Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Staircases adventures

Here's this week's Don't make me turn this car around! column appearing in newspapers...

Staircases adventures can create big steps to fun

Got a staircase in your childhood? If so, I’ll bet – like me – you were always just a step away from great adventures.

The neighbor kids and I used to push our Slinkys down Laurel Watkins’ steep steps that led to her basement. Other times, those same stairs became either a badge of courage or sum of all fears when we ran and leapt over the final four. To push five – now, that’s what we called adventure.

The staircase in Sherrie Leffel’s 1940s-era home provided great adventures. “We loved sliding down the banister! Sometimes, when we were called down to dinner, we took two or three turns each,” said Leffel. She and her siblings eventually graduated to climbing over the railing and hanging over the stairs. Until they discovered laundry basket races.

“We ran up, jumped in a basket, scooted on the floor and pushed off,” said Leffel. Their baskets – and laughter – bounced down each step.

“Pretty soon we’d all be going at once. We landed at the bottom in a heap of kids and baskets. When someone started crying, we’d stop until the next time we could sneak it in,” Leffel said, stressing they only raced when Mom was away.

Joy Venton and her sister have great staircase memories. "We were about 5 or 6 years old when we started sliding down the stairway on our blankets. We had so much fun!” said Venton.

Then there’s Val Hix, who counts staircase adventures as “one of my favorite childhood memories,” she said.

Hix and her family took six-week road trips each summer from Covington, La. to her Grandma Moo’s and Grandpa Holly’s old farmhouse in rural Washington.
“My brother, sister and I spent many days with our cousins on the farm. On rainy days we spent the day downstairs. We all loved to bump down the steps and see how fast we could get going, racing two at a time to see who was the fastest,” said Hix.
The challenge was to avoid a brick hearth at the bottom, Hix recalled.
“We bumped for so long that our backsides were sore, bruised and rug-burned. But did that stop us? No way – we just kept going. And we always remembered to shut the door at the top of the stairs, thinking no one had a clue as to what we were really doing!” laughed Hix
Whether sliding down on blankets, baskets, or our bottoms, one thing’s for sure: I’ll bet you were always just a step away from great adventures.
Copyright © 2007 by Judy Halone

Monday, March 26, 2007

Workouts and two writing tips

Started today with a workout at the gym. I usually work out for an hour late in the evening, but today I went really early. It felt great. Did 30 minutes each of cardio and strength-resistance training. Each week seems to get easier. I leave on a natural 'high'.
It's now late evening, and I just returned from another hour workout -- this one with one of my daughters and her best friend. It just feels so good!

Worked on next week's column today. It just wasn't jiving; I realized what I was working on wasn't right for my column's readers. It belongs instead in a business magazine, which I'll pursue. It's important to keep the readership at heart.
But thankfully another column idea started clicking after dinner, so I quickly got it down and saved it. It's simmering, like a good stew, until tomorrow morning . Then I'll read it with fresh eyes while sipping a good strong cup of coffee. And when it feels right for my readers, I'll submit it to the editors.

Here are a couple of writing tips I teach to new writers:

1. No matter how much you love what you've written, let it simmer like a good stew. Allow the thoughts, transitions, and take-aways to blend their fragrances for the readers you have in mind. You will never regret holding on to your finished product while it gathers its aroma.
2. Write the best you can for that moment. When you read it later you'll probably kick yourself and say something like, "How in the world could I have written that? It could have been so much better!" And you're right-- it could have been better. But you know that now because you practiced.

That is the world of being a writer. We are constantly improving. It's important to know that the best writers --even the best actors-- look back at their work and see how they too could have done it better. That's a sign of growth -- that we're always striving for the best.
Whatever you do today, I want to encourage you to do your best. I don't care if it's sending a query letter to a New York editor or cleaning out cracker crumbs from your toddler's car seat. Just do your best, then let it go. And you'll have no regrets.

Copyright (c) 2007 by Judy Halone

Sunday, March 25, 2007


God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change; the courage to change the one I can; and the wisdom to know it's me.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

When a girl becomes a ma'am

I thought I'd start including my weekly newspaper column, Don't make me turn this car around! in my blog. It's so fun to write! Please let me know what you think of it -- I'd love to hear from you! Here is this week's edition...enjoy!

When a girl becomes a ma'am

Okay girls - this one's for us. Because we can handle almost anything, right? From babies screaming in the back seat to winning the missing sock battle.We girls can handle almost anything - except when someone calls us “Ma'am” for the first time.

I'm not talking about our polite friends who practice their Southern hospitality or military courtesy. This is about feeling like we're getting old before we're ready for it. But we can handle almost anything, right?

I thought I could. Until the day a courtesy clerk - cute and in his 20s, by the way - loaded groceries into my trunk while I leaned into the car to buckle up my baby boy.
“Have a nice day, Ma'am.”

I stood straight up and bumped my head.“'Ma'am'? You didn't call me ‘Ma'am', did you? ‘Cuz I'm, like, 23, you know. I'm not...I'm not a ‘Ma'am,'” I stammered.

Poor guy. He'd been hit with a heavy dose of estrogen and all he had to defend himself with was an empty grocery cart.

Elaine Koehn can handle almost anything. She first heard “Ma'am” as a new school teacher.
“There was a young man whose dad was in the military; he'd call me ‘Ma'am',” Koehn said. Koehn took no offense. “I understood - it was appropriate,” she said.

She also knows how to politely correct students who might call her “Sir.”
“I think ('Ma'am') is appropriate, just like if you were to call someone ‘Miss,' ‘Ms' or ‘Mrs.' But a connotation of belligerence? No,” Koehn said.
Jennie Peloli can handle anything. Almost.

To hear ‘Ma'am' means you're getting old! I'll be in a restaurant, and the server might ask, ‘Can I help you, ‘Ma'am?' I don't like that.”

Peloli plays a double-standard.

“Yet when I need to get someone's attention, I might use ‘Ma'am'; but when it's used on me, I don't like it!'” Peloli laughed.

Then there's Rachel Tschabold.

“I was probably in my late 30s or early 40s the first time someone called me ‘Ma'am.' It makes me feel like an old lady,” she chuckled.

Her story doesn't end there. Tschabold related going into stores where clerks behind the counter are more than half her age.

"What's worse is when they call you ‘Honey' - and they're younger than you!” she laughed.

So girls - this one's for us. Because we can handle almost anything, right?

Even when a girl becomes a “Ma'am.”

Judy Halone is a member of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and the National Societyof Newspaper Columnists. Copyright (c) 2007 by Judy Halone

Women's Retreat 2007: Meet me at the well

Grace like rain...

Recently I was honored to speak with two of my dearest author friends to a group of women at a beautiful retreat center on the edges of Lake Tanwax.

What an incredible weekend! These beautiful ladies came from all walks of life, backgrounds, family situations. Together we soaked up friendship's refreshing love.

Pamela Johnson spoke from her heart on following our dreams. She shared several stories, each inter-woven into the next: reaching out to a father's unavailable heart, facing depression, confronting fears, and following dreams. Many tears were shed.

Penelope Fry spoke from her heart on becoming vulnerable in order to reach out to others. She shared several stories and spoke openly about the struggles God allows to come our way. Many tears were shed.

I spoke from my heart on facing our inadequacies -- about difficult incidents in my life that have led me to embrace my Father's love. Many tears were shed.

We had a great time --sitting on the floating pier surrounded by evergreens, willows and late-winter breezes. Craft time. Worship. Shared meals. Laughter -- lots of laughter! Incredible!

I love these precious women we all came to know. They each have such hearts for their families. I can't wait for us to speak again!

"The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-drenched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11