Friday, April 30, 2010

Do You Remember May Baskets?

Today I bought some Gerber Daisies for the May Baskets for my friends. Well, it will probably be just a flower this year instead of a real basket of anything, but the thought will be same. The clerk admired these lovely daisies, and when I told her what they were for, she tossed me a blank look. A woman sporting a wrinkle or two and with teenagers at home, she had never heard of the May Basket tradition. I think it is sad that this lovely toast to spring is fading away.
When I was a child, everyone made a May Basket or two. Our class made some at school for decorating bulletin boards. At home, I spent several evenings each spring making them at the kitchen table for my little pals and older neighbors. Sometime in April Mom would drop by the lumber yard where she picked up old wallpaper books that had been saved for us. You had to get your name in early as many families asked for one or two of the huge books with wallpaper samples. Once the books were home, I tore out my favorite pages choosing colors and patterns carefully. I rolled the pages into cones or mitered corners on squares and stapled on a paper handle.

My paternal grandmother lived about a block away and had a large yard with lilacs and spirea that she let me cut for my May baskets. The branches of fragrant flowers were worked in around candies, gum, and a cookie or two Mom had made. Then about dusk she drove me around to my friends’ houses, parking discreetly a half a block away. I snuck up to each porch, hung a paper basket on the door knob, and gave a quick knock while shouting, “May Basket!”. Then I raced so fast back to the car I thought my chest would burst as we tried, successfully once in a while, to make a get clean get away, leaving the recipient to puzzle out who left the basket. What fun! What a simple and harmless tradition, one infectious with nothing but pure joy.

The clerk today at the gardening center was excited when I left. She said she was going to tell her young teen daughter about this tradition and try to interest her in doing May Baskets. I am not sure such a humble event can compete with texting and such, but I hope the girl gives it a try.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Project Now Looks Like a Bathroom

 While there are still a lot of smaller chores left such as more trim, mirror, light fixtures, back splash and such, we can take a shower and use this room now on Day 22. I hope we like the door because most people are shocked to have an outside door in a bathroom. This was my idea to save the rest of the house from DH’s dainty footprints of sawdust down the hall. Now he can step out of his woodworking shop, onto the deck and into this bathroom off our bedroom without playing Hansel and Gretel with the wood chip crumbs. What started as a green tinted room has somehow morphed into shades of beige (Sandy Shell) and white. The counter top is a dark green swirled with shades of the Sandy Shell. It will be interesting to see what this room does look like in the true finished stage.

Nice things are coming together decently because the mail brought a Woman’s World rejection. Thought sure one of the last offerings might make it, but alas, no. DH asked if I had studied the other stories. Dah, I have about 300 on file that I have studied, and I don’t know what I am doing wrong when I write my own. Actually, wrong it the not the correct word. I think competition is just so heavy and choices are so many for the editors that it is like winning a lottery to get published in Woman’s World. So many people have “the ticket”, but only a few are winners!

Despite my writing life being in the sewer, I think the rest of my life is going to be a Royal Flush with the new bathroom!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Bathroom Project Continues

No reading or writing at this house yet! We are still working on THE PROJECT. This was day 19, and we finally have almost all of the outside back together. The morning started in a rant when DH found an electrical problem, and while trying to solve it, he found a problem with the new exhaust fan. He had followed the directions, but the directions produced a fan that was not covered by the fixture! He called the company, but they waffled. The directions were so poorly written, which is what we have found on many items during this project. I think there is a great need out there for good writers to produce clear copy for instructions! The end result was DH had to cut a hole in our new sheetrock ceiling and start again. It repaired nicely but put us a day behind inside while we wait for the mud to dry—again.

The closest I have come to poetry lately is a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke on the cover of the Bas Bleu catalog that arrived today: “Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems.” The lilac begins to fade; dogwood and redbud are giving way to leaves. Now it is onward to the emerald shade of lush green leaves on trees. Today the wind blew, and the air was full of maple seeds swirling like helicopter blades. A necessary stage of spring, but the seeds are not one of the most pleasant things, as they flutter through doors and make the deck ugly.

Think DH’s shoes will make it through The Project? Yep, I am sure of it. I thought these shoes would fall apart at least two years ago. They are like the Energizer Bunny and keep going and going. I gave up being embarrassed by them long ago. Now I am just amazed they stay on DH’s feet, and I am interested in seeing just how long they will last. Ah, maybe these shoes are the poetry in my life now.

