Sunday, May 8, 2016

On Becoming a Mother

When I became a mother, I couldn’t believe the overwhelming sense of awe that came over me as I held my daughter for the first time. Love that I’ve never known before filled my heart as I gazed at this tiny being that lay in my arms. A realm of emotions went through me in a matter of seconds. This child depended on me. Was I up to the task? Would I be a good mother? What did I know about raising a child? 


Sure, I’d been around babies ever since I could remember – I started babysitting at age twelve, but even before that babies fascinated. I used to visit new mothers on warm summer days and play with their babies. I even offered to take them for walks. I always loved kids.

But this was different. I wasn’t babysitting. This child wasn’t going home with me. She was mine.
 I had to care for her full time – feed her, change her, bathe her, soothe her when she cried.

Back then babies were kept in the nursery, except for feedings. I’ll never forget that first feeding. The nurse brought my daughter in and put her in my arms – we had to lie flat in our beds. Not the easiest way to feed a bottle. Anyway, she gave me the bottle and I put it in her mouth. She didn’t immediately start sucking, so the nurse showed me how to jiggle the bottle to initiate the process.
 

It worked and she began sucking on the bottle, only to begin choking. Fortunately, the nurse was still there. I panicked and took the bottle from her mouth while trying to hold her in an upright position, again no easy feat while you’re lying down. The nurse took the bottle, put it in her mouth, and literally gagged my daughter, who immediately began spitting up.

Let me tell you, I was ready to blast her a good one. Who did she think she was choking my child? She repeated the action, and my daughter spit up a lot of mucus. The nurse quietly explained we needed to get that mucus out. Yeah, like I was going to choke my daughter on purpose.
Somehow, we got through that feeding and the subsequent ones went fine, although my baby remained a spitter until she was about three months old.

My daughter has become a beautiful young woman with three children and grandchildren of her own, so I guess I managed to raise her well. I call her my experimental child. While she was the first to get to do everything – a fact her sisters never let me forget – she was also the one we made our mistakes with.
It helped having an older sister with two children and of course my mother, who, God bless her, was helpful, even if some of her ideas were old-fashioned or old wives tales. We worked through all the childhood diseases, stitches, and heartbreak and we had a lot of good times too.

But it didn't end there. My second daughter was as different from the first as night and day right down to their coloring. While the first was fair, bald (eventually blond), the second was olive skinned, with a dark brown curl on top of her head. When they first brought her to me, I asked if they were sure she was my baby. I expected a replica of the first, so I was quite shocked.
 
They were also different in temperament as they grew older. When the third daughter came along, I expected her to look like one of the older two. Not so, this little girl had carrot orange hair. Talk about shocked.
 She had a temper to match the firey head of hair. When she learned to walk, my father in law called her a bull in a china shop. She plowed through the house like she was on a mission; usually to disrupt her sisters. 
Like most people I thought sons were the same as daughters. I couldn't have been more wrong. When I held my oldest son in my arms, having a son took on a whole new meaning.   Somehow I knew I was having a boy - don't ask me how. Mother's intuition? We didn't have ultra sounds back then, but I told the nurse, who made up the beads ahead of time, this one was a boy. She had used pink beads, but promised if I had a boy, she'd change them. When I woke up - yes, I was asleep during these births - true to her word, she had changed them to blue beads.
 A more patient baby, I've never seen. From the day I brought him home, he stopped crying the minute I turned him over to change him. Oh yeah, babies slept on their tummies back then.

My second son insisted on giving me false labor pains for two weeks before he was born every evening right around dinner time and lasting into the night. I think he just didn't want me to eat.
 I woke up one morning, went to the bathroom and wow, cramps started up immediately. Since  my husband wasn't home from work yet, I called my sister who lived a couple streets away. Unfortunately, her husband had already left for work. So I called the one and only neighbor I knew - we had only moved in a couple months previously - and asked her to get me a ride to the hospital.
 
