Thursday, May 27, 2010

Congregation of Mother Co-Redemptrix


 The first Station of the Cross in the Peace Garden at Congregation of Mother Co-Redemptrix.

This morning had a feel of “before DH retired” about it. After a restless night due to sticky humidity, DH hit the floor early so he could visit Lowe’s to gather supplies for a trip to his elderly parents’ farm in Kansas tomorrow. I begged out since I had seen plenty of Lowes during the bathroom renovation! But dear DH’s truck had not hit the corner stop sign before I had my bike out for a ride. I did not rack up a lot of miles or callous up my bottom with this one ride, but hopefully, it was a start on a good summer habit.

I would love living near the Katy Trail as I love riding on a stretch of road like that path. I am getting a little old to fight off dogs and dodge cars as swiftly as I once did. However, OLO (I still think of this property as Our Lady of the Ozarks, which is how I heard it referenced when I first moved here.)is only a few blocks away. I am content to ride its circles and oval drives over and over again to avoid traffic. The Vietnamese that now own the property are generous to walkers and riders. I hope they never close off the grounds to the rest of us in the community.

These grounds are only a few acres, most of a city block and have a history that started in 1924 when the Methodists built what was to be named Ozark Wesleyan College. However, the Depression hit and the college suffered closing its doors in 1933. Then near the end of WWII in 1944, the Catholic Oblates of Mary Immaculate bought the land and buildings to be used as a minor seminary. For about a quarter of a century, the priests ran a print shop and college classes here before closing in 1971. We moved here in 1972 and found it sad that such a gorgeous set of buildings and chapel constructed of native stone stood empty.

Then in 1975 when the boat people of Vietnam were being settled all over the United States, what was left of a small seminary of Vietnamese priests bought the complex and renamed it Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix. Over the years they have added a retirement home for aging priests, bought additional land making a drive through Stations of the Cross, and poured a few miles of concrete streets and paths through the property. At Christmas they erect a drive through Night Light Display and once a year in August they host a gathering of about 40,000 Vietnamese from all over the country to pray in Thanksgiving for their deliverance to America. It is like a gigantic family reunion for some of the families who plan all year so they can attend this event.

Riding around the oval on the northern set of roads, there is no shade. This morning this area was very hot already even though it was early. Going into the southern piece of property is like riding your bike into a lovely private park. The huge oaks, walnuts, and maples provide a great deal of shade. The heavy fragrance of honeysuckle hangs in the air. The Vietnamese have set up the Stations of the Cross in white marble which glisten in the sunshine. A small water fall, gold fish pond, and flower garden surround a huge cross jutting out of mounded boulders and rocks reminding visitors of Calvary. This morning I saw they had added two new angels--beautiful statues. A light meditative music of piano and flute float throughout, although the bird song and squirrel chatter are music enough. This morning I saw a Cooper’s hawk fly into the tree tops, and I have seen deer when I have ridden here before. However, with houses building up around the grounds, I fear the deer days are numbered.

I hope I can repeat this ride soon and often this summer!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Win and Acceptance Day

I hate waking up feeling groggy from a poor night’s sleep. Instead of bouncing out of bed this morning, I dragged around starting domestic chores. Trying to beat heat of the day, I started cooking. I baked some Danish that were edible but not great, and I did some mini-pot pies that were in the same category. I assembled Spanish rice in the crock pot for supper and stirred up soy and butter sauce for a green bean casserole I will try in the microwave this evening. All of this made enough food to handle another day’s food down the line when added to a salad or cheese. I am looking forward to that day-maybe some writing ahead! Then I started on a laundry that is seeming to go forever today.

I did win a book off the Debra Vogts website today. It is Wildflowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer. Here is the Product Description taken from Amazon: When nurse Hanne Abrahamsen impulsively shields Steffen Petersen from a nosy Gestapo agent, she’s convinced the Lutheran pastor is involved in the Danish Underground. Nothing could be further from the truth. But truth is hard to come by in the fall of 1943, when Copenhagen is placed under Martial Law and Denmark’s Jews—including Hanne—suddenly face deportation to the Nazi prison camp at Terezin, Czechoslovakia. Days darken and danger mounts. Steffen’s faith deepens as he takes greater risks to protect Hanne. But is either of them willing to pay the ultimate price for their love?

