Monday, July 30, 2012

Teacup Tuesday, Black Cup

It has been quite a while since I participated in Teacup Tuesday. I just had nothing new and I did not want anything new as I have NO place left in this house for “stuff”.  I have been weeding tiny things, one at a time. However, last week when we did the Wichita trip, I did visit one Goodwill, one estate sale, one gift shop, and one flea market. You know I did not come out the doors empty handed! A book here, a dollie there…you know how it goes.

I found a black cup and saucer. I had been wanting one black cup. I wasn’t crazy about the handle on this one, but I did love the black. I thought the white rose would somehow connect with other roses I have. I can’t find anything out about the mark with the knight, but I think this is Chugai China. It is stamped made in Occupied Japan. The cup was marked half price and I got the owner down another five dollars. It was a very decent buy.

At the estate sale, I bought one thing…a piece with lacy edge for $1.75. It is too large for a dollie, too small for a table cloth. It probably would fit nicely as a table topper, but I have no need for that. It would make a nice cover for an outside tea table. I am not sure how I will use it. Any suggestions?

At the flea market I found a brand new electric tea pot. I have been wanting one but not sure why. I do NOT need this, but I thought the pot prettier than some. It has never been used and the cord was still wrapped like it came from the factory. Surely, the need will arise when I will glad I have this, don’t you think?

Now rule here is, One Thing In, Two Go Out. Now I have to part with something. Hum, my math tells me six items should go out before I place these things. Oh, that is ridiculous, don’t you think? I will work on this!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What Was I Thinking?

Those who are longtime readers of this page know my love of Blue Willow dishes. It all began as heartbreak when I was five years old and my own toy set was broken. When I finally had a home of my own as a newlywed, I found a used cup and saucer in the pattern. How I prized that blue and white! Then in the 70’s lots of Willow showed up in the pages of Country Living since Blue Willow was a common dish in Colonial and Primitive periods. My mother-in-law began to decorate and use blue and white which I loved. I started  picking up a plate here, a cup there. It was hard to find and DH got in on the search because he came to love the pattern too.

Suddenly, it feels like the dishes are breeding like rabbits. This table is just ONE plastic storage bin for the least used pieces. Then there are the loaded kitchen cabinets because I believe in using my loved things, not just owning them. The hutch, both above and below, is full. There are odd pieces out and about on tables.

So, I decided this weekend to gather it all up together and weed. But that is hard to do! DH would see a piece and say surely it was worth keeping. Then, what if things got broken? Here were replacements in our hoard. In the end, I did find some lesser pieces and duplicates I could sacrifice but not many.

Oh, downsizing is so painful because I love pieces like they are my children. Each was bought on a trip, on a memorable day, or somehow reminds me of the joy of the hunt. But…I must turn loose of something here in this house with hopes that someone will love my pieces for me. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cousin Cel Plant and More

My Cousin Cel Plant is about 17 years old. I keep taking starts from her for others and for myself. I got my own start from my friend Tracy who got her start from her real Cousin Cel years ago. We aren’t sure of the plant’s real name, but it is related to the African violet family. It is sometimes called trumpet vine, Flame violet, or Brown Boy. I am not sure all these are correct, however. The plant vines, but don’t turn it regularly towards the sun because it will twist on itself causing the heavy vines to break.

My own Cousin Cel sits in a west window. The leaves grow as big as saucers and in the height of the red flower phases, the tiny red trumpets can stream down towards the floor like a red waterfall. Eventually, the center of the plant looks sparse and a little ugly. Thus, I keep a start going to replant the pot and start over once a year or so. I give starts to others with the hope that there will always be a Cousin Cel growing somewhere for a needed start should my master plant ever die.

