Tuesday, November 29, 2016

SCRUB-A-DUB-DUB, I HAVE THE BEST SOAP IN THE TUB

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I love to brag about the cool people I meet online and the great things they make. Today I want to introduce you to

Donna

Donna very kindly gave me
permission to use photos from her blog.

who lives and blogs at The Poor Farm.

Once a month, Donna features Saponification Saturday on her blog, when she has her soap for sale, and let me tell you, it is the God-blessingest-best soap ever (if you don't remember "saponification," think about that darn chemistry class you had to take).


These are not some namby-pamby, teeny-tiny bars of soap that cost a fortune and are gone in a week. No, these are serious bars of soap that will last you a good long while and are a steal at $5 a bar, plus shipping and handling.

In fact, I hope that people who receive Christmas gifts from me are not reading this post, but if you are reading, now you know that you will open your gift on Christmas morning to find soap made with all-natural ingredients.

Currently, Donna has these soaps available (she'll sell out fast, so hurry up and order while you can by emailing her at opies99@gmail.com): peppermint, lavender/Geranium Rose, eucalyptus, and coffee.

When I ordered some peppermint soap, the mail carrier left the box on my front steps. As soon as I opened the door, I could smell the peppermint. It is luscious.

This soap makes a great, unique gift.

I wish you Happy Soap Shopping at The Poor Farm.

And if you receive a Christmas box from me, please forget that you read this post and act surprised when you open your gift!


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

P.S. I didn't receive anything in return for writing this post. I wrote it because Donna makes way cool soap.

TIP TUESDAY: WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT WADDLED?

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Instead of giving you a tip today, I request your assistance.

My story about Aggie, which some of you have been reading a bit at a time as I add to it, says

The yellow piece of paper on the windshield of Aggie's black minivan stood out like a beacon in the dusky evening light as she left the urgent care center. She waddled along with a purse and diaper bag slung behind her right shoulder, Ruth Ann perched on her right hip, and a still sobbing Elliot hanging on for dear life to her left hand.

A few of you have commented that you think waddled is out of place, that it seems kind of comical in a sad story.

Robyn suggested trudged as a replacement. I like trudged, but the reason I chose waddled is that I want to convey that Aggie is overweight.

The Super Thesaurus has these synonyms for waddle:

toddle
wobble
walk like a duck
sway

I don't think any of these are right.

Synonyms for trudge:

walk
tramp
slog
plod
hike
traipse
schlep
clomp
drag's one feet
stump
hobble

What do you think about replacing waddled with slogged? Not comical, but still conveys that she's loaded down with kids and she's overweight?

I always seek the perfect word. Which word is perfect in this case?

And am I too wordy? Should I make cuts? For example,

Elliot hanging on for dear life to her left hand

Is hanging on for dear life trite? Instead it could read hanging onto her left hand. Is hanging by itself enough?

I always warn my clients to avoid wordiness. I need to listen to my own advice.

I long to read your opinions.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

A new possibility:

The yellow piece of paper on the windshield of Aggie's black minivan stood out in the evening light as she left the urgent care center. She slogged along with a purse and diaper bag slung behind her right shoulder, Ruth Ann perched on her right hip, and a sobbing Elliot hanging on to her left hand.

Monday, November 28, 2016

"ALL WRITERS ARE BUMS, I MURMURED. MAY I BE COUNTED AMONG YOU ONE DAY." (PATTI SMITH)

Prologue

You've heard people say their lives changed overnight, right? They woke up and heard the lottery numbers and knew they were millionaires. They fell in love at first sight. 

More often, the change is bad because one day everything is fine, and the next? 

It is all fucked up. 

I read once that Marie Antoinette's hair turned white overnight in jail while she awaited the loss of her head. 

What people don't think about is that the overnight device is a saying. Nothing but a cliché. It hardly ever takes that long: eight hours, twelve hours, or however you define overnight, for a life to be transformed. Most of the time, it happens in one or two seconds.

