The Bronx Farmers

For your enjoyment, here’s a short story I’d written a couple of years ago that was printed in Green Prints magazine. Jim and I were very, very green as far as gardening was concerned when we first started out. Maybe some of you can relate.

Get closer to the earth. That became our mantra when our first son was born.

vegetables-790022_1920.jpgWe made rules—healthy, smart, earth-friendly rules. No more pesticide-laden food for us. Away with vegetables produced with slurries of artificial fertilizers. Bah to store-bought bread made from amber waves of grain, grown in fields of depleted soil. It was time to make changes—to live off the proverbial fat of the land.

With the baby settled in for an afternoon nap, Jim and I slipped out into the sunny backyard of our rented house in Ocala, Florida. Shovels in hand, we scoped out the best location for our vegetable garden and began the backbreaking task of clearing the sod and breaking up the virgin soil.

“June is kind of late for planting a garden, don’t y’all think?”

We uncoiled our spines, wiped the sweat from our brows, and turned toward the voice.

“I’m Lela Mitchell,” a small, elderly woman said. She jerked a thumb in the direction of the house behind us. “My husband Jack and I are your neighbors.”

Jim offered a dirt-crusted handshake and introduced himself. I stepped forward and did the same.

Hands clasped behind her back, Lela started a slow walk around the freshly dug perimeter of our hopes for a nutritious future. She stopped on the far side and cast a glance at us. “Where’re y’all from?”

I speared my shovel into the ground, laced my fingers, and hung my hands on the wooden handle in front of my chest. “Bronx, New York, originally.”

“Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. I see.” She gave a slight nod and sauntered onward until she came full-circle and stood before us.

“The ground ’round here is mostly sand. You’ll need to add some compost to the soil before y’all plant anything.”

Jim and I glanced at each other, then swiveled our heads to look once again at the old woman. “Compost?” We asked in unison.

Lela’s lips curled into a small smile. “Yes, compost. You know, a mixture of leaves, grass, vegetable and fruit peelings. It’s like magic fertilizer.”

Magic fertilizer of the organic kind—a dream come true. Excitement coursed through my urban, Yankee veins.

Our new neighbor stepped back and said, “Nice meetin’ y’all.”

The agricultural goddess turned and ambled across the yard toward her house. She climbed the wooden steps onto her back porch and vanished as the screen door creaked and closed behind her.

Jim wasted no time searching the shed for a suitable bucket. We put the washed and rinsed galvanized pail under the kitchen sink to use as a catchall for onionskins, eggshells, and potato peels—anything we could use in the garden. Every day for a week, we turned the soil and waited for the bucket to fill.

Late one Friday afternoon, I decided it was time to tackle the task of making bread for the first time in my life. I chose a recipe and assembled the ingredients: stoneground whole-wheat flour, sea salt, yeast, honey, water and a little oil. Simple enough.

I measured everything into a large bowl and mixed with a wooden spoon. Little by little, I added more flour, just as the recipe instructed. The dough started to come together and form a sticky lump. I consulted the book for the next step.

dough-3082589_1920Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth and satiny.

Knead? I flipped to the back of the book and looked for a glossary of terms. There wasn’t one. I was going to have to wing it and hope for the best.

I floured the counter and dumped the dough onto it. Fingers coiled, monster style, I pounced at the warm blob and clawed at it like a cat tearing the stuffing from the arm of a tweed sofa.

Jim came into the kitchen. “Whatcha doing, babe?”

“Kneading the dough, I think.”

His eyes lit up. “Can I try?” He washed his hands, and I moved out of the way.

“Hi-ya!” Jim started with a karate chop to the center of the dough. He pulled, stretched, and wadded the dough back into a ball before picking it up and body slamming it to the counter. Thwump. A poof of flour spread across the Formica surface like a dust storm in the desert. Nothing was safe. I figured I’d find flour in cracks and crevices for months to come.

I took over and folded the dough over itself a few times. Lo and behold, the surface took on a smooth, satiny sheen. With a satisfied grin, I greased a bowl, put the dough in it and draped a damp towel over the top.

“What’s next?” Jim asked.

I scissor-clapped the flour off my palms. “We let it rise until it doubles in bulk, punch it down and knead it one more time. After that, we put it in a bread pan, let it rise again, and then we bake it.”

An hour later, I took a peek under the towel. “Hey Jim,” I shouted across the house. “The dough’s doubled in bulk. Come take a look.”

Things were working out just as the recipe said it would.

I balled up my fist and punched the dough. We hung our heads over the bowl and took a deep whiff as the dough deflated. Noxious gas hissed into our faces. We jerked back and fanned our noses. Jim gagged and I thought he’d barf on the spot.

“Whew. That smells terrible,” he said. “I think it went bad.”

I agreed.

Jim picked up the bowl, held it at arm’s length and headed for the back door.

“Where are you going with that?” I asked.

He looked back. “It stinks. I’m going to bury it in the garden.”

I opened the cabinet and grabbed the bucket from under the sink. “Wait for me.”

