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Writing 101 Day 20 final assignment: Most Prized Possession is Not a Possession

For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual

The final assignment for Writing 101 was posted for us 2 weeks ago. Many things have happened since then, most of them just life happenings both good and bad. They interrupted, precluded and overrode my attempts to get back to blogging. But I was writing in my head the whole time (who doesn’t???).

For the second part, I am pleading exception because I tend to rattle on about the most mundane things, I am sure you don’t want a War and Peace sized post.

My most prized possession is not a possession. There are so many things in my life I love, but most of them, like my children, are not possessions. They are people, events and of course books – but maybe I should say reading. So this is what you will hear about. It is nothing I can physically possess (altho the books could loosely fall into that category) but the non-things I treasure the most.

First has to be my family. Hands down, no contest, can’t imagine life without any of them. My husband, whom I have been with for over 40 years still makes my heart happy. We argue and disagree and make up. If you’ve followed any of my other posts, you will see him pop up time after time simply because I love and trust him with my life.


Next are my children. They are grown men now, ages 30 – 35. If anyone thinks they can tell their kids what to do, good luck with that. The only thing I can hope for is that they listened when they were younger – they had no choice since they lived with us 🙂 They have grown into fine young men, I’d like to think because of our influence, but sometimes maybe in spite of it. I miss the toddlers they were, but love them as they are, funny, intelligent guys. One of them told me a few years back that he was appalled to hear my words coming out of his mouth when someone suggested something stupid. HA!! Thank goodness they actually listened sometimes.

My extended family is also treasured. My dad, my father-in-law, aunts, cousins… the list goes on. I talk to at least a few everyday via email (don’t be a hater about electronic communication, it beats NO communication these busy days) and know in a heartbeat I can call on them if I need to. And they know they can call on me and I’ll be there for them. We laugh and cry together. Every Friday is Family Night. Whomever is free comes to eat. It could be 5 or 15 of us, but it is a fabulous way to stay in touch, end a busy work week and start the weekend in a feel-good way. Life is good.

Events are what I prefer to give and get as gifts now that we have more possessions than we really need at our house. For example, I now give my hubby trips such as a day in Chicago, or tickets to a play or show (he was really, really thrilled with the Penn and Teller tickets for Father’s Day). He does the same for me. Our sons got him tickets to a “driving experience” and went with him. They had tons of fun and hubby got what he cherished most – spending a day with 2 of his sons (the other lives out of state or he would have been there too!).

Gen Washington

We also do things on vacation to make more memories. Sometimes good, sometimes bad 🙂 The 4th of July we spent the day at Mount Vernon with our youngest son and his wife. I is an awesome place to visit, but going on Independence Day ramps it up even more. We toured the house, the museum and grounds. We watched reenactments and had birthday cake to celebrate our nation’s birthday. If you are on the east coast, you have to go see General Washington’s choppers. And the Pioneer Farm on the grounds, right now they have the cutest baby pigs! So much history and pride in our country all around. And, like 2 years ago when we were at Monticello on the 4th, there was a huge naturalization program. It is so cool to see the excitement on the faces of brand new citizens of the United States. Happiness all around, and no physical possessions needed on my part.

Mount Vernon 7.4.14

Books. What can I say? I live to read and write. It is my escape when things go bad, my joy when things are good and takes me to places I will never go to in “real” life. The reason I don’t truly consider them possession even though they fill my house, is that I can read new books online, from the library or borrowed from friends for no cost and without keeping them. That said, I am really fond of my signed book collection. It is fast outgrowing the bookcase. I would be sad to lose it, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t live without them. Just don’t tell my super indulgent, patient hubby who rolls his eyes when I ask for a new bookshelf – then builds it.

So my short long version is: my greatest possessions are not possessions, but are the people I love, life experiences I have and reading.


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Writing 101 Day 19 – Paperdolls

Today’s post is a challenge to write 400 words, straight through without stopping, thinking, going back or changing what is already written. Getting 400 words down on paper isn’t a problem for me. The part about no re-writes, going back, changing order, etc is the exact opposite of my usual style. I like to get all the thoughts out of my head regarding a subject, and then organize them later. But, I’ll give you what would probably be a rambling post much like my conversations.

