Kittie Howard

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Rings of Trust" Launches Today!

Today is the official launch of "Rings of Trust." Wheeee!

During the formatting process, I joined Publishers' Marketplace and had somewhat of a mini-launch. Blog hits skyrocketed.

Word spread. I sold some books, even got some five-star reviews. *blushes*

However, this remains an unconventional launch. (Previous posts!) I'd appreciate any help you can lend spreading the word. From the heart, thank you!

In "Rings of Trust," fear reigns along a sleepy bayou road in rural South Louisiana in 1953. The Civil Rights Movement has taken root in the consolidated South. Not everyone wants to return to the shadowed past the Ku Klux Klan espouses.

And so it is with David Broussard, a decorated U. S. Marine who's returned home from Iwo Jima to learn he's in combat with the Klan. David Broussard believes he fought for certain principles during World War II and digs in. What follows is a series of twists and turns that takes the reader into a South the tourist rarely, if ever, saw.

"Rings of Trust" is a novella with a hard edge and a redemptive heart. The ending will bring a smile to your face. No, the Klan's not obliterated. But the redemptive heart beats louder and stronger.

"Rings of Trust" is available on Amazon (Kindle Edition) and Smashwords. The word count is 32,080. The price is $2.99. Through January 15, royalties will go to the Wounded Warrior Foundation. Last year, we donated $500.00. "Remy Broussard's Christmas" (see sidebar) didn't sell quite that many books, so we added a bit. This year, we hope to donate more. It's a cause near and dear to my Marine husband's heart and mine.

Note: Rings of Trust contains profanity and violence (but not gory violence). Parental discretion is advised.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cover Reveal: "Rings of Trust"

The day that seemed so far in the future is here, as in, Right Now. I'm very excited to share with you the cover for Rings of Trust, my second novella in the Remy's Bayou Road series. Rachel Morgan (Morgan Media) designed the cover. Rachel does gorgeous work. I'm beyond thrilled!

You may have met Remy Broussard last year in the first novella, Remy Broussard's Christmas. Since this holiday story is on Amazon, Smashwords, and Nook, I don't want to spoil the good cheer, except to say that Remy is also in Rings of Trust, but not as the main character this time. His South Louisiana world along the bayou road has expanded.

Remy's parents, David and Arlette, have a problem: one of the leaders in the Ku Klux Klan doesn't want the Broussard family living across the road from him. Why? David Broussard, a decorated Marine Corps veteran who fought on Iwo Jima, has a mechanic's business he operates out of a shed in his back yard. Some of his customers are black sharecroppers. It's 1953. The Klan doesn't want black people coming to white people's houses except to clean the house or work in the fields. David Broussard doesn't give a damn what the Klan wants. It's not what he fought for on Iwo Jima.

When the story opens, the Klan's lynched Moses Dubois. Rumors spread the Klan's coming after David Broussard next. Since the Klan operates in secrecy, no one knows quite sure whom to trust. But something has to be done to reign in the Klan and stop the violence. The challenge tests David Broussard's idealism and ignites Arlette's sense of self in a rural community where Southern Aristocracy butts heads with noblesse oblige.

* * * * *

In a nod to the reader, the dialogue in Rings of Trust has a modified Cajun accent, but utilizes the fractured English representative of the era when appropriate to the character. Prior to the story, background information is in the "Da Lingua Franka" section, followed by a glossary of Cajun French words used to flavor the story. The "Historical References" section provides very condensed information about historical events referenced in the story.

* * * * *
Rings of Trust contains profanity and violence (but not gory violence). Parental discretion is advised.

* * * * *

Rings of Trust launches next week, probably on Monday. At that time, I will put a button on my sidebar to link to. I'm most appreciative for any help in spreading the word as this is not the usual launch, unfortunately.  Formatting is just about complete. Rachel Morgan, who is getting married on the 16th, has been most gracious as circumstances on my end have held up the process. Rachel, I can't thank you enough. You are truly an angel!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Bit of Dis; A Little bit of Dat

I have a friend from New England who insists she doesn't have an accent. She complains about what's left of the southern drawl in Northern Virginia. A few years ago, we took a chick trip to visit a mutual friend in North Carolina. Traffic was heavy on the Interstate. We decided to meander side rides around the congestion. It was a good call. Beautiful scenery, lots of Americana that warms the heart.