Fortunately she called another neighbor and came to sit with my kids. While we waited for the other neighbor to get there. I paced. My neighbor got nervous and told me to sit down. I told her I couldn’t, which made her more nervous. Baby #5 was born an hour after I got to the hospital, weighing in at 5#5oz. my smallest child. His temper didn't match his size. When he wanted something, he let everyone know it.
My youngest son arrived quite unexpectedly. He wasn't due for another month. Weighing in at 7#6oz and 21 inches long, he was far from premature. Definitely a miscalculation on someone’s part.
While my three daughters looked so different, my three sons, all blond, looked like their father. Of course they all had different personalities.
 
With each child, I experienced the same overwhelming awe, happiness and a variety of emotions, but the fear lessened. With each one, I knew I was capable of raising them. God blessed me with three beautiful daughters and three handsome sons, all of whom I love more than life itself. They’ve in turn bestowed fourteen beautiful grandchildren on me. It’s great being a mother. Life is good.


Angella - blond - oldest
Kimberly - brunette - 2nd
Patricia - red head - youngest daughter


Daniel - the baby - left
Timothy - 5th child - middle
Brian - oldest son - right


All of us (several years ago) the ones in the inserts couldn't be with us that day.  It's great to be surrounded by family
Happy Mother's Day everyone!



Monday, February 29, 2016

I Smell a Story by Roseanne Dowell

Did you ever notice that unless something smells especially good or particularly offensive, we tend to ignore it?
Because our sense of sight and hearing are dominant we tend to ignore every day smells.  We see the trees, hear the traffic, and look into each other’s eyes as we speak.
But we take our other senses, touch, taste, and smell for granted. We often ignore them.  Oh sure, we feel, taste and smell, but not with a lot of awareness. While the smell of bacon makes our mouth water, and we may say it smells good, or that it’s making us hungry, we don’t elaborate on it. On the other hand if we smell something offensive, say a
skunk, we go on and on about the distasteful odor.  Same thing with taste.
 The bacon and egg tastes good, and we enjoy them, but we expect to enjoy them so we don’t say much about them. On the
other hand, the sour taste of vinegar or a lemon has us spitting and complaining about the acrid flavor.
The same applies to our sense of touch. We feel something soft or silky, it’s comforting, and we might make an off-handed remark. But, if we burn, cut, or hurt ourselves, we complain and make a big deal about the pain.
But in writing all of these senses are as important as sight and sound.  We describe the setting, the background. But by using all of our senses we bring our stories to life. We can go from the real world to a new world of make believe. But we also need to make our story realistic. In both fiction and nonfiction, a richly described setting will pull your readers out of the real world of pressure and tension and into your world of make believe. So we can’t ignore these senses in our descriptions?
We need to become more aware of these senses in our everyday world?  Go outside, look around you - listen to the sounds. Close your eyes.  Inhale deeply, breath in the odors. What do you smell? The flowers, exhausts from cars, it depends where you are. You can do the same wherever you go. Walk into a department store at a mall.  Inhale the scents. What do you smell, the lingering scent of someone’s perfume or the perfume counter, if a smoker walks past you, you detect the odor of cigarette smoke. At a movie it will probably be the smell of popcorn.  Restaurants have many smells, garlic, onions, rich sauces or maybe coffee. Remember these smells. Use them in your writing.
Next time you eat, savor the food. Hold it in your mouth, relish the experience and texture of bread and the slight aroma of yeast.  Feel the surface of the tabletop or tablecloth.  Ingrain them into your memory.
Use these senses in the story. Let your reader hear, see, feel, smell and taste the story. The story and characters will come alive through these senses. It’s not enough to tell us what something looks like. SHOW US!! We want to feel it, smell it, and maybe even taste it. Readers won’t notice that you included them, but they will notice if you omit them. Without them, your world will be flat, boring, and unrealistic.
 No, you don’t have to add them to every sentence or even every scene. Maybe your characters are in a situation where they don’t notice smells or textures and there’s nothing to taste. That’s often true of tense scenes. If someone is attacking you, you certainly aren’t going to notice the sweet smell of roses. On the other hand you might notice the offensive odor of his sweat. And you’ll certainly feel the beads of perspiration on your own forehead or the taste the nausea building up from your throat to your mouth.
Other times we might be deep in thought and won’t even notice our surroundings. That’s fine, but make sure to include them when they are needed. If your characters walk into a restaurant, we want to know what they smell as well as what they see and hear. Too often, as beginners these senses are ignored.
Remember also, that some odors will smell different to different people.  Some smells are “Universal”.  Dog poop and the smell of garbage are offensive to everyone. Flowers, freshly cut grass or fresh baked bread usually evoke memories.  We can all picture a garden, or remember the first spring mowing and of course Mom or Grandma in the kitchen baking. Use these scenes to help show us the scene or bring out an emotion of our characters.  Some smells scents are less universal. Cauliflower will smell differently to me than you. If the reader loves it and you hate it, the scene will be all wrong. What you want to make sound delicious might make your reader go yuck and you’ll have lost the realism. Stick to the universal smells.
Pick up your favorite novel. Go through it page by page. Highlight the senses with different colors. What an amazing array of colors on the pages. No, you might not see all the colors on every page, but enough to make it colorful.
So how do we use these senses in our scenes?
Imagine your character on a beach by the ocean. Put yourself there. Close your eyes. Picture it. What do you hear?  Are the seagulls squawking, children playing? Can you hear the swish of the waves? Let’s take it further. Inhale, take a deep breath. What do you
smell, the fresh air, salty water?  How does your skin feel? Can you feel the wet spray from the waves? Can you taste the salty ocean? Wiggle your toes in the gritty sand. Is it hot, does it burn your feet? Are the waves coming on shore and flowing over your feet? Can you squish your toes in the wet sand?
How much stronger your words will be describing these feelings and tastes as well as the sights and sounds through your characters. Your story and characters will become more alive.
The senses are as important to non-fiction, as they are critical to fiction.
If you’re writing a how to article about baking bread, the reader needs to know that they should knead the dough until it blisters for a better, lighter loaf, and that it should be smooth to the touch. No the smell of the yeast is not important.  Some things are not important in non-fiction, but if you are writing a nostalgic piece about the memory of Mom or Grandma baking in the kitchen, add those senses. They’re an integral part of the article.
Start today, right now - observe these senses in everyday life. Pay particular attention to the feel, smell, and taste. Sometimes you can taste something just from the odor. Have you ever experienced a particularly bad odor?  It smelled so bad you could almost taste it.

