Monday, December 29, 2014

The Family Prankster - Me!

This is a story that was published a few years ago in Not Your Mother’s Book – On Being a Stupid Kid. I thought you might enjoy reading it in this lull between holidays. It’s a bit longer than what I usually post, but I think you’ll enjoy learning about what a rotten kid I was way back in the day. I had a rather rowdy, antic filled childhood. Maybe you can relate?

Stalking the Sitter
Or How I Scared the Poop Out of My Sister
By Susan Sundwall

I don’t remember what I had going on that night, but when I got home Mom informed me that my sister, Shari, had taken a babysitting job that was ordinarily mine. In a family of seven kids money for extras was scarce so those sitting jobs were a nice little income stream for me, and I grumped about it as I headed for my room. I opened my dresser drawer and took out the envelope – the one that was full of my babysitting money. Well, maybe not full, but the seven dollars inside represented a goodly number of hours especially at fifty cents per. I hoarded every greenback in those days but tonight, thanks to Shari, there wouldn’t be any greenbacks to stash.

I was always the prankster in the family and as I tucked my money away, I thought of her, watching a little girl and her brother only two doors down. We lived in Southern California, in a development with a cul de sac. I babysat for about half of our immediate neighbors and others on streets one and two over. Well, the demon of pranking came and hopped onto my shoulder and the brilliance of the plan he offered was too much to resist.

What if I put on the stupid vinyl coat Mom had talked me into buying (it went down to my ankles and was hotter than an Anaheim pepper to wear) and grabbed one of Dad’s old hats from the hall closet? What if I slithered out of the house and slunk through the two yards between our house and where Shari was babysitting? I knew the property front and back. I knew the latch on that side gate had no lock. Wouldn’t it be hilarious to creep through the gate and knock on the back door, address her in a deep scary voice and die laughing when she nearly passed out from fright? I sincerely hoped she’d shriek and wet her pants.

I had to wait until everyone else in the house was busy before I could successfully launch my plan. The younger kids were glued to the television, Mom was in her bedroom, and Dad was in the garage. When it seemed safe I grabbed the coat and hat and managed to get out of the house un-detected. I quickly made my way across two lawns sincerely hoping no nosy neighbors were outside at that hour. My heart was hammering as I put on the hat and coat. I got to the gate, slipped through and stood at the back door. I knocked.

At first nothing happened. The back door was off the laundry room and I could see light from the living room just beyond the washing machine. I figured Shari was in there on the sofa watching television. The kids were probably already sound asleep. I knocked again, louder, and then saw her head pop round the corner into the dark laundry room.

“Who’s there?” she asked tentatively.

 “Is Sharon here?” I said gruffly.

“What?” she said, still with only her head showing. Her eyes were huge!

“Is Sharon here?” I asked, a little louder.

“Who is it?” she asked in a shaky voice, gripping the wall. “What do you want?” Her terror was on the rise and my mirth overflowed.

That’s when I lost it. I whipped off Dad’s hat and started laughing. “Did I scare you?” I gasped. I knew I had, but when she recognized my voice she charged through the laundry room shaking with rage. I got the prank gene and she got the rage gene – I should have remembered that!

“You creep!” she yelled, whipping on the back porch light. “You scared me to death. I didn’t know who you were!”

Which was the point, I thought. But the wrath in her voice was palpable and what she said next wiped the joy off my face.

“I’m telling Mom! She’s gonna kill you!”

Now mind you, I’d sat at the sibling negotiating table many a time. This was the place where you brought your arsenal of held back knowledge – knowledge of sister wrongdoings with which to make life saving deals. And now I had to bring out the big guns. Creeping around late at night in dark clothing and scaring the poop out of your younger sister was a mobster worthy prank.

“If you do, I’ll tell about you and Wendy smoking out behind the Seven 11,” I shot back. Wendy was our next youngest sister.

“Oh, yeah? I saw you sneak out with that Roger guy the other night! You were kissing him in the alley!”

Man, things were getting dicey here. I’d have to be a bit more cautious with my sneaking and pranking from now on. We traded volleys for a while and I finally decided the only thing I could do was apologize. So I did. By that time Shari had settled down, the kids hadn’t awakened during our little go round, and I skedaddled for home. No nosy neighbors saw me darting back over the lawns, for which I was grateful.

The next morning Shari and I eyeballed each other across the breakfast table. Each knew what the other was thinking. I felt I had the upper hand with the smoking thing on her. And I was pretty sure she was going to investigate any mob connections I might have.

 As it turns out the shenanigans of that evening went down in the family annuls as a classic tale – a “Sue story,” if you will. We’ve regaled each other and the family with it at various gatherings over the years and now our children and soon our grandchildren will get to hear that story along with so many others in our respective arsenals.  

And you probably already know this, especially if you’ve ever been accosted by the demon of pranking yourself, a good prank is something that just keeps on giving.