We stopped at a mom and pop diner for lunch. A lovely young lady asked my friend what she'd like to order (from the menu). My friend turned to me. "What did she say?" she asked.

I translated English into English. My friend told the young lady what she'd like. The young lady turned to me, a question mark in her eyes. I translated English into English. Ah, yes, the military's nomadic life hub and I had led had enabled me to become multi-lingual. Of course I still have my southern accent. It's just not as pronounced as it used to be.

When I go home to South Louisiana, I hear the same thing happening there. By 'hear,' I mean the Cajun French accent that was once as thick as drip-ground coffee. The accent's mellower now, sometimes a mere hint of what it used to be--to my ears. Tourists still have a blank look at times before the translation kicks in. As do Louisianians from, say, Shreveport in the state's northwest corner. We're one state divided by a common language, to paraphrase Mr. Winston Churchill.

When French-speaking, Catholic Acadians got booted out of Canada's Maritime provinces in the 1700s for political and religious reasons, about 4,000 settled in 22 of Louisiana's 64 parishes (counties). These 22 parishes are in South Louisiana and comprise the heart of what is commonly referred to as 'Cajun Country.'

Cajun Country is said to encompass the three B's: from Beaumont, Texas, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The best shrimp po'boy I've ever had in my life was a couple of years ago in Bay St. Louis. Can taste it now, yum!

But back to when the Cajuns set up shop in South Louisiana. Spain had gained control of the rather large area from France (most of which later turned into the Louisiana Purchase, back again to France). The Cajuns didn't seem to mind, though, as French was the dominant language.

However, as the United States expanded and the Port of New Orleans grew, more and more English speakers moved into the region. Out of economic necessity, Cajuns learned English. Since French lacked the plosive /th/ sound, 'this' turned into 'dat' and so on. Because of translation problems and a literacy problem common to the region in general, a fractured English emerged that many linguists consider a dialect: "I's goin' ta buy dat" or "Taday's hot, hot." Modifiers often repeated.

Although Louisiana has some of the lowest education statistics in the U.S., great strides have been made. I blogged about some of these achievements in the A-Z Challenge.

However, many linguists don't understand why this dialect remains. What with cable TV, people traveling more, the influx of job-seekers to Louisiana, Cajun English remains. Make no mistake about it, a South Louisianan can drop textbook English and slip into the dialect with ease. I do. Why? I honestly don't know, save that it gives a conversation a deeper bond; perhaps it's part of my comfort zone, the culture I grew up in. Cajun English does not have a Southern drawl. Cajun English is spoken very fast. Your ear's gotta keep up or huh?

The setting for "Rings of Trust,"my upcoming second novella, is near Baton Rouge, in Cajun Country, but influenced by Southern drawl creep from North Louisiana and nearby Mississippi.

Yep, I took the plunge and wrote the dialogue as my ear heard it, with a nod to the reader. Too much of this stuff is too difficult to read.

In a couple of weeks, "Rings of Trust" will launch. I hope to share my linguistic comfort zone with you.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Southern Writers' Magazine

Southern Writers' Magazine e-mailed me last May. Someone on its staff had recommended me to submit a 500-word post to their blog. You could have knocked me over with a feather! For a regionally focused author like me, SWM is the cat's meow, plus a dollop of luscious cream.  Once I picked myself up off the floor, trust me, I hit the keyboard.

On July 19th, my post, Bayou Serenade, was on their blog, a really exciting moment. A big THANK YOU to everyone at Southern Writers Magazine for offering me this great opportunity.  You rock!

And a big THANK YOU to all of you for your "Hurricane Isaac" comments. As it turned out, my sister dodged a bullet -- water did a bit of damage to her house but nothing major. And she doesn't live in a hurricane-prone area. That was some rain!