In the soft glow of the evening sky, I held the smelly bowl while Jim dug a hole in the center of the garden area.

“Bombs away,” I said, and then dumped the doughy torpedo into the hole.

Jim covered it with dirt and stomped it down with his foot. For the next few moments we stood in the twilight with Jim’s arm around my shoulder, and mine around his waist. Before we turned to go, I handed him the bucket and he hauled back and broadcasted the contents into the garden.compost-709020_1920

Jim and I went inside and later went to bed, feeling much better with the putrid monster dead and buried.

The next morning we awoke to Lela’s voice, yelling outside in our yard. “Jaaaaack! Come out here. You gotta see this.”

We jumped out of bed and threw on some shorts and T-shirts. By the time we got outside, Jack Mitchell was standing in the middle of the garden, and with the toe of his shoe, was poking a mound of dirt that jiggled every time he touched it. “What do you reckon that is?” he asked, looking over his shoulder at Lela.

“I got no idea,” she answered. “You’re gonna have to ask the Bronx Farmers.”

Jim and I stood next to Lela.

“It’s bread dough,” I said. “We punched it down after it rose, and it stunk like crazy.”

Lela bent forward, slapped her thighs and burst into laughter. “It’s supposed to smell that way, silly.”

Banana peels hung over the white strings Jim had strung to mark the rows. Onion skins, eggshells, slimy tomatoes, and potato peels lay scattered about, making our little plot of earth look more like the city dump than the garden we’d envisioned.

Jack and Lela could barely stop laughing. But, when they did, they took us under their wings, overlooked our big city ways, and taught us the basics of gardening, including how to make a compost heap that would decompose into rich, fluffy material to add to the soil.

The only thing that grew in the garden that summer was friendship. But, it was nourishing, organic, and grown in the fertile soil of our hearts. And that, my friend, is the best fat of the land ever grown.

Copyright © 2016 Irene Onorato, all rights reserved.



A Slice of Death

For the past few weeks I’ve been posting short pieces by several of my author friends. Today I have another one for you, this time by cozy mystery author, Beatrice Fishback. Mulit-published, and highly talented, Bea is a world traveler who, along with her husband, Jim, has spoken to audiences on several continents. A native New Yorker who lived twenty-plus years in the East Anglian area of Great Britain, she cannot resist a good cuppa tea alongside a scone topped with clotted cream and jam. And now, for your enjoyment, may I present…

A Slice of Death

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Margaret Drew shut the screened porch door and turned off the light. Lightening bugs flickered off and on in the back garden like tiny torches carried by miniature fairies. Her mother always said she had a wild imagination. But, mother was long gone and Margaret had been on her own for more years than she could remember. She watched the bugs hover then float away on a sea of air.

A deep sigh filled her lungs as she longed for someone to talk to, someone who would be interested in her imaginings. There were days she pretended to be Queen Elizabeth and would traipse around the house with a dressing gown and a cheap tiara on her head and demand the loyalty of her subjects. But, the more time passed and the fewer the people she came into contact with, the less she believed she would ever speak to another person again.  She turned off the lights and went to bed. Another long day alone loomed ahead of her again tomorrow.

Ding dong. The doorbell woke Margaret with a start. She draped a robe over her nightgown, tiptoed to the front door and pulled aside the tattered curtain. A postman was scrutinizing the front of the house as if casing the place for bugs.

Margaret opened the door slightly, and the hinged squeaked with rusty tunes. “May I help you?”

“Is this the home of Miss Margaret Drew?”

“Yes.” She drew her robe closer and leaned forward. “What do you want?”

The postman looked at the envelope in his hand and then at her. “I was asked to deliver this to you personally.” He held out the long manila item.

She opened the door a little more and took the envelope. “Won’t you please come in? I’m so rude not offering you a nice cup of tea on such a cold morning.”

He looked this way and that as if to be sure no one nearby watched. “Why, thank you. It’s not often I’m offered refreshments on this job. Usually it’s growling dogs or grumpy neighbors I deal with.”

Margaret opened the door wide and directed the postman to the kitchen.

He sat, laid his hat on the table and rubbed his hands together. “You wouldn’t happen to have some cookies to go with that tea now would you?”

apple-pie-3671925_1920Margaret tied a red-checkered apron over her robe. “I have some homemade pie if you’re interested. I’m the best cook in the world. I use to win ribbons for my pies at every county fair within miles. You won’t be disappointed I assure you. It’s to die for.”

“I’m sure I won’t.”

“It’s wonderful to have company.” Margaret sat across from the man. “I especially like postmen. They are so nice. In fact, my first husband was one.”

The man sat straighter and inhaled the aroma of the warmed pie she had set before him. “Really?”

“Well, I guess I told a bit of a fib.” She chuckled, wiped her hands on the apron and straightened it beneath the table. “He wasn’t actually a postman, but he always dreamed of being one. Said he wanted to have a job where he could wear a uniform.”

“So what did he end up doing?” He spoke through a large mouthful of apples.

