Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snow and Harps

Mother Nature has been playing like the playground bully. You know, the one that races out to recess, forms a snowball, and whacks your blindside. January she played like she was a temperate dame, but on the threshold of spring, she took us unaware and pounded the Midwest. I have to admit in our area yesterday morning, the view was gorgeous. At 6:00 a.m. the streets were silent and the trees snow-flocked thicker than a piece of summer Dotted Swiss.

By evening the streets were clear and there was no wind. It was a lovely crisp night. So some of the invited guests managed to make it over to Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast after all where hostess Jeanne Goolsby welcomed guests to a short program by Midwestern harpers. She had her rooms reserved by six ladies with harps for a winter harp retreat. They arrived before Mother Nature could catch up with them, and only the lady from Salina, Kansas could not come this week.

The first thing we learned was the difference between harpers and harpists. These gals had harps with levers for adjusting instead of the pedals of a more orchestral harp. Also they played a lot of Irish folk music used by harpers.

The instruments were works of arts themselves, fashioned from cherry, walnut, and mahogany. A Springfield harper explained to me that each harp has its own sound, and that the type of wood also alters the tones.

Most of the women used their harps for both pleasure and for healing. Several played for Hospice situations, a heart cardio unit, and even in a horse therapy situation. They said they could all give tales of miracles that came from harp music.

One harper took some time to add a tin whistle to a song or two. It was as perky as the harps were soft and heavenly. The music and the evening was a nice end of a snow storm and a mental prelude to St. Paddy’s Day!

Monday, February 25, 2013

German Chocolate and an Oscar or Two

The day is cold and damp. The rain started about noon and the weather forecast sounds like a repeat of last week for the Midwest. Our area expects 3-6 inches of snow this time instead of sleet. The warnings started yesterday on a warmish day. I went to the store and stocked up on milk, eggs, butter and such for the coming storm. I earned a free box of ice cream cones. But what were cones without ice cream. So I grabbed my favorite German Chocolate.

I had not had a chocolate cone in about two years. Oh, it sounded so good and seemed to be a special treat for Oscar night! Was it too much caffeine for the evening? Surely not, but DH and I both learned indeed it was. Both of us were wide awake until 1:30 in the morning. But oh, messed up sleep is nothing new here and for one night, German Chocolate ruled!

I looked forward to the Academy Awards and enjoyed sitting down for a slow watch. I knew only a little about Seth McFarlane and feared he would not be a good host. I thought he did well enough; jokes were low key and without much crude slamming of actors. I found his delivery relaxing.  I thought the evening’s clothes were beautiful and tasteful, reminiscent of old Hollywood stars. I loved the music. I respectfully disagree with Donald Trump who labeled the Oscars as boring. A man with so little taste should remain silent. As for his detecting Daniel Day Lewis’s English accent, it would be Irish if anything…but I think Trump was just digging for dirt.

What I loved most this year was the writing involved. Books and screen plays abounded that told stories of history, varied cultures and diverse emotions. The creativity involved with producing so many worthy films astounded me. Even personalities that don’t interest me…well, I could still appreciate the imaginative and inventive aspects they applied to their craft. I am not usually a fan of Quentin Tarantino and I haven’t his movie this year, but I will give him credit for his distinctive artistic interpretations made possible by talented actors.

I gasped when Jennifer Lawrence fell, I felt pride when Ben Affleck spoke without bitterness, I was thrilled to hear Hugh Jackman bolt out in song, and I teared up when Ann Hathaway subtly called for a society that could erase all Fontines, and I was amazed by the stylish and vibrant dress of Jane Fonda. From beginning to end I appreciated the evening with the stars...until I spent the next few hours wide awake under the stars. Now I wait for snow…life is a thrill a minute! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion

Remember the commercial that shouted “Hey, Ma, look! No hands!” I was never one to call attention to myself or my achievements. I loved recognition as much as any other person. It was fine if someone else acknowledged my efforts at any one thing, but I couldn't brag on myself. In fact, I did all I could to fade into the woodwork, wanting to NOT be the center of attention.

