Category Archives: writing

500 Favourite Words: I’m part of a cool, new chapbook and word cloud project

Those are a few words I like to say.




Everyone has a few favorite words, but how many of us share the same word choices?‘s

Dan Waber is setting out to find just that with his 500 Favourite Words chapbook and word cloud series. And, I am so excited to be a part of it.

So far the line features over a half dozen mini chapbooks, each filled with the creative contributor’s 500 favorite words.

500 Favourite Words word cloud

A screen shot of the growing word cloud from

The pocket-sized 500 Favourite Words chapbooks sell for just $2.00 each and are available here (and also 100-word snippets of each available title.) That’s less than a penny per fun word!

Bringing this series together, is a world cloud. This cloud encompasses all of the 500 words all in one spot, much like you see in a tag cloud on a blog. This visual representation gives a picture on the most popular words in the series overall. So far, I am not the only one who has the word discombobulate on the list. Or fart. And, jazz appears on the most, although it was not on my list.

My list is random. No real order. Some words that appear next to each other may rhyme or fit in the same category or have the same root. It just happened that way. Some were coincidences (<– that’s a word on my list!) and others were a clear stream of though, such as when I wrote cheese and then proceeded to write Muenster. These 500 words made the list for various reasons. Some are fun to say. Some I use a lot in my own writing. Some I like the meaning. Others, I just like how they sound.

And, in doing this, I noticed my own little trends in words. I like words that start with ‘c’ sounds (clever, crisp, kumquat) and words that have v’s (fizz, buzz, rendezvous) and q’s (quirky, kumquat) in them. I like words that have historic (parchment) or natural, organic meaning (igneous, metamorphosis) to them. I like words with lots of syllables (diabolical, participle, onomatopoeia) And, a lot of words I like also have cars with the same name (Element, Escapade, oh, and Rendezvous).

When I heard about Dan’s project, I jumped at submitting my top words. And, as I was compiling my list, at first I struggled with choosing the words I like best, but soon found myself crossing of words to replace them with “better” words. And even now that my list is complete, my chapbook done, I am rediscovering words that I love and would be worthy of a Volume II!

I also love the word cloud feature. It’s no doubt creative, unique types would be drawn to this project, so seeing so many common favorite words is just fascinating. We’ll all so unique and different, yet attracted to the sounds or meanings of the same words.

To learn more about Dan’s 500 Favourite Words project and hist other projects (and, to support the project by picking up a chapbook or two, visit Other NEPA folks who are a part of this are poet Jim Warner and Andrea Talarico (no relation although she’d be an awesome cousin!) of Anthology Books.


Two Pubs: Wilkes Magazine & interviewed in Keystone Edge

Posted these two on my writing blog as separate posts, but figured I’d post them here as well:

I am super excited to share this publishing credit! I contributed an article to the Summer 2010 Wilkes magazine on the various ways social media is being used across the Wilkes University campus. From PR students using these newer mediums for their real-world clients to nature podcasts, students, professors and staff are going social. Read the store online here by downloading a PDF.

Wilkes Magazine Summer 2010 Going Social Donna Talarico

A few weeks ago at work I received a call from freelance writer Sara Hodon. She was working on a piece on technology companies for Keystone Edge, an online publication dedicated to the new economy of Pennsylvania. Sara’s piece was about Internet marketing. Her article is very comprehensive and includes quotes from me, as well as some other PA-based tech firms. Additionally, photographer Aimee Dilger took some fantastic photos around Solid Cactus.

This article, “Search No More: PA Companies Lead Online Marketing Revolution” is a true testament to the work we do at Solid Cactus as well as to the success of online marketing.

Solid Cactus Donna Talarico Keystone Edge Article

Screen shot of the Keystone Edge site, where we were the "cover" story.

