Category Archives: Family

RAINBOWS AND DREAMS

0530132000

Is it a promise of a better tomorrow or pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? There’s two of them, so maybe it’s both!

My husband and I were driving home from Omaha a few weeks ago. It had been storming and the weather had been quite scary. Ever since the experience with the lightning strike, I get really nervous when it clouds up. On this particular day, we were driving on Interstate 680 and would soon be crossing the Missouri River and heading home into Iowa and traveling north on Interstate 29. We had another 30 miles to drive to get home.

It was raining, the wind was blowing, the tornado sirens in Omaha were sounding,  and then in the middle of all that, the sun suddenly came out. As soon as I realized why it had gotten so bright, I looked around for the the rainbow. I was surprised how close they seemed and how bright the colors, it was beautiful and I know this is silly, but it filled me with hope.

I brought out my new cell phone (the one I couldn’t remember how to use when I needed to call 911 after the lightning strike). I know how to use it now, well the camera anyway and I took the picture above through the car’s window. It turned out pretty good for an amateur, don’t you think?

A few minutes later and we were now on The Mormon Trail Bridge crossing the Missouri River driving East into Iowa when these rainbows appeared.

Rainbow in the southern sky over the Missouri River on May 30th, 2013.

Rainbows in the southern sky over the Missouri River on May 30th, 2013.

I took pictures of rainbows almost all the way home, but these two were by far the best. Each time I saw a rainbow that night, it reaffirmed my belief that rainbows are a promise that dreams come true. What isn’t promised is that it will happen tomorrow, or next week or even next year or even in our lifetime. Does that mean we’ve failed?

Many painters, authors, musicians and sculptors from the past are remembered today for their art, but many of them also died paupers and were never even recognized for their talents until after their deaths. Does that mean they failed?

Of course not, it means that they worked diligently to achieve a dream and in the end, they did! Nothing in this life is a guarantee except life and death and (according to my husband the cynic) paying taxes.

So what about us? Have we failed or are we working diligently to achieve a dream? What is your dream?

I think those artists of old had it easy compared to today’s crazy busy world. They didn’t have to promote their work. All they had to do was create it.

A mysterious "voice" warns Emily that she is in danger. She believes she's losing her mind!

A mysterious “voice” warns Emily that she is in danger. She believes she’s losing her mind!

Nightmares, my debut young adult, paranormal/mystery novel can be found on my publisher’s website, MuseItUp Publishing, Amazon and Barnes and Nobel.

Check out my short story “Trapped”. It can be found in the anthology Mystery Times Nine 2012 also on Amazon and published by Buddhapuss Ink Publishing.

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Heroes For When Lightning Strikes

Know the warning signs

Know the warning signs

Sometimes I think this world has gone completely mad. You can’t watch TV without seeing horrible atrocities committed by people against other humans. But then in the same newscast there will often be stories about people coming together and doing some wonderful and even sacrificial things to help others, which in turn, proves that this world isn’t all bad and there are heroes everywhere.

It’s similar to what happens when a personal disaster, one that affects only you and your immediate loved ones. In this case I’m not talking about man against man, but nature against human. That’s when you quickly learn who your heroes are.

I thought I was going to die!

I thought I was going to die! It was Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 7:17 am

I heard the rumbles of thunder while I was still in the shower and I hurried to finish, worried that the power might go out before I removed all the shampoo from my hair.  (We live in the country and have to depend on electricity to pump water into the house, no power, no water.) I managed to finish showering and drying my hair before it happened.

The whole place shook and the noise was sharp and deafening and I could smell something burning almost immediately. I had no idea what the lightning struck, but I thought it was the house. I put on a bathrobe, picked up my little dog, Annie, who was as terrified as me and looked out the front door. I could see my car beside the house and from the doorway, it looked like the car’s passenger side was on fire. My heart plummeted a my knees almost buckled.

I knew I had to do something, even if it was to just get out of the house, because if my car was burning, then it would explode and the house would go too. Shaking so bad I could hardly walk, wearing only a bathrobe and no shoes, carrying Annie and my cell phone, I ventured outside, feeling guilty because I was leaving my four cats in the house. 

The tree was split from the ground to almost the top!

The tree was split from the ground to almost the top!

It was apparent right away that lightning had struck the large cottonwood tree on the other side of our driveway. The tree was badly split and still smoldering  in spite of the rain. I made my way behind the car and that’s when I saw the flames coming from the driveway. The ground was on fire. The only source it could be coming from was the propane line that ran from the tank,  in front of the tree and into the house.

My first thought was to move my car away from the fire and I started to go back inside to get my keys. I realized there wasn’t time…I had to shut the propane tank off now.

Only one problem, I had no idea how to do it. My husband always did that sort of thing, but I’ve seen enough explosions on TV to know that if I didn’t, it would probably explode either the furnace or the tank or maybe both and I wouldn’t be able to outrun it. Besides, I would be sentencing the four cats inside to a sure death. I had to do something, even if it was wrong.

