Homeschool to College

There is a little corner of my word where magic happens. It’s not visible from the naked eye. It’s not always in the same spot. I have to chase it, happen upon it, close my eyes and conjure it. It is my imagination and of late, imaginings there have been quiet, the space taken over by real-life issues – good, great, and could-be-better.

I suppose the most exciting thing to have happened lately is my daughter’s change in status. No longer is she a homeschooled teen doing high school work. No. Now she is a college freshman, having started classes just yesterday.

The homeschool-to-college process isn’t a difficult one – though it was difficult for us. And yes, that means ain’t nothing easy in this world.

Our experience here in NYC is different from the experiences of homeschooled children elsewhere in the country…in the world. While NY State has fairly strict rules and regulations, New York City adds to those by labeling children ‘compulsory age’ until the end of the school year in which they turn 17. Just a mile away, on the other side of the city line, compulsory age is 16. That might not seem like a huge difference, but when you’re trying to get your child into college, it can be. Especially if you tend to trust the words of others more than your own gut.

During our six homeschool years, I’d researched homeschool-to-college methods and ‘knew’ just what I had to do. It wasn’t until last summer as we visited our local community colleges that I realized – or rather, believed – I’d been wrong. The key to a successful homeschool-to-college experience is to know your rights. Plain and simple. Private colleges will have their own rules, but community colleges are bound by the rules of the county in which they exist. At issue, though, was whether we wanted to fight to get into the very school system we’d abandoned back when my daughter was in sixth grade.

We didn’t.

And dealing with CUNY schools reminded us of that fact. Rules changed according to the person we speak to. Never was there someone of a higher authority available when we took issue with the ‘facts’ as presented to us.

Finally, after much angst and a year of stalling, we discovered a SUNY school that is not only homeschool-friendly but also offers long-distance degree programs. My daughter, at 16, is now a student at this school. Once she has her associate degree, she will no longer be a ‘homeschool’ student but a transfer student.

Which brings me right back to where I was when we first hit the pavement in search of higher education for my child.

Granted I’d made a mistake. I’ll explain it to you so if you’re looking to have your child go from homeschool to college, you won’t make it to –

From the time my daughter turned 14, we should have enrolled her in one or two college courses – ex. Eng.101, Global History101 – per semester. Courses whose credits naturally transfer. Three to six credits per semester would give a homeschooled student enough credits to transfer to a community college or university by the time they’ve passed compulsory age. At that point, they would transfer into a college and continue their education rather than first start the process as freshmen. 

Hindsight obviously doesn’t help us. But remember, planning is almost everything. Knowing your rights and not letting others tell you differently is everything else.

Good luck in your homeschool-to-college endeavors. It may not come easy but when it comes, it is a magical moment so much sweeter than the imagination could ever create.

Ghosts of Gettysburg – Part 2


In case you are not a regular follower of this blog, I ask you to view my original post about the Ghosts of Gettysburg, as that will anchor you into my tale and prepare for for Ghosts of Gettysburg Part 2. The experiences I had with my daughter and a friend were as real as the experience I have now as I type. Of course, some of our experiences were solely personal and could not be documented. Other experiences were captured on film and digital recorders and I included some of that “evidence” in my last post, which you can find here – Ghosts of Gettysburg.

If you’ve already read that first post, you should know a lot has happened since then. I’ve had the chance to listen to more recordings and view more images and have discovered more images – some in the photos I’ve already posted. Debunking some evidence has been easy in some cases and rather difficult in others. I have some recordings that sound intriguing but after hearing the same moment from my daughter’s or friend’s recordings, we realize there is nothing paranormal about them. Despite the evidence we feel is indisputable, disregarding or disproving any of it is a disappointment. Alas… as is the saying, “When in doubt, toss it out.”

For the evidence we believe to be accurate – we can start by having a look at the photo below. It’s from an early morning trek into Reynolds Woods. Originally, I saw two ghostly images in it – one on the path walking toward me, the other crouched in the brush toward the front left. It wasn’t until I looked at the image with a fresh eye, that I saw yet a third ghostly image in the same photo.

Here is the original picture with the two images indicated:

Ghosts of Gettysburg Part 2 - Soldier on path and kneeling in bushes on left

Now here is that same image with the discovery of the third ghostly apparition:

Ghosts of Gettysburg Part 2 - Reynolds Woods

In my last post, I mentioned our experiences with temperature fluctuations in The Wheatfields. Well, I’d left my camera in the car so I don’t have photos from there but I do have an interesting recording. I didn’t hear voices while I was there, but on playback, I heard what sounds like mumbling as we speak and then through the silence, I hear something sad – a man whispering, possibly praying… using the words: “Help me.” “Take me.” “Hey.” Each plea is made a few seconds apart with “Help me” at :18, “Take me” at :21 and “Hey” at :26.

