Open Mic Night

Last night, I did something I’ve never done before. I participated in my very first open mic event. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but John Swinburn, one of my Village Writers’ friends, spearheaded the show, so I decided to try it.

For the past few years, the Unitarian Universalist Village Church has been hosting open mic events at their church. However, they decided to give it up. That’s when John said he’d like to attempt a renewal, perhaps hold it in Coronado Community Center, and advertise it throughout the Village. He enlisted the help of the Unitarians and others to get it off the ground, and the Hot Springs Village POA provided free rental of the Coronado Center auditorium. They also furnished a cash bar, and John Chapman, KVRE announcer, emceed the program. Admission was free.

We had a great turnout! Members of the audience were seated with the performers at nine or ten large round tables, and, as our names were called, we participants made our way up to the lighted stage to do our thing.

I read a short memoir story, “Crime Scene,” about an incident that happened to me during the early 1990s when Robin and I still lived in Mississippi. Other participants also read original stories and poetry. A Carousel Readers’ Theater ensemble performed a humorous skit. A quartet from Crystal Chimes, a women’s barbershop group here in the Village, sang several numbers and advertised their upcoming holiday show, Cocoa, Cookies, and Carols. To close the evening, another talented duo from the readers’ theater group performed “Ring, Ring,” a hilarious skit written by one of the actors.

John hopes to have a second open mic event in January with even more acts. If you live in the Village or close by, keep your eye out for more publicity. You’ll have a fun evening visiting with friends, and you’ll see and hear many talented folks.

Photo Memories

One day I happened to mention to a new friend that I was posting recent photos in our family albums, and we talked about how people don’t do that much anymore. Instead, they’re using their phones to snap pictures, and then they’re posting them on Facebook.

However, I began keeping our family album/scrapbooks way back in 1958, the year Robin and I married, and now it’s a “tradition.” I can’t stop! Would you believe we’re now up to Album #78? That’s kind of mind-boggling, even to me. We have a family history recorded in these albums—all the events we’ve experienced for almost 60 years now.

Last night our friend came to supper, and she said she’d love to see some of those old pictures of Robin and me. We dragged out Album #1, and we all had so much fun, laughing and remembering

One picture shows me in a strapless formal with a full skirt, crinoline petticoats underneath, corsage at my waist, sitting in a swing at a sorority dance. Robin is standing behind me in a suit and tie, hands on the ropes of the swing. He has almost a full head of hair, although even then, in his twenties, it was beginning to recede.

Another picture shows Robin and me as newlyweds, standing in front of our first little apartment in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was attached to the side of the owner’s house. We had a tiny living room with a half-wall divider separating it from our bedroom, with only space for a double bed and small dresser. The bedroom opened to a tiny bathroom. We also had a small kitchen. The entire apartment was about the size of our living room now— our first little “nest.”

Later, I showed our friend a more recent album. This one features mostly our grown children and their families. The years go by. Someday, these albums will pass into their hands to share with their children and grandchildren and friends.


Robin and I have fun recalling all the “8’s” in our history.

Today, August 8, 2016, is our 58th wedding anniversary. We were married on the 8th day of the 8th month in the year 1958. August 8 was also the date of my parents’ wedding. They were married in 1935, and the “3” and “5” in their year also add up to “8.”

Our first child, Steve, was born on August 26, 1962. There’s that 8th month, again!  And the “2” and “6” in his day and the “6” and “2” in his year each add up to 8.

Our first grandchild was born on March 18, 1998. More “8’s” in that date.

Recently, our daughter, who has 2 daughters, married a man with 2 daughters and 4 sons, so now they have 8 kids, just like her dad’s family. Robin was one of 8 children.

Robin will turn 84 this year, and I will turn 78.

Who knows? These lucky “8’s” may just keep coming. “Double Lucky Birthday 88,” here we come!

On Monday, July 25, I led a two-hour writing workshop at Coronado Community Center here in Hot Springs Village. About 35 writers and would-be writers attended, and we had a great time together.

The “five secrets” we talked about are not really “secrets,” of course. These five essentials to writing a good short story are well known. But we all need to be reminded of them from time to time:

  1. Create complex characters.
  2. Develop the story arc.
  3. Show, don’t tell.
  4. Write realistic dialogue.
  5. Maintain consistent POV.

I spent the first hour giving pointers and presenting examples to illustrate each of these. After a break, we came back together during the second hour and heard Village Writers’ Club member John Swinburn read a short story he had submitted for critique following our club’s writing workshop in May.