Tornado Warning for Wilkes-Barre Brings Back OK Memories

Today is an odd weather day in Northeast PA. We have a tornado watch. That doesn’t happen too often. Sure, we get hail and damaging winds. But I believe the last time we had a really devastating tornado in Wilkes-Barre ish areas was in 1998 at Lake Carey. At any rate, I had one of my end of the world dreams last night. We were leaving town quickly and by the time the bus we were on got out of town, I overheard someone saying the town was gone. In my dream, I had to pee so I told someone that I was glad I didn’t stop to pee after all or else I may not have made it. (I don’t know what the end of the world came from in my dream.) So, like you may also experience, when you have to pee in your dream, sometimes you wake up and have to pee, too. So, I woke up. I grabbed my iPhone to see what time it was. It felt early. I have no windows in my bedroom, so it’s a dark dungeon and I never know what time it is. Oversleeping is a result. A welcome result. My iPhone though was as dark as my room. Died overnight. (Like all those people in my dream.) I plugged it in and ran downstairs to pee. The clock on the stove told me it was just after 11. I took a few swigs of apple juice from the jug and when I got back upstairs to return to bed, I saw my phone also got some juice. And several old texts from earlier in the morning popped up. They were from the weather channel.

Tornado Watch for Wilkes-Barre.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Luzerne County.

Shit, I thought. Is my dream coming true? I lay back down,heart still racing a bit from having a movie-like Armageddon dream (it wasn’t a nightmare – it was more like a movie) but maybe racing because fear of dying in a tornado in the waking world was setting in.

I lived in Oklahoma for three years and that’s when I first really learned about tornadoes. In my memoir, I wrote a chapter about aclimating to Tulsa. Here’s a small excerpt of that chapter. To bring you up to speed, this is almost halfway through the book – the first part is about growing up in the Poconos. Here, I was 13, it was the Spring of 1992 and I had just moved to Tulsa — this was my third school that year.


One of the first things I learned in my new school is that we may have made a tiny mistake in moving to Tulsa. I am not sure if my mom knew how much she was endangering our lives by bringing us to Oklahoma.

tulsa tornado
This is an image from the most deadly tornado in Tulsa. I also lived there for that, 1993 or 1994 I think. It destroyed a huge truckstop when it came up I-44. Image credit from

I knew what tornadoes were: I’d seen the Wizard of Oz many times. But, I never thought I’d have to prepare for one. Since it was spring, which everyone in Tulsa called Tornado Season, we had tornado drills to practice how we’d survive if high, spiral-shaped winds hit Nimitz Middle School. Back in Pennsylvania, we only had fire drills, so this was quite scary. When the tornado drill bell sounded, we proceeded to the interior hallways and sat Indian-style facing the lockers. Being by the interior walls was safer, we were told. There were no windows, so we’d be protected from glass shards. We put our arms behind our necks and placed our heads down in our laps. This would shield us from the debris. After the first tornado drill, when we were back in the classroom, we were issued an informational packet with all sorts of safety tips and preparation techniques from an educational program Channel 8 News put together called Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide. Travis was a local meteorologist, so I trusted his judgment and studied his guide as if it were material for an exam.

But, I wasn’t at school the first time a tornado threatened my new city.

One Thursday in mid-May, Joe, Theresa, Michelle, Dan, and I were planning on going to the movies, New Jack City I think.   It was raining and I was getting petrified. I knew that rain in the heat could cause a thunderstorm and that thunder and lightening could bring a tornado. Our television had been on all day and, on the little ticker beneath the show, there was a tornado watch for Tulsa County. A watch, according to Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide, meant there was a possibility a tornado could form. But, a little later in the day, that watch transformed into a warning, which meant there were actually tornadoes on the ground. There was no way I was going outside.

“I am not going!” I yelled to Joe, even though going to the movies was one of my favorite things to do. Not much could tear me away from the prospect of Reese’s Pieces and hot, drizzly butter, but dying in a tornado did the trick.

