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Free Cheesesteak!

How about a free cheesesteak?

In Philadelphia, PA. From me.

Just sign up for WordCamp US, then let me know you did in the comments; I’ll choose someone at random and buy you a cheesesteak. In fact, I’ll let one of the kids pick a name out of a hat or something, just to be fair.

If you don’t eat meat, we can go for coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, well ARE YOU EVEN HUMAN? Oh, sorry, I mean…we’ll figure out something. Pigeon tipping, maybe.

Haddon Musings  has already signed up! Don’t miss out.

WordCamp US will be phenomenal, and here’s why.

WordCamp US Logo


10 Reasons You Won’t Want to Miss WordCamp US

  1. Super-cool sessions. You don’t have to be a developer or coder to benefit from WordCamp US. Sarah Blackstock  wrote an excellent piece about the best options for bloggers and writers here. If you’re still waffling about whether to take your small business to WordPress, check this out. If you are a coder, designer or developer, you can find more information here on the main page.
  2. Amazing people. Have you noticed? Everyone with WordPress connections is just, well, SUPER! I’m not kidding. I haven’t met ONE person I don’t like. Granted, I’m sort of an extrovert and I like people in general. But in a group this large, there’s usually at least one individual with whom I would not enjoy sharing a cheesesteak. Not in this crowd. Come network, learn and make great friends.
  3. Happiness Bar. According to people in the know (Ingrid and Liam), the volunteers sharing their technical expertise are “fabulous” and “stacked deep with loads and loads of WP knowledge.” Having recent experience with Happiness Engineers, I agree. Questions about being the master of your domain? Plugin won’t plug in? App making you unhAPPy? (See what I did there? Genius, I know.) The Happiness Bar is your new happy place.
  4. Philly Cheesesteak. Steak. Cheese. Philly. Need I say more? Well, okay. Here are even more reasons for foodies to flock to WordCamp. Chinese, Italian, coffeehouse, seafood, Mediterranean, vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, like—seriously—anything your hungry heart desires. Oh, and let’s not forget the pretzels!
  5. After Party. I mean, seriously. Who hates a party? Well, okay, a couple of my friends are not fond of parties. Or people, for that matter…but for the rest of us crazy kids, check out Alx Block’s take on our upcoming fun.
  6. Swag. No, not sweeping fabric drapes or stolen goods. We are neither interior decorators nor pirates. Most of us aren’t, anyway. WordPress swag rocks. Who can resist Wapuu?
  7. CHOCOLATE. Several places wait to amaze you, but Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar is UN-BEE-LIEVE-ABLE. I’m pretty sure those chocolatiers use magic. And maybe Oompa-Loompas.
  8. Be famous. I’ll be one of the volunteers behind a camera. Say “cheese” (or “coffee,” or “whiskey,” or whatever makes you smile)…you never know when one of my photos will go viral! Hey, it could happen.
  9. You could win a cheesesteak.
  10. And BONUS, you can find out what happens when I ask Hubby what he’d like for Christmas this year and he answers, “A redhead.”

People are arriving from across the ocean and down the block. Don’t miss your opportunity to join the networking, learning and celebration.

If you absolutely can’t make it, here’s an option to join the fun from the comfort of your own space. You can even get an official t-shirt.

See you next week!



Adoption = Celebrate the Little Things

Five years ago, my personality tended toward the Pollyanna, which kept me happy and drove most of my friends a little crazy. After four years with the kids, I’m more grounded…sometimes, too grounded.

My current (un-Pollyanaish) mindset requires a regular correction from, “Dealing with the crazy behaviors and fluctuating attitudes is exhausting and annoying and I just want them to be perfect and let me have a nap without the worry they’ll deconstruct the house, start a fire in the back yard or remove each other’s fingernails.”

Peaceful ability to nap–or accomplish a task without interruption–is an unrealistic expectation and I need to get over it.

In college (when Pollyanna-me was in her prime), my mantra was, “sleep when you’re dead.” My roommate and I once stayed awake for almost 72 hours (with help from No-Doz caffeine pills and Starbucks) just to see how long we could escape slumber. That experiment ended with hallucinations and a friend sitting between us in class, hands wrapped in our long brown ponytails to keep our heads off the table. Pretty sure the professor noticed.

These days, if I ever found a No-Doz in my house, I would flush it down the toilet (don’t tell the environmentalists). I still fully support the coffee industry, although I recently heard a rumor that ‘Bucks buys coffee from growers who are outside Fair Trade and utilize questionable labor tactics, which will require further research. I may have to find a new caffeine supplier, but that’s another story.