I bet Marie's hair betrayed her during a few seconds of a nightmare when she saw the guillotine's blade slice through her own milky neck.

How many seconds does it take to purchase that lottery ticket or to decide to stop someplace for ice cream? These decisions may be part of a change that's a long time in the making, but when the hair whitening attacks, it happens in a flash. 

And the flash of the blade in the sunlight can be so bright it nearly blinds you. 

Chapter One

Clue

The yellow piece of paper on the windshield of Aggie's black minivan stood out like a beacon in the dusky evening light as she left the urgent care center. She waddled along with a purse and diaper bag slung behind her right shoulder, Ruth Ann perched on her right hip, and a still sobbing Elliot hanging on for dear life to her left hand.

She shook free of El's sweaty grasp so she could pull the paper out from under the wiper and unfold it. "ASSHOLE" it said, printed neatly in red letters on a scrap torn from a legal pad.

"Mom!" Elliot pawed at her, as Ruth Ann's head drooped onto Aggie's shoulder. Aggie stood rooted to the asphalt next to the car so she could check out the area. What had she done now?

White painted lines of parking spaces, empty now, spread out across the parking lot like whitecaps on the ocean. White, white, white, except around her car, where she now saw yellow lines. Two yellow lines on each side of the van and an arrow underneath it that marked the route to exit the lot. The only route between the parking spaces.

Drivers must have woven around her van for hours before the lot cleared out. Tire tracks in the mud provided evidence that they ran her blockade by driving off the asphalt and into the landscaped border along the sidewalk. Flowers and juvenile trees had been flattened.

Aggie pictured the line of vehicles and hated herself. The waiting cars stretched for miles. An imaginary driver, his face contorted in righteous indignation, jumped out of his expensive car with a legal pad in his left hand and a red pen in his right. Angry lawyer. Furious lawyer. Late for an appointment and it was her fault. He held the pen in the air, a sword that dripped bloody ink, chose the perfect word, wrote it, and jammed the note in place.

Then sedans, sports cars, and pickup trucks careened around the sidewalk as pedestrians dragged their children out of the way. Jam-packed cars held drivers and passengers drawn as cartoons. "ASSHOLE" filled every balloon above their mouths because they all knew what she was.

"I am an asshole."

The words played as though they were a stuck record in her mind and fixed themselves to the tune of a children's song about being a pizza.

IIIIIIIII am an assss-hoooole.

She wanted to laugh at her song, but she forgot her pleasure as soon as it struck because being an asshole wasn't funny at all. Then she wished she could bawl along with El, but someone had to be in charge, and that someone was Aggie. Aggie alone.

She had rushed to the urgent care center to have a cut on Elliot's chin seen to and parked in a hurry. She thought the yellow lines marked a parking spot. They sat in a dingy waiting room most of the afternoon and into suppertime before an arrogant doctor looked at El for two seconds and informed a nurse, who then told Aggie, that the cut didn't need stitches. A butterfly bandage would do. She could have put that on herself and never left home, but if she'd been wrong, there would have been hell to pay. She'd never hear the end of it from John.

When her husband did see the cut, he would probably complain that the doctor had been wrong, the cut needed stitches. Nobody, especially Aggie, did anything right in John's hallowed opinion. The sound of his voice criticizing her for going to the wrong doctor replaced the "asshole" song playing in her mind.

But then her own angry voice took over. Dr. High-and-Mighty was never around to take care of his own kids. He'd throw a fit if Aggie bothered him at work, so she had to go to the nearest urgent care center and wait for hours until somebody looked at this damn kid who fell off his bike every two seconds.

She guessed that had been her license plate announced over the loudspeaker. The whining voice had demanded over and over, "Vehicle number hrrm-hrrm-hrrm must be moved immediately."

She hadn't been able to hear anything over Elliot whining that his chin hurt and Ruth Ann begging to have a story read to her.