“Not much of anything.” She sighed. “He gave up hope of ever finding a job, never mind a good paying one like you have.” She laid her hand on the top of his and smiled coyly.

The postman gulped with a loud swallow and moved his arm from under Margaret’s hand. “You’ve been most kind. But, I have to go now.” He rose slightly, wobbling slightly on his feet.

“But you haven’t finished your pie.” She stood and pushed him firmly back into the chair. “You don’t want to insult a queen now do you?” She placed the tiara on her head.

“Queen?” The postman looked up at her, his eyes wider than an owl at dusk. “I really think I should go.” He stood, forgetting to grab his hat. “Thank you for the tea and pie. It was delicious, but I must be on my way.” The front door slammed with a loud pop.

Margaret roamed the house, aware once more of the hollowness of the quiet rooms. She dug through her closet and brought out another long, formal gown with clusters of fake jewels and dressed in front of the mirror. “Perhaps I’ll be a princess instead of a queen,” she boasted to her reflection. Margaret danced around the room with clumsy movements pretending to be Cinderella rushing from the ball, afraid of the midnight toll.

The day moved along with her paying little attention to the clicking minutes on the grandmother clock that her father had given them as a gift one Christmas long ago.

Weeks passed. For Margaret the haunting quiet began to unnerve her. She paced and wished for someone to visit and listen to her dreams, be attentive to a conversation.

A truck pulled into the drive—a FedEx logo plastered along its side. Margaret watched the tall, dark-haired man alight from the vehicle. She stepped back and waited for the bell to ring.

“Is this the home of Margaret Drew?” His deep and husky voice gave Margaret chills up and down her spine, a tingling she had long forgotten even existed.

“Yes. Please come in. I have some delicious pie just waiting to be eaten.” She took the manila envelope from the deliveryman and opened wide the door.

“I’m afraid I can’t, ma’am.” He tapped his forehead with a small salute. “But, thank you for the offer.”

“Would you mind helping a widow for a moment then?” She forced fake tears to well.

He softened. “Of course not. How may I help you?”

“It’s something I need moved.” She stepped aside and waved her arm toward the living area. “It’s just in here.”

The tall man entered and sniffed. “Not to be rude or anything but that smell of your pie is sure wonderful.”

apple-pie-3671925_1920Margaret smiled. “Please come and have a piece. I would be most honored. The taste is to die for.”

She shuffled around him with the precision moves of a waitress to her customer and waved a dishtowel with a swish. “My, my. I love a man in uniform.”

The FedEx gentlemen stopped mid-bite. “This isn’t much of a uniform.” He gagged on a bite of pie. “There seems to be a bitter taste mixed with the sweet.”

“Dear, oh, dear. Are you all right?” She grabbed a glass of water and plunked in on the table. “Here, drink, you’ll feel much better.” Margaret patted him on the back with the force of a batter hitting a home run.

“I think I had better go.” He wiped his mouth, scurried out the door and missing a step on the way out.

“Another man come and gone in my life. Just like daddy did to mother and me all those years ago.” She breathed deeply and stood taller. “Men are all the same. You treat them nice, you serve them the finest, and they still reject you.” She moved to the bedroom to don yet another costume of royal nature and pranced around the room.


A window slid open. Margaret was unaware of the grinding metal on wood.

“She remains in a world of her own.” Margaret’s mother whispered to the medical attendant on duty. “She thinks I’ve passed away.”

“But why does she dream of uniformed men and wooing their company?” The medical professional scratched his head.

Mrs. Drew inhaled. “Her father was a policeman and was killed in a freak accident in his patrol car while on duty. Margaret never was the same. I thought she would improve over time but things only got worse. She married a postman, but he disappeared only to be discovered dead in a hotel room a week later apparently killed by cyanide slipped into a slice of pie sitting beside his bed.”

“Seems Margaret is left with nothing but regret. All she remembers is her husband and the loneliness brought on by a single slice of pie.”

The end

Copyright © 2018 Beatrice Fishback    All rights reserved.

apple-pie-3671925_1920.png Pie, anyone?????

Click on the images below to learn more about each of Beatrice’s fantastic books.

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The Woodpecker by Dana K. Ray

For your reading enjoyment, may I present “The Woodpecker,” a short, inspirational story graciously provided by author Dana K. Ray from her book, A Word: Ordinary Days With an Extraordinary God. 


The hardest lessons for me are the ones when I look back and see, what I like to call a duh moment. When the answer to my prayer is so simple that I miss it and when I finally see it, I just stop and say, “Duh.”

My most memorable duh moment was when I encountered a nasty little woodpecker. I hope, as you read this, you will see that our God is not complicated. In fact, He’s quite simple in how He works. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Him to be BIG but He doesn’t have to part the Red Sea or move a mountain to perform a miracle. I have no need for that kind of miracle, but I do have other needs. Needs that He loves to fulfill. Miracles that I eventually see, and say, “Duh.”

