August 22, 2016

Happy Birthday!




 Sisters and Friends Forever!

Donna Sue and Bobbie
My birthday gift of a poem to her a few years ago




Today my sister Donna Sue Null Hoffman would be 77 years old. Three years without her has left a hole in my days. She called every day to check on me. She was like a second mother when we moved from our childhood home, I was five and she was eleven, and my mom remarried and worked full time. She took me under her wing and continued looking out for me until the day she died. One of the last things she told me when she was very ill in the hospital just before her death was she needed to take me shopping at Beall's (FL) and buy me clothes. She'd learned that I had bought some clothes at a local thrift store. (I love thrift stores. Her - not so much.) I asked her then what Beall's had that she liked so much. She said, "Pretty things." I asked her how she intended to get us to Beall's since she was in the hospital. She'll said I'll call a cab. I was surprised that she didn't say my father will take us. At the end she called my brother in law, Brownie, father. He was her second skin and gave her the very best all her life. His kindness extended to me as well and continues to extend to me. I know my Susie is in Heaven with mother and daddy and our siblings. Some day my earthly ache will be gone. RIP dear Sue. We'll meet again.





Brownie, Sue, and Bobbie Ann




James "Brownie" Hoffman, Donna Sue Null Hoffman


Donna’s Birthday Poem Oh, Donna Dear, your Birthday's here, Whatever shall I do? Dance without shoes? Sing you the Blues? But, ugh, those reviews! You're near to my heart, Sister. You gave me my start. So here's a poem-present and I hope your day's pleasant. I'll start with, “I love you,” but, will that do, For a sister who loaned me her white buck shoes, And her very last bottle of Halo Shampoo? You danced and twirled and my straight hair you curled. A black-eyed beauty, you took serious this sister-duty, While I spent my days in a summer haze You walked us through that sister-maze. Can you remember the smell of that sweet clover? "Red Rover, Red Rover, Send my sister, Donna, on over!" Oh, to spend one more day of my youth with you. We'd even invite cousin Anna and cousin Sue. For old times sake, fudge and popcorn we'd make. And, to the Boogie Man an iron skillet I'd take! Maybe we'll never make it to the moon, But can you come over real ... uh, ... how do you spell SOON? In memory of my aggravating ways And our letter-writing days. I love you still. I always will. Your Little Sister, Bobbie


When we were kids, we wrote letters to my sister Ella who was in London with her husband Paul who was in the Air Force. I couldn't spell and I drove Sue nuts asking her every few minutes how to spell something. Like D-E-A-R E-L-L-A. She threatened to quit writing altogeher if I was't quiet. I NEVER was. She loved me anyway.

Happy Birthday, Susie.




Sue, my granddaughter Mackenzie, Brownie


Special Family Members who share Sue's Birthday
Our Beloved Sister In Law, Eunice, RIP Eunice
Our Beloved cousin, Dencil, RIP Dencil
Niece Tracey. Happy Birthday, dear sweet Tracey - have a
great one!

July 20, 2016

Eyebrows: Help!



Those of you who still have your natural eyebrows, please hold up your hands.
Okay. Nice show of hands.
Now, let’s see the hands of those who have eyebrows that are not the greatest but still in place and serving you well. 
O-kay. Good count. Thanks!
All those who had your hands in the air are now dismissed. Sorry.
This class is going to discuss and dis-cuss (not really! well, maybe!) the lack of nice regular eyebrows.
When I was a kid like most of you girls in the audience, I had normal eyebrows. Nice shape, nice color.
It was in my teens, when I started to pay attention to them, that they began to let me down.
I first learned to pluck and tweeze the hairs above my eyes from watching my sister Sue do hers.  She had black brows in a perfect arch over big brown eyes. Nice. 
Nice wasn’t my experience. Far from it.
I either took off too many or too little. I never got the hang of tweezing or plucking so I gave that up.
For a few years I let my brows grow in a random patch over my eyes. They were light brown and didn’t call much attention to themselves. They were happy. I was happy.
It was when I discovered waxing that things got out of hand. 

