Odd Finds in the Memory Vault

Karen Bristow and her sister, circa 1983-1984
The tall, goofy-looking brunette is me, somewhere between 3rd and 4th grade. The cute little blond is my sister.

Ever wonder what causes certain people from childhood to stick in your brain for no discernible reason?

People who, when they pop up on your mental movie screen, cause you to pause and think, “Whoa. Where’d they come from?”

My memory vault is stocked with some strange standouts. I mean, I can understand remembering my very first BFF, the first kid to bully me in school, or the first boy who’s heart I broke.

Those people had a profound enough impact in my life to scorch their own trail to my long-term memory.

But Ian and Derek from Mrs. Gould’s 4th grade class? We did nothing more than share space in the back of the classroom and swap yogurt for Twinkies at lunch. I’d understand remembering them for nearly three decades if we’d at least swapped spit. Maybe it was the unique name or the leather jackets? Or just the fact that they were complete opposites.

Ian, who to me, had the coolest name ever, sat to the right of me for most of the school year. His desk was as orderly and pristine as mine was a black hole that swallowed up my homework and barfed out excuses.

He came to school every day in dress slacks, loafers, a button down shirt and either a navy or red sweater vest. He never misplaced his homework or had to borrow a pencil. Nor did he have a problem loaning his pencils to me when I needed one. He was just a sweet kid who, thankfully, hated Twinkies as much as I hated yogurt.

Behind him sat tall, dark and Polish Derek. The “Bad Boy” of 4th grade. (If the 4th grade can have “bad boys” that is.) He wasn’t a jerk, that I remember, but he sure could pull off an attitude that matched his “Thriller” uniform; leather pants, either black or red, a matching jacket full of zippers and buckles, and high-top shoes.

He was the only kid in the school who could outrun me, but not by much. And if my desk was a black hole, then his was a supernova. Nothing that entered his desk came out unscathed, or at all.

Though the three of us did team up once in a while (a very unlikely-looking trio) for assignments or kickball, I can’t pinpoint one thing about them that stands out enough to make them so extremely memorable. Yet I’ve named my firstborn after one and pillaged the memories of both for personality traits and quirks for characters that haven’t yet found a home in stories.

Somewhere, somehow, in the ten-month span of 4th grade, they did something that caused my subconscious to freeze-frame them permanently in my mental photo album. And the ego part of me sometimes wonders, “do I stick out for no good reason in their memories too?”

Do you have any memories of people that cause you to ask yourself – “What the heck? Why him/her?”

Photo Credit: My Dad

Like the Poltergeist, I’m Back

Where’ve I been? Digging some weeds out of my mental garden so my roses can grow!

Or was that the Terminator who was back? Either way, I’m back, here, at my blog where I belong.

Where have i been?

I could say that I’ve been busy with the end of school/beginning of summer kids activities. It’d be true.

But it would also be a lie.

The real truth is, I got a little tired, a little lazy, and a little scared. I let some self-doubt creep into my psyche and wrap my right brain in a choke-hold.

Enough of that crap. I’m back. I’ve missed my blog, and the readers who stop by, too much and I’ve got some nifty pens and notebooks screaming “use me!” (All of my first drafts are written “old school” – pen, paper and hand cramps.)

So be on the lookout for some upcoming brain dumps on everything from new gluten-free discoveries to my advice to politicians looking to win my vote in November.

And as always, thank you for stopping by and reading!

Photo Credit: Karen Bristow

Mother’s Day Gifts that Won’t Break the Piggy Bank

My Dollar Store finds. Minus the gloves; those got used.

“Do dollar stores offer gifts for Mother’s Day that won’t end up in the Goodwill pile the moment Junior forgets he gave that thing to you?”

This is the question that ran through my brain the other day while I was coasting up and down the aisles of my local dollar store buying paper towels, cleaning supplies and some plastic forks.

I’m not saying I don’t appreciate every handmade card, half-painted frame, noodle necklace, etc., that my kids have given me in the past. I have most of those either displayed or packed away where I can stumble on them and tear up with motherly pride! Except for maybe the noodle necklaces. Those fell prey to the beagle…

But now that they’re getting older, they like to buy things for me (sweet kiddos). And aside from plastic flower decorations that will get dusty in a week and bath stuff that may or may not make one smell like one of those plastic roses, what can consumer-minded kids buy for mom that won’t break their piggy banks?

