Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pop Culture and Pop Beads



I am not a follower of fashion trends. They come and go and you end up with a closet full of 70's bellbottoms and leather vests with yard long fringe or 80's dresses and blouses with shoulder pads that made women look like the Incredible Hulk and guys with leisure suits made of some kind of permanent press material that was shiny that made men feel they were trussed up in plastic wrap.
And then back when the Earth's crust was still cooling, there were POP BEADS.

What? You don't remember what pop beads were? Well, let me educate you. Pop beads were round, plastic beads with a little knob on one side and a tiny hole on the other so that one bead could fit into the other until they could be popped together into a circle to make bracelets and necklaces.
Of course, back in the 50's no one thought about choking hazards for kids let alone fire retardant sleepwear which in recent times has been condemned for its cancer enhancing chemicals. So, for a short time, pop beads were quite the rage. After a short period of adoration, they became considered gauche and tasteless and lost their prestige.



This is the only picture I have of Mom in her fashionable attire with those charming pop beads around her neck. Shortly after this picture, Mom added her pop beads to my "dress-up bin" of castoff grownup clothes to wear for play.

So ends the tale of pop beads in cultural history.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Mercy Hospital's Christmas Competition 1980's

Charlotte in Gingerbread

Way back in the 1980’s when I worked in Coronary Care at Mercy Hospital before Carolinas Medical Center bought out the Sisters of Mercy, we used to have an annual contest for the unit that had the best Christmas display. (We were allowed to call it “Christmas”, not winter holiday or some such politically correct name.) The prize was usually free lunch brought to the unit for the nurses on all shifts to enjoy and a huge platter of Christmas cookies.

We decided to do something extraordinary for our display, something grand that would win that prize. I remembered the gingerbread houses my parents used to make. They were not only beautiful, but very yummy, too. They even brought a gingerbread house to my unit a couple times and I loved that they did that. So my coworkers and I decided to make gingerbread houses for our display. But we didn’t just want regular gingerbread houses, we wanted to make downtown Charlotte like a whole city of gingerbread buildings. (Actually, we made the base of the buildings from cardboard to prevent any catastrophic collapse.)


We worked and worked on that city until the entire unite smelled like vanilla icing and candy. While I was looking at some old pictures, I found a picture of our gingerbread city all decorated for Christmas. We won! We all got to share in the sandwiches and cookies and, of course, a mention in the hospital newsletter that made us all rather proud. It was also my way of honoring the memory of my parents who loved making gingerbread houses out of real gingerbread each year for Christmas. It’s one of my best memories of Mom and Pop.  I still miss them.

Sarah J. McNeal
Author of paranormal, time travel and western romance


Monday, October 31, 2016

THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES--MY CHILDHOOD FAVORITE


When I was around eleven years old, I read Sir Arthur Canon Doyle’s famous Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. As much as I have never been a dedicated mystery fan, Sherlock Holmes grabbed my attention and has never let go. As a kid, I wanted to be like Sherlock. I wore Pop’s old trench coat and with my green and white plastic bubble pipe and trusty magnifying glass, I roamed the house and yard searching for clues to some mysterious happening after another.

I was quite proud of the fact that I actually solved the mystery of The Hounds Of The Baskervilles before I finished reading it. Maybe it was the strange characters or just the intensity of how Doyle wrote those mysteries that made me love Sherlock, but I was all in.

I think I have watched every movie and TV series involving Sherlock Holmes and Watson, his faithful sidekick. And, lest we forget, the best villain ever, Moriarty, was penned into these stories—and I do love a good villain. Moriarty has to be the most devious, intelligent, and evil villain that ever existed. What would a detective as innovative as Sherlock Holmes do without his match to test his courage and intelligence?


You may ask why I bring up Sherlock Holmes today, well it IS Halloween, but more than that, I saw in the daily post titled “Today In History” that Sir Arthur Canon Doyle first published The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on October 31, 1892—Halloween! How great is that? Just in case you want to read it, here is the link: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-adventures-of-sherlock-holmes-published?cmpid=email-hist-tdih-2016-1031-10312016&om_rid=4d63dea69e0614740ba4cf720055a484f1f9cb0e9a3c53cefd61b21aa7be8758&om_mid=104011034&kx_EmailCampaignID=7826&kx_EmailCampaignName=email-hist-tdih-2016-1031-10312016&kx_EmailRecipientID=4d63dea69e0614740ba4cf720055a484f1f9cb0e9a3c53cefd61b21aa7be8758

Sunday, September 11, 2016

NEVER FORGET!


