Monthly Archives: October 2012

Food and Stories

Recipe will have to wait until next week–unless you want to get a copy of this year’s Desert Breeze cookbook which will have my Grandma’s recipe for eggplant parm (no meat). Food is  a part of almost every story I tell and many of my poems! Looking over my finished first full draft of the second book in the Legacy of Honor series, Letters from Korea, I see references to doughnuts, Italian Christmas, Easter Lamb and more.

Check out my storytelling on Hear Women Tell, radio online (see the archives for my listing–many stories on food) Right now I’m writing a poem about Collard greens.

Lean on Me-Guest Post

This post is from author April McGowan. It should have been posted for Monday, but will cover Monday andTuesday this week since I am late, having been ill due to barometric pressure drop (Thank you , Hurricane Sandy).

April’s post is entitled Lean on Me–it shows how we teach our children by example. It touched my heart and hope that it reaches many more.

She begins,” I took my son to see his specialist the other day. While we were sitting there, he played with his Lego men and another mom sat reading a book to her son. Across the room, a couple held their daughter and made little jokes. It’s unspoken that we’re all there for a reason—our kids suffer from some sort of gastrointestinal illness. As we pretended we were there for ‘normal’ reasons, a woman entered, pushing her disabled young son in a raised wheel chair. As soon as the door opened, the boy made himself known. He wailed in a most heart-wrenching way.

As she checked in at the receptionist’s desk, his wails grew louder, more intense. He sobbed, screamed and then began a rasping gag. I surmised he had lung issues, with whatever other health issues he had. And he was one unhappy boy.

Everyone in the room immediately got quiet and tried looking at anything in the room except for the crying boy. My son’s hands stilled over his toys but, instead of looking away, stared openly at the other boy, his own eyes filling with tears. Mine soon followed. He looked up at me, face full of fear mixed with compassion. We’ve had a lot of moments these past four years that have made the frailness of life very apparent to us—but seeing someone so young suffering really hit home with Seth.

The boy’s sobs and rasps quieted as his very patient mother took off his coat and brushed her hands down his arms, adjusting his legs and shifting his Spongebob pillow behind his neck to make him more comfortable. It was then I noticed the boy’s earplugs. As the patients were called, they left the room with relief. I have to admit, I was hoping for our turn—as the boy still had not quit crying and gagging on phlegm. I felt tense from his screams and it’d only been fifteen minutes—and then I looked at the mother’s face. She seemed so alone. I wondered if she had anyone to lean on.

I put myself in her place, isolated, care-giving for her son all day long, and probably all night long as well. Exhausting. For them both.

Instead of acting like they weren’t there, I engaged her in conversation past his wails and rasps. I asked if he had breathing problems, and she said he’d suffered a brain injury so his lungs and muscles didn’t do what they were supposed to, to help clear things out. He was five. As she spoke, he calmed a bit and then another person entered the room and the door buzzer went off—and so did the boys cries.

I said, “He hates his chair, does he?” I don’t know what made me think that. I remember my own son, hating his car seat so much that he’d scream the entire time he was in it. He wasn’t uncomfortable, he wasn’t hurting, but he hated it and would scream bloody murder.

Her eyes lit up. “Yes, he does. And loud noises, they frighten him.” She motioned to the ear plugs. For a moment, we were just two mom’s visiting, sharing notes about our boys. Then it was his turn, and she gave me a grateful smile and wheeled her son into their appointment.

I looked down at Seth, still sitting quietly, thinking. “That was hard, wasn’t it?” I asked him, knowing full well he’d be thinking about the boy and how hard his life was for days. He nodded. “Let’s pray for that mom and boy, okay?” And he nodded again. We took some time right there to pray.

It’s our nature to avoid suffering. It’s hard and scary and it makes us feel insecure. Life can be like that. But I think worse than suffering, is pretending it doesn’t exist. There are people in pain all around us, even if they aren’t crying out—it’d do us all well to stop and listen, to be there and be compassionate. To come alongside them, a shoulder to lean on. And pray.

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (full text here)

Mathew 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (full text here)

1 John 4:7-12 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us

Be sure to check out April’s site and “like” her–while you are at it, check out my FB page too–Joan Leotta Author and Performer and “like ” it too, please!

Friday–My professional hat–Discipline and habit

Today is directly related to writing, but the general principles apply to performance as well.

C. Hope Clark spoke at our local library on Wednesday and advised us all to spend fifteen minutes a day on marketing–that’s right—Marketing , using social media for me since my book is an ebook

Giulia Goes to War.

She practices what she preaches and manages to write daily as well–now I just need a dose of discipline and I can do it too! Once it is a habitm it will seem a lot easier–this blog is my effort for today and arranging a wonderful family blog for Monday with another writer.

