TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Tulip Hunting Can Be Dangerous

 

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My mother loved springtime. She loved planting flowers everywhere and always had a vegetable garden wherever we lived. I guess it was probably the farm living in the Ozarks when she was a child that instilled a love of watching things grow as an adult.

One year she decided to plant tulip bulbs (her favorite flower) all around the base of a large tree in the front yard. Carefully, she dug holes and made a circle of what she hoped later on would be a burst of tulips she could enjoy from the hanging swing on the enclosed front porch.

One morning, however, my mother discovered something had dug up some of the bulbs during the night…but what? She replanted some more bulbs but discovered the next day that the thief had struck again. Eventually my mother figured out that a momma armadillo and her babies were finding her tulip bulbs a delicious midnight snack. She didn’t want to keep providing them with a tulip buffet but she wasn’t sure about the right way to solve her problem.

Just how does one convince an armadillo to go away?

Mother’s tulip thief problem was surprisingly solved the following evening in a frightening way. Just around the time the sun was setting, we suddenly heard this strange sound coming from under our house. Deep and loud, that rumbling roar could be heard a block away from my house and my mother knew in an instant what was making that scary sound.

Living so near the bayous usually meant lots of rain and with that came the occasional visit from critters living in the marshy lands surrounding my home town. Evidently the last rain we’d had made our nighttime visitor leave the comforts of his cozy home in the bayou to find refuge under our house. All through the night we listened to the song of the swamps as we waited for the game warden to arrive the next day and take that critter back to where it came from.

Everything eventually returned to normal after that. We got to enjoy the rest of our spring and my mother got to enjoy her tulips.

And the armadillo family?

Unfortunately our six fool long visitor needed a late night snack before he returned home…

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Smell That?

 

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With the rising temperatures announcing the arrival of Spring, my thoughts turn to vegetable gardens. One image I will always have from my childhood is my mother planting her vegetable garden no matter where we lived. Small yard, large yard, she always found the space to supplement her meager grocery allowance for our family of six with food fresh from the garden.

Every spring I would look through the Burpee seed catalog as my mother made plans for her latest endeavor. Green beans to potatoes to carrots and radishes, everything had a place in my mother’s garden. But the one vegetable I remember the best are her tomatoes.

No starter plants would do except for the free ones she could get from the local sewage processing plant. I imagine most people stayed away from that place due to the overwhelming smell alone.

But not my mother.

Every year, we would make our way to the fields surrounding the processing building, and my mother would dig up the young tomato plants that had managed to make it through the sanitation process to start their new lives among the rich fertilizer to be found nearby. Maybe not the sweetest smelling beginning, but those plants provided some of the juiciest, most flavorful tomatoes around come harvest time. I guess she could have bought them from Burpee, but the hard work put into the initial harvesting of those young plants made the ending worthwhile.

I’ve planted my own tomato plants since my childhood, but can’t manage to duplicate the deliciousness of my mother’s plants. But after remembering exactly what I would have to do to replicate my mother’s tomatoes, that’s okay…I think I’ll pass…

 
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donna

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: On A Book Bender

 

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Summer always reminds me of the public library in my hometown…

Summer meant freedom from tests and scholarly expectations.

Summer meant a chance to occasionally escape from my mother’s watchful eye and head over to the public library a few blocks from my childhood home. My sister and I would make a morning of it. Grabbing our bikes and heading out in the bright bayou sunlight. We both were voracious readers and every summer we were some of the first kids on our block to sign up for the summer reading program.

I learned to read when I was about four years old. Once the librarian realized I was very comfortable making my way around the written word, she no longer restricted me to “baby books”, and gave me free rein to explore the entire library. Every summer from age five until I left home at seventeen, my goal was to read at least one hundred books before I went back to school.

You read right.

ONE HUNDRED BOOKS.

Even at age five, I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and read everything I could get my hands on.

Picture books

Chapter books.

Non-fiction books, although back then the children’s section didn’t have the wonderful diversity kids can find nowadays.

And, yes, even encyclopedias. I read them all because I even enjoyed researching random topics that crossed my young mind.

I would stuff as many of my book treasures into my bike’s basket as I could and race home to sneak into my bedroom to start on those imaginative journeys before my mother would drag me outside to work in the garden, or trim the hedges, or cut the grass, or any number of endless jobs she came up with to occupy my summer daylight hours.

I read about Black Beauty and Huckleberry Finn…about Horton and the Whos or the Lorax or even what happened on Mulberry Street. The first summer I was allowed a library card, I literally read every available book for my age and then some. The librarian started picking out different books I might like and I thought that building was the most magical place on earth (Sorry Disney!).