I opened the lid on the top of the tank and chose the knob that looked like a shut off valve and twisted. The flame made a sucking noise and went out. I held my breath for a few seconds, praying it hadn’t sucked the flame inside the tank or sent it into the furnace. When nothing happened, this gave me hope that I had done the right thing.

I went inside the house and I could still smell something hot. The smell was stronger now. I had to call 911 in case there was a fire inside the walls.

But there was another problem.

In my own defense, I was home alone, my husband had already left for for his job. I was shaking so badly I could hardly stand and my mind would not focus. I still had enough wits about me to know in an emergency seconds count, so I grabbed my cell phone again, but…

I have to explain that I had just gotten a new smart phone about a month or so before. It was the first of it’s type I had ever owned and I had been slowly learning how to use it.

Well, and I know this is going to make it sound like I’m really just nuts, but I couldn’t remember how to make an outgoing call. I’d only done it once before. Everyone I call are in my contacts and I did remember how to get to them, so I pushed contacts, then favorites and hit the first one at the top.

Again, in my own defense, seconds count in an emergency. I still wasn’t sure the house wasn’t on fire because the smell of something burning had grown stronger. I had read of peoples houses smoldering inside the walls before igniting. I couldn’t take the time to explain what was wrong. So when my daughter, who lives forty-five minutes away, answered the phone, I said, “Jamie, call 911 for me”, and I hung up.

I then called my husband, Pat, he’s programmed too and I told him what had happened and that I had called Jamie to call 911.  He works more than 50 miles away and I was worried he’d drive too fast coming home, but he had to know and I needed him at home.

By now I had calmed enough to remember how to use my cell and I called the power company and they said they would be right out.

Because I didn’t tell Jamie why I needed her to call 911, they sent a deputy sheriff who showed up about ten minutes later. As soon as I saw him, I felt better, I was no longer alone, but then I had to confess why I didn’t make the call myself. He was very nice and understanding. He asked me if I wanted him to look around or he said he could send the fire department. I told him about the fire in the driveway and that I had already put the fire out and he laughed. I really wasn’t trying to be funny, but I do see the irony in it now.

It wasn’t long after the deputy arrived that our long time neighbors and friends (they are both retired) drove in. I hadn’t even thought about calling them, but Pat had. The deputy was just about ready to leave by then and that’s when, Jamie and her husband David arrived and of course Jamie chewed me out about how I called her and then hung up. According to her husband, she was almost in as bad a shape as her mother.

Our son-in-law, David brought us a generator to use until we could get the power back on. It worked great.

We had to replace the breaker box inside the house and many of the outlets, which meant we needed an electrification to replace the box. We contacted several, but they were all to busy and then our son-in-law David said he knew someone and he called him. The guy couldn’t come that day, but promised he would be there the next day and he was. By the end of Thursday, one day after the lightning strike, we had electricity again.

We needed to have the furnace checked out and because of the circumstances of a lightning strike, the guy made a special effort to come out right away. The temps were only in the forties during the day.

He had bad new for us. The furnace was completely ruined. He told us if we wanted to get a second opinion, he didn’t mind and when we declined, he said he could be there the next day with a new one.

Our New Furnace

Our New Furnace

How often do contractors actually show up when they say they’re going to? He was a man of his word! He brought everything needed for the repairs. He even brought a trencher, something he doesn’t normally do, to put in the new propane gas line and regulator to the house. By the end of that day, Thursday, only one day after the strike, we had a new working furnace.

The telephone box outside on the opposite end of the house from the lightning strike.

The telephone box outside on the opposite end of the house from the lightning strike. Pieces of it were found in the middle of the yard.

The phone lines throughout most of the house were also melted, which explains what I had smelled burning. The main line from the basement was melted into the carpet in the living room.

The phone company sent someone that day and the guy went out of his way to fix what he could, even doing a few replacements he wasn’t supposed to do, but by the time he left, we again had a land line that worked, only one day after the lightning strike.

The phone line that was melted to the carpet.

The phone line that was melted to the carpet.

In the basement, besides the furnace, the lightning split the water pipes and Pat replaced the pipes Thursday morning.

Our TV in the living room and the DirecTV receiver, were ruined. The satellite on the roof was fine. We had just gotten a new box about a month before, because our old one had quit working. When I called, I explained to the girl what had happened to the new one and she said we were covered under an act of nature clause, which meant it was replaced for free. We didn’t even have to pay the technician that came and installed it on Friday, two days after the lightning strike.

The lightning also destroyed my computer in my office. I’m posting this from my work computer. The good news…my files were backed up.

The cottonwood tree after the lightning strike, was split almost to the top. It creaked and twisted in the wind. It was another disaster waiting for a strong wind to make it happen. The thing had to come down and soon.

Pat, two of his brothers and a brother-in-law spent the weekend taking it down. Not an easy task with a tree that size, while it loomed over the top of our house, but they managed it.

The offending tree is now gone.

The offending tree is now gone.

It has been almost a month since that day and we are almost completely back to normal. Although I will never hear another rumble of thunder and not think about that day and what might have happened if I had still been in the shower when it struck, I am happy to be alive today.