Last week’s dog sitting/fence building went well consider the severe heat. Wichita was one hot place! Fence building started at dawn, but by 11:00 a.m. outside was unbearable. While DH build fence, I wrote like crazy inside. The plan was to stop and do fun things after our work, but by then DH was so tired and rung out, we did little. Even to and from the truck was hot and sweltering. We did visit one estate sale, one Goodwill store, and our very favorite independent bookstore, the Watermark. We ate lunch there where all sandwiches are named after books. My favorite is The Godfather, salami and cheese on  ciabatta bread with a wonderful sauce inside.

Any visit with Storm is wonderful. No matter what is going on in our lives, this dog is joyous to see us, and it warms the heart to be so wanted. She was sad not to get but one ride because it was just too hot for her in the truck. One day I did take her to Sonic down the street for a quickie, and she said it was a good rain check for a longer ride later!

Just before leaving for this Wichita job, DH finished building himself a tool chest. I think it is pretty enough to be a piece of furniture. He 

turned the walnut knobs himself. The line of color in the drawer is cherry mixed with oak. He built his own wooden slides just to see if he could…and then they were money savers too.

The heat and drought continue to ravage the Midwest today.  A friend watered my flowers while I was gone or I would have crispy blooms. She managed to keep them alive. This morning I had my tea on the deck at 6 am. I was so tired still, it was hard to get up, but I knew if I did not feel outside air then, I would be trapped inside today. Even at dawn the air was warm but a delightful breeze made the air move at least. Gradually, I could feel the heat coming like hot fog arriving. It is good to be home though, and already I look forward to tomorrow’s dawn when I can be among my flowers for tea from a teapot for a short spell anyway.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Yes, I admit to having a little OCD. I am not wildly dysfunctional, but I have little twinges of peculiarities. I think we all do. When I was a kid, I believed that “Don’t Step on a Crack” adage for fear I would hurt my mom. I knew it was superstitious but didn’t want to take a chance! If I inadvertently stepped on a crack, I only went ahead a half a block or so before returning, stepping over said crack, and undoing any bad karma I had set up.

I took the phrase “salt and pepper” seriously. Salt should definitely come first and then pepper. To pepper my summer tomatoes and then salt them just never felt right! Oh, I never ate saltines with the salt side up. Don’t ask me why; I don’t know.
When I was a young mother, I often went back to check and make sure I had locked the front door. Now in my golden years, I return from down the street just to make sure I left no pan on the stove with a pesky fire below it.

When I was first married, DH could not understand some of my habits, but then the feeling was mutual. He could be weird about stuff too! When he found a record (remember those?) he liked, it played it over and over on the stereo.  I don’t mean twice, I mean over and over and over…no other records in the stack. OCD, ya think? He could not eat grapefruit with a grapefruit spoon. Had to dig it out, pour into a bowl, clean up the mess, wash his hands, sweeten it all with sugar (I use salt) and then eat it. A raccoon at the local river bank couldn’t handle his food more!

Then there was making a bed. DH could not see the sense of expending energy fixing something you were going to crawl back into in twelve hours. I on the other hand, could not dress or brush my teeth until the bed was made. Studies now show there is a psychological advantage for people making their beds in the morning. I did not need a federally funded study to know that when you walk out to face the world each day, a well-made bed at your back is the first step to a well-organized day. A made bed says all is right with the world and besides, it will feel better to crawl into smooth bedding at night instead of set of rumpled sheets with more piles than the bargain table at a garage sale.

Related to the made bed is the drawers of a dresser. A sock peeking out near the drawer pull or a tail of a tee shirt waving from a bureau never gave DH pause.  I asked him if he had never listened to Captain Kangaroo. Captain always said to look behind you before you left your bedroom each morning and to fix any raggedy looking drawers. “You made that up!” DH accused. No, I did not but I listened to Captain and took the lesson well.

This week I went out to straighten the deck. I don’t clean it, dust it (or apparently anything else these days!) or mop the boards. But I do like the umbrella down each night and all chairs to be pushed in at the table. Another childhood lesson: who doesn’t remember being taught to push her little oak chair in at the big group tables? My kindergarten teacher friends are still teaching that one.

