One Big Pair of Underwear! A Picture Book Giveaway




A guest post from writer Laura Gehl:

Woo-hoo!  Barbara asked me to write a guest post about UNDERWEAR in honor of my debut picture book One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by the fabulous Tom Lichtenheld.  What could be more fun than writing about underwear?


First, quick question: do you prefer the word “underwear” or the word “panties?”  Personally, I love the word underwear and hate the word panties.  The word panties actually makes me cringe.  I do like the expression “Put on your big girl panties,” though.  If you are not familiar with this expression, here is how it can hypothetically be used:

An editor I really love rejected my book, so I want to lie on the couch, eat chocolate, watch junky TV, and cry.  But instead, I am going to put on my big girl panties and get back to work. (Note: this may or may not be a real scenario from my life.)


Having the word underwear in the title of a children’s book is a surefire way to hook readers and book-buyers.  Wonderful, right?  Mostly.  The one problem is that some readers are apparently disappointed when they discover that my book is also about bears, yaks, goats, candy bars, hockey sticks, and jet skis.  In fact, the only negative comments I have received about One Big Pair of Underwear were from people who felt underwear deserved a more prominent role in the book.

So, to atone for my sins (i.e. writing a book that is actually about counting and sharing, then drawing in unsuspecting readers with a picture of giant underwear on the cover), I will now talk ONLY about underwear for a few minutes.

I’ll start with some fun underwear facts (I can’t promise these are 100% accurate):

Ten percent of women own more than thirty-five pairs of underwear.

  1. The average woman owns twenty-one pairs of underwear.
  2. Nine percent of men have worn the same underwear for ten years.
  3. There is a world record for wearing the most pairs of underwear at one time. In 2010, this record was 215 pairs, set by a 10-year-old.  In 2012, a new record was set at least twice…first by a woman, who put on 252 pairs, and then by a man, who put on 302 pairs.
  4. Even squirrels wear underwear these days. Fortunately, you can buy boy or girl squirrel underwear on Amazon, so you have the ability to outfit your squirrels from the convenience, and privacy, of your own home.

Now, a more serious underwear question to ponder: If an astronaut lives on the International Space Station for six months, or 180 days, and if there is no washing machine on the International Space Station…or within 250 miles…what is that astronaut supposed to do with 179 pairs of dirty underwear?

And, in conclusion, some (sort of) serious answers.

  1. Astronauts don’t actually get to wear clean underwear every day. They have to wear the same pair for 3 days, or longer.
  2. Huge amounts of built-up dirty underwear are placed in a non-reusable spacecraft and de-orbited, which means that the spacecraft and all dirty underwear aboard burn up in the atmosphere.
  3. Scientists are working on ways to get bacteria to eat the astronauts’ used underwear. Which really gives a whole new meaning to the idea of edible underwear.

Giveaway: I’m giving away one copy of Laura’s delightful picture book, One Big Pair of Underwear. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment by December 1. U.S. and Canada only. Thanks!


Laura Gehl is the author of One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, which released in September 2014 from Simon & Schuster.  Laura is also the author of four other upcoming picture books.  None of the other four books are about underwear, but Laura hopes you will consider reading them anyway.  Visit Laura online at and

My Theater Debut: The Dixie Swim Club




Menopause makes us braver!

But did it make me brave enough to try out for a play?


Too chicken to try for parts in high school and college, I’ve been toying with auditioning for  Orange Community Players, our local theater group. Then last month, my friend Bernie urged me to try out for their upcoming production of The Dixie Swim Club, a five woman show.

Bernie had no clue I was thinking of acting. I took this as my sign!

I warmed up by using dramatic motions as I gave the children’s sermon one Sunday at church. “You were so theatrical–good job!” Judy said. I fessed up about the tryouts. “I’m not telling many people.I have no idea what my chances are.”

I bought the script and Audition by Michael Shurtleff, a book recommended by Marci Rich. I met Marci through The Women of Midlife, a wonderful Facebook community.

Audition Books

I read the play three times and devoured the acting book.

Audition night!