Someone was watching over me that morning and I feel blessed that so many people went out of their way to help us, going above and beyond of what they had to do. They didn’t risk their lives doing it, but they saved ours and for that they are my heroes.

What kind of personal disasters have you faced? Were there heroes who came to your rescue? Tell me about it.

My Young Adult debut novel is now on Amazon: Amazon.com: Donna Jean McDunn Nightmares: Kindle Store

MuseItUp Publishing’s website Nightmares

 

Is There Goodness In Murder And Mayhem?

They might be friends or they could be strangers. In the face of mayhem, people care about each other.

They might be friends or they could be strangers. In the face of mayhem, people care about each other.

By Donna Jean McDunn

Sometimes thinking of something to write about can be very difficult, so tonight I went on the internet to find an inspiration. Instead all I found were sad and in some cases, horrible stories of murder and mayhem. There was nothing good to report, but after stumbling across this headline “Abandoned Baby’s Mom Found Dead” I had to read it.

Suddenly what was and still is a terrible crime, had mutated into a combined effort of total strangers and one caring police chief, coming together to find the perpetrator of this heinous crime and bring justice to a young woman and her child.

The police chief’s idea was to raise $5,000 for a reward for the arrest and conviction of the person who took this young woman’s life and left an innocent child motherless and abandoned in an apartment complex hallway. The crime has not been solved yet, but there is not any doubt in my mind that it will be.

After I read the short article, I realized there are still many more good people doing good things for others everyday, even in the face of death and mayhem, than there are those causing all the death and mayhem.

These good people aren’t expecting a pat on the back or even a thank you. They do it because they care and when people care, good things happen.

So the next time you read a story about death and mayhem, look for the good, because if you do, I am sure you will find it in the form of a stranger helping others.

As always, I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts, so please leave a comment.

My short story Trapped, included in the anthology Mystery Times Nine 2012 has been released on Amazon.

My young adult paranormal/mystery will be released in May 2013 on Amazon, but can be viewed now

on MuseItUp Publishing’s website: Nightmares

Other places I can be found:

Facebook Author Page 
Facebook Profile Page 
LinkedIn

MusePub_Readers : MuseItUp Publishing Readers Group

I’m also on Twitter.

Other Places to view my short stories:

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

A Reason To Live

Saving Katie 
Pack Leader 
The Golden Stallion

Gus’ Big Adventure

Merry Christmas & All Other Holiday Greetings-My Wish For You

Bah Hum Bug

Bah! Hum Bug!

I’m very sorry I haven’t posted recently, but I didn’t want tomorrow to pass by without some kind of greeting, which is why I’m doing it now.

I know many people don’t celebrate Christmas for a lot of different reasons, some are even Christians, but no matter who you are or why you don’t celebrate, my wish for you is to have a safe and happy life, not just on this one day or month or year, but for your life!

There has been so many terrible things happening in the world recently, at least it seems like this year has had tragedy strike more often than normal and on a much larger scale and there is nothing any one of us can do about that.

Yet there are things we can do to make others lives richer and in so doing, make our own richer. Everyday we wake in the morning, we have been given another day that we can make a difference in someone else’s life.

A smile, a kind word or a helping hand, can change peoples hearts to be more tolerant of others and to pass the kindness on to someone else and in doing so, it makes a better world for all.

To many of us become wrapped up into our own little worlds, we forget that other people, whether rich or poor or where we live, we all have our demons to struggle with. Not everyone  may have to worry how they are going to pay their bills, but they still have the same frailties as any other human and bleed just like the rest of us.

I obviously don’t have the answers to the worlds problems, but my wish for everyone is that we all start with ourselves and spread kindness instead of disaster.

As always, I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts, so please leave a comment.

My short story Trapped, included in the anthology Mystery Times Nine 2012 and published by Buddhapuss Ink in New Jersey has been released for purchase on Amazon.

Coming soon to Page & Spine Publishing my short story The Ravine

My young adult paranormal/mystery will be released in May 2013, but can be viewed on MuseItUp Publishing’s website: Nightmares

Other places I can be found:

Facebook Author Page 
Facebook Profile Page 
LinkedIn

MusePub_Readers : MuseItUp Publishing Readers Group

I’m also on Twitter.

Other Places to view my short stories:

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

A Reason To Live

Saving Katie 
Pack Leader 
The Golden Stallion

Gus’ Big Adventure

Two Little Girls – An Essay

TWO LITTLE GIRLS – Another Essay

By Donna Jean McDunn Author

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Mine was great. All three of our daughters and their families came, so it was a busy four-day weekend. Our oldest grandson celebrated his 13th birthday on November 7th. (That gives us three teenage grandkids with five more to go.) He lives to far away so we weren’t able to celebrate with him on that day and while they were visiting, he enjoyed another birthday party with us.

We also attended a party for my husband’s brother’s 70th birthday and a surprise birthday party our son-in-law planned for our youngest daughter. By the time the weekend ended, I needed another four days to recuperate.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted since November. I’ve been busy editing my novel Nightmares. As soon as all the editing is done, I will share an excerpt of the story here. I just finished working with the content editor who suggested I consider turning the book into a series based on the characters in the book, so I have begun a new story I have tentatively named Visions. I’m still waiting to hear from the line editor and get her opinion of the idea.