Dirty leather creaks and sewn seams split,

As shoes give way under work and woes.

Knotted strings, stiff with mud and sweat

Can’t keep freedom away from escaping toes!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Books Are Holy Objects

The March/April issue of Spirituality and Health has several nice articles and an intriguing picture that I presume is the library at Trinity College in Dublin. At a quick first glance, the arched ceilings and dark wood look like some antiquated train station. Then the eye zeroes in books, rows of books, floors of books, enough books one could get lost in the stacks as well as the pages.

In an accompanying article, Thomas Moore urges readers to not give up reading books the old fashioned way, in hand-held volumes. He acknowledges new technology and plans to buy an electronic reader himself. However, he sees books as holy objects and libraries as holy places: he urges us to make a place in our homes for a library and to work to save our local libraries. I am ahead of Moore on this one, having worked for my local library and having had DH build bookcases in four rooms and a hallway of our home. I do occasionally have to weed the books down to keep books within these bookcases. Otherwise the overflow would be like the trash piles in Shel Silverstein’s poem about Cynthia Stout who never took the garbage out!

Another above average article speaks about 87 year old Debra Szekely, founder of several well known health spas in her lifetime such as California’s Golden Door. Szekely’s most choice bit of advice is to be aware of how we use our time. She says we ARE how we use our time. She has a strategy for using colored pencils or crayons to mark a past week of one’s daily calendar. The colored coded markings will show you how your time was used and guide you to making desired changes in your life.

While some articles in the magazine might be too liberal for some readers, most have some grain of thought worth consideration. The issue’s last page has three tips for Spring Cleaning our lives: Get rid of “stuff”, spend more time on meaningful activities, and start buying, spending and wasting less. While DH is redoing the bathroom, I am weeding through drawers and closets tossing out as much “stuff” as I can bear to part with now. It is amazing how non-materialistic we are at this house, yet how each closet and drawer seems to be full. I can part with pealed sweaters, old magazines, sugar bowls with no lids, but how do I toss out a coin purse my dad, who is no longer here, gave me when I was six years old? Knowing that my children will know nothing about that cheap, yellowed piece of 1950’s plastic and will send it sailing to the dumpster faster than a paper plane still does not make it easier to toss now. But I will keep weeding other things and maybe the little purse can stay a tad longer, despite its useless “stuff” classification!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Job Goes On...and On... and On

Eleven days out and this is what shows for the time on the bathroom project! Not much, right?The days have been long and hard for DH, but he refused to hire any younger muscle to help things along. We have always done things here the hard way and with our own backs. That was fine when we had youth to go with exuberance! Now two sick and soft aging bodies don’t seem to move so fast anymore. The only thing not softer here is DH’s head!

Yesterday DH nearly electrocuted himself under the house. I heard bad words and heard strange breathing. I could see him through the flooring, but I never could have gotten to him if need be. This time the experience, pardon the pun, shocked even him. He was working on plumbing, sitting in wet dirt, and bumped into a hot wire he needed for light. At the end of the day, I am as tired from this kind of event as from lifting and pulling.

Today something broke out near the street on the water line. The city will bring a backhoe tomorrow, dig up the street, and repair. Meanwhile, the one bathroom we do have running has no water as that line was capped. We do have water in other rooms, but this is a little more Frontier Days than I like. Meanwhile, rain storms are moving in for tomorrow, and we have to board up the hole again. However, new subfloor and tub are in, so surely in days to come, the room will begin to SHOW progress.

Writing? No way is that happening here, as my creative mind is as hard and unyielding as a peach pit. The only time my mind begins to yield like clay under a potter’s hands is when I make runs to the lumber yard or the hardware store for DH. I will confess to meandering a little, taking the longer way, soaking up the beautiful spring weather for those few minutes I am away from the pounding, shoving, nailing, grunting, and hammering.

The weather has been a beautiful gift these past few days. It is a joyous drive to town while seeing the flowers, trees, and shrubs expand with spring colors. Redbud, dogwood, jonquils, tulips, snow crab apple, lilac, forsythia, and now the wonderful wisteria are all flashing shades of pink, fuchsia, lavender, lemon and white like Southern belles flipping their pastel petticoats. Rain is coming, but I will try not to complain. I got the yard mowed this morning, around trucks and lumber that is, and I moved out poinsettias, crotons, and house lilies. They will like the sun and even the dewy raindrops.