Since that roller-coaster ride, my copyright certificate for "Rings of Trust" came in. Talk about firing up the inner coals! When hub wakes up in the morning, he finds me plopped on the sofa (feet on the coffee table), my head buried in my laptop, Diet Pepsi balanced on a nearby book. He's convinced that DP is going to tipple over.  Hmm. Maybe I need a bigger book.

Anyway, we're off to New York City in the a.m. for a friend's wedding. One part of me is excited, eager to share in Wende's happiness. Another part of me is downright selfish. *hangs head* I'll lose valuable edit time this weekend.

So, okay, I'm in a hole. No sense digging deeper. There's no choice but to take a couple of weeks off to get "Rings of Trust" ready for e-pubbing in October. This story involves the KuKluxKlan and how a black child's idealism triggers retribution. The topic is neither pretty nor best-selling hot. But I hear my drum beat and continue to march.

Lots of hugs and positive thoughts that your transition into the new season is a happy one, filled with smiles and warm fuzzies (and that the young ones are lovin' school).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Martinus Schryver (1753 - 1836)

The evening begged for an end-of-holiday walk in Rhinebeck, New York, an American Revolutionary village in the Hudson Valley with tree-lined streets and sidewalks cracked by gnarled roots.  A fat tabby caught our attention.  With a lion's confidence, the cat eyed the two pedestrians who stood at the end of his driveway, decided we weren't worth the effort, and turned to the adjacent cemetery, as if to say hello.  My husband and I exchanged smiles, then stepped into the open cemetery to meet his friends.

Two headstones, each leaning against the other, as if in time's embrace, beckoned us closer.  A bronze marker identified two of the tabby's friends as Eva Burger Schryver (1730-1817) and Martinus Schryver (1753-1836).  Martinus Schryver had fought in the American Revolutionary War, also called the War for Independence (1775-1783).  We bowed our heads in silent prayer and thanksgiving.

Martinus Schryver was courageous beyond what war involves.  At the time of the American Revolution, historians say one-third of the population wanted to remain a British colony, one-third didn't care either way, and one-third wanted independence from Great Britain.  Belief in a deeper cause meant resisting hostile or lackadaisical peer pressure.

Upon our return home, I decided to learn more about Martinus Schryver.  I can't say exactly why, except that on this Memorial Day Weekend, when we honor those who have served -- and are serving -- our country, I felt a sense a gratitude and wanted to feel our country's birth.

I learned that Martinus and Eva Schryver had eleven children.  A couple of sources said he was a colonel in the American Revolution.  (His graveside plaque hadn't identified his rank.)  Various sites listed him as either a fisherman from nearby Kingston, New York, or owning a tavern.  Perhaps he was both as it appears he was a man of some wealth for the times.

Links to Martinus Schryver broadened my curiosity.  In 1806, John Neeley bought a flock of sheep that included a slave, Isabella Baumfree, from Colonel Charles Hardenbeigh for $100.00.  Isabella was about nine years old.  Her parents were from Ghana.

In 1808, John Neeley sold Isabella Baumfree to Martinus Schryver for $108.00.

In 1810, Martinus Schryver sold Isabella to John Dumont for $175.00.  According to Wikipedia and other sources, this owner was "more kindly disposed" to Isabella and the beatings she had suffered lessened, even if Mrs. Dumont taunted Isabella for falling in love with a slave on another farm.

In 1826, Isabella, along with her infant daughter, gained their freedom through a law New York state had passed in 1799 that gradually abolished slavery.  (However, Isabella had to leave behind older children who were mandated to work as indentured servants until their twenties.)  She changed her name to Sojourner Truth and became an abolitionist who achieved significant firsts, one of which was a successful lawsuit against a white man.  In 1850, supporters published her book, The Narrative of Sojouiner Truth: A Northern Slave.  Of her many speeches, "Ain't I a Woman?" is among our history's greats.

In April, 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled a statue of Sojourner Truth in the United States Capitol, the first African-American woman to be honored so.