"Don't touch those books. They've covered in filth from sick people," she'd told Ruth Ann.

By the time Elliot gave up complaining and Ruth Ann fell asleep, the announcements had stopped. All the patients had been treated and gone home, the center was about to close, and it no longer mattered where her mini-van was parked.

Elliot grabbed Aggie's arm and pulled on it so she remembered she stood in a parking lot staring at an ugly word. She crumpled the yellow paper and flung it toward the arrow under her car.

"Mom, you're littering," Elliot accused her in a whine.

"Just get in the damn car," she barked back. "A storm's coming. We need to go home before it gets any darker. I don't know how I'll find my way as it is."

Thunder boomed as the children crawled into the mini-van. "Sop it! Sop it!" Ruth Ann screamed as Elliot (her toddlerese for "stop it") when he stuck his butt in her face as he slid past her on the seat.

At eight years old, Elliot already knew how to torture Ruth Ann––and Aggie. He sneered, satisfied with Ruth Ann's screams. Aggie wanted to lean over to smack him as she buckled Ruth Ann into her car seat, but she didn't dare. John didn't allow her to spank the children, or punish them in any other way, because he claimed it would destroy their spirits. Elliot's wonderfully free spirit was a punishment for Ruth Ann and for Aggie. She had no options for dealing with his obnoxious behavior.

And there would be hell to pay when Elliot told his dad that she'd said to get in the damn car. Cursing wasn't allowed, either.

She also knew Elliot moved as slowly as he could, the way he always did because it irritated her and she couldn't do anything about it, couldn't give him a time out or take away his TV privileges the way other moms did with their children.

She used the back of her hand to wipe the sweat from her forehead and turned away so she could say what she pleased. "I hate this fucking town. Maryland is hotter than hell."

Here she was in a strange town after years in cool, green Seattle because John had a new job, Big Chief Medical Director, at a hospital in Western Maryland. The hospital was about forty miles from the Central Maryland suburb of Columbia where John had bought a house. He had a long commute, but he refused to lived in Haven with the "local yokels."

In fact, John rarely visited the home he had selected without consulting Aggie. Six weeks after their move, John already spent most nights at the hospital because he claimed he was overworked and too tired to drive home. Aggie wondered why the locals didn't bother him enough to make him come home at night. And funny, he never sounded tired when he called to say he wouldn't be home. Sometimes Aggie heard a woman laugh in the background. He claimed it was the nurses fooling around at their station, but the sound––the same laugh, one laugh from the same person, every time––frightened Aggie.

No time to think about it now. With Elliot seat belted in at last, Aggie started the car and headed for the street. At least I'm already in the exit lane, she thought wryly. She had called for directions before they left home and had found the center without too much trouble, but getting home would be another story. She could never retrace her steps. It infuriated John, but it just didn't work out in her mind.

Right or left out of the lot? With no one waiting behind her, she had time to stop and think. She decided it had to be right. She could see the traffic light where they had turned to get to the medical center.

But when she pulled into the left turn lane at the light, she didn't know if she was supposed to be there. Maybe she belonged in the right turn lane. Which way home?

Aggie felt the headache that had started on the way there spread from the top of her head to her forehead and face. Out of habit to try to ease the pain, she ran her hands through her short, curly gray hair, and pushed hard against her scalp.

A sign pointing left said it was the way to D.C. Aggie feared getting sucked out onto the beltway. She had been on it with John in the driver's seat and had closed her eyes to the traffic wooshing around them, too fast for her to bear.

She decided to turn right. Aggie put on the right-turn blinker and twisted the wheel, waiting to see if the driver of a small, dark car pulling up behind her would allow her to get in the right lane. It was getting dark and hard to see, difficult to judge what others in this strange territory might do.

This person surprised her by waiting while she moved into the right lane and then out onto the highway as the light turned green. At the same time, the storm began in earnest. Rain poured down in sheets as lightning lit the sky.