Since despite being quite tired here, we are not sleeping well; I was up late last night finishing the Theroux book. Nice that it ends with her finding a love life, although it was a hard commitment for the author to make. (I see another new book is out on lists titled Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog by Lisa Scottoline.) Our friends always say the second wife gets the goodies, the attention. DH and I often joke about things the second wife here will get, and I say that what I want to be when I grow up is someone’s second wife. As this project moves on, I am beginning to think a second husband who knew nothing about construction and who believed writing checks for remodeling might be a desirable love interest. It might be nice to have a resident book reader to share titles with, or a writing companion to compare notes with as pages develop. Then again, I have never been too interested in fantasy so I better just go fix supper for my Bob the Builder fellow who does live here now!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


When I was young, I was always on the search for a good story, and I never thought a memoir was it. In grade school, I opened the covers of a book, and if the narrator was an “I”, I snapped the covers closed and moved on. Somewhere along the way to now, memoir became one of my favorite genres. I guess I grew into some kind if a voyeur since I love peeking into real people’s real lives, gleaning tips on how to handle my own.

As an avid reader even in childhood, I always checked out my Gran’s book shelves. She read a lot of Perry Mason, some romances, subscribed to Reader Digest Condensed Books, and kept a few memoirs around. On her special shelf, I found a journal by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In my youthful innocence, I asked her why she read such a boring book. When Gran died, she still had in her possession a bio about the Lennon sisters and a couple of books by Anne Morrow Lindbergh that I brought home and put away. A few years later, I started reading a copy of Gift of the Sea that I had picked up causally in a book store. Wait a minute, wasn’t this the same author Gran read? I dug her books out and started reading Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead; I was fascinated by the writing, by Lindbergh’s story. I started reading everything by Lindbergh I could find, amazed that I had not heard her calling me to her pages sooner.

Years ago, I was at the library with kids in tow and loaded up on a stack of books. Once I was home, I opened A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle and immediately wondered what I had been thinking when I pulled it off the shelf. Probably distracted by a yelping toddler while reaching for another title was my guess. I tried to push through the paragraphs, but the book made my mind wander; I gave up and put it in the return pile. Years later, I came across the book again as I meandered through the biography stacks. I pulled it, opened the covers, and read a snippet before I recognized the title. It was wonderful! Talked right to me, being a busy mother and wanting to be a writer! I took it home and read like a starving man eats, with both hands. I went back and started a love affair with Madeleine L’Engle works, especially her first person books and memoirs. I have now read Circle of Quiet at least three times over the years and will read it again in the future.

I don’t remember reading anything by Phyllis Theroux, but her new book that came out in March, The Journal Keeper, A Memoir, has a nice cover and inviting subjects. I saw it on book lists, displayed in stores, fingered it a few times, and thought, “Nice, maybe for someday”. Then, while meandering through the Watermark on Easter weekend, the book appeared again shouting at me like a petulant child that would not be ignored. I read the flap and decided to take it home.

Theroux writes on her life with her unique mother (who sees spirits), financial worries, the angst of aging, on the struggles of living a writing life. While many of her comments honestly speak of her depression and worries, each dark thought is countered by a bright comment begging us to value each minute, to live in the now, to experience joy everyday.

Many of Theroux’s lines resonated with me as a writer and as a woman:

“One of the strongest illusions in life is that another person’s love will liberate us.”

“Poetry excavates, blasts, cuts through the flab.”

Writing...“is like drilling for oil, having the faith it is down there.”

Quoting Bill Moyers, “I don’t believe life has meaning. I believe we give life meaning.”

“Unless you are able to let go, to reinvent yourself and endure the pain of feeling your ego collapse…getting older is not a gift.”

“Writing…a rope one weaves with words than can either lower you below or hoist you above the surface of your life.”

Theroux’s book definitely called my name, and I am so glad I heard the summons. If you think it might call yours too, check out Theroux’s book and writing life with comments and a nice video at .

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Libraries I Have Known

The blogs of others remind me of many things I want to ponder. Donna's blog ( reminded me this week of National Library Week and caused me to consider libraries I have known. I have a faint memory of getting my first library card when I was about six, holding my mother’s hand and striding up a few concrete steps into a dark-sided building. Our local library was a tiny, one room building and constructed like a shoe box. It sat across the street from the local creamery. An old building, the floors creaked, the lights cast a dusky glow, and the air was a bit musty from age and books. But oh, how I loved the place! I worked my way through all the sections, toting home volumes and tomes. In the summers of junior high, my friend and I walked or biked to the library for Susie Nurse books almost everyday, followed by a nickel coke at the local drug store.