Image: sattva                                                     Free Digital Photos 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Taking a Week Off

I’ll be breaking for Christmas. Just a week or so. I’m cooking and cleaning for 19 this year and the day Looms. So, off I go to begin the glorious rush to be ready. Here’s a repeat I thought you might enjoy – if you have time. Busy, busy. Right?

Last night I let myself listen to a few Christmas songs. My very, very favorites are by John Rutter. Exquisite music and lyrics that set an idyllic mood for the coming season – and all about the birth of Christ. One that I listened to, Mary’s Lullaby, brought tears to my eyes for it’s tender reference to a mother’s love for her little one.

When each grandchild is about three, I set them on the counter in the kitchen and shake my finger in their little faces, scowling (but not for real).

“Now, I want you to make Grandma a promise.”

This gets me a grin and maybe a giggle. They can’t imagine what that promise could be.

“I want you to promise me you’ll stop growing.” Hands on my hips I wait for the answer, the one I always get.

“Grandma! I can’t do that!”

“I know,” I whisper and hug them fiercely and kiss their noses. I lift them back down to the floor and  give them a cookie. I pat their little rear ends and tell them to go watch Dora. I think they understand how much I love them and how silly my request is, but they don’t know the whole of it.

The Rutter song puts me in mind of the times when I was a new mother. I can completely relate to the longing Mary must have had when she rocked our Jesus. Her world was not so wonderful. The trip to Bethlehem was fraught with danger – nine months pregnant on a donkey – come on! Besides being worried sick about the impending birth in a stinky stable, she knew what a few short years would bring for her precious child. Her desire to keep him small, and safe and unaware of the perils of living in this earthly realm was so real.  

I listen to the words of the tune. . .  lullaby, sing lullaby, my own dear child, my son . .  I have a vision of my own mother rocking me and her other  children – all nine of us. One by one, on her shoulder, stroking our silken hair and not wanting us to leave the protection of her arms. I wonder if, when my brother, David, forty years later, died in an old van in a dark lonely parking lot, she remembered the tender days when she stroked his pudgy cheek humming to him as he drifted off to sleep. Did her heart break at the thought of it? Could she think of it at all?

These are the things I think of when I ask my grandchildren to stop growing.

They won’t, of course. They’ll grow and leave and live and die.  Life will batter and change  them and the very few years of their real innocence will be woefully short.

But I won’t bother my little angels with the details of the promise I try to extract from them – for  now.  I won’t share the fears that haunt my vision of the more ugly things the world will throw their way. And I’ll wait a few  years yet to tell them what that world did to the baby who grew out of Mary’s arms and into the mess he loved enough to come down and save.

I’m going to make Christmas wait a bit, too. Last night was just a peek and that’s good enough for now.  

Merry Christmas faithful readers! God bless.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We're Only Human

This morning I sat with my coffee and watched a segment on CNN about those exposed emails  sent by some movie execs that dissed a few high powered Washington types. The young women expounding on the situation directly emphasized that each person around the table had probably sent emails that would put them in a bad light. “Because after all,” she said, “we’re only human.”

Right now I’ve got a campaign building in my mind about what “only human” could mean. And I say could because the phrase currently seems to only mean “the bad and stupid stuff we all do.”


Why don’t you visit to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church this coming Saturday and watch the local Elks Lodge pack up hundreds of boxes of food and gifts for the needy? And volunteers will have them cheerfully on the doorsteps of those needy the same day. 

How about you put a couple of dollars in a Red Kettle the next time you see a bundled up servant ringing the bell and smiling as you tuck them into the pot? Look that human in the eye and smile back. He’s down in the trenches fighting the good fight.

And suppose your sister decides to invite her cranky neighbor for Christmas dinner and also has a gift for the old man and his almost blind dachshund because his children are out of state and won’t be stopping by for the holidays. Pretty cool, huh?

It’s a good thing to be human.  Our cat sure wishes she was.  Why, she could march right over to the shelf where I keep her food and decide for herself if “ocean whitefish” is what she’d like for supper. Or think about R2 D2. Don’t you think he’d like to have two eyes like a human instead of that dumb single black circle smack in the middle of his face? Okay, if you love Star Wars you might not think so. I apologize for getting carried away with awesome examples.

But think about this. How could we really celebrate Christmas if it weren’t for the birth of a human baby so long ago in an obscure little town hardly anyone had heard of until He was born there? He did some good stuff when He grew up. Right?

I’ll leave that for you to figure out, but I would really, really like you to think about joining me in my campaign on behalf of humans everywhere. Don’t you think the meaning of the phrase “only human” should include all the “good stuff we do”, too?

Feel free to confess your humanness in a good light right here in comments.

I’m looking forward to It.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Santa Poem

Years ago I wrote this poem for some children’s magazine or maybe Ideals. Never sold it, but I still kind of like it. Whatever we tell our kids about Santa in a real sense he’s real. There’s a ‘real’ story of Santa and we have St. Nicholas who was a real person. The man in the red suit is a ‘real’ part of our culture and all the images of him are ‘real’. Images in the form of illustrations, photos, cover art, etc. And boy, he’s had a ‘real’ impact on the economy, right? That’s the way I put a spin on the Santa question when my children became skeptical. They took it well. I left out the part about the economy.