Nothing looked familiar. Aggie, terrified, could barely see, and other drivers zipped and zoomed around her. One truck pulled up behind her. The driver flashed his lights. She knew he meant "get the hell out of my way," but where would she go?

Then, the brightly lit sign of the Hilton invited her into its parking lot and offered a familiar escape. They had stayed in the hotel for a few days before their furniture arrived from Seattle in the moving van.

They could wait out the storm in the lot. Or maybe they could dash into the coffee shop and have supper. Aggie knew she looked horrible. She had been down on her knees scrubbing the kitchen floor when Elliot dashed in with blood dripping from his chin onto the white carpet John had selected ("Oh, Lord, I'll be up half the night cleaning up this mess," she said at the sight of him). The droopy sweat pants she wore made her large butt look extra large. But she was starving after their long afternoon, and the kids had to be hungry, too. The desire to eat and get out of the storm overcame her dread of displaying her derriere in public. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

HEY! IT'S A GREAT BOOK FOR CHILDREN, A.K.A. MAKE YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING EASIER

Dear Hearts and Gentle People,

Today is my last post––for a while, not forever––and I want to use it to recommend a new book for children. It's Dirt by Jamie W. Mitchum, and it's illustrated by our friend, blogger Brandon Ax of Writer's Storm.



Dirt is a boy who happens to be a worm, but his experiences are universal to those of children. He has a crush on a girl. He gets embarrassed in front of her. For a while, Dirt can't be with his family, so he has to learn to make decisions on his own. He meets all sorts of creative characters on his journey through young wormhood.

It just so happens that this book was edited by your very own Junebug, and I enjoyed the experience very much. You can purchase Dirt on Amazon at https://goo.gl/cmliV4

Dirt makes a good chapter book for young readers, or you can read it aloud to children, your dog, or yourself.

Dirt has The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest and Happiest Approval. A visit to Amazon to purchase Dirt will make your Christmas shopping easier, and you'll make a child and a new author smile.

Congratulations, Jamie!

And if you haven't already done so, it's time to 





Infinities of love and see you soon,

Janie Junebug

Monday, November 7, 2016

BOTB: GEORGE MICHAEL HAS A LOT OF FAITH

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

The song was Faith. The contenders were George Michael and Limp Dicksit.

I thought it would be a shut-out, but the pretty much hated Wimp Bisquick managed to get a few votes.

George Michael  18
Limp Bizkit         3

Jeffrey Scott asked in his comment if I'd heard Weird Al's version of Faith. I hadn't, and sadly, I couldn't find it. But I did find Marcus J. Freed, so let's ask him to sing us out.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug



QUESTION OF THE MONTH: FIRST KISS

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Michael D'Agostino has decided to continue The Question of the Month, although he won't participate himself. He's a busy, busy guy.

"When was your first kiss?" is Michael's question for November.


Ah, Michael, I think I was thirteen or fourteen. I liked a boy who had kind of long blonde hair and blue eyes. What a shock when I learned he liked me, too.

I invited him over to my house. Of course, my parents were at home. When we had a moment alone, he leaned over to kiss me. But he stuck his tongue in my mouth!

I didn't know what to do. It was my first kiss, and this boy's tongue explored my tonsils.

I think I gagged a bit before I bit his tongue. You bit me, he said.

Ahhrmuhbah, I replied.

We talked on the phone almost every evening for a few weeks. I went to his house once. The parents were not at home. His sister, older by only one or two years, sat in a circle with her group of much-older friends. They passed around a joint. Ash fell on my shirt and burned a hole in it.

I don't know how it happened, I told my eagle-eyed mother when she noticed.

Our romance was brief. He liked me more than I liked him. Besides, I still didn't know what to do with someone's tongue down my throat.

I broke up with him. We never spoke again, but I had plenty of tongues enter my mouth over the years, and I learned what to do with them.