I also got notification from Patchwork Path that they will be using My Bought Lesson in an upcoming anthology. I have not seen any of this publisher’s copies or work, but have run across the name Patchwork Path several times this winter. I am anxious to see what develops. I submitted last August and should have heard by March. May is considerably later, but hey, any small or late confirmation can keep me going!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blogging with Tea Cups

The temperature has dropped about ten degrees in the last hour and thunder rumbles in the distance. After several lovely days with lots of sunshine, a rain shower can be tolerated when it arrives. Sunday was our 40th wedding anniversary, and DH and I treated ourselves to grilled meat and a sit on the deck. It was a wonderful day, but yesterday morning it was back to work on this place. The heat and humidity made outside work rather miserable as the day wore on, and I nearly gave myself a heart attack mowing this place and trimming the shrubs. Normally, I do only one job at a time, but DH was making rumblings of trimming those shrubs. Last time he left the shrubs looking like an Army barber had cut them! This morning it was back to work on cleaning sets of sliding glass doors, a front glass door, and the kitchen window.

For a break I checked my blog list which I always enjoy, but I do have to be careful or I meander away from any work details for too long. This morning reading about tea things captured my attention as I love tea and tea pots almost as much as reading and writing. When I saw the lovely crocheted “tea set” on blogger buddy Becky’s page ( I was lost for a while. Reading her page then took me to another blog ( about a lovely flowered tea cup. So I grabbed a camera and started taking pictures of my own cups and pots. Mind you, this is not all of them, only a sampling.

This springtime cup was one of my first purchases from a tea room that was in town at the time. I had cups and mugs that matched my kitchen dishes, but I wanted this special cup because it was so pretty. I loved the heft of the cup when I used it. I enjoyed it so much I became hooked on tea cups and tea pots.

This black and off white tea pot is trimmed in gold and is a pretty pot to use. I favor white or florals, but when I saw this unused pot at a garage sale, I knew it had to come home with me. The cup and saucer are from a set of brown and white dishes my mother-in-law used for several years. She favored blue and whites, but these browns were a favorite too. One day someone was helping her clean and dropped a tray of the dishes, breaking them all but a few odd pieces.  

This pot is probably a coffee pot rather than a tea pot. It was with a set of pot, sugar bowl, and creamer I ran into in a flea market late one day coming home from Oklahoma. I was really wanting the sugar bowl, a lovely lidded affair. But when I learned the whole tea set was only $10, I figured the extra peices were just a bonus. When I got home, I researched the mark. It is Polish pottery and the designs the company uses were created by concentration camp prisoners in Nazi Germany during WW II. It was a strange sensation to think the patterns survived when the creators didn't, and I was glad I had bought the set to bring home out of the dark shelves of the flea market.

I love my whites and these are only two. The taller one is again a coffee pot. But it was practically free in an anitque shop. The square one is darling to use and pours so beautifully. It came from a tea room in Sprinfield, Kentucky. I was accompanying DH on a business trip to a plant in Kentucky, and Sprinfield was our lunch stop. It was a  little town, the county seat,  built around a small square. I don't remember the name of the tea room, but it was darling. The decor was filled with tea pots, cups and plates. The food was superb. I remember a cranberry salad there that I have never tasted elsewhere. The shop's business was brisk with business men as well as lunching women. It was obviously known for good food, good tea.

I have a couple of nice 4-6 cup Blue Willow tea pots, but when I saw these blues at World Market, I thought I had to bring them home. They are not Willows but Willow-inspired. The square cup is what sold me on the set. The pot is big enough to serve two, but it is called a tea for one. The lilac and white tea kettle to the left is a delicate feminine pot and makes a wonderful tea party tea pot.

I am not big on decorative tea pots because I actually use all my tea pots for brewing. The rabbit tea pot was just too cute to pass up though,  and he was cleanance. He makes a nice Easter breakfast tea pot. The floral tea pot is one a friend gave me as a gift. Her sister-in-law does china painting, and Tracy had her do this one for me. It is one too lovely to use because I fear chipping this one. It is a beauty!

Another gift pot was this blue and white my sister gave me. She and her daughter were hitting flea markets one day, and she said this made her think of me. It is a very nice blue and white, quite different from anything I have.

DH picked out this Nipon tea pot. He found it at a flea market and thought I would like it. It is different from what I might have picked, but I like it. It pours well; I love the long spout and nice handle. It dates somewhere between the 1920's and 1940's I think, and yet this pot did not look to have been used. Someone missed some great pots of tea!