 Remember these senses. Concentrate on the feel of the smoothness of a baby’s skin or the texture of your sheets, vegetables, everything you touch. Make a mental note of these feelings. Use them in your stories. Make your characters real to the reader and enjoy the senses that we take so for granted.

Monday, February 22, 2016

To Plot or Not by Roseanne Dowell


At one of our chapter meetings of RWA, the speaker talked about plotting a novel and writing a synopsis before the book was written. She suggested if we had never done that to try it.
So I did.


I had an idea for a story that was taking shape in my mind. As usual, I knew how it would begin and how it would end. What happened in the middle? I didn’t have a clue. Oh, I had a few ideas. 







I knew there was a secret about my heroine’s birth, and she’d find a dead body But I had no idea who he was  (yes, I knew it was a male) or why he was killed. So I tried plotting. I came up with a few ideas about his identity and even about who murdered him and even why. 



I was totally blocked. The story sat for the better part of the year without me typing even one word. Every time I opened it, I read it, made a few changes and then I got to the part where I was stumped.
I stared at the computer, sometimes for hours, trying to come up with something, anything –even if it was garbage – just to get me past that hump. I couldn’t do it. So I’d move on to something else. I revised several other stories that I’d written a long time ago, then I’d go back to it. The problem was –I was locked into the outline, I didn’t know how to make the transition to the next thing. It didn’t feel right.                                                                                 
It wasn’t until one day; I was emailing my writing buddy about my dilemma. I needed help and any suggestions she could offer would be most welcome. I wrote what I had so far, and where I wanted the story to go. For some reason, in that email, I started to ask what if, which is how I usually wrote. I threw out a couple of ideas to her and answered them myself. Finally, I was unblocked. I even created a new character and another conflict. I ignored the plot outline and went a completely different way.
That was how I usually wrote, asking what if as I wrote, coming up with new ideas. For me, plotting and outlining doesn’t work. I’ll never do it again. For others, it works fine and good for them.  I understand it’s not necessary to stick to the outline, but for me, since I  outlined, I had trouble deviating from it.  It blocked my creativity. Yes, I should have ignored it long before, but it was too fresh in my mind. It took a year and then some to forget what was on that outline so I could move on.
I guess my whole point is – write the way it’s comfortable for you. There is no right or wrong way, there’s only your way. There are few hard and fast rules in writing. We all have to develop our own style, our own voice, and our own rules. Some authors get up in the morning and sit down to write. Some write later in the day, and still others write in the middle of the night. Again, whatever works best for you. The important thing is to write.

My current novels are available from Amazon at: http://amzn.to/tnqgR2  
Visit me at my website www.roseannedowell.com 

Friday, February 19, 2016

An Offer from Ginger Simpson





The blurb says it all about this short, but intriguing story:

Can you consider a necklace a gift if it makes you angry enough to kill?

A simple trinket left in a confessional begins a path of destruction throughout the years.

The silver pendant, left behind by a woman who killed her boyfriend, is supposedly cursed; at least that's what she claimed before she raced out of the church.  Any woman who dares fasten the locket around her neck suffers severe and uncontrollable anger.  Woe be it to anyone who gets in the path of the wearer.

Is the piece cursed, or are the deaths totally unrelated?  Detective Clarence O'Day is unable to make the connection...until forty years after the first case.  





Monday, February 15, 2016

The Write Idea by Roseanne Dowell



Can lowly little Charlene Smith, ordinary homemaker, write a best seller? Do authors have to  lead adventurous, exciting lives like lawyers or doctors to become successful writers?
No, we do not have to lead exciting lives. However, we do need a good imagination and good ideas. So where do writers come up with ideas for their stories?
For starters, we need to write about things we enjoy. Skateboarding, bike riding, hiking, bowling- even cars are potential articles or stories.  What if a hiker finds a dead
