Warriors. Lives Lost. Forever Changed by 911 – Never. Ever. Forget.

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Hubby and I just returned from a beach vacation the day before. My suitcase was strewn on the bedroom floor chockful of dirty clothes, and damp bathing suits. For some odd reason, we decided to drive on this trip instead of fly.

The morning of September 11, while getting ready for work, I turned on the TV in the bedroom to watch the Today Show.

As I was brushing my teeth, and listening to the guests that Matt Lauer spoke with, programming was interrupted with the visual of an airplane crashing into one of the two towers of the World Trade Center. I gasped in horror. Black smoke billowing – leaving a trail of heartbreak and destruction…

The world would be forever changed.

Parts of New York City were cut off from total communication. During that time, I worked for MCI as a Circuit Design Engineer and Project Manager. So when the project came down the loop to restore communication as soon as possible to downtown Manhattan and surrounding areas, my coworkers jumped on it. It was our responsibility to find alternate routes for all circuits and communication affected by the outage. With a cohesive team of designers and technicians, we accomplished the task as quickly as possible.

In the coming weeks, after phone service was restored to that area, I tried to contact two of my customers at Cantor Fitzgerald, whose offices occupied space on the top floor of the towers. Weeks prior to the attack, one friend invited me to visit after Thanksgiving and watch the interactive Christmas store windows at Macy’s. Another woman sent me a surprise in the mail – a Hard Rock Café sweatshirt from the New York store her son had purchased.

My futile attempts to contact them left me worried and confused. And to think, just a short time ago, I was laughing with them on the phone.

During this crucial time, many of my coworkers came together as a unit. Some made trips to NYC to help out, and others sent donations. Teams of nurses, firefighters, and police from the Midwest made the long trek to New York – serving as healers, rescuers, and security.

O’Fallon, Missouri erected a memorial from a structural beam from the World Trade Center. If you get the chance, stop by the memorial near highway 40 on Winghaven Boulevard separating, north and south traffic lanes. Take a moment to pray and be silent.

Pray for those who lost their lives.
Pray for their families.
Pray for those still healing today.
Pray for the warriors that gave their lives helping.
Pray for those who made it out alive.
Pray for those whose bodies were never recovered.

And. Never. Ever. Forget.

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A World’s Fair Home – Karen Kalish Clayton mansion showcases her art collection – pub’d Missouri Life

Good afternoon everyone,

I had the opportunity to step inside a real piece of history – a World’s Fair Home patterned after the Missouri Building from the World’s Fair in 1904, when a query I submitted to Missouri Life that came to fruition.

Entrepreneur, Karen Kalish owns the magnificent home in the historic Old Town Clayton district, and has filled it to the brim with her personal charm and eclectic style, all the while showcasing her extensive collection of art work.

Here’s my feature article and photographs that appeared in the August 2015 issue of Missouri Life. I especially fell in love with her pets while doing the story.

Maybe, she’ll invite me back just to hangout?

Peace out and love,

Sheree

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Silver Springs and the Summer of ‘61

One of the best things about summer as a kid, were family vacations with Mom and Dad.  Vacations allowed me to (1) be a free spirit, (2) explore, and (3) wade in the tepid waters of the Gulf or Atlantic, and sometimes tip-toe in the Great Lakes’ frigid waters.

Oh how Mom and Dad embraced Florida! From Jacksonville’s soft sand beaches and Aunt Mary’s crab boils, to St. Petersburg’s old forts, and Miami Beach’s Art Deco District. Mom and Dad loved it all.

Recently, I found a black and white photo of Mom and me posing on a concrete bench at Silver Springs, Florida.  A glass-bottom boat was the background scenery.  Mom and I wore matching white leather huarache sandals. I loved those sandals.  (My brown leather softies purchased as an adult, even outlasted my first marriage.

Mom and me- silver springs001I was eager to discover the underwater world at Silver Springs, a popular tourist attraction.  My white huaraches and I stepped foot onto a glass-bottom boat for a tour of the Silver River, lead by an official ‘Captain’.  With glistening views of the sandy bottom and sea shells, the day was unforgettable.