Somewhere along the line, I got intersted in egg codlers. I was looking for a Blue Willow one, but I got side-tracked with these few designs from the 1950s. I have acutally made eggs in them which is interesting to do. Coddled eggs, toast in a rack, and freshly brewed tea in a nice pot make a fabulous breakfast!

In fact, any time is a good time for tea!

Friday, May 21, 2010


The monsoon seasons seems to have abated. Today the birds were singing and splashing in the bird baths all day long. House wrens trilled, and the Carolina wrens were flying in four or so at a time chirping “hello”. The promise is for near 90 degrees this weekend. That might make Missouri feel like a sauna.

I raced out to the deck this morning sweeping off leaves and storm debris. I shook out the summer tablecloth onto the picnic table and set out plastic place mats on the round table. I stirred up real cookies (ones with the forbidden sugar and oil) and brewed ice tea. I knew, or at least hoped, it was time for tropical flavors again. I got out the pottery drinking glasses that I use for iced tea spoons too. I picked these up at the Blue Heron Pottery in Chama, New Mexico years ago. They just say “deck time” to me.

Isn’t this lovely tea? It is a nice China black flavored with mango, passion fruit, kiwi, and then laced with snappy blue and yellow flowers. I first tasted this tea at a sandwich shop in Lebanon, Missouri years ago. The clerk had no idea where the owner ordered her tea. I was to find it by a back door method years later.

For the few years that the Tea and Truffles tea room was open in Carthage, two teas they served were favorites of my friends. One was a Ginger Peach purchased from Republic of Tea. The gals who owned the tea room served this in frosted glasses with a slice of peach floating among the ice cubes. What a delight!

But even more popular with my lady friends was a cinnamon orange black tea served again in frosted glasses and with an orange slice perched on the glass rim. When the business closed, our biggest lament wasn’t losing the chilled strawberry soup, the extraordinary quiches, or the handmade desserts; it was the losing of our source for a glass of well brewed tea and the special cinnamon orange tea in bulk.

While there are several classy tea vendors around and some who sell a cinnamon tea, nothing could replace “our” tea. I eventually tracked down this original black tea for all of us in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. A few years later those folks moved their business to Durango, Colorado where you can now order soups, teas, and gourmet foods from thier web page: I tried all their other teas like blackberry, strawberry, and Snow Monkey finding them good as well. What a surprise when I found one of them was that good tropical with blue flowers I had tried in Lebanon years earlier. This flavored tea means warm weather sipping. Today when a friend and her DH dropped by, we took those crisp cookies and a pitcher of this tea to the deck to make a toast to what we hope is a string of sunny summer days!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Missouri Writing Contests

I am not a member of this writing guild, but I do occasionally get notices about their contests. This is an inexpensive contest to enter and does have some prize money attached. I will post the complete info. Entries are not due until the fall!

Springfield Writers’ Guild

17th Annual Literary Awards

Jim Stone Grand Prize Memorial Awards

#1 Poetry any subject, any form Limit: 1 page, single spaced

#2 Fiction any subject Limit: 1,500 words

#3 Non-Fiction any subject Limit: 1,500 words

Awards for categories #1 - #3:

1st place - $100 and certificate Two Honorable Mentions and certificate

($3 per entry for categories 1-3)

Prose Poetry

(Limit of 1,000 words/entry)                                (Limit of one single-spaced page)

#4 Essay or Article – Ozarks Related                 #9 Rhyming – any subject or form

#5 Short Story – any genre                                  #10 Humorous Verse – any form

#6 Nostalgia/Reminiscence                                    #11 Free Verse – any subject

#7 Humor – any subject                                          #12 Haiku – traditional (5,7,5 – nature theme)

#8 Essay or Opinion Piece

Awards for categories #4 - #12:

1st place - $20 and certificate 2nd place - $10 and certificate

3rd place $5 and certificate One Honorable mention and certificate

($2 per entry for categories 4-12)

Entry Guidelines:

1. All entries must be the original, unpublished work of the contestant.

2. Do not enter the same prose or poetry in more than one category

3. All manuscripts must be typed on 8½ x 11 paper in standard manuscript form. Prose must be double-spaced and

poetry must be single-spaced. All entries must have a title except the haiku.

4. Place the category name and number, plus the word count for prose, in the upper left corner of each entry.

List the poetry form where applicable.

