Friday, December 02, 2011


Yesterday, December 1st, was the second anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law, Jeannine Cook Pool. You'll hear no mother-in-law jokes from me. She was an amazing force of nature and I was privileged to know her.

I had been introduced to her, briefly, at church on a Sunday morning, but I recall really meeting her when I gave my husband-to-be a ride home from our college campus one evening. I didn't know he was my husband-to-be at the time, we were just friends who had met through the Baptist Student Union at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas (now called Texas State University). But it seemed Tinkerbelle knew something was up.

Tinkerbelle was a little dachshund-terrier mix who, unbeknownst to me, was usually wary of strangers. But when we stepped into the house Tinkerbelle ran right up to me, flipped over on her back and eagerly waited for me to reach down and rub her tummy, which I was delighted to do. As I was getting acquainted with Tinkerbelle I noticed Dub, his younger sister and their parents standing around us with their mouths hanging open for a few seconds of shocked silence before they all began to explain that Tinkerbelle just doesn't take to strangers. They looked at me like I'd suddenly sprouted a halo and looked at Dub as though saying silently, "Where did you find this girl?!

I should have asked Tinkerbelle, "What do you know that I don't know?!"

That was the first time I recall being on the receiving end of a Jeannine Pool hug and I don't think I have the words to tell you how much pure love and acceptance came with one of those hugs. She made me feel like family even then.

When I was sick, holed up in my little college apartment with a fever, she made me her homemade chicken soup. When I was stressing out about planning wedding details she told me that her job as mother of the groom was to wear beige and keep her mouth shut and that made me laugh and broke the tension. She also told me that the rehearsal dinner was the only thing she got to plan and she looked me square in the eye and said, "You're going to be comfortable. Everybody's wearing jeans. We're having a western barbecue dinner!" And I loved her all the more. I bought myself a new cowboy hat to wear to it, borrowed my roommate's Justin boots and Dub and I wore matching armadillo belt buckles. I was comfortable and everybody had a great time.

When Dub's father passed away we were there for her and she taught us about dealing gracefully with loss and adjusting to life's unexpected changes.

When we could afford next to nothing for Christmas, she lavished gifts on our little girls and made sure they had all they needed.

When we sought an escape from our stressful routine she welcomed us for long weekends at her beautiful home in the Texas Hill Country where we could put our feet up and watch the deer and the birds in her yard and wave to the golfers playing on the 6th fairway while our girls played dress-up in her closet.

She got her breast cancer diagnosis when we were visiting one weekend. I'm glad we were there. When she went for her first visit with the oncologist to discuss her radiation treatments, I went with her. Thankfully, they had caught it early and a few weeks of radiation took care of it.

She was as close as a phone call and I miss dialing her number and hearing her say, "Pool's residence, this is Mrs. Pool" and replying, "This is the other Mrs. Pool!" and hearing the delight in her voice as we caught up on all the news of the family.

She poured her love into her son and daughter and her granddaughters and I see her in each of them whenever we're together. She comforted us and challenged us and sometimes exasperated us.

She left us a lot to live up to.

I hope we make her proud.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


On the occasion of the last taping of One Life To Live on ABC I feel that I should share some profound words of wisdom.

I've got nothing.

For many of us the memories go back for decades as we grew up with the characters who have populated Llanview and those who were just passing through. I can't see one of these former Llanview residents pop up on primetime shows or in movies without saying, "Hey, he used to be on "One Life To Live!"

I've been missing All My Children for months since it left the airwaves and soon it will be time to face the sad fact that One Life To Live will no longer be found on ABC. I still have hope that both shows will eventually be resurrected on the web. This is as revolutionary as when soap operas moved from radio to television. It's a new world and we're all reinventing it every day.

Feeling nostalgic about my favorite soaps and considering the changing landscape of the entertainment industry, I know it's not just the shows themselves that I miss. It's the community. Today I spend time on Twitter and Facebook and talk about my favorite shows with literally thousands of fans from all over the world on a daily basis. Some would say "Now, there's a community!" With hundreds of channels to choose from you can usually find someone else who is watching that show you love and one of them has probably set up their own message board for it.

When I was a child in the '60's, I'd turn on my television set, peek at the back of it to see the tubes start to glow as it warmed up, wiggle the rabbit ears about till I found the perfect spot and the snow on the screen cleared up, adjusted the contrast to receive all the colors from white to grey to black, and then turned the dial to one of the three networks (okay, we could pull in a couple of independent stations, too) and finally settle in to watch my favorite show. With so few choices there was a good chance most of my friends were watching the same thing at that very moment. No one had heard of VCRs yet.

I tell myself it was a simpler time when the world moved at a slower pace and shows stayed on the air for years and years and became old friends. But the reality is the '60s were anything but slow as the world was changing radically at breakneck speed. For every memory of Mr. Rogers and Captain Kangaroo there were also images of Peter Jennings and Dan Rather reporting on the Vietnam war. And while there were shows that lasted like Gunsmoke and Bonanza we also gratefully bid adieu to My Mother the Car and It's About Time.

The only constant is change.

Sometimes unexpected

Sometimes met with a sense of relief

Often fought tooth and nail

Change is inevitable.

We can't tune out the static yet and get a clear picture of the future for All My Children and One Life To Live but I think there are a few things we can say for sure.

1. No matter what happens, fans will complain.

2. Our favorite soaps will be replaced on the networks by other shows, much cheaper to produce, that will be little noted nor long remembered.

3. Prospect Park sees value in these shows and is willing to try to find a new format, a new platform to keep telling their stories. It's not a sentimental sacrifice on their part, they're hoping it will pay off. I'm glad they recognize that these shows do still have an audience and they apparently believe the audience will still be there once they've worked out the kinks. I think they're right and I wish them all the luck in the world for the sake of the fans and all who have played a part in bringing these shows to us for so long.

4. No matter where they go or what other projects they will do in the future, the fans will always support anyone who has worked on soaps. Members of the Guiding Light family who joined Twitter and Facebook as their show was going off the air know the connection formed with fans has provided much needed support for actors, crew members and fans during the transition to life after the show. This is yet another way that Guiding Light has blazed a trail for us and now All My Children and One Life to Live actors are connecting with the fans in this way, too.