Never Forget!
I was at work in the emergency department on 9/11/2001. When the first plane crashed into the tower, we were all dumbfounded and sad, but when the second plane hit the other tower, the chill of intentional horror hit us. Then the Pentagon took a hit from another plane followed by the plane in Pennsylvania thwarted from its suspected target of the White House by the brave passengers on board, we all knew the ugly truth. We experienced terrorism on a level never experienced before.
I called my niece and nephew just because I suddenly knew how important family was. The need to reach out to them was imperative in a world suddenly uncertain. We prepared as best we could at work for the possibility that Charlotte might be next. Who knew what would happen next. A torrent of emotions ran through the department from anger to weeping. No one smiled.
It was so odd and somewhat eerie to drive home with a clear blue sky above and not a single plane anywhere—not even a small Cessna. Nothing existed except this feeling of unbearable loss and mourning. When I reached home, I saw for the first time on TV the towers crumbling to the earth and the people posting pictures of their lost loved ones who were in the towers hoping against all odds they would be found alive.
In the weeks that followed, I felt I was living through one funeral after another. The sadness was overwhelming.
In the midst of all this turmoil, I adopted a kitten who had been hit by a car in front of the veterinary hospital. They saved her, fixed her injuries and had the kitten in the lobby. I took my dog, Kate, in for her shots and saw the black and white kitten crying in her cage. They named her Liberty. She was a beacon of light in a gloomy period of history. Liberty. Something innocent and sweet calling out to me. I took her home with me that day and she has brought me endless happiness ever since. I kept the name they gave her. I couldn’t think of another name that could possibly mean more to me than Liberty. My cat, my country, the ideal of our founding fathers. Liberty.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Secretly Paranormal

 HOME FOR THE HEART


I started my writing career with paranormal and time travel stories. I always enjoyed putting down stories with imaginary landscapes, time periods that were “different”, and characters that had to battle evil and win the hand of the ones they loved.
When I wrote HARMONICA JOE’S RELUCTANT BRIDE, I made it a time travel story with no intention of creating a town named Hazard or writing about the Wilding family. And yet, that’s exactly what I ended up doing. I love these crazy W...ildings. But the one thing I have stayed with in most of these stories is a touch of paranormal in the form of Lakota wisdom and beliefs.
Banjo’s uncle, Teekonka Red Sky, first introduced in FOR LOVE OF BANJO, is a Lakota shaman. He possesses great insight into the human heart and has a gift for getting in touch with the ancestors to help him work for the better good on the Earthly plane. His son, Kyle, carries on this legacy. He may seem like an ordinary man running a gas station and repairing cars, but he also has his father’s Lakota gift.
In my new release, HOME FOR THE HEART, Kyle warns Lucy Thoroughgood about something dangerous. Here is what he says and how Lucy responds:
Excerpt: (the Lakota Premonition)
Kyle brought the truck to a stop as close to the front door as the driveway allowed, but before Lucy could open the door, Kyle clasped her arm. She turned to face him and noticed a faraway look in his dark eyes. “What is it, Kyle? Is something wrong?”
His face took on a grim expression when he spoke. “All I know is something dark is coming. Be careful, Lucy.”
Something in her chest clutched. Kyle had a special gift and his words were not to be ignored. “Is something bad going to happen?”
“I’m afraid so. I wish I knew what it was, but I don’t. I only know it’s evil.”
“You’re scaring me, Kyle.”
“I don’t mean to. Hank and I will keep an eye out. Tell your dad what I said.”
All my Wilding western romances can be found on Amazon—and for a bargain if you have Amazon Select. You can also find a list of my books on my Wildings Page:
http://prairierosepublications.com/…/special-…/the-wildings/

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Life in the South Without Air Conditioning


It’s so hot and humid right now that I find myself hanging out more and more in the comfort of my air conditioned house. I have so much gratitude for whoever it was who invented air conditioning.