My children were now growing, eleven, eight, five and three. They were no longer the little ones who woke the second they heard my footsteps in the hallway. Since they had begun to sleep later, I began yearning for my morning quiet time.

beach-1868772_1920.jpgOh, to see the sunrise, sipping hot coffee with my Bible opened like I did before children. To hear the birds chirping and watch them eat from the feeders as I worshipped God on my deck. I wanted that back. There was only one problem. I was now, used to sleeping in.

I decided I’d hidden in my bathroom long enough. I wanted the deck, the outdoors, and hot coffee. I longed for it. I ached for it. So, I prayed for it. But I couldn’t seem to get myself up. The alarm would go off, I’d hit snooze over and over again. My husband hated it. Hearing that buzzer every nine minutes for an hour was aggravating, to say the least.

I began praying harder, changing my prayer from telling God how I wanted to get up, to asking Him to help me get up.


Then he came. One morning at 5:45 am, outside my window, above my bed. Somehow, he hung from the metal guttering and pounded his hard, sharp, beak furiously. He pecked so loudly that the glass in the windows shook. I knew it would wake everyone.

I moaned, “Oh, Lord, make him go away.”

He continued to pound.

I got out of bed, walked to the window, opened it and quietly said, “Get.” Which shooed him away. I crawled back into bed, rolled over, snuggled the covers under my chin and dozed off.

The pecking started again. My teeth clench together. This time, I got up and walked to the den, out the French doors, and through the damp grass. My fists are clenched and I had one purpose, to kill me a woodpecker. I begin to wonder if it’s legal to kill a woodpecker in Missouri?

Thankfully, my neighbors are still in bed, as I frantically wave my hands in the air, quietly yelling at this bird. After he flew away, I went back to bed and to sleep.

You see where this is going, but I didn’t, not at the time. I drank my coffee two hours later, watching this woodpecker sit on my patio bench, mocking me. He was so beautiful but I still wanted him dead for waking me up so early.

I prayed that evening, the same prayer. “Help me, Lord, to wake up in the morning so I can have a quiet time with You.”

5:30 am the pecking starts. I nudge my husband. “Get that bird. Shoot him with the BB Gun.”

He groans and rolls over.

My eyes narrow. It’s me again, me and the woodpecker.

I start the routine. Crack the window, shoo him away, go back to bed. He pecks again. I go outside, chase him away, go back to bed. I drag myself up at 6:45 am, the time I have to get up to get kids ready for school.

This goes on for at least three weeks. I visit my local nursery. God bless the man who always gets to deal with me. I was raised both in the city and on a farm, but you’d never know it.

John explains to me all about woodpeckers, more then I really cared to hear, but I nodded and smiled, acting interested, waiting for the only bit of information I wanted to know; how do I get rid of one?

He says, “It’s mating season. They’re not pecking they’re drumming. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”

“Okay, John, but how do I ditch the dodo?”

He shows me a metal streamer and some other things. I’m skeptical but my question about my neighbor is answered. I thought he had just forgot that red streamer from Christmas last year.

I walk away with nothing. I pray that night for the woodpecker to leave and for me to get up and have a quiet time.

After another two weeks go by, my sanity is about lost. My husband, like me, is teetering on a mental breakdown over a bird. We’ve even discussed putting up the tent and sleeping outside with the BB Gun to get rid of him.

Isn’t it strange that I pray for the blasted thing to leave then and in the same breath, pray for God to wake me up?

God had to be shaking his head, thinking, “When will she get it?”

Finally, it happened. It hit me like a brick. I stood outside one early morning, staring into the eyes of this Red-bellied Woodpecker. I smiled and said, “Duh.”

I laughed at my stupidity and wondered how God ever puts up with me. I sit outside and stare. He begins to peck, excuse me, drum. I shoo him away so my husband can sleep. I go inside, numb.

book-2572101_1920.jpgIt took almost a month for me to understand. The next morning I automatically woke at 5:30 am. I listen for the woodpecker, but nothing. I got up and got ready for my quiet time. I make coffee, got my Bible, go outside on my deck and begin praising God for getting me up without the banging of the woodpecker.

He had answered my prayer immediately but I was oblivious to the simple way He did. I mean, really, what had I expected when I prayed for God to get me up? Did I think He would levitate me to the deck for my quiet time?

We often look for these gigantic works that we think God must perform but He is present with us daily, performing many miracles. We just need to realize it, or like me, we’ll miss it.

Every time I see a woodpecker, I smile. We haven’t had one drum on our house since, but He has sent him back. I am reminded of God’s answer to my prayer every time I see him eating seed out of one of our feeders.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”John 11:40 (NIV)

Yea God for the gift of the beautifully, annoying woodpecker!

Believing Him for many more miracles.

(copyright © 2018 Dana K. Ray, all rights reserved)



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Dana K. Ray
Dana K. Ray

Old Memories

Happy Valentines Day!