So, to the cast and crew of One Life to Live, I say a heartfelt "Thank you" for all the stories through all the years, every laugh,every tear and every Friday cliffhanger.

I look forward to the future.

It won't look like today.

But people will always want stories.

There will always be someone who wants to tell them.

And someone will find a way to share them.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Government

When I moved to Maryland it seemed to me that the people here had a very different attitude toward government than in my home state of Texas. In Texas the government was what you wanted to get off your back. In Maryland, the government was how so many people managed their space and their resources in this densely populated area of the country.

We’re hearing a lot in the news these days about the government. Some people want more, some people want less, some blame the government for everything.

The government isn't a group of buildings in Washington DC, a corporation, or a nameless, faceless entity out to get you.

The government IS you.

The government didn't spring into being overnight when someone waved a magic wand. It's there because We, the People, put it there.

Walk into any government office anywhere and the people you see working are there because somebody voted for somebody who got elected and made a decision that put them there.

No one has more power to change the government than you do - than we do - because WE are the government. We decide how our country will be governed every time we vote in an election and between elections we can contact the people we voted into office and tell them what we want them to do and why. The choices they make may not always go the way we’d like but we have the right and the responsibility to be part of the process.

I hear a lot of people complaining about candidates, saying they don’t like any of them. They’re fed up with the government and they’re not going to bother voting this time.

If you do not exercise your right to vote then you are allowing other people to make important decisions for you. If you don't like the decisions they make, then you made the wrong decision when you gave that power to them.

Next time, exercise your right to vote. Work it. Do your research, don't just read the headlines or take someone's word for it. Read it for yourself, listen to a candidate's whole speech and not just the sound bites. Consider the source of the news you read and don't rely on just one. Weigh the long term consequences of policies, not just the quick fixes because the future of our children is at stake.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Moms and Weddings, Part Two

She's married.

I'm a mother-in-law.

I have a son-in-law.

I also have a house full of leftover food, reception decorations, wedding gifts and a hard drive full of photos waiting to be edited and shared.

It happens so fast. And like Liza Minelli's song, when it all comes true just the way you planned, it's a quiet thing.* Her smile as an infant, a toddler and every age along the way flashed through my mind along with every wish I'd ever had for her. And they all came true in that moment.

I did not take pictures during the ceremony itself, did not even have my camera with me then since I'd promised my daughter I would simply be the Mother Of The Bride. At times I have to choose whether to be a participant or an observer when do I have my camera with me and I confess I slipped into observer mode for a while during the reception.

But as I looked around the room at my brother and sister, Aunt Becky, nieces, nephews, cousins and all my extended family gathered there, I had to save the moment.

The last time so many of us had been together was for my mother's memorial service and I wondered then how well we would stay in touch with each other since Mom had been our communications hub, relaying the news from one corner of the family to another. While weeks and months have passed between emails and phone calls and an occasional birthday gets missed, we do love and enjoy each other and have stayed in touch pretty well. My sister, aunt and sister-in-law hosted a delightful bridesmaid's luncheon for my daughter the day before the wedding, filled with laughter and hugs. Then they showed up the next day ready to pitch in and help make this DIY wedding everything Becky and Andy hoped it would be.

I love my family.

I told my sister that it was just as well that my mother wasn't around for this one, though.  Mom liked to have all the details arranged well in advance whether she was planning a Sunday School lesson or a wedding. My daughter, Becky, is much more spontaneous. While some things had been prepared well in advance, other elements came together nicely the day before with assignments handed out to relatives and friends who were eager to help, as she knew they would be. That would have driven my mother batty!

But it gave us the opportunity to be participants

instead of just observers

To give something of ourselves to bring joy to Becky and Andy

who have given so much joy to us

To get to know each other

on all sides of this growing family

as we worked together to make memories that would last a lifetime.

*If you aren't familiar with the song, here's one of my favorite versions of it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

For Liz and Llanview

I confess that I didn't start watching Guiding Light until early in 2009, so I missed some of the best moments of Liz Keifer's portrayal or Blake Marler. But let me tell you what I did see and why I am a fan of her work now.

In every scene in which Liz Keifer appeared, I learned a little bit more about the character of Blake Marler. Even in scenes where she was just in the background there was always some little thing Liz did to show us something about Blake's personality. And what I saw made me want to know Blake better.

I had started watching GL because friends had told me about Otalia – the story of Olivia and Natalia. They said their relationship was building slowly the way the great soap romances always have. As I watched their love story unfold and saw Blake get more involved with the two of them, I was more and more impressed with Liz Keifer and what she could do with the slightest gesture or look. She delivered a line as though a great truth had only that moment dawned on Blake, opening up a whole new world to her, illuminating her face with a child-like sense of wonder.

When we first see Liz on Venice, Crystal Chappell's webseries, she doesn't say a word and she's only on screen for a few seconds. We don't know who she is or why she is hurting or even whether she is real or not. But you cannot look away. And you must find out who this woman is and what caused her pain and what will bring healing to her. Is she real or a ghost or a figment of Guya's imagination?

I've become a fan of Jerry verDorn, too, since he joined the cast of one of my favorite shows, One Life to Live. I knew that he and Liz sponsored an event called Daytime Stars and Strikes but I haven't been able to attend one of these yet. Last year I donated some auction items, though. This year I couldn't afford to donate anything so I rallied some of my Twitter friends to donate things instead. I contacted Wendy Madore, the organizer of the event and wrote a blogabout where to send donated items and Tweeted about it. Some of myCafePress items and things from the Venice Shop were donated to help raise money for the American Cancer Society. (You can see photos of this event here.)

As I followed the news that was Tweeted by friends of mine who attended the event I saw @Guiding_Light mention that she'd spoken with Jerry verDorn and he wants to encourage fans to write in and request that Liz be added to the cast of One Life to Live. I immediately thought of several possibilities of characters and stories she could play! She would be a great fit for Llanview and I know I'll be writing to let my voice be heard.