He just laughed at me and continued watching TV. I called my mom at work. The mall management was instructing all employees and shoppers to head to the mall’s tornado shelter but, yet, she assured me everything would be fine; it was just a precaution. I’d be safe at the movies. My aunts and Dan had gathered at our apartment for the family outing. They saw I was freaking out.

“What’s the matter with you, Gutt?” asked Dan. He’d nicknamed Theresa and I “Butt and Gutt.” He even drew stick figures to represent this duo. Mine had a bubble in the front; Theresa’s bubble was in the back. I hated it.

“Don’t you watch TV? There’s a freakin’ tornado,” I cried from the hallway, the interior hallway.

“Well, a huge movie theater is safer than this place,” he said.

I didn’t care. I did what Travis Meyers said to do when severe weather struck. I pulled my twin foam mattress into my bathroom and told my family I was climbing in what was dubbed the safest place in the house, the bathtub. A video we watched in school showed totally destroyed houses with toilets and tubs still standing admist the debris.

“Oh, Jesus Fucking Christ, Donna. Stop your happy horseshit. Let’s go,” Joe said.

“We’re gonna die. Don’t you care?” I said getting into the tub. “Oh, I forgot my radio.”

I got out of the tub and went across the hall to my bedroom to grab my AM/FM alarm clock, which had batteries inside as a back up. This way, I would be aware of all the destruction and find out when it was safe to come out of the tub.

“I can’t believe you’re gonna miss the movie,” yelled Theresa. I was leaving her alone with all adults. She liked being with the adults anyway; she always sat at the adult table on holidays while the boys and I had more fun at the kids’ table. “You’re such a wuss.”

Wuss, I thought. I had the guide, in black and white, right here. Meteorological professionals don’t call it a tornado warning for no reason. There was a serious threat. She asked me one last time if I was really going to sit in the bathtub while they went to enjoy a movie.

“Yes. I told you guys. I’m staying here. You guys are crazy.”

She left the bathroom and I heard the front door slam. I could hear thunder and rain. I read and reread Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide in the bathtub until I became bored. The weather had calmed down. I put the mattress back on my bed. I plugged back in my alarm clock. I survived my first tornado. I waited for my family to come back from the movie theater, secretly wishing Joe got caught up in the winds like the cows in Wizard of Oz. But, the tornado had passed our part of Tulsa — this time. In fact, the Tulsa World the next day called it an F0 tornado, only causing some tree branches to fall.

Presenting this week at May’s Cocktails & Connections Event: Blogging for Business

cocktails and connections logo

Cocktails and Connections is a monthly mixer for NEPA professionals.

A few months ago, Catherine Shafer of CDS Creative invited me to present on blogging for business at May’s Cocktails & Connections. Cocktails and Connections is a monthly networking event held at the Woodlands. Professionals can get together to relax, network and learn. Pretty cool concept.

May’s event is slated for this Tuesday, the 25th and runs from 6:00-8:00 – my presentation is at 6:30 and will last less than an hour.

My blogging for business presentation will cover topics such as:

  • Why every business needs to have a blog
  • How to set up a blog
  • What you should and shouldn’t blog about
  • How to promote a blog
  • Blogging best practices

The event has a Facebook page. For information or to RSVP, you can visit the Cocktails and Connections page here.

When did days grow wings? They fly by!

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger.

The worst kind.

It’s be better to blog about what I had for lunch than to not blog at all.

I’ve been crazy busy.

Work is always busy, but the last month of 2009 was crunch time for completing my MFA. My final project was the redesign of Etruscan Press’s website, as well as developing a social media guide to to distribute to its authors. Then, in January, I started to teach a class at Wilkes, one that I also designed – Public Relations & Social Media. It was been a fun time and has taken up a lot of my time with lesson planning, grading, and the like. I am also reading and researching a lot more. Then, since I’ve completed the MFA, I started to freelance a little more. So, I finally got a lull, but I filled it right back up. There were goals I previously blogged about, and I have not done much with those. Sadly.