With some creative aisle cruising, I found two pretty cool Mom Day gifts!

For the Mom who’s a “Cooking Crackerjack”

A quick stroll through the kitchen gadget aisle scored these treasures:

  • Dry-measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • 3-quart mixing bowl with “no-skid” bottom, handle and pouring spout
  • Wooden spoons
  • Rubber spatula
  • Muffin tin (6-muffin capacity)

All the tools mother and son/daughter will need to whip up some delicious breakfast muffins together on Mother’s Day. The grand total: $6.00 (plus applicable sales tax).

For the Mom who’s a “Gardening Guru”

Tucked away in the “Summer Fun” section of the Dollar store, with all of the beach toys and outdoor fun supplies I found:

  • Plant seeds
  • Pretty gardening gloves
  • Plastic beach shovels and rakes
  • Small ceramic pots
  • Plastic pots (to use as a liner for the ceramic ones)

Toss in some soil, sunshine and water and Mom and child can start a pretty window or patio garden for less than this week’s allowance.

The bonus hidden in these inexpensive gift ideas is they’re also activities that kids can engage in with their moms. Celebrating and spending time with Mom is, after all, the best part of Mother’s Day!

Do you have a favorite Mother’s Day gift? Mine are two tiles. One has my youngest’s hand prints on them, the other, my eldest carved a bird into it. They are on permanent display.

Photo credit: Karen Bristow

Celebrate Earth Day in the Florida Panhandle

Alfred B. McClay State Park - Tallahassee, Florida
Alfred B. McClay State Park - Tallahassee, Florida

The Panhandle of Florida is an outdoors-man’s paradise. Over two hundred miles of beaches and more than a million acres of forests, wetlands and natural springs offer adventures for every earth-loving family. If you’re looking for fun ways to celebrate Earth Day here are 4 Great Ways to Celebrate Earth Day in the Florida Panhandle. All of these activities take place in some of the Panhandle’s beautiful state parks!

Do you “celebrate” Earth Day? If so, what’s your favorite activity?

Photo Credit: Karen Bristow

3 of My Favorite Writing Blogs

Part of my daily web-surfing routine includes local, national and international news sites, Amazon.com and of course, Facebook. But I’ve recently added a metric butt-load of writing blogs and sites to my daily (or at least weekly) reading list. This week I’m going to share 3 of my favorites.

These are some of my “If they post, I read it” sites and I thought I’d share in case anyone else can find the same inspiration, information and encouragement I did. Enjoy!

Terribleminds – Chuck Wendig


Ok, this one needs a slight disclaimer. It contains some foul language. If you find the “f-bomb” offensive, you may want to pass over this one. But don’t let it scare you if you can stomach a little “colorful metaphor” mixed in with top-notch writing advice.

According to his bio, Chuck Wendig has done a little bit of everything: Screenwriting, fiction, game design, zombie hunting… Ok, I added the Zombie hunting myself. But I can totally see him doing it.

He’s got a lot of experience in the writing/publishing world and he’s not afraid to share it. He delivers his advice in a “no-holds-barred-but-don’t-be-scared-and-don’t-give-up” kind of way. I read a lot of writer blogs and Mr. Wendig is one of the best at offering information, encouragement and disturbing mental images (all at the same time) that I’ve found so far.

Make a Living Writing – Carol Tice


Carol Tice is a successful freelance writer and she started “Make a Living Writing” as a way to pay it forward. Her site and blog are full of years worth of experience in how to make it was a freelance writer. She’s not shy about sharing the secrets of her success with other aspiring and professional freelance writers. I stumbled on her blog (from another blog) over Christmas and have been a faithful reader since.

Freelance Switch – Expert Community


Freelance Switch is another Christmas find. I’ve noticed that this site seems to cater to not only writers but freelancers from other professions as well. This team of experts posts a few blogs per day in topics ranging from tax tips, marketing how-tos and writing tips. One of my recent favorites? “6 Freelancing Tips from Han Solo.” Check it out. There’s a little something for everyone on that site.

What sites or blogs do you visit on a daily or indecently frequent basis. (Uh… keep it clean though; my kids read this blog. Sometimes.)