Welcome to Dee's Pad

My life as a writer, and as a wife, mother, and grandmother.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

                  Well? Yes, I finally did it!
                       Author Dee Gatrell

We all have a bucket list. Mine simply took longer than I had anticipated.

You see, many moons ago a psychic told me I would publish a book, but I'd be much older. Much older I thought meant I'd be about 50. Huh! She didn't tell me I'd be as old as Grandma Moses. By the way, how old was Grandma Moses?

Over the years I spent time as a reporter at a few small newspapers. I sold articles as a freelance writer to various newspapers and magazines. I even had a story about my relatives in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Lucky for me, they were already dead. I'm not sure they would've found what I wrote about them, all true, as funny as the newspaper reporter who wrote about my story in our local paper did. But hey, everyone has quirky relatives, right?

Over the years I have sold stories to the confession magazines. Another reason to have many relatives is they make good fodder for short stories. 

While attending college (when I was in my thirties) I had a column in a local newspaper called In and Around Winter Springs. It was rather boring, but about everyone I knew appeared there. My neighbors, Joyce and Bear, took a trip to visit relatives. He dressed as Santa, their son, Cubby, also dressed as Santa, and Joyce as an elf. I took their picture and they appeared in the Sanford paper. Other neighbors appeared when they had company, or whatever they did. We even made a movie for one of my college classes.

A movie on silent 8 M film. All the neighbors, I'm talking about  probably thirty or so including the kids, dressed up as hillbillies and we had a shot gun wedding. No voice, just crazy people dressed up and dancing around. You know that Santa guy?  He was the nerd forced to marry his real pregnant wife.

I did have one problem. I knew I could turn my camera upside down or whatever and my pictures would be fine. I didn't know that didn't work on the movie. I took it to my creative writing class and had to explain that the movie was upside down. And that's how we had to watch it.

In addition to my newspaper stints, I worked as an educational advisor at Seminole State College for many years. I received my AA there and later my BA from the University of Central Florida. I was in my forties by that time. I think I've always been a late bloomer.

Back to my bucket list. Even though I've sold short stories, I still wanted to sell a novel.

I just sold my novel, Sweet Sunsets, to The Wild Rose Press, which (imagine this) is about a dysfunctional family.

Here's a short bit about them.

Myrtle Sue Henderson, widowed, didn’t count on her mother-in-law moving in with her when her husband passed over. But Myrtle Sue’s loopy in-law troubles aren’t her only family baggage—she’s ailed with three adult children who use her like she’s a pair of Depends. With a daughter and two grandchildren attempting to escape an abusive husband, a second unmarried daughter who is pregnant with twins, and a son who refuses to grow up, she’s at her wits end.

Myrtle Sue didn’t figure she’d ever meet another man she’d care for, until she went to church to get away from her troubles, only to find more when her mother-in-law causes chaos. She  hits an elderly man with her cane and helps herself to money out of the collection plate. That’s how she meets Mike, a psychologist, who could spend his life trying to figure out her family. She figures once he meets them, he’ll run as fast as he can-- away from them.

Wacky though they may be, Mike loves Mrytle Sue and her crazed family, and with good Southern cooking that’s fit for the divine, he’s sure he’s found his match.

And that's a wrap.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

I'm still alive!

Here it is, January 7, 2015. My mom's birthday was this day, and it is the Serbian (and other) Orthodox Christmas.

Than tomorrow is Elvis's birthday. There's a woman at the Curves I go to who is a huge Elvis fan. She said he'll be 80 years old and he's still alive. She said it was a wax figure in his coffin.

No, this woman isn't a nut case, she's funny as all get out and has more energy than anyone else who exercises there. She said she has an entire attic filled with Elvis everything. (Ha, maybe his body is there, too!)

I have sent my dysfunctional family novel off and hoping it will sell. I have lots of family to pull things from, and also have met a lot of folks in my life to get ideas from. All writers do. We turn on the TV and  hear stories which give us ideas of what to write.

So anyhow, I decided it was time I wrote on my blog again, didn't realize it had been so long.