Shortly after I discovered the snapshot in my cardboard box of memories, I read a story the St. Louis Post Dispatch ran by Alan Youngblood of the Ocala Star Banner.

The exact same boats I remember in their heyday, appeared as the backdrop for the photo in the Post, with cypress trees, bushes and a park bench in the foreground.

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copyright Alan Youngblood, Ocala Star Banner

In the 1960’s the popular TV show Sea Hunt was filmed at Silver Springs, as well as countless movies. The attraction recently reopened as a state park. The article mentioned the glass-bottom boats are still a feature for park visitors.

Over the past year, millions were spent to preserve the springs with different anti-pollution projects.  Apparently, the water clarity disspated due to nitrates infiltrating the spring water.

I’m curious to see now, if the springs are pristine, clean and full of interesting fish and bird life — the way I remembered them as a child.

And I’d like to think that the same concrete bench — the one Mom and I sat on, decades ago – is still waiting for me….to make new memories.

(I’ll need to buy a new pair of huaraches for the trip.)

 

 

 

 

Some kind words from two state representatives….

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Ever have one of those days when everything goes just right?  Kind of weird, isn’t it?  I had one of those days January 17, 2014.

After completing a restaurant review and photo shoot for Missouri Life magazine, I stopped by St. Peters Cultural Arts Center to locate my award-winning photo “Dear Kindred Spirit” hanging in an exhibition on the gallery walls.

While there, I stopped by Cindy Dubois’ office, Art Leader for the Center, to inquire about renting a room for a book signing.  Folly Beach Dances, my healing photography and poetry book is due out the end of February.

While speaking with Cindy, she interrupted our conversation and blurted out, “I just remembered something I was supposed to tell you something! Yesterday I received a called about you from State Representative Brian Spencer.”

“Really?”

Cindy riffled threw her notes, found his phone number, and suggested I give him a call.

On my way out, I stopped by the Warrior Wall to take a picture of my photo, and then headed to the parking lot.

Once inside my car, I dialed the number with anticipation. Representative Spencer answered on the first ring.

“Hi, Mr. Spencer, it’s Sheree Nielsen. You wanted to talk to me?”

“Sheree, I saw your story in Community News about the photography award you received.  I feel it’s really important to connect to people in my district, so I’d like to stop by in the next couple weeks and give you a certificate of recognition.”

“Thank you, that would be great,” I answered with surprise.

On the ride home, I thought about my conversation with Mr. Spencer.  I smiled a little.  Then I smiled alot.

As I steered my Equinox down our subdivision’s gravel road, I paused at the bottom of the driveway to retrieve the mail.

Once inside the house, I sorted the mail.  I noticed a small cream-colored envelope.  I flipped the envelope over, and the return address read “Chuck Gatschenberger, State Representative, District 13.”

I carefully opened the textured envelope, and read the hand-written note.

 “Sheree,

 A belated congratulations on winning 1st place for photography from the Humanities Council.  It’s truly a remarkable piece. 

Best wishes for continued success.”

Chuck

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Another surprise.  Pretty cool!

This past Saturday, Representative Spencer stopped by the house to deliver the Certificate of Recognition to me.  I graciously accepted.

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Hubby, Mr. Spencer, and I talked for awhile about a number of topics. As the conversation came to a close, Mr. Spencer handed us two business cards, and said to contact him anytime we have concerns or ideas about Wentzville.  (He mentioned that Representative Gatschenberger was a pretty nice guy, too.)

The personal correspondence from two different state representatives made me change the way I viewed politicians.  They’re not all bad.  In fact, they’re pretty nice, compassionate guys.

Yesterday, it was no coincidence that our youth minister, Brandon’s sermon encouraged ”take the time to impact people’s lives… talk to people you don’t know. “

Which is exactly what Brian and Chuck did. They reached out, and it made a difference….

Thank you Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance!

Thank you Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance for telling the story of my photo “Dear Kindred Spirit” on your website.  And thank you for the First Place Award in Photography – I can’t wait to meet all the veterans and families at the book launch on November 15 for “Proud to Be: Writings by American Warriors Volume II” at the University of Missouri St. Louis.