I watched the beauty operator wax patrons a few times and I was so convinced I could follow suit I purchased a large container of eyebrow wax from her. A dab here and a dab there of that hot wax and ole. Pull those hot patches off and I’d have beautiful eyebrows like every one else in that little shop. Ha.
Outcome: eyebrows crooked and eyelids waxed and red.
About that time the industry came out with an eyebrow razor. It was meant to serve those who had a steady hand and a healthy set of eyebrows. I did not possess either. Sure, the pink razor was tiny. But, oh, the damage it could do. Plus, there was blood. For the first time in my eyebrow career. I had sores and blisters. Blood should not appear anywhere near one’s eyebrows. 
Tossing the can of eyebrow wax into the trash, I went back to having my eyebrows done by a professional.
I’m still not without eyebrow dilemmas. Should one color one’s eyebrows? Yes? No? Does one color brows the shade of her beauty shop tinted hair? Do you leave them the wide mixture that they have become with age? Salt, pepper, brown, yellow? Or should one use the aged eyebrow pencil in the make up bag that is closer to auburn than light brown? Color them black as my sister did? Or purple like the girl next door colors her hair?
Or just get rid of them permanently and paint on perfect ones.
Recently, I was told there is yet another option. Tattoo them on and they last forever, ending the dilemma of tweezing, razoring, coloring.
Nope. I swore when my husband came home from Hong Kong with tats I would never go that route. 

I cannot speak to the trend of threading one's eyebrows, as demonstrated above, as I know nothing about it and from the photos I've seen of the practice I'll just stay in the dark, thanks!

How about you? Do you have an eyebrow problem you want to share? Perhaps you've come up with the perfect solution. Please share! Or have you had any other beauty dilemma you can shed light on for us. Comments appreciated.





June 23, 2016

Information about writing stories...


Ezra and Other Stories

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0985259116/ref=rdr_ext_tmb
Copy and paste to go to Ezra on Amazon


I ran across this questionnaire from a few years ago. Probably when I was preparing Ezra and Other Stories for publication. The questions made me think and figure out exactly why I wanted to write the stories in the collection. Hope this will help you if you're writing a story of if you've read EZRA and want to know my process.

What is your book's tone, and how do you want readers to perceive your text?

Each story in this collection houses characters that are flawed humans dealing with both serious and humorous situations. My characters are humble people most living in West Virginia. They’re ordinary people going about their lives the best they can and in most cases succeeding in spite of the odds against them.

Provide a summary of the stories in this book of eleven short stories.
Each story is named after the main character.

Mabel and the Garage Sale is about Mabel finding hope after her home is sold when I-64 comes through Charleston, West Virginia.

Delphine and Rainelle finds Delphine trying to help her best friend, Rainelle, whose husband is a cheater.

In Hoot and Marla, Marla realizes the trip to Niagara Falls isn’t about getting engaged but about Hoot’s ego and his Elvis look-alike persona.

Joy Ruth and Minnie Hendrix find more than a burial plan when they visit the local funeral home.

Micro Wave finds acceptance only from his Pug dog after being at Kent State during the riots and shootings.

Wally and Bun are wed just as their old friend, Murphy Mohr, rekindles an old romance.

Eve and Marcus Welby leads Eve to the perfect romance with a man who is also a cat lover.

Twins, Darlene and Charlene, are as different as day and night. One is a book worm, the other “sees” things.

Vinnie asks the question: how long will money from Big Daddy’s chili fund last his two adult children who do not see eye to eye.

Macon for Georgia provides Macon with the best possible partner after an abusive relationship.

Ezra finds love and his soul mate at the end of his life.

Describe your book's theme(s). These stories give the message of hope. These characters are survivors in spite of coming from less than perfect circumstances.

What is your book's genre? Includes a mix of genres.
Romance. Humor. Appalachian.

Describe your target audience by factors such as age group, interests, education, gender, etc.
Stories appeal to adult male and females. Anyone who loves short stories, stories about hope and survival. The under dog succeeds.

What inspired you to write the book?

The characters themselves came to live in my head as I was writing slice of life pieces for newspapers and essays for college. Finally I gave them life by getting them down on paper. Most of the stories came just the way they now read. I am inspired by the stories of Raymond Carver, Lee Smith, Mark Twain, E.B. White, and others.

