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He’s Got Talent!

Dear Diary,

I want to introduce you to an amazing artist that I have had the pleasure of collaborating with on my upcoming children’s book Eggsplats and Mudpie Rainbows (due to be published this summer). He has been able to breathe life and spirit into the elusive vision I had for the illustrations to go along with my whimsical words. His name is Mr. James P. Cottage.

James Cottage grew up in Springfield, New Jersey, and graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he studied Illustration and Creative Writing. He worked for a major retailer designing and illustrating signs for about seven years before deciding to focus on his passion for children’s books.

He has illustrated a children’s book called Grandma Found a Gecko by Vincent Golphin which is a witty romp pitting Grandma against a mischievous gecko who has taken a fancy to her shoe. (Available on amazon)

James has also provided the illustrations for an educational e-book called Whale Fall, written by Robert Bajor. Whale Fall uses a natural phenomena by the same name to engage it’s readers in a conversation about what happens when we lose someone we love. Whale Fall contains a robust glossary, beautiful full color imagery, and breath-taking videos to tell the story of Baleen, a blue whale near the end of her life.
Currently the book contains one chapter, which will be expanded throughout the year. (available on the itunes store)

He also works on a web-comic, at www.after-comic.com. (For a donation, he will send you the comics)

More of his work can be found at: www.jpcimagery.com

 

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Eggsplats and Mudpie Rainbows

 

Dear Diary,

This children’s book began several years ago as disjointed poetry scattered throughout my journal. Over time, a theme emerged. I tweaked them and compiled them into a picture book. I desired just the right kind of pictures, but was unsure exactly what I wanted. Years past before the illustration ideas crystallized and I found the perfect artist to breathe life into the pictures that capture the spirit and mind of a child. I am very happy to be sharing this with you today.

 

Last Will & Testament

Dear Diary,

 

Don’t bury me.

I do enjoy wandering through graveyards,

touching the crumbling stone,

reading the names and trying to imagine their faces and whispers of their lives.

 

But don’t put me here,

where someone is paid to tame the weeds and trim the grass,

ready for loved ones who rarely visit and move on with the cacophony of their lives.

 

I don’t want to be stuck in one spot.

I didn’t do that in life. I don’t want to do that in death.

 

Instead,

Burn me,

then fill my waiting angel figurines with my essence,

distribute them to my children, as an unassuming knickknack

on a shelf or bookcase amidst the breeze of their lives.

 

With the rest of me,

Spritz me on my favorite spots in life…

 

Columbus, Ohio, where I drew my first breath. Known to me only in faded black and white photographs, propped on my grandfather’s knee, face covered in ice cream or gently held by my grandmother in the handmade christening gown of my heritage.

 

Trenton, New Jersey, where I honed mud-pie skills, won a trophy in the town Independence Day parade, and kissed the neighbor’s boy.

 

Brighton, New York, where I taught myself to ride a bike by leaning against the playground’s chain-link fence, and sat on a freshly painted snowplow, ruining my favorite blue coat with the red trim.

 

Redmond, Washington, where I perfected the art of catching grasshoppers and toads, and entered into the realm of neighborhood chase games, skits and big wheel races.

 

Los Gatos, California, where my first action was to lay on the warm grass to soak up the California sun. I salted slugs and played endlessly at handball, 4-square, hopscotch and jump rope games.

 

Aptos, California, where I first realized the call of the sea striking the sand was entwined in my spirit, tasted the driving need to write and draw, had my first boyfriend and broken heart.

 

Fairport, New York, where I waited for the school bus in tremendous snowdrifts without wearing a hat or boots because it was uncool, learned to ski by flinging myself onto diamond trails, a plethora of parties, friends, deep infatuations, theater, dance and song.

 

Houston, Texas, where the sky was so high and the clouds so big. I was a Yankee serving Apple Brown Betty at a Texan steakhouse while chasing an art degree. Everything seemed possible. My dreams were as big as the state.

 

Athens, Ohio, where I raced the train across the tracks to get to class on time, and it lulled me to sleep at night. I capered across the cobblestone streets uptown in my college town, wearing short, flippy skirts, flats, and lacy ankle socks.

 

Northern Virginia, where most of my children were born and my teaching career began.

 

Orlando, Florida, where I chose as my home to answer the calling of the sea and sun, and give voice to my poetry and prose.

 

And finally, Edinburgh, Scotland, hometown of my ancestors, where upon stepping into the land and wandering through the abundances of closes, I too, felt strangely at home.