These days I still read hundreds of children’s books each year. Especially during the summer when I work with 40-50 children ages 4-12 years old each day at my Taekwondo school during our summer camp. Many of these children are either struggling readers, come from families where parents don’t enjoy reading so they never fostered a love of reading in their own children, or simply too young to even grasp the art of reading yet. 

So we read together. 

Usually over two hundred books a summer.

TWO HUNDRED BOOKS.

My younger goal driven ME would be so proud of today’s ME…

 

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donna

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: If Dreams Were Horses…

 

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Every summer growing up, I used to race to my local library to join the reading club and begin my journey through the lands of faraway places. But the day I read BLACK BEAUTY by Anna Sewell, I began to nurture the idea I could one day raise beautiful horses for others to enjoy.

I started collecting every toy horse I could get my hands on. My father, who was a heavy drinker, would bring home small, plastic white horses he removed from the whiskey bottles he got from the local bar.

Next I graduated to dime store versions until I had quite a collection. My favorite was a golden palomino until the day my mother gave me a thoroughbred model kit. I had discovered Man O’ War and now considered him to be the greatest race horse in history. The only problem…I had trouble assembling all the pieces of that kit.

One piece in particular.

You see, my Man O’ War model was anatomically correct and my naïve ten year old mind had no clue why the manufacturer had given me two noses.

It finally dawned on me that I was trying to apply the second “nose” to the wrong end of the horse!

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

 

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Getting My Stuffing On…

 


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It was not long after I moved into my new apartment when I decided to adopt a kitten. One of my coworkers told me her own cat delivered a litter six weeks prior and those “little bundles of energy” were ready to find a forever home.

I should have taken her words as CLUE #1 of what was to come.

After seeing the adorable kittens playing outside (CLUE #2), I decided to take two of them home instead. The calico one I named Patches for obvious reasons, and the grey striped one I named Cricket because she hopped like a cricket more than she did anything else. Cricket was also lightening fast and liked to climb my curtains when my back was turned.

CLUE #3.

I brought Patches & Cricket home the weekend before Thanksgiving. Other than having to peel Cricket off the curtains a time or two, by Thanksgiving morning both kittens were settling into their new home and I could concentrate on cooking the turkey.

At some point in the process I needed to check if the stuffing was done, so I sat the bird on the stove top just as my hall phone began to ring. Thinking it would just take a minute to answer it, I left the bird where it was and took the call.

My phone conversation took longer than I’d planned which I regretted as soon as I returned to the kitchen to discover Cricket had scaled the side of the stove like Mt Everest and was now buried up to her shoulders INSIDE MY TURKEY!

Who knew cats liked stuffing?

I guess I should be happy at least SOMEBODY liked my homemade recipe, but for me, Thanksgiving dinner was ruined and by the next weekend I found new homes for my two feral kitties. The next time I cooked a bird it was sans dressing. I like stuffing as much as the next person, but not enough to share with my fur babies!

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: An Unlikely Hero

 

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Yesterday was Mother’s Day and all around the country I’m sure mothers everywhere celebrated with family or friends. I lost my own mother when I was 21 and when she left this world, we were on slightly strained speaking terms. More like two strong spirited women who didn’t always appreciate the other’s point of view.

But when I think about my mother now, I’ve come to realize the many gifts she gave me while growing up in the swamps of Louisiana…

 

CREATIVITY

 

I can only imagine what went through my mother’s mind each day as she struggled to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. As a child, I hated to sit down for a meal because I was never sure what would be waiting for me on my plate. Things most people disposed of would end up on the menu…fish HEADS, chicken FEET and rooster COMBS, pig’s INTESTINES…and we were expected to eat it or get beaten for refusing it. As a child I often wondered why Mother was so cruel to force us to eat those things. As an adult I now realize it was either eat that or NOTHING. I now realize the sacrifices my mother made so her children had something… anything…in their bellies each day. As an adult, I have a very simple palette where food is concerned and appreciate the fact there are some foods that will NEVER have to cross my lips again!

 

INGENUITY

 

My mother was the queen of patching things up…making things last (a result of living through the home front challenges of World War II I imagine)…and being the youngest of four kids, I was usually stuck with everyone else’s hand me downs. It was bad enough I had to walk around in my sisters’ cast offs, but when I was forced to attend school in a dead woman’s dress, I wanted the ground to swallow me up! Mother had one of those old trundle sewing machines, and one day when she’d heard about a yard sale for a neighbor who recently died, she decided to buy all those old lady’s dresses just so she could rip out the seams, cut them down to our size, and sew them back together for our new school wardrobe. Can you imagine what went through my ten-year-old mind when I was forced to wear THOSE hand me downs? As a child I was teased and bullied just for the clothes I wore and I know I felt anger at times that my mother would do this to me. As an adult I can appreciate the fact my mother had little money to clothe her children and was only doing the best she could at the time. As an adult I do not covet expensive clothes and appreciate the fact I have enough to wear in the first place.