What distinguishes your book from others?

The humble characters and stories themselves. They are bits and pieces of people I’ve known. They come from deep inside me, inspired by the West Virginia Mountains and its people - sharing how these characters live, listening to what is important to them, believing in them as viable, important, good people.


Describe any specific design ideas for the cover of your book.

Ezra’s cover was made from a photo I bought online from one of the many online companies. I rejected hundreds before finding the right one. I knew it when I first saw it.

Comments welcome.

June 6, 2016

Who am I now?



Ray and I at his favorite restaurant, The Ridge Inn, in Laurelville. He's been gone two years and 7 months. Perhaps someday I'll figure out the question that haunts me.


Who am I now? 

I’ve thought about this a lot lately -

As I turn another year older this week.

I’ve lived my life taking care of others.

But that part of my journey is over.

What do I do now?

Who am I supposed to be?

The familiar is unfamiliar. 

I’m alone. No direction. No goals. No leader.

I walk in circles.

I aim for one place, end up in another.

I belong nowhere.

To no one.

The odd piece 

in a puzzle.

One person’s death

Took away my identity.

Who was I then?

Who am I now?

                                          ******

Thanks for reading.   Comments welcome.

April 23, 2016

Ah, Spring and all her glory.


I'm enjoying the spring weather that has finally arrived in Ohio bringing blooming pear trees, red buds and tulip trees. How about you? Do you love spring as much as I do?
I spent a day on the patio, putting out the table, chairs, umbrella. I painted a white wicker plant table and have decided it's too good for the patio. I plan to use it in the bathroom instead.
Just when I thought winter would last forever, spring arrived with temperatures in the 70's. I noted buds covering my rose bush and a robin building a nest in the crevice of my chimney. I wanted to let them stay but they managed to leave so much debris at my front door that I had no choice but to shoo them away. Hopefully they've moved on to one of the many trees and bushes in my community, a more cozy place for raising babies.
When I was a kid growing up in Putnam County, WV, I was outside at the first glimpse of the sun coming through my bedroom window. I ran through our yard, down through the orchard where we had six or eight apple trees in a row, picking up green apples to eat on the way. I'd play in the creek, which mother said was too dirty to touch, but I didn't agree. The water was clear as glass. It ran quickly over my feet standing on the rocks under the water. I'd check on Nellie my black and white pig in her pen nearby. I remember one time straddling her for a photo. She was quite large and I looked small on her back. 
I'd sometimes walk up the steep hill behind our house to the cemetery where I'd read the names on nearby stones and wonder what happened to cause the demise of  Harriet Bailey or Baby Allison or Pop Asbury. I daydreamed sitting on the ground among the tombstones with the scent of honeysuckle drifting around me.
I miss the days of helping mother spring clean. Mostly I complained at having to wash the baseboards because I'd encounter a spider or two and lots of dust - from months without doors or windows open.
Mother took spring cleaning to heart. She took beds apart and we had to clean the bed frames and slats. A senseless chore, it seemed to me, and one I never do.
I miss those leisure days of summer that stretched out before me as unfettered and carefree as the butterflies that pass through my flower garden. 
As I ponder the days ahead, I plan to spend more time in the great outdoors, soaking up sunshine - it's the best medicine in the world. 
Perhaps I'll even venture back to that little creek and the hillside cemetery and visit my old friends.

What do you like best about spring and summer?
Or do you live in a climate that is warm year round? I welcome your comments. 
Have a great spring whatever weather you are experiencing. We can always find something to like about each season.




March 25, 2016

She brought Jesus more than an Alabaster Box

This piece has been revised from an earlier version. Apologies.



What was an alabaster box or jar?
Alabaster jars were often made from a precious stone found in Israel. This stone resembles marble, and were extremely expensive. These jars contained ointments, oils and perfume. The thick stone prevented the aroma from escaping and kept the perfume from spoiling. The shape of the jar often had a long neck and a sealed top. The top had to be broken to open, which allowed it to be used only once.  Some believe that women who owned these jars were usually prostitutes who used the smell to lure in men, or to cover up their own odor. However, several women owned many different types of perfumes. Sources for water were limited, so they used these oils and ointments for daily hygiene. 