DH heard me say, “I am fixing the chairs like all good five year olds know to do.” 

He snapped, “I guess I was absent that day!”

I guess he was, indeed!

So, what did Captain Kangaroo teach you or how do you salt?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Writing a Picture

I head for Kansas. I know, most people think of Kansas  as Flyover Country, Drive-by Land, No Where, a Desert of Wheat, or some other such moniker. I will admit the far western reaches can be sparse of interesting things unless you have a good eye for seeing pheasants among the fields. But the eastern third of Kansas has trees, vales, creeks, grasses, and a thinning of people. It is a beautiful place. Nothing nicer than driving over a rise and seeing the Flint Hills spread before you.

I’ll acknowledge that the heat gets pretty oppressive, but then the heat everywhere is a strangling monster these days. With not enough rain added to the high heat, corn burns where it stands. There are very few wildflowers right now. And the blue haze of Kansas heat stretches across the endless view. Still I find the landscape inspiring.

I was constantly digging in my purse for pen and note pad as we bowled down Highway 400. DH asked me what in the world I was doing, constantly moving. Well, I had a thought, or a word, or a phrase that I did not want to lose. How about this alliterative one? The heat caused the Kansas blue haze to hover near the endless horizon.

Painters take their palettes, canvases and easels outside to paint, to create, to replicate. Writers can do the same. For me the rolling earth full of crevices and rises, that were once a floor to a great inland sea, make me want to paint with words. An office is nice, but getting out being part of the landscape is beneficial too.

So where do you create your written masterpieces?

Where is your inspiration?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rings on My Fingers

I remember seeing people with rings on many fingers, and wondered why they wore so many. Was it a display of wealth, of poor taste, of glamour? I now wear rings on every finger, and an older lady was amazed by the many rings. I told her I had to wear them all at once because I did not have enough years left to wear them all one at a time!

This morning I had a harbinger of fading things. At 5:45 it was still dark out, a dusky dark but I knew it meant the days were becoming shorter. While heat scorches me and wilts my drive, still I find it hard to yearn for autumn yet. But while watering flowers, I saw that a season change was whispering in my ear. Several spider webs, shiny with a dab of dew, are a sure sign that things are beginning to turn that direction. The geranium leaves were no longer a solid a green the shade of an avocado; the tips of some were sun-bleached to a lime hue.

Saturday was my high school class reunion, another sign of days and years passing. We have lost a couple of classmates and know that now the years will begin snatching a toll on our numbers with the passing time. Next reunion in five years will be the 50th, a half a century for Pete’s Sakes! How did that happen? Only yesterday we were wearing Poor Boy shirts, listening to the Stones, and moving with nimble and limber bodies. Now we bend slower, sit longer, are thicker in the middle, and wear hair either in shades of gray or sliding to the back of our heads. One thing had not changed…the laughter and, of course, the memories. Cars rust, bodies change, money vanishes, and job titles change, but nothing can take away the memories of being sixteen once and laughing riotously with life.

Slender threads of spider lace…memories…hum, maybe I better go buy a new ring for my fingers!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Last Night's Guild Meeting

The July Writers' Guild meeting sneaked up on me. A couple of people who were to get in touch about a place on the agenda did not, and in waiting, I lost track of the month. So I had to figure out a program--and fast.

Thanks to Donna at over at, I had an idea. Donna had won a place in this year's Erma Bombeck contest and then attended the conference. One of the speakers there was Suzette Martinez Standring who spoke on meditative techniques and digging deep for creativity. I listened to her presentation from the conference and then ordered her A Writer's Meditation CD.

So I took a player and the CD, dimmed the lights, the called this the program for the meeting. I was squeamish a bit because some people fear meditation of any kind; some even feel it borders on Satanic. I prepared the group and felt no great resistance and proceeded. I goofed  by hitting the button for the meditation for relaxation instead of the writer one. I could have kicked myself, but we were into it so I let it play. This meditation dealt with using color for relaxation.