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My good friend, author Linda Robinson, has been married for over 60 years.  I love her fictional characters, Nellie and Herman, who so apty paint laugh-out-loud pictures that illustrate what it’s like to be in a long-term marital relationships. Here’s one of Linda’s tales…


Old Memories

A satire on aging by Linda Robinson

“Here it is.” Herman flipped his turn signal and steered the car left onto a washboard dirt road.

Nellie gasped and white-knuckled the armrest. “Geez, slow down to turn next time!”

“Who’s driving? You or me?”

“Well, with you almost deaf and won’t wear your hearing aids, plus your bad eyesight, it takes two of us.”


“Uh…I don’t think this is the right road, Herm. Don’t remember that old run-down shanty swallowed in kudzu,” Nellie leaned forward and rotated her snow-capped head ninety degrees, “or that stagnant old fish pond covered in lily pads.”

“That, dear Nellie, is not a pond. It’s Lake Jessup.”

“Pond, lake, lagoon or mud hole…what’s the difference? I don’t remember it.”

“Well, I may be nearly deaf and half blind, but at least I’ve still got a good sense of direction and some memory left. Yours went south!”

“What a crappy thing to say, Herm!”

“Speaking of crappy, I sure hope we catch a mess of ’em.”

“Quit changing the subject. Apologize.”

“Do you think making fun of my hearing and eyesight was a compliment?”

“I was just stating facts.”

“Pfft! So was I.” He slapped the steering wheel with his palm. “Remind me what it is I’m s’posed to be sorry for.”

“Herm, this was a terrible idea you had for us to celebrate our seventieth anniversary by going fishing.”

“Anniversary? When…I didn’t…who suggested…?”

“Oh Lord, Herman! Turn around right now. You talk about my memory going south, but at least I do remember…eventually. We live in Alabama now. Lake Jessup is way out in the sticks in Florida, where we went fishing over fifty years ago. Remember the baby gators we saw in the deep ditch?”

“Yeah, how could I forget you freakin’ out on me?”

“No, I freaked out a week later when I read a long article in the Orlando Sentinel about Lake Jessup. Locals nicknamed it Alligator Lake, and that’s why nobody was fishing there except us. Only people to ever go there were gator poachers who went at night.”

Whatever. Now, Nellie, don’t you go telling our young’uns ’bout this. They’ll have another pow-wow and try to take my car again.”

“Tell them about what, Herman? I declare. Sometimes your crazy notions flabbergast me. Watch out for that pothole! How much longer before we get to Lake Jessup?”

The End!

Copyright © 2016 Linda Robinson, all rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission from Truth & Southern-Fried Fiction

Click on the images below to learn more about each of Linda’s fantastic books.


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The Keys of Kindness

For your enjoyment, here’s a short story I’d written a couple of years ago that was printed in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Random Acts of Kindness ™ .

Deeds of kindness are equal in weight to all the commandments.

~The Talmud

 It was already hot and humid when my husband left for work at six on that July morning. I waved as he pulled out of the driveway and went back inside to enjoy a couple of hours of peace and quiet before my teenagers awoke.

With a second cup of coffee swirling curlicues of steam in front of me, I sat at the kitchen table and planned my day: deposit a couple of checks at the bank, take out some cash, and maybe go to the mall to shop for a new pair of sneakers.

Sometime around noon I grabbed my purse, said goodbye to the kids, who were now in the living room watching TV, and headed for the car. In the carport next door, our neighbor Eddie was tinkering under the hood of his pickup truck. We traded hellos and a few moments of chitchat before I left in my Honda Civic.

The bank was two miles from the house. I pulled into a space in front of the glass- enclosed ATM machine and reached to turn off the ignition, but decided against it.

Instead, I hopped out of the car with the engine running and the air conditioner on.

atm-2820328_960_720.pngThe ATM machine sucked in my card and asked for my PIN number. I typed it in and then threw an over-the-shoulder glance at the car where a multi-colored ribbon tassel hanging from the rearview mirror danced above the dashboard in the cool air. I couldn’t wait to get back inside to enjoy it.

Transaction complete, I went to the car and tugged on the door handle. If ever I had an uh-oh moment, it was then. The door was locked.

The Louisiana sun was beating down on me while I stood deflated, wondering what to do. I didn’t relish the thought of a two-mile hike back to the house to get the spare set of keys.

I entered the bank and took a deep breath of cool air before approaching a teller window. The young woman who greeted me listened sympathetically as I told her my problem. When I asked if I could make a call, she cheerfully obliged by showing me to the end of the counter and pushing a telephone across the polished surface.

“Hello, Fawn,” I said when my daughter answered. “I locked my keys in the car at the bank, and the engine is running. Can you go next door and ask Eddie if he would bring me the spare set, please?”

Fawn came back on the line a few minutes later. The news wasn’t good. Eddie was in the middle of an oil change and wouldn’t be able to help for a while. I hung up and relayed my dilemma to the teller.

“You’re Fawn’s mother?” she asked, sounding a bit apologetic for listening in on my conversation.

“Yes, I am.”