Can you hear them? (For a fuller experience, you might want to use headphones)

Voices in the Wheatfields

To move on with our experiences… after all of the experiences we had throughout the audio/auto tour of the battlefield, which I described in my last post, we went back to an area we had been the night before during a commercial ghost tour. This was a small field behind the Jennie Wade House. Jennie Wade was the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg. She was baking bread for the troops when a stray bullet ripped through the door and pierced her heart. She died instantly. There are ghost tales about her and her home, but I’ll skip all of that and tell you about the field behind the house since that is where we had several personal – and intense – experiences.

According to our enthusiastic, intriguing and lovely tour guide, Kendra Belgrad, some Confederate soldiers who were outnumbered in this spot by Union soldiers, chose to play dead rather than fight. On retreat, the Confederate soldiers who did fight ‘captured’ these men, called them cowards and said they would never have a hero’s burial but would instead remain in the spot where they failed to fight. The fighting Confederate soldiers then murdered the ‘cowardly’ soldiers and buried them in that field. It is said ghostly images are constantly captured in that field. There are images of orbs, of heads peeking around trees and of men leaning against the trees and holding their muskets.

These are the images we hoped to capture the evening after our auto tour. And we did capture them. Almost immediately.

Once on the field, I turned my camera toward the tree where a lot of activity has been reported. I took a few shots and noticed a red ‘glare’ in them. I’m a photographer’s wife, so I considered the first flare to be simple reflection of tail lights from cars parked in the lot beyond the tree. However, in each photo, the red glare was in a different position. First next to the tree “peeking”, then just around the tree’s edge and then more toward the center of the tree. I looked at each digital image as I shot it and on the fourth or fifth shot, I was stunned. So stunned, that when I glanced at my daughter, the expression on my face scared her into insisting I not tell her what I saw.

What I saw in that startling image was what looked like a soldier who had just been shot and had slammed back against the tree. His hat looks like it tipped down over his face as he slumped back and the red glare is on his shoulder – perhaps where the bullet hit.

Admittedly, the image is dark. I did not use flash and the area was back-lit by the hotel and streetlights. Still… if you look closely, you should be able to see what I saw here:
Ghosts of Gettysburg - behind Jennie Wade House

Here is the shot immediately after the one above – notice the soldier image is no longer there:

Ghosts of Gettysburg Part 2 - for comparison - no ghostly image


Perhaps they’ll both be easier to see here:
He’s here –

Ghosts of Gettysburg - ghostly soldier 'dead' against tree

but not here (in the very next shot):

Ghosts of Gettysburg - for comparison - no ghostly image

A few minutes later, in a different spot of the field, my daughter’s K2 readings went wild. K2 meters register high magnetic fields. The meter flickered throughout this experience but registered noticeably seconds before our friend said she felt as if someone was standing right between her and my daughter. I fired off three shots and the first one shows a soldier standing precisely where she said she felt a presence. The other two shots show nothing.

I’m pretty sure this one will be very easy to see:

Ghosts of Gettysburg - soldier standing between the ladies

In case you can’t see him, here he is:

Ghosts of Gettysburg - Soldier between ladies - indicated

Of course, we captured a lot of orbs and other questionable images during our time there. I don’t know enough about orbs to say whether what we caught were spirits, bugs or some other natural phenomena. But… here are a couple of our orb photos and a couple of possible ghost images:

Odd mist in only one of four images:

Ghosts of Gettysburg - odd mist in one of 4 images


Ghosts of Gettysburg - Orbs in field behind Jennie Wade House
Ghosts of Gettysburg - Orbs - Field behind Jennie Wade House


Outline of man in mirror (Jennie Wade House):

Ghosts of Gettysburg - Ghostly outline of man in mirror - Jennie Wade House

Here’s that last one cropped and indicated:

Man in mirror indicated


Don’t think this is it. We captured more voices and suspicious – or should I say “curious” – images and sounds. Here we were walking along Cemetery Ridge when we came upon some black walnuts lying on the ground. As we discussed them, there’s a long labored sigh then a very clear – stern – male voice seems to say, “Open!”. Not sure why he said that but, from his tone, he expected his order to be obeyed. Listen here…the ‘sigh’ happens as we’re walking at :08 and the ‘Open!” is at :15 ,right after I ask, “Are they edible?”