Since I was in charge, I did not let myself get too relaxed. I could see people really unwinding. About halfway through, a man took his glasses from his closed eyes and laid them on the table. Several slumped in their chair. It was only ten minutes but refreshing. One lady said she had suffered a pain in her neck that was gone. Any dissenters were quiet and the only comments were good ones.

For those of you who fight your inner critic or a monkey mind when writing, you might consider this technique for help. There are many sources out there. If you want more info on Suzette's CD. go to Even if you aren't interested in a CD, Suzette as a writer and teacher is interesting enough to be worth a few minutes of your time.

After a discussion about fiction and non-fiction, I made the statement that I thought I would stop trying to write non-fiction focusing only on fiction work. Then I came home and found an acceptance for a short non-fiction piece. The editor wanted more pictures too. Hum, you never know where this writing life will take you. But I am along for the ride be it non-fiction or a trip to my subconscious!

Do you use any kind of relaxation therapy in your writing?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Writing in the Heat

I find winter the writing season. Summer heat is for reading, tea drinking, dinners on the deck, friends, fast runs to Sonic, etc. I find the time each day too chopped into pieces to write much. However, to be lethargic about writing is draining too. Two great ideas began to firm up in my head this week. I took one morning for writing but produced only half a page!

But there is another step for me in writing between the idea and the actual writing. That is the scene formation in my head that interrupts other things I do in my real life. Sometimes it is hard to read a book when my own characters keep speaking lines in your head! I hear them, but there is not enough time or opportunity to stop, run to computer and hack out a page. There are times I am in a group or watching a movie with DH when the problem of whether to keep the gal riding sidesaddle or let her don canvas pants and straddle the saddle taps me on the shoulder! Or do I write the guy’s side of the story and if so, before or after the war? Right now in the middle of July, I have monkey mind, swinging from one idea to another.

Today’s mail was “writing wonderful” though. I found a nice package from Saturday Writers ( ).  A nice letter about winning first place in this Missouri  organization’s personal essay contest, a check, judge's comments, and info cards about Saturday Writers was thrilling to receive. Look at their lovely business cards!

If I were only a wee tad closer, I would visit this group a bit.  But now it is almost a four drive one way so I need to work closer to home. Their motto is ‘Writers Encouraging Writers’.  Since I have met a few of the members, I know they practice this motto. A big thank you to Saturday Writers for “making my day” this afternoon.

I look around this office and see three books, one writer magazine, and one journal started. There is that monkey mind again, jumping from one thing to another. I am working on reading a 600 page bio of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Mauve Binchy novel, a novel by Mary Gordon named Spending, and The Little Balkans Review. The Bonhoeffer is heavy with lots of theology that slows me down but it is interesting. This man and his concept of Easy Grace vs. True Grace fascinates me, challenges me.

I have read Mary Gordon for years but when I picked up Spending off a bargain table, I did not know what I was getting. Wow, I have never see Gordon write such steamy scenes. I had to put the book down last night before I burned my book-holding hands! The book was written in 1998 so I know it is not a response to 50 Shades of Gray. (By the way, are any of my readers admitting to reading the 50 series? As a writer, the author is dancing all the way to the bank…but…well…. I can’t comment because I have not read for myself.)

The Little Balkans Review came this week…a wonderful journal!!! The staff is all volunteer so the publishing schedule is…ah…quite erratic. But the journal has been going for over 30 years. This spring issue is devoted largely to the painter Charles Banks Wilson. Then it has an interview with one of my own relatives which was a surprise! Many other pages that I have not gotten to yet.

So when you write, do your characters interrupt your life while you are not writing?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hot Books for Hot Days

Laura Moriarty teaches creative writing at the University of Kansas, but she also has authored four books. I have read them all and can vouch for their quality. Laura’s books are novels, good old-fashioned reads that revolve around life-like characters. You won’t find werewolves or vampires or even shades of gray in her books. You will find interesting characters that portray the slightly stoic, shoulder-to-the-wheel values of the Midwest.