Food and Stories

Today I had the pleasure of meeting one of my heroines–C. Hope Clark. She appeared at our local library to speak about mysteries and promote her new fiction book, Low Country Bribe.

For years she has published a newsletter, Funds for Writers, that has been a wonderful place for me to use to try to apply for grants and to find outlets for my writing. She may be where I found Desert Breeze Publishers!

She mentioned, in the course of her talk, that southerners always include a lot of food in whatever they write–of course the same is true for Southern Italians!

These two recipes are the basis for many of the recipes that can be found in my novels and certainly these have formed the basis for many a family dinner in the Leotta family.

Joan’s Basic Marinara Sauce (Red)

Makes  3 ½ -4 cups of sauce, depending on the amount of water used and how long the sauce cooks.

1 can 28 oz crushed tomatoes (I use a brand called “6 in 1” or Hunt’s)

½ can water

1 clove garlic

2 T olive oil

2 tsp parsley (fresh or dry)

Salt, basil and/or oregano to taste


Peel a clove of garlic and cut it in half. Brown the two halves in olive oil in pot over medium heat. As soon as the garlic is brown (varies, so watch closely) take the garlic out with a spoon and put in the can of tomatoes and then the water. (Be careful, when you add the tomatoes to the hot oil, there will be splatter.)After adding the water, stir and add in the salt, parsley and basil and oregano if you wish.

Cook for about twenty minutes, stirring every so often, over a medium heat.



Joan’s Basic White Sauce for Pasta

Makes 2 cups (good for one third pound pasta with enough to add more later)

4 T Butter

4 T Flour

2 Cups one per cent milk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper (fresh ground is best)

1 tsp nutmeg (fresh ground is best)

Melt butter in heavy saucepan over a low heat. Make a roux by adding the flour, stirring well and then quickly, before the flour begins to brown, add the milk, gradually. Stir constantly to get it to thicken. Add the spices while stirring.


Today’s recipe is one that

How to Explain Death to a Child

This weekend I attended the funeral of my last uncle. He was 85 and died in an accident in his home, so even though he was elderly, his death was a surprise. His neighbors loved him–especially their young son. They do not know how to explain to the child that his beloved neighbor will not longer visit. Each family deals with these things with these large issues in the framework of their faith and culture.

The American culture tends to hide death from children in a way that poorer countries where death among all ages is frequent, cannot. I offer this –the way we handled the death of my dear Dad, the first grandparent our two children lost.

We told them, as we do believe, that he has simply gone to heaven and that the body that remained was only the shell of their beloved grandfather. We stressed the continuing nature of love and its ability to transcend death, the passing into the afterlife.

Whatever your beliefs, I think it is good to allow the child to grieve and set up a small ritual to commemorate the passing, to allow the child to say good by in a special way. For us it was having the children sign their last valentine cards to my Father and to know that I put them in the coffin with him.(He died in the first week of Feb). If the funeral has passed, you can take a bouquet of flowers and lay them not necessarily at the grave, but at a place shared by the child and the person who has passed on–in the case of this little boy, my Uncle’s porch. Don’t try to tell the child everything you believe or cover the bases of all future possible questions. Answer what is asked, when it is asked, as truthfully as you can, according to your beliefs–with sincerity–and with love and consideration.

Deadlines are Great!

Nothing revs up my creative juices more than a deadline! Right now I am behind my self set deadline on my second book in the Legacy of Honor Series, but I still on track to meet my publishers deadline–deadlines within deadlines. Just a bit more to go to finish up the story of Sal and Gina, “Letters from Korea”. (Set in Pittsburgh in the 1950s)

Do you use deadlines to help spur your creative juices? Last year I participated in the poetry segment of Na no mo. I wrote a poem a day–some of them were pretty awful but several have made it to publication after much revision. Others are still in the  notebook, waiting for revision or to be passed over as simply a thought, tho even those might someday become a part of something larger.

This year I am going to try the na no mo for a young adult novel that has been on my mind and heart.

I’ll use this blog to keep you posted–but meanwhile I had better get going on “Letters”

Sorry I skipped the food blog this week–gearing up again after the break .

Family and Apples

Just back from a break. We drove 1000 miles visiting family in Pittsburgh, Syracuse and DC. We picked up apples in Syracuse, an annual fall event.

When our children were small we actually picked the apples. This time we picked them up in the store at the orchard.

One of my best poems was written about our apple picking adventures in New York. The children loved the apples because they had climbed up ladders into trees to get them. We made pies with them but mostly we ate them out of hand as we do now.

Start a tradition with your family–apples, pumpkins, baking, something you all do together–a tradition for each season, apart from any large religious, national , or other holidays–something that is for you, for your family only.

Will be posting soon on Pinterest