Sigh and “OPEN” at Cemetery Ridge

In my last post, I mentioned how each of us felt uncomfortable at Culp’s Hill. I posted audio of what sounds like the hammer of a rifle/musket and a voice saying, “Whisper!” as my daughter speaks. There are a lot more sounds – some clearly voices – from that spot and I’ll post another one here. It happened as we walked along an unsteady incline on our way further into the woods. Listen as my friend says she hears something and feels like she’s being watched. You’ll first hear my, “Ooo!” as I slip on an wobbly rock, then you’ll hear the drawn out whispered voice talking over us at :04 –

Culp’s Hill


What do you think it says? We hear the words, “Get home!”

I’ll wrap up with two more experiences – in my next post. 🙂

One experience is something I cannot prove. I can only say all three of us endured it at the same moment, sharing our perceptions in real time and noting how each of us knew what the other was going to say before it was said. The experience was that vivid to us all. The other is one that just might make a believer out of the most skeptical among us. It made a believer out of my husband… and since he’s a photographer and our ‘proof’ is on video… that’s saying a lot.

Until next time…

Killer Nashville Claymore Award

I don’t know how ladylike this is, but I’m excited and want to shout it out to the world. 🙂 One of my stories is a finalist in the Killer Nashville Claymore Contest.

Judging was based on the first 50 pages of each submission, and ten  were chosen for the semi-finals. The winner is offered a publishing contract and I wish all of my fellow finalists the best of luck. I’m happy just to final. 😀

Here’s the announcement:

July 25, 2011

Heartfelt Well Wishes to everyone who entered this year’s Claymore Award contest for the best beginning (up to 50 pages) of an unpublished novel not currently under contract. There were many excellent manuscripts, and it was difficult to choose just ten finalists, but the preliminary judges have made their choices.

Congratulations to the 2011 Claymore Award Top Ten Finalists (in alphabetical order by title):

Baron R. Birtcher (Rain Dogs)
Craig Faustus Buck (Go Down Hard)
Bryan Camp (Where the Dead Remain)
Joan Lipinsky Cochran (The Yiddish Gangster’s Daughter)
Judith Dailey (Animal, Vegetable, Murder)
Debora Dale (Canyon Road)
Jessica Ferguson (A Bad Guy Forever)
Frank Jenkins (An Embarrassment of Riches)
Doc Macomber (Riff Raff)
E. Joan Sims (A.K.A. Love)

Best Regards,

Killer Nashville Team

Worrying is like Poison Ivy

I’m a worrier. I’ve always been. When plans are being made, my mind immediately thinks, “‘what if” and each additional “what if” worry I come up with plays off the one before, becoming darker, more… worrisome.

A long time ago, I convinced myself that worrying beforehand helps prepare me for whatever might go wrong. Instead, it only makes me worry more. I have found, in all my years preparing for the worst, I have often failed to enjoy the best. That undercurrent of ‘what if’ is always there, pulling at me, reminding me that at any moment, the bottom can come out from under me. The interesting thing is that it never has. In all my years of worrying, my worries were all for naught.

Of course, bad things happen sometimes but those bad things are usually things I hadn’t planned for or even considered. The best-laid plans…

Worrying is like poison ivy. Pervasive. Toxic. Deceptively attractive.

Have you ever seen poison ivy in Autumn? If I didn’t know what it was, I’d say it’s quite attractive.

Worry, or planning ahead, is deceptively attractive as well because it creates in the worrier a false sense of preparedness.

Why do I compare worrying and poison ivy? Because last night I noticed a red blistery patch on my arm and went into panic mode. I just ‘knew’ I would wake this morning covered head to toe in an unbearably itchy rash. I ‘knew’ my cats had the poisoned oils on their fur because I’d cuddled them. I ‘knew’ my daughter would have it. My husband. I ‘knew’ I’d spend the next year washing every inch of my home – all the clothes, all the upholstered furniture, all the carpets, over and over – reinfecting myself as I handled items with this toxic oil that can, apparently, linger for five years if left untouched.

You know what really happened? Nothing.

Before bed, I used Benadryl ointment and I took one of my trusty antihistamine pills. This morning, I woke with a smaller, less red, less blistery patch on my arm. Yes. I have to wash clothes but it seems the poison ivy – if that’s even what I had/have – is much more contained than I had feared. At least for now.