The story from Luke 2:27 is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible. Jesus was having dinner with a pharisee (Simon) and a lowly woman came to him with her alabaster box of expensive perfume. (It seems that poor people from the street could gather around and beg for scraps of food from these dinners) This woman, who is unnamed,  washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her long hair. Then poured out upon him, perhaps the only worthy item she possessed, her perfume from the alabaster box. Her heart cried out, he forgave her sins without a word passing between them. Heartfelt emotion from her and an all knowing God forgave her her sins. 

My prayer for you is that you might consider reading this awesome story below and can be found in the KJV of the Holy Bible.








Luke 7:37  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

7:38  And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

7:39  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

7:40  And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

7:41  There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

7:42  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

7:43  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

7:44  And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

7:45  Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

7:46  My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

7:47  Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

7:48  And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

7:49  And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?

7:50  And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.






He gave his life for our sins that we may have everlasting life.
JOHN 3:16
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in HIM should not perish but have everlasting life."

Happy Easter and May God bless you on your life's journey.


Update on my current novel. I'm in what I hope is my final edit of Missing: Sweet Baby James. Set in my beloved WV. My target date for finishing is mid to end of summer. Prayers and good thoughts, please. Thanks. 

Comments always welcome!


February 24, 2016

"The waste paper basket is the writer's best friend." - Isaac B. Singer



Barbara signing books at Tamarack, WV with an avid reader.

On Rewriting & Quotes On Writing
Sometimes beginning writers say they don't believe in rewriting. They're afraid they'll somehow lose the excitement of the first draft. This is far from the truth. Rewriting is making the work better. You add, delete, and revise. What worked well in the first draft stays. Most professional writers know there is a sense of control that comes with revision. It's where one knows one has mastery of the writing craft. Not easy! Just remember - anything worth having is never easy. So if you'd like to start writing, or if  you're in the middle of a project, get busy. Time is wasting!

"It is no sign of weakness or defeat that your manuscript ends up in need of major surgery. This is common in all writing and among the best of writers."
- E. B. White

"I don't write easily or rapidly. My first draft usually has only a few elements worth keeping. I have to find what those are and build from them and throw out what doesn't work, or what simply is not alive."
- Susan Sontag

"Half my life is an act of revision; more than half the act is performed with small changes."
- John Irving

"I revise the manuscript till I can't read it any longer, then I get somebody to type it. Then I revise the typing. Then it's retyped again. Then there's a third typing, which is the final one. Nothing should then remain that offends the eye."
- Robert Graves

"I rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times before I was satisfied."
- Ernest Hemingway

"I do a lot of revising. Certain chapters six or seven times. Occasionally you can hit it right the first time. Most often, you don't."
- John Dos Passos

"I can't write five words but that I change seven."
- Dorothy Parker

"I have rewritten--often several times--every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers."
- Vladmir Nabokov

"First drafts are learning what your novel or story is about. Revision is working with that knowledge to enlarge or enhance an idea, or reform it."
- Thomas Wolfe

"A thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish."
- Carolyn Forche

"Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out."
- Samuel Johnson

"There are days when the result is so bad that no fewer than five revisions are required. In contrast, when I'm greatly inspired, only four revisions are needed."
- John Galbreath

"I rewrite everything, almost idiotically. I rewrite and work and work, and rewrite and rewrite some more."
- Laura Z. Hobson

"I retype everything four, five, and six times--critical passages more--and everything, say three times."
- James Michener

"Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped."
- Lillian Hellman

"Only amateurs don't rewrite. It's in the rewriting that writers bring ALL their knowledge--basic craft, technique, style, organization, attitude, creative inspiration --to the work."
- Gloria T. Delamar

"Writing a first draft is like groping one's way into a dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punchline you've forgotten. As someone said, one writes mainly to rewrite, for rewriting and revising are how one's mind comes to inhabit the material fully."
- Ted Solotaroff

Good luck with your own writing. I'd love to have an update on your stories, poems, or whatever you're writing. Comments welcome!