I took Zeus, my 10-year-old schnauzer for an Xray today at the vet's office. Seems he has bladder stones--like kidney stones. I have learned that schnauzers are prone to everything. They refer to him as our million $$$$ dog. He has had a broken leg, got bit by a spider and had to have surgery, skin infections, got something in his eye and had to have it removed, and I can't even remember everything else. He needs surgery now, but my husband says he's old and could end up with more problems like hubby did this past year. I'm saying it isn't like he has cancer. They can remove the stones and he'll be fine. Right?

Noah, our autistic 6-year-old grandson has some strange ideas. Either he'll grow up to be someone who can really think out of the box, or he'll be some sort of wild preacher. He told my husband when hubby dies and goes to Heaven, if he's good God may give him  new blood and he can come back.

He said to me, "Gammy, you are really old.  You are a hundred and two plus fifty." Well thank you , grandson!

And that is what's sort of new with me. Off to do more writing. My story, I Hate Valentine's Day, will be in February True Story magazine, if anyone can find it.

Working on a story for Lobster Cove, Wild Rose Press, so need to close and work on it.


Sunday, June 01, 2014

Interview with Cousin Ken

Like so many folks these days, my Cousin Ken was laid off from his job when they downsized. He chose to go to college and find a new career. While taking English II, he had to write an essay. He asked if he could interview me about my writing. I said sure. 
It makes me sound better than I think I am! Here is it. Let me know what you think. By the way, he got an A on his paper.

Interview with Dee
By Ken Erhard

Cousin Dee has been one of the most out of the box thinkers I have ever known. I have always looked forward to spending time with her and listening to her stories of the antics of our family.  For many years she threatened us with being placed in one of her stories but we took that for granted.  It wasn’t until that last ten years that those threats became real when she began getting published. I never knew she was taking writing seriously until I started receiving reports through a social media site that she had one story published, then another and so on.  I decided to interview her about her writing as I have also given some thought of writing from time to time and wanted to know her experiences while achieving her goal.

I first became interested in writing when my fifth grade English teacher pulled me aside to tell me how much she liked a short story I had written.  To my surprise, this was also the case when I asked Dee the question of when did she start writing?  She stated that “she always wrote but started giving it more thought during her senior year in high school when she received an A on an English paper”. She also stated that her mother was not very supportive and suggested she become a nurse and “not something crazy like a writer”. Dee kiddingly added her mother said she would never make any money as a writer and added that her mother was correct in the latter statement.

Dee and her family moved out of state around 1976 and kept in contact with the rest of the family through letters.  It was through the responses to these letters that she started to become more serious about writing. She would write amusingly about her family and other things and I recall laughing hysterically over some of the stories while my mother read them. I remember when she started sending duplicated copies due to the number she was sending, and was always glad to see one laying on the dining room table when I got home.  It was through our supportive replies that when she decided to go to college “at the old age of 38 I was asked what I wanted to do, I said write”. The first class she took was Creative Writing and followed that with journalism.

These family update letters became the basis for many of the stories she has had published and are the favorite subjects to write about. One that she is most proud of was titled “My Beloved Crazy Relatives” that was sold to Chicken Soup for the Soul.  She also sells stories to True Story and True Confessions and all deal mostly with families. Selling to these publications may not sound like a large accomplishment but as she states later in the interview, “The competition is fierce.” She had to learn to toughen up and realize that not everyone will like what you write and can be harsh critics.  I came away from that portion of the interview realizing in order to make money as a writer you have to sell stories to whomever is willing to purchase them.

Along with earning money from the stories I asked what writing does for her personally. “It keeps me sane” was her immediate response. She then jokingly reminisced of a bad winter shortly after moving to Indiana from Ohio. “The kids were out of school more than a week. If it wasn’t for writing home to family and friends, I may have ended up in a padded room, instead of a closed door bedroom, while the kids fought and were loud.”  She has come to understand that if she doesn’t write for a while for whatever reason, she begins to feel “grouchy”. The next statement she made an impact on me; “Writing for most writers is like breathing. You have to write”. It made an impact because usually when I pick up my pen and paper, it’s to release something that’s building up inside me. It has been a way for me to release stress and tension over the years.

Another question I asked was for my own needs. I struggle with having many ideas for stories but letting them fall away as well as getting “writers block”. Here are some of the exercises she uses to deal with these issues. “I lay in bed early in the morning, eyes closed, and start concocting story ideas.” She warns that sometimes it can take days to get through a block but most times she can start writing again that day. To keep the creative ideas flowing she recommends is to journal non-stop for ten minutes regardless of what you are writing.  I personally have used this method in the past with success. Still another suggestion is to pay attention to what you see and what you hear. An example she used was “Have you ever heard the news and thought who would do that?” She then will take the news report and see if she can develop a story from it.