body? A mystery plot is formed. Any character we create may have one of these hobbies or occupations – and how much more believable this character will be because we have first hand knowledge.
Look around you, what do you see?  Right now, I see a room with a computer, printer, and a scanner. But it is not just a room, it is a potential setting for a story. Now lean back and really look at the room. My walls are pewter blue - a cream-colored shade covers the window. If I were writing a story, I would elaborate on this through my character. Everything around us has potential, if we chose to look at it with a writer’s eye.
Think about being stuck in traffic. What do you usually do? Turn up the radio, call someone from your cell phone, and tap the steering wheel impatiently? Next time turn that negative energy into something positive. Who's in the car next to you, behind you? Where is that carload of kids off to, a soccer game, Grandma’s house? Look at the driver, what is she feeling, sitting there with a car full of kids bouncing around and jumping. Her mouth moving. Is she yelling, singing, playing a game with them.  How about that young couple next to you, are they in love, arguing? Put them in a scene - make up a story about them. That isn't just a car full of kids, or a young couple. You're not just stuck in traffic, or standing in line at a supermarket. You're viewing potential characters, ideas, scenes, making up plots. Look in the carts of people around you. Are they buying that wine and cheese for a rendezvous, celebration?  Every place you go look for the potential setting for a story, everyone you see is a potential  character.
Check out the daily newspaper. Many articles give me ideas for my next plot. Maybe the bank robber will make a good character for your villain.  But don't stop there, look in the classifieds? Under help wanted ads, you might find different and unusual occupations for your characters. Then there are the business opportunities and legal notices.  I found an interesting Notice regarding a Public Hearing on the merits of designating several old schools in the area as city landmarks. This piqued my interest since I attended two of those schools. It could lead to a possible setting for a story or maybe an article about a trip down memory lane. 
Last, but not least read the for sale ads. Every conceivable item is for sale from antiques to stereo equipment. I particularly enjoy looking through the jewelry section.  One ad for a diamond engagement ring valued at three thousand dollars was listed as a must sell for twelve hundred. The ad raised my curiosity.  I figured it was for sale because
of a broken engagement, but then I thought what if the woman’s husband died leaving her penniless, and she desperately needed money for medical bills. More interesting to me was the thought of who would purchase the ring.  What man would buy a second hand ring, albeit a good deal, for his new fiancee. Then I thought maybe he took it to a jeweler and had the diamond put into a new setting. What would happen if the fiancĂ©e found out she had a used diamond. Would she think what an ingenious idea or would she be angry?  All this from a one-line ad.  The newspaper is an excellent source for ideas.
Mary Rosenblum, Author of several novels, Instructor and Web Editor at Long Ridge Writers Group says. “Whenever I’m researching a community as a setting for a mystery or contemporary piece, I always pick up copies of the local paper, and yes, I turn right to the classifieds. Who is selling what and for how much? Farmall tractors? Six bottom plows? Must be a farming community. Spray equipment, apple boxes? Orchards. What are the housing prices like? Is this the overpriced bedroom community for ski resort? Are houses with an acre or so of land dirt cheap? Nobody’s working! You can take the pulse of a community with the ads in that paper.” 
Magazines are another good source for ideas. Open it to any page, look at the pictures, even the advertisements - see an attractive woman or a couple. Imagine them in a scene. Create a plot around them. 
Last, but certainly not least, is our author friends. Many times, I got an idea for an article, just from our daily conversation.  Today the subject of being the only one who managed to fill the ice cube trays came up.  One thing led to another and it turned into an idea for a humorous article. 
Sources for ideas are limitless. We just need to view the world around us with the writer’s eye.