I have gradually come to see that the world does not work that way. Let’s see, what is that saying? Oh yeah, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”! This has never been more true than in the writing arena right now. Publishing is changing so much, old ways are folding and now writers must push themselves forward through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or whatever means they have.

I want to support my fellow writers whenever I can. I read their blogs, write them perky notes of appreciation, and buy their books as much as possible. DH knows when we go to the free poetry readings at the Pittsburg State University in the fall and spring, it means he has to dig in his wallet to get out of the place, as I bring home each writer’s work as a show of support. I have several books on my Kindle right now from lesser known writers or publishing houses  that I have not had time to read, but I put them there to read later… really, I bought them to support my fellow writers. It is a hard business and not getting any easier. A day job and slight hunger is no longer optional. Unless you are a Nicholas Sparks or James Patterson you won’t make a living at writing…you won’t even buy bread!

Patricia B. Smith, editor of the Fifty Shades of Santa and Cupid’s Quiver commented on the difficulty of publishing lately. “This is a long, slow  process of getting our name out there and building it to the point where readers automatically associate Welkin Press with good stories and are tempted to jump right in and buy. That doesn't happen overnight. And the good news is, that eBooks never go out of print!”

I had a story published in the latest Welkin Press book, Cupid’s Quiver. This is a delightful little book of tasteful romances, and it sells at as an e-book for a mere $3.99. I was paid royally with the pleasure of seeing my work not only printed, but it was printed with the likes of Donna Volkenannt, Linda O'Connell and Cindy Dagnan among others. I have met all these authors on the page and in person.

So here I am shameless self-promoting my work. But I am doing more than that, I am trying to support my writing community, other writers and editors and publishers out there trying to make it in a dog-eat-dog world of words. So if you are a writer, please support the publishing of other writers; if you are a reader, get the word out to other readers about good reads like Cupid’s Quiver. This e-book costs about the price of two average greeting cards these days, not including the postage.

We all will thank you!

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” 
Joseph Brodsky

Friday Fictioneers/Leaving Home

I love old barns and the stories they could tell. Today’s metal sheds are nothing compared to the barns made with wooden beams and that sport hay lofts. So when the Friday Fictioneer picture went up, I saw lots of tales in that decrepit old barn. However, it was so hard to reduce any story of this picture to 100 words! But I played fair and used only the required 100.
For complete rules to play along or to read more shorties, go

                                                  Leaving Home

I rock in the oak chair, rungs squeaking on each backward tilt. The yellow tabby brushes my ankles as I scan my corner of Breezy Holler. My fingers itch to push fresh peas out of the pod, but I wear my Sunday dress.

“Mom, you ready?” My son already heads to the car with my valise as he waits for me to say goodbye to seventy years of living.

I know the place is no longer our pristine cabin, that the porch rails wobble like my knees. I glance at the dilapidated milking barn, remember Henry there.  

My life fades.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Waiting for a Hit

Modern technology offers us much for ease and comfort to our lives. Cell phones and email lets us stay in constant touch with friends and loved ones, but it also makes us vulnerable to telemarketers and spammers. Weather radar keeps us informed of what turbulence can come our way, but it also keeps us on the edge of our seat unnecessarily. Today we wait for an approaching storm that promises snow, ice, sleet, and rain for our Midwestern area.

Yesterday the robins came in and it looked like spring. I heard an immense amount of chattering and wondered if we were getting a starling attack. When I went to the picture window, I saw a flock of about 35 or more robins all over the yard, chirping their hearts out with joy. Did they know a storm was coming? Did they read their bird calendars wrong? I am hoping they won’t suffer in the coming storm.

I am like the robins and leaning towards spring myself. I am ready to begin thinking “outdoors”. I bought some flowers at the store just to have blooms around. I just knew they would look perfect in this this jewel I found in a Kentucky antique store last fall.  The lady only had two left and she bargained nicely.

This morning I thawed out some pumpkin I had processed last fall at the end of jack-o-lantern season. I have stirred up pumpkin custard and have Cool Whip ready. I dug out several cans of tomatoes ready for that icy day tomorrow. If it is as bad as predicted, a huge pot of homemade spaghetti sauce steaming on the stove will make us feel warm and cozy. Hum, wonder if I have yeast for bread?