Today’s topic for me is paper dolls. I guess it depends upon your age what you think of when you hear “paper dolls”. For some reason one of my aunts was talking about them on email yesterday. Every day we start an email string with my dad, great-aunt, cousin, aunt and me. Usually just a hello, checking in kind of thing to make sure everyone is upright and taking nourishment.

So anyway, my soon to be 81 year old aunt (who is still working full time I might add) mentioned paper dolls in one of her emails. Don’t know how it came up. I replied that I used to LOVE paper dolls. They were a great source of fun for a small amount of money. My other aunt chimed in and said she had a huge box of them that she used to play with on my grandma’s (her mom’s) bed for hours.

For you youngsters in the group, back in the late 50’s early 60’s when I played with them; they came like a coloring book. The doll or dolls were cardboard and usually cut out of the cover. Then the clothes were the pages. At first you had to carefully cut them all out. Mom had to help because what 5 year old is coordinated enough to cut out tiny pieces of paper accurately? Each piece had little tabs that you folded over the shoulder of your cardboard doll to keep the clothes from falling off. paperdollss

Sometimes there was a half circle piece of cardboard that had a slit cut in the top to go with the doll. You slipped it on their feet so they could stand up. The hats had little dotted lines to cut along so you could slip them on the paper doll’s head.

Picture if you will a 5 year old playing with a thin piece of cardboard folding even thinner pieces of paper over and over again taking clothes on and off this wonderful new toy. By week 2 repairs were in order. Mom used available (read free) repair tactics. When the doll’s head lolled forward because the tiny neck got bent, she taped a Popsicle stick to the back like a wooded spine. I was happy to eat the Popsicle to provide said stick. If a dress ripped, she taped it. When a tab ripped off, paperclips were provided to keep it from falling down.

Paper dolls provided hours of very inexpensive entertainment, and surprisingly they are still sold. I checked on Amazon and eBay. You can buy vintage or brand spanking new. They even have magnetic ones. Word of caution, I am not really sure just how Popsicle sticks and tape could ever fix those if they broke. They also have downloadable paper dolls that you can cut out like the old fashioned ones for free! I would suggest gluing the doll to some cardboard to save yourself irritation. Just sayin’.

While I was on the internet, I decided to see who made the first paper dolls. Apparently the first ones date back to 1810, the first in the US 1820. Betsy McCall paper dolls used to be included in McCall’s magazine. That was a bit before my time.

mccalls(paper doll images from Google)

Lastly, a warning: when you type “paper dolls” into the search on your computer, apparently a group of pole dancers calling themselves The Paper Dolls are more popular than the children’s toy. So watch what you click on.


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Writing 101 Day 18 First Person POV – The Move

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

Today’s twist: For those of you who want an extra challenge, think about more than simply writing in first-person point of view  — build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.


Wonder why the police are knocking at Mrs. Pauley’s door. That old lady can’t be in trouble with the law, she never even leaves the  house. Ok, maybe she goes to the store. Yeah, she must go to the store because she always gives me cookies when I go over to help her out. Man, she makes the best cookies. Maybe I should go over to see if she needs my help after the police go. Hope she has chocolate chip today.

I look down and see my shoe is untied. If mom was home, she would help me. But Jason is the only one here. He won’t help me do anything. Keeps saying I have to learn to do it myself. Easy for him to say, he’s way smarter than me. He can read and he is only 10.

Glancing back up, I see old Mr. Peterson talking to the cop. He has been hanging around lately. Mom said he comes to get the rent from Mrs. Pauley. I’ve seen her peeking from behind the curtain, but won’t answer the door. Wonder why.

“Hey!” I yelled. The cops glance up and me but don’t answer. Now Mrs. Pauley is starting to cry. I am going to see what they are doing to make her cry.

Jumping up, I tripped on my shoelace and landed on my hands and knees. It hurt, but I am twelve now, so I tried hard not to cry.

“Mrs. Pauley,” I said when I got to the other side of the street.

She sniffed and looked at me. “I’m ok,” she said trying to smile.

“Why are they pulling your stuff out of the house?” I asked. “Do you want me to stop them?”

She sat on the porch swing and pulled me down by her.

“No, these nice men are helping me move to a new house,” she said.

“Why are you leaving me? Why are you moving? Who will make me cookies? Are you going to come to my birthday party on October 12th when I turn 13” I ask her more questions than she can answer.

