Anyone who knows me well will realize that what I am going to announce is beyond believable.
I ADOPTED A DOG!!!
She (Cricket) is amazing. Though she is old, 13 y/o, she is frisky and so loving. She arrived yesterday and it was instant bonding! David and I both love her. What do you think?
This is an article I wrote many years ago. It was originally published as Musings by Donna #28 Bittersweet is Today! I hope you enjoy!
It's the mix of heavenly sweetness followed quickly by harsh reality. It’s pleasure mixed with pain. It’s happiness and regret. That’s bittersweet!
Bittersweet is today!
Today – six years ago on January 13, 2005, with no invitation, bittersweet moved in with David and me. He was an uninvited guest.
He ripped David’s and my lives apart. – Bitter!
We won’t let bittersweet beat us. We are building them up again – together. – Sweet!
David suffered a traumatic brain injury. He endured an operation that lasted about 5 to 6 hours. He wasn’t supposed to live – Bitter!
He lived! – Sweet!
David endured two more open-brain surgeries in less that two weeks and slept the sleep of coma for more than that. He wasn’t supposed to live. – Very Bitter!
After several weeks he began to respond to the world around him. He wiggled his toes and blinked his eyes. – Sweet!
For three months he was in hospitals learning to walk, learning to talk, learning to feed and dress himself again – learning to be a part of society. He desperately missed his job at Columbia. He did not know when or if he would ever return. Bitter-very-bitter!
Columbia welcomed David back with an article about him in the newsletter of Columbia University called, In Vivo-CUMC At Large. Very Sweet!
And by conferrring upon him in 2006, at the Medical School Commencement, the Charles Bohmfalk Award for teaching in clinical years. Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!
David still has difficulty walking, talking, swallowing, and seeing. His right arm shakes erratically. He remains a prisoner of his body. Bitter-oh-so-bitter!
He wont let anything get him down. Life has become as normal as it can with all of these disabilities. He exercises to strengthen his body. He works to strengthen his mind. Improvements are being made – slowly, but they come. Sweet!
David has lived six years longer than any of his doctors expectations. Sweet! Oh-so-Sweet!
I have my best friend with me. Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!
Bittersweet move over. There is not enough room in our lives for you.
This morning we went to Germany––to Berlin. We didn’t pack our bags, take a taxi to the airport, or spend hours in a metal capsule as it hurtled across land and ocean for endless hours. But we joined folks from around the world, each in our own homes, as together, we celebrated the happiness and accomplishments of our special member of the Bard Berlin Class of 2021.
We watched as our granddaughter, Kaya Skye Stein, received her degree. She didn’t walk across a stage, shake hands with the Dean, and turn to smile and wave at her family in the audience. But we watched Kaya’s smiling face in one of the more than a 100 little ZOOM boxes. We smiled, too, as her photo, complete with cap, gown, and degree, flashed across our screen. We cheered, though she didn’t hear our excited voices. We typed the word, congratulations, in caps, like this––C-O-N-G-R-A-T-U-L-A-T-I-O-N-S, Kaya!!!!! We hope she saw it in all the messages flying in the Chat Box.
College is never easy. But this class faced extraordinary struggles and extreme hazards, with lockdowns, isolations, and professors being ZOOMED onto their personal computers as the pandemic (COVID-19) clobbered the world. Yet, they did it––this strong, amazing Class of 2021, of which my granddaughter is a member.
Kaya, grandpa and I are very proud of your hard work, perseverance, and persistence. We send our love across the land and the ocean to you at Bard Berlin.
Granny and Grandpa
Living in 3rd Grade ~ Vocabulary is in the Air
(reposted from Figurski Wiki March 22, 2011) (reposted again from Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog)
Our language is made up of many words. Some convey the most simple message.
The dog ran down the street.
Certainly that sentence gives the reader a specific picture, but not a colorful one. It leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader who is expected to fill in the missing parts. The sentence borders on boring.
By playing with words, children are experimenting with ways to make their language more vivid. They use words to create movies in their heads. This will surely result in more fascinating writing that will jump off the page. In order to accomplish that task, children need to choose more picturesque words. Look at this sentence.
The brown dog galloped down the crooked street.
It’s more vivid and easily allows a clearer image to be conjured.