Anyway, here’s my short poem. I’m off to shop with Karen today. I hope you are having a jolly season - so far. 

Santa Knows
By Susan Sundwall

Santa knows all about naughty and nice
He knows about chimneys, sugar and spice

He knows about cookies left on the table
He knows about babies born in a stable

He knows all the children are snug in their beds
He knows all the dreams going round in their heads

He knows when he comes with his presents tonight
He’s spreading the joy of this season so bright

Image: digitalart                                 Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cookies - A Symbol of Wealth

When dad first moved our family to California we lived in a rented house. Mom was pregnant with our brother Jim and we were as poor as dirt – whoever he is. Dad was a salesman , the door to door kind, and it was always dicey as to what we’d have for supper.

Anyway . . .

Down the street lived a family who had kids our age and we played with them all the time. One afternoon Pete and his sister Sandy came to our end of the street with a handful of peanut butter cookies – each. My sisters and I were gob smacked (like we’d been hit in the kisser). Let me repeat – Pete and Sandy EACH had a handful of cookies. In our house we got one apiece. If Mom made cookies at all. We also had to split our packs of Twinkies and break our popsicles in half to share. I could barely wrap my eight-year-old mind around the concept of more than one.

I think that’s when cookies began to loom large in my mind as a symbol of wealth and abundance. Why am I mentioning this now? Because it’s cookie baking time. Right after Thanksgiving the Baking Bug comes knocking and I’ve made a ritual of the process of getting the baking done in time for platters and tins and general munching.

I grab my Christmas CD’s or turn on the All-Christmas-All-The-Time radio station, put out my cooling racks, fire up the oven and I’m off. Sometimes it’s cold and snowy out and then I’m in Heaven. And here’s what I bake.

Sugar cookies – From a recipe in an old BHG cookbook that I’ve had for 40+ years. I know, you didn’t think I was even that old yet, right? I freeze these without frosting so the grandkids can help me do that on our special cookie day which, this year, was last Sunday.

Jam Thumbprints – Same old cookbook and I fill them with homemade jam. After I bake them. The jam flavor is more intense that way. Hubby’s faves.

Lemon Meltaways – These are tiny cookies that melt in your mouth while the tart lemon butter frosting is making your tongue seize up. Mwwwwaaaa! So good.

Choco Caramel Delights – These babies are like mini candy bars. Chocolate cookie, dipped in crushed walnuts, baked, cooled then filled with caramel and drizzled with melted semi sweet chocolate. My family will not let me not make these. Labor intensive but decadent and so worth it.

There are others I’ve tried, but these are the ones of myth and legend. And if you come to my house while I’m in the midst of all this wonderfulness, you may certainly have more than one. You can thank Pete and Sandy for that.

Enjoy your traditions this season which I hope God blesses with love and abundance.  

Image: Mr. GC                               Free Digital Photos

Monday, December 8, 2014

Repeating Myself

Wrote this one a couple of years ago. Hope you enjoy – again. Happy Monday!

Yesterday I had to mail a small package from the post office. There was one person ahead of me at the counter whom the postal worker obviously knew. It’s like that in our small town. I wasn’t paying too much attention to their friendly conversation until the postal worker, a woman, mentioned that she’d turned fifty this year. Boy, you could have fooled me. She looked good, tanned, painted nails, a cheerful attitude.

It got me thinking about aging – something we all do every day. A newborn on day two of his life is twice as old as he was the day before. Talk about aging! Whereas I’m only twice as old as someone who is thirty two. Dancing numbers around is fun and sometimes helps to put things in perspective. To my grandchildren I look old, I guess. But if I hadn’t aged how would they recognize me? Could I still look twenty five and be Grandma to them? I don’t think so.

The fertile ground of a writer’s imagination is seeded with thoughts like this. Working around in my little gray cells came the idea of cross generational ties. Is there some great divide that cannot be crossed so that say, a teenager, could never appreciate anything an octogenarian might offer? Can a twenty year old ever come to the aid of someone who’s fifty? Aren’t we all just human beings at different stages of life with something to give in any of those stages? We should dismiss the idea of a great divide and take wisdom, wit, charm and grace wherever we find it.

That’s why I’ve given one of my favorite ladies, Minnie Markwood, young sidekicks. I am a bit weary of the over-emphasis on things Baby Boomer and all the baggage that comes with it. Yeah, yeah, a lot of us were born in the twenty years following WWII. So what. You’ve gotta be born sometime. Minnie is a child of the those years, but Rashawna and Joel are Right Now kids and trying just as hard to make it in this world as Minnie ever did.

So they band together, giving and taking from each other, and solving a long standing crime while they’re at it. With wisdom, wit, charm, grace and a whole lotta scary. I’m so hoping this particular formula will hit a sympathetic note with my readers – no matter their ages.