 

I have no single hometown to be buried.

I have many places I have lived, played, laughed, loved, cried, and prayed.

 

Sprinkle me, thus.

If it can be done.

When I am done.

 

Antinapping Ninja

 

Dear Diary,

“Napping is fun.”

My children would always snicker and scoff when I would say such a thing. But I really wish someone would send me to my room and tell me to go take a nap.

Especially when I am grumpy and whiny and my eyes are doing that droopy thing. If you asked my Kindergarten classes what is Mrs. Kelli’s favorite thing to do they would pipe up quite readily with the answer- take a nap. Once, I actually had a student offer to watch the class for me so I could put my head down on my desk and take a snoozer. I couldn’t accept his gift, but it was a lovely gesture.

Napping is a decadent and luxurious exit from a busy day. It creates extra energy to conquer the rest of those nagging items on your plate with aplomb and vigor. It is an excellent attitude adjuster. Sometimes I even wake up with bright, new ideas to pursue or more efficient angles on tired subjects. It inclines me to have more prevalent breezy spells and winning smiles.

Most of the time my day is too packed to squeeze in a nap. I have to plan my naps carefully because a Thwarted Nap is worse than no nap at all.

A Thwarted Nap can cause me to don Monster Attitude. This development is best to be avoided for all involved. If I think the odds are stacked against a successful napping experience, it is best to just grab an energy drink and trudge napless through the rest of the day.

Aside from my busy schedule, I also have to deal with the Antinapping Ninja, my four-year-old daughter Sabrina. Napping has been off of her list of things to do for over a year now. But her hatred is still fresh. The mere mention of the word brings fire to her eyes and angry hisses from her lips. I have given up battling to get her to take a nap. But I will still battle to get mine.

Occasionally, I can grab a quickie nap while she is in Prekindergarten, but this is a dilemma because this is also the only time in the day that I am alone and able to do things without my four-year-shadow.

Sometimes I try to swing a nap on the weekend if I have reinforcements. I will tell her that I am going to ‘lay down’. It is best not to use the ‘N word’. I tell her to talk to Daddy or her older sister Gina if any need arises. Then I attempt to lie down in my bed.

My door will be cautiously opened by the Antinapping Ninja.

“Mommy, I’m hungry.”

“Tell Gina to get you a snack,” I grumble.

“Mommy, Tony stuck his tongue out at me.”

“Tell your dad,” I moan.

“Mommy, the puppy pooped on the floor.”

Silence.

“Mommy, can you put this dress on my Barbie?”

“No!” I roar.

Then Monster Attitude is awake and snarling.

Yesterday was a Sunday. All of the kids were home as well as my husband. I determined that I would wrestle a nap out of the day. I was very firm with my ninja. I told her that she was not allowed to open my door for any reason whatsoever or I would be mad. I reiterated to her that Daddy and her sister were extremely qualified to administer food, control her brother, adorn Barbies and clean poop. All seemed well at first.

I was drifting into la-la land nestled comfortably in my fluffy comforter and plethora of pillows. My mind detached itself from peanut butter sandwiches, laundry, paying bills and wandered into the realm of imagination. I was on the set of a movie that was based on my latest novel. Leonardo DiCaprio was involved. I was exhilarated. From the recesses of backstage I vaguely heard the Antinapping Ninja creep up to my door, but not open it.

Good.

I continued into the blissful spiral of sleep. I succumbed. Then I was rudely awakened by wails of utter despair. My daughter was outside my door, face in the carpet sobbing.

“I want my Mommy!”

My whole body tensed as I waited to see if she would just get over it and go away. She did not. I opened the door and let my little ninja enter the room. I said that she could go play or take a nap with me. To my surprise, she snuggled in with me and fell asleep almost instantly.

I was wide-awake.

So it goes. Another nap thwarted.

Cover Reveal: Eggsplats and Mudpie Rainbows

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Dear Diary,

 

Cover Reveal for my children’s book “Eggsplats and Mudpie Rainbows” due out in mid April. A whimsical rhyming parade of stuff that children find unendingly fascinating. Accompanied by amazing illustrations by Mr. Jim Cottage. More sneak peaks to come!