This Memorial Day, as with others, I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices made and being made by so many to ensure, preserve, and protect our democracy.  I am also deeply grateful our Constitution has the flexibility to realize a wrong too many considered right at the time, that numbers don't make what's wrong right, and recognizes that an individual's freedom does not include the freedom to own another human being, that all of us embrace each other and that we have a sober responsibility to separate the good-that-was from the bad-that-was and move forward with the ". . . Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness . . . "so eloquently stated in our Declaration of Independence.

I pray that the polarization destroying us internally -- doing what no enemy could ever do -- will be relegated to the-era-that-was.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"The Power of Positive Thinking"

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993) had it right in his best-selling book, "The Power of Positive Thinking."  It works.  What with your insight into the situation with the book about my family, hub's in-put, and my decision to get out of my funk (for it was self-inflicted, as most are) and think positive, I actually feel stronger, more empowered to get on with the book. Every day can't be opening night; life's like that. So I'm very grateful for your words of wisdom and emotional support and thank you from the heart.

I would also like to thank followers I met through the A-Z Challenge for joining me. I'm purring over new themes to explore and all there is to learn.  Blogville is an amazing, wonderful place that never ceases to delight. However, by now, I should have been by to visit you.  If not, er, there's a slight problem:  I can't link to you.  Please check your avatar to see if it links to your blog.  Sometimes I can find a blog by Googling, but if the photo isn't precise and multiple names pop up, I'm at a loss.  It's very frustrating! *sighs*

And thank you and hugs to Caron Rider, Author (she's a sweetie) for the

Yep, the award brought a smile.  I'm supposed to pass the award on to five people (along with some questions).  I kid you not, this was difficult so decided to go with the last five blogs I opened.  If you've got a sec, please drop by Caron Rider (link above image) and those below.  You won't be disappointed.

Nancy Thompson

Joylene Nowell Butler



Muses and Meringues

Now, I'm supposed to answer some questions:

1. Who are your favorite authors and what is it that strikes you about their work?
There are so many, but Alexander McCall Smith tops the list.  He's a philosopher, actually, who knows how to tell a layered story.  I like a little meat on the bone when I snuggle up with a book.

2. If you were stranded on a deserted island, and were allowed to bring 3 items with you, what would they be? A short wave radio, flares, and an umbrella lined with Diet Pepsi.  (Oh, but I don't like being in the sun!)

3. Where do you see yourself in five (5) years?
Owning a hotel on said island above.

4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Right here in the U.S.A.  Ain't no place like home sweet home.

5. Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
It depends on where I'll read the book.  I buy all three. 

6. If you could be any character (male or female) from your book who would you pick? And why?
Madeleine. She's got 'it' - whatever 'it' is.

7. Where and/or how did you get your inspiration to write "Remy Broussard's Christmas?"
I'm not going to say where this happened, but not that long ago, I was waiting for a connecting flight near the boarding gate when a very old African-American lady sat next to me and asked if I would tell her when the flight was called (as this was her first time to fly and she was nervous).  Of course, I agreed. The three white women (two across, one to my right) stared at each other, glared at me, and got up and moved to a different section of the seating arrangement. One whispered something ugly to me when I boarded the plane.  I thought, "Oh, no, here we go again" and decided if I ever wrote a book it would involve a certain era in our history. Hence, "Remy Broussard's Christmas" opened the era's door with the unspeakable poverty that existed that led to much. My present WIP involves the KKK. And I'm not mincing words.  (BTW, Remy's available for now (but not forever) for 99 cents as commissions will be donated to the Wounded Warrior's Foundation (but commissions still donated to the Foundation when price goes up). If you can, shake that piggy bank and click Remy's highlighted link!)

8. What were the best parts about writing this book?
Quiet reflections about being a part of a larger whole. 

9. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Oh, heavens, no -- gotta live to write and not often with writer's block. 