5. DO NOT PUT YOUR NAME ON THE ENTRY. Include a cover sheet listing ALL entries by category, name,

number, title, and the first line of the manuscript or poem. Put your name, address, phone number and email address

on the cover sheet.

6. Keep all originals; no copies will be returned. No entries/winners will be published.

7. Winners will be announced and awards given at the October 2010 regular S.W.G. meeting or mailed to those unable

to attend.

8. DEADLINE: All entries must be postmarked no later than October 1, 2010. SWG is not responsible for lost,

misdirected, or postage-due entries.

9. For a list of winners, please include a SASE with your entry.

10. There is no limit on entries per category. However, no entrant may win more than one award per category entered,

regardless of the number of entries.

11. Any entry that does not follow these guidelines will be immediately disqualified without reimbursement.

Mail contest fees and entries to:

Dr. Jerry Wible, SWG Contest

2987 E. Kemmling Lane

Springfield, MO 65804

For more information:

Email: or

Phone: Jerry (417) 889-8370 or Mandy (417) 830-7660

Make all checks payable to: Springfield Writers’ Guild Contest.
Here is a poetry contest with a June deadline...still time to enter!
Whispering Prairie Press
2010 Poetry, Flash Fiction, and Essay Writing Awards
Deadline: June 30,2010
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.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rain, rain, go away....

Day after day it has rained here for nearly two weeks. On Sunday afternoon I pushed DH into going to a movie just to get out of the house. I chose Russell Crowe in Robin Hood; I splurged for a theater drink and buttered popcorn, scrunching down in the seat for an afternoon of pounding horse hooves and swashbuckling in Merry Ole England on the big screen. I wasn’t disappointed and felt refreshed enough to walk back out into our world of gray skies dotted with ponderous clouds.

Somewhere after 10:00 this morning the sun came out. The afternoon was a perfect spring day if you overlooked the spongy earth, and though my flowers stood in water, they lifted their heads with hope. That is because they can’t hear the local weather forecasters telling us that the rain will return in the morning and stay for a few more days. Then by the weekend, temps should be approaching 90 degrees when the rain pulls out again. Oh great, then my flowers can steam like a sauna in their wet pots!

I visited each pot today and pulled out about 75 tiny maple trees that were growing among the sagging blooms. Amazing that those teeny trees could thrive in such lousy weather. My writing ideas were like those maples; they were popping up everywhere, scattered around, teasing my mind. I wanted to write but none of the ideas came to fruition. My thoughts rambled and felt fuzzy; they were more like irritating weeds than strong ideas that would bloom into great plots or essays. So I spent time making changes in existing stories or poems, hopefully making them stronger, not just different.

I checked my writing log and saw some pieces have been out long enough I should be considering resubmitting somewhere else. I went though writing folders and found a short piece I wrote for a contest that I did not log! Foolish me! The contest was to write about a picture of an open newspaper on a table in front of a rain streaked window, but I have no idea where I submitted it too!

I gave up and looked for markets, but that too was disappointing. Old favorite magazines have changed their formats or dropped their fiction. Many want a writer to be agented before dealing with them. I did find some interesting places that were not new, just new to me. One was Grace Notes, a place for writer to get critiqued and to enter contests. I saw no entry fees and prize money is small, but it is a paying market. Go to to check it out for yourself.

I saw an ad for Boulevard Magazine that is published in the St. Louis area. New to me, the web page at says the publication is 25 years old! There are short story and poetry contests and the entry fees are reasonable. However, when I saw names like Billy Collins, James Tate, Joyce Carol Oats, and Alice Hoffman among others as contributors, I was intimidated by their level of skill and success. Maybe I should think longer about approaching this market.

Activity changed again and I gave reading a shot. Nothing seemed to hold my interest. I went to the library and got some new books. Brought home Belle in the Slouch Hat by Mimi Mathis. Written by an Arkansas author, the book deals with a Belle Starr like character in the Carthage area. Maybe something regional will spur me into writing again.

As dear Scarlett would say, “Tomorrow is another day.” Yes it is, another day of thunderstorms and pouring rain. Hopefully, a lightning strike of creativity will occur somewhere near my desk!

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Authors for a Rainy Day

Imagine the pluck in my younger years when I was reading James Michener books. It was the day of snail mail or telephones only, and I wrote the author with an idea for a book and an offer to help him research it. No, I never got an answer back, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. After all nothing ventured, nothing gained. I also wrote Feenie Ziner about her moving book Within This Wilderness, a memoir of a mother’s love for a son unwilling to accept the draft during the Vietnam years. I read the book twice and was deeply moved by the author’s writing. Ms. Ziner did answer me with a handwritten note that I still have.