But I don't want them to hear from only me. I want them to hear from you, too. Just as I did for the donations to the Stars and Strikes auction, I'm spreading the word so others can get involved. Below you will find all the contact information you'll need to send your letters and postcards to ABC and to Prospect Park, the company taking OLTL online in January. Please share this information on Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else you like. Feel free to link to this blog , too, and I'll be sure to share any new information as it becomes available! (This information can also be found at .

Frank Valentini, Exec Producer, OLTL
ABC Daytime
320 West 66th Street
New York, NY 10023

Ron Carlivati HeadWriter, One Life to Live
ABC Daytime
77 West 66th Street
New York, NY 10023

Prospect Park Branch Office
2049 Century Park East #2550
Century City, California 90067
Attn: Mr. Paul Frank - Executive Head of TV

Call in to One Life To Live:
OLTL Direct Comment Lines: (NY) 212-456-3338 (NY) 212-456-7777 OR (LA) 818-460-7477

Tweet @prospectpk tell them you want to see Liz Kiefer (@eakcik) on One Life to Live.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thank You, Steve

In 1984 my husband and I bought the original Macintosh computer. It was a huge investment for us at the time, about $2400, since my husband was in seminary and I was working full-time to help put him through school. But we felt like having the Macintosh would mean he'd spend less time typing and re-typing his papers (or learning word processing on an IBM PC and I could use it for graphics work, too.

We were right. Years later our daughter, Becky, would wrap her tiny fingers around the mouse of that Macintosh and make pictures with its graphics program. (She eventually graduated from college with a degree in Graphic Design and is now head of the Photo Department at

I'd say our investment paid off.

We did eventually grow frustrated with that Mac, though, and it's lack of a built in hard drive or second floppy drive. Its 128k of ram was twice what the IBM PC offered at the time but technology grew by leaps and bounds and passed us and our small budget by. We couldn't keep up with the upgrades and new models that came each year so we kept ours just as it came from the factory.

Decades later, when we finally admitted we would never again actually use the old Macintosh and we needed the space in our tiny basement, we sold it on eBay. The one thing potential buyers wanted to know about it was whether or not we had the original Styrofoam boxes everything came in with the original cardboard sleeves on them, emblazoned with the Apple logo. We did. Everything had been packed away in the original boxes, with the original software and manuals, never upgraded. The Macintosh & Imagewriter printer were in good working order, just the way we got them. The buyer drove to Maryland from New Jersey and paid us several hundred dollars in cash for his treasured vintage Macinstosh.

We dropped out of the world of Apple for decades, unable to keep up with the high cost of the products, no matter how wonderful they were. Not everybody can afford first class. Then my daughter received an ipod mini as a gift and we gave an ipod touch to my husband for his birthday. I bought myself an ipod classic for my 50th birthday with money from my family. And when Becky started her university art classes she got a Mac with her student loan money. Now, she has an iphone.

But Steve Jobs gave us much more than good products.

He gave us ideas.

The idea that you can make your dreams come true even if you start with nothing.

The idea that you can pick yourself up and start over when you fail and have been rejected.

The idea that there is always a new dream to pursue.

The idea that every day counts.

The idea that you can change the world.

Thank you, Steve. We will miss you.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ups And Downs

If you need a car and have a few thousand dollars you can buy a car. But if you don't have a few thousand dollars it will cost you a few thousand more to buy the same car. You will buy it on credit and pay for the privilege of buying it a little at a time rather than paying in a single lump sum. So the poorer person will pay much more for the same car than a rich person will.

If you have health insurance you'll pay a certain amount out of pocket when you go to the doctor. If you don't have health insurance you'll have to pay a great deal more out of pocket when you go to the doctor. Which makes it less likely that you'll ever be able to afford the high cost of insurance premiums. Which means you'll continue to pay a great deal more for every medical expense.

It's expensive to be poor in this country.

I majored in History, not Finance. I don't know a lot about how financial institutions work. But I have learned a few lessons from the history of our country.

When the gap between the rich and the poor grows to record proportions

                we all lose.

When the people at the top forget that they need the people at the bottom

                 we all lose.

When the people in the middle are more likely to end up on the bottom than on the top

                 we all lose.

We need each other.

Rich or poor, we need each other.

That's the lasting Truth I saw rise to the top as I watched all the documentaries about 9/11 earlier this month.

We need to invest in each other because we are stronger when we work together.

I hope these are issues we consider the next time we cast our votes.  

I know this isn't like most of my blog articles. But these things have been echoing in my mind for a while now so I thought I'd share them. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Write for Eden

If you're a fan of Eden Riegel's, like I am, you probably have a thing or two you'd like to say to the powers that be at The Young and the Restless about the fact that they are letting a talented, Emmy winning actress go and/or about the way this news was delivered to her today, via Twitter, before she finally received official notice.

Tell them you hope they'll keep Eden on the show, even on a recurring basis. The rest of the message is up to you.

While you're at it, drop a line to the soap magazines and share your thoughts with them, too.

I'd like to make sure you know who should receive those comments so I'm posting address for snail mail and email here:

The Young and the Restless
CBS Television City
Attention: put name here
7800 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Co-Executive Producers: Maria Arena Bell

Head Writer: Maria Arena Bell

­Co-Head Writers: Hogan Sheffer, Scott Hamner

Soap Publications

Soap Opera Weekly
Public Opinion
4 New York Plaza
New York, NY 10004
Speak Out
c/o Soaps In Depth
270 Sylvan Ave.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ  07632
Soap Opera Digest
SOD Sound Off
4 New York Plaza
New York, NY 10004

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9/11

I had just dropped my daughter off at school, then drove to a nearby store to pick up a couple of things. On the way home I turned on my car radio and heard the news about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. They were speculating that it must have been a small private plane of some kind.

When I got home I turned on the TV and saw the second plane hit the south tower. I was watching NBC so it was Katie Couric and Matt Lauer & Al Roker who were starting to speculate that it might have been a terrorist attack.

I called my husband, who was in his office at the church where he worked in Annapolis, and told him what had happened. They brought a TV into the office and turned it on to try to bring in one of the local channels. The TVs there were used for showing videos to classes only so there was no antenna or cable connection. After a few minutes of barely getting a signal they were using a wire as an improvised antenna and watching the news there.