Monday, February 8, 2016

How Much Fact to Put Into Fiction by Roseanne Dowell



I know well-meaning friends often say - “You ought to write this down, it would make a great story.”   Well, actually, no it wouldn’t. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “fact is stranger than fiction” - well it is. If you’re writing nonfiction, fine go ahead and use the story about Uncle Joe getting stuck on the roof.  It was a comical incident and will make a great creative nonfiction story. However, for fiction the idea won’t make for a great story without some changes.   For the most part, it’ll come off as false. Readers just won’t believe it. Why?  Think about it.  Other than Science Fiction - which still has to be written as believable- when you read a story or novel, one of your first thoughts is –  can this  happen. It might be farfetched but it can happen.  Besides you, the author will be telling the story.  And we want to show our stories. 

Here’s our incident. Uncle Joe got stuck on the roof while hanging Christmas lights.   He put a ladder on the peak of the garage and when he went to get off the other peak he reached his foot out, the ladder slipped away.  He moved toward it and inched his way off the roof, reached his foot out and tried to snag the ladder. Again it slipped away. One more time and it slipped out of reach. By this time he was hanging by his elbows. . No one was in the house. It was cold and the roof was covered with snow. He looked around to see if a neighbor might have come out. Nothing – his arms were getting tired and he didn’t know what to do.  The only thing left was to jump.  He knew if he landed on his feet, they’d slip out from under him and he’d slide off the roof like a bullet.  He took a deep breath and let go. Thankfully he landed and didn’t slide.

If I were writing it for creative nonfiction, I’d embellish it, make it humorous. 

But, how do we create a story from this idea?  It almost sounds like an incident from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Grisham’s Skipping Christmas? How did they do it?  Some people need to plot out the idea on paper, which is fine. I wish I could do that.  But, I’m one of those writers that just start writing.  Oh I’ll jot down some ideas and know where I want to go, but in the beginning I usually have no idea how to get there.  I know the beginning and the end. What happens in the middle is as much a surprise for me as it is for the reader. And that works for me.  Whatever works for you is fine.

Okay, we have the idea.   A man is stuck on a roof.  He doesn’t have to be putting up Christmas lights. He could be up there for a variety of reasons.  Maybe they had a leak and it was raining cats and dogs.