I’ve used a lot of energy worrying about things that can go wrong. At this point in my life, I’d like to start concentrating what can go right. It’s really time to use positive ‘what if’ questions for myself and negative ‘what if’ questions for the torture of my characters.

Have you ever found yourself worried about something that never materialized or wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be?

btw – here’s a pretty good slide show of poison ivy so if you come upon it, you won’t have to worry that you won’t recognize it. 🙂

In case you’re still worried… here’s a good one page article about poison ivy:

Everything You Wanted to Know About Poison Ivy but Were Afraid To Ask


Writer’s Workshops and The Trouble with Tribbles

Tribbles, as many people know, were – are? – an alien species humans found oddly compelling. They trilled or purred sweetly. They were soft and cuddly. They made humans feel happy. The trouble with Tribbles was how rapidly they reproduced. Suddenly these precious fluffy purring things were everywhere, including the engine of the Starship Enterprise!

Too many tribbles spoiled the inner workings, distracted people from their jobs and basically caused chaos in an otherwise well-run system. Of course, in the end, the Tribbles saved the day. Yes, many of them sacrificed their lives to do so, but without them, the poisoned grain would not have been discovered and people would have died.

What do tribbles have to do with writer’s workshops? Everything.

Workshops, to the writer, are as appealing and irresistible as Tribbles were to the crew of the Enterprise.  While Tribbles gave physical comfort with their soft fuzzy bodies and sweet cooing, workshops give emotional comfort with their promise of clarity and focus. Writers flock to them – especially THIS writer. Paying with cash and time. Investing creative energy into new methods to develop characters, plot and theme, as well as new ways to see each.

The trouble with workshops, like Tribbles, is they way they multiply. The way the lectures pile up until there are mounds of them – mostly filled with phenomenal advice about the writing craft. The trouble with workshops, like Tribbles, is their allure.

And so, despite the distraction of Tribbles and workshops, I simply cannot resist their pull. And I, clearly, will not even try.

Resistance is futile.


Pull up your big-girl panties

That’s the advice I received from one of the many people in the industry to whom I whined about the last rejection I received. “Pull up your big-girl panties and move forward.” Solid advice from a woman in the know.

We’re all entitled to our bon-bon moments. It’s as simple as that. And it should be remembered that bon-bons and other ego-soothing remedies must be used immediately if the healing process is going to be speedy. For the record, my ‘bon-bons’ substitute is my whine and moan. Just so ya know.

Well, I’m done whining and moaning and I’m ready to have another look at my work to see if I can determine why it was rejected and how to either make that story better or do so for the next one. Yes. That means the dream will not go away. A dream – if it’s real – will haunt you until you do all you can to see it come true. I don’t know when I’ll be published. I just know that story-telling is as important to me as caffeine – and that’s saying something for sure.

And so, onward I go. As much for publication as for my own sense of self.

Oh. And those ‘big-girl panties’ I spoke of? Well… make mine red. With black lace.



Otherwise known as rejections or the big “R”.

As a writer, I know rejections come with the territory. Writing is such a subjective art that to expect anyone else to ‘get it’ is presumptuous at best, arrogant at worst. But to hope… well, that’s another story.

As a writer, I’ve written stories that intrigue me. I’ve developed characters about whom I care. I’ve given them twisted backgrounds a company of therapists would vie to take on. And I’ve allowed those characters to find themselves, face their pasts and forge new outlooks and relationships in the form of happily ever after. I’ve upped the stakes for them, hoping to challenge them in every way possible without tipping to farce, in order to show how life, from th

e outside looking in, is much easier to live than from the inside looking out.

Too bad I can’t apply that same vision to myself. For now, I sit with a long-in-coming rejection. One I’d imagined would never arrive. I thought this was ‘it’, the big break, and that from here my writing path would be free of at least one obstacle. I would like to look in from the outside but, when I try, I only see hours, days, months, years of working toward a dream that has yet to come true. I can only wonder whether I’ve invested too much to stop now, or whether I’ve invested too much to bother investing more.

I always pose this question when a rejection comes through. And I always seem to overcome it with new energy, new determination. New characters and stories. Now? I don’t know. I guess I can’t speak for what will happen or how I’ll think in the coming months. But at this moment, I can only say it’s time to turn over, fluff the pillow and find myself a new dream.


Day 4

I am finding my stride here as I reach Day 4 of my Book-in-a-week marathon. I’m finding – or rediscovering and reinforcing – what works for me and what doesn’t.