I called one of my friends whose son was in my daughter's class. We were both at home, alone, trying to make sense of it and we stayed on the phone for quite a while, just taking a little comfort in the sound of a familiar voice. Some parents were bringing their kids home from school but I decided letting my daughter's day continue as normally as possible would be best until I knew there was a reason to pick her up.

After the plane flew into the Pentagon my husband came home and together we watched the news. We learned later that the father of one of our daughter's friends worked at the Pentagon. His office was in the section that was hit but he was out of the office that day.

My life was not directly affected, though. I wasn't there in New York or DC. But DC is just a half hour west of us. Our house is in the flight path of BWI airport so the sound of planes overhead was common. Suddenly there were no airliners in the skies at all. But we did see fighter planes turning overhead as they patrolled the skies over DC. Midshipmen in their uniforms had been a common sight around downtown Annapolis but now they were restricted to the Yard (campus). While we had always been able to drive through the Naval Academy no vehicles were allowed anymore unless they had a Department of Defense sticker, a rule that persists to this day. The main entrance to the Academy was changed to allow for tighter security checks.

I remember the first time I saw a passenger jet overhead once they'd been cleared to fly again. I heard it first, then stopped in my tracks and watched until it was out of sight. My heart was heavy for those who had died because an enemy had used those as weapons.

Much has been said and written about 9/11 and I don't think I can add anything to the narrative. When these anniversaries roll around we can't help but turn our attention to those events, though, still trying to make sense of it all, to find some lesson that will last.

I keep thinking of all the people who started that day like any other, getting dressed and going to work as usual. Many found strength and compassion beyond their wildest imagination before the day was done. Lives were lost that day, but many lives were also saved. By ordinary people who started their day like any other. Police officers, Firefighters, or just the guy who worked in the next office.

We need each other.

People may argue about the details of history and the political and diplomatic response to the events of 9/11 or the lasting cultural impact but one thought rises to the top for me whenever I turn my attention to that day.

We need each other.

Life is precious. Each and every one. And we need each other.

I hope we think of that as the news media grows tired of this topic and returns to reporting on the race for the presidency as if it were a sporting event. Which party is winning, which politician is losing this week and what will it all come down to on election day? How you cast your vote determines how the government functions at all levels from the White House down to your neighborhood.

We need each other.

To work together

To look after each other

To make life better for everyone.

Because life is precious.

Each and every one.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Moms and Weddings, Part One

When I was planning my wedding I lived 4 hours away from my mom. This proved to be a good thing. I recall several conversations that went something like this:

Mom: Have you chosen your flowers and talked to a florist yet?

Me: Not yet, Mom.

Mom: Well, what about your colors, have you picked your colors?

Me: No, Mom, I've been a little busy here.

Mom: Have you even registered your china?

Me: No, Mom, I'm trying to pass my Soviet Foreign Policy class at the moment.

Mom: Well, people are going to start asking and you really have to –

Me: Mom, all I really have to do is show up with Dub and the preacher and the rest is gravy!

While I was busy trying to finish my last three semesters of college and graduate, my mom made my wedding dress. I remember showing her a picture in a Bride's magazine and saying “I want something like this.” She held up a couple of pattern pieces to me to check the size one weekend when I came home and the next time I came home it was finished. It fit perfectly and was exactly what I wanted. She made my going away outfit, too.

My mother and my sister also took care of all our flowers, buying silk flowers and supplies at Michael's and making all boutonnieres for the men and the bouquets for the bridesmaids, too. My bouquet was also made of silk flowers but we had a local florist put that one together.

I hear DIY weddings are all the rage these days. We just did it that way because it was cheaper.

Now my daughter and her fiance are working on their own DIY wedding. Hardly a day goes by without some discussion of wedding plans with someone in my family. And each new discussion reminds me of my mother and I miss her all over again, wishing she were here to help. She'd make sure no detail was forgotten, no checklist left unchecked and she would have had the time of her life doing it all.

My daughter lives about an hour away and I see and talk with her frequently. I often catch myself wishing I could do more to help with her wedding plans, although I know she wouldn't want me to feel that way. I'm usually the geek in the back of the room running the audio equipment at special events or the photographer documenting it all, not the one you'd want to consult about wedding planning details, anyway, so it's just as well.

I feel like all I can do for my daughter is to stand on the sidelines and cheer her on, which is probably the best thing I can do for her, all things considered. Well, that and try to find something to wear to this shindig that looks more like the mother of the bride than my jeans and Chucks. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mt. Lebanon: A Picture of Love

I took a picture 32 years ago of a little girl sitting on her daddy's lap. It wasn't posed, it was just something I noticed happening. They knew I was there with my camera but they were paying attention to each other, not to me. And in that moment, I tried to capture an image of their love for each other.

Last week I found out it worked.....

It's summertime so I've been thinking about Mt. Lebanon lately. That's a Baptist camp south of Dallas where I worked every summer during my college years. It's also where I took that picture 32 years ago. Most recreation staffers for the Dallas Baptist Association youth and preteen camps worked only one or two summers. I think I may have set a record with my five. Now I can't help but think of Mt Lebanon when schools let out for summer and the temperatures rise above 90 degrees.

I've posted a few Mt. Lebanon photos on Facebook and some of the kids I met there all those years ago have found me there. I am honored that they remember me and surprised at all the stories that come tumbling out of us as we talk about our time there.

This past week I took the time to tag some of my Mt. Lebanon photos with the names of some people I've found on Facebook and that started a conversation with Gary and Valleta Lanier and their daughter, Leah. Gary was my youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Oak Cliff in Dallas when I was a teenager. Valleta was my Sunday School teacher and friend and Leah was a cute little kid who loved running around with all of us teenagers, frequently getting passed from lap to lap at all of our parties and retreats. We were delighted to find each other and started sharing memories of Mt. Lebanon where Gary had frequently served as Music Director, bringing Valleta and Leah along with him.