When I was 5 years old, Pop transferred from a small weather station in Luthersburg, Pennsylvania to Charlotte, North Carolina. We landed at the airport on a hot summer day in Charlotte back in the days when you left the plane by walking down the movable stairs straight onto the hot tarmac. We had a lovely meal at a restaurant where my sister and I had broccoli for the first time and liked it. And then Pop took us to our new home he had rented for us on Mayfair Avenue—a house with no air conditioning, not even a window unit.

Pop was concerned about the heat since none of us were used to it. He wanted to keep the curtains closed in the heat of the day and had my sister and I take midday naps—not that either of us really wanted to take naps. At night, we kept the windows open. Yes, open windows at night back in those days when families didn’t feel threatened by home invasions, child kidnappers, and the like. Hard to imagine such freedom these days.

When the weather turned humid, I remember the discomfort of trying to sleep between damp sheets and wishing for a breeze to come through that window. Rain, even thunderstorms were welcome on most occasions because they brought with them a temporary relief. Of course, there were those times when rain just added to the humidity.

Pop did try to bring relief to us when he installed an industrial sized air conditioner which operated on the theory of evaporation. He hosed down the huge unit’s special padding every day and turned that thing on. It blew in cool air, but since it was operating on evaporation, it added to the humidity and misery. Also, it caused mold to grow on anything leather. So much for those expensive shoes and pocketbooks. So we went back to plan A with open windows and darkened rooms. Honestly, it was a greater relief to go out and play in the shade of the woods and splash around in the creek during the day.

When Mom and Pop bought a house, it was one with high ceilings and a hallway downstairs that helped move air through the house. This was the house where my sister and I grew up and we quickly acclimated to the lack of a central heating and cooling system. Because of Mom’s heart disease, Pop did get a window unit air conditioner for their bedroom to allow her some comfort. My parents were Yankee transplants having been born and raised in the mountainous north central Pennsylvania, and therefore, had a harder time adjusting to the heat.

Like most people these days I have central air. I try to be conservative by keeping the temperature at 76-78 degrees during the day and 74 at night. Ceiling fans make a huge difference in my tolerance to the heat. As long as I have those wonderful ceiling fans, I’m good. Still, there are times when I look back on those days and wonder how we survived the heat and humidity of summer. I have a heap of gratitude for that hard working air conditioner in my backyard.  

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Treasured Childhood Books


Junior Classics Children's Books

My parents entered me in the Junior Classics Book Club when I was about 11 years old. Every month I would get a new classic in the mail. I absolutely loved it. 


Kidnapped 

My all-time favorite book was Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. I read it 7 times. My hero was Allen Breck, the Scot who saved David Balfour from his slavery on a ship after his uncle had him kidnapped to keep David from claiming his inheritance.
Through this story I learned about the Scots and Scotland, and began my love for the bagpipes, great coats, and swords. Later, I had a great coat and changed the plastic buttons to silver ones like Allen Breck’s famous silver buttons he gave to David to show his kinsman in order to gain their trust and help the lad. I was completely mesmerized by this story. 

I also loved the other classics I read in these Junior Classics collection like all of Louisa May Alcott’s stories, Tom Sawyer, Freckles (a wonderful story about an orphan who had lost his hand), and so many others I hold dear to my heart.

I remember when the remake of Little Woman came out with Wynonna Ryder as the central character, Jo. Oh gosh, even though I was a middle-aged woman, I couldn’t wait to see it. I thought they did a great job of capturing the original essence of that classic story.



I was introduced to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I wanted to become the famous detective and solve mysterious cases. I ran around the house and yard in Pop’s old trench coat with my magnifying glass and bubble pipe pretending to solve mysteries. What great fun I had.

I never hear my great-niece mention reading classic children’s books. The books she reads are new to me. Have classics fallen to the wayside? Did any of you with children encourage classic children’s stories, or are there “new classics” surfacing now? In any case, books filled my childhood with excitement and wonder and I’m so grateful I had those cherished books.