One of the first things, even for me, is to create the plot.  I start, of course, with my characters name, age and appearance. Okay let’s call our guy, Charlie. He’s middle-aged, slightly balding, but tall and muscular. Next I ask why Charlie was on the roof.

Once I have my characters, I develop my idea.  First question:  What genre’ am I writing?  This is where we start asking the questions, what happened, how did it happen, etc.  If I’m writing mystery I have to decide is it a murder mystery?  Who gets killed, where and why?

Hmm - maybe someone moved the ladder. And maybe Charlie makes it down but he knows someone is trying to kill him.

 If Charlie is the intended victim we’ll need a potential killer.  

Once we know the where and why, we need to know if the murder is going to happen in the book, or behind the scenes.  In other words has the murder been committed when we come on the scene or are we going to show our readers the murder.   In this case it’s an attempted murder because Charlie isn’t dead.

Then we need to know how our main character is going to solve the crime.  We need some clues, usually not ones the reader will pick up on right away, but clues that at the end of the story they’ll hit their foreheads and say “Oh I should have known.”

Do you see how we took a real life incident and changed it into something totally different? Sure we could have written humor like National Lampoon, but why stop there.  Explore different avenues. You could take the same incident and change it into a romance or fantasy. Maybe even Science Fiction.  I don’t write that either so I’m not going try to explain that. But who knows maybe while Charlie is repairing the roof, men from mars kidnap him.   Let your imagination run wild. 



Blurb and Excerpt for Entangled Minds
Visions of someone’s life disturb Rebecca Brennan’s dreams. The dreams become dangerous and she’s determined to find who shares her mind. Her search leads her to a
small town and puts her life in danger too.

Excerpt:
The next morning Rebecca, once again, sat in Bernard Clark’s office. Something about the heavy-set, middle-aged man with salt and pepper hair and scruffy beard reminded her of her grandfather. As usual, he listened to her story with a serious expression.
Was this really helping? How many hours had she spent sitting across from the mammoth mahogany desk, staring at the book-lined shelves behind him? And so far, she didn’t know anything more than before. Once more, that’s it. If nothing changed today, she’d quit coming. Maybe he was a quack, like her brother said. Rebecca took a breath and relaxed in the comfortable atmosphere, inhaled the smell of new leather that clung to the chair, and leaned back. Okay, maybe she did have a deep extra sensory perception connection with someone like Bernard said. The question was with whom. 
“I think you need to find this person,” Dr. Clark suggested. “It’s possible the physic mind is reaching out to you for help.”
"How?" That’s why she was here. If he didn’t help her figure it out, that was it. No more visits. Besides, it cost money, and who could afford it? If Allison hadn’t agreed to pay half, well that was another story. Dr. Bernard’s voice brought her back.
“Start with the dreams,” he suggested. “Tell me about them again.”
“I see scenes with emergency vehicles. Last night someone got shot," she told him for what seemed like the hundredth time. "I wonder if he has something to do with law enforcement or other emergency operations. I'd recognize the town if I ever saw it in person. It’s so vivid in my mind."
"Would you consider hypnotism?" Bernard fingered his beard. Intense blue eyes stared into hers. "Maybe your sub conscious mind will reveal the place, or person, or something to help you find it."
Leary about being hypnotized, but desperate to find who shared her mind, Rebecca agreed.
Under her hypnotic trance, she revealed the name of a shoe factory. A place called Booth’s Boots, and she repeated the name, Morris, over and over.