I have some cool projects I’ve been neglecting, and I am looking for ways to better organize my time to work on them – is one, querying my memoir is another. I have another video blogging project which I’ve kept unassociated with my real name, so that needs some updating. And then, there’s the list of 27 story ideas (short stories and books) I have hanging around…Oh, and after two years of single life, I’m in this thing called love so, while I still am home more than I was last year, now there someone who visits me and distracts me from blogging. 🙂

But mostly, I have Idea ADD. And I need to get it under control. Any suggestions? I’m tapped out.

I’ve been keeping lists of random things that I’ve wanted to be full blog posts, but never got around to blogging about them. There are tons. I should just find those few lists and write them all and preschedule them and play catch up.

Speaking of random thoughts…

Morbid thought – as I made farafalle alfredo this evening, my smoke detector went off. Not because I don’t know how to boil water (and I hadn’t even started the cheese sauce yet), but because of the steam from the boiling pot. See, my kitchen does not have an exhaust fan and it is chilly so the windows are closed. This made me realize that I am sleeping deeper thanks to a new remedy for my sleep disorder. I was wondering if the pharmaceutical company that makes what I take tests for decibel level needed to wake while the drug is in full effect. It’s a CNS medication. I live alone. If there were a fire, would I hear it? Yeah. Morbid to think about that, but I am a creative writer and have an imagination, so sometimes I think these stories in my head may sound silly in real life, but would make for a great CSI plot!

Don’t Leave 2009 Behind! Do it Again in 2010!

Ah, New Year’s Eve.

I woke up this morning from a dream about work. It happens a lot, really. But in this one, my dream guy was our company co-founder, Scott Sanfilippo. He announced over the office loud speaker we could leave at noon, but first we all had to write a year-end “Best of” blog post. I texted my friend immediately to tell her about this dream. She texted back, asking if I was going into work because the roads were bad from an unexpected morning snow fall. Wow, I thought. Maybe my leaving at noon dream will come true.

As I remained in bed, hitting snooze two or three more times (or, 18-27 minutes), I thought about what I would write about if I had to, by noon, write about the Best of 2009. Then I realized something.

If something was the Best of 2009, why would I not want to also carry that into 2010 instead of making resolutions for all new things? This morning, I wrote a blog post on my company’s blog with this same title, but geared more toward the eCommerce business owner. I encouraged people to take an inventory of what worked well for their business in 2009 and continue to keep those practices up in the New Year.

All day, though, I thought how I could apply this hybrid resolution into my own New Year.

I did a lot of things right in 2009. I started a lot of great, new things that I must continue in 2010. Things like this:

  • Starting to attend more local creative and arts-oriented events, where I also met a lot of new, inspiring people, many of whom I can now call friends
  • Started my MFA in creative writing, which is just about finished
  • Started journaling and always keeping a Moleskine with me to jot down story ideas or ideas for dialogue that come from personal experiences and random observations
  • I started a new medication for a sleeping disorder I have
  • I reunited with some family members I have not seen in over a decade
  • I have attempted to get back in touch with other relatives that I don’t see often by sending hand-written cards that express I missed them (this was not successful; however, there’s still this year…)
  • Started doing speaking engagements on social media and writing/public relations – and was hired to teach this Spring at Wilkes
  • Started a few new blogs – and another one related to the sleep disorder I have and both have received some nice response from the people they serve
  • I can’t believe I am even sharing this in this blog, but I’ll end this bulleted list with one other thing I started — and, it’s still new, so I don’t want to jinx myself — but, I finally let someone in after almost two years of not dating and it’s pretty awesome so far. But, I don’t think I would have achieved all I did this year had I not been alone.