The Chaperone, set in the early 20th century, revolves around the real life Louise Brooks, a famous and somewhat infamous silent screen star, and the chaperone who accompanied her to New York to study dance. The story begins when Louise and chaperone Cora Carlisle leave Wichita from Union Station. The author had me right from the first chapter as the train left the stately train station and eased down the tracks. Having stood on the trestle overlooking Douglas Ave, I had longed to get in the now closed station. But Laura created in words the same busy train station scenes I had seen in my mind there a couple of years ago.

                                 Wichita Union Station in early years.

The sad story of Louise Brooks and her rise to fame followed by a slide into an abyss of sex and alcohol unfolds leaving the reader born between pity and the desire to firmly shake the talented young woman. However, the real story is that of the chaperone. In reality, a chaperone did accompany 
Brooks to New York City, but Moriarty creates a fictional one in Cora Carlisle and readers watch as this character grows and develops into woman worth studying. Cora starts in the book as a prim and proper young         woman slightly confused on the meaning of family. She, like many of us in our younger     years, wears her righteousness as visibly as Madeleine Albright sports rhinestone flag pins on her lapel. By the end of the book her moral guideposts are still strong but are tempered with patience, tolerance and understanding that only years can bring. Watching her evolve and expand in the book is fabulous.

Along a with a story of two interesting characters, the author writes in a way to give readers a glimpse of various socio-economic classes during the time period of the Roaring Twenties and the Depression plus a few years beyond. Orphan trains, Flappers, gay relationships, women’s rights, and birth control are just of the few topics readers will face on the pages. Cora as a chaperone is a young girl herself, one searching for her true roots since she was an orphan. Cora develops into a woman, solid in her beliefs but softened by life that taught her tolerance. 

As a writer, I am often afraid of mixing the true and fiction. When I asked Laura how she did it, here is part of her response: I can tell you in a nutshell that everything about Louise is based on fact, and everything about Cora, even her name, is made up. I read Louise's autobiography and her biographies, and sadly, everything about her is true.
 While there really was a thirty-six-year-old Wichita housewife who went with Louise to NYC in 1922, her real name was Alice Mills, and I don't know anything about her. Cora is my complete invention.

Maybe I will have the courage someday to write like Laura. In the meantime, I will just read her works. Unfortunately, now I have to wait for the next one to be written!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Fearsome Four Fourth

The Fearsome Four started years ago at the local Welcome Wagon. Sharon friended me. I met Bonnie through her because they were PTA parents of children the same age. Then we met Pat through Bonnie because they went to church together. The circles have widened through the years, a few people coming and going, but the original Fearsome Four has stuck like glue. We have birthed, married and buried together. We have dealt with aging parents, battled jobs, and fought cancer together. We used to play badminton, horseshoes, go to movies, have barbecues and celebrate Christmas dinners.

But age has slowed us a bit and oddly enough it is harder to get all of us together than it used to be. Our Fourth is often hamburgers on the grill and a trip to the local fireworks. But this year, the thoughts of the heat strangled us, and no one cares much for boom-boom anymore. So we gathered early before the sun could rise over the rooftop. We pooled our foods, whatever was handy, cooked some grits, and brewed some tea. It turned out to be a feast! But the true pleasure was grabbing 90 minutes or more together to sit outside under shade and to allow ourselves time to visit—like the old days.

The men had a table to themselves while women chattered together. It was truly peaceful and no firecrackers had started yet. So the air was not laden with smoke and the aroma of gunpowder. The rustling of a few tree leaves in the breeze was our only sound. Lovely, it was. Some eventually moved on to prepare for other events or to tend parents’ needs. Some felt like a pre-noon nap! But all enjoyed returning to be the Fearsome Four for just a short while this morning.

Happy Fourth of July!