While we were chatting I posted the photo of that little girl sitting on her daddy's lap. Here it is, along with some of the Lanier family's comments:

Leah: Awe....I'm crying! I'm such a daddys girl! Thank you Donna!... I remember this....I remember my little shirt and I remember the wonderful staff @ camp who made a name tag for me so I could be just like them! ;)

Gary: That sure is a cute little girl.

Leah: She's a Daddys Girl all the way! Was then and still is!....These are all such beautiful memories for me...absolutely beautiful!! And I am still pretty much that same little girl!!!! :) Thank you all for sharing all of this, so very much!!!!!!!!!!! Love and blessings to all of you!!!!

Gary: What fun days in Cedar Hill at Mt. Lebanon. My youth has been renewed.

Valleta: I am OVERWHELMED... so many emotions. She LOVES her daddy and has followed in his footsteps with her incredible voice and songwriting gift... this is an incredible picture. Thank you for posting it....You will NEVER know how precious they are to us.... They love each other so much. This picture is beyond words to all of us. Thank you.

For 32 years that photo stayed in a box, shuffled from closet to attic to basement. Why did it take me so long to share it?

Why did it take years to recognize that the ability to see and capture that moment is a gift, meant to be exercised and shared?

I have so many stories and photos of my experiences, places I've been, people I've learned from. I've been keeping them to myself. It's time to share them, so I've started writing a book. Hopefully, they will touch hearts, spread hope and open eyes to new possibilities.

What are you keeping hidden away that could be a blessing to someone?

Isn't it time you shared?

You never know what kind of blessing you may receive in return. To see what I mean, just listen to this song, by the little girl in that picture, Leah Lanier. Thank you, Leah!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stars & Strikes Donations

Last year I donated a couple of my mugs to be included in  the Daytime Stars & Strikes auction to benefit the American Cancer Society. I bought the mugs for around $15 each. At auction, they went for $50 each. I wasn't able to be there myself but I felt like I'd had a little part in this wonderful charity event.

I wish I'd been able to donate more items but that was all I could afford to give at the time. This year I'd like to see if I can get more people to donate some of the soap opera themed merchandise from my shops on Zazzle and CafePress. I've been in touch with the organizers of the event and they would love to have more items to auction. (Several of my designs are now in the official ABC stores for All My Children, One Life To Live and General hospital in the fan-made section.)

You can buy any soap opera related merchandise from my Zazzle shop or any of my CafePress shops (something that can be autographed by the stars at the event would be best).  Just use the address below as the "ship to" address when placing  your order and know that the item will be auctioned off at Daytime Stars and Strikes event, October 9, 2011 in New York City. Then email Wendy at to let her know about your donation.

Sundi McCormick
385 South End Avenue #7E
New York, NY 10280

You can buy from the Venice shop, too and have it shipped to that address! 

If you're favorite character isn't here, just leave a comment for me... I take requests!

My Zazzle shop's soap opera products can be found here:

And here is a list of my shops on CafePress : 

Guiding Light:
I Want To Live In Springfield
The Afterglow Lives On
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Olivia Do?

One Life To Live:
I Want My OLTL
My Life Is a Soap Opera... What Would Inez Do?
My Life Is a Soap Opera... What Would Nora Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Dorian Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Blair Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Clint Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would the Cramer Women Do?

All My Children:
I Want My AMC
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Erica Do?
My Life Is a Soap Opera... What Would Kendall Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Bianca Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Greenlee Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would the Kane Women Do?

General Hospital:
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Sonny Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Jason Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would Brenda Do?
My Life Is A Soap Opera... What Would the Davis Girls Do?

My Life Is A Soap Opera... I Need An Evil Twin

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Story That Won't Be Told

I wasn't holding a grudge. Not exactly.

But I remembered what happened.

I didn't keep it sitting on the top of my stack of daily worries

where I could review it at will

stewing over the details.

and plotting revenge.

But I knew where it was filed away

just in case I should ever need it

reminding me to never again trust that person too much.

I wasn't supposed to know anything about it in the first place.

It wasn't even about me.

I only knew about it because someone involved trusted me

and let me in on a few details.

I knew I didn't have the whole picture but I knew enough to figure it out.

Or I thought I'd figured out what really happened.

The people involved simply gave in to their weaknesses and made bad decisions.

And my family got caught in the crossfire of their battle.

Nothing we could do to stop it at the time.

In many ways we're still trying to regain our balance.

No, I wouldn't call it a grudge.

But I wasn't letting go of it, either.

Recently, I heard the rest of the story.

It was refreshing to know that my suspicions were correct,

and that those involved recognized their error.

And what it cost us.

There is no going back.

Nothing will really fix it.

Things happen and life goes on.

No need to even talk it out with those involved.

We do the best we can with what we have

and try to make sure that nobody else gets hurt.

No, it wasn't a grudge


But somehow, my load is lighter today.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

My Mother and the Mavericks

My mother passed away on May 28, 2006 after suffering for years with a chronic lung disease. We had a beautiful memorial service for her, which she had planned herself, and shared memories and hugs and tears with family and friends at a reception afterward.

As I was visiting with one of my old friends from grade school during the reception, she invited me to attend the Mavericks game with her that night. A season ticket holder, Ana never missed a home game, and this one was Game Five of the Western Conference finals.

I wasn't sure that was an appropriate way to spend the evening after my mother's memorial service. But when I mentioned it to my brother and my sister they each looked at me, their eyes wide with excitement and said, "GO!" We'd already had time with all the visiting relatives the day before and everyone assured me that my mother would approve. So I accepted Ana's invitation.

Ana picked me up that evening and we went to her favorite sports bar for dinner, watching the first few minutes of the game on the TV screens there since we were running a little late. I told Ana how everyone had said Mom would be delighted that I had a chance to go the game since she had been such a big fan. Ana was astonished to hear that.

"Your mom was a sports fan?!"

Ana knew my mother as a very proper lady who attended church regularly, ran an efficient home and kept everything neat and tidy, even finding time to sew clothes for her daughters. Her childhood memory of my mom was of a sort of June Cleaver for our neighborhood, without the pearls and high heels, sort of a blend of Betty Crocker and Martha Stewart. That was a pretty accurate picture. But I told Ana about my mother's penchant for the old Saturday Night Wrestling shows which she watched on a little black & white TV throughout all three of her pregnancies, a craving that was probably healthier than mine for Dutch Chocolate Blue Bell ice cream.