I’m also working on another story I began for a writing course a few months ago. The course has ended, but the writing goes on and I really want to finish it. It is tentatively named The Rose Stalker. It is geared to a much older reader than my Nightmares books and is a romance/mystery about a stalker who leaves roses.

Now I would like to share with you an essay I wrote in 2008. It’s not very long, just under 650 words. It’s about something that happened in my childhood that has always bothered me. It still does whenever I think about it and that year, I thought about it a lot, just as I have during this one. Some of the words I used for descriptions may not be politically correct today and I don’t wish to offend anyone, but in the 1950’s these terms were accurate. It’s called:

TWO LITTLE GIRLS

I grew up in a small town in Iowa during the 1950’s. During those early years of my life, I remember seeing only two people of African American decent at my school. It happened when I was in the third grade.

The teacher had just let us outside for recess. It was early spring and I had on my blue winter coat I’d gotten for Christmas. The day had turned out so sunny and warm; I felt I no longer needed it. So, like several other kids, I took my coat off and threw it on top of a pile of coats already lying on the ground.

My friends and I ran to the jungle gym to play. When I happened to look in the direction of my coat, I saw two African American girls. I naturally assumed they were sisters and the older one was holding my blue coat.

“Hey, this can’t be mine,” I heard the girl say to the younger one as she slipped it on. She held her arms out in front of her. “Look, it’s to small.”

Concerned I was about to lose my coat to a stranger, I jumped off the jungle gym and ran to her. “I think that’s my coat.”

Looking down at the pile still on the ground, I could see the arm of a blue coat just like mine. I pulled it out and slipped it on. The sleeves hung down past my fingertips. “Maybe this one is yours.”

We exchanged coats, giggling about the mix up, until her younger sister poked her in the ribs. “Come on. We’re going to get into trouble.”

“Thanks,” the older one said to me and the two girls ran toward the school.

I wanted to talk to them and find out if they were sisters, where they came from and why I hadn’t I seen them before. I didn’t even know their names. Why did they leave in such a hurry?

I watched as they ran to a door, the rest of us weren’t supposed to use, but before going inside, the older girl turned and smiled in my direction.

I wondered where they were going. Recess had just started.

I rejoined my friends on the jungle gym. “Who are those girls,” I asked my friend, Mary. “I’ve never seen them before.”

“I don’t know their names,” she said. “I heard they go to school upstairs.”

I couldn’t believe it. “Upstairs? Why?”

She stared at me like I must be really dumb. “Because they’re Negro.”

I was eight years old at the time, but even I could see sending those two girls upstairs was wrong.  I knew about prejudice and the riots happening in other parts of the country. I just never expected to see it in my town.

Several years ago, the upstairs in the school had been condemned and considered unsafe for anyone. I had heard rumors that there were bats up there, too. If it was unsafe for us, how could anyone make two little girls use it as a classroom? Did they even have a teacher?

I never saw either of the girls after that day, not in the hallways or during recess or even after school. I asked about them everyday for a long time, but no one seemed to know if they moved away or what happened to them.

I’d like to think situations like that don’t happen in this country today, but I know I’d only be deceiving myself. Even so I still have hope for us and I pray the girls are still alive and well and see how things have changed. It only took forty-nine years! The sad part is we have only just begun to make real progress.

As always, I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts, so please leave a comment.

My short story Trapped, included in the anthology Mystery Times Nine 2012 will be released, according to the Amazon site, on December 7, 2012. The book went to press November 29th. It can be pre-ordered on Amazon now. The publisher, Buddhapuss Ink is located in New Jersey and there was a delay thanks to Hurricane Sandy.

My young adult paranormal/mystery will be released in May 2013, but can be viewed on MuseItUp Publishing’s website: Nightmares

Other places I can be found:

Facebook Author Page 
Facebook Profile Page 
LinkedIn

MusePub_Readers : MuseItUp Publishing Readers Group

I’m also on Twitter.

Other Places to view my short stories:

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

A Reason To Live

Saving Katie

Pack Leader

The Golden Stallion

Gus’ Big Adventure

 

 

Band-Aides For The Heart-An Essay

Over Sixty Years Of Life

In 2010 our three daughters threw us a surprise 40th anniversary. Our oldest made this collage to show our lives before, during and after children.

Band-Aides For The Heart-An Essay

By Donna Jean McDunn Author

Do you have children? My husband, Pat and I raised three daughters. Talk about drama. It began almost from the first moment of birth, right up until they moved out of the house… Oh, wait, it didn’t stop there. Maybe it lasted until the second time they moved out or was it the third. No, that wasn’t it either. Could it have been when they each were married? Nope. So when does it stop? The truth is, I don’t have a clue.

During their growing up years I had almost completely stopped writing. Life had just gotten so over whelming. The only writing I managed to do was to scribble out some of the funny things they did or said to put in their baby books.