By the time I got to college, libraries often meant heavy reading and hard work instead of reading for joy. At PSU I did not appreciate the old library as much as I should have, although I loved going up on second floor when I could. There you could hide in a tiny cove with a table and chair sitting next to heavy, leaded windows without screens that you could roll out. Spring was wonderful there with a book in hand, bees buzzing in the lilacs under the windows, and air fresh as a newly cut lemon drifting in adding to an already active case of spring fever. That building still sits on campus, but a lovely new Axe Library with all modern conveniences including a coffee bar is now where students study. Somehow, I think I would prefer that old grand dame of a library I used years ago.

As newlyweds from Kansas, we lived at Village Square apartments in Hazelwood, about two blocks from the local shopping center. The St. Louis County bookmobile stopped here every two weeks, and while I was hunting a teaching job in a market overloaded with Language Arts teachers and becoming brave enough to face St. Louis traffic, I visited the bookmobile, a whole new library concept for me. It was books brought TO me and almost to my door.

When the Vietnam War was winding down and the aircraft industry was moving into a slump, DH was frantic over his job’s future. Every Monday and Thursday was pink slip days, a nerve wracking experience for the farm boy who knew nothing of contracts, unions, of lay-offs. Tuesday and Wednesday were the only “peaceful” days of the week for us; he immediately started hunting a non-airplane design job. He wanted to work for the famous Daisy guns in Arkansas, but Carthage and the auto industry was what materialized.

Carthage was a small town, friendly in its own way, but it was a town with stiff social barriers and closed avenues for making connections. People who had lived here a quarter of a century were still considered “newcomers” or “nice, but not natives”. The Public Library, an old Carnegie building of Carthage marble and rounded domes was where I found friendly faces and open thoughts on both the clerks and the shelves. I went regularly for smiles and reading. By the time our children arrived, going to the library was weekly treat. I pushed strollers to the library, on to town, poked around dime stores and walked the two miles back home.

Alice in Wonderland sculpture by Bill Snow at Carthage Public Library.

Eventually I wanted to give back and helped formed a Friends of the Library group for supporting the library with activities and fund-raising. I was full of ideas, but the librarian at the time was a skeptical man. My first adventure was bringing William Childress to town. Childress, born in the Ozarks, was a poet and a columnist for the St. Louis Post Dispatch at the time. His evening program turned out to be standing room only and great night of stories and music by Chilly, as he was called. Another Ozark poet, Joan Yeagley, did a day program with equal success.

When I suggested we get Janet Dailey to come speak and do a book signing, no one thought it was possible. The Friends nixed the idea and the librarian still had his eyebrows lifted in doubt. One day I just decided to send out a feeler on my own. Three days after I mailed my letter, I came home to an answering machine message from Dailey’s husband and manager. Not only would Janet come, but she would donate all proceeds to the library. I had to get busy telling the Friends board and librarian we had work to do as Janet Dailey was on her way. Janet was a congenial person who spoke about her books and writing, greeted fans, and signed books. It was a great event.

I had been substituting for years as my children were growing up, but once college fees were on our doorstep, I took a more permanent job at the junior high. I was greeted by and made good friends with the junior high librarian, now called Media Specialist. I connected students with the library at every possible turn, helped form a reading club, promoted speakers. For a treat in any free time, I read Way Back in the Ozarks by Monk Hefley to my students. They begged for these stories, and Mr. Hefley agreed to come to the school one day a year. He had lunch with us, spoke to all the classes, and gave me tee shirts with his book cover on them. Mrs. Stone had to replace copies of his books often as the readers wore them out. My students wanted to reread the stories, and other classes got wind of the great stories I was sharing with my students and wanted to read them too.