10. What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)
Well, I like a tidy house and well-balanced meals so keep busy on that front, but more to the spiritual point, I've got to get out and smell the roses.  Years ago, I read, "If the ball doesn't go round, it won't bounce." That suited me. I like life with a little bounce to it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

G.R.I.T.S. : Girls Raised in the South (LA Memory)

The unseasonably warm weather we've had in Virginia led to an earlier switch of clothes this year. While going through one of the chests, like last year, I came across a shapeless Tee saved for no reason other than the writing across the top: G.R.I.T.S., with Girls Raised in the South in smaller lettering above. This triggered a Louisiana memory I wanted to share. However, politicians ventured South and elevated lowly grits to national dialogue of sorts.

Not wanting to make a political statement, I decided to hold my memory until the politicians got on their horses and rode away. Ahh, back to grits, a ground up corn that turns out white and mushy when cooked. I've heard visitors to the South say, "What's that?" when seeing grits for the first time. I admit, grits isn't the prettiest looking dish around.  Nor is, to my way of thinking, tapioca pudding. Sometimes, though, the taste buds, not the eyes, reign.

If you're the one eating the grits, you can put pretty much whatever you want in it or on it. Grits is grits, a southern staple. However, not every Southerner loves grits. Like others I know, my youngest sister won't eat it. I, on the other hand, love grits (as does my New Hampshire husband), so every Sunday grits is on the breakfast table. I'm not a purist (meaning, let's get on with it.) Instant grits works just fine, even if the taste is a bit rough compared to old-fashioned grits.

Growing up, we ate grits every morning for breakfast, either by itself with a dab of butter (during the week) or lathered over medium fried eggs ( on weekends).  Of course, without a microwave and instant grits, my mother got up earlier to cook the old-fashioned grits.  The basic recipe called for a quarter cup of grits and a cup of water (or a four-to-one proportion), if I remember correctly.

Not long after we'd moved from the farm to a nearby small town, a local guy married a gal from 'somewhere up there' -- a point of reference for someone not from the South. I don't remember where Edna Earl came from, nor did anyone else after Edna Earl faced the grits monster and laughed about it. In the South, you gotta, just gotta, 'fess up and laugh about stupid stuff. Here's what happened:

Edna Earl put a quarter cup of grits into a pot, added the water, and decided that that tiny amount of grits wouldn't work.  So, she added another quarter cup and stirred.  Convinced the box's recipe had a mistake, she added a half cup of grits to the water and stirred.  Not much happened.  What was in the pot didn't look like grits.  She added a cup of grits to the water.

Now, the first grits she's put in the pot had begun to cook, i.e., expand and absorb the water.  So, Edna Earl added more water.  This teased the grits monster which meant the grits needed more water.  But the pot was now too small, so she poured, spooned, and scraped the grits into a larger pot and added water, a process she repeated until, a half hour later, when her husband walked into the kitchen, Edna Earl stood on a kitchen stool and stirred ever-expanding grits with the stick end of her mop in a pot that's now a wash tub situated on all four burners.

Think I'll keep my G.R.I.T.S. memory another year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two Fluffy Pillows and a Firm Ending

One of my quirks is fluffy, just-right pillows.  Whoever's watching from those hidden cameras in stores probably gets a good laugh when I go through my ritual of finding the right pillow.  Most of the time, though, I'd get the pillow home and would be disappointed the next morning.  You see, another quirk is two pillows beneath my head.  I'd never found the right pillow to cause me to return to the store to buy a second pillow.

Now, in a previous post, I blogged about the trip hub and I took (from Virginia) to New England. We ventured off the main arteries and spent a night in a simple but very pleasant bed and breakfast in Upstate New York.  When my head hit the pillow, the fluffy whoosh brought a smile.  In the morning, I inquired as to whether I could order this pillow.  I could.  Upon our return, I went on line.  Several days later, the pillow arrived (with free shipping and a discounted price).

I'd thought this pillow would stack beautifully with another pillow I had.  It didn't.  Since the free shipping and discounted price offers had expired, I decided to wait for another sale and another order.

But the Christmas holidays approached, I got busy, and forgot about the second pillow.  Upon our return from Louisiana, hub and I spent the night at a chain motel near a small town in northern Alabama.  It was a long-haul driving day, so we grabbed a bite to eat, and hit the rack.  In the morning, I inquired about the pillows.  Love had struck again.