When Girls Grow Fierce

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Dear Diary,

In the midst of these turbulent political times, a pointed poem by a talented author and friend, Vincent F.A. Golphin:

 

WHEN GIRLS GROW FIERCE
for elizabeth warren

 

They grow fierce
girls who speak to power
eye-to-eye, without a blink,
nor stutter or mutter,
girls unmask,

show their woman,
frighten with truth,
strip naked the powerful

Unmasked and disrobed, the skinned sling

slurs and curses and lies, and dismissals,

like Pocahontas.
Those outdone rave,

usually wrinkly, old, white guys,
and the like-minded,

shocked naked by truth,
and shorn raw by the fearless jibes and convictions
of unusual girls that do not know their place.

 

The fearful retreat to thrones in their minds
scared by the fierce sound and sight
of girls armed with inconvenient facts,

possessed with confidence and courage,
bold revelation are girls fiercely grown
into women that scare the powerful.

 

Vincent F. A. Golphin is a widely published author and poet. His latest book, Grandma Found a Gecko, is for children. His last poetry collection, 10 Stories Down, was released in 2012 by Foothills Press. For more information – www.thegolphincollection.com.

 

 

 

Spirit

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Dear Diary,

 

The angel closes her eyes,

Breathes in

Slowly, steadily,

Filling her ordinary frame

With extraordinary spirit.

The kind of spirit

That stands undaunted before fire,

That trembles at the pain of a broken child,

That shields those who cannot shield themselves,

That spreads mercy like a salve,

That imperceptibly breeches walls,

That pierces darkness with a smile.

 

With the breath, the spirit expands and penetrates the fragile casing

Filling and

Chasing away the residue of weariness and despair,

Toppling impatience and the futility

Of being merely one

Battling small parts of the inhumanities of humanity.

 

She opens her eyes

And exhales

A deep whisper of Care

To echo in the vast turbulence .

 

The Tale of the Traveling Baby Jesus

baby-jesus

Dear Diary,

My youngest daughter Sabrina’s version of “Jingle Bells” was mostly on-key, but the lyrics were hopelessly butchered. The Kindergartener sang absently as she sat on the floor happily playing with the figures from an Advent calendar:

“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,

Jingles on the wave.

Oh what fun, what a long, long song

for a white horse eating hay…

Hay!”

The lilting rendition made me smile. She lovingly caressed each calendar piece, then placed it into a circle that would enclose Baby Jesus.

Sabrina abruptly stopped singing. “Mommy, where’s the baby?” she said with a perplexed look.

Baby Jesus had gone missing again. I understood, because the only Christmas decoration in our home that ever seemed to disappear was a Baby Jesus. Everything else stayed safely packed from year to year, but Baby Jesus was always on the road.

My first runaway was the Baby Jesus from a Nativity scene. He was a no-show back when my sons, Andy and Patrick, now in their 20s, were Preschoolers. After a desperate search of the house that did not yield results, I set out on a shopping excursion to find a suitable replacement. This was not easy.

First, most Nativity figures can only be purchased as a set, not by the piece. Second, they are not found in many stores. Third, being so close to Christmas, many of the stores that carried them were sold out by the time I conducted my frantic quest. I was, however, driven with determination to procure a Baby Jesus to complete our Nativity scene. My children were home waiting expectantly for Mommy to fill the empty cradle. I was not about to disappoint. Ultimately, I was not able to find the exact brand, but I did obtain a Baby Jesus that could reasonably pass for my Mary and Joseph’s baby.

The next year, as I set up the Nativity scene, the replacement Baby Jesus slipped from my fingers and took a devastating tumble. His fragile head had split in two and one of the arms cracked off. My sons’ eyes were wide with horror as they scrambled to collect the pieces, even those that bounced away into an unseen corner. After an intense search, they located the missing parts except for two fingers. Super Glue did not do the trick. My children were not satisfied with a Baby Jesus laced with cracks across his features and a couple of missing fingers. Once again, I raced to the store to purchase a replacement Baby Jesus.

For about five years we didn’t have any Baby Jesus issues. But when my middle kids Gina and Jay were preschoolers, it was the Advent calendar Baby Jesus’ turn to get wanderlust.

I have owned the Advent calendar since Andy and Patrick were toddlers. It is made of colorful cloth and has a large Christmas tree at the top and below are numbered pockets that house friendly, puffy characters before they are placed on the Christmas tree. The Advent calendar ritual had always been one of the highlights of the parade of days that lead up to Christmas for all six of my children.

Fortunately, the year that Advent calendar Baby Jesus went on a Sabbatical, my mother was on hand. She sewed us the most adorable replacement. My mom’s Baby Jesus was sleeping and swaddled, with peacefully closed eyes and a rosebud mouth. The original Baby Jesus was wide awake, grinning immensely with arms flailed open. He looked liked trouble. I was not terribly surprised when he took off. Five months later I was startled to find out that the absence was not his fault.