I still love libraries. About five years ago, a friend and I gathered up a few retired teacher friends and formed the Toter book club. (Terrific Old Teachers Enjoy Reading…and have toted many bags of books.) We use library books or donate our own titles to the library once we have held our meetings. We make book donations to the library instead of flowers for celebrations or grief condolences. At the moment there are six of us, representing physical education, Language Arts, Reading, elementary education, geography. Our interests are varied, but we all believe in and support libraries.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mowing Grass

Today I mowed the yard a first time for Spring 2010. The grass, shoots of rascally clover really, got a little tall and untidy this year due to traveling, construction and such. That first time is always a stick cleaning, leaf raking endeavor as well, rather a spring cleaning for the grass. I love to mow and pushing is good exercise. I have mowed with a baby in a sling on my back, a toddler in a jumper on the porch, with kids in the sandbox, and I have dashed around the yard in laps during kiddie nap times. Though it is still my job, now that DH is retired I have a supervisor!

While I grew up in town and DH grew up on a farm, our approach to grass is opposite of what one would expect. DH wanted a lawn and toiled hard working with some sod in places, spraying weeds in others. One day his parents walked up the drive when our car was parked on the lawn for some reason; the window was open, and I heard his dad comment about “the wife letting” DH park there. If he only knew, it was DH who was a stickler about the lawn and had just frowned on me for letting the boys dig in the dirt there.

I grew up with a dad who was a terrorist with his yard. Mom could have no flowers or yard ornaments that had to be mowed around in the summer. Dad would often mow twice a week to keep that grass in perfect condition, and no female could run a mower correctly. Trees were not to be climbed and kids NEVER dug in the dirt. However, he did provide a very nice sandbox for us girls. In the fall, Dad never raked leaves like the other neighbors. He cut them up as fine as a cabbage slaw with the mower, saying old leaves were good mulch for both the soil and the next crop of grass.

After that upbringing, I wanted a yard to be just that--a yard while the boys were growing up. There would be plenty of time after they were grown to have a lawn. I thought soil should be mounded for Tonka road graders and soup spoons should dig ponds for plastic cows. Boys should swing their legs up on lower limbs and climb upwards reaching for the heavens. During the time I had a garden in the back yard, I winched as soccer balls slammed my tomatoes, but I lived with it.

One day a neighbor from a couple of doors down the street walked up and offered to give me lawn advice. She was retired and her lawn was artificial turf perfect. In the autumn, when a leaf dared to fall on her lawn, it was picked up immediately. Mrs. X offered me a solution to dandelions, a brand name that would kill them all. When I said I loved dandelions, that the yellow flowers were like miniature suns, she said, “But they grow into those horrible heads with seeds.” I told her I knew and that the boys loved to puff and blow them apart to float on the wind. She turned on her heel and escaped to her own lawn that was as green and uniform as cellophane Easter grass!

Friday, April 9, 2010


DH and I probably should never have married, but after 40 years what is the use of discussing that one now? Ha, ha. We have as much in common as a river rock and a red balloon, but the differences did not show as much (love is blind come to mind?) during courtship, newlywed years, making a home, holding jobs, rearing children, becoming a part of a community, and growing into adulthood as they do in retirement. From morning until night anymore, each of us look at the other and wonder what alien took possession of our spouse’s body!

While I am a nester, DH isn’t sentimental over anything including a wall. Nothing he likes better than to take a crowbar to sheetrock and rearrange a room. In the latest project here, he attacked the bathroom walls making even the kitchen walls moan in agony with each hit; chunks pink ceramic tile fell into the old bathtub sounding like fine china breaking. The noise was deafening, and I felt like that crowbar was tearing my own tendons with each whack. True, the bathroom needed work, DH needed a project, and I had agreed to take the room down to the studs even when I knew the havoc it would cause all over the entire house and yard.

We had bought our home from second owners who had not taken care of the interior, although the house’s structure was good. The original owners, a highway patrolman and his wife, had built the house when pink was the rage, using every shade of pink they could find for walls, tile, cabinets and floors. But then the shades were totally outdated. We set to work redoing every room, the roof, the garage, and even added a shop over the next number of years. Since DH would never consider hiring help, we learned while doing on many things. A couple of years ago we spent a long while hunting a newer house, but I hated almost all I saw. DH accused me of just not wanting to leave this house where kids were born, sorrows had been lived through, sandboxes became outdated, graduations occurred, prom breakfasts had been served, and my job had been just down the street at the junior high. There might have been some truth to the idea, but mostly I didn’t like new styles that catered to new life styles. I did not want a galley kitchen, or a great room, or to give up a dining area, or to eat at a bar. I told one realtor that the bar had helped wreck families: they forced people to eat all facing outward at a television instead of around a table where they could look into each other’s faces. It was probably a stretch as a sociological statement, but the realtor said he would think about that one.