With today’s social networking, it is easier to stay in touch with activities of favorite authors. The one good thing about the new connections is that readers can meet even more ideas, books, and authors than they thought possible. However, it presents a time problem reading all the genres, much less all the books! I have not read much Christian fiction, but recently I am bumping into titles and authors repeatedly so I guess I need to take time to check it out.

Last night’s Writer’s Guild hosted Christian writer Cindy Dagnan, a new name for me. Cindy was vivacious and talked a mile a minute. Her laugh was infectious; you had to feel more alive just being in the same room with her. One of her latest books is Hot Chocolate for Couples which is a how-to book with practical suggestions on how to sweeten up your marriage. Cindy shared with the group some of her experiences with writing and submitting.

Although published many times, Cindy was quick to announce that she had just received her 18th rejection from Woman’s World. Like many of us, she wants to break into that market, put a mark on her belt for having a piece of fiction in this weekly magazine. Some of us share her goal and her disappointment at rejection as well.

One of the most interesting things Cindy told about herself last night was her tendency to try anything. She told of asking well known authors and artists for book blurbs or drawings for her books. When told she couldn’t approach famous people, that they would never respond, she asked herself, “Why Not?” Then Cindy proceeded to ask people like Bill Keane of the Family Circus cartoon to loan her drawings for her books. He said yes! She also admitted to writing blurbs on the outside of her own submission envelopes, things like Double Dare You as in dare you to read this. I loved her verve!

You can visit Cindy’s website at:

Imagine my shock when the Country magazine arrived and I opened it up to an article about author Deborah Vogts from my hometown! I do not know Ms. Vogts, and in fact, I had never even heard of her until two weeks earlier when I ran across her first book title. She has a new book series called the Seasons of the Tallgrass and Snow Melts in Spring is the first title. Her second Seeds of Summer is to be out this month. Vogts’s books are Christian fiction novels set in the Flint Hills. It was the location of the Flint Hills that captured me right from the beginning. If you have never visited the Kansas Flint Hills, you are missing a beautiful sweeping vista of this Earth. Her story is well told and the Kansas scenery is a perk to the novel. I had to smile when I read about Coover’s bridge, a fictional structure, but with names and imagery of “home”.

Vogts has included a book video trailer on her web site that is worth your time for beauty of the land alone. You can visit the author’s Country at Heart page at Also, if you would like a chance to win a copy of one of Vogts’s books, go to

This morning soft thunder rumbles in the distance like a purring cat, content with rain that continues to fall after days and nights of rain. As I listen to the steady stream of rainwater racing through the gutters and watch my spring flowers drowning on the deck, I think there is no choice of activities for this day. I will pour another cup of hot tea, curl up with Snow Melts in Spring and return to the Flint Hills today with Deborah Vogts. It is a reading day!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Have You Read Madeleine L'Engle?

When I was a young girl, The Jetsons were a popular cartoon. I hated the program though because I did not want to live in a world of fast things, silver clothes, and a button pushing life. I thought the year 2020 and beyond sounded ominous. Here I am headed towards that year and living in a world of things that go faster and faster every day. Ah, some of it is fine, but basically I think some of the Old Ways are still best.

When DH brought home the first computer, I hated it. I wailed at Doss prompt. I could not compute back splash, etc. If it wanted to stop, or go, or whatever, why not type in END or START? Seemed more logical to me. Gradually I made peace with some of it, although I was afraid of “talking” on lists or public pages. My one exception to this fear was a group of people that followed the writer Madeleine L’Engle. Here I met the most gracious and thoughtful new “friends”.

I would come home from work excited to read the news in the L’Engle world or in the lives of list members. One young person I worried about so much I came home during my lunch hour everyday for a week so I could keep tabs on her, hoping to hear her dark mood was lifting. These people followed Miss M as a writer, but also did a book club type discussion of her books. Their all time favorite was her young adult book, A Wrinkle in Time. I had tried Wrinkle and never could finish it. I tried again and still it was not a favorite of mine, but then I am not fond of science fiction or fantasy reading. While well known for her fantasy books, L’Engle was prolific in other genres such as poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and prayers as well.