Her face lit up. “I’m Carmen. Fawn and I often work together in the church nursery. She’s a wonderful person. I just love her to pieces. You must be an awesome mom.”

keys-473461_960_720Carmen dug through her purse, pulled out a set of keys, and held them toward me. “Here, take my car. It’s the brand-new Corolla parked outside facing the street. I just got it yesterday.”

I was stunned. “Are you sure about lending me your new car?”

“Yes. Please, take it.”

As my fingers wrapped around the keys, a hint of worry shadowed her pretty face.

Clearly, letting go was a sacrifice. I was a stranger, and her car was new. She’d worked hard for it. But because of the connection we shared through my daughter, she was willing to take a chance.

“You’ll drive carefully, won’t you?” she asked as I stepped away from the counter.

“I will. I promise.” And, I kept my promise. Fifteen minutes later I returned with Carmen’s car, my spare keys, and my daughter.

“Thank you for helping my mom,” Fawn said, standing before Carmen, her eyes brimming with tears.

“Oh, it was nothing.”

Warmth flooded my heart as I watched the girls share a hug.

To me, the gesture wasn’t “nothing.” It was a huge “something.” I had merited a favor based on my daughter’s reputation, and I was grateful to Carmen for lending me her car. But more than that, Carmen probably didn’t realize that she’d given me a gift—the most precious words a mother could ever hear: “You must be an awesome mom.”

For those kind words, I will forever be grateful.

~Irene Onorato~

God’s Gift at the End of the Storm

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 11.42.02 AM.pngMy husband, Jim, and I wept bitter tears when cancer took Brinkley, our fourteen-year-old lab/German shepherd mix on October 29, 2015. We agreed that we would live the rest of our retirement years without getting another dog. But as the months went by, Jim’s resolve began to waver. His desire for a dog became a point of contention between us.

By the time summer rolled around, Jim was circling ads in the pet section of the local newspaper. I wanted no part of it and hoped he’d find something else to divert his attention—another hobby, or maybe a part-time job. But I never wished for the diversion to come in the form of a catastrophic event.

August 11, 2016. Jim and I stood at our living room window in Baton Rouge watching as lightening struck and thunder boomed with the ferocity of unrelenting incoming artillery. Rain fell in sheets, cloaking our neighbors’ houses behind a veil of gray. The storm drain on the street in front of our home quickly backed up and began belching and bubbling as if choking to swallow the deluge that poured down its throat. Instead of passing within hours, the weather system hovered over us for several days.

On August 12, flooding became a reality many people were forced to face. The next day, a flash-flood emergency was issued for areas along the Amite and Comite Rivers, several miles from our house. Newscasters pleaded for people to evacuate.

We were riveted to the local news on TV and watched with saddened hearts as backwaters filled neighborhoods, inundating large swaths of homes up to the rafters. For some, the water rose so swiftly, they barely had time to escape with their lives. Those who lived beyond the borders of designated flood plains were taken by surprise when their houses flooded.

Even before the National Guard could scramble into action, the Cajun Navy—a flotilla of motorboats owned by caring individuals—put to sea, so to speak, and set to the task of rescuing those in distress. Man or beast, it didn’t matter. If it lived and breathed, these brave men and women did their utmost to save them.

People who were trapped in attics or on rooftops took to social media to cry for help. The Cajun Navy was quick to respond.

We survived the storm unscathed, our home unaffected by the flood. In the days that followed, we went on a quest to find where and how we could help those who had suffered the devastating loss of their homes. The local news put out a plea for donations of various kinds to be brought to Celtic Studios, a movie production facility here in Baton Rouge that had opened its doors to those in need.

Armed with boxes of diapers, wipes, and bags of dog and cat food, we joined the droves of citizens who answered the call. One building at the facility housed not only people, but their pets as well. By the time we’d delivered our bags of kibble, they’d already had a veritable mountain of donated dog and cat chow stacked against the wall.

We responded to a call for help at another facility in Gonzales where hundreds of rescued animals were sheltered. Spending the day there, we walked dogs, cleaned their pens, fed and watered them.

In the end, we decided to pick one family and concentrate our efforts on helping them. Our youngest son’s friend had been flooded with several feet of water. Jim helped gut their house while I washed, dried, and folded at least twenty loads of clothes that reeked of river silt. I sent a few lunches with Jim to feed the homeowner and his buddy, and made a big pan of lasagna to send to the family.

My contribution to the recovery effort was miniscule and felt insignificant when compared to the depth of suffering going on around me. My heart hurt for the family we were helping as well as for all those who had lost so much. I wept every day for weeks.

When a semblance of normality returned to our lives, Jim once again broached the subject of getting another dog. Once again, I balked at the idea.

On a sunny afternoon that October, we went out to lunch at Jason’s Deli, one of our favorite places to have a nice meal, sit, and talk. As I sat across the table from this incredible man whom I’d adored for over forty years, it suddenly occurred to me how selfish I’d been to deny him the simple pleasure in life of having a dog. I surprised him, and myself, by suggesting we go to PetSmart to see if any of the pet adoption agencies had any puppies he’d be interested in.