When our youngest was a teenager, the desire to write began to grow again, but I could still only manage a few words now and then. And usually when I would pull out paper and pen too write, it was because something had upset me.

From birth on, seeing one of my daughters in pain for any reason was enough to make me write. I wanted their lives to be free of physical and mental hurts. Unrealistic, I know, but that desire is still a big part of me and will be until the day I die. Below is a short essay I wrote many years ago when my youngest was sixteen; she will be thirty-five next month.

Band-Aids For The Heart

From a very young age, I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I loved my baby dolls, and treated them as if they were real babies. I was seven when my baby brother was born. I had wanted a baby sister, but he was so cute, it soon didn’t matter. I couldn’t wait to hold my nieces and nephews when they were born. I baby-sat a lot. I just knew that being a mom was going to be easy.

Here I am as a teenager with my favorite people and animals. My little brother, Mike is on the far left, my nephew Tommy is next to him and I’m holding Tommy’s little brother, Danny. The two dogs belong to them. Duchess is on the left and that’s Duke on the right.

Then reality struck.

Pat and I were married at nineteen and hadn’t quite reached our twenty-first birthdays, when Patty was born. Jodi followed three years later and Jamie three years after her. No one had warned me about the mountains of diapers, bottles and the tons of clothes that were necessary incase of accidents…and there were always accidents.

I soon learned that being a mom was a lot different than being a big sister, aunt or a baby sitter. I couldn’t just hand them over to my mom or my sister like I had my little brother and nieces and nephews or go home to my own house like I could when I used to baby-sit. I was stuck with them twenty-four seven.

But the joy of all those first smiles, first steps and first words made all the sleepless nights and the worry worth every minute. The milestones soon began to add up and before I knew it, those years of babyhood were slipping away.

Instead of dirty diapers, I now had to deal with bumps and bruises, scraped knees and cut fingers and toes.  Most boo-boos could be healed by Mommy’s kiss. For other ouches, a band-aid and a kiss could stop the hurt. I thought I would always be able to take away their pain. No one warned me about the boo-boos we had no control over.

Like the disappointment Patty experienced when she didn’t win the Science Fair in the fifth grade or the surgery when Jodi was five. The learning disability that still haunts Jamie today. Each time and for each daughter, I wanted desperately to take the pain away and make it my pain. Isn’t that what I’d been doing since infancy? “Let Mommy kiss it and make it all better.” And sometimes I still could, but that wasn’t going to last for much longer.

The teenage years were filled with drama in the form of laugher and tears. The laughter came with each new budding romance and the tears came when it ended. By the time my youngest daughter became a teenager, I had gotten quite good at spotting the first signs of a failing romance. Unfortunately, they didn’t make band-aids big enough for broken hearts.

It didn’t come as a complete surprise the day I came home from my aerobics class to find my sixteen-year-old daughter sitting at the dining room table, her schoolbooks spread out before her. She looked up at me and with a shaking hand, brushed blond hair from flushed cheeks and red puffy eyes.

My stomach did a somersault. I took a deep breath and silently prayed for the right words. “What’s wrong?” I asked, even though I thought I already knew the answer.

Her eyes filled with tears. “Matt,” she said, her voice cracking. “We…” Her face crumbled and she buried it into her hands.

“I’m so sorry.” I put my arm around her shoulders. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” she whispered.

I knew that wasn’t true because my own heart felt ready to burst. “Do you want to talk about it?”

She shook her head no without looking at me. “Not yet, maybe later.”

What do you say to someone who is in this kind of pain? Is there anything that will take it away? If there is, I hadn’t found it yet. I stood there with one arm around my little girl’s shoulders and couldn’t think of one single thing that would ease her pain or my own. “How about a hug?” It was the best I could come up with.

Jamie stood and wrapped her arms around my neck. I wanted to ask her when she got so tall, but instead I said, “Anytime you feel like talking, I’m here to listen.” I rubbed her back, like I did when she was tiny and needed comforting.

She nodded, sucked in a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. “I’m going to lay down for a while.”

“Okay, I’ll let you know when dinner is ready.”

She seemed…different. A tiny smile played on her lips. “Thanks Mom,” she said.

Somehow that one little hug had made a difference. Maybe, I’d found a band-aid after all.

As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions.

My short story Trapped, included in the anthology Mystery Times Nine 2012 will be released November 19, 2012. It can be pre-ordered on Amazon now. 

My young adult paranormal/mystery will be released in May 2013, but can be viewed on Muse It Up Publishing’s website: Nightmares

Other places I can be found:

Facebook Author Page  

Facebook Profile Page 

LinkedIn

MusePub_Readers : MuseItUp Publishing Readers Group

I’m also on Twitter.

Other Places to view my short stories:

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

A Reason To Live

Saving Katie 

Pack Leader 

The Golden Stallion

Gus’ Big Adventure

TRICK OR TREAT

These are five of the grandkids from a few years ago. I don’t have any pictures of me and my brothers dressed up for Halloween from my childhood.

TRICK OR TREAT

By Author Donna Jean McDunn

Happy Halloween!