Hope you like the story behind the photo.  Click on the link below and scroll down to the 7th page.

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MO Humanities Council Proud to Be Vol 2 backstory

A Well Versed book launch, and writing

On Sunday July 14, Donna Volkennant, Marcia Gaye. Lynn Obermoeller, and I made the trek to Columbia, Missouri for the Well Versed Literary Works 2013 Book Launch.  Well Versed is the literary anthology for the Columbia Chapter of Missouri Writer’s Guild.  The four of us were contributing writers.

About a 90-minute drive one way, we shared stories on how we met our husbands, and talked about many topics.  The conversation was easy, like smooth butterscotch sauce flowing in slow-motion over homemade vanilla ice cream.  It seemed as if we’d know each other for years.

And before you knew it, I was pulling into the driveway of the Unity Center in Columbia.

We arrived early, so I foraged a few snacks for my gurgling tummy, grabbed a bottle of water, and settled in for readings from the anthology’s authors.

Lynn Obermoeller read her essay “I Don’t Remember” about a day in seventh grade she had little memory of (except that it was picture day, and the dress she wore was baby poop-colored with paisley stripes).

I read my essay “Breakfast With the Queen” about Midnight, our butter-eating black cat and her morning breakfast ritual.  Two of my poems were in the book.  One poem recalled a snow-white day in winter.  The other poem was a kindergarten memory that scarred me for life.

Eva Ridenour’s poem titled “Dust” was laugh-out-loud funny.

Suzanne Norton’s poem “Rupture”, an emotional poem about birth and rebirth, had me on the edge of my seat.

I noticed something about myself while listening to the book’s authors reading their selected works.

My breathing slowed.

My body relaxed.

My mind was open.  Open to the artistic and imaginative use of words.

Words.  Smart, sassy, funny and raw.

Each writer – a prolific artist.

Each author, vulnerable.

And I enjoyed myself.

One of the lucky ones, I’m proud to say “I’m a writer and loving it”.  Although writers are many, we’re a close-knit group of individuals – spanning the globe.  Connected by email, facebook and twitter — writers know no boundaries.

It’s kind of a weird thing how tight knit we are.  I can’t really explain it, unless of course, you’re a writer.

So here’s to Linda Fisher for doing a fine job as Managing Editor for Well Versed Literary Works 2013.  The authors well represented the anthology.

Looking forward to next year’s event.

Lynne, Marcia, Donna, me, Linda

Lynne, Marcia, Donna, me, Linda

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Just published – White Cliff Manor – A Missouri Relic’s Foreign Past

Elated, I received my August 2013 of Missouri Life Thursday afternoon.  Happy because my feature story about White Cliff Manor and its owner, Brian Helms, graced 4 pages of the magazine.

6 DSC_1422 Brian, entrance to B and B copyrI had much fun researching this historic home, unchanged by time.  (That was my original title – Unchanged by Time.)  And hubby and I experienced first-hand the home’s opulence and grace during an overnight stay.

Through Brian Helms, I learned the interesting past of White Cliff Manor, built in the 1870’s by the Schaaf family, the largest wheat producers in the state.

I soaked up facts like a loofah sponge on Italianate architecture, New Orleans inspired porches, the loving family that lived in the palatial mansion, and the TLC Brian afforded the home long after his purchase.

I believe you learn something new every day.  And a writer friend once told me, don’t ever stop learning.  That’s when you stop believing in yourself.

So please enjoy my story that graces 94-97 of Missouri Life.  It was a pleasure and an honor to document a man’s quest to restore a pertinent part of history to the Mississippi River Valley.

MO Life – White Cliff Aug 2013

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I fought the good fight (Midlife Collage weekly contest)….

Updated July 16, 2013

Well, I fought the good fight.  The Midlife Collage weekly contest for July 8 is over.   Sadly, I didn’t win but apparently was tied for first according to the editor’s comments on Monday July 15.  Here’s the link to the winner’s circle, where I it appears I ran neck-in-neck with the winner.  http://midlifecollage.com/winner-circle/

One thing I did learn about myself and my character.  I worked hard to market myself, and I think I did a pretty good job of it.  Makes me feel good.