Mom was a big fan of the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Mavericks. She never missed a game on TV, making sure somebody looked up the time and the channel for her when she was bedridden so she wouldn't miss a minute. She'd yell at the players on TV when they were losing and cheer when they were winning. I was sure she was smiling down on me. I became more certain as the evening wore on.

We left the restaurant sometime during the first quarter and made our way through a brief rain shower across downtown to the arena. As the rain let up and the evening sun broke through we saw a double rainbow, from one end to the other, perfectly framing the Dallas skyline. It was so beautiful it took our breath away and Ana turned to me and said, "Donna! It's your mother!"

When we got to the arena, Ana approached the closest parking lot, telling me she never found an open space there and since we were running late it was probably chained off by now anyway. But the lot was open and we found a parking space waiting for us, not far from the entrance to the arena. Again, Ana said, "Donna! It's your mother!"

The Mavericks had been trailing so far in this game against the Phoenix Suns but as we found our seats, they scored and took the lead. And Ana said, "Donna! It's your MOTHER!!" She kept repeating that phrase as Dirk Nowitzki went on to score a total of 50 points during that game, 22 of them in the fourth quarter and the Mavericks won the game 117 - 101.

And it didn't stop then. On our way to the car, Ana stopped to buy a t-shirt. She was hoping to find one particular design in a certain size and was pretty sure they'd be sold out. But they had it in stock. Of course they did. She gave my mom credit for that one, too.

The next morning at breakfast I told my family the story of my mother and the Dallas Mavericks. At first they giggled a bit, but then they sat quietly as, one by one, I related the events of the night before.

They agreed with Ana.

"It was your mother."

Kim Crow Adams, Ana Saldana and me at the reception after my mother's memorial service

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Derby Day

It's Derby Day!

When I was a little girl we never missed the Kentucky Derby. It was the only glimpse we got of my mother's home state, that mythical land called "Kentucky".

My mother's stories of her childhood in Kentucky told of mountains and snow, two things we didn't have in suburban Dallas. The closest I usually got to horses was the "Black Stallion" novels in my school library, but I read all of them over and over again.

I loved horses. Still do.

I have a very early memory - I think I was about three years old - of going with my Uncle Marshall to say hello to two horses that lived nearby when he was pastor of a small town church in Central Texas. The horses came right up to the fence and let us pet them. Uncle Marshall said their names were Thunder and Lightning. Since I loved thunderstorms that made me love them even more.

I'm not sure why I've always loved horses. Maybe it's the way they so patiently stand by and let us puny little humans lead them about and faithfully carry us on their backs. Maybe it's the perfect combination of beauty and power so evident as they thunder down the track. But it probably has more to do with their big soft eyes and the way their ears twitch back and forth as they listen to our voices and their soft noses that nuzzle their people.

When I was in sixth grade I used to visit my friend, Tricia, who lived closer to the edge of town where they could keep a horse. Half horse, half Welsh pony, Babe wasn't that big as horses go. Sleepovers at Tricia's house meant big trees, dogs, cats, an illusive, screaming peacock and riding Babe bareback. I did lose my balance and fall off once but I got right back on her and rode some more.

I've had a couple of other opportunities to ride horses (not bareback), usually at a slow walk or an easy trot. But just once, the horse I was riding broke into an easy gallop. It was only for a few strides but I loved that feeling of power and freedom.

Recently, when the movie "Secretariat" came out, I searched YouTube and let my daughter watch Secretariat run those Triple Crown races. She was in awe, just as I had been when I watched them the first time around. Best. Horse. Ever.

So today I'll be watching the Kentucky Derby and remembering my mother's voice singing along with "My Old Kentucky Home".

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Watch this video Secretariat's Kentucky Derby win and YouTube will automatically play his Preakness and Belmont races,too. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

May 1st

May 1st will be remembered by many as the day Osama Bin Ladin was killed just as another generation remembers it as the day of Hitler's death. But a friend of mine will remember it as the day her mother died. Make that two friends.

For weeks I've been in touch with a friend I met on Twitter as she has cared for her dying mother, trying to offer some encouragement as I remember my own mother's long struggle before a chronic lung disease finally took her life. Late Sunday night my friend let me know that her mother had passed away. That same night I signed into Facebook and read that one of my old high school friends had lost her mother that day, too.

I watched all the news on TV about the death of Osama Bin Ladin and I thought about my two friends and I could not bring myself to celebrate death.

Anyone's death.

I thought about the Navy Seals who had trained for this mission and did the job they were sent to do. I understand why they did it and I have to say that I felt a sense of relief that this man would no longer be able to spread death far and wide and incite hatred throughout the world.

But I have no wish to join the ranks of those whose response to these events is to cheer as though they were at a high school football game.

Instead, I hope
    I will continue to do
        what I try to do
            every day.

Where there are differences,
    seek peace and understanding.

Where there is pain and emptiness,
    spread love.

Where there is despair,
    share hope for a better tomorrow.

And as God gives me opportunities,

    lead others to do the same.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wide-angle vs. Telephoto

It's been years since I worked for a university PR department and hefted my twenty pound camera bag up to my shoulder, taking off across the campus to shoot a groundbreaking or a basketball game or a student assembly. But it's amazing how my mind still defaults to photography metaphors.

This week was a stressful one for me. For a couple of days it seemed that all I could see was a wide angle view of dead or dying possibilities for my own life, like a panorama of a dry and barren desert.

The more I studied the picture the worse I felt. It's comforting to know that with so many other families currently in job-hunting mode like mine I'm in good company. But comfort won't pay the bills. So many choices are out of my hands and it seems there is precious little I can actually control these days.

When I can't make sense of the big picture, it's time to change lenses.

I reached into my virtual camera bag and exchanged my wide angle lens for a telephoto. Instead of the looming forest of trouble I tried zooming in on just one tree at a time.

Sometimes stress fills the frame until it's all you can see.