Everywhere you go today you will see and hear those words “Happy Halloween”, but isn’t Halloween supposed to be scary? I always thought so when I was young, even though I never felt afraid. Excited, yes, maybe a little worried I wouldn’t find the right costume or get a lot of candy, but never scared.

My mom always took my brother, Jerry and me trick or treating. She’d find a block of houses with the lights on and let us out on the corner and watch us as we moved from place to place. Then she would drive down the street real slow, so she could keep us in sight, not that we were ever in any danger in our small town, but my mom was paranoid that way. I didn’t understand it then, not until after I had my own kids.

Do you remember the year you stopped going trick or treating? I do. I was twelve and would be turning thirteen in less than a month. My older brother had stopped going a few years before me, but I had my little brother. He was seven years younger and by the time Jerry decided he was too old to go, Mike or Mikey, as I called him back then, was just getting into it.

Mikey was five when I decided I was too old to dress up and ask for candy, but someone had to go with him and Mom had to drive the car, which left me as his chaperon.  I didn’t mind because at most of those doors, the host would almost always hand me some candy too, which helped to ease the pain a little.

Last Year at my daughter Jamie’s Halloween party. Not a great picture, but it’s the only one I had.

When the teenage years finally came, I had a lot less desire to spend time with my little brother. The year I was fourteen, the holiday fell on a Saturday and spending time with friends became my priority. The temperature had made it into the mid eighties that afternoon, a rare occurrence in the Midwest on Halloween, and it was a very mild evening.

My best friend, Linda and I spent the early part of that night walking around town admiring all the Halloween decorations. Completely by accident (I swear, because my mom would not have approved and she must never know.) we ran into Pat, Linda’s next-door neighbor and his friend, Eddie both boys we went to school with. We ended up sitting in the cemetery telling scary urban legends about ghosts and murder. It was the best time ever, but it had to end by 9:45 so I could meet my mom at Linda’s house at 10:00.

Every Halloween I think about that night. I’m not sure why, but it could have something to do with the fact I started dating one of those boys during the end of my senior year and a year later we were married. We have spent a lot of Halloweens together ever since, but few have ever topped that first one.

What’s Halloween without some Jack-o-lanterns?

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.

As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address, I’ll visit and comment. If you’d rather be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I will like, be friends, follow, or Tweet.

November 19, 2012 is the date Mystery Times Nine 2012 will be released for sale on Amazon. The anthology includes my story Trapped and eight other stories of mystery. It can be preordered now. Here’s the link. http://ow.ly/eHycy

I can be found at Twitter as Donna Jean McDunn @02dmcdunn

Author page http://www.facebook.com/donnajeanmcdunn

Profile http://www.facebook.com/mcdunndonnajean

LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/pub/donna-mcdunn/42/819/423

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Good Old Days

That’s me holding the chicken and my brother Jerry sitting beside me. Notice the pump behind me. We didn’t have running water in our house. The pump is where we got our water.

The Good Old Days

By Author Donna Jean McDunn

I grew up in Iowa during the 1950’s and 60’s. Things were simpler. We didn’t own a TV until I was seven and no one had ever heard of a personal computer or a cell phone. Those were things of fiction back then.

We spent a lot of time outside playing. My older brother, Jerry always wanted to play cowboys or army and of course I was always on the losing side. I didn’t mind. I admit I was a tomboy growing up. I played with worms, snakes, frogs, and toads, climbed trees and jumped off of buildings.

We used his toy trucks to build roads in the dirt around our mom’s flowers and when we tired of that, we’d go find some crawdads for fishing in the crawdad hole. (The crawdad hole is gone now. There’s a McDonalds sitting where it used to be.)

Our older sister, Joyce was always taking pictures of us. I hardly ever posed for a picture without some kind of animal or my baby brother, Mike or one of my nephews, Danny and Tommy with me.

Me and my baby brother Michael

We’d stay outside until dark and then catch lightening bugs (some people call them fireflies). We would put them in jars so we could turn the lights off and watch them blink off and on.

Whatever my big brother, Jerry and the neighbor boys did, I followed, but because he was three years older than me, he got to do things I couldn’t; like ride his bike to the park three blocks away. Oh, I had my tricycle, but I wasn’t allowed to go that far on it.

That’s me, I’m the girl in the picture. Jerry is getting on his bike to ride to school and the other two boys were neighbors. It was the first day of school and I was so wanting to ride my bike to school, but all I had was a tricycle that was too small for me. I was SO jealous!

I wanted a real two-wheeled bike.

When he wasn’t riding his bike, sometimes I would lean it against something so I could get on it and sit on the seat, but my legs weren’t long enough to reach the pedals and push them all the way down to make it move.

Sometimes Jerry would push the bike while I sat on it. But he grew tired of that pretty fast, so then I’d push the bike myself and stand on the pedal and coast  like it was a giant scooter.

But the best times were when he’d give me a ride around the block. I’d sit sidesaddle on the bar, being careful to keep my feet from touching the spokes in the front tire and we’d sail down the road with the wind in our hair.

