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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: The Beastly Menagerie

 

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There was a time in my youth when I thought I would grow up to become a veterinarian. Animals were my friends…the ones I could tell my secrets to because I knew I wouldn’t be judged or laughed at. Now that I think about it, my mother displayed a lot of patience with her youngest child. She never knew what I might bring home next, but I don’t remember her ever telling me I COULDN’T have a certain animal around the house. Maybe it was because she grew up on a farm and remembered the connection between child and beast. Or maybe she thought she was helping to encourage my dreams of being a vet by allowing me to learn more about the animals I brought home….I don’t know, but I had A LOT of different critters hanging out at my house…

Dogs…there was Jenny, Penny, and Chi Chi. I don’t remember what type of dog Jenny was…possibly a beagle mix…but she was the first four legged friend I remember. Chi Chi was a Chihuahua who loved to eat the acorns she would find around the neighborhood and Penny was part of my childhood for about 12 years until she decided to leave one day when she knew the end was in sight.

Pigeons…I told you all about Christy before but if you haven’t heard her story you can read it here. When she returned with her extended family, I ended up with about 30 pigeons instead of one to take care of.

Bobwhite quail…For awhile I was raising a few quail. I think my father brought them home one day and soon I added them to my menagerie.

Rabbits..I have memories of my mother raising rabbits for food when I was very young but thankfully when I got older and started raising some of my own for pets, they never ended up in the stock pot! I used to bring one of the white rabbits and Christy in the house just to see them try to walk on the linoleum.

Box turtles…living near the swamps like I did growing up, there were all kinds of critters in the area to turn into pets. We would go for a Sunday drive…not necessarily to commune with nature but to check fishing lines and other traps we set along the canals as a way to supplement the food we put on the table. Sometimes we would find a small turtle and I would bring it home.

Crawfish…crawfish? Yep. My father would bring home 300 pound sacks of live crawfish for a crawfish boil. Janet and I would select our favorites and have races or see how long they would hang with their claws from bits of string.

There was certainly no shortage of beasties to hang out with when I was growing up. I would shower them with love and attention and they shared with me a connection with Nature. As I got older, I ended up with only one critter around me…hearing all my secrets, sharing recliner space, and keeping me company as I pay tribute to the beastly menagerie of my childhood.

 

 

Tommy

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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: Staying True To My Roots

 

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For many years when I was growing up, the whole family would pile into the old family car every summer and make the trip over the mountains to visit my Aunt Betty and Uncle Elmo. They lived in Oklahoma, not far from the Cherokee Indian Reservation, and ran a small gift shop and general store just outside the reservation lands. We would even sometimes visit some the buffalo farms scattered among the rolling hills not far from where my aunt and uncle lived.

I grew up knowing I was part Cherokee. It comes from my mother’s side of the family and I can only imagine what my mother’s ancestors must have been like. My mother was many things, good and bad, but the thing I remember most about her is what a strong spirited woman she was.

At least one branch of the Ownby family tree was made up of full-blooded Cherokee and my grandparents even traveled from North Carolina by covered wagon…from an area where the Eastern Band of Cherokees remain today… to eventually settle in the mountains of Arkansas where my mother, eight siblings and her parents lived in a log cabin barely big enough for all of them. Mother was one of the oldest and worked hard on the farm to help put food on the table.

During the summers when we would make the trek to Oklahoma, I would get a chance to visit with some of mother’s relatives from the Cunningham side of the family and I knew right away they were descendants of the Western band of Cherokees. Those Cherokee were the people who survived the Trail of Tears and settled on the reservation set up for them in Oklahoma. Today I wonder if my Oklahoma cousins actually lived on the reservation back then…maybe my sister knows…but I always felt like I had stepped into another world when I would visit.

I can remember helping out in the general store and shyly hiding behind the counter to watch the people from the reservation as they would come in to do business with my aunt and uncle. Black hair and deeply tanned skin wouldn’t match my auburn hair and very fair skin but still our spirits called to one another and I knew in my heart my roots would always be with the Cherokee people.