When it was my turn at the post office counter, I shared some stories of turning fifty with the nice postal lady. I told her I began writing at that age and her eyes popped wide. “Really? That’s great.” Then I told her about my mystery coming out in November and that my launch would be right in Kinderhook. And she said, “Oh, you’ll have to let us know about it!”

“I’ll send you a flyer,” I said.

And I will.  

PS: That postal worker has moved on and I never got to tell her about book #2. But I’ll bet she still looks great! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Trivia Quiz

Haven’t done one of these in a while. But it’s good to get the old brain in gear especially if you’re facing an ordeal for the upcoming weekend. Shopping, tree trimming, babysitting – all that fun stuff. See how many you get right. Just remember - if you peek at the answers - you're cheating. And guess who's watching? Your mom (not Santa - he's really busy). 

1.    What recording artist sang Jingle Bell Rock?
2.    According to the hit song, what’s always #1 on Alvin the Chipmunk’s Christmas list?
3.    In the poem, The Night Before Christmas, how many times is Santa’s name mentioned?
4.    In Switzerland what do they call Santa’s wife  a) Gerda  b)Tanta Kringle  c) Lucy d) Frau Kristenklinger
5.    Why does Scrooge love Rudolph the red nosed reindeer?


1.    Jimmy Helm (Surprise! – yeah, I didn’t know this one either, but I love the song)
2.    He just wants a hula hoop and can hardly stand to wait.
3.    Zero – I’ll bet you knew that one.
4.    C  I know! Right?
5.    Because every buck was dear to him. Groooaannnn.

That’s all I have time for today. I’ve got to shop, pay bills, work on book #3 and bake gingersnaps. Hope you had fun with these!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Synopsis or Two

Every writer has a few dozen things they’ve written that truly stink. Or sort of stink or were abandoned by the muse and that writer moves on. I have a hard drive full of such pieces and I thought you might get a chuckle out of knowing what a few of them are (were).

Cracker Jack Summer – My very first effort at a YA (young adult) novel. Based loosely on a real situation my great grandfather found himself in, the story is about a young boy who sets out to clear his father’s name when he’s accused of stealing the company payroll. It takes place at the time of the 1893 World’s Fair on the shores of Lake Michigan where the first Ferris Wheel was presented to the public. That sucker held 2,000 people and the ride lasted ten full minutes. Amazing. Anyway, I did a lot of research for the thing but at 13K words my muse waved bye bye and I never went back.  Plus, my sister Shari hated the name of my protagonist – Grady. Bummer. 

The Campaign – This is a romance. My leading lady, Sandra, is a widow and she re-connects with an old flame from high school at a gubernatorial (dumb word) fund raiser. Trouble is, Brad – the guy, is way too impulsively-aggressively-charming ( a new syndrome just uncovered by the American Psychiatric Association) for her. But can Sandra forgive his IACS, as its now known, and learn to love again? Can she and Brad overcome syndrome-itis? My hand draped over my forehead and I’m biting my lower lip which is trembling while I wonder. I’m sure yours is, too.

A Hymn for Thomas – A mystery I began to write at the behest of an editor, but was subsequently rejected. It was for the Annie’s Attic mystery series, written by several authors. Annie moves to Maine to live in the house she inherits from her Grandmother and encounters mystery after mystery in the chuck full of good stuff attic. In my book Annie would discover an old box tucked into a far corner with clues to a child’s grave that's out in the woods somewhere. Things get all tangled up when her boot scootin’ relative, Killeen, arrives from Texas to help out. Yeah, I know there’s a town named Killeen in Texas. Sometimes my imagination just packs up her best dress and goes south on me - the tramp. 

Okay, boring, right? Well not as boring as all those cookies you have to bake, the gifts you have to hunt down for people who don’t need anything, and that wintry mix the weatherman is predicting for the weekend. Have I nailed it?

It’s my job to distract you from your real life with bits of mine. Hope you don’t mind. Have a great day!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why We Decorate

 Whew – another Christmas season is upon us and even before the ax was laid to the necks of millions of American turkeys in honor of Thanksgiving, many were contemplating the day after thinking, “where shall I hang that big wreath Aunt Joe gave us last year?” Sure, we fight those urges, but it’s there lurking just beyond the cranberry sauce and burned crescent rolls. So why do we do it?

I have a theory.

Our celebrations are seasonal, right? And what’s outside we want to bring inside to remind us of whatever it is we’re celebrating. You know, reliable reminders that don’t . . . melt.

You can’t bring a snow snowman inside (unless you’re uber rich and have a dedicated room), so you find them fashioned from fabric, wood, ceramic or made out of cotton balls by your kindergartner. They lend such a festive air. My friend Karen has more snowmen / women than anyone I know and she has several dedicated rooms. It takes about a week to look at them all. Imagine if they were made of real snow. That little graph running along the baseboard in that flood insurance commercial would be off the charts at Karen’s should she happen to crank up the furnace one day.   