The first summer I discovered I could push the bike and coast along on it, I couldn’t reach the pedals while sitting on the seat. By the following year, I had grown enough that I could push the pedal down, but my toes didn’t quite reach the lowest point and the ground was still a long way from the bottom of my foot.

If you’ve ever seen one of those old boy’s bikes, then you know size matters when it comes to touching the ground with the bar in the middle, especially when you want to get off.

One day Jerry found me with his bike,  coasting along as I stood on the pedal. He watched me for a minute and I was waiting for him to tell me to get off it, but instead he said, “I bet you could ride that thing if someone helped you. I’ll hold it, you get on.”

As soon as I was seated, he started pushing. He ran along the side and then he gave it a huge shove and yelled, ”Pedal.” So I did, but actually pedaling and sitting on the bike were way different and since my legs weren’t quite long enough yet to reach the pedal with my entire foot as it dropped toward the ground, I had to catch it as it came back up and then push the pedal down again.

But I rode that bike all the way to the end of the block. I wasn’t allowed to go past the corner by myself and that’s when I realized I didn’t know how to turn around and I couldn’t push the pedal back far enough for the brake to stop the bike, so I stopped pedaling.

Jerry yelled, “Turn the handlebars into the grass.”

I could hear him running toward me and did what he said, but the bike had slowed so much, it wasn’t going to make it to the grass and I didn’t think he’d get there in time to keep the bike and me from ending up in the gravel.

I was right. I think every exposed piece of skin was torn off, but did that keep me from riding whenever I could get someone to give me a shove?

No Way!

A year later and I was finally able to ride the bike with no help and the year after that, I got my own two wheeled (girl’s) bike.

How about you? What’s some of your fondest memories of growing up?

As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address, I’ll visit, comment and follow. If you’d rather be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I will like, be friends, follow, or Tweet.

Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/donnajeanmcdunn Facebook profile page: http://www.facebook.com/mcdunndonnajean http://www.linkedin.com/pub/donna-mcdunn/42/819/423 Twitter: @02dmcdunn

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.

The Best or The Worst Critique; What Was Yours?

The Best or The Worst Critique; What Was Yours?

By Author Donna Jean McDunn

When I started writing at a very young age, I did it for myself because I had something I wanted to say. I never thought about getting published or who might want to read my stories. I just knew I loved to write.

Looking back at that time, I didn’t have a fear of being laughed at or criticized at least not until someone said, “I thought you had a better imagination than that”. Those words were spoken by my older sister, who is nine years older than I am, after I foolishly let her read a short story I had written. I was fifteen.

I put that short story away and didn’t look at it again for many years, but those words echoed in my brain for a long time whenever I was writing and I’d feel that same squeezing pain in my heart and wonder if I could ever be good enough.

I continued to write back then though, but my readers consisted only of my close friends, who I knew would love my stories, because they usually had the leading roles.

Of course I finally grew up and would write sometimes, but with a husband, three growing daughters, a full time job as a short order cook and livestock and gardening, I didn’t have much time or energy for much writing. But as the saying goes, “Nothing ever stays the same”.

Our daughters grew up too and finally moved out of the house. I still work full time, but now I work in an office that allows me to use my free time for whatever I want. We no longer have livestock, but we do still garden. I just don’t freeze and “can” produce as much as I used to.

By the time 2008 rolled around, we had six grandkids and I began thinking about writing a story for the two oldest granddaughters. They both loved to read, but then while reading a storybook to two of my grandsons, I suddenly saw something in my grandkids I hadn’t seen in anyone in many years; a safe audience. I could count on them to like what I wrote and not criticize.

I pulled out my old stories. I hadn’t read any of them in years and now I could see how lame they were. As for the story I had my sister read, well it wasn’t the gem I had thought it was all those years ago. My reaction wasn’t even as nice as what my sister had said to me. I didn’t know why I felt that way. I just knew they sucked and I needed help.

I decided right then, I had to write a story all the grandkids would love, starring the feral mother of five new kittens we found in the woodpile a few weeks before. I already thought of a title, “Wild and Free”.

But first, I had to take a writing class and boy did it open my eyes. I had the answer to why my sister thought I had no imagination and why I knew all the stories I had written as a kid sucked.

I had made the same mistakes almost all new writers make. I used a lot of dreams and the protagonist’s memories to fill in back story I felt my readers needed to know. But in the story my sister read, I had made the biggest mistake of all, I had my protagonist wake up and realize the entire story had only been a nightmare.

At the time, I thought it was clever and original and maybe it was when the first few hundred writers used a dream to end their stories back when they first invented the alphabet, but even in 1965, an ending like that was pretty lame.

All the new knowledge about “how” to write led me on a new mission. I wanted to fix the mistakes I had made in that short story my sister read. I worked on it for over two years. The story grew from a short story, to a young adult paranormal/mystery novel. The story changed so much it doesn’t resemble the original at all. The title, “Nightmares” and the fact my protagonist has nightmares are the only things I didn’t change. In fact I can guarantee Emily the protagonist, will not wake up and find she’s only had a nightmare.

Muse It Up Publishing will release my book “Nightmares” in May 2013. I’ve started working on the sequel.