We all discussed his story, paying special attention to the POV. From whose “point of view” was this story told? Was it from the perspective of the female protagonist, Faith? Or was it from the perspective of another important character, Lucius? The story seemed to slip from one character’s POV to the other’s. That kind of “head hopping” is a common mistake that novice writers make. Normally, a well-written story has a primary POV character, from whose perspective the complete story is told. That helps a reader become emotionally invested in that character.

However, we noticed the opening paragraph seemed to be written from the author’s perspective—he spoke directly to the reader, asking the reader a question. Also there were other parts of the story where the author presented information about the characters, and the story did not appear to be written from either character’s point of view. Finally, we decided this story must be written from an omniscient POV—a viewpoint not often used in a short story, but one that is still a viable option for a writer if he wants his reader to view the characters “from a distance.”

We closed our workshop by reading and discussing a piece of historical fiction written by my longtime writer friend Ellen Withers, from Conway, Arkansas. She had given me permission to use her story, “Discovery at Idaho Springs.” Ellen used every one of the “five secrets” to skillfully develop a truly memorable short story.

Many thanks to all who participated in the workshop and to John and Ellen for sharing their stories. Now, I hope all who attended are inspired to sit down and soon create a tale that will entertain their readers. Happy writing!

Last Monday, Robin had a pacemaker inserted at National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs. The surgery went fine, and he’s had a good week. He’s wearing a sling on his left arm to keep him from raising it above shoulder level or stretching it out too far—can’t do anything that might pull out those wires inserted into his heart! He’ll be limited to light exercise and no driving until after his follow-up appointment with the doctor on July 14, but by then he should be completely healed and free to get back out on the golf courses. He can hardly wait!

Those of you who have been following this blog know the ups and downs he’s had the past year—with episodes of sudden drops in heart rate, light-headedness, and sometimes fainting. His memory loss has also been a problem, due in part to his fluctuating heart rate and lack of steady blood supply to his brain. We’re hoping the pacemaker will remedy many of these problems.

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m so thankful for Robin! He’s been a wonderful husband for me and a great father to our three children. The verse on the Father’s Day card I gave him was perfect, I thought. (I wish I had written this!)

To My Husband on Father’s Day

Our lives have changed

and so have we

since all those years ago,

when we were young

and full of dreams

and loved each other so.


But through the changes

that have come

and made us more mature,

there also is serenity

a feeling we’re secure

in knowing that our love survives

through everything we face,

and this great love we’ve shared so long

could never be replaced.


That’s why, as I remember

that the years are passing too,

I don’t mind growing older,

sharing life and love with you.


Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there today!


Have you ever gone merrily along your way for a while, oblivious to your good fortune in life? Then, all of a sudden, something happens to jolt you awake?

Saturday morning, April 23, Robin entered the kitchen and, without any warning, he slumped over the counter and started to faint. I reached to grab him, and we both fell. I managed to break his fall a little, but I landed flat on my back on the hard kitchen floor!

The deeply throbbing pain and muscle spasms were excruciating. On Monday we went to our doctor who took X-rays to make sure nothing was broken. He prescribed muscle relaxants, and for the rest of the week, I continued to use ibuprofen and ice packs to reduce the swelling.

Since then, I’ve graduated to heat, acetaminophen, a six-day steroid pack of tablets, and yesterday I began physical therapy. The therapist will work with me twice a week for the rest of this month, and I am encouraged.

Robin’s fainting was due to a harmful interaction of cold capsules with his regular meds, so as soon as he discontinued taking the cold capsules, his light-headedness stopped. That’s been a blessing!

However, this back pain of mine has given me so much empathy for those of you who suffer all the time. My heart goes out to you. Today I am praying that you will find the help you need to overcome your pain.

Robin and I have what appears to be a freak of nature right here in our own backyard. A giant white oak close to our deck is beginning to leaf out now. However, sticking out among all the buds and long yellow tassels dangling from nearby branches is one small twig whose leaves at the end are now completely mature and green.

How could this twig be so different from the “mother branch” to which it is attached? In fact, the entire tree is only budding. There are no more mature leaves anywhere on it.

leafy twig

What’s really interesting is that there is another white oak about fifty feet away whose leaves are now all mature and green, just like that little twig’s. Robin and I have laughed and said it’s like that little twig was “kidnapped” from the other tree.

There’s a lesson here, I think. Children are not always like their biological parents. Genetic factors do play an important role in their physical and mental development, but environment and experiences are just as important.

Who knows? That little twig may have seen the other tree all leafed out and decided to leaf out too. What child or young person may be watching you today?