I don’t need the newest things or most expensive models. I don’t change paint and wallpaper on a whim. I make choices very carefully and then live with them, tending my home with care. Rooms and furniture don’t have to be perfect or even new, but they need to be orderly and comfortable. Living in chaos makes my mind and disposition chaotic too. I can’t sleep or even write if there is a sink full of dirty dishes. Stuffed cabinets or closets, piles of papers on a desk, newspapers crinkled around his feet simply don’t bother DH. And if jeans don’t get taken out of the dryer, why just pull out a pair right there and pull them on! (No need to empty the dryer either until you need another pair!)

How we approached projects nearly reduced me to a pile of plumber’s putty each time we took on a new remodeling or addition. DH spent time making blueprints of a project, but that was the last orderly step for him. He whacked out walls, worked among the trash build up, lost his hammers and found them again, called for broom workers (the kids or me), worked until he dropped from exhaustion and then work stopped until he could get on his feet again. For me, I never did anything without a note pad, each page carrying a supply list for different stages of a project. There was a page for the tearing down, the building up, the painting and finishing, and even a page for what went back on the walls or in the room. I took things in stages, stopping to clean up as I worked, reorganizing tools and work areas as needed. I also was cook and laundress during these adventures, and our projects often looked like Abbot and Costello were the team working on the job. But turn out they did and progress was made.

I agreed to this latest project because it really was necessary as the bathroom needed work on the tile. It was the last of the pink anything in this house, and tiles were becoming loose in spots. However, to get rid of the pink tub meant knocking out the side of the house to get that tub out and new one inside the walls. So after three weeks of being on the run visiting children in opposite directions of three states, waiting on the weather to break, and checking on elderly parents with some serious issues, we arrived home Easter night exhausted but with sun in the forecast. I thought maybe a day to do up laundry, mow the grass, gather our wits and prepare a plan might be in order. I should have known better. DH had his crow bar out at dawn on Monday.

While the side of the house was coming out, the weatherman changed his forecast. The storm front coming in carried hail, 60 mph winds, and possible tornadoes. DH closed the hole with plywood and anchored things down. The storm came and went with only a growl instead of a roar, and the sun came out early. Back to work and the hole was reopened. About 3:00 that day we noticed a chill sitting in; the three day forecast of 75 degree weather had changed again. It went down to 35 degrees Tuesday night and by then the bathroom ceiling was open to the roof rafters. Heat escaped upwards all night long.

Yesterday we went for the new tub to make sure we had the style we wanted even though the job was not quite ready for it. It cost more than DH thought which always sets him into a rant. He thinks you ought to be able to replace a 1959 tub with 1959 prices! Then the two boys loaded the unit for us, they broke flanges off the shower part. It all had to be unloaded and reloaded, meanwhile scratching our truck. Once home, it was DH and me to unload that monster onto the deck. While I once lifted and toted like a stevedore around here, my bones are tired and sore with age. It was no picnic wrestling that unit, but we got ‘er done in time to dash off to my Writer’s Guild.

Writing has been scarce these past weeks, but I am determined to find time again somewhere. Yesterday as we headed to Joplin for the tub, exhaust fan and fixtures, I managed to scribble a few lines on a scrap of paper. Sitting in the truck, I added a few more lines while the men loaded (and reloaded) the tub in the supply yard. Maybe I can finish those lines soon. Right now, I have to go mow the grass (around a truck loaded with sheetrock scraps and rearranged yard furniture). Maybe I will get a new story while walking behind the mower. If not, at least I can daydream about a time in the future when my little nest here on River Street is back to its comfort zone with walls on all four sides!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wichita, Kansas: Air Captial of the World

One would think that a city known as Air Capital of the World would have a larger, more definitive air museum than the one Wichita calls the Kansas Aviation Museum. It has been open since 1991 and is working hard to improve, but it is small and struggling. Housed in the Administration building of what was the Wichita Municipal Airport, the museum sports spirit and history. The building itself is a gorgeous piece of work and the first piece of saving the Aviation Museum tackled. Built in the 1930’s, the construction was halted due to the Depression. Finally the interior was finished and the WPA helped lay runways. The building is decorated in Art Deco, popular at the time and a cast stone mural of Charles Lindbergh’s flight adorns the front of the building.