So, with all of those things, both personal and professional, public and private, I don’t feel I should focus on starting a bunch of new things in 2010, and rather, really hone in on this stuff that has a good start. There’s a great quote, I think from Wil Rogers, that goes like this: Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

I’ve been on the right track for so long, but I was in great danger of getting run over. It was as if I was that damsel in distress in the silent films, the one that’s tied to the tracks, in fact. It’s time to be my own heroine and get going. I made some great progress and have some great ideas — now I must focus on the doing. What I’ve started in the later part of 2009 needs to continue stronger into 2010.

However, there are some things that I want to achieve this year:

  • Find an agent for my memoir.
  • Start an after-work routine so that I don’t just go home and slump over the computer. This may be the gym, but it’s not a resolution to lose weight or get in shape. It’s more of a solution to my problem of being in a slump at home. Going to a gym or going for a walk or going to a Zumba class will energize me and clear my mind and get me in the mindset to be creative when I get home.
  • Focus on getting closer with my family.
  • Instead of work on ten ideas at once, I want to choose one new book project and start a new manuscript — and get serious about it. I need to be done with my writing ADD.
  • Clean out my storage shed and get my clutter down to an amount that will fit in my apartment. That will also require some cool new organzation of my closets and basement. But, I will feel so great to finally get rid of junk. This may need to wait for Spring because the flea markets and yard sales don’t go over too well in PA in the winter and there’s too much stuff to toss; I want to sell it.
  • Start writing short pieces to submit to literary or consumer magazines.
  • Try to land more teaching or speaking engagements.
  • Cut down on drinking and going to bars. This will help accomplish what I just said because it will be better use of my time, both at night and the next morning.

Quality vs. Quantity

That’s it. I am not making unrealistic goals. I am not putting numbers out there. I am making more of an effort to improve the quality of my life, and that is just measured by smiles, feeling good about myself, and not feeling stressed.

That’s a bit of my outlook for the New Year. It’s not about wiping out 2009 and starting over. It’s about keeping up with what you are doing right all along and making tweaks here and there.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Memory Lane – Halloween Memory – Excerpt of my memoir, actually.

In honor of Halloween, here is an excerpt of my memoir draft– this section is actually pretty self-contained. But, to give you some set up this is after the second divorce when it’s just my mom and me, and before my step-dad comes along. Kind of a calm-before-the-storm chapter. (Mom or family, if you read this, I know you haven’t read any of this yet, so let me know privately if there are any gaps in time or wrong years… haha.)


Chapter 7 – Empty Boxes

My mom sat on the floor in the Lincoln Log House living room surrounded by empty liquor boxes, appropriate material for this year’s Halloween costume. I was always marveled by what my mom could do. I sat on the couch with anticipation of what would become of those boxes.

One of the greatest things about being an only child with a single mom, I thought, was the undivided attention. She was assistant troop leader in Girl Scouts (Jasmine’s mom was the leader), she was PTO president, chaperoned all the field trips, DJ’d school dances, and was an overall hit among my girlfriends because she was so young. They all thought my mom was pretty and thought it was cool that she was a disc jockey who liked rock music. I agreed that my mom was beautiful, and sometimes, I wished I could have bangs like she did so I could curl and poof them up, too. When she got a spiral perm, I also wanted one, but instead, she gave me a temporary perm one night. After I took a bath, she put my hair in lots of little braids. As my long blonde hair dried, it made my hair curly. I couldn’t sleep that night because I was so excited to have wavy hair. When I woke up in the morning, she took out all my braids, leaving long, silky, soft waves throughout my hair.

When I hung my coat up at school that morning, Chris Breuer pet my hair and said, “Wow. You look like a princess.” It was the first time a boy ever said anything nice to me, although I kind of wished it was Richard Fortescue who said I was a princess. That day at recess we played She-Ra as usual, but I really felt like the Princess of Power with my long, wavy locks. What boy wouldn’t have wanted to rescue me from the throngs of Hordak and his thugs with hair as pretty as mine?