But I loved L’Engle’s non-fiction books best and have read them all more than once. I have underlined and highlighted them much; each new color denotes a read in a different time of my life. Circle of Quiet, a memoir, was the first of her books I read. Reading about her challenges being a writer, wife and mother all at the same time appealed to me. Her open mindedness towards religion in books like A Stone for a Pillow (Jacob) and Sold into Egypt (Joseph) broadened my own beliefs. Young Adult fiction like Ring of Endless Light exposes meaning on life and death for readers of any age.

In one of my favorite books, Walking on Water, L’Engle writes about the relationship between art and faith. She also addresses our creativity and our business as artists. “To create a work of art, great or small, is work, hard work, requires discipline and order.” (L’Engle)

I met so many people online that I never saw face to face. I met a lovely quiet librarian in Canada, a teacher and writer in another part of Canada, a writer for a Mennonite publication in the Midwest, and many people scattered around the country and abroad. One, Ginny a teacher in Aztec, New Mexico, I managed to meet personally. When she learned we were to be in the Durango, Colorado area, she invited me to cross the border and visit Aztec. DH and I met Ginny in a tiny café for a delicious lunch and chat after visiting a cliff dwellers ruin in a National Park outside Aztec. We both learned our families were afraid of our “picking up” someone one line, but we both were glad we made the meeting.

L’Engle died about three years ago from old age, but her discussion group still keeps in touch once in a great while, usually when one needs prayers or support. Her books are not only still in print but some are being re-released. Also her granddaughter, Lena (who is mentioned in L’Engle’s own works) is keeping up the L Engle writing tradition with your own YA novel Edges coming out in the autumn. (Pre order at Amazon:

While L’Engle came of age during the 30’s, reared her family during the 50’s, was a award winning writing during the next several decades, she was a woman of faith, investigator of truth, and inspiration to all writers into the 21st century. Miss M would have had no problem accepting space travel, labor saving devices or leisure time. She probably would have loved the Jetsons because though they were modern, they remained people who were honest, truthful, and kind.

When the world is too much for me, L ‘Engle’s books are ones I pick up so I can return to an earlier time. If you missed her somewhere along the way, maybe you should seek out one of her books for a good read. Do a little time traveling of your own—backwards to simpler times with a great writer.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Life Outside

My dad hated paper plates and plastic forks; he did not care for eating outside. But I loved picnics and longed for them. When I became a mother, I wanted a picnic table for backyard picnics. As young married, DH thought picnic tables were expensive and frivolous. At the time a nice cost about $90, but I kept up my campaign for outside eating until he agreed to make one out of redwood for half the price. Our house at the time only had a cement step down into the yard, but I made many a trip carrying food, dishes, and tablecloths outside so we could “picnic” in our back yard. With two food dribbling little boys, it made more sense to eat in the yard than do clean up in the house anyway!

Then I decided I wanted a deck or some kind of porch. DH frowned again and said he would build it if I would save the money somehow. I asked him how much I needed and “at least $500” was the answer. DH thought the sum was so high at the time, I could never do it; but I set to work and by spring of one year, I had money in an envelope. No way out of it, DH had to start swinging a sledge hammer to break up the old steps, measure off and start digging post holes. I wanted nothing fancy, just a space big enough to set the picnic table, add a few chairs, leaving room to dream on a summer’s day.

Once it was done, our family lived on this deck. DH found respite after work under the spreading tree leaves. Boys cooled off after soccer games, flew paper planes from the railings, and crawled out of their tree house to have sandwiches here. Flowers in pots became our garden. Wrens sang to us daily; robins bathed in our bird baths and rabbits lived underneath. We watched the seasons go from pansies to geraniums to mums. In autumn we piled up pumpkins and squash. Friends came for sandwich suppers; ladies came for morning tea parties with scones and china cups. Most of all, I used the deck as an outdoor reading room where my dreams were not hindered by four walls.

Eventually we added so many flowers, another table with chairs more comfortable than wooden benches, and cement pieces that we felt crowded. A couple of years ago I dared to ask DH what he thought of extending the length of the deck a wee tad. This time, no frown as he loved the deck as much as I did. He set work stretching out the deck along the house. Now we live out there as soon as weather permits. While he was still in the work force, he would start the day there with a cup of tea, hating to move off to his working day. I had lunch out there for him at noon. Again in the evening, we carried out trays, newspapers, and bare feet for the supper hour staying until summer mosquitoes or darkness drove us inside.