As I stated earlier, Dee didn’t start getting published until more recent years yet her dream started over forty years ago in high school.  I asked her what suggestions she would give aspiring writers. She replied she would have “quit letting life get in my way and sit my butt to the chair, block out everything around me and write more”. She explained that she needed to work to help  make ends meet at home over the years and that took away from her writing time. She also added “Never give up your dream. Don't listen to the internal person saying you can't make it, why bother trying”. She also had to learn to take criticism and not let it impede her writing. She also added that if one story fails, go on to write another or ask a person you respect to give you feedback on the work. The key for her it seems is to just keep writing.

I have developed a new respect for Dee and what she has done to achieve her dream.  It was not until this interview that I realized how long she has aspired to be a writer and how much strength it took for her to keep going.  Thinking back over the years and remembering her telling us she had written stories but could not get them published never really occurred to me what that meant for her.  The rejection she went through and so forth. Dee has become an inspiration to me and also one of my “respected people” I can go to for feedback and help with my writing.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Med side effect and grandkids

I haven't blogged for a long time, so thought it was time to start again.

Sometime before Christmas I was watching TV in the bedroom and moved the rocking chair so I could see it better. At 10:30 I was ready to go to bed and moved the rocker--right into my leg. I looked down and saw blood gushing like a volcano out of one of those Hawaiian Islands.

Did I mention I don't do well with blood?

Hubby was sleeping in the family room with the TV blaring and I decided the bleeding would stop soon. Band aid after band aid I was still gushing, then put a lot of gauze over it and went to bed. I know, I should've gone for stitches, but who wants to sit in ER at that hour and wait for someone to get the thread and needle out and stitch your leg?

I kept doctoring the leg, sure any day it would be healed. I never had trouble healing. Besides, Christmas was coming up soon and another baby was entering the world, Larry had leg problems and was in treatment, and I volunteered a few hours a week in grandson Noah's Kindergarten class.

Christmas Day arrived, but we won't talk about that drama, the baby arrived, Tyler Phoenix Ana Hase, then New Years. And the leg still wasn't healed.

February was about to arrive and the leg still hadn't healed. I had a talk with the leg. "Damn it! Get over this. I don't have time for more doctor appointments." I visited my primary doctor again. He said to keep any eye on it.  How could I not? 

Two more weeks passed and I called and said okay, my leg still isn't healed. Ok so perhaps you need to see a wound doctor, Primary said. Meanwhile, here's some antibiotics. Another three weeks I got to see Wound Doctor. He gave me two more antibiotics.

I don't know about you, but I never read that long list of side effects. If I did, I'd never take any medications. Along with the antibiotics, Wound Doctor gave me some witch's brew to clean the wound with. Cleaning an open wound hurts like the devil, but I could do this, and wear lots of gauze over it.

But then I went to lunch on the second day of drugs and picked up my grands from school. I noticed I was getting cold. Real cold. We're talking about Florida here. 

Noah gets in the car and I ask how his day was.

"Not good. I got into trouble and I'm on red now."

"What did you do?"

"We'll talk about it when we get home." 
That sounded serious.

Then Emma gets into the car and I ask the same question.

"Good. I now have 25 dog bones."

Noah: "You have 25 dog bones? I only have one and it's for Art."

(dog bones are some type of awards at the school)

Noah grumbled the whole way home. When we got home, Larry gave him his  usual chocolate milk, but in his haste of being upset over Emma having more dog bones he yanked with the pop-up on his cup and milk came flying out all over him.

"It's your fault, Papaw! You put too much milk in here."

Meanwhile, the side effects of one of the meds kicked in big time with me. I wrapped up in blankets and shivered, had a headache, and even my teeth rattled. I called the doc 's office and was told medicine x was probably causing it. I read the paper and yep, I had a lot of those things going on.