One small room is now devoted entirely to The Ninety-Nines, an International Organization of Women Pilots that was formed in 1929. It is still active today. Amelia Earhart was one of the first members, and a plate given to her by a grandmother is on display in this room. (Ironically, while I was standing in this tribute to women pilots, my sixteen- year-old niece was doing her first soloing at Iola, Kansas. A new Ninety-Nine member on the horizon!)

Lindbergh himself passed through Wichita, as did Amelia Earhart and other famous flyers since Wichita was the cross roads of American airways. Many movie stars spent time in the waiting areas of this building. Rumor has it Fred Astaire tapped danced here. The Wichita story becomes even more profound when WWII started as farm boys flooded the aircraft companies building planes as other Kansas towns were sites for flight training. During 1945, Wichita Municipal was one of the most active airports with a take off or landing every minute of the day. Over 1000 B29s were built at the Boeing Plant near the airport.

Railways were also important to Wichita and a small Rail Museum near the old depot has a few engines and cabooses one can climb on, ring bells, view from every angle. This Santa Fe steam engine is huge and one of the last class of passenger train engines. It was built in 1938. The train station itself is a beautiful building but up for sale at the present time.

Although we have visited bigger and more flamboyant museums, these two places on a sunny Easter weekend after a long winter made for a nice outing in Wichita.

Another Contest

2010 Poetry/Story Anthology

The On The Edge MSPS chapter is seeking submissions for their 2010 anthology. Each

person whose poem(s) or story gains acceptance for publication will receive a free copy of

the published book, a $17.50 value. The books are library-bound hardback and have an

ISBN number assigned. This will be our eighth annual anthology. We plan to limit the book

size to approximately 200 pages. We are seeking artwork for the cover, and illustrations

for your work. Contact Billy Adams for detailed art submission requirements. We have

switched to a large print format (font #14). For this reason, short poems are preferred. Line

length is especially important. Count the number of characters per line. Keep the number

to 32 or less.

Submission Guidelines

You may submit five poems of one page, or a maximum of five pages, and/or a nonfiction

story. Printing space for each page is approximately three (3)" wide and six (6)" high.

POEMS: Maximum number of lines 36, including spaces and title. Maximum number of

characters per line is 32. Two-page poems are permitted, but the page limit will not be

waived (30 lines per page). STORIES: Limited to 1500 words, fiction, nonfiction or

creative nonfiction. You may submit both poems and a story. If you choose to submit

both, the entry fee will be $15.00. Poems and/or stories may be edited for content. Please

indicate if your story is non-fiction or fiction on the same line as the title.

Subject: any Poetry Form: Any

Submission fee: $10.00 for entry of (5) poems or one (1) story. $15.00 for both if entered

by the same author. Note: If you want your book mailed to you please include $2.50 for

postage and packaging.

Deadline: July 30, 2010 - Early submissions preferred. Accepted submissions printed

in order received. Make check or money order payable to On the Edge, and mail to the

address below. Entry must be accompanied by a signed submission form. Do not email

submissions unless your entry form and fee have been sent. Mail to: Billy J. Adams, 12600

McKinstry Road, De Soto, MO 63020.

Electronic submissions: email to Bill at: Submissions must be in

Microsoft Word format, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003 or 2007 version. You may also send

submissions by mail on a 3" floppy disk. Mac users may submit Apple-works format to

Faye at, or mail on a floppy. If you have questions, call Faye or

Billy Adams at (636) 337-0523, or use either email. Please use Times New Roman, font

size 12, if possible. Poetry: Start all lines at the left margin, except lines tabbed or spaced

for emphases. Centering all lines between margins is acceptable. Each poem must be on a

separate file or page. Story: Single space with indented paragraphs.

Printed Submissions: Each poem must be printed on a separate page, single spaced, plain

white paper only. Submit one copy of each poem. No frills, please. Submit story printed on

plain white paper, single spaced, indented paragraphs, 1500 word limit. Do not put your

name or address on the entries. Put publishing credits at the end of poems and stories.

Reminder: You may include illustrations for your poems or story, if you have them.