I meandered the aisles of PetSmart, not really wanting to peruse the perimeter of the store where pets were displayed. As I turned the corner, I saw Jim walking a black puppy on a leash. For several minutes, I followed them. Finally, I approached, squatted, and petted the pup. Admittedly, he was adorable and rather cuddly.

Deacon .JPG
Deacon in October, 2016

“He’s about eleven weeks old, and his name is Deacon,” my husband said. “Best they can tell, he’s a lab/border collie mix.”

Looking up, I could see in Jim’s eyes that he’d already formed a bond with the little guy. We agreed to adopt Deacon.

As I sat filling out the adoption papers with the pup on my lap, the APAWS volunteer told us that the Cajun Navy had rescued Deacon and three littermates from the August floodwaters.

I resisted the urge to weep as God touched my heart with the sudden realization that Deacon was a gift to me—a token of love, and a living reminder, that even through the storms of life, kindness prevails.

Here’s what Deacon looks like today:IMG_3691.jpg


Note: The experience of helping out at the animal shelter after the 2016 flood was the inspiration for my latest novella,

Thanksgiving at Canine Corral




Writer’s Block and the Unfaithful Muse


Muse: a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.

My thoughts are stagnant. My imagination, stilted. And, I’m quickly falling into the dreaded state of literary malaise. I wonder if I was ever good at the craft of writing, and I’m starting to lose hope that I’ll once again be inspired enough to pick up my quill and write again.

What’s causing the awful state I find myself in, you ask?

I blame that darn muse of mine. I’m pretty sure she ditched me and is now sitting beside some other writer, tickling his or her ear with stellar prose and intricate plot lines. I strongly suspect that, like a wayward, no-good, cheating spouse, she divides her loyalties and affections on a whim.


Of course, it could be that I’ve simply worn  my poor muse to a frazzle. Squeezed her too hard for ideas. Asked too much of her. Maybe she needed a sabbatical to refresh herself. 

Could be that she’s vacationing on some remote island paradise, sipping margaritas on the sand. Or snorkeling in azure water, enjoying a little time off.underwater-2347255_1920

But I’m in too much of a snit to be forgiving, and either way, I’m not sure I want her back.

I know what I’ll do. I’ll just get another one. From Amazon. They sell muses, don’t they? On Prime? If I have to pay for shipping, I’ll have to choose an extremely lean model. Naked, too, to save even further on shipping costs. I’ll feed and clothe her upon delivery. And then…


I must stop this awful behavior!

This silly rant. 

What I really want.

What I really, really, really want, is for my muse to come home. We have a  cavernous vault of happy memories and an untapped sea of ideas we’ve yet to dive into. Together.

Dear Muse,

I miss you. Please come home and play with me again.

Your faithful friend,









Flowers and Heroines


gardening-1117865_960_720Many years ago, when I was in grammar school, fund raisers consisted of sending kids home with order forms for different kinds of flower seeds. My dutiful mother always bought a few packs to save me the embarrassment of turning in blank forms with zero sales. When orders arrived, Mom and I covered the kitchen table with newspapers and jumped into the task of planting seeds. Problem was, city slickers like us—both being born and bred in the Bronx—knew nothing about the proper way to plant anything.

the-motif-2341061_960_720We brought in the flower pots that had sat on the fire escape of our top-floor apartment through the winter, broke up the ball of last-year’s roots, shook off the dirt, and planted our seeds. Spindly shoots fought a good fight, grew a few inches, and died a hard, neglected death.

flowers-1203699_960_720My uncle owned a florist in Staten Island, New York. Though we didn’t see him often, I thoroughly enjoyed traipsing through his shop, smelling the fresh scent, and seeing the wonderful array of colors. Even though he didn’t grow the flowers himself, he’d evidently been born with a gene my mother and I seemed to be missing.

I’ve always loved flowers. When it came time to pick an occupation for the heroine in my book, Christmas at Dumpster Corral, I chose her to be a florist.

ookiewookie__christmas_kindleHere’s where I get to sneak in a little plug for my book. Tee-hee. The kindle version is on sale for 99¢ through July. You can buy it HERE.




Oh, by the way. My favorite flower is the stargazer lily. What’s yours?





Be Careful, Little Ears…

Be careful, little ears, what you hear, eyes what you see, and tongue, what you say. Our brains are like sponges, taking it all in. It’s easy to be disheartened by the hate and discontentment all around us.

Bad news sells. Or so I’ve always heard. Seems the stories of stellar behavior, excellent character, and goodwill toward men are always tucked away in an obscure corner of the newspaper or given twenty-seconds’ air time on the evening broadcasts.

And so, precious readers, I propose to reminisce for you a few random acts I’ve witnessed over the years that have restored my faith in mankind. These memories are like refreshing wells that bring me joy.