As I searched my refrigerator to ascertain whether I had any unexpired raspberry sauce to drizzle on French toast, my son Jay and I discovered a stowaway; Grinning Baby Jesus. The Advent calendar icon had been chilling behind the maraschino cherries nestled between the capers and horseradish sauce.

I stared in shock and puzzlement at four-year-old Jay. AWOL Baby Jesus was frozen into a mask of red syrup. I extracted the frosted figure from in between the condiments and peeled at the gelatinous cherry juice on its head. Jay stoically looked at Baby Jesus, and then at me.

“I put him there,” he said.

“What, why?” I stammered in confusion.

“I don’t know,” was the reply.

And so, for a few more years after that, our home had two Advent calendar Baby Jesuses. The original one had returned from the arctic chill to join my mother’s hand-sewn version.

Last year, my mother’s handmade Baby Jesus took a hiatus. I noticed, but did not draw attention to the fact. The children did not notice. One was certainly enough.

Now, Sabrina has discovered that both Advent calendar Baby Jesuses are missing. I can only assume they are on some grand adventure together. Perhaps we shall eventually find them hanging out in the pantry, or the garage toolbox or maybe in one of my hopelessly disorganized closets. Until then, we will hold open Baby Jesus’ spot in the Advent calendar’s gold-thread-edged pocket. Sabrina will have to make due until the conclusion of the Traveling Baby Jesus’ field trip. There’s still room for two, if he decides to bring a friend.

My Sweet Spot

frog

Dear Diary,

I paused in mid-step. I carefully set my extended foot onto the pavement. The stray gravel crunched softly under my worn sneaker. I noticed that my shoelace had become untied. I would deal with that later, not now. I stilled myself and bent cautiously to peer more closely. A lone blue jay called and a puff of wind startled my long wispy hair. I watched intently, trying to sense when to make my move. He did not seem to be aware of me, though his eyes swiveled suspiciously surveying his surroundings. Maybe he was pretending not to notice me. That would be rather tricky of him. I did not expect him to play dead. I had never heard of or seen one play dead before. I watched his pale pouch-like chin breathe rhythmically. They could be such noisy creatures, but I had yet to actually observe one croaking. Perhaps I caused them to be shy. I imagined the feel of his textured, pliable skin in my hand. I prepared myself to spring. Now! I darted forward and swiftly enclosed the chubby toad in my grip. As I straightened to a standing position, I was mindful to point his tail end downward and away from my body before he defecated. I had learned this procedure the hard way. I didn’t know if they pooped when caught because they were scared or if they thought it would thwart their enemy. But I wasn’t really his enemy. He halfheartedly tried to flail his legs and wriggle free once, but quickly seemed to realize that this action was futile. I held him for a minute or two and gazed into his bulgy eyes while his legs dangled helplessly in my grasp. He stared back at me blankly, breathing rapidly. I set him down in the scrubby grass and watched him flee as fast as a toad is able. He seemed a bit far from home. I hoped he made it back to the creek before he dried up.

I brushed my hands on my jeans and ventured into the world that was the vacant lot next to the Wasserman’s house. I batted at the tall spiny grass as I waded deeper. I picked a spot that was laced with a multitude of honeysuckles and sat on the dry ground. The grass almost reached the top of my head and swayed lightly in the breeze. I closed my eyes and let the sun and the solitude sink into my being before I went about the  business of sucking the tiny fragments of sweetness from the honeysuckle petals. I then occupied myself by popping open fuchsia flowers and chasing grasshoppers. I caught and released five of them before moving onto my planned project. I collected various stones and set them in a pile. I settled myself back into the dusty dirt and pulled out a canister of Liquid Gold furniture polish from my bag. I hoped that my mom did not notice that it was gone. I planned to safely return it to its proper place under the kitchen sink. I began my task. I polished the stones, marveled at passing butterflies and sang off-key until it was time to be home. As I walked out of my sanctuary, I thought of the toad I had met today. I vowed to check on his whereabouts at the stream tomorrow. Surely I would be able to recognize him. Perhaps I would also bring a jar to collect some polliwogs to bring home as well. I had to be more careful this time, however. The last time I brought polliwogs home they had morphed into very tiny toads and jumped out of the jar. My mother was not happy to find miniature toad carcasses in random spots in our house. Yes, next time I would need a lid.