My leg is slowly healing, we will pick up the kids in a bit and hopefully, Noah had a good day!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rocky Goes to Obedience School

 Rocky goes to Obedience School

By Dee Gatrell

          “My cookie! Gimme!” My two-year-old granddaughter, Ashley fought the German Shepherd dog for the cookie he tried snatching from her hand. She got half, he got half. She was angry and yelled at him. He just looked at her like, “Hey, what did I do? Your hand was near my mouth.” For the next two weeks, it was a constant battle between them.

Rocky was a German Shepard given to us when we lived in Ohio. One of our friend’s daughters couldn’t keep him anymore.  Not only was the dog a cookie thief, but he had no manners. We’d put him out to use the bathroom, and if someone was taking a walk by the house he’d run down the long driveway and bark and scare them. We tried keeping him in the house, but he’d want to go out to romp, which was fine as long as one of us was with him. After all, he had ten acres to run on. So why did he have to run the several hundred feet to the road to scare people? He really wasn’t all that brave.

I read in the paper there was a dog obedience class starting soon, so I signed him up. I think I was more excited about going to them than Rocky was. The first night of class, I drove my husband’s Chevy S-10, which is a pretty small vehicle. Rocky sat beside me and was behaving. When we arrived at our destination, there were a lot of dogs.

Our first assignment was to get in a line and walk in a large circle. One wall was lined with mirrors. We would walk, then told to have the dogs sit. Most of the time Rocky would sit, but while the others dogs ignored the “doggie in the mirror” Rocky fell in love with himself. It wasn’t easy to get him up and moving again. I swear if he could’ve talked he would have said, “Look at that handsome dog in the mirror. I think I’m in love.”

At the end of the night, the instructor told us repeatedly to make sure we praised our dogs on the way home and when we got home. We get into the truck and Rocky decided he wanted to sit almost on my lap. I kept pushing him over, but again, he wanted to be close. So I told him, “You were such a good dog. And you are going to learn to have manners.”

It was about a fifteen minute drive to our house. I turned onto the street where he lived, again assuring Rocky he was a good dog, but I’d like him more if he quit trying to get into my lap. Nearly to our house, Rocky laid his head in my lap and threw up. A lot. All over my legs.

I pulled into the garage and told him he really wasn’t a good dog for doing that. I walked into the family room and my daughter, Michelle, and my husband, Larry, took one look at me and started to laugh.  I told them I was supposed  to tell Rocky he was a good dog, but right now I didn’t think he was.

Six weeks later we were finished with obedience school. But Rocky still didn’t listen when I called him and he still swiped cookies out of Ashley’s hands.

Then my husband was transferred from OH to FL and we had to find a home for Rocky. We were having a house built and had to rent an apartment until it was finished. I took Rocky to the vet for his checkup and asked if he could help me find him a good home. The next day I got a phone call from a young woman who was recommended by our vet. She was really excited and came to visit him. They fell in love instantly.

Rocky went to live with her and her roommate. They had someone try breaking into their house and wanted a big dog to protect them. She took him home and called me the following week to report in.

“He is absolutely wonderful,” she said. “My roommate has a little girl and they get along well. But the best part is that I work for my dad and he lets me bring Rocky to work with me every day. We all really love him.”

I was so happy to hear that. I hated having to give him up, in spite of his bad habits.

Oh, did I mention after the vomiting episode I didn’t feed him dinner before we left for class?  No more vomiting on the way home!


Monday, August 19, 2013


Dogs of Chinaberry Lane

I’ve always had dogs from the time I was nine years old. My first dog was named Peewee, and I have no idea what she was. Those were the days when they made the dogs stay outside. I loved Peewee and wanted her in the house. I must’ve had her less than a year when I came home from school one day and she was gone. The chain on her dog house was the only thing I saw. I asked my mom where she was. “Your dad dropped her off in the country. Don’t worry, some farmer will take her in.” Yes, I cried for days. I found it cruel to do that, and no matter how my mom tried convincing me it was okay, I didn’t believe it. A few years later I got a house dog, as they called them. And over the years I have had many house dogs. I do not believe in having a dog that has to live outside, big or small. I’ll skip over many years of many dogs, but want to talk about Maggie, a Belgium shepherd rescue. We had her for ten years. In April 2013 she was 12 years old and had to be put down. She was my husband’s constant companion and a wonderful dog. She loved children and tolerated our two schnauzers in spite of Icarus stealing sticks before she could get to them. There was nothing more she liked than to have someone throw a stick for her. At times she’d snoop until she found the same stick that was thrown into a pile. She loved it when the grandkids were here to play with her outdoors. Losing her was like losing one of our kids. Next came Zeus. I had lost my small dog who was 12 years old the year before. Maggie favored my husband, and I wanted a small dog. For our anniversary my husband said to find a dog I wanted and that would be my present. I found a place selling the white schnauzers, and we made the 35 mile trip to see the puppies. I picked the smallest of the litter. He was supposed to get to no more than 20 pounds. He’s now 33 pounds. 
Zeus is loving, but clumsy. When we had a deck in the back yard, he used to have a hard time climbing the steps and often would fall down the steps. But he’s our weather dog. If he starts to shake or crawls underneath my desk, within half an hour we will have a storm.

