man looking in her window was Clark, and the sorrow she felt after his death was overwhelming. I don’t know if young Joshua Jacob Clark is still haunting this courthouse or not, but his spirit certainly haunted my Grandmother Genevieve until the day she died.”

Silence fell over the crowd, and Jasper shifted in his seat.

The speaker continued. “Here, let me read you an entry posted the day after Clark’s death. It’s dated May 24, 1937, the same date you gave for the newspaper clipping.”

Gloria Wilson slipped on her reading glasses, opened the book to a marked page and began.

Dear Diary,

Today has been the most horrible day of my life. Joshua Jacob Clark, a Negro who worked for James Benson, was hanged on the courthouse square last night. Daddy says he got what he deserved. Now I’m afraid Daddy and some of his friends may have done the killing. I can not bear to think of it. A man is dead because of me. I told Daddy it might have been Joshua at my window, but I didn’t say I knew for sure. Dear God, forgive me.”

Ms. Wilson paused, removed her glasses, folded them, and looked around at the crowd. “In a later entry, Genevieve mentioned that one of the Benson boys—Howard—had a crush on her. She wondered if it could have been him who visited her that night. Of course, my grandmother never revealed any of these thoughts to her family, and when my mother inherited the journal from her, she never told any of us children about it, either. But I do think it’s time for the truth to come out, don’t you?”

For a moment, Sam seemed at a loss for words. When he regained his composure, he smiled. “Thank you, Ms. Wilson. Your grandmother’s diary seems to corroborate what many people have been thinking for a long time.”

From the front, a scattering of applause began and spread across the room until all were standing, clapping, and cheering.

Jasper rose and joined in the celebration. But a nagging thought entered his mind. What if this new evidence caused their resident Cloward County ghost to leave? Without his regular moans and appearances, these monthly money-making sessions might very well come to an end.

On the other hand, Clark’s family could finally rejoice if all doubts about his innocence were put to rest. Surely that would be a good thing—for everyone.

Behind the last row of chairs, a wispy breeze stirred, brushed the back of Jasper’s neck, and gently ruffled his hair.

 

 

With all the terrors in the world these days—ISIS warriors, deadly Ebola, even random assaults by crazy shooters in public places—having a washer on the blink seems pretty tame. But it’s still a BIG aggravating nuisance! It messes up our lives, and we’re chomping at the bit until it’s fixed, right?

Our eleven-year-old washer balked a couple Saturdays ago—wouldn’t spin the water out of a dark load no matter how much I jiggled the dial. Finally, I fished each soggy piece out of the water, carried it in a pan to the kitchen sink, and tried my best to wring it out. Remember those old roller wringers attached to the machines that your mom or grandmother used way back when? I definitely have a new appreciation for those ancient devices!

I draped all our dripping clothes in the bathrooms, and we called our friendly repairman. He came out on Monday, replaced the dial, and drained the water from the tub. That was great! EXCEPT our washer still made a terrible racket when the tub began to spin! Our fellow said he would order a new drive basket.

Several days later, he returned to operate on the appliance. He tipped over the machine, removed all the “innards,” and replaced the worn part. After reassembling the machine, he turned it on. I held my breath. Would you believe all that clanging and banging was even WORSE!

Our would-be hero seemed as perplexed and frustrated as we were! This experienced fellow has a great reputation, and he also guarantees all his work. Frowning and muttering to himself, he left to reexamine our washer’s diagrams on his computer. In the meantime, I implored a friend to please let me do a load of laundry at her house—“just enough to tide us over,” I said. (No pun intended!) She graciously complied with my request.

Another long weekend passed and our friendly repairman reappeared this morning. “I think our problems are over,” he announced, grinning from ear to ear.

“I sure do hope so,” I said.

After working for twenty minutes, he turned on the machine. NO clanging! NO banging! HOORAY!

“The metal plate under the basket had slipped out of position when I tipped over the washer,” he said. “That’s what was causing all that shimmying and racket! I have it back in place now, and you’re all set.”

I paid him—he added no extra charges for all his trips back and forth and his extra time to solve the problem. I appreciated that and gave him a bonus.

As soon as he left, I turned on the machine, added detergent, and watched the tub begin to fill. Then I added my first load of laundry in over a week. Our beautiful machine hummed through every cycle with nary a peep!

Happiness is definitely a washer that WORKS!

Today I’d like to introduce you to my dear friend and fellow writer, Mary May Larmoyeux. I met Mary at Arkansas Writers’ Conference a number of years ago, and both being former teachers, we hit it off right away. Mary writes for Family Life magazine and is the author of Help for Busy Moms: Purposeful Living to Simplify Life. Now she and special education teacher Nancy Downing have published a new book about how we can develop closer relationships with our grandchildren.

