Sunday, April 29, 2012


We have been getting ready for a farm sale for close to a year. The work, worry, and trips to Kansas have ratcheted up as the months went by. Each trip was reliving years of experiences and saying goodbye to a life as it used to be. The house has stood without residents for two years while the in-laws accepted assisted living. They finally said they could not go back. I will spare you the stories of no water to clean with, rodents invading the house, rotting wood on the deck dropping me like a hangman’s trap door, the snakes slithering about, the tornado watch as the final cleaning was done, and the disappearing asparagus patch!

Regular readers know how hard any estate sale or home auction is for me. It is sad to me to see buyers at any sale consider and then disregard a lifetime in the dishes that once served family meals at a mother’s hand, a tool used endlessly in a father’s fist, tablecloths painstakingly crocheted by a grandmother’s enlarged knuckles, or a cheap piece of colored glass that sat forever directing the morning sun’s rays on the living room wall. At the farm sale it was hard to see a woman walk away with piece of pottery or a basket that belonged to my mother-in-law. I had to fight the urge to say, “Hey you, where are you going with that!” But the children had taken all they could take; it had to be sold.

Once the sorting and boxing and cleaning were done, the auction itself was easier. There was a melancholy underneath the day sure, but there was laughter as well as tears. The leaning port a potty? Or maybe some ugly item that no family member appreciated but sold for a surprising price. Neighbors appeared just to show support; men who had farmed the land with my father-in-law or who might have borrowed a rake or cultivator some hot summer day. Women who knew of my mother-in-law’s paintings, wanting one more, realizing there would be no more Dorothy art for their own farmhouse walls.

We got up Friday to a serious tornado watch and the promise of heavy rains for Saturday mornings. But by the end of that day, there had been no hail or rain and the forecast had changed for the next day. As we sat out under the trees after the last of the work was done the night before the auction, a breeze picked up. I have always thought God was in the wind, and I felt that He was whispering to us that the blessings would continue. They did as NO rain on Saturday, no burning sun, no cold, no wind. A slight cloud cover kept the temps perfect for a crowd to stand about at an auction.

My mother-in-law told me she was not happy about the sale but knew it was time. She said life for her is now in a new phase; she would not fight this passage. She is a lesson in what we all have to do some day. Although another chapter in Life's book has ended, only a page is turned.

Today has been quiet. Both our minds and bodies are at rest here at home. A few hours ago one son notified us of his no-problem half marathon run this morning-on his birthday. The other son sent a picture of baby Simon’s first haircut. Yes, the story continues.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Blurb Friday/Night Space

Life left a little crack in the door this week so I have a chance to play a bit over at Lisa’s blog There every Friday she posts a picture and lets you have 150 words to write a book jacket for a possible book. For full details and to read more book blurbs, visit Lisa’s blog page. My own attempt is below.

Night Space by Lexie Shimard
On the pages of Shimard’s new book of poetry, readers will visit the world of a woman, her stages of angst, frustration, and happiness. Full of metaphor for the simple things and where the poet catches the extraordinary in lines of unusual imagery, this new book Night Space is a delightful read.

Shimard tells readers that “over the next hill rages the life I need to live” and then describes her own skin that “longing for touch, melts into his hand like butter in a biscuit”.  Addressing the passing days and nights along with the evaporating seasons of her life, the poet shares such lines as  “the man in the moon caressed me, then kissed my cheek well after midnight”.
While the book tells a story, each poem is complete in itself. Night Space invites readers in and encourages them to stay as long as they want.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Want to Write? Then Read!

In numerous places I have seen and heard that if one wants to be a writer, be a reader. I taught my writing lab students the same.  Read all you can get your hands on, read diverse material, and even copy out by hand good passages to get the feel of words by a good writer. On the other hand, reading might be my own personal writer’s block! Once I start, I can’t stop. Thus, my writing doesn’t get done. Oh, the ideas float around in my head, might even interrupt my readings some, but if I am not careful I am reading everything instead of writing anything.
Last week I picked up a writing book at the library book sale for twenty-five cents. Great bargain but I did not need one more writer book. Titled The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, I haven’t gotten it read yet, because…too many other reads ahead of it. I am anxious to see what those 38 mistakes are…could reading too much be one of them?

This week I have been poring over writer magazines.  Sometimes the issues come, and I am done in a short while as nothing pertains to me or helps me where I am at in writing at the moment. The May/June issue of Writer Digest offered some group writing ideas in the Inkwell column. I am always on the lookout for something I can do with my small writers’ guild since it is made up of such an assortment of people writing in so many varied genres.

The May issue of The Writer had an article called A Writing Marathon encouraging writers to participate in marathons and offered a year calendar of upcoming events involving this kind of writing.  I find it intimidating to think of writing an assigned amount like 50,000 words in a month, but I wonder if I should try it?
In the same issue a small half page piece addresses second readings of works in the article "What We Learn in ReReading". Here Chuck Leddy directs us to a book by Patricia Meyer Spacks called On Rereading, a book of essays. By rereading favorite books at different times in our lives we pick up different things or with different responses because we are different people ourselves at each reading from our varied experiences. I have experienced this first hand myself many times. When newly married and living in an apartment near St. Louis, I poured over D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. While I found it steamy and enjoyed the story, I wondered why the fuss enough to put it on a banned list at one time. About twenty years later, I reread the book and kept looking for what it was I saw in the pages the first time. In another ten years I read it and found it, well, not my kind of literature. What was wrong with those people anyway? I wonder what I would glean from the pages now in this stage of my life.