The longer you look at it
the worse you feel 
and the harder it is to cope.

Maybe you're looking at a long list of troubles, feeling like you'll never fix them all. But you can take a step toward fixing just one.

It could be a step in the right direction.

While you can't get anywhere by ignoring problems or side-stepping them, you can develop selective focus. You decide what to focus on and how long you'll stare.

It's your choice.

What do you see when you look at this photo...

the dead leaves...

the cactus thorns...

or the flower?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

NYC: Lost and Found, Part Four

The story of my weekend in New York City pales in comparison to the news we received this week of the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live. Twitter and Facebook have been abuzz with heartbroken soap fans consoling each other and sharing memories since the news was announced. A part of me feels like it's silly to write about anything else right now.

But then it occurred to me that I went to New York because of a soap opera, to attend a fan luncheon for a soap opera actress, Jessica Leccia. I visited with friends I'd met from all over the world because of our shared love of soap operas and the people who make them.

What better way to celebrate this wonderful, truly life-changing genre than by telling the rest of my story?

During the weeks leading up to our weekend in New York City, Denise, Lynn and I had decided to stay an extra day so we could visit Peapack, the site of the Guiding Light location shoots. But when Sunday arrived we considered how much time we'd spend on the train getting to and from Peapack and the fact that we'd have another three hour train ride later than night to my home in Maryland, and we decided to spend that time in the city after all.

Denise and I walked to the Westway Diner (the same place we'd had dinner Friday night) to meet her friend, Bettie (@bettielaven), whom I'd met when I came to New York for the Venice event at the RF Lounge back in October. (Bettie was the one who had hailed a taxi to take me back to my hotel!) We were soon joined for a late brunch by Lynn and Lia (@giftofamber). By the time we finished, Jill had made enough progress on her work during the morning that she gave herself the afternoon off and came to meet us there.

It doesn't matter to me where we go when I'm walking with Jill in New York because I know wherever we end up will be new to me and there are so many fascinating things to see along the way. But Jill always asks, “Where do you want to go? Is there anything in particular you want to see?” And once again, I tell her, “I don't care, I only come to New York to see you!” She always laughs as though nothing could be more ridiculous. Why would anybody want to see her?

But as I'm hanging back from the others a little, stopping now and then to take a picture, I see how we are all just glad to be there with her. We answer her questions about our everyday lives and eagerly pick up little tidbits she happens to toss out about Guiding Light or people whose names we know well but have never met. She is quick to point out what each of us have in common with people she has known for years, famous or otherwise. Jill is fascinated by people and loves hearing their stories.

Jill took us to 48th Street where her husband, Tony, told her we'll find guitar stores. During my last visit in October, Jill & I had passed a store with beautiful guitars in the display window... electrics and acoustics, some new and some vintage... and I stopped dead in my tracks and just stared. It was Matt Umanov's Guitars. I'd seen their ads in Vintage Guitar magazine. We went inside and I did some more staring and I pointed out a Martin D-15 that was like mine.

I've been playing guitar since I was a teenager and used to play and sing for my church and other groups quite often. Not particularly well, and I don't play in public much anymore but it can be like therapy for me to take out my guitar and play even for a few minutes. I had told Jill a story about a guitar I'd bought for a song, literally. The original owner asked only that I teach him a song he'd heard me play and sing once. And on this day, Jill wanted to find a guitar store for me.

We stopped at Sam Ash and Jill told me to go on in and they'd wait there for a bit. So I did. I went through the store and up the stairs in the back where all the acoustic guitars were. Across the length of the showroom was a smaller room with the lights lowered and fine acoustic guitars lining the walls. Martins, Gibsons, some new, some vintage. I could have spent hours there.

I spotted a small bodied Gibson that I'm pretty sure was like one that had belonged to my dad's Uncle Floyd. It had come us when he died and my brother used it when he took guitar lessons. I took piano lessons, not guitar, but I remember spying on my brother's lessons as he was learning how to play that guitar, taught by a family friend. Unfortunately, the guitar was very old and too warped to play by the time I started learning and I never did play a Gibson L1.

Until that day in Sam Ash.

The man working there handed me the guitar and I sat on a stool and started to play. In a few minutes Denise showed up and picked out another guitar and started to play, too. Then the others filtered in one by one. I played and sang a song I used to do for groups about where you go when you've come the end of your road. I played Jill a little bit of the song that bought me that old guitar I'd told her about. Bad allergies have lowered my vocal range considerably and I can't reach the high notes anymore so I spared them the misery of listening to the whole song!

Many thanks to Jason Jenkins, a very accomplished musician who showed us what guitar playing really sounds like and gave us a mini-lesson in the different types of wood used to make some of the guitars on display. And many thanks to Jill, Denise, Bettie and Lia who let me take up part of their afternoon indulging my musical fantasies!

From there we followed Jill to Grand Central Station, a place she said everybody should see. I agree. Jill, Denise & Lee stayed put at the top of the stairs, giving Lynn and I a little time to take a few pictures of that beautiful place we'd seen in so many movies. I turned at the bottom of the stairs to look up at the group and took a few pictures of them, too. Each of us from different backgrounds, different states and one from New Brunswick, Canada, I took a moment to smile at our diversity before we went downstairs to rest and warm up a bit with hot chocolate and cheesecake.

Throughout the afternoon I heard stories from each person in turn, about their life and the people they've met and the stories they wanted to tell in their writings. There in the Dining Concourse of Grand Central Station we heard about the time that Bettie met Eartha Kitt in a hotel lobby in London. It's a wonderful story, but I'll let her tell it. We heard more from Jill about Guiding Light and talked about Crystal Chappell and how she had been overlooked for an Emmy pre-nom. And we continued our conversation about writing and soaps and what might have been.

With just a couple of hours to go until time for us to get to Penn Station, Jill and I left the others to have dinner on our own and get caught up. I told her all the news about my husband and daughters and we talked about personal projects and hopes and dreams. I told her about going to see “Love, Loss and What I Wore” and about the growing urgency I feel about writing my book, a project I never really thought I could take on until Jill believed in me.