And then there are woodland creatures like, oh, bears. I have lots of those. Stuffed or of ceramic or “composite” - whatever that is. I have them all tricked out for Christmas, 4th of July and maybe a few other celebrations I can’t remember right now. That’s one of the Christmas ones in the picture up there. Representations of this particular critter are far preferable to the real deal for indoor use. Imagine the poop duty for a minute and you’ll probably agree. Feeding can also be a problem (and related to poop duty). Give me composite any day!

We want to pluck the stars from the heavens, too, and plop them on top of our Christmas trees. But a recent report from NASA states that even the smallest star weighs about 80K. Even the tree wiring champion of 2011 ( who was hired by the Obama’s in 2010 and subsequently received a star shaped medal) couldn’t get one of those babies to balance. And the Star of Bethlehem hasn’t been seen in centuries so we have to imagine it in aluminum foil. Those kindergartners again. 

But we can’t stop decorating, can we? I confess, I’m addicted. It helps to move our lives along in a delightful way. It causes curiosity in the very young and brings back memories of our youth. I’m 100% in the corner of all those who decorate to celebrate. Just don’t think I’m ever going to approve of twelve reindeer and a fat guy in a red suit crash landing on my roof. Even if he’s got a red BMW in his bag just for me.

This year I hope you decorate with Abandon, whoever he is. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Joyful Thankfullness

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving and the prayers that go up will contain thanks for things like:

Families and loved ones
Safe travel
A blessing on the hands that made this meal
God’s bounty

Yeah, yeah. All that and more. But think about the times in your life when your thanks for something was so profound it brought tears to your eyes. Or the relief that came at a pivotal moment pulled ecstatic joy from deep inside and the Hallelujah Chorus rang in your head. That’s what I’m talking about.

Some examples.

The rent, which has tripled since your small business moved into this big building, is due. You have a few hundred dollars and a few moths in the bank account and that’s it.

Your child rolls out of the car and hits the pavement as you take a corner onto the highway. Everything in your world stops.

Your husband has served almost a year in Vietnam and writes to you every day. Until he doesn’t for almost a week.

Where do you go for help when the extremes of life sit on your shoulder like a hobgoblin? When your mind is frantic and you snap at everyone and everything because you’re so afraid of the next breath? The last thing you think about is thanking God for the situation. 

But along with that fear and dread and feelings of helplessness come the prayers of a lifetime. The real ones. From the deepest part of you that you didn’t even know existed. Intense and unspoken because in your gut you don’t think you deserve a good answer.

Then . . .

A check for three thousand dollars came just in time to pay the rent.

We got to the hospital and into the hands of good doctors within ten minutes.

My husband was unable to sit and write his daily letter because he was on his way home. He called from inside the United States, “Can  you come and get me?”

Go – examine  your life. Remember the times of unbounded grace when joy and thankfulness sang in your heart and split the heavens.

Celebrate a true Thanksgiving. And do ask a blessing on the cooks. They’ll need it.

PS: I'll be back next week and I hope you will, too. 

Happy, Blessed, Joyful Thanksgiving

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

When They're Far Away

Several years ago, when Mom was still alive, I asked her about something I’d always wanted to know. How hard was it for her to leave Minnesota? Back in 1956 things were tough out there on the prairie. We didn’t live in Lake Woebegon where all things seemed to work out at the end of Garrison Keillor's stories. No, we lived in a very small town where there was always lots of snow in the winter and mosquitoes in the summer, and not much money in the teapot on the counter. But it was home.

And then we left.

Dad packed up his whole family and took us out west to California. As a kid it was very exciting (and only scary when I had to start school). But I never thought about how it affected Mom until I was an adult and left California to live in New York.

“It was the hardest thing,” she said. “I cried a lot.” She told  me she even gave a big hug to one of her relatives whom she didn’t like. I have no idea who it was, but she was in such a state at the time that she did it anyway. I felt her gut wrench.

History repeated itself when one of our three sons left New York and moved to Washington State. It never gets easier no matter who is leaving, but I held it together as I waved goodbye to my first grandchild, only two, as they stepped into the airport fifteen years ago and flew away. That gut wrench again.

But think about how blessed we are.

No one likes to be separated from the ones they love best. But I’m so grateful that I can write, call, email or Skype these days. We can almost over-communicate. A few summers ago I even did some Skype babysitting for our (now) two granddaughters on the west coast. I sat in front of the computer while the oldest made grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We were experimenting and it was great fun. Another time I challenged her little sister to draw as many kinds of hats as she could. I jabbered and she drew. She sent them to me afterwards and now I have a new piece of refrigerator art.

All this is to say – if you have loved ones or maybe someone you’re trying to love better or even someone you’ve had a fight with – take advantage of all there is out there and stay in touch. 

Your life will only be better for it.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Very First Story - Written Down

Have you ever played that game where you’re sitting in a circle and have a sentence whispered into your ear and then you must whisper it to the person beside you until it comes full circle? Sure you have. It’s a kids game. The fun of it is seeing if the original words make it all the way around the circle. Usually they don’t and the results can be quite funny.