Back to Pollyanna.

For the last few weeks, our girl has been exhibiting spontaneous new behaviors. Odd ones. And if they’re not obvious, she informs me. Full disclosure. “Mama, I don’t know why, but I ate my lip balm,” and, “I was chewing on my bed rail again, and something white came off my tooth.” Yes, my child, you chipped a tooth. “Mama, I chewed on my stuffed animal. I just had to,” or “I bit my arm. There aren’t any marks, though.”

As I’m writing this, I realize there’s a common theme…at the outset, counselors informed us we’d probably experience “phases” that the kids missed. Maybe she needs a pacifier? I’ll be asking the play therapist about that…  

Part of the problem is cold weather; they don’t get outside as much, so all that un-expended energy is spent on…other…entertainments. Such as finding ways to drive Mama nuts. Many thanks, groundhog, for six more weeks of winter. (For those of you who’ve not had your coffee–this is pure sarcasm.)

Other behaviors include not washing and brushing her hair (and asking me to do it for her), an affected lisp, using “baby talk” and sucking her top lip raw. Yesterday, at the therapist’s office (which is often about correcting MY behavior), the counselor noted, “It looks like she’s using negative behaviors to get attention.” Then, with a gentle smile, she inclined her head toward me. “Her tactics appear to be working.” Our girl had employed the lisp, baby talk and theatrically licking her upper lip in quick succession, and I’d corrected her each time. Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

After the session, the counselor took me aside. “She’s obviously looking for attention, and whatever garners attention is the behavior she’ll continue. I know the regressed behavior is driving you crazy, but do your best to ignore the negative completely. Over-celebrate the positive. She’s addicted to attention, so this should work. It will be exhausting, but in the end will be worthwhile.”

“Celebrate the positive” is a tactic I already know, but in the day-to-day, I forget. Especially on days (and days-to-days) when the number of negative behaviors outweigh the positive on such a grand scale. This morning, I was determined. She walked into the kitchen, unzipping her sweater to show me, “I’m wearing short sleeves, but I have a sweater on over it.” I used every possible body language technique to communicate celebration and cried, “Yaaaaay! You followed directions and wore long sleeves since it’s cold today. GREAT JOB!!” She squinted at me. “Yes, I know.”

A bit later, after she’d informed me twice of her progress as she filled the dogs’ food bowls, she noted, “I fed the dogs.” Again, I celebrated. “Yaaaaay! You fed the dogs before we leave for school! Excellent work!” She began watching me for signs of mental instability.

I ran upstairs to brush my teeth. Hubby asked, “Everything okay in the kitchen? I heard yelling.” I told him what the counselor said, adding. “You realize I’m going to have to do this for the boy, as well, or he’s going to feel left out.” Sure enough, the third time I celebrated our girl’s accomplishment, “WONDERFUL! You brushed your hair properly today,” our boy looked at me with a sad little quirk to his mouth. “I took the dog out to do his business. How come I didn’t get a ‘yay’ or anything?”

“Sorry, buddy,” I said. “Get in the truck.” He hopped in, nimble-quick. I celebrated. He grinned.

My Pollyanna is poking her pert little nose out, sniffing the air. Things are changing? We’re playing the Glad Game again? About EVERYthing? Yeah, baby, it’s on. Time for a little Pollyanna happy dance. 

I’d better blindfold Pollyanna so she doesn’t see her shadow.

We’re in for six more weeks of celebration.


Pollyanna image from Katrina Ryder’s blog, which I highly recommend.

Nannie, the “Giggling Granny” Serial Killer

Writing101: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene. Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

Fun fact: I’d already written this piece, then went looking for a real serial killer. Nannie fit perfectly, so a few details changed and the story came to life. Check the link below for more on Nannie. 


Finally. I thought I’d never find a job. You’d think a medical degree would open doors, but evidently there’s little need for male nurses in the great state of Oklahoma. Granted, the State Pen isn’t where I imagined beginning my grand career. On the other hand, you’d be surprised at the number of fine women working in the OSP hospital ward. Miss Molly Ames is my favorite; with that shining blonde hair and those pretty blue eyes…okay, you caught me. Mostly I like the fact that if it rains, her shoes won’t get wet in the front or the back. And that’s without an umbrella.

She’s assigned to “show me the ropes,” and since prison is heavy on protocol, we’ve been spending a lot of time together. I definitely won’t complain. “Let’s take the outdoor tour today,” she says. “That’s usually scheduled on day four of orientation, but I heard it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” My snicker almost escapes, and I cough to cover. “Sounds great,” I say, following her through the heavy doors.