When autumn mums begin to get nipped by chilly nights and turkeys with fanned tails begin to appear on the local elementary school windows, we know it is time to close up the deck for winter. We put flower pots in the shed, move chairs up under the eves, take down bird houses and turn over the bird baths. It is always such a sad time, but we are comforted by knowing “if winter comes, can spring be far behind”, as the poet Shelley says. As soon as the Christmas tree comes down in January, we begin to count the days when we can shout to our friends, “Come on over….the deck is open again!”

Now the new sliding door will allow a quick trip outside on those sleepless nights we all have. Tired of tossing among the sheets, worrying about who knows what, bare toes can slip out the bathroom door, eyes can peer up into a star-speckled sky and know that the heavens still hang where God put them and life will unfold as it was meant to do, sleep or no sleep at all. While my Dad enjoyed his outside hours on the back of a cycle leaning into curves, and others find theirs tramping through the woods, I find my outside pleasure in my own backyard standing on a few planks of wood.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Friends and Fishing

            Mexican petunia, gift from Elaine Woelich

With only a few final tasks left on the bathroom project, we headed out for a pre-planned fishing trip to Roaring River. It had rained all night and the skies were cloudy Sunday with air chilly enough for a sweatshirt. The drive down was gorgeous because the early and easy spring had made the grasses, fields, and trees lush; the recent rain had washed them, leaving everything green and vibrant despite a lack of sunshine.

Our friends, Jim and Elaine, had beaten us to the state park. It did not take us long to unload suitcases since the lodge let us check in early. Jim and DH grabbed poles and flies and headed to the river, while Elaine and I poured icy colas and began chattering like magpies, catching up on each others lives. Our friendship is a few months short of being 40 years old. As young marrieds, we ended up in the same apartment complex in Hazelwood where we drove old cars, played board games, threw Frisbees for our dogs, and pooled our foods for simple shared meals as we planned our mutual futures.

Jim and Elaine had grown up in St. Genevieve and married while Jim was in the Navy during the Vietnam years. Once Jim left the battleship Missouri, they came to St. Louis so Jim could attend school and Elaine did cosmetology. DH and I had come from Kansas so DH could design planes for McDonnell Douglas, and I hunted a teaching job. I ended up subbing at Hazelwood High everyday and taught Senior English at night. DH also had a second job in the Sears Credit Depart at Northwest Plaza. Between the two of us, we had four jobs, one car, a school loan, and very little of anything else. However, it was a good time of our life, although we were not aware of that the when every day produced a transmission crisis, hauling clothes to a Laundromat, or when the government contract jobs began to be cut as Vietnam wound down.

Eventually, Jim and Elaine moved first Florissant as Jim joined the McDonnell team; DH found a design job in automotive on the other side of the state. We all stayed in touch through letters, and when we each had our first toddler, the Woelichs came to our home for a few days. We gals had a great time weaving baskets, making macramé, talking motherhood while the men took the canoe to Spring River. We took them to the Lamar Fair, saw Harry Truman’s birthday place, and crossed the state line for Coors beer that was unavailable in Missouri at the time. It was the first of many get togethers we were to have. Another son each, different jobs, first soccer teams, loss of parents, surgeries, and all of life’s events happened while we stayed in touch. Every few years we managed to meet somewhere for a face to face visit. Then they went to Finland for a couple of years to work and still we stayed in touch.

The kids are gone now, scattered across the Midwest, and we use fast emails to stay up on each other’s lives. We aim for a fishing trip once a year or so. Last year it was fishing on Table Rock, but it rained for almost the entire three days. Still, we had some fun eating Italian casseroles with red wine followed by hearty games of dominoes. This year it was Roaring River, and we feared a repeat of rain. However, the clouds moved out late Sunday afternoon; both the days and nights became perfect. The men did fly fishing in the park and also took a boat to Table Rock. We gals scooted over to Eureka Springs, peaking in shops before the summer crowds become thick. A wonderful lunch at the Mud Street Café was delightful.

This year’s rendezvous ended with loading up our gear and then having a nice picnic in the park before a final parting. Dappled sunlight fell over our sandwiches and cookies; the river in deed “roared” as it tripped over the rocks and stones that had been the river bed for eons of time. Now it is time to mow again, finish the bathroom, and find time to enjoy the flowers and deck time of summer. Winter writing rejections are beginning to make themselves known; it is time also for new inspiration and new words, maybe even a poem about old friends.