Lisa, the director, gave me parts of the script to look over. I snapped a photo. If I didn’t get a part at least I could blog about the experience. I was so nervous, I have a hunch I forgot everything I learned in the acting book.


But guess what? This won’t be my last theater post.

I got a part! I’m Jeri Neal McFeeley. As the play opens, Jeri Neal, a former nun, is now pregnant, really pregnant.


Not only do I go into labor on stage, I wear a skimpy dress in another scene, and in another, talk sexy on the phone to my brand new husband. And I’m going to age from my forties to my seventies.

Dixie Swim Club

Menopause courage, I beg you, step onto that stage with me.

At least, despite the play’s title, I don’t have to wear a bathing suit.

That would take more courage than this Jeri Neal McFeeley could muster.


Menopausal Cut-out Lady (and a Craft Book Giveaway)


I need a new hobby, something to provide a happy break from writing. I love to work with my hands, so I’ve been  pondering.

The pondering took a disarming plunge  last week when I spent long minutes threading a needle. I even had trouble with the handy dandy needle threader. I take this as final proof that my failing eyes, plus my lack of fine motor skills, rule out most hobbies that demand exact hand-eye coordination.

Then, like a flash, I remembered Henri Matisse! When his health began to fail, he took up paper cutting. Peinture avec du papier.  Painting with paper.

Matisse Woman Cut Outs


And so, I present to you, Menopausal Cut-out Lady.

Menopause Lady

To learn more about Menopausal Cut-out Lady, see the Artist’s Statement at the bottom of the post.

For a craft guide to inspire all of us, there’s Crafting Calm: Projects and Practices for Creativity and Contemplation by Maggie Oman Shannon (Viva Editions, 2013).



The publisher writes:

Rev. Maggie Oman Shannon illustrates that you can literally ‘craft the crazy away” through beading and crocheting, candle-making, and collaging…Each chapter presents five different practices, offering forty activities to inspire, along with a series of questions for journaling and reflection.

Shannon presents plenty of intriguing crafts, but what I love the most are the quotations on creativity. Here are two favorites:

When the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.

 Leonardo Da Vinci

 I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with the arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.

 Saul Bellow


Giveaway: Thanks to Viva Editions for offering  a copy of Crafting Calm to one Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, simply enter a comment by November 25. U.S. and Canada only please.

Read about Matisse’s cut-outs in this article.  And if you can get to NYC, the show at the MOMA looks spectacular.

Menopausal Cut-out Lady, Artist’s Statement: 

Barbara Younger  Construction Paper  and Glue on Sketch Paper   2014

Menopausal Cut-out Lady’s skin is green, which represents the new life, the fresh spouts, of menopause. She wears her hair in two lengths,posing this question: At what age should a woman switch to shorter hair? Menopausal Cut Out Lady feels sporty and confident with both lengths. Hooray for her!

Her breasts are blue, symbolizing the blues brought on by the droop of aging. Yet the blue represents water too, and the buoyancy and lack of inhibition she feel as she floats in a lovely blue lake or sea.

Her reproductive organs take the form of a heart. This symbolizes her adoration for her offspring, and the hope that her love life, despite changes, is far from over

Menopausal Cut-out Lady waves a fan, not only as a nod to her night sweats and hot flashes but as a welcoming signal to the changing winds of menopause, bringing relief from periods and a new zest for life.

All the Luck


Some people have all the luck.

Cliff was the one who suggested we go across the street for a free hot dog. StateFarm Insurance was grilling the dogs as part of Hillsborough’s Last Friday street festival.

And Cliff was the one who filled out the entry blanks for the raffle. One for him. One for me. Free lunch for a week at Radius Pizza.

But look who won!

Eric and Me

Some people have all the luck (every now and then).

But others are lucky too. They married the winner and just might get some pizza in the weeks to come.

What about you?

Are you lucky?

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever won?

Thanks to Eric Douglas (above) of StateFarm Insurance on Churton Street in Hillsborough. What a good neighbor.

And Happy Birthday to Cliff! May the years to come be filled with plenty of pizza, games with Mazen, and lots of luck. (Those are Cliff’s glasses on Maze; trying on Grandpa’s glasses is a favorite sport.)