Is There Anything Better Than Love?

by Mary May Larmoyeux

A few years ago, when one of my granddaughters and her little brother spent the weekend, we made a cake together. When the kids’ parents came over for lunch the next day, they remarked that the cake was especially good. Our little granddaughter cocked her head. “Know why?” she asked her dad. “Why?” he said. “I poured the cake mix in with all of my love. The goodness you taste is my love.”

Love—there’s nothing better, is there?

And distance doesn’t stop true love … especially for a grandparent.

Maybe you’re a grandparent like me with grandkids who live nearby and far away. Or perhaps you’re a parent who longs for your kids to be connected with their grandparents.

Nancy Downing, who has been named a USA Today Teacher of the Year, and I just published a new eBook,The Grandparent Connection: 365 Ways to Connect With Your Grandchild’s Heart. Madelyn invited me to tell you about it. (Thanks, Maddie!)

Organized by month, it’s a handy reference that both Nancy and I personally use. Here are a few ideas for the month of January:

  • Give your grandchild some new mittens/gloves—in his favorite color. Buy a pair in the same color for yourself. Periodically email or text your grandchild and say, “Today’s our blue mitten day.” Have a picture taken of yourself wearing the special mittens and send it to your grandchild.
  • Enlarge a picture of you with your grandchild; have it laminated (at the local print shop or at a teacher supply store), and then cut it into pieces. You now have your own special puzzle for a young grandchild.
  • Begin the year by sharing at least one family story with your grandchild. You might want to record this, print it on the computer, email it, etc. The important thing is to capture family stories so they won’t be lost.
  • Write a letter to your grandchild on her birthday (include pictures).
  • Purchase a Bible and record the dates when you pray special verses for your grandchild. You may want to include important dates in your legacy’s childhood. Keep a list of special ways that God has answered your prayers for your grandchild.

The Grandparent Connection eBook is available on Amazon, and the hard copy of the book can be ordered from http://www.legacyconnection.org.

If you are a grandparent, what is one thing that you’ve done to connect with your grandkids? If you are a parent of young children, how are you helping them connect?

In this fast-paced, high-tech world, it’s always fun to discover a new, unfamiliar use for some old, tried-and-true product. It’s like saying, “Bring on your new gadgets. This old stuff can be just as amazing!”

For the past two weeks, I’ve been dealing with a stubborn rash on my right shin. It began as an itchy patch about the size of a half dollar several inches above my foot. Gradually, the patch spread to be three to four inches in diameter. I’ve tried several over-the-counter medicines to counteract the itching and dry up the rash, but nothing has worked.

Finally, on Friday I called Robin’s dermatologist’s office. They couldn’t see me until October 21—over three weeks away—so I resigned myself to continue using my Caladryl Lotion and hoping for the best.

However, a friend suggested I call the doctor’s office again on Monday to see if they might have a cancellation. “You really need to see what this is,” she said. “Especially, since you’ve had this before.” She was right—I had the same kind of outbreak last year. That one lasted a couple months, and I finally wore it out before I could keep my appointment.

Yesterday I called, and they told me I could come in to their Village office about 10:15. Hooray! When the dermatologist PA took a look at me, she diagnosed it as Stasis Dermatitis, and she prescribed a new potent ointment for me to use. “I want you to apply the ointment on the rash tonight, cover it with a thick moisturizer, and then wrap Saran Wrap around your leg.”

“Saran Wrap?”

She smiled. “Yes, that’ll give the ointment a kick-start. I want you to do that for the next three nights. After that you can use the ointment without the wrap twice a day, and I want to see you again in two weeks.”

Last night I followed her directions, wondering if the Saran Wrap would even stay on my leg during the night. But it did! It clung to my leg like a second skin, and this morning I carefully peeled it off, washed my leg, and applied new ointment.

Now I’m happy to report this unusual new use for a kitchen product that’s been around forever—good old familiar Saran Wrap!  Who’d have ever thunk it?

Several weeks ago, Robin and I purchased a new mattress set. We’d been talking for years about needing one—it always takes us a while to get revved up to make a big change! But we screwed up our courage, grabbed our credit card, and headed out to do a little shopping.

At the store, our friendly salesman told us everything we ever wanted to know about mattress construction—how companies had changed in recent years from using inner springs to using foam. We lay on various mattresses to test their comfort, and finally, we selected a wonderful new king-sized set and arranged for its delivery.

Our new mattress is about three inches deeper than our old one, so some of our fitted sheets won’t work anymore. But we do have two sets we can use, and we now have a brand new set—one different from any others we have ever owned. These king-sized sheets are made from 40 percent bamboo fiber and 60 percent microfiber!

Their regular retail price was $249.99—way more than I would ever pay—but I found them online at a discount site for $34. That’s right! Only $34! I laughed and told Robin, “At that price, I figure we can take a chance and see what two-hundred-fifty-dollar sheets are like.”

They arrived last week, I washed them several days ago, and last night we slept on them for the first time. Would you believe that bamboo sheets could actually feel super soft and silky smooth? Well, they do! We drifted away on a “bamboo cloud” and enjoyed every minute!

 

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