So imagine this. You’re a cave dweller at the dawn of the age. It’s winter and time for a chat around the fire. Everyone is hoping Tunk is up to telling one of his fantastic hunting stories. And he is, but it’s one you’ve all heard before. So it’s kind of boring. Fellow cave dwellers begin to scratch their fleas and pick each other’s noses. Tunk gets really annoyed. He stands up and grabs his club.

“Tunk never tell story again!” And off he goes to kill a mastodon for next Friday’s supper just in case everyone is sick of the (increasingly pungent) pterodactyl stew from Sunday.

This is extremely unsettling. Nobody knows what to do until little Org pipes up. "We should endeavor to write down this story or it will be lost to future generations.”

Everyone is stunned at little Org’s sentence structure and use of proper grammar. He might even be responsible for the first use of the word ‘story.’ Time will tell.


Org runs off to his corner of the cave and grabs some birch bark, a sharpened stick, and a jar of bat’s blood. (NO – I don’t’ know where he got the jar). He heads back to the fire and starts pumping for information. What did they all remember about the story? Whispering is heard around the glowing embers. Org is excited. But then squabbling breaks out. Okay – what could they all agree on? “Please tell me," pleads Org while wringing his hairy hands. But there’s no agreement anywhere it seems.

Then Granny, at the advanced age of 26, pipes up. “Back in my day . . .” A collective groan goes up and someone spits into the fire. Org is beginning to think this collective story writing gig is overrated. So he thanks them all, takes his bark, his stick, and his bat blood in a jar and hustles back to his corner to figure it out for himself.

The next day he brings his story, “Ten Ways to Trick a Mastodon”, to the fire. Everyone agrees that he got it down pretty good, even Tunk who had come back in the night with a new fur coat.

Don’t even ask. That’s the second written down story and involves nudity.

By the following spring Org had made six copies of "Trick" as it was now called and sold them for twenty clams a pop to Gary, the leader of the next cave over. Org's work became wildly popular and he eventually employed others. So, not only did he write down the very first story, but we can also thank him for founding the very first Org-anization.

Stop groaning.

Image: AKARAKINGDOMS                                   Free Digital Photos

Friday, November 14, 2014

Soccer - Gotta Love It

It must be tough, I thought, to sit on the sidelines and watch your two older brothers sparring on the soccer field. Out there with their buds defending the reputation of the Crane team. Dad and Poppy on the sidelines making sure you don’t get into trouble. But then there was . . . the monkey.

Julius had come along to keep him company and I could tell it was a love match. From the second step on the three tiered bleachers Julius got flung again and again. Soccer game? What soccer game? When you’re not yet two it’s hard to imagine anything more fun than monkey flinging. And it never got old. Over and over the beloved stuffed animal took to the air.

As I sat on the third step I was peeped at through scrunchy little eyes and his grin was impossibly cute. “Go get him,” I whispered. And he would. Julius was rescued from the narrow bit of Astroturf that dad had allowed as a play area. Then it was back to the second step and off Julius would go. Whee . . . “Oh, no.” That’s what he said each time. Then he’d look at me and wait.

It was hard to give the soccer game my full attention with this little boy and his monkey for a distraction. He was being so good and entertaining himself superbly. I was enchanted. It made me realize how much time had passed since Sam was that small. Now Sam is Number 8 on a rocking soccer team that won both of its games last night. A boy taking the direct route to manhood. I sighed inside – a deep grandma sigh.

Towards the end of the game little Ryan must have realized there was a need for his input. His brother was being called upon to “Shoot!” and needed to hear “Go!” from the sidelines. Guess who yelled that out? With his head back and a little hop at the end. Doing his part in the clinches. Go team!

And here in a nutshell is what I know about men. Little boys, not yet two, grandsons out on the field, dads pacing as the soccer ball flies, and grandpas beaming with pride. This is what unites them, I think, more than anything. This contest. This mission to win. This common love through the generations of all things sporting. It satisfies a deep need, one that’s sometimes hard for members of the fair sex to understand. But it’s a universal intense form of bonding that I’ve observed for decades and I have to say . . .

I completely approve.

Image: sattva                              Free Digital Photos

Monday, November 10, 2014

Who You Take With You

When I stand at my dresser in front of my  open jewelry box every morning there’s a brief moment or two when I must decide what reminder to take with me that day. Shall it be the small gold cross that my husband gave me when our youngest son was born? Or perhaps the bracelet my best bud Karen gave me? It’s a magnetic shimmering little bit of a thing and it’s supposed to help if you have arthritis. Which I do and it’s most pronounced in my wrists.

Ever since I was a teen I’ve loved wearing other people’s things. It could be because we were so poor and hand-me-downs were the order of the day. Mom would get boxes of clothes and shoes from well meaning relatives and we’d plow through them to pull out the gems. And I got it in my head that other people’s belongings were somehow more trendy, expensive, tasteful – whatever – than anything we owned. I remember one dress I wore all the time in high school. It had a paisley pattern in muted colors and the style was only a few  years out of date. Was it an aunt who had given it? I can’t remember but I loved wearing it.