I asked my class to play with words. I gave them a set of stimulus words (in bold) and asked to think of more visual words.
Look at their work below.
ran — dashed, raced, rushed, sprinted, zoomed, galloped, bolted
picked — plucked, snatched, yanked, grabbed
jumped — leapt, hopped, skipped
flew — glided
yelled — screamed, scolded, yelped, screeched, hollered, shouted, snapped, barked
For HomeFun, they worked on the following words.
Go Ahead! Try it!
First let the words spill out of your head. When you can think of no more, head over to the thesaurus.
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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
Hold the Liver and the Onions, please. That’s what I would have said to my mother when I was only about thirteen-years-old … if I had even known the phrase or had the savvy enough to say it. But, no use, it wouldn’t have done any good.
Who likes liver and onions anyway? Well, I suppose there are some brave souls out there – somewhere- who like it – or why would that combination even be around?
It’s NOT the onions! I love onions. It’s the liver that I abhor. I mean I really don’t have anything against liver … except that it sounds gross and tastes terrible. I rate it right up there on the scale of hate with kidneys, tongue, and pig’s feet, which I have never had and plan to keep it that way.
But, one fateful night, my mother made liver and onions for dinner. The house reeked! She had never prepared it before; and I have no idea where she got that idea, but it was not one of her best.
My family gathered at the table with inquisitive and wary eyes. “You’ll like it,” she told us.” “I doubt that,” I thought. And by the dubious looks on the faces of my siblings, I was not alone. All except for my newly-born sister, San (Suzanne), Judy (11), Jackie (John) (9), and Mark (6) stared right along with me at the brown blob with slimy white worms draped over it. I vowed that that concoction would not pass my lips and I clamped my mouth shut. But, before I did, I proclaimed the same … and the battle lines were drawn.
I suppose my mother made a vow too, and her vow was a direct contradiction to mine. You will eat your liver and onions or go to bed hungry. It’s a common refrain of mothers eternal. (Not the liver and onion part – just the You will eat your ________ or go to bed hungry. Slot in whatever food you hated.) They are words of wisdom passed down from generation to generation – from mother to mother to mother – endlessly. Be honest! I bet you have some of your own motherisms you could add to this blog. Remember – eat all of your food because there are children starving in _______. Fill in the blank. I never understood how my eating my unwanted food would help children on the other side of the world. Actually I still don’t, but I would gladly have given them my liver and onions and I would have welcomed going to bed hungry to spare the insult of liver and onions.
When my mother’s tactic did not work, she raised her battle cry to, “You will not leave the table until you finish your dinner. After all she had spent good money and time preparing it – with love- for us. Didn’t she know I had homework to do – a test in math, English, science, reading, and geography in the morning? Did she want me to fail? Well, I tried. She saw right through my earnestness.
So I did the next best thing. I rolled my food around my plate trying to make it look like less – trying to make it look like I had eaten it. I accidentally, (yeah right) dropped a few choice pieces under the table. It joined several pieces that my siblings accidentally dropped, too. Why didn’t we have a dog?
We sat! And we sat! It seemed like hours. It probably was. I realized that I had lost the skirmish. I tentatively put a piece of liver and onions in my mouth. I bet you are thinking that I saw the light and discovered the wonderful experience of L&O. but, NO, as I expected, I hated it. It was beyond the hate scale of 10. I did the only think left to do, I swallowed each piece … WHOLE – like a pill. It was bitter medicine.
But my mission now was to clear my plate so I could be released from the table. My siblings stared at me. Probably waiting for me to keel over. Liver and onions is not edible for children. No child should be required to eat it. It’s in the realm of torture. But, I ate it.
As I swallowed the last piece, my mother sighed and said, “Put your plates in the sink.” My siblings dashed to the sink. I gaped at my mother. Not Fair! It couldn’t be true … but it was! Who ever said life was fair?
PS. I have NEVER ever, allowed liver and onions to pass my lips since. AND...I never served it to MY children.
(Clipart compliments of Bing.com)
Holy Jumping Jugglers!
Remember when I told you I entered a children’s picture book contest, Spring Fling Kidlit Contest 2021? I had to write a story from scratch with only 150 words – no more!