I smiled from ear to ear when the clerk said there had been so many inquiries, they sold the pillows on site. At a very reasonable price.  I bought two.  The already packed car looked a bit fluffy when we drove away, but never mind, no one knew us.

We spent another night on the road, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and drove home the next day.  That night, hub smiled when I stacked the new pillow on top of the pillow from the trip to New England. Since hub likes a firm pillow Home Goods usually carries, he understands.

To my delight, the combination worked.

The other night, though, the day didn't slip into a contented sigh when my head hit the pillows, like it usually did.  I worried a bit.

You see, I'd read a post where the blogger had poured her heart and soul out: about the time and energy she'd put into each post, but received few comments; about how she'd left comments on other blogs but few had commented back; about how her optimism had faded and she'd found another venue that satisfied more than blogging.

She'd also turned off the comment box.

Quite honestly, I was floored. The gal has a super blog with a large following.

I've felt a bit unsettled since - probably 'guilty' is a better word.  I haven't left comments as I should.  True, I've caught every bug that's come my way since January and didn't always have the energy to zip around like I usually did.  And, to be very honest, when I did have the energy, life appeared (meals to cook, house to clean, errands to run, my WIP), but the point is, I could have done a better job of visiting around.  I know that.

Like my two fluffy pillows, blogging requires the two of us.  We have to fluff together to feel the oneness.  I can't fluff all the time, but I'm going to fluff more.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Different Kind of Love

My husband and I married in Hawaii, where he was stationed with the Marine Corps at the time.

We had a simple wedding with nine people in the church, including the Catholic priest who officiated. Father Collins was a Navy chaplain, a captain (colonel) in the U.S. Navy who had served in World War II as a young enlisted sailor.  When he survived a harrowing wartime encounter, he kept his promise to God and became a priest.

Now, at the time, in the Seventies, it was general Church policy for a Protestant like me to convert before marrying a Catholic.  Since I was from Catholic South Louisiana, I knew the rules, but also knew the rules were flexible, depending upon the priest.  My hub-to-be and I had settled the question of religion very easily: I wouldn't convert; he thought my religion was my business.  Thus, we met Father Collins at the appointed time with bright smiles and fluttering hearts.

Father Collins was a congenial, immediately likable person, with a Boston accent and an 'Irish gift of gab', what he called an open personality to match his thinning red hair and fading freckles.  However, I'm from a state where blarney has a French accent, so I knew the light-hearted conversation was separate from the issue of marriage.

It was.

Father Collins coughed lightly, placed his elbows on his desk, and positioned his hands as if in prayer.  Since I'd taught in a Catholic school for a year, I immediately recognized Father Lorio's stance before he lowered the boom on a student.  I knew, just knew, what was coming.

"I can't marry you until you convert to Catholicism," Father Collins said to me.

"I'm not converting," I replied.

He ignored my response and opened the large scheduling calendar on his desk. "A class will begin in two weeks."

"I won't attend."

He penciled my name on a list in the margin and resumed the prayerful position. "Once you convert, I'll be happy to marry you." He leaned forward and said to both of us, "You will, of course, be fruitful and multiply, won't you?"

Hub-to-be and I exchanged you've-got-to-be-kidding-me looks.  So, I said to Father Collins, "I don't want to be contentious about this, but if you can't schedule a wedding date, we'll ask a Protestant chaplain to marry us."

As if the previous conversation hadn't existed, he shrugged and said, "Okay, I'll marry you."

And he did.

A few weeks after the wedding, we learned that Father Collins had been secretly married when he married us. Ours was his last wedding before he retired from the Navy. My first reaction was, what a hypocrite.  My second reaction was to call my attorney father.  "Are we married?" I asked.

"Yep, you sure are," he replied and started laughing.  My father had been ex-communicated from the Catholic Church when he became a Mason.