When I do publish my inspirational essay and poetry collection with lyrical introductory photos of nature, family and beach scenes, I feel confident my voice will be heard via social media.  During the contest, I relied heavily on facebook and twitter.  My longtime friends, writers, and even newfound buddies came through for me giving me thumbs up, penning high quality comments, and even writing closing arguments.

So here’s to social media.

Maybe I am learning a thing or two.

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Vote for me starting today, Monday, July 8 – Midlife Collage Contest

Hi blogging friends,

I’m one of five finalists in the weekly MidLife Collage contest.  Please vote for me now and my essay “The Perfect Day”.  I’d sure like to be selected as the winner, and as a perk, there’s a little cash prize.   Here’s the link:   http://midlifecollage.com/2013/07/the-perfect-day/

The Judges will decide the winner based upon many factors.

So please give me a thumbs up, high-quality comments and a good reader closing arguments on http://midlifecollage.com/2013/07/the-perfect-day/.

The judges will then decide who the winner is.

Email your family and friends. Anyone age 18 and over can comment on “The Perfect Day” and make a closing argument to help choose me as the winner. You can tell others my story is in the contest by posting messages on social media websites.

If you have a Facebook page, you can post a message on your wall with the link www.midlifecollage.com so your friends can read and comment on my story. If you post several messages on your wall during the week, it is likely more friends will notice your post and read my story. If you don’t have a Facebook page, ask a friend to post the www.midlifecollage.com link on their wall promoting my story.

 If you have a Twitter account, tweet that my story, “The Perfect Day” can be found at midlifecollage.com. If you tweet this several times a week, it is likely that more people will read your my story. 

Every writer’s organization I’ve been apart of, and every publication that I’ve been selected for, shows up in my bio on their website.  So please, vote for me!

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Pitches, Lit and Conversation at the MWG Conference

MWG contest winnersThis weekend I attended the Missouri Writer’s Guild Conference in St. Louis.  I met some really cool writers, talked to friends, and collected helpful information from the workshops I attended.

Nightcap sessions on Friday evening writers mingled with lit agents and speakers. I sat at a round table with others and Jita Fumich, of Folio Literary.  Jita welcomed questions from the group, and answered eloquently throughout the session.

Saturday morning I attended breakouts and pitched my project to agents.

My pitch with Jennifer Stewart at Blank Slate Press went quite well – she even commended me for my well-thought out pitch and platform – however, the press wasn’t taking essay collections at this time.

Two ladies visiting St. Louis seated outside the conference room helped me prepare for my pitch.  Though they weren’t authors, they certainly were positive, upbeat and cheered me on.

Breakouts included:

ebooks 101 by Jita Fumich.  Stepping through the process of e-publishing models, and how to create professional eBooks.

How to Parse a Press by Steve Yates where we learned about keys to publishing with University Presses and what genres they’re accepting.

Query 101 with Pam van Hylckama Vlieg.  Pam’s presentation was so entertaining.  I found her fresh, funny and informative.  A great look into an agent’s mind as they peruse author queries.

I skipped the first afternoon session as I needed desperately needed caffeine, and spent a quiet time at Starbucks sipping a wet cappuccino.

Back to the breakouts and Robin Colucci Hoffman’s session titled Bestseller Blueprints where she stepped attendees through the elements in spotting a NYT Bestselling book.

Jane Henderson, St. Louis Post Dispatch, certainly made the banquet lively.  She’s seen it all when it comes to book reviews.  Jane touched on interesting, if not strange ways, authors attract attention when submitting books for her to to review.

Awards for contest entries were next on the agenda. I placed Third in the Missouri Writer’s Guild President’s Contest last night for Best Article in a Magazine, Anthology, or Journal for my AAA Traveler article titled Inside the Bahamas Out Islands.  Other writer friends from Saturday Writers and St. Louis Writers were also recognized.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A comedian, a novelist who writes post apocalyptic works, a couple of gals from Kansas City, a paranormal romance author, and a movie producer became new acquaintances.