So here we wait for a hit from Mother Nature. Maybe it won’t happen, but it is nice to know it is coming I guess. No surprises for us. The skies are already the dark shades of a tabby cat and the house has a chilly edge. I have books stacked (always) and a tea kettle at hand. I am ready for a winter blast before spring finds its way to us in the Ozarks foothills. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Aviator's Wife, A Must Read!

I could hardly write the alphabet when I had my first brush with the Lindbergh name. My parents took my sister and me in the back seat of a 1949 two door, navy blue Ford and headed to the drive-in with hopes we would go to sleep so they could see the movie “The Spirit of St. Louis”. My sister was out quickly, but I was hanging over the seat until somewhere near the point that the fly started bothering Jimmy Stewart in the cockpit!

When I was old enough to read everything in sight, I noticed the Anne Morrow Lindbergh memoirs on my Granny’s special shelf. I tried them but thought they made horrid reading. (I was in a stage of hating anything written in first person and these books were so old!) Then when Gran died, I carted these books home. I was a young wife and mother to a three year old at the time; I hoped I might like them more at that stage of my life or would find something on the pages that connected me to my Gran.

When I began to read, I was fascinated with the history and the personal achievements of the Lindberghs. I also wept with sorrow when I read about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. I connected the dots and saw that Gran was about the same age as Anne Morrow Lindbergh with a baby of her own; she must have felt a connection with another mother's heart.

So then I began reading anything and everything Lindbergh. I read memoirs, biographies, and books by Reeve Lindbergh, the baby of the family. I gazed at the authentic Spirit of St. Louis hanging in the Smithsonian. I even gasped out loud when the more recent books revealed some imperfections in the personality of famous aviator, Lucky Lindy.

So when the new novel came out titled The Aviator’s Wife, I was prepared to not like it. I had no plans to read fiction, made up stories, when I had read so much thrilling Lindbergh non-fiction. Then I made a stop at the book store for something, and I found myself face to face with the book. It was the book’s cover that gave me pause. The retro clothes and nose of a prop plane in soft shades of mauve and brown…well, I decided to give the book a chance.

I was about a third of the way through the book when I ran smack into a shocking chapter.  Hum. Was this stuff made up? Did the author create this out of thin air for plot enhancement? I could not stand it. I got up, walked to the computer and wrote the author asking what she based the scene on, where did she find the material, or did she just use poetic license to juice up the story? Author Melanie Benjamin wrote back in just a couple of hours with a full explanation and indeed, there was basis for what she put in the novel. She hoped I would keep reading. I did and I am glad.

While I was familiar with the Lindbergh story, Melanie Benjamin gave me a nice review of their life and added some new angles that were food for thought. She wrote about a marriage, a special one to be sure, but one that has all the highs and lows of any marriage. She writes the novel from Anne’s point of view and shows us the stages Anne went through as a woman, wife, and mother …ones many a wife can related to in their own lives today.                 

You can’t read this book and not care deeply for the characters, and to be honest, feeling at some points like you would like to shake them. Ms. Benjamin made these real people even more “real” on the page. They breathe in this novel!

Ms., Benjamin adds at the end of the novel an author’s note that explains how and why she wrote the book. I enjoyed these few brief pages so much and appreciated the lines she left me for further thought at the end of a great story. Here she comments, “…I was more interested in the emotion, the personal drama, than I was in giving a history lesson.”

Younger readers might remember Charles Lindbergh for his solo flight in 1927, but they probably won’t remember the accomplished flyer and writer Anne was. On pages of The Aviator’s Wife, they can meet these people and see their place in history, but also experience the drama of their lives as Benjamin intended.

I have already pulled AML’s book Gifts from the Sea for another reading, the fourth in my life so far. I intend to be on the lookout for Melanie Benjamin’s work, both older books and newer ones too. The Aviator’s Wife is a good read for writers, flyers, wives, mothers…ah, well it is perfect for all readers!


Welcome to new followers Pat, Encourge One Another, Carmelina, and Sandy!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Little Pick'in and Lots of Chicken

I grew up in Neosho County that rubbed elbows with Crawford County, Kansas. Both counties are near Cherokee County. Funny, how you go through life seeing places, driving their roads and yet not truly recognizing them either. In the past few years, I have learned to see these counties in their historical lights.