But as my mom had to work more after the divorce, she didn’t have as much time to do all the school things. I started to spend a lot of time with friends, or at home alone, because she started working so much. But when she was home, she was totally dedicated to me. This was especially the case when I had a school project to do (she made me a killer coal mine diorama in third grade), or better yet, when I requested a creative Halloween costume.

“Mom!  Why won’t you tell me what it is? ” I asked from our waterwheel printed couch.

She lit a Kool’s Menthol, inhaled, exhaled gray smoke, and said, “Because I like surprises, so should you. Just wait. You’ll love it.”

I stuffed my feet in between the cushions to keep my feet warm and tried to watch television on what I called, “The Top Television.” A few months prior, a nasty thunderstorm destroyed our big console television set, so we got a new, smaller TV. But since we did not have a stand, we put it on top of the other TV set. But even though the episode of General Hospital looked interesting, my mom’s cardboard art grabbed my attention away from the Quartermaines. She measured and cut the cardboard, stopping every few minutes to take a drag from her cigarette. I couldn’t wait to see what she’d come up with this year. My mom was a master of cardboard artistry and her skills earned me awards at every Halloween party we went to.

“Will it be better than last year’s?” I asked impatiently.

In third grade, our life was still surrounded music so Mom drew up plans for the perfect Halloween costume for the little daughter of Cuddle Up & Tony T. She had found big pieces of cardboard, probably from a refrigerator box, and cut out two matching shapes, like big eights. Then, she measured and cut a perfect circle in one of the eights. That would be where my head peeked out. She cut out long strips of cardboard and molded and folded them around the two eights and taped them together with duct tape. You could now tell that this would be an acoustic guitar. She cut an arm hole in each side.

“Here, try this on,” she ordered, placing the big cardboard guitar body over my head. I naturally stuck my arms through the holes.

“Peek-a-boo,” I said as I popped my head out of the hole. The costume fit perfectly.

Next, she created the guitar’s neck and secured it to the body with more duct tape. Once the shape was done, she carefully peeled sticky wooden-looking contact paper off its waxy backing and stuck it along the front of the guitar, trimming where she needed. On the back and sides of the guitar, she used a solid, dark brown contact paper. After she was done covering the guitar, she used a gold marker to draw lines and dots to resemble the frets. She then strung six kite-looking strings down the neck and body of the guitar.

“Ma, this really looks like Dad’s guitar. But bigger!”

“You’re going to look so cute,” she said as she puffed on a Kool’s. She stepped back to admire her work.
When the Halloween party came in third grade, I was not only a guitar, but also a country-western singer. My mom came up with that brilliant idea so that, when I had the guitar off to eat or play, I would still be in character. I wore jeans, a western shirt with a bandanna around the collar, and cow girl boots. Every year, at Tobyhanna Elementary Center, we’d have a Halloween parade where all the students would march down the street and then across Route 940 to meet our parents at Blanche Price Park, where Tobyhanna Township Volunteer Fire Company threw a party. That morning, my mom drove Theresa and me to school because one, my guitar costume would not fit on the bus and two, Theresa couldn’t walk.

Grandmom and Theresa, who used to just visit on weekends, moved from their house in Willow Grove to the Poconos. Theresa was one grade ahead of me, in fourth and right before she moved, she had a bad accident. She was at a roller skating birthday party, fell, and was run over by another skater, maybe two. Her leg was broken in several places and she had to wear a full leg cast, from her ankle to her thigh. She sometimes used a wheelchair because it was hard for her to use crutches (I thought she was just too lazy to use them.) Since she was in the full cast, Theresa was devastated about Halloween.  But lucky for Theresa, her mother was the very person my mom got her craftiness from. My grandmom wrapped Theresa from head to toe in white bandages and made her into a mummy, but she left the cast the way it was, signatures and all. On the day of the Halloween party at school, none of the kids in my class believed Theresa had really broken her leg.

“It’s just part of your costume! I don’t believe you!” Ricky Thomas said, tapping her cast to make sure  it was real.