We didn't solve any great mysteries of the universe but when it was time to go I felt encouraged, challenged and hopeful and I hope she did, too.

I took a taxi back to the hotel to meet Denise and Lynn where we gathered our bags and went on to Penn Station to catch our train. Once we were aboard, Lynn proved that her claims of being able to sleep anywhere are valid. I think she was asleep before the train left the station. Meanwhile, Denise and I tweeted and talked all the way.

It was well after midnight when our train finally arrived in New Carrollton, having been delayed a bit along the way and I was delighted to see my husband waiting for us on the platform. I got my guests settled in Daughter #1's old room and headed for bed myself, telling them I'd try not to wake them up when I got Daughter #2 up at 5:30am to get ready for school (I always go back to bed for a couple more hours!).

The next morning I heard my guests laughing. It seems the view of the lamp in their bedroom gave these two lesbians the giggles. I can't imagine why....

I took Denise and Lynn to Historic Downtown Annapolis for a brief tour, pointing out my favorite views from the Severn River Bridge. I drove them around our little town, driving them past the statehouse and the Naval Academy's Gate One and telling them a bit about our history, then parked the car so we could walk around City Dock. I wish we'd had more time but at least they got a little taste of the place before we had to drop Denise off at BWI airport for her flight home. Lynn and I drove back to Annapolis so she could take a few more pictures and get some souvenirs before time to pick up Daughter #2 at school. Then the two of us took Lynn to the New Carrollton Amtrak station and waited with her until it was time for her train to leave. (I recommend you stop by Lynn's blog and see her pictures of Annaplis because she got some great shots.)

It was a remarkable weekend spent making memories with amazing friends. All because I watch soap operas and they do, too. Because it's not about the plot or the stunts, it's about relationships. That's why we care. Because we've watched those relationships grow and change over the years and when we find someone else who watches, too, we feel a connection with them because they've taken that journey with us.

We're all part of the family.

I'm ready for another family reunion.

How about you?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

NYC: Lost and Found, Part Three

(Part One of this New York adventure can be found here and Part Two is here. Click on the photos to see them larger.)

Jessica had agreed to do a few reenactments of her scenes as Natalia, Inez and Ani. Those who might have requested a reenactment of the shower scene from Venice were disappointed but volunteers were found for three other scenes: the rooftop encounter between Ani & Lara and Gina & Tracy (Venice), Inez confronts Eddie and slaps him (OLTL), and the Otalia spa fight (GL).

My personal favorite was the spa fight with Desiree Pernaselci (@DesireePernasel on Twitter) playing the part of Olivia. Napkins took the place of the bras that were flung in the original scene and both Desiree and Jessica substituted some great zingers for the original dialog! I thought the best one was “Olivia's” crack about a chastity belt and “Natalia's” comeback: “I was gonna give you the key!”

Let me just say that I was delighted a few months ago when I saw Crystal Chappell ask Desiree, via Twitter, to be in Season 3 of Venice. Now that I've seen this little bit of improv, I can't wait to see what she'll be doing! And I really wish somebody would cast Jessica in a primetime sitcom because her comic timing is right on the money!

After the scene reenactments were over we had more time for talking with Jessica and taking pictures. Brian showed up to join in the fun, too. And when Jill Lorie Hurst arrived I think I heard a genuine “Squeee!” from Jessica who greeted her with a huge hug. It was obvious that they were delighted to see each other again! As they were talking I had several of my friends, who knew that I knew Jill, come up to me and ask, “Is that Jill Lorie Hurst? I would love to meet her!” So I had the honor of introducing them, giving my friends a chance to tell Jill how much her work has meant to them and giving Jill a chance to see that she really does have her own fanbase!

When the luncheon was officially over we went back upstairs and Denise, Lynn, and I talked with Jill, Jessica and Brian. Jessica said she'd seen me being all “ninja-photographer”, suddenly appearing out of nowhere to shoot a picture with no flash, then disappear again. Brian demonstrated the way I'd slowly peeked around someone to see if I had a good angle, then disappeared again without taking the shot. Then Jessica started doing it, too, and we were cracking up! Wish I'd gotten a picture of that! I explained to them that when I worked as a photographer years ago in Texas I was doing PR photography on a small Baptist campus and I was often shooting in worship services there and for my church. I learned to get my shots without disturbing anyone, shooting with no flash, just available light. It was good training if you want to be a ninja-photographer!


When the luncheon was over Denise, Lynn and I left with Jill, walking to who knows where. I never care where we're going because Jill always knows interesting places to go and it's all about the time with friends, anyway. We got as far as Union Square park and found a bench there so we could sit and talk for a while and decide where to go next. Lynn took a couple of pictures of Jill, Denise and I while we were there. We decided on an early dinner and Jill found a great little diner where Lynn presented her with a copy of the Otalia Virtual Season, Season 1. Jill said she'd wait to read it until she finishes her writing for Venice since those characters were already in her head.

After dinner Jill had things to do at home so we made plans to meet the next day. The three of us went back to the hotel but didn't stay long. Denise took us walking through her old stomping grounds in the theater district while Lynn and I took pictures of nighttime in New York. We stopped for a moment at the Marquis Theater Stage Door and she told us a bit about why that one was special to her:

The Marquis Theatre stage door IS NY to me for a lot of reasons. It's where a lot of really important events in my life have happened, from the birth of the website I run ( to the start of several incredibly important friendships. It's where I said goodbye to the first Broadway show I was with as fan and supporter from virtually its first preview performance until it's last moment on a Broadway stage (9 to 5). It's where the life I have now really came to be. Every time I come to New York, I walk past the Marquis stage door, and if he's there, I give the stage door manager Rey a big hug and catch up on what's been going on at the theater. It's like visiting a childhood home - I can never go back, but I will never, ever forget how it shaped who I am.

We walked through Times Square and on to Rockefeller Center to watch the skaters, taking pictures all the way. I still have more to edit, but I'll share a few of my favorites here. I spotted a couple of familiar faces in the crowd and grabbed a quick shot... can you spot Cutter and Joey from One Life to Live?

Only one more day left of my weekend in NYC so come back for Part Four for the rest of the tale!