But, the evening’s highlight was winning the Lit Ladies silent auction gift basket and four tickets to the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Dodgers game in August, with seats behind the first base dugout. A plethora of other goodies such as autographed books from local women authors, some earrings, a journal rounded out the basket.DSC_1441 silent auction basket

Thanks Missouri Writer’s Guild for a fun time and the camaraderie of writers.  See you same time, next year.

Nurturing Paws receives “Recommended” rating from US Review of Books

     Just received this email from my editor at Whispering Angel Books.  My essay, “Purrs, Paws, and Cat Scratch Kisses” is in the book, along with works from two local authors — Faye Adams and Linda O’Connell.
Hi Nurturing Paws Contributors,
     The US Review of Books recently reviewed Nurturing Paws and gave it a “Recommended” rating.  Please pass along the good news to your friends, family and followers!  If you choose to quote this review, please attribute it to The US Review of Books.
Take care,
Lynn Johnston

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Author Spotlight – Mary Horner – “Strengthen your Nonfiction Writing”

Our guest author today is Mary Horner, author of “Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing”.

Those leaving a comment on my blog about Mary’s interview will be entered in a book giveaway of  “Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing.”  I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday March 13.

Not only is Mary a talented writer and teacher, she is also a wonderful friend.  So without further hesitation – Mary Horner.

Question – I understand you’re an award winning journalist who teaches communications at St. Charles Community College in St. Peters, and St. Louis Community College in Wildwood, Missouri. What compelled you to become a teacher?

I was a writer first, but I believe that most writers are teachers by the nature of the work. It seemed like a natural progression, and teaching has helped me understand the importance of knowing your audience, and that there are many different perspectives. What I consider a simple statement may have different meanings to different people. I try to be as clear as possible, but it’s always a challenge. Teaching has helped me learn how to defend my decisions and work, and keeps me on my toes. There’s nothing like immediate reactions.

Question – When did you first fall in love with writing?

In the sixth grade, when I won first place in an essay contest sponsored by the St. Charles City-County Library District titled “What the library means to me.” My (better-at-math) friend won second place, so it gave me a sense that writing was a valuable skill. I attended the awards ceremony and had to read it out loud to a group that went beyond my classmates, including grown-ups and everything! Heady stuff for a sixth grader!

Question – What inspired you to write Strengthen Your Non-fiction Writing? What would you like readers to take away from your book?

I actually started writing it as advice to a friend who needed to write an article, and I kept thinking of more and more information! I think that’s why it has a casual, friendly tone that makes it easy to read. I wanted it be the opposite of the books that make writing sound harder than it has to be.

What I’d like them to take away from the book the idea that although I believe writing is both an art and a craft, there are many ways to improve your writing using simple techniques. I wanted this to be a resource that readers could use immediately to solve some of their writing dilemmas.

Question – What advice do you have for new writers?

Never give up. Your writing has value in ways you may not yet realize.

Question – Mary, we all know you’re a wonderful teacher and a published author, but what great novel do you have in the works?

I’m working on a book I wrote several years ago about a young woman’s fight to save a historic mansion. The story as I’ve written it seems disjointed, so I’m trying to make it the protagonist’s story without going off on tangents. I have a tendency to tell everyone’s back story.

Question – And finally, as Anne Lamott once said in her book “bird’ by bird” (I ask this in all my authors interviews), it’s important to have a moral position in life.  What is your moral position?

There is no “they.” There’s only “us.”

___________

Wow! Great interview Mary. Thank you for sharing.

You can learn more about Mary on her blog writRteachR where she discusses all things editorial, including writing, publishing, authors and books. Also, follow the publishing process for “Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing,” a new book by Mary Horner.

Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing is on facebook!Mary Horner copy

 

The winner of the book giveaway “Strengthen your Nonfiction Writing” is Kim.

Kim I’ll be emailing you to confirm your win.

Mary will need your physical address to mail the book.

Congratulations and thanks for commenting!