“Stop it! It’s not fake! My leg is broken,” she snapped back.

“Can I play with your crutches,” asked another boy.

“No, I need those!” she said.

I ran around with Jasmine and my other friends while Theresa sat between my mom and Grandmom in the fire hall. When they announced the winners of the costume contest, Theresa’s spirits were raised. She had won “Funniest Costume.”  And I was gleaming too, taking home the prize for “Most Original.”

Scissors slicing through cardboard snapped me back to the living room in my new house, without a dad, with just my mom, and she was crafting my costume for the fourth grade contest. My mom had the cardboard pieces all cut out and was duct taping them together to form a large, rectangular box.

“Just tell me, Ma. What’re ya making? Please! Tell me.”

“Don’t you like surprises?” she asked, as she got up and headed to our adjoining kitchen.

“Maybe on Christmas,” I replied, noticing she was cutting pieces from our Entenmann’s Banana Crunch Cake. She brought over two pieces using paper towels as plates, handed me one, and sat back down in her arts and crafts pile. She bit into her cake, took a sip of coffee, and went back to work.

“Moooom. I asked you a question!” I begged.

She gave in. “Okay, okay. You’re going to be a bar.”

“A bar?”

“Yes, a bar.  What do you think?”

I swallowed my mouthful of cake and thought about it.

“A real bar? Like Woody’s? What will it look like?”

“Oh, just you wait. It’s gonna be really cool,” she said.

While she was working, the phone rang. My momBar Halloween Costume Donna Talarico was gone for a while. The phone rang again, and she was gone a little longer. When she came back, I asked who it was. She said it was an old friend.  I asked who the second one was, and she said an older friend. She continued making my costume, but she didn’t seem herself. I shrugged it off and continued watching TV.

It took Mom a few days to complete the costume and I was getting impatient. But, soon enough when I came home from school one day, before me stood a miniature replica bar. It even looked like it was made from real wood, thanks to the same kind of contact paper my mom used for last year’s guitar.  There were holes in either side for my arms and a big hole in the top of the bar for my body, so when I put the costume on, it appeared that I was working behind the bar. She had me try it on.

“Wow! I feel like a real bartender!” I said, imagining myself behind the bar at Woody’s, where I’d sometimes go with my mom.

I would help the owners, Marlene and Lois, put sour cream into little containers to go out with baked potatoes. Sometimes, I would sit and play Q-bert at the table video game machine. Other times, I would try to blend in with the adults at the bar by drinking Shirley Temples, wishing my feet would reach the the golden bar on the bottom where everyone else rested their feet. I’d steal pieces of orange slices and eat them, sucking out all the juice while I stared at a 99 Bottles of Beer poster and try to pronounce and memorize all the brands. When my mom got off work and was allowed to have a drink, she would always let me have a sip of her Kahlua and Cream, which tasted just like chocolate milk.

“Can you teach me how to make some drinks?” I asked, jumping around inside my costume.

Bar Halloween Costume Most Original 1988We both laughed.  Before the annual parade, my mom super-glued on all the finishing touches: bar napkins, ash trays with real butts and ashes, beer cans, shot glasses and real dollar bills and coins.  She also made up a menu where she had things like beer, shots, wine, soda, hamburger, and French fries listed. There was even a shelf on the back of the bar costume with more items glued to it. The top of the bar was labeled, “Donna’s Bar.” On Halloween day, just like the year before with the guitar, I had a costume under the costume, this time a white dress shirt, black slacks, and suspenders, with tons of promotional beer and liquor buttons pinned on. Once again, I was at hit at all the parties I went to.  Other moms and dads wanted pictures with me. I once again won, “Most Original.” Jasmine won funniest for her “Clubbed Sandwich” costume.

I had a Halloween costume inspired by Woody’s that made me so happy. But later that year, the bar my mom worked at also changed my life.