How to Store Seashells

Before you store your seashells, you must first walk along Miami Beach at sunrise with your throat still burning from last night’s margaritas. This is before marrying, having children or growing up. Along the wet sand, collect sand dollars, pointy mitres, ridgy scallops and, your favorite, oversized conch shells. Pack them in your suitcase between your swimsuits and terry-cloth jumpsuits and bring them back to Ohio.

In time, get married. Have one child. Get divorced and married again, always hanging on to those shells. They remind you of who you were before: young and wild.

When your father falls ill, pick up your family of three and move everything that fits into his duplex. Take care of him as best you can. He’s dying, but you won’t admit it. 

Display the shells on a shelf in your six-year-old daughter’s room, because wall space is scarce. She likes them, to shake the sand dollars and imagine real coins inside. When your dad’s health sinks further, hand her the conch and tell her to listen to the ocean. Tell her stories about the beach and how one day, when money and life are better, you will take her there to find her own seashells.

One day she climbs her dresser to play with the shells and bumps the shelf. It topples. Shards of shells ricochet off walls. 

The conch is somehow okay. 

Hold it to your ear. Know not everything is broken.


- Danielle Dayney is sometimes a blogger, usually a writer, and always a mom. Recently, her creative nonfiction essays have been shared on BLUNTmoms and Thought Catalog. Her stories have also been published in several anthologies including the Virginia Writers Centennial AnthologyShort on Sugar, High on Honey, Nevertheless We Persisted, andBeach Reads: Lost and Found.In 2016 and 2017, she received awards at BlogHer for creative nonfiction essays. You can find her chasing kids and furbabies somewhere in Virginia, or at

Tips for Balancing Your Checkbook

My grandmother balanced her checkbook on Sundays, after Johnny Carson had gone off the air. I’d stay up late with her, listening to the CLICK CLICK CLICK of the adding machine as we watched reruns of Hitchcock muted on the screen.

“You must take care of your finances, Franny,” grandma would say as she checked off each deposit and withdrawal, all written in her elegant parochial school handwriting. “I have a perfect credit score. Never been late on paying, not even once!”

She’d say that last bit smugly, before turning back to her calculations. Occasionally I’d hear her muttering tidbits of advice while she tried to reconcile the bank’s statement with her own precise records.

Next to the adding machine, grandma kept a neatly folded, damp paper towel, so she could carefully wipe each finger each time they grazed the black carbon copy paper.

“Always make a copy when you write a check. And use ink,” she’d say. “Most folks are decent, but that’s no excuse for being an easy mark.”

She was full of this unsolicited advice.

“Never finance toys, Franny. You take a loan for a house, even a car. Sure. But never toys. No one needs a record player enough to go into debt for it. “

Grandma survived as an orphan during the great depression. That kind of wasteful indulgence “got her dander up,” as she would say.

“Balancing a checkbook is easy. Money in, money out, easy as pie. It’s getting the money that’s the hard part. “ This was a constant refrain.

“You have to work hard. Nothing is free.”


- Frances Locke is a writer from New York City and the founding editor of Witty Bitches Magazine. She’s currently living a self-imposed exile in Las Vegas, with her partner and children, and enjoys proselytizing about the wonders of cats whenever possible.  You can find her on Twitter at @frances_locke

Planting the Future

Each spring I plant trees on my land. My Dad taught me. Before he died, after 66 years on his Minnesota farm, he planted at least 150,000 trees. Any patch of prairie ground too small or steep for raising corn and soybeans became a grove of oaks and pines. This is how he taught me about my duty to future generations. 

My first lesson came one April morning when I was about eight. He carried the seedlings – 15 inches high – packed in a box of damp sphagnum moss, and I carried the spade. 

“Watch me,” Dad said, using the spade to open a narrow slit in the sod. “Slip the roots into the hole and spread them out. Use your foot to press the dirt against the roots. Now, you try it,” he said, making another slit. “If pine roots dry out, the seedling will die. So be quick.” 

After I planted a couple trees, he left me with the seedlings and went ahead to make more slits. That was the beginning of our plantings. Those pines are now 64 years old and 40 feet tall. They may grow for another 150 years and reach 100 feet. Dad planted trees for future generations. Now, whenever I plant, I hear his words: “Always leave the world better than you find it.” The lesson has stuck, along with a love of trees. Someday, people I’ll never meet will enjoy my trees.   


When R. Newell Searle isn’t planting trees, he is an advocate for immigrants, teaches English in Oaxaca, Mexico, and writes. He is the author of Saving Quetico-Superior, A Land Set Apart, a dozen articles on the nature and social history of Minnesota, and has just completed a memoir on becoming bilingual at the age of 65.