The Woman in the Wheelchair

wheel-3025969_1920The customer in line in front of me at Walmart was confined to a motorized wheelchair. Apparently, whatever injury or illness had taken away her ability to walk had also limited the usage of her arms. The cashier rang up her purchase and leaned way over the counter to accept the payment. Seeing the woman’s difficulties, she came around the counter and asked if she should stow the bag in a cargo pouch attached to the chair. The lady said, “Yes, please.” After that, the cashier took an extra minute to adjust a blanket that had partially slid off the woman’s lap, then tucked it around her so that it wouldn’t easily fall off again. It was a small thing yet done with a heart of compassion and the utmost respect. It touched my heart in a huge way.

Breakdown in the Rain

dinosaur-1564323_1920Everything seemed to be going wrong that day. My Honda Civic sputtered and died on the hill of an overpass. I had my three kids with me –one just a few months old—and a hatch full of groceries. All I could do was put it in neutral and steer onto the shoulder as the car went backwards. In those pre-cellphone days, I was stuck with no choice but to walk to the nearest pay phone in the drizzling rain with my kids in tow. I already knew my husband, Jim, who worked nights and was sleeping in the basement bedroom, would never hear the phone ringing upstairs. After calling multiple times, we all trudged back to the car.

A motorist stopped and asked if we were all right. Normally, I wouldn’t dream of getting in a car with a stranger, but I felt an overwhelming sense of peace when the man offered to drive me and the kids home. His kindness didn’t stop at safely delivering us (and the groceries) to the house. No, he then drove Jim to the car, then to the parts’ store for a fuel pump, and waited until the car started before leaving. This nice fellow wouldn’t accept any payment but a handshake of thanks. I will never forget his generous heart.

Benefit of the Doubt

purse-34371_1280While sitting in church listening to the sermon, my mouth dry as a bone, I decided a stick of gum would give some relief. I turned slightly and started digging through my purse like a squirrel looking for a nut. The woman sitting on the other side of the purse smiled sweetly at me. It was then I realized this wasn’t my purse, but hers. I apologized profusely and even showed her the similarities between our bags. She leaned and told me not to worry, and that she knew I’d made an honest mistake. She’d chosen to give me the benefit of the doubt regardless of the fact that she’d caught me red-handed.


I’m sure you have similar experiences, memories small and large that water the seeds of joy, peace, and hope in your heart. Leave a comment if you’d like and share a short story that made a difference in your life. I’d love to hear from you.


…Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there beany praise, think on these things. Phil 4:8


Welcome Home

I was bummed when my daughter, Fawn, and her husband announced they were moving from Louisiana to Texas. Okay, more than bummed. My heart was broken, and I began missing her before she even left.

But as months went by, I got used to her being gone. If I really gunned it, I could be at her house in Arlington in seven or eight hours. Not bad. And staying with her felt like a vacation from the mundane. The arrangement didn’t seem so awful.

Fawn had her first baby in Texas, and I was able to be there to watch my granddaughter, Destiny, enter the world. I can vividly remember the baby coming out, making a quarter turn, opening her eyes, and looking straight at me. The moment is etched in my mind as one of the most beautiful in all my life. My love for this child was instant, strong, and would last a lifetime.

Destiny babyNot long after that, Fawn made another announcement. This time, she and her hubby, along with their new baby, were moving to Malaysia. My first thought, after “OH, NO!” was, “Where on earth is Malaysia?” Turns out, it was on the opposite side of the earth from the United States.

Once again, I grieved losing my daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law to the many miles (this time, with oceans) that separated us. I hate flying. Do you hear me? I HATE it. Scares me witless. But I pushed aside my fears and boarded a plane. Several planes, as a matter of fact.

I visited my daughter in Malaysia four or five times through the years. The flights were long and grueling, but it was worth it. I was able to stay three months when their twin boys were born. Later, I went over shortly after the youngest (another boy) made a surprise arrival by deciding to pop out in my daughter’s bedroom instead of waiting for a hospital delivery.

Thirteen-plus years from when she had announced their departure from the U.S. to Malaysia, Fawn made another announcement. This time, they were moving back to the States. I was elated, yet deeply concerned.

You see, the gracious people of Malaysia had taken them in as their very own. The children had grown up there. They knew no other home. Friendships—some deep and infused with love—had formed. My daughter’s best friend cried at the news of their pending departure. Of course, my daughter cried too.

Me? I wept over Facebook photos of my daughter’s family farewell-party. More than a hundred people came to bid them goodbye. People they’d grown to love. People who loved them.

My thirteen-year-old granddaughter—the one who’d imprinted on me the moment she’d first opened her eyes to the world—would be saddened to leave the only home she’d known. That fact alone broke my heart.

Destiny's friends - April 2018
Destiny and friends

Shakespeare said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

I’ve always understood the sorrow part. But sweet? That required some thought. Here is my conclusion:

  • We have loved and have been loved.
  • The pain of separation is great.
  • Despite those two facts, relationships are worth it. And therein lies the “sweet.”

I look forward to their arrival on American Soil.

To Fawn and her beautiful family, I say…

Welcome Home!

Family portrait