I did not know that Cherokee County was once Cherokee Land, that some of my ancestors settled and farmed there. I did not know my great-grandpa on the other side owned numerous vaudeville theaters and some stills in Crawford County. (This county was nationally famous during Prohibition for producing the best brew, called Deep Shaft.) The area drew immigrants from various European and Balkan countries when the coal mines opened up. Many a miner’s wife opened cafes in their homes serving Italian or German dinners to coal miners.

The area is still known for its chicken dinners! The menus are all about the same. Crusty fried chicken, German potato salad (vinegar and oil style), and German slaw. The only real variance is the amount of garlic used. I say the more the merrier. We have eaten many times at Chicken Mary’s and Chicken Annie’s, but we had never been to Barto’s Idle Hour. That changed on Saturday night.

Barto's has been in business for about 65 years now. It was a packed house so we were grateful to have made reservations. When the gal learned we had never been there before, she reserved us a table right at the dance floor edge. Yep, they dance too. The crowd is mostly seniors and they knew how to dance. Some wobbled when they walked, but their feet were free birds when dancing. I loved watching the grace of their slides and stomps. The music was rock and roll, western, ballads and polka was my favorite and boy, would I like to learn how to polka! You can’t watch or listen to polkas without your happy button lighting up!

The real draw was music was provided by my Dad’s cousin, Cotton Westoff. I had never met Cotton, but since he plays at Barto’s one a month, we decided to drive over. He plays his guitar and sings now to fancy equipment, but he played in bands during the 60’s. He has performed in 48 of 50 states, Europe, and South Africa. He once toured with the Roy Clark band among other musicians. He has lead an interesting life. Now 77 and his family grown, he sticks close to Kansas. I hope to go back and hear more of both his music and stories.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dishes and Manuscripts

We are going to have to replace our car with what I’m calling our Casket Car since we drive our vehicles for 12-14 years each. We squeeze every mile possible out of them. Another 14 years, will we still be here? Will we even be driving? I am not moved by newness or deluxe editions of anything. If I had a promise this Windstar van would drive five more years without a burp of any kind, I would vote for keeping it. But the poor thing now has dashboard lighting up more red alert buttons than a Ferris wheel has light bulbs.

I got an email from Steve Wiegenstein, Missouri Writers’ Guild president, as a reminder that time is running out for submitting to President’s Contests associated with Missouri Writing Guild Conference in April. I have never met Steve, but he must be a nice guy to spend his time reminding the rest of us writers of dates we should be noting for ourselves. I appreciated the note though because time crept up on me.

So I got busy and made submissions. I also packed four boxes to mail and headed for the post office where I waited in line with 15 people while ONE clerk managed the front. I couldn't help but think of that $30 million the post office sent to the certain man to ride his bicycle all over Europe. Meow.

Okay, so being downtown anyway, I pulled in to check a flea market that I have passed over for some time. I found a couple of things—always, must stay out of these places. But the little lavender bowl and saucer, so sweet, was a Limoges from France. I don’t use lavender much but the dainty flowers and pastel color was too pleasing. I thought olives, sugar, or something would work in the combo.

I also found a flow blue shallow bowl. Nope, did  not need it and it wasn't Blue Willow but it was so pretty! I can always use a blue bowl, although this one is more like a salad plate it is so shallow. What I liked about it was how it felt in my hands; I could feel a story here. It was England-made so I brought it home. When I looked up the mark, it was made in the Stoke on Kent, a china making capital. I also learned this bowl was made between 1902 and 1926…this lovely piece is over 80 years old. I love thinking of all the people it has served and wish it could tell the things it has seen.

It is Friday and the weekend approaches. We are to have rain which is so needed in our corner of the earth. Dear Readers, have a good weekend for yourselves, rain or shine.

Monday, February 4, 2013

This is February?

The Super Bowl is over and the Academy Awards are coming. Yes, winter must be fading, right? Today it was 60 degrees, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky. There were a few song birds about on limbs just like spring. I know it is too soon, and that is why snow storms in February and March send me reeling! With warm days like this and January torn off the calendar, I am ready to move on for sure.