"It’s not much to go on," Rebecca told Allison later,” but it’s more than I knew before. Maybe Morris is my mind connection."
Encouraged by the information, she spent the better part of the day doing research. Using the Internet, Rebecca keyed in Booth’s Boots. Instantly, several websites popped up.
“Okay, let’s check out Boothsboots.com.”
A website, showing various types of boots from hunting to work boots, popped up.
“This is great. Let’s see what this says.” She clicked on News and Events. “No help there. Okay, let’s try Outlet Stores.” She almost jumped out of her chair. “There it is!” A factory, located in Morrisville, Ohio.
“Morrisville, could that explain the name Morris?” A prickly sensation went up her spine. She was getting close; she could feel it.
“Okay, let’s try this.” Rebecca didn’t care she was talking to herself. Besides, it wasn’t the first time. Keying Morrisville into the search engine, she held her breath, more determined than ever to find the town. If it took all day, then so be it.  A site popped up with several suggestions. “Okay, let’s see what this one is about.”  Morrisville.net homepage popped up, and further down the page, it showed–Pictures taken around Morrisville.
She held her breath and clicked on one. The first picture that came up was a log cabin. No help there. “Okay, how about this one? The Square. ” It looked familiar. Shivers ran up her spine. “Okay, how about Hotel Darby. Yes! I’ve seen this place.” One more. She drew in her breath and clicked on Victorian.
“Oh my God, that’s it! That’s the house.” She almost jumped out of her seat. The Queen Anne house in her dreams showed on the screen big as life.  Where is this place?  Clicking back to the homepage, she found it on the map. “Not far from Wattsburg; only a three hour drive from here. I have to go there.”
"Allie." Rebecca phoned her friend. "I found it, I searched the net, and I found it. Even pictures of the town. I recognized all the buildings right down to the house."
"Calm down…"
"I have to go there. It’s only a three hour drive." Not waiting for Allison’s response, Rebecca continued. "I have to find out who I’m connected with."
"What are you going to do?" Allison asked. “Walk into the little town and say hey, someone here is connected to my mind."
Rebecca laughed at her friend’s wit. “I have a plan. First I’ll go to the newspaper office and check for stories about someone being shot on Friday. Then I’ll try to find out where he is. I’m sure he’s alive.” Her intuition told her danger still lingered, but she couldn’t explain that to her friend.
"Maybe it’s a she," Allison said. "What makes you say he?"
"I don’t know." Rebecca paced the living room. "It’s just a feeling I have. It doesn’t matter; whoever it is, I have to go." Okay, it was a crazy scheme, but feelings like this couldn’t be ignored. “There’s no turning back now, Al, I have to find him.”
“Would you like me to go with you?”
 "I have to do this myself.”
“I don’t like this, Beck. You shouldn’t be doing this alone. What if it’s dangerous? I mean you see cop cars and stuff. What if he’s a criminal?”
Rebecca shivered. God, what if he was a criminal? No, something told her that wasn’t the case. Call it a gut feeling or intuition, whatever it was, Rebecca would bet her life he wasn’t a criminal.
“I’m sorry, Al. Thanks for the offer, but no. I have to do this on my own. I’ll be fine. Really.”