Demise of My Eyes

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Dear Diary,

Cheers to Vision! I am reblogging this post from five years ago about my first steps into the world of failing eyesight. I have since embraced my four-eyed status (although I will still sport contacts as well). Five years ago I lamented…

I have always been proud of my stellar eyesight. My hazel orbs rendered me perfect vision up until about three years ago. At that juncture I was in quite a state of consternation to realize that I had begun squinting whilst reading. These eye gymnastics caused reading to become annoying. I could not allow reading to become annoying, so I reluctantly plodded over to the nearest  eyesight superstore to have my eyes checked out. Indeed, I did require reading glasses.  I dutifully selected a pair of red rimmed rectangular glasses and incorporated this tool into my existence. This solution was successful until recently. To my increasing displeasure I found that squinting was now required even as I wore my glasses. Additionally, distance vision was also becoming a challenge. I went back to the eyesight superstore. At the conclusion of this eye exam I was horrified to hear the doctor utter the “B” word. Bifocals. What? And wear them all of the time? The pouty child within me was throwing her small body in an unprecedented tantrum, complete with staccato foot stomping. The doctor explained my options:

1- I could use two different pairs of glasses. One pair for reading and one pair for looking at far away things. I could play the Switcheroo Glasses game all day long to my endless enjoyment.

2- I could wear bifocal glasses. When reading, I would have to look down through the bottom part of the glasses. When I wanted to look at other things I would have to aim my vision upwards. I was kind of wondering if I’d appear to have a tick trying to look up and down like that. I suppose after time and practice I could work it into a graceful and effortless move. However, there was that whole thing about having to have glasses perched on my nose all day long. I am sure many of you do this and I am proud of you and give you many kudos for this. My biggest problem with it is that I have made it thus far in my life without having to lug glasses around on my face constantly. Surely, they would get in my way at times? Maybe not.  Anyway, as the doctor was explaining this option, my inner pouty child was screaming in my ear that there must be another way, so I politely asked about the third option.

3- Contacts. The doctor assured me that bifocal contacts were a viable option. It sounded kind of wild to me that your eye can figure out which way to look through, but I decided not to pester the man with these sort of questions. He suggested that I schedule a future appointment to try the insertion process. He said to allow three hours because some people have trouble doing this on their own. Three hours? I was flabbergasted. Could it really take this long? How long would one have to allow to get ready for work if  it took so much time to insert contacts? The scenarios rolled through my head as I laughed shortly and calmly scheduled my date for the Contact Lens Wars.

When I returned the next day ready to battle this unusual foe, I was determined that I would be victorious in a mere ten minutes. I actually did perform rather well within the walls of the tiny Contact Lens War Room. I do believe that I would have completed my mission within my desired time limit had my teenage daughter not been repeatedly calling my cell phone during the process. Didn’t she know that I was engaged in time sensitive warfare? The pressure was on. I did not buckle. I persevered and completed my task in fifteen minutes.

It seems weird to me that it was so much easier and quicker the first time I put my contacts in. Scenes in my bathroom trying to recreate this action were comical. How many places do you think my contacts could end up besides my eyeball? The most common place was my finger. The blasted thing would not get off of my finger! It did not want to make the jump to my eye. It would cling to my finger in a wet, desperate embrace. The second most favorite spot for my contact to be was in the sink. Every time it would leap into the sink it would cause me a momentary stab of panic due to visions of it continuing its path down the drain. Occasionally it would make a dash onto the marble counter top and hide there, blending in skillfully within the  randomly patterned,abstract design. Once, it lodged itself in my hair. Once, it fled inside my shirt. To top it all off, my four year old daughter loves to watch all of this. She will climb up and sit on the counter next to the sink and watch intently. She’s actually the perfect cheerleader. She is always ready with a rousing: “Good job, Mommy,” when a contact is successfully wrestled into place. She shares in my woe when a contact goes awry and offers condolences and words of encouragement. Sometimes her seven year old brother appears on the scene as well. This, however, creates bedlam. He is usually touting his nerf gun and targets his unsuspecting prey while they are otherwise engaged. My cheerleader will then vault from her perch and a merry chase will ensue in my bathroom. This will not do.I require quiet and peace to be able to concentrate on my difficult task. I am then forced to morph into ‘Mean Mommy’. I contribute loud, threatening words and dramatic hand gestures to the chaotic mix.

Happily, I am getting better at inserting my contacts, but I admit that there are some days that I am not willing to play this game.On those days, I contentedly pad around my house wearing a pair of magnifying lens type glasses that I bought at Walgreens for ten bucks. It’s all good.

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