 

PIONEER SPIRIT

 

My mother loved being outdoors. Mother communed with nature and grew everything from vegetables to flowers at every rental house we lived in during my childhood. Mother had been raised on a farm in the Ozarks and was used to hard labor just to survive in a family of eleven. I spent many long hours during hot Louisiana summers either working in Mother’s garden, or visiting a neighbor just to harvest figs and berries from the trees in their back yard. On Sundays we would all pile into an old black truck, riding around the countryside checking our crawfish and turtle traps or even bringing home a stray snapping turtle or armadillo we’d found along the side of the road. As a child I hated all the hard work necessary to keep our family fed. As an adult I am strongly connected with nature because of all those years working outdoors.

Life was not easy back then for a family of six living deep in the swamps of southern Louisiana with very little money to their name. But when I think back to all the things my mother did every day to care for her children, I realize she was a most unlikely hero of my childhood. She instilled me the very foundation that allows me to tackle the obstacles in my own life with the same creativity, ingenuity, and pioneer spirit my mother inherited from her own mother. 

It’s sad to think I did’t realize the precious gifts of spirit my mother gave me as a child, so I never had the chance to thank her while she was living for all I’ve learned from her over the years. The best I can do to honor her now is live my life to the fullest since she worked so hard to make sure I had a chance to even have one…

Happy Mother’s Day Mom…

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

 

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Pimping My Ride

 

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This month is the five anniversary of my receiving my “new to me” car. Believe me, I have enjoyed every second I’m in that car! My other car was a 1999 Mercury Sable LS with 176,000 miles on it, no air conditioning, and an oil leak causing me to feed it a steady diet of high mileage oil once a week.  When I got my 2006 Kia Sportage, it only had 67,000 miles on it. Best of all, for someone allergic to the sun and high humidity of east Tennessee, it had AIR CONDITIONING! In fact the air conditioning was so cold I couldn’t actually even run it full blast which was a wonderful problem to have…;~)

Riding in my car this morning made me think about all the different cars we had when I was growing up. My father never made a lot of money from the different jobs he had over the years so I never knew what car the two adults and four kids in my family would be climbing into next.

The first car I remember riding in actually belonged to my father’s mother. She died when I was about three years old, but I can still remember riding in her old black rounded-top truck to the grocery store. That thing rattled like bones in a graveyard but it offered freedom from home and a chance to maybe get a piece of candy at the end of the ride.

My sister tells me we had a blue and white Bel Air when I was a toddler. I remember it as a white car but maybe I just wasn’t tall enough to see the blue on it? Besides, it was more about the ride back then than the color of the transportation so she could have told me it was made out of pure gold and I probably would have believed her!

Then there was the tan Chevy Nova we took on our trips to visit my aunt and uncle in Oklahoma every summer. If I close my eyes I can see my father in the front seat, cigarette dangling off two fingers and dropping ashes into the ashtray on the dashboard. My mother sitting next to him with one of us between them. She liked to hang one foot out the window like a dog hangs out to enjoy the ride. That left the other three kids to pile into the back seat. I was the youngest so I would always have to sit in the middle. It wasn’t too bad…especially since it left me a soft shoulder to sleep against on the long ride from the swamps of Louisiana to the hills of Oklahoma.

That Nova was still in our family when my parents were involved in a serious accident while coming back from grocery shopping in another town. My father was going through an intersection when unfortunately they were hit on the passenger side by oncoming traffic. They returned home hours later with one side of our car crushed in and my mother nursing four broken ribs.

The last car we had while I was growing up was a green Chevy Nova, replacing the tan one that really couldn’t be driven any more. By this time my father was working on an offshore oil rig as a cook and that car spent many weeks at a time sitting at a dock just waiting for my father to return to land. When my father died three years after my mother the summer I turned 24, I inherited the green bomb as I was the only one in the family without my own transportation.

I kept that car for as long as I could. It carried me faithfully into my first serious relationship and back out again as well as across the miles to my new home in another state. It brought with it memories of my parents and a childhood I left behind as I stepped into adulthood and the next phase of my life.

Yeah, cars have carried me safely through different milestones in my life and I’m sure my Kia is up to the challenge of carrying on the tradition…

What was YOUR first car?

 

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donna

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.