Bending down to tie my shoe, she explained that she was moving to her son’s house to live with him.

“Ok,” I answered. I didn’t really understand. Maybe Mom would explain it to me when she got home from work. I hope she brings home some cookies.


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Writing 101 Day 17 Greatest Fears in a Different Writing Style

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s twist: Write this post in a distinct style from your own.

No worries

Greatest fears? Who doesn’t have fears? Who has only one?

So many things could happen. Not to be scaredy cat but it is true.

My son could get a broken heart. Oh. That happened.  Now he is ok. Guess that is no longer a fear.

I could get sick. I might have to go into a nursing home. They don’t have cable tv or good food. I would miss my life.

My husband could get hurt. He takes care of everything around the house. I would be lost.

Someone could run over my dog. I really love my dogs.

What if I hurt someone accidentally. Will I go to jail?

no fear

OMG – I guess my greatest fear is having to change my over the top, wordy style of writing to short, choppy sentences. I know it works well for so many others, but it is definitely not my voice or style.

Thinking back, it all started with the checks I used to get on my report card when in grade school. Mom came home and said the teacher told her I was a first. She’d never given any student, in all of her years, double checks in “talks without permission”. I got ’em! Honestly, I had a lot to say and didn’t mind sharing every bit of it.

Hum, still don’t!

(images from Google)




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Writing 101 Day 14 – The Story Continues Part 3 The Greatest Loss

Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

For inspiration, ponder the phrase “lost and found.” What do you think about or visualize when you read this phrase? For an elementary schooler, it might be a box in their classroom, full of forgotten jackets and random toys. For a frequent traveler, it might be a facility in an airport, packed with lost phones, abandoned bags, and misplaced items.

On day four, you wrote about losing something. On day thirteen, you then wrote about finding something. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge,also reflect on the theme of “lost and found” more generally in this post.

Here are parts 1 & 2 in case you missed them:

The Greatest Loss (working title until something else replaces it)

“Time is of the essence!” declares Charlie as he slowing moves across the crowded restaurant using his hated walker.

It was nice to be able to get around without falling over, but honestly, did his grandkids really need to put those neon yellow tennis balls on the front legs of the thing? He was steady enough to pick it up each time he moved forward. Most of the time anyway.

“Mom, mom, mom,” chanted his six-year-old great-granddaughter. She didn’t really want anything other than being the center of attention. Hopping around like a kangaroo on crack, she banged into the back of at least three people on the way to their table. One lady dropped pasta down the front of a previously lovely white sweater when her lunch was disrupted by the girl.

“Katie, come back here,” hissed Charlie’s newly divorced daughter Amanda. “Dad, we’ll just meet you at the table, don’t hurry.”

Amanda may have told him not to hurry, but Charlie heard the impatience in her voice. She was irritated with her granddaughter and her father. He tried to step it up a bit, but his hip was really sore from a fall the night before. Of course he didn’t say anything about it to Amanda, she’d be one step closer to moving him to a nursing home and herself in his house.

Finally arriving at the table, he thumped down in the chair with an audible sigh of relief for having made the journey from the car safely. Gone were the days when he could hop out of the car without even thinking about it, jog to the stairs and take them two at a time. Sitting quietly collecting himself while the women in his life chatter over their lunch choices, he wondered how he slipped unnoticed from a vibrant young man to the old codger he’d become.

Charlie rather enjoyed watching the spectacle going on around him. Until Katie grabbed Amanda’s purse upending it all over the table and his lap. Bits of gum, pens and papers surrounded their table like shrapnel.

“Dad, I’ll be right back, Katie and I need to go outside and discuss proper behavior,” said Amanda as she steered the contrite young girl towards the door.

Charlie began picking up the papers he could easily reach, when he flipped over an envelope with his name on it. Frowning he looked inside and realized it was from a mortgage company. His house was paid for, why would they send a bill with his name on it to Amanda’s address?

Part 2

A much more subdued Katie walked stiffly back to the table where her great-grandfather waited. Amanda followed, her lipstick a tight blood-red slash on her pale face. She sat down in the chair looking every bit as tired as her father.

“Katie,” she said quietly. “What do you have to say to Great-Grandpa?”

“I’m sorry I was noisy and rude and made a mess with Grandma’s purse,” Katie answered as she looked down at her scuffed crocs.