We call Zeus our million dollar dog—he broke his leg at 9 weeks, he got bit by a spider and had to have surgery and anything else you can think of, it happens to him. He’s also a hunter. He killed a snake in the yard, he killed a squirrel that ate the screen on the back porch and was there to make another mess, and last week he caught a baby bunny and brought it to the door. That one I wished he hadn’t caught. It was too cute and too dead.

Then came Icarus. I went with my daughter-in-law to look at schnauzer dogs at a kennel going out of business. She bought two dogs, but when we got home she said to tell my husband I bought one. He grumbled and then named the dog. I wrote her out a check and that’s how he came to live with us. He was six months old, all fuzzy and looking like a teddybear.

He and Maggie were good friends and they both ignored Zeus, except to pick on him. When Maggie passed over, Icarus mourned her for a month. It didn’t seem to bother Zeus.

By the time four months had passed, my husband was ready for another large dog. Daughter Michelle was visiting and we went online looking for dogs. We sent him several pictures to look at and he liked the half lab, half Great Dane dog. She, too, is a rescue dog, about 18 months old. Ellie is what we renamed her. She is great with the kids, listens well, and will go into the crate to take naps and sleep at night. She’s all black, not a white spot on her. And she’s still a clumsy puppy. Icarus growls at her if she gets too close when he has a chewy toy. Zeus fears her when her big paws come too close to his head when she wants to play--and he hides under chairs!

Ellie has been in two other homes and took back to the Second Chance Rescue. One single mom decided she didn’t want the dog anymore and the other family only had her a few weeks and learned the kids were allergic to her. She’s trying hard to be good so she can stay at a forever home. We hope nothing ever happens to make her leave, because we want her forever.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our time in Oklahoma

When Larry was in the military and came back from overseas, he was stationed in OK. I had moved to AZ with my parents while he was gone, so he flew into Phoenix. From there we drove to OK to rent a house by the base, as we weren't eligible for base housing. So we found a house to rent in Dill City, which is a very small village. I looked it up online and it’s still about the same size as when we lived there.
Then we went to OH to spend time with the rest of our family members for several weeks. I went to get my hair cut, and the beautician said she heard there was a tornado in Dill City. Back then the news wasn't as easy to get as it is now. We couldn’t find anything about a tornado and thought she was wrong,
When we arrived back to OK and turned onto the road that would take us to the house we rented, the entire street was flattened. I had never seen destruction from a tornado before. My first thought was, is this what we’ll find when we get to our rental? We drove further and found the house we rented was standing as were the others in that part of the town. The entire town was and still is less than 2 miles. (I googled it)
Back then Larry was young and healthy and was asked to pitch in to clean up the mess.
One thing I remember about living in OK, sirens went off a lot. One of our neighbors had a storm cellar and  we would head to it with the others and sit out the storms. And people were friendly and helpful.
Larry once cleaned out a septic system for the landlord for a bag of groceries. I learned to eat green beans from the garden planted by whoever lived there before us. Since we didn’t have much money, we never had soda. It was popcorn and Kool Aid. I still can’t drink Kool Aid!
When we rented the house, a man who lived in the town came to the door to greet us and tell tell us he’d check on the “matters and tatters” while we were gone. We learned to eat the food from the garden, and I learned to be less picky.
In the military you moved with the car pools. Next we moved to Cordell, then to Elk City before being shipped to Indiana. We had two Okie babies. Not much to do in OK back then. One TV station that had locals singing over and over "Gum Chum."