Monday, February 1, 2016

Grandma's Chicken Soup by Roseanne Dowell

Chicken Soup topped our family’s menu every Sunday in the cold Ohio winters during the fifties. Soup making began in the late fall. Grandpa, Mom, and my uncle purchased several crates of live chickens from the Farmers Market.   Our families met at Uncle Martin’s where he and Grandpa hauled in the stained, battered, old tree stump they used for this occasion.  After making sure it sat level on the basement floor, they brought in the crates of chickens, which were clucking as if they knew their fate.
My cousins, brothers, sisters, and I sat on the steps and watched with anticipation as Grandpa placed a chicken on the chopping block. With one thump of the ax, he chopped off its head. The chicken dropped to the floor and raced around the basement without its head, still clucking. We now knew the saying running around like a chicken without its head came from.
Of course we thought it was hilarious. We’d laugh and take bets on how soon the chicken would plop over.  One or two passes around the furnace and they toppled. My uncle followed them, picked them up, and placed them on a pile.
While the chickens were beheaded, Aunt Ruth lit the old stove in the corner and set two huge pots of water to boil. Grandma and Mom set up two long tables in the middle of the basement and covered them with newspaper. After Mom and my aunt dipped the chickens in the boiling water for a few minutes, they set them on the table and Grandma showed us kids how to pull the feathers.
The stiff wet feathers were not what I expected. Far from the image of soft and fluffy, they felt sticky and prickly and clung to our hands. The gamy odor of wet feathers prickled my nose. Wet feathers do not have a pleasant smell. We shook them off our hands, usually aiming at one of our siblings or cousins when the adults looked away.
After we finished pulling the feathers, Mom, Aunt Ruth, and Grandma slit them open and pulled out their innards. Never one to mind gory stuff, I wished I could do that part instead of the feathers. I watched in fascination as they often removed eggs covered with a thin-skinned membrane. Mom showed us the eggs and explained how they didn’t take on a hard shell until they matured. They gently placed the larger eggs in a bowl for later use in baking.  The smaller eggs were discarded.
Next came the gizzard, it was removed, cut open, and cleaned out.  They set the liver aside for later use, as grandma, my mom, and aunt used it in their cracker stuffing*.  The heart was set aside with the gizzard to be packaged with the neck. Later they’d be boiled, then discarded, and the broth saved for the stuffing.
Once the insides were thoroughly cleaned, Mom, Aunt Ruth, and Grandma took the chickens to the stove. Holding them close to the flame, they singed off the remaining nubs of feathers.  The stench of scorched feathers filled the air, and we kids ran upstairs to get away from the nasty smell.
They washed and packaged the chickens for the freezer, all but one that is. That one they used the next day for a big pot of homemade chicken soup.
Mom always stuffed the chicken with delicious cracker stuffing*, secured the openings with poultry nails and string, and into a large pot of  water it went with carrots, celery, and onions. The delicious aroma of chicken soup soon filled the house. 
When the chicken was tender, Mom removed it from the soup, placed it in an open roasting pan, and browned it in the oven.
The rich soup served with thin noodles, often homemade, warmed our bellies and the kitchen on cold Sunday afternoons. Mom usually made rice or potatoes, gravy, a vegetable and, of course, the stuffing to eat after the soup.
This was our traditional Sunday dinner every week in the winter.  Mom never varied from it nor did Grandma and Aunt Ruth. I still make it, but not always on Sunday, and certainly not from live chickens.
Every time I make the soup it takes me back. Back to younger carefree days - days when nothing much mattered, helping our parents was top priority, and everything we did seemed like fun.

Grandma’s Chicken Soup
1 4 to 5 # chicken
8 – 10 carrots chopped or left whole 
8 stalks celery – chopped or whole use some of the leafy ones from inside the bunch.
     2 – 3 large whole onions-again chopped or left whole
     Bunch of fresh parley

Clean the chicken in cold water and pat dry. After you stuff the chicken (recipe below) put it in a 12 quart soup pot. Add water to within about 4/5” from top of pot. Bring to boil. Skim with small strainer. Add carrots, onions, celery, and parsley. These can be added whole (which is what I do, since some of my children didn’t like onions,carrots, or celery)or chopped. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender. (It will take several hours for a stewing chicken, less for a roasting or frying chicken.) Remove chicken to roaster and brown in 350 degree oven until golden.  Serve soup with noodles
When the chicken is browned, remove the stuffing from the cavities and slice. Carve chicken and serve with noodles, rice, or potatoes and vegetables.  



Grandma’s Cracker Stuffing

1½ packages saltine crackers
1 T. black pepper                
1/3 bunch of chopped fresh parsley or 2 T. parsley
flakes                           
Liver from the chicken, slivered (optional)
½ stick butter melted             
1 egg     
Broth from boiling gizzard, heart, and neck or chicken broth)                           
                                 

Clean insides of chicken and pat dry. Place the neck, gizzard and heart in a saucepan with enough water to cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. This can be done the day before. Cool.  
Crush crackers very fine in large bowl. Add pepper and parsley to crackers. Chop liver into sliver sized pieces and add to crackers.  Melt butter and add to crackers, mixing well - making sure to coat crackers with butter. 
Add 1 egg and mix well. 
Add the broth to the mixture a little at a time, mixing well between. Mixture should be stuck together and pasty, not loose. More on the dry side.
 Stuff chicken cavity and neck cavity with mixture. Using poultry nails and string, weave the nails through the skin to close cavities and tie with string to secure, just as you would for a stuffed turkey. 

***Note: your can make the chicken without making the soup and make the soup from the leftover bones like you would for turkey soup.