Do you have favorite books to reread…if so, what are they?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Veda Boyd Jones, author

Last night one of our guild members presented a program on writing dialogue. Veda Boyd Jones will present the same program at a summer meeting of the Missouri Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SWBWI). She was full of new information and a sound review of old tips on writing dialogue.
Veda is a lively sprite that radiates energy and sunshine. You just feel good being around her, and she is a grand asset to our writers’ guild. She always offers a helping hand to others with their writing either by critiques or help with a chapter after hours.

A couple of memos to myself from Veda’s presentation:

1.      Do not name too many characters in your story. Readers try to keep character straight so don’t name minor characters that could be distracting. Be reader friendly when you write.

2.      Use contractions. Once considered an undesirable usage, now contractions are the choice. Usage changes; be aware of new trends in the language.

3.      Use dialect sparingly. After a few dialect uses from a character’s mouth, the reader’s mind will automatically make the changes in the character’s voice; the reader will “hear” how the character speaks without using pages of dialect.

4.      Give the characters name BEFORE a tag verb. This is more reader friendly again.
             Example: “Give me a hand,” Marty said.

While Veda has romances on the market, she has been writing mainly children’s books the last few years. Recently she published a mystery called Joe’s Ghost for e-readers. Also her romances are now appearing as e-books. Readers can find her romance novella Summer Breezes, a retelling of Romeo and Juliet with a Grand Lake setting,  at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Changes at the Book Store

Yesterday we got up to chill and rain, but had to go to Springfield for DH’s routine checkup and labs. We headed out early so blood work would be done in time for the afternoon appointment. Got there only to find the doctor had not left orders for this routine work that is done EVERY six months. The office nurses and aides couldn’t order it. So off we went to kill hours we could have been reading over the tea pot listening to the rain.

The rain did clear as we accomplished numerous stops, some hunting for Mexican Petunias that I know are in abundance in St. Louis. Springfield has not heard of them. Then an early lunch at Zio’s, yum-greatest Chicken Piccata ever, before making our traditional stop in at Barnes and Noble. The last time there, the Nook had garnered a chunk of the store space. This visit was a total shock, however. The whole store was NOT my Barnes and Noble, starting with a less than full parking lot which never happens.  The entire service desk was gone inside and replaced with a larger circle of entirely Nook stands and displays. Empty too I might add except for the lonely salesman standing in there waiting for a customer. The service people had been replaced by computers stationed among the books where readers were expected look up a book themselves, maybe answer their own questions.  

My bio section was gone, shoved to a far side I almost never found. A toy, games and arts & crafts section had been added and music was gone.  The front tables that usually held the newest or seasonal selections were still there, but they seemed to me to hold boring books. A third of the store was remainders. The poetry section was not only moved but was divided by a three foot section of misplaced books not belonging there. My place of refuge, of peaceful meandering through volumes quietly enticing me to slip in between their covers had turned into a carnival midway of noisy, cheap appearances. Readers, if you think I am overly dramatic you might be correct, but I DO take my books and book life seriously.

Now for confession time, I recently bought a Kindle. Yes, I know, that makes me part of the problem. But I fought it and ranted against it until I knew I was meeting my book Waterloo. I had to at least dip into this new way or be left entirely behind. But that doesn’t mean I like it! Oh, reading an e-Book is not all bad, and I do think they have their place. But for me, I have to be careful and still need paper because for one thing I go to sleep reading and often drop a book. I can’t do this with an expensive piece of equipment!

There are many reasons to still love paper books and others have championed them better than I. But yesterday I thought how I love being in a book store because while I choose a book due to subject, title, and author, I also choose one due to the color of the jacket, the feel of the paper, the colors I hold in my hand. I have been known to buy a book based on how it feels as much as anything. You can’t feel a book in advance on an e-reader.

Also there are so many books out there, how do I know what I want until I SEE them? I saw several yesterday that I had no idea existed and wanted them. I folded on buying only one. I never would have ordered it because I did not know about it. Hiroshima in the Morning, a memoir was a National Book Critic Award Finalist. I did not know that; I only knew the dark and sinister spine (when usually it is a primary or pastel color or maybe gilding that interests me) caught my eye in the row of biographies, that the title drew me in to check out the pages, that the paper smelled fresh and tantalizing, and that I would give it a try—if I dropped this one on the ride home, it wouldn’t break. Maybe it won’t be a favorite read or maybe it will, but the real story is I would not have considered it had I not been in a book store to touch it.