When Mom died back in 2011 my sisters and I took on the duty of cleaning out her apartment. Tough gig. You must touch everything your mother owned. We had to decide which of those things we wanted for our own. I took the picture of the angel. She’d always loved that print and I’d found it in a catalog and sent it to her one year for Christmas. It’s in the room where I’m writing this. Hey, Mom. I also took some scarves – my granddaughters love them – and a denim jacket that is my first choice on a chilly day. Washes up like a dream.

The bulk of my jewelry has been given to me, mostly by other women. I love these women. A dash of brightness in my ears, at my wrist or around my neck reminds me of their friendship. I imagine them standing at a craft fair table or a counter at Kohl’s or our local gift shop. They’re thinking of me and I know how that feels because I do it, too. But they’ve bothered to take the time to consider their choices and find something to please a friend. How cool is that?  

So who shall I take with me today? My daughter-in- law Heather gave me a pair of silver double hoops. Casual, easy to slip in and go with everything. Probably those. I’ll take Heather with me today.

Can you relate?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Around Town

A couple of days a week I run errands around town. I always have my eyes and ears open so I can report back to you. It has nothing to do with national security but quite a bit to do with natural curiosity. For instance.

I was bee bopping along the road, having just come from the post office, when ahead on my right, on the sidewalk, it appeared as though someone had forgotten to take off their Halloween costume. Was this a Mr. Potato Head on steroids? The top part of this costume was brown and crinkly and there were feet attached. It was a real fight to keep the car on the road as I drew near. But the mystery was soon solved. I whipped my head back to see a rather short woman carrying a largish bag of laundry on her head. No hands! Yeesh. Wish I had balance like that.

And then yesterday hubby and I, along with our daughter-in-law, took advantage of the discount offered to veterans at a local store. 25% off. Yay and let’s shop. We went our separate ways to cover all aisles and I wound up in food (bet you’re surprised there, huh?). So I’m discriminating like crazy against all the chocolate covered biscotti, extra large bottles of olive oil, etc. And then I see a little yellow box. Of sugar cubes. Sugar cubes! I picked it up and marveled. When was the last time you saw those? A flash from my childhood came back. In the late 50’s some clinics put the polio vaccine, a pink blob of it, on sugar cubes so kids would take it. Innovative. Mostly the cubes were used for coffee and tea, though. Oh, and sugar cube igloos. Can’t leave that out. Sugar cubes were a craft supply beloved of third grade teachers in those days.

This morning I woke up with the theme from On Golden Pond drumming through my head. Good grief, where had that come from? But suddenly I recalled a trip to DC one year with my sister and her family. We were wandering through a beautiful hotel lobby when we saw the baby grand. Nobody was around and my sister claimed that Laura could play this beautiful piece of music. To prove it she did. Her fingers found all the right keys and it was lovely, just lovely. And no bell hop came to shoo us.

Funny the things that happen on otherwise ordinary days. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t you love it?

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Walton Street Tycoons

Ever heard of it? It’s a book by Jim Lesczynski. That’s a picture of the cover over there. It’s an engaging read that shows us what could happen if kids took the economic reins into their own hands and helped save a town. I’m particularly interested in it because I know the two guys who got the production rights from the author in order to turn it into a movie script. I was called in to do some advising and a bit of editing. Oh – and to be a cheerleader.

In these dodgy times, when finances for so many are the cause of daily anguish, this book and possible movie are timely. More than timely, really, because whoever grabs up this puppy and puts it to the American people will have a big hit on their hands.

So, what’s it about?

Two brothers. Yeah, I know, sisters are more trendy, but hang on. Twelve year old Mark Hoffman and his little brother, Sam, are budding Libertarians. Feisty, non-conformist and very funny.  They defy authority, especially the nonsensical kind, and are not afraid to tackle a tough situation when life is going down the toilet in their small town of Walton, New York. Their mom is dating a man they despise and when her bakery is shut down, Mark and Sam use their righteous feistiness to help her out.

With an ingenuity that screams “get outta my way” they are wildly successful at selling underground baked goods to their school friends. Profit motive is not a bad thing to them. They cook up their tasty treats by stealth and eventually grow beyond their capacity to supply the increasing demand. So they hire help and in the process make some unlikely friends – and likely enemies. You’ll have to read the book to see if they’re caught out or not and how the town eventually fares. I can’t tell you everything.  

This story deserves to be a movie. It has everything. Kids and attitude all over the place. Hilarious chaotic scenes, rascally adults, brotherly love – sort of - and a surprise at the end that could make this adventure a box office sure hit.

We’re testing the waters. The script has been sent out and hopes are high. Congrats on getting this far, Eric and Mike. Thank you Jim for an excellent read. May the Force (the one and only) be with you!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Kitchen Dance

Way back in the last century it was my habit to make breakfast for my husband. It was usually a well thought out affair. Bacon, eggs, waffles, pancakes, sausages, homemade ketchup on the scrambled and strawberry jam for the toast. Okay, that wasn’t all in one meal, but these are the things he loved and so I made them.