For many years one of my favorite souvenirs was a small indian doll dressed in buckskin dress that was given to me on one of my visits. I’m not sure where that doll is now, but I still have the cherry colored doll house dining room set my Aunt Betty gave me for my birthday one year. It had belonged to her mother and is now more than 80 years old but I still have it…a reminder of my annual trips back to the reservation and a step back in time to the world of the Cherokee…

 

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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: Summer Time Reading

 

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Summer is almost here and for me that means BOOKS! It’s not like I don’t read books the rest of the year, but during the summer I read to my Adventure Camp kids at my TaeKwonDo school every day for the ten weeks of summer. I read 3-4 books every day so by the time the new school year comes around, we have gone through at least 200 books…and this is sometimes the ONLY time some of my kids get to enjoy a book!

Reading to me has been the foundation of my childhood. It let me escape from the drama surrounding me. It allowed me to visit new places…meet new people…all from the comfort of my bedroom or front porch. I lived in a very small town and this was the library I visited as often as my mother would allow.

I still remember the day I was finally old enough to check out my own books. I was about 5 or 6 and there was a special row of books located behind the librarian’s desk where first timers could go and pick out ANY book from that shelf. It’s not like today where there are literally millions of books a kid could get their hands on, so those 20 or 30 books I was allowed to browse as a first timer was like giving me a golden ticket to OZ and I just had to figure out which train to catch!

 

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It might find it hard to believe, but the very first book I selected to take home was a DICTIONARY! I was fascinated with the illustrations and wanted to learn more about the words hidden inside. The librarian gave me a funny look because why would a little kid want to read a dictionary, but today I wonder…why did she put it on the first-timer shelf for me to select it? ;~)

I ran home with my treasure and it took me a week to read through the entire book. Granted, it was a small beginner dictionary but when I told my mother the next weekend I was ready to go back to the library for another book, she didn’t believe I had read it. She sat me down and literally gave me an oral test on random words from that book. I don’t know who was more surprised..my mother because I answered every question correctly…or myself because I remembered what those words meant. In any case, she let me go back to the library that day and from then on I made it my summer time goal to always read a minimum of 100 books before going back to school in the fall.

 

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The summer I turned 9 or 10 my library ran a writing contest. The theme was something about being proud to be an American and I entered the contest. I was big into horses back then…even thought I would either be a vet when I grew up or would one day own my own horse ranch…so when I found out first prize for my age group was a copy of MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE, I just had to enter! I don’t remember what I wrote about but it must have been impressive because I ended up winning first place and have read my copy of Misty many times since that day. It holds a special place on my bookshelf…a reminder of how books have been a life long friend to me.

The Gueydan library is still open for business, still tempting children with tantalizing dreams of adventure to faraway lands. And I’m sure they probably still have an old dictionary or two just waiting for another little girl to come in and discover the magic hiding within those well worn pages…

 

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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 Easter Tradition

 

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My sister will probably laugh when she sees this picture. She will probably THINK she knows the tale I will tell today. Maybe she will be correct. And maybe she will learn a thing or two.

Card-giving is a billion dollar business. Today there are cards for every conceivable situation so finding one that says just what the sender wants it to say is kinda like shooting fish in a barrel…odds are in your favor.

But when I was about 8 years old the card selection wasn’t that great. I didn’t have the money to buy something other than this card to give to my big sister for Easter. I didn’t even take the time to sign it and truth be told, Janet kept the card…only to return the SAME card back to me the following year. She says she did it simply because she really didn’t like the card in the first place and was just trying to get rid of it.

Maybe that’s true. Then again, maybe she was just starting an Easter tradition that has stood the test of time. Year after year, decade after decade, this card has traveled back and forth from my hands to hers. In between traveling between our homes, it’s tucked somewhere safe until it is time to take it out again and send it on it’s special journey back into another sister’s hands.

I can’t even tell you what it says on the inside but I CAN tell you what it whispers to me before I tuck it away for another year.

I am still here.

The sisterly bond has not been broken.

Love has endured despite births, deaths, marriage, divorce, illness, and all the other possibilities of the human condition to tax our minds and spirits. That little card has reminded me of this fact for FIFTY YEARS of passing from my hands to my sister’s. It is a symbol of the most cherished part of my childhood and I pray we will be allowed to carry on our Easter tradition for many more years to come…

 

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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.