I look back now and realize, even though it hurt, my sister did me a huge favor by telling me what she really thought. It was something I needed to hear. It’s true she could have done it in a kinder way. I’m still grateful though because it turned out to be the worst and the best critique ever for me. It sparked the motivation to take those writing classes forty-six years later just so I could finally prove her wrong and write a great story for my grandkids.

 

 My grandkids benefited too. In the picture above, all six of them received the story “Wild and Free” for Christmas that year. It has pictures of the real animals the story is about and there are pictures of them in it too. They loved it or at least that’s what they said. Now I have two more grandkids. I guess it’s time for a new story for them.How about you, what was the best and/or worst thing someone has said about your writing?As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address, I’ll visit and comment. If you’d rather be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I will like, be friends, follow, or Tweet.

My facebook author page is: http://www.facebook.com/donnajeanmcdunn

My facebook profile page is http://www.facebook.com/mcdunndonnajean

Twitter is http://www.linkedin.com/pub/donna-mcdunn/42/819/423

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.

It’s The Little Things That Matter The Most

Our lives jumbled together promises that we’ll both live forever in our daughters and grandchildren’s hearts.

It’s The Little Things That Matter The Most
By Author Donna Jean McDunn

Tomorrow is our 42nd wedding anniversary. Yep, that’s right, forty-two years of wedded…life. Were you perhaps expecting I would say “bliss”?

Marriage isn’t all happiness and flowers and I would never describe it as blissful. Marriage is work, more work than any teenager could ever have imagined. The only thing harder is “raising teenagers”, but of course we didn’t know that, not then anyway. We were two teenagers in love and didn’t know or care how hard life would get.

It didn’t matter to us that Pat had just received his draft notice and he would be leaving in three weeks. It didn’t matter that I would be left alone for the better part of two years worrying that he might have to go to Viet Nam and maybe never come back. We had a friend who died over there. He’d only been there a few months.

But we were lucky, Pat never left the States, and I went with him whenever I could. I’d never been away from our small town or my family and we had no idea how homesick we, okay I, would become and how quick our lives would change. Our first baby girl was born a year later in August of 1971, but within the next six years there would be two more. We had to grow up fast.

Aren’t they beautiful?They are all grown up now.  Where did the days go?

There were so many ups and downs in our marriage just as there are in every marriage. The birth of our three daughters was the ups, but the bills that accompanied each one were the downs. According to statistics the hardest thing on a marriage is money or I should say the lack of money.

We had plenty of that all right, the lack of money that is, but over the years it has gotten better. However, until our daughters finally graduated and stopped moving back home every few months, it seemed impossible to see ourselves ever living debt free. Then miraculously we paid off our credit cards and in four years our house will really belong to us instead of to the bank.

Looking back over the years, I can honestly say, money never played a role in making or breaking our marriage. For me, it was the little things that most often threatened our life together. A careless comment or the lack of an encouraging comment at an appropriate time, were for me the hardest things to ignore and forget. I’m not saying I never made the same mistakes. I’m sure I did, I’m human too, but if our marriage was doomed to fail and I was the one to call it quits, those comments or lack of, would have been the reason.

It still is.

I don’t know if anyone else feels the same as I do, but I need to know I am appreciated and loved and I shouldn’t have to ask if it’s true. Without those two things, I wouldn’t have a reason to stay, not even for my daughters. In the long haul of things, Pat has always managed to come through and give me what I needed.

Have I done the same for him? I’d like to think so, but to be honest, I’ve never asked him if he has ever wanted to leave our marriage and I don’t want to know now if he ever did. There are some things better left unsaid, even in a marriage or maybe especially in a marriage and maybe that’s why it’s worked for us for forty-two years.

Our eight grandchildren are now what holds us together as a family and for them we would both walk through fire, just the same as we did when our daughters lived at home. I just hope the grandkids never ask us to co-sign a loan, because that will never happen. We had to learn the hard way: Fire can be put out with water, but a co-sign could last forever, especially at our age.

These guys are why grandma and grandpa stay young at heart

As always, I appreciate your opinions or questions. Please, leave a comment. If you leave your blog or website address or where you can be found on Facebook or Twitter I will follow you, leave a comment, like, or Tweet in return.

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.

My Young Adult short story “Trapped” was recently chosen as one of nine winners in The Young Adult Mystery Times Nine 2012 Short Story Competition. The list of winning authors and their story titles may be viewed at:
(13) Buddhapuss Ink LLC   Click on “see more” to view the entire list. The winning stories will be published together sometime in September or October. I will update you then.

My first adult short story, “Saving Katie” has been published at: http://www.thepinkchameleon.com. Once on the site, scroll down the page until you see Short Stories. Click on that and the list of short stories will appear. Find “Saving Katie”.

Some of my work can be found online: My children’s story “Pack Leader” can be found at: http://www.knowonder.com.

I also have a children’s story, “The Golden Stallion” online at: http://www.storiesthatlift.com. Once on the site click on the Story Library and then Children’s Stories.

In May 2012, my children’s story, “Gus’ Big Adventure” was published at: Bumples Magazine. http://www.bumples.com/