V is for Valentine

V is for Valentine

Me, our little friend and my sister

V is for Valentine

Smiles. 
Holding hands. 
Red outfits. 
Girls and one boy. 
That’s the way many childhood events were — two against one. The twin factor never bothered me. It certainly didn’t bother this little boy, who appears to have everything under control. 
My sister and I shared many things growing up such as friends, toys, birthday parties and several hair pulling fights. 
I’m the good twin after all and my sister Tracy is the evil one. If she’s talking, you may hear she’s the good twin and I’m the evil one. This memoir stuff is tricky when siblings are involved. Everyone has a different version of the story. 
I don’t believe this is a Valentine’s Day picture (we’ll see if my parents are really reading this blog), but the photo makes me recall a few Valentine’s Days. 
U is for UGA

U is for UGA

A little fuzzy, but you can see the G for Georgia.
U is for UGA
I grew up in a small town where everyone knew you or knew of you. There was only one school I wanted to attend after high school — the University of Georgia. The fact more students were enrolled there than lived in my hometown appealed to me. I wanted to be a number and a journalism student. 
Many know the University of Georgia for its athletic programs, especially the Georgia Bulldogs football team. I attended one game when I was a student there. With a press pass, I did my best to shoot the game from the sidelines and not become part of a tackle.
Years later, I look for the football logo even though I don’t watch the games or follow scores. Recently, I saw a man in the grocery store wearing a Georgia shirt and spoke to him. He was from Alabama, but wore a red and black Dawg shirt. 
I’ve never been afraid to speak to someone wearing a University of Georgia logo. I stopped a man in a restaurant in Victoria Falls, who wore a red, Bulldog jacket. In Texas, a family I met in a Home Depot lived next to one of the students I tutored every week.
Some people don’t like being a number, but through the years I’ve found it’s a small world when you are part of a large pool of students. 
T is for Del Rio, Texas

T is for Del Rio, Texas

The Eagles on the International Bridge on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas.



T is for Del Rio, Texas

The voter registration office in North Carolina helped me figure out how to vote in the Presidential Primary in 2008. I explained my predicament. I would be moving to Texas, but their primary had already taken place. Hubby — before he was Hubby — and I visited during their election.
Del Rio,” the clerk said, “my niece was born there. Her father served in the Air Force.”
We weren’t moving to this town that bordered Mexico to join the military. Hubby accepted a civilian job at Laughlin Air Force Base, known for training many of America’s pilots.  Hubby lived in Texas briefly while in the Army.
A former newspaper co-worker laughed when I told her we might move to Del Rio. “I was just there,” she said. While visiting her boyfriend in Houston, they drove west to Big Bend National Park. Del Rio was the last stop — three hours away — from the park.
We visited Del Rio twice before our cars pulled into the driveway of our rental in the Chihuahuan Desert. Our dogs winced at the prickly and thorny plants in the grass. I spied scorpions in the bathroom light fixtures.
This was a different place. While the temperature soared into triple digits over the summer, it was mild in the winter. I frequently used my favorite weather quip: “To me, hell would be a cold place. So, I like it here.”
Work was sporadic for me, as I didn’t speak Spanish — all my Italian study didn’t count and had long been forgotten. Days were spent with part-time job titles like freelance writer, substitute teacher, test administrator and my personal favorite — RV park clerk. I studied how to write and began my memoir. I joined the Creative Writers of Del Rio group and helped publish two anthologies. 
Hubby and I explored our corner of Texas. And, I enjoyed finding everything from cookie cutters to garden stones in the shape of the state.

Today, when I hear people talking about my former town, I say, “My son was born in Del Rio.”

P.S. If you ever drive through Del Rio, stop by Broke Mill RV Park. They’ll treat you right.

Cheese and crackers in the shape of Texas.
Or you can find garden stones in the state’s shape.

S is for Sicily

S is for Sicily

The Teatro Greco in Taormina

S is for Sicily


Before our train arrived in Palermo, the men in our car were quickly telling us it would be OK. 
“Don’t worry. They don’t hurt women and children,” a young man said in English. He warned us about the mafia.
My roommate Betsy and I decided to travel to Sicily on our break from classes in Florence. Others in our program planned to visit other parts of Europe, but we decided to work our way down the boot and visit Sicily. 
It was the best travel decision I made throughout my study abroad program. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterrean Sea and has a long history — I couldn’t name all the rulers back then and had to look at Wikipedia for a reminder — Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans to name a few.
I enjoyed visiting the ruins from the various periods in Sicily’s history. It all added up to a diverse culture. 
I took pictures at ruins and in cities, but didn’t take many in Palermo. The men on the train were not the only ones to warn us about the dangers of the city. Police officers also stopped me a couple of times and told me not to take pictures. They warned me of the dangers of being in the city.
Despite the fear-filled warnings, we had the most fun in Palermo thanks to a couple of guys, who decided to make sure we enjoyed our stay. I returned to Florence with a variety of new experiences.
One adventure left my friend Giuseppe feeing a bit behind. Before Sicily, I told him I’d never been on a motorcycle. 
When he arrived to pick me up in Florence with his motorcycle, he seemed confused when I said, “Oh, I’ve been on motorcycles.” 
Thinking it somehow explained everything, I said, “I was in Sicily for a week.” 
R is for Rockingham

R is for Rockingham

This is a community painting of Richmond County, North Carolina. *

R is for Rockingham

“Where is that?” A bewildered friend, relative or stranger would ask as I told them my plans to move to another state. Some NASCAR fans knew about it from its racetrack.
While I’m a blip in the city’s history — just another reporter or editor, who came into town to work at the newspaper, the city means a lot to me. I continue to love the city’s brand: A city looking forward
I opened a new chapter of my life in Rockingham. It turned out so well (met Hubby and got engaged), I only stayed there for two years and moved onto another chapter (Texas). 
R could stand for Rick. Without his invitation, I would have never known about Rockingham.
*I shared the background behind the photo in this post
Perfect Picture Books: Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin

Perfect Picture Books: Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin

Here’s an easy read for Perfect Picture Books. I’m at the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference throughout the weekend, so I’ll be a bit MIA or about as “off the grid” as I can be. Enjoy your weekend. — Stacy 

For Perfect Picture Book Fridays, I’ve chosen Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin
Our copy is a little worn.
Scholastic Inc., 2009, board book
Suitable for: Ages one and up
Theme/Topic: Search, Friendship, Adventure
Opening: Nice Pumpkin, Thistle. 
Yes it is.
Brief Synopsis:  When Duck and Goose see Thistle’s pumpkin they decide to search for one of their own. But, where do they get one? 
Link to Resources: I found a lesson plan with duck and goose activities and crafts and coloring sheets. Parents could also discuss where pumpkins can be found? Duck & Goose have been on many adventures. Catherine Johnson posted the Duck & Goose Here Comes the Easter Bunny book on Perfect Picture Book Fridays earlier this month.
Why I chose this book: It’s one of the first books Enzo and I read together (in all types of voices too). While I’m at conference this weekend, I’ll be missing bed time reading.
To find more picture books and resources, please visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and look for the Perfect Picture Books page.