I went about numerous errands today without a coat. It was the most perfect air. I was in and out of the drive, in and out the doors. On one pass I made by our picture windows, I saw a brown back. Oh, since I have been imagining having a perfect brown dog I could name Biscuit, I went to see if one had appeared. Just as I opened the door and stepped to the rock wall of the porch, a monster reared on hind legs to meet me! I nearly died when I saw this dog. I talked to her as she seemed so friendly. But her paws on my rock wall were only slightly smaller than my own hands.

I could see she had a tag, but when I looked at her mouth. one that could take my arm up to the shoulder, I backed off from reaching under her chin. I talked to her, but I had to go on to the pharmacy. I left and she walked down to the neighbors. When I came back she was lying on the porch of some new neighbor’s house so I thought she was new too. I came home and started loading some boxes in the van for another trip out. Suddenly, she was behind me again…trapped in my own garage by this tail wagging Goliath. DH was coming in the back garage door at the same time. We gave her a drink and she was SO thirsty. Once satisfied with water, her jowls continued to drip like a drainpipe after a rain storm.

So we walked her down to the corner, knocked and no, she was not his dog. The young man next door walked over and no, he had no idea where this dog belonged. I could not see this dog go to the pound! So we finally took the number off the rabies tag and called. Miss Lily waited patiently while we called a vet that turned out to be 80 miles away! But his mother had moved to our town and he knew from the description this sweetheart had to be hers.
                                           Note the size of those feet!

So we all waited with Lily until her ride came. I was sad to see her leave, but then I knew I really didn't want those slobbering jowls all over my furniture or in my bed at night. Still this was the best part of my February day…meeting Miss Lily and seeing her returned safely to her home. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Blue and White Strike Again...with a Dash of Coral

The temps this week have bounced up and down in a fifty degree range. Yesterday was darn nippy, but in the afternoon I ran to the square for a new meat thermometer and some milk at Braum’s. Leaving the hardware store, I just sneaked a peek in the flea market windows.  There was a slight spitting of snow from the leaden skies and the cold felt, well, crisp. I saw all the Valentine reds through the plate glass windows and was a goner.

I put my purse and thermometer in the car, and dashed in for a quick look. I had only ventured down the first aisle a short ways, when I spotted a deal. A Blue Willow platter and dish, sporting dark cobalt blues made in Japan, were marked at a ridiculously low price. Need was not the question but cheap price was the answer.

Then I looked across the aisle and there was a “head”!  Oh, she was a beauty wrapped in a coral headscarf. I took her up to the counter with the dishes and told the clerk, “Check me out fast, I am not even going down another aisle!”

When I got outside, the snow was pelting my face heavily and I felt invigorated. I realized I had missed January snow while everyone else was cheering those near 70 degree days. I knew the snow would not last, but I was euphoric in it for the short while it made its appearance. I hugged my finds and headed home.

I had found my first head while flea marketing in Cape Girardeau years ago. We were leaving a flea market when I noticed a pair of heads behind the register. They were a man and woman pair and the owner was going to repair a small chip in the man before placing him in a booth. I had the clerk call him, and I begged to buy the woman only. Finally he relented and separated the pair. No one knows why I wanted this head; my family was full of ridicule.  I didn’t know why either but I have loved her. Something about her feels peaceful.

So when I saw the wide-eyed beauty in coral, I had to bring her home too.  I think I have found a place for her, three rooms away from the brown beauty. She was pretty cheap herself so she can be enjoyed and then passed on to someone else for company someday. But this morning, it meant some digging around here on a ten degree morning.

The rule here is One In, Two Out. No problem as the front closet was a wreck. So I dug and dug this morning, cleaned out taking out two BOXES of things. I put away the last of Christmas, urged a couple of rabbits out, and changed the red poinsettias to yellow and pink silk tulips. I put away cedar and pine candle rings and got out the yellow spring ones. The Christmas tea pots went into hiding for another year; the pots in pastel shades came out again.

It is a long way from spring cleaning, but I do feel like on the first day of February I am headed in the right direction…and with Coral Girl for company!