We angle across the yard toward a concrete bench. Female inmates fascinate me; I can’t imagine how this innocuous woman landed in prison. She knits a small red sweater, looking up as we approach. Her round, sweet face brightens. “She reminds me of my Nana.” I look over at Molly. “How in the world did she end up here?” I stumble, and Molly snatches my hand to steady me. She doesn’t let go. “They say she poisoned some people, but I don’t think it’s possible. Nannie’s just so sweet. Even if she’s not guilty, Nannie won’t live long. Leukemia.” Molly grimaces and looks away, eyelashes wet.

“Nana had cancer, too. I miss her.”  I stumble again; this time tears blur my vision. Molly squeezes my hand. “You have a warm heart. I like that. Come over for dinner tonight.” I agree, spirits lifting. This time, I’d angled a date in less than three days. The “Nana” bit works every time. I smile at Nannie, glad for her unwitting collaboration. She waves with a little giggle. Adorable, just like Nana.


We walk toward Nannie, holding hands. I still don’t see how they could lock this sweet woman up. Say what you will about her, but I’ll never believe this woman belongs in this prison. Those horrible men deserved to be poisoned. It’s sad that the kids died but they were probably sneaking food, like all kids do, and picked the wrong container. Then again, they shouldn’t have been stealing her signature stewed prunes, so I guess they deserved it, too.

“Good morning,” I say. “Roger was just hired to the hospital ward. I think you’re going to like him.” Nannie tips her face to Roger with a quiet laugh. “Just in time. Help me to my feet?” Roger, eager to help, almost trips again. “He’s very graceful,” I laugh, “don’t you agree?” Nanny smiles at me. “No, but it’s a good enough reason to hold his hand. Don’t want that handsome face planted on the ground. I’ve changed my mind. Roger, would you fetch some water?” Roger nods and heads back the way we came. I sit next to Nannie, and as we watch him lope away, he trips twice. Ugh.

“He’s sorta gawky, but he’s easy on the eyes. So, you like him, do you?” Nannie asks. My face burns. “We’ve only just met.” She giggles again, and we are two schoolgirls, heads bent together, speculating about the new boy. “You should invite him to supper.”

I beam. “I already asked, and he said yes!” We squeal, sisters in delight. She’s old enough to be my mother, but the years disappear when we discuss love, passion or our favorite romance novels.

“You put me in mind of my younger self,” she says, setting aside the sweater and wrapping an arm around my shoulders. I lean into her embrace, thrilled with the affirmation. Six months of conversations with Nannie have healed my broken heart and given me a purpose. I finally know what it is to be loved and supported. She believes in me. She sees my potential. She even gave me some of her family recipes. I will find the perfect guy, settle down and make her proud of me. I know true love is real, and Nannie will help me find it.

I already know Roger isn’t the one; he can barely walk. But hey, a little fun never hurts. Not usually, anyway.

Molly is the daughter I never had. Well, now, I do have one, but she won’t visit her poor dying mother in prison. I just don’t understand. I never killed anyone unjustified; I explained my reasons a dozen times over. Some of my husbands died sooner than others; they deserved it. I only ever served my stewed prunes and special almond coffee to the ones as deserved it.

See, here’s proof. I never killed Charley, because we were just kids. Our parents encouraged the marriage, but neither one of us really knew what we was doing, so I sent him on his way. See, I was fair. And of course Melvina—that’s the one who don’t visit—is happy and healthy. She was a wonderful child; she never needed no stewed prunes.

Molly, now, she’s my joy. Mirror image of the young Nannie, she is. Except she’s smarter than I ever was, so I’m sure she’ll stay out of the pen.  Poor thing never had any mama to speak of, but she’s done real well for herself. If I could adopt her legally, I would. It just makes me giggle, no end, knowing she’s carrying on with the family recipes. And we love the same books, imagine.

That young man she’s sweet on, now, he’s not too bright, but he sure is handsome. I wonder if she’ll keep him around.

“Well, now, Molly, what about Roger?” I ask. “Oh, I haven’t decided, yet.” She says. “I think he might be nice to have around. We’ll probably just drink iced tea and sit on the porch.” Roger appears with my water. “Sorry I took so long.”

I take a long sip as Molly continues. “Maybe I’ll invite him in for dessert. And if he’s lucky, we’ll even have my special almond coffee. But only if he deserves it.” She grins wickedly at the young man. Startled, he reddens, then recovers, flashing a conspiratorial smile. “Oh, don’t you worry. I’ll deserve it.”

As they walk away, hand in hand, I just can’t help it. I giggle and giggle.

Nannie Doss, poisoner

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