Photos are acceptable.
Entry Form

MSPS Chapter On the Edge 2010 Anthology

Name: __________________________________________________________________

Address: ________________________________________________________________



email: _________________________Phone: __________________________________

Pen Name (if other than your legal name and you want your poems identified by your pen


List of submitted poems:

1. _______________________________________________________________

2. _______________________________________________________________

3. _______________________________________________________________

4. _______________________________________________________________

5. _______________________________________________________________



I give permission to the On the Edge Poetry Chapter to publish the above poems and/or

story in their 2010 anthology. If submitted works are published, compensation will be made

in the form of one copy of the 2010 anthology per 5 poems and/or single story. After

publication, all rights will revert back to me. These are original works, written by me.*

Signed by: ______________________________________________________________

Date: _______________________________________________________________

*Please read the submission guidelines carefully. Entries which do not follow the

guidelines will not be accepted.

Please do NOT send Preachy, Political or Obscene material for our book. Our editors

cannot digest properly. They will automatically spew it out.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Trip to Cow Town

Is there anything prettier than a spring sky anywhere but especially in wide open Kansas? The temps were perfect 70 in Wichita today after thunderstorm that was producing nickel-sized hail before it got here in the wee hours of morning. We shuddered thinking of the two trucks sitting in front of the house, but hail did not form here. So when it cleared, we got out in the city. The sky was so luscious, an electric blue inviting people to sit on park benches, walk their dogs, bike, and just BE in general. However, there was a lot of wind which is not unusual for Wichita. The original Kansa people were known as People of the South Wind and that name was apt. The wind blows regularly from the south in Wichita.

Wichita is an urban area with small town feel. Downtown mixes the old building with the new, and there is considerable green space. Sculptures dot the sidewalks making for a unique and interesting atmosphere. A restored area of brick streets and old brick buildings is known as Old Town with a theme of Wichita cow town days when the town was once a thriving destination for cattle drives.

A trip to Wichita almost always includes a trip to the Watermark Bookstore and Café. Another lovely independent bookstore, it has its own café that is always busy. The menu is sandwiches, soups, salads, scones, and desserts. Food items carry literary names, and this time I opted for Cather in the Rye, a turkey sandwich with sun dried tomato mayo. It was very good along with an Easter hot cross bun and iced tea. But I will probably go back to my favorite Great Expectations which is smoked turkey and walnuts on foccacia bread with apricot curry mayo.

There was no hurry on this visit so I took my iced tea and wandered about the book section. I had to quit going down aisles because I found things to bring home in every direction I looked. The nice thing about an independent book store is the emphasis is on quality and not quantity. A shopper finds unique choices when she browses titles hand-picked by store owners. I love the Watermark’s promotion of regional titles and authors as well. This time I walked out with The Journal Keeper, a memoir by writer Phyllis Theroux, a new poetry book by Billy Collins, and delightful paperback titled The Booklover’s Guide to the Midwest, a Literary Tour. Now if I can just find time to read them all in the days ahead!

New Contest from Whispering Prairie Press

2010 Poetry, Flash Fiction, and Essay Writing Awards

Deadline: June 30,2010

Polish your favorite poems, short fiction, and essays for the 2010 Whispering Prairie Press 2010 Poetry, Flash Fiction, and Essay Writing Awards!

Prizes in Each Category: 1st place $100, 2nd place $50, 3rd place $25,

plus one honorable mention for every 10 entries.

Eligibility: Open to all writers age 18 and up, except members of the Board of Directors of Whispering Prairie Press. All work must be the author’s original work.

Poetry: Any style, any subject. Limit: 36 lines

Flash Fiction: A complete fictional short story with a beginning, middle and end. 1,000 words or less

Non-fiction Personal Essay: 1,000 words or less

Submissions: All entries must be unpublished at the time of submission.

1. No limit on number of entries.

2. Submit hard copy with no name on manuscript.

3. Put word count for fiction or line count for poetry in the top right corner.

4. Include a cover sheet with name, address, e-mail, telephone number with area code, category, and title of entry. If author is a full-time college student, add the name of the school

5. Prose must be double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman or Courier. Poetry may be single spaced.

6. Enclose SASE for next year’s guidelines. Entries not returned.

Entry fee: $5 for each entry or 3 entries for $10. (nonrefundable)

Full-time college students: 2 entries for $5 May mix categories.

Address: Whispering Prairie Press Writing Awards

PO Box 8342

Prairie Village, KS 66208-0342

Postmark Deadline: June 30, 2010

Results: Winners will be announced by August 1, 2010, and winners’ names posted at .Judges’ decisions are final.