Charlie cleared his throat and attempted to look sternly at the little girl. She really did look small and even a bit sorry.

“That’s ok Katie, now eat the rest of your lunch and you can have a scoop of orange sherbet for dessert.”

Relieved to be out of trouble, and a little  bit afraid of the only man who ever made her follow rules, she settled onto the seat to eat the lunch the server brought while she was outside. One hand held half of a grilled cheese sandwich, the other picked daintily at the fruit dish. Strawberries were her favorite, she ate them first. She started on the grapes as Charlie turned from her and waved the mortgage bill at Amanda.

“How long have you had a mortgage out on my home?” he asked.

At first Amanda just sat looking at the bill in her father’s hand. Then she began to cry.

“Daddy,” she sobbed. “I had no choice.”

“We always have choices in this life,” he answered, then sat back to wait for her explanation.

Amanda struggled to get the words out, but eventually the silence was too deafening to keep quiet any longer.

“Dad, I had to put Julie in rehab and take legal custody of Katie. Six months ago I went over to visit unannounced and found Katie alone. She’d been alone for an entire day. When Julie finally came home she was so high she didn’t even know me. They wouldn’t take her at the hospital unless I paid up front. I am so sorry, I had no choice.”

Charlie leaned over the table placing his gnarled hand over his daughter’s ice cold fingers. Letting out the breath he’d been holding, he smiled faintly at his only child. How could he have not know what was going on in his on in his own family?

Part 3

“I have my house on the market,” Amanda started in a monotone. “As soon as it sells, I planned to pay off the mortgage, and then find a small apartment to rent for Katie and me. We won’t need much space, I have been slowly selling my furniture in case the rehab facility needs more money.”

The server cruised up to the side of the table with a chipper snap of her gum. “Can I getcha any refills?”

“That would be just fine,” answered Charlie, more out of the need to get rid of her than thirst. He glanced at Katie. She had pulled a book out of her backpack and was quietly thumbing through the pages.

“The market is starting to open up,” Amanda said, drawing his attention back to her. “Don’t worry Dad, It should sell by fall and you will not have to worry a bit. I am so sorry you had to find out. You shouldn’t have to worry about me now that I am past 50 for heaven’s sake.”

Charlie grinned. “Do you think you will ever stop worrying about Julie? I know she’s really in trouble now, but once she cleans up her act, settles down and starts flying right, do you think you will ever go to bed not worrying about her?”

Amanda actually smiled. “I guess you’ve got me there. No matter how hard I try, I still worryabout her.”

The refills arrived, untouched plates were cleared and Katie decided she really wanted vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping and whipped cream. Lots of whipped cream, but no cherry. She hated them. The server, still clueless to the family drama going on at her table, zipped off to continue flirting witha nice looking bus boy. “Oh to be young again,” thought Charlie.

“When I walked in here today,” Charlie said, “I was thinking about how much fun we used to have when you were a little girl.”

Amanda smiled.

“We were busy all the time, playing cards after dinner. Heck, just making dinner was more fun than work since you used to help your mom and me every night. I was feeling pretty useless lately.”

“Dad, of course you aren’t useless!” she interrupted him.

Holding up his hand to stop her, he continued. “Here is what we are going to do. You are going to sell your house. Then you will pay off the mortgage you took out on my house. But, you will NOT move into an apartment. Katie and you are moving in with me. The schools are still good in my neighborhood, she can start in the fall. We will teach her how to play a rummy, using an upside down box to hold the cards just like you did.”

“I can’t ask you to do this,” Amanda protested.

“You didn’t ask me, I am telling you,” replied her father with more authority in his voice that had been there in years. “I will not take no for an answer, young lady!”

With that Amanda laughed out loud. “Geeze,  I don’t think you’ve called me young lady for 30 years!”

Charlie turned to Katie. “Are you ready to go home?”

She hopped off of the chair after one last lick of her ice cream spoon. “Ok Grandpa, can we come to your house?”

He smiled and nodded while slowly rising out of his chair. Making his way out of the restaurant, he walked a little taller. In the span of an hour he got something back he never thought he would ever feel again. They needed him. Even though circumstances were far from ideal, he could help make the situation better. It was good to have new purpose and meaning in his life that he thought he would never feel again.