Our class had a reunion several years ago. The list of the deceased included the boy with the long blonde hair who gave me my first kiss.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


Friday, November 4, 2016

COMING UP ON MONDAY

On Monday I'll have a Question of the Month post for you along with the results of my Battle of the Bands (obviously, the winner will be George Michael, in case I don't get around to it).

Then I need to take a blogging break.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A FRIGHTENING STORY FROM PIONEER GIRL BY LAURA INGALLS WILDER

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Yesterday I reviewed Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder and edited by Pamela Smith Hill.

Pioneer Girl was to be a story for adults, but no publisher picked it up. Later, it became the basis for the Little House series of children's books.

One of the stories told in Pioneer Girl that was too adult for the Little House books––although supposedly I'm an adult and it scares the crap out of me––is that of the Bender family.

You must keep in mind that not all of Wilder's recollections about her childhood can be traced as fact, but she remembered that as a little girl living with her family on the prairie in Kansas, Pa had to make the long trip to Independence more than once. On his way home from such a trip, he considered staying at the Benders. Kate Bender asked him to have supper there and spend the night. He felt it was better to hurry home.

Wilder writes: One night just about sundown a strange man came riding his horse up to the door on a run. Pa hurried out and they talked a few minutes. Then the man went away as fast as he had come, and Pa came into the house in a hurry. He would not wait for supper, but asked Ma to give him a bite to eat right away, saying he must go. Something horrible had happened at Benders.

It seems the Benders welcomed travelers loaded down with goods to eat with them and stay the night. The travelers sat with their backs to a curtain. The "guests" were attacked from behind the curtain, killed, and buried. Of course, the Benders kept their possessions.

Then Pa said, "They found a little girl, no bigger than Laura. They'd thrown her in on top of her father and mother and tramped the ground down on them, while the little girl was still alive."

It was easy for the Benders to carry on their grisly business because settlers who came to Kansas were out of the reach of their families. It was difficult to so much as send a letter.

Wilder also wrote that when she was older, she spoke to Pa about the Benders because he had been one of the vigilantes who had ridden after them. Pa assured her that the Benders would never be found.

As frightening as this story is, according to the annotations, it's not likely that Charles Ingalls would have stopped at the Benders. It wasn't close enough to the route he took. Wilder stated in a Book Fair speech that her family stopped at the Benders for water, and she saw Kate Bender in the doorway. But the Benders did not yet live in Indian Territory when the Ingalls family arrived.

Moreover, Wilder was two years old when they arrived in Kansas and four when they left. The terrifying stories of the Benders may have confused her, or perhaps she wanted to associate her family with a notorious name in order to excite interest in her work.

At any rate, the Benders existed; they had an inn and grocery store; and eight to eleven bodies, including a young girl, were found buried in the orchard behind the Benders' cabin––although some newspaper accounts placed the number of bodies higher.

The name Bender becomes a very frightening one because of the realistic way in which Wilder tells the story.

Kate Bender
The Bender family consisted of an older couple and
a younger one, who were thought to be brother and sister
but might have been married.

For another account of the Bloody Benders, see https://goo.gl/A9CPv2.

I don't know how much of this information is correct, but it will give you a post-Halloween fright. Pretty obvious why the story didn't make it into the Little House books.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

BOOK NOOK: PIONEER GIRL: THE ANNOTATED AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Whether you're a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books or interested in the evolution of a manuscript into a series of autobiographical novels, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder is a beautifully conceived and carefully researched book.

As the book states, "The Pioneer Girl Project is a research and publishing program of the South Dakota State Historical Society, working since 2010 to create a comprehensive edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Pioneer Girl." The editor of the book is Pamela Smith Hill, but it involves the contributions of an untold number of people.