So, flash forward five years.  My husband and I are now in Virginia Beach.  It's our anniversary.  We go out for dinner and are walking on the rather congested boardwalk afterwards when my husband says, "Here comes Father Collins."

Mr. and Mrs. Collins were laughing and talking and very much enjoying each other's company as they walked toward us, but not seeing us.

For a split second, shoulders brushed as we walked past each other, us into our future and them into theirs.  It was nice, actually, very nice.

I can still hear Mrs. Collins' light laugh and see the twinkle in my husband's eye when he squeezed my hand.

We never saw Mr. and Mrs. Collins again.  I hope their robust health remains, and they're still taking evening strolls.  Every June 3rd, my husband and I remember that evening when love was in the air.  Yes, indeed, it really was.

(And still is.)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Grandmother's Wisdom (LA Memory)

My grandmother ruled as the family's matriarch with a power that came from experience put to good use.  Of course, as a child, I didn't realize that. I just knew that my grandmother was old, very old, and what she said was the law of the farm.

In my early teens, I realized my grandmother wasn't as old as I thought and began to understand the reasoning behind some of her edicts.  When I married, in my late twenties, and soon had to deal with problems and situations women had always dealt with, I learned to anchor the moment with something she had said - or would say, as Ma was older, but still not old.  I thought I'd share a bit of her wisdom with you:

If you tell others your problems, they'll tell you theirs, and you'll be worse off.

There are some people, if they know you're afraid, they'll come after you.

You made yourself afraid. (About stuff that happens in life one doesn't remember later.)

Smile when you're afraid.  (Ditto.)

Always make your bed in the morning.

Always say Thank You.

Appreciate a gift, even if you don't like it.

Hold your head high when you walk out the door.

You can't get any work done if you're worrying about what other people think.

Don't worry so much; you'll get wrinkles.

Let the situation pass; another will come along.

Don't try to solve other people's problems; they'll get mad at you.

Stay away from extremes.

If you think you're pretty, you're pretty.

If you'd stop jabbering, you'd hear the swing creak.

* * * * *

If you've got books on Goodreads, let me know, and we'll connect.  I'm like a turtle going up a technological hill, but we're getting there - hmmm - sorta.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Saloon Hall Dancer (LA Memory)

Once in awhile, I'd ride into Baton Rouge with daddy to visit Great Aunt Edna, his favorite aunt and his mother's oldest sibling.  I didn't know why at the time - adults didn't tell kids much then - but Ma didn't like Great Aunt Edna. I only knew not to mention her name to Ma and never to tell her when we visited.  I knew what happened when daddy, for some reason known only to daddy, would mention her name: Ma would slam her dish towel on the kitchen counter, storm out of the room, and slam her bedroom door.  Slam! Slam! Slam!

One time, when she exploded like a hurricane, I tip-toed down the hall and widened a crack in the doorway.  (Ma slammed a door so hard, it always bounced back.)  Ma was on her knees praying.  I wouldn't know until I was in my late teens that Ma prayed for Great Aunt Edna's soul.  Her sister had been a saloon hall dancer on the Delta Queen and Memphis Queen riverboats that plied the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Memphis in the 1920s and 1930s.

Great Aunt Edna had also held her own playing blackjack and poker with the boys.  She'd gotten lucky at the craps table a few times.  Even better, she knew when to walk away and played more for the fun of it than a a compelling need to do so.

Great Aunt Edna never married, never put any babies up for adoption (or otherwise).  When the years caught up with her, as they do with us all, she retired to a modest house not far from the Louisiana State University campus in Baton Rouge.  She paid cash for the house, as she did for everything.

When the weather permitted, she liked to sit on the front porch on Sunday afternoons and smoke two cigarettes while she sipped one highball.  Daddy said that when a passing neighbor fussed at her for smoking and drinking (on a Sunday, no less), she told the neighbor, "When you get to be my age, you can think about telling me what to do."  Great Aunt Edna was in her late seventies at the time.

Daddy love to quote his aunt:

When another neighbor complained about her not going to church most Sundays, she said, "The Good Lord made me.  He knows what I'm doing.  There's no reason for me to pester Him all the time."