I posted my story, BETSY’S RAINBOW BALLOONS on Bookity Blog several weeks ago and forgot about it. Then tonight one of my CPs (Critique Partners) sent me a message to tell me that I won an Honorable Mention for my story.
Holy Giggling Grasshoppers!
I can’t believe it. Just like my first graders always jumped for joy when they accomplished something fun, I am jumping for joy now. Yippee!!!
Holy Bopping Balloons!
AND.... Drum Roll.... THE WINNERS ARE!
A big RAINBOW thank you to the contest organizers, Kaitlyn Sanchez and Ciara O’Neal. What a lot of work!
BETSY’S RAINBOW BALLOONS
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
Betsy held onto her rainbow balloons. I’m not sharing a single one, she thought.
Betsy bounced through the park.
Tomas fell off the swing.
Just ONE, thought Betsy and gave Tomas a red balloon.
Betsy skipped toward the library.
Millie cried next to her twisted bike surrounded by her library books.
Just ONE, thought Betsy and gave Millie an orange balloon.
Keneisha tumbled into a puddle–yellow balloon.
Liam lost his Frisbee–green balloon.
Akiko slipped on a plum skin–blue balloon.
Lyla dropped her lollipop–indigo balloon.
Nico lost his soccer ball–violet balloon.
When Betsy got home, she only had a rainbow-colored balloon left. MINE! she thought. All MINE! I’m NOT
NOPE! Not ever!
But when Betsy saw her little sister cooing, giggling, and grabbing at her last balloon, Betsy giggled and said,
“Bella, I’ll share my rainbow balloon with you anytime.”
And she did!
I Write for Children
I always told my six through nine year old students, if you write, you are a writer. They wrote, so they were writers. I write, so I am a writer. too.
I didn't always write. Not really write. I wrote letters to my husband, David, before he was my husband and I wrote letters to my Gram after David was my husband. (no correlation.)
I seriously got interested in writing when I took writing classes one summer at Teacher's College in New York City. I wrote a short story as a picture book text. My professor loved it. So did the teachers who took the class with me. They encouraged me and I was bitten by the "write" bug.
I spent years writing manuscripts and mailing them to children's book editors. None of them were ever published, but I got a lot of rejection letters. They were "good" rejections. But, they all had one word in common, "BUT."
Here are a few examples.
• "I think this is the strongest piece you have sent me – it’s funny and charming, and a story young children will relate to well, "BUT …"
• Teddy in the Backpack is a very sweet story and I think that Zoe is a great character, "BUT …"
• "Your sense of humor shines through in this piece, and you have a wonderful sense of rhythm, "BUT …"
• "You write well, no question there, "BUT …"
• "This is one of the best LAST lines I’ve ever read. It was great joke, "BUT …"
You can go to It's all about REJECTION! or Love it – BUT… to read more. I posted more than twenty-five examples.
My picture books, nearly 30 of them, haven't been published yet. Maybe they will someday. One can always hope.
I am a two-time graduate of Children’s Book Academy, a member of Storyteller Academy, and I am in three picture book critique groups. I am also an active member of SCBWI - Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for more than 20 years, and that's how long I have been writing picture book manuscripts. Here are some of the stories I've written. They are lost and NEED to be found by a publishing house.
School Is NO Place for a Frog, Robert-Robert
The Best Pest
Teddy in the Backpack
You're a Mess, Miss Tress
Molly Hates Pink
Too Many Bubbles
Which titles do you like best?
I’ve been cast in a zany play called, HELP DESK written by Don Zolidis and directed by Dave Seaberg.
In the first skit, my name is Tori whose goldfish died and she needs HELP!
In the second skit, I am Jess who needs more data for her computer, but what she gets is the runaround.
Have you ever been frustrated when calling customer service…
or had your call dropped after explaining your problem five
times to five different customer service agents?
or been on hold forever waiting to speak to a
customer service representative…
or been transferred from one
customer service agent to another…
I’ll be in rehearsal for the next few weeks. Then on to filming. I know it sounds funny to be filming a stage play. But this play will be rehearsed and filmed on ZOOM during the pandemic for safety reasons. It is scheduled to be aired – sometime and somewhere – in late April.
See you soon.
Donna - author of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale
I am the author of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver's Tale. It's the true story of how my husband almost left me--three times.