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Writing 101 Day 15 Life Changing Event??


Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

How does that make you feel?

I have been thinking all day about the Writing 101 prompt of the day. I have attended events, concerts, plays, movies and backyard BBQs, but honestly, in my 57 years on this planet I absolutely can say with certainty, not one of them was a life changing experience. In as much as I enjoyed most of said events, without one, two or most of them I would not have been devastated.

Maybe I am not Zen enough to put all of this importance on ONE MAJOR EVENT. I dunno.

buddy 9In the last 10 years I have been privileged enough to attend concerts of some of all-time favorite artists. Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton and Buddy Guy. I have seen plays in Chicago with superstars such as Zero Mostel, Donnie Osmond (don’t laugh, he was a very hot guy and had his shirt off most of the play), David Hyde Pierce and my personal favorite Tim Curry (Huge, HUGE fan of Rocky Horror Picture Show here!!) and many more I am surely forgetting.


I learned to actually appreciate opera after attending several for my Opera Appreciation Class in college. Oddly enough I hated the one in English, loved the one in Italian. I was fortunate enough to see both the best (Aida – was fabulous) and the worse (Macbeth – biggest bust ever!) of the year according to the Chicago critics.

As far as events like family picnics, trips to the zoo with our children and vacations, almost all of them have been great. There was the unfortunate incident with bad clam chowder (my dear young cousin and I fondly pronounce it chowda in honor of the east coast) in Oregon giving me food poisoning for the last four cold and rainy days of our vacation.

Don’t for a minute think we had a lot of disposable cash. I didn’t work when the kids were young, but stayed home raising them while my husband worked. We did the zoo and museums on free day, camped because it was lots of fun for three little boys and a big Old English Sheep Dog. And it was cheap. We watched our money and ate at home, not restaurants to save our money to do things with the kids and as a couple. Jim Hartman_5


I don’t want to gloss over hardships we may have had. Money was really tight some days, weeks, months. We made do. One of our sons had a major medical issue but is thankfully back on his own, working and thriving. We’ve had sickness and deaths of those close to us. Two come to mind that passed away too young.

After all of this information telling you that one event didn’t shape my life, I have to tell you that all of these events had a part in shaping my life.

I have learned the following (and wish I could always live by them but sometimes just can’t – I’m only human)

  • No amount of worry will affect the outcome of any situation
  • I cannot make people act differently, but I can control my reaction to them
  • Sometimes I just have to act happy when I am not. Ironically, it does improve my mood
  • Money is nice, but you can have a great time with little or none
  • Keep learning and growing. Your little grey cells will thank you
  • Family dinner is important. Talk to your family. What a concept!
  • Hold your friends close or let them go – you’ll know which is appropriate
  • Enjoy your life or change it
  • Live, laugh and love (to quote some wise, famous person who remains a mystery to me)

© Laura M Hartman 2014


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Writing 101 Day 14 – To Whom It May Concern

Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration. If you need a boost, Google the word and see what images appear, and then go from there. 

Today’s twist: write the post in the form of a letter.

I opened Dean Koontz “The Good Guy” to page 29, the word the immediately jumped out at me was blind.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing in regards to the problems with my internet. I blindly trusted you when we signed up for your faster DSL. It is faster. Faster to go down on windy days,  faster to go up in price and faster making me blind with fury.

While I am not a tech, I am not blind. When I tell your phone rep that there isn’t a reset button, it is because I AM looking at the back of the unit and there IS NOT! There is a hole with a red circle around it. When I ask if I am supposed to poke something in there, she said, “of course – for 3 seconds”. One hundred one, one hundred two, one hundred three…

Nope, still no internet. And no, it is not my computer. My phone, Nook, husband’s computer all will not connect either. It IS  your equipment. Should I keep up the blind faith you expect me to have in you? Should I follow along with you like one of the three blind mice? You must answer these questions or I will be forced to BCC all of your superiors.

I sincerely hope you are correct when you tell me it will be fixed by tomorrow. I am so looking forward to watching the new Blind Melon video. While I’m waiting, I’ll just keep singing “Blinded by the Light” because that song calms me and brings down my blood pressure.

My apologies for this letter getting to you after my internet has been fixed (there you see my blind faith in you AGAIN). But I could not email it due to lack of available internet service.

Best Regards,




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