Then. . .

One day he fessed up that it was all too much. It gave him bloat to eat such a big breakfast in the morning, frequently causing embarrassing sausage scented explosions in the work place. So I could let that go if I really wanted to.  Hat in hand, so to speak, and puppy dog eyes, he waited for my reaction. On the outside I was gentle and smiled. On the inside there was the Mt. Vesuvius of joy. Yay, yay! A chore had just been eliminated from my always growing list. Bring out the streamers and shoot off the canon – freedom loomed. But I was cool and allowed that, perhaps, he could just see to himself in the wee hours.

But . . .

Another situation arose. You see, I like to eat breakfast, too.  So here’s how that goes. Whoever gets to the kitchen first makes the coffee. He fusses with his orange juice and pill box on the counter and I do-si-do around him to grab a spoon from the drawer. In the pantry doorway we do a fair impression of the Twist as we reach for our favorite cereals and then it’s a waltz back to the counter, each claiming a chunk of it for the prep. I like yogurt in the morning but if he’s heading for the milk I’ll allemande left to grab the fridge door just before he closes it. Then there’s a duck and bob to share the sugar and a two step back to avoid the cat. Before too long the end is in sight. Bowls out, banana cut up, coffee cups filled, we curtsy and promenade to our recliners in front of the a.m. news. Another kitchen dance morning has ended  . . . unless we both head back for second cups of Joe at the same time. 

Whew, it’s enough to make me long for the good old days of waffles, bacon and jam. Well, not quite, but there are days I could do without the Kitchen Dance. Or maybe the first 100 calories of the day are burned off this way. Hmmmm.

I wonder if I could teach the Kitchen Dance to the cat.

Image: Free Digital photos 

Friday, October 31, 2014


When I was a kid Halloween was my second favorite holiday - well - I wouldn't call it a holiday exactly. I believe the ‘holi’ part means holy and the real ‘holy’ day comes the next day, All Saints Day,  making Hallow’een, the eve of all saints. But you know all this. In the spirit of the day, however, I’ve written this little ditty for all the kiddos who will be knocking on doors tonight.

Oh – why was this night one of my faves when I was a kid? Well, we were on the poor-ish side of the economic spectrum and the idea of getting free candy to hoard for the next month was irresistible.   And it gave my siblings and me bargaining chips for future endeavors that might involve trouble with parents, if you get my drift.

So here  ya go . . .  

Halloween Things
By Susan Sundwall

These are the things of Halloween
A ghost, a witch and Frankenstein green

A pumpkin, a bat and a bushy tailed cat
My big brother Tom in his old wizard hat

Knocking on doors all down the street
We fill up our bags with good things to eat

There’s Billy Taylor dressed like a ghost
Without any pillows, he’s fatter than most

We’re lucky we didn’t see Sally Ann Green
They say that she’s really a vampire queen

At last it’s too dark to stay out much later
We drag ourselves home and lay out our treasure

It’s spooky and silly and great gobs of fun
Oh how I hate to see Halloween done 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Busting Dust

This is a repeat I thought worthy of visiting again. You know, just in case some of you are all into Fall cleaning mode and need some inspiration. That's what I'm here for. Glad to be of service.

So I have this new vacuum cleaner. It was on sale at Sears last fall, in my color – white and turquoise – and number of horsepower - four. A nifty little canister job. I read online reviews and they were good, too. Before I could say “here’s my gold card” I had it humming around the house sucking up all kinds of stuff.

As with all my previous vacuums I use it for little tasks one might not think of. Like grabbing up flies – in mid-flight -  and whisking dried leaf and twig bits out of hubby’s shoes. Now, just to the right of where I’m typing this there’s a small file cabinet, almost against the wall. I happened to look between said cabinet a few days ago and reeled back – aghast to see Dust Bunny Village on its way to becoming a boom town. The shame!

“I’ll get you!” I thought and scooted downstairs for my trusty new vacuum. Only the nozzle attachment was too big to reach the village. Dang! So I went for second best- my Swiffer duster. You know the one with the duster part you slide onto the yellow handle? It worked great on the village, but when I took it out it was overloaded – blech! A lot of over-breeding in the village this winter.

I do not know what prompted me to do what I did next. But my trusty dust sucker was right there beside me so I turned it on an applied it gently to the end of the Swiffer.

Sluurrrrppppppppp! In about two seconds the whole duster thingy was a goner.

I quickly shut the vacuum off and popped the top. You guessed it. The duster wasn’t in the bag, it was stuck half way up the hose. Visions of bent coat hangers danced before my eyes. What moron would think she could suck a tiny bit of dust off the duster at end of that wand thingy? Am I four years old or something? Yeesh.

Not to be too hasty about remedies, I decided to give trusty vacuum one more go before I broke out the hanger. So I closed the top, turned the sucker on and within seconds heard the satisfying “thwock” of the duster being pulled into the vacuum bag. It’s still there.

I love my new vacuum. It really sucks.

Image: Free Digital Photos