The whole idea of this is to just write. Get the story down without worry over details. If you need information on the fragrance notes within a specific perfume, just leave yourself a note in the text and continue on. Don’t worry about a specific word or a gripping emotional reaction. It’s about story. Layers and details can be added later.

I see how this process works because it keeps the muse active and in the story moment. The yet undiscovered plot points, the little twists and turns a pantser like me has yet to figure out, flow from the muse to the page in a natural – and still exciting and surprising – way.

However for ME – and because every writer is different, I believe we need to modify methods to fit our needs – not getting those perfume details or emotional reactions actually stalls the writing process. I can’t move on unless I know how the fragrance layers of that perfume smell because those notes will affect either the rest of the scene or a scene later in the story.

So, for those of you wanting to try this but are worried you won’t be able to accomplish it as it should be accomplished, I’ll say this – whatever you accomplish this week will be a reward for your muse. Just staying in the moment for more hours per day than you normally would, without household distractions (because you took care of all that stuff before you started) and with constant reminders to yourself that this is your first not final draft, gives you the freedom not only to create but to have fun doing it.

Onward! My muse awaits!

Ideas vs. Stories

I never have a problem coming up with story ideas. Never. I have a folder full of them on my desktop. Why? Because ideas are everywhere. They’re in overheard conversations, news reports, billboards, TV commercials, movies. Even a slogan on a t-shirt can prompt an idea. Thing is, ideas aren’t stories and so… while I have tons of ideas, I have only a few stories. So far.

Several of my ideas have grown into story blurbs. I’m excited about all of them and cannot wait to dig in to each blurb and flesh it out. That’s the fun, creative part of writing – it’s also the most frustrating.

Imagine reading a book and you really get into it. It’s gripping and you cannot wait to see how the tension escalates, how the hero and heroine overcome their conflicts and make love. So you turn the page… but it’s blank. Turn another page. Again… blank. Frantically, you leaf through the rest of the book and finally spot some words on page 82. But they’re just a tease – an overview of what’s about to happen. How did the characters get to that spot? How will they get out of it? You want to know all this but no one is around to tell you.

Welcome to the creative time in a writer’s life – both thrilling and frustrating at the same time. Thrilling because we get to decide what and how things happen. Frustrating because we’re eager to know but first must form all the pieces from nothing, then fit them together. It’s the hair-pulling time in a writer’s life. It’s also the most thrilling time because when each of those pieces fit, when the hero shakes the demons from his back or the heroine sees her own worth for the first time and they come together as equals in love, it’s the most gratifying moment a writer can imagine.

Unless, of course, you count the moment a contract is offered. 😉

Speaking of…

I am now awaiting word from a publisher regarding my last story. Of course, I hope they love it as much as I do and offer that contract, but I won’t know… until I know. So in the meantime, I’m doing what a writer is supposed to do. I’m challenging the ideas in my folder, seeing which one can stand the plotting test, and I’m forging ahead, hopeful, eager to torture a new hero and heroine just long enough to make them see their strengths so I can, once again, provide a happily ever after.

To blog or not to blog

That is the questions, isn’t it?

There just isn’t enough time. There’s so much to say but hardly time to say it. I don’t know how time imploded but, somehow, for me, it did. I find myself rising earlier and earlier each morning, feeding my cats – mine and my foster babies who will remain with me until Mother’s day when they go to their new adoptive home – and then the rush is on. Before I know it, I’m washing the dinner dishes and preparing for bed.

It’s good, I suppose. It means we’re doing a lot with our days. But there doesn’t seem to be time to do some of the more personal things I enjoy – like writing. Whether here or on my story. For some reason, everything writing-related has been pushed aside. I will get back to it, and I will wonder what happened that caused me to stop writing in the first place. But, for now, I must let this blog alone and focus on stretching the hours in my days.

I’ve had a wonderful time here. I’ve loved reading other blogs and commenting. I’ve enjoyed “knowing” my blogging friends. I hope you’re all still putting your heartfelt words out there for others to read and I so hope to join you in that endeavor again.

Until then, thank you for being my online buddies. Thanks for the encouragement when I needed it. And thanks for sharing your own lives here and on your personal blogs. You’ve been my online fun and I know once I close up shop here, I’ll want to come back again full steam.

Because goodbyes are so very difficult, I want to leave you with a smile. As an animal lover AND a Queen fan, this video made me laugh aloud. I hope it will do the same for you. Enjoy!


See you all soon. big-hug

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