When I was growing up, my favorite books were those in the Little House series. I read Laura Ingalls Wilder's books over and over. I admired Laura's strength and sympathized with her fears. I cried when Jack the brindle bulldog died. I was shocked when Laura's sister Mary became ill and lost her sight. I sighed with joy when she became engaged to Almanzo Wilder and allowed him to kiss her goodnight. Every episode, every moment in the books, was a treasure to me.

When I was twenty-two years old, I visited the home the Wilders built in Mansfield, Missouri. I'm not sure when I learned that Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote a manuscript titled Pioneer Girl. It was intended for adults, and in spite of a great deal of work on it by Wilder and her daughter––Rose Wilder Lane, who was already a successful author––Pioneer Girl was never accepted for publication.

However, Pioneer Girl led Wilder to write her famous series of children's books, and perhaps it was twenty years ago when I learned that I could purchase a copy of Pioneer Girl from The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, which houses a collection of Rose Wilder Lane's papers. I had to have that manuscript.

When it arrived in the mail, I read it with fascination. It included so much information that Laura Ingalls Wilder [LIW] did not use in her books because the stories were not appropriate for young readers or because facts were eliminated to further promote the books' overarching theme of independence.

Now we have this annotated version of the autobiography. It is a work of art––a large hardcover book with a beautiful illustration on the cover, illustrations from the Little House books throughout, and best of all, the scholarly annotations that illuminate the choices LIW made when she wrote her books.

One of the most interesting examples to me is that the Ingalls family did not live alone during The Long Winter. A young couple and their baby lived with the family. The man of this family was quite unpleasant. Rose Wilder Lane argued that they should be included in the book to provide a greater variety of characters. LIW decided they would be eliminated because it was important for the family to face the elements alone, even though they moved from their claim shanty into town. Living in town served little purpose. It was the Ingalls family against the blizzards, the howling winds, and the need for food.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Greatest and Highest and Amazingest Approval.

I must warn you that the annotations are in sidebars and they are numerous. It took me many hours to read this book, but they were hours filled with delight.

Happy reading!


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

P.S. Tomorrow I'll tell you about a frightening incident from Pioneer Girl that was excluded from LIW's children's books.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A FORK IN THE ROAD

Please forgive me if it takes me a couple of days to visit your blogs and especially you Band-Aids who participate in the Battle of the Bands.

I have a problem to solve and it requires a lot of attention.


BATTLE OF THE BANDS: DO YOU HAVE FAITH?

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

It's time for the November 1, 2016, Battle of the Bands.

Our host, Mr. Stephen T. McCarthy, provides us with this information about the bloghop:

The whole thing is really quite simple: You select two different versions of the same song (versions  you feel might give each other some competition in the voting) and you post them on the 1st and the 15th of each month. On the 7th and 21st of each month, you add your own personal vote to the mix, total up all the votes and announce the winner on your blog.

Beyond that, just try to have fun with it and let your readers/voters have fun with it.


All righty, then. Let's have fun!

Do you remember this guy?

Hot-cha-cha-cha
It's George Michael before he got into a
wee-wee bit of trouble.

Faith, from George Michael's debut album, was 1988's top selling single in the U.S. George Michael wrote the song, so he is our first contender: 



And now for something completely different, it's Limp Bizkit (my son told me to use this version so if you don't like it please blame it on him):




Limp Bizkit's version of Faith, with heavier drumming and guitar playing, was popular in their live performances, so they decided to include it on their 1998 debut album because they like to "cover cheesy pop songs."

Now it's your turn. Please tell us in your comment if you prefer George Michael's or Limp Bizkit's Faith, and why. I'll return on November 7 to add up the votes and announce the winner.

Please visit Mr. Stephen T. McCarthy to get a complete list of the participants in this bloghop so you can visit everyone. Perhaps you'll even decide to join us.

Now, do you know who this guy is?

Righty-roo, it's George!
He's younger than I am, but I'm
quite certain I look better.
He needs to get my Sam Sam to do
something to his hair.



Infinities of love and joy,

Janie Junebug