When the neighbor pushed, she retorted, "You take care of your sins, and I'll take care of mine."

When a cousin said she should marry a gentleman caller for two decades, she said, "I'm not a babysitter."

The Great Aunt Edna I remember had fluffy white hair, hazel eyes that sparkled, and a warm smile in an almost-plump face.  Her skin was as soft as a cloud.

She fussed over me, the way that kids like, with oohs and ahhs about how good I was, how pretty I was, how she loved my smile and so on, until I melted, totally melted, into a curled-up ball next to her.  She'd then stroke my hair while she and daddy talked and talked.  I don't remember a word they said.

Great Aunt Edna died in her sleep from natural causes.  She was 96 years old.  Her face was as smooth as Ivory soap.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Haunting at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel

The Bourbon Orleans Hotel enjoys a rich New Orleans history that involves my great-grandmother.  While a young girl, her parents booked passage on a ship destined for New Orleans in order to escape rampant persecution of Jews in Spain.  Her parents died in the 1867 yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans. 

Spanish Carmalite nuns found her begging on a street corner.  My great-grandmother was approximately seven years old.  The Carmalite nuns didn't want a Jewish girl in their convent so brought her to what is now the Bourbon Orleans Hotel (and where my husband and I stayed during Christmas, as we did last year.)  The African-American nuns gave her shelter and educated her.  (She later converted to Catholicism, sorta.)

In 1867, this French Quarter hotel housed a Roman Catholic convent and orphanage run by the Sisters of the Holy Family, the first African-American Catholic order, founded in New Orleans by Henriette Delille (1813-1862), "a free woman of color", and recognized by the Vatican in 1842. The Sisters of the Holy Family remain an active order to this day. In 2010, the Catholic Church declared Henriette Delille 'venerable', the first step toward sainthood.  (In 2001, Lifetimetelevision premiered a movie about Henriette Delille's life, The Courage to Love.)

This year we stayed in room 421.  The night of December 28th we slept soundly.  The occupants of room 424 did not.

They called the desk several times to complain about the noise above them.  The irritating noise sounded like a food cart being rolled back and forth.  They also complained about the light going on and off in their room.

Staff checked the floor above the fourth floor, where the convent used to be.  The large room contains little today and is locked during the night.  Staff found no one hiding on the convent floor, no one who had slipped in during the day for a mischievous trick.

An electrician checked the wiring in room 424 and found nothing wrong.

However, once the staff left and people had settled into the night, the noise returned on the convent floor, and the lighting continued to irritate the hotel room's occupants.  The checking - and finding nothing wrong - continued throughout the night.

Later that morning one of the staff told me about the haunting (what they're called in New Orleans, where hauntings abound) and said, "Maybe it was because you're here.  Your great-grandmother was looking for you."  He wasn't joking.  As far as the staff of the Bourbon Orleans knows, I am the closest descendant of anyone in the convent from that era who's ever stayed there.

The night before the haunting, December 27th, as I sat on the room's sofa, I felt a whoosh of air and double-blinked at what looked like a puff of white that disappeared.

No, I hadn't been drinking.  (I wouldn't have a couple of glasses of wine until New Year's Eve.)  No, I hadn't had a Henry VIII-type meal or had otherwise indulged.  Louisiana natives don't go wild in the French Quarter.

Like last year, we stayed at the Bourbon Orleans because I wanted to touch my great-grandmother's history.  I can't say that I did; I can't say that I didn't.  I can only say that the staff couldn't find the source of the noise on the old convent floor or the source of the lighting problems.  But I did feel that whoosh of air.  I did see that puff of white.

Because I didn't make reservations earlier in October, we had to go to the Monteleone Hotel on the 29th.  Before we left New Orleans on the 2nd, I walked over to the Bourbon Orleans and asked if there had been another haunting.  There hadn't been another.  Hmmm.

Anyway, Happy New Year to each of you!  May your inner light shine.  May your smile bring smiles to others.  And, whatever your goal, may you feel the joy of success.