So, do you have an e-reader and if so, how do you like it?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Walking Labyrinths

It is Holy Week, a week that includes Good Friday and ends with Easter Sunday.
While normally I love tradition and ritual and the comfort of repetition with routine, I am in a state of flux right now. Nothing feels quite right anymore and I am allowing myself some options. This year I do not feel like focusing on remembering the torture, agony, and death associated with the Christian traditions. I see enough of that on the evening news!

Then I remembered the Labyrinth built by a local church, Grace Episcopal, a few years ago. It not only has a beautiful stone walk, but it incorporates a Biblical Garden.  The pastor there tries to include only old plants known during the time of Jesus; some  are  from lands Jesus walked. He has included a fig tree and an olive tree. Right now the garden is full of color and cheer, a testimony to spring, the season of rebirth. This positive scene sounded more soothing to me right now, and I paid a visit there during this Holy Week instead sitting inside a church.

A labyrinth is a walking meditation. While meditation usually means sitting still and experiencing spiritual reflection, a labyrinth reaches for the same state with movement. Built like a maze, a labyrinth isn’t full of tricky corners or dead ends. It is a slow path to the center and back out again. The center is marked by a petal shape with six sides. Hopefully, by the end of this circular walk, one finds a peaceful feeling, a spiritual space, or maybe the answer to some inner question. According to the book Walking a Scared Path by Dr. Lauren Artress, “Through the proportion, placement and position of stone, wood, and mortar—using a complementary system of numbers, angles, and design—the mind can find rest, comfort, and harmony.”

My friend has walked the labyrinth in New Harmony, Indiana. I have seen it and would love to go back to walk it someday. It differs in that its borders are not marked by stone but by neatly trimmed hedges. I do not have a great deal of experience with labyrinths, but I think they bear some investigation and further study.

What about you, have you walked labyrinths?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Good Friends Make Us Healthy

While celebrating a friend’s birthday this week at a bistro with a garden shop attached, I found this smashing piece of work. She is called The Poet. DH asked me how I know she is a poet, a writer? Well, silly man, she has both a book and a pen. She MUST be a writer!

Duke University researchers found that heart disease patients with close friends lived double the time of patients with no close friends. This is one more reason to have good buddies in our lives. I have been fortunate in my lifetime to know a lot of friendly folks, but I also have a good number of what I count as close friends. My mother told me as a child that when women go through life they are lucky if they find one or maybe two true friends. My mom’s math does compute for me.

This week some of us took one of our friends to lunch to celebrate her birthday. Long ago we would slip away from families in an evening, go out to eat, give the birthday gal a big basket of gifts so carefully chosen by the group in the weeks before the birthday. Now it is harder despite the children being grown, the men being less needy, etc. We have dropped the gift giving because none of us have many wants or needs anymore. Going to eat can be a problem with special diets of no sugar, no fat, etc. We tire earlier, long for our nighties when the darkness begins to fall. Where are those bouncy young women we once were?

Yet, there is something soothing about a quiet salad or healthy sandwich at noon in a secluded corner somewhere. Things have changed but we still are friends. While we might not spring so high in our step, we do have those shared memoires of all the earlier years. Slower, yes, but in essence we are the same people.

A new friend won’t remember my children doing things like a six year old son wanting to part his hair like President Jimmy Carter! A new friend won’t remember the times of sick husbands with heart attacks, surgeries and cancer. Only I will remember the friend who came to my house in late evening to help me make up my bed while DH struggled after surgery. Oh and the weddings, the ones among our children full of promise that were mistakes as well as the happy ending ones. There is so much shared living that needs the old friends to remember.

Friends, do you appreciate yours?
                                 An Easter basket delivered this week by a friend...

Sunday, April 1, 2012


In writing, transitions are bridges from one idea to another. A transition can also move the reader from one day to another or merely move the reader to another time of the same day. In real life, I often see transitions more as endings rather than as bridges to anything.

I don’t mean I am totally inflexible to change. I do see that a transition can be to something better, something new or challenging. But too often, crossing over to the new means I have to say goodbye to the old. I am just not good with goodbyes or endings!
Not sleeping soundly anymore is one of my poor transitions at this age. Wow, does losing sleep play havoc with my days! I have given up all caffeine except my tea pots between 5 am and noon. The rest of the day I try to wear off the effects of my good black tea. Some nights, I just hate to go to bed because I want to do more, not waste time sleeping. But I am no longer able to stay up either as I am tired if not sleepy. So transition from day to night to day can be rough here.

This weekend I made a transition in my tea basket. I have a small basket (like Dorothy going to Oz!) that carries a hot pot, two mugs, spoons, tea, instant soup, and napkins for when we travel. But my basket was wearing out. When I saw this one at a flea market last week, I bought it as a replacement. DH thought it a good idea. What neither of us realized or even thought of was the two small ends did not open wide enough to put in the hot pot! Hum.

So this weekend DH made a new lid out of cherry. Using the original hinges on the basket he put this lid on so now we can carry everything plus some crackers or granola bars. A wee tad bigger than the old basket, it is still small enough to be convenient we think. While I hated to see the old basket go with its sweet gingham lining, it was time to make the transition. I bought the new basket for $5 and sold